Hot Sheet: Baseball’s 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (9/14/21)

The hot sheet is back! Baseball America’s staff ranks the 20 hottest prospects from the previous week. This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did through Sept. 13. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, Ben Badler, Chris Hilburn-Trenkle and Kyle Glaser.

This simply recognizes what the hottest prospects in the minors did in the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.

1. Tommy Romero, RHP, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (East)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 SO

The Scoop: Romero was acquired from the Mariners in the deal that sent Denard Span and Alex Colome to Seattle. Since then, the 2017 15th-rounder out of Eastern Florida State has flourished in the Rays’ slow-cooker. He reached new heights in his latest outing, a methodical dismantling of Norfolk which ended with a career-high 13 strikeouts over 7.2 innings. The outing left Romero three punchouts shy of his career best for a season and tied with teammate Tobias Myers for the most strikeouts in the Tampa Bay system. (JN)

2. Nick Loftin, SS, Royals
Team: High-A Quad Cities (Central)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .579/.640/.684 (11-for-19), 4 R, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO, 3-3 SB

The Scoop: Loftin spent the early part of the season searching for power and getting away from his strengths. Once he started focusing on being a hitter first, he took off. Loftin went wild with 11 hits in 19 at-bats in Quad Cities’ series against Peoria last week. It was the latest outburst in a scorching stretch that has seen the Baylor product bat .379/.483/.589 since Aug. 1. Loftin’s quick hands, excellent strike-zone awareness and elite instincts already gave him the tools to hit, and now that he’s found the right approach, he’s showing why the Royals made him a first-round pick last year. (KG)

3. Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Northeast)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Hard-throwing righthanders have long been a strong suit in the Yankees’ system, but this year has seen a number of new names pop up and put themselves on the map. Some, like Glenn Otto, Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero, were used to buttress the big league club at the trade deadline. Wesneski survived the reshuffling and stands as one of the system’s highlights. His 14 strikeouts in his latest turn were a career high and his second game this season with double-digit whiffs. He is one of 24 minor leaguers with 130 or more strikeouts this year. (JN)

4. Luis Matos, OF, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .563/.696/.1.063 (9-for-16), 7 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 BB, 2 SO, 0-1 SB

The Scoop: Matos began showing signs of fatigue at the end of his first full season, but he found an energy boost at the end of San Jose’s series against Stockton last week. Matos went 9-for-11 in the Giants’ final three games against the Ports, including 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs in the series finale on Sunday. Matos is now tied for fifth in the Low-A West with a .311 batting average and, with most of the players ahead of him now in High-A, has a chance to climb even higher in the season’s final week. (KG)

5. Jordan Brewer, OF, Astros
Team: Low-A Fayetteville (East)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: .556/.667/.944 (10-for-18), 6 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 4-for-4 SB

The Scoop: The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season for everyone, but Brewer had his development delayed more as he had left knee surgery that kept him off the field entirely. He came back in June, and while the Astros have been conservative with his assignment as a 2019 third-round pick out of Michigan who just turned 24 last month, he’s finishing the year with a strong September. (BB)

6. Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles
Team: Low-A Delmarva (East)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .550/.591/.600 (11-for-20), 4 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Cowser’s selection by Baltimore with the No. 5 overall pick was a bit of a surprise, but his early results are exactly as expected. The Sam Houston State product has mashed since joining the system, going 40 for his first 99, mostly at Low-A Delmarva. He’s also shown an excellent command of the strike zone, with 21 walks and just 18 strikeouts in the early going. His data as an amateur showed he was especially skilled at hitting fastballs, and he’s gotten visibly stronger to the point that it’s easy to see some of his solid contact and excellent strike-zone discipline translating into more power as he moves up the ladder. (JN)

7. JJ Bleday, OF, Marlins
Double-A Pensacola (South)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .500/.560/.700 (10-for-20), 5 R, 1 1B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: It’s been a disappointing year for Bleday. Picked fourth overall in the 2019 draft, Bleday is hitting just .212/.324/.376 in 460 plate appearances in Double-A and has slid down the Marlins’ prospect ranking. He’s finishing the season with a good September stretch, but next season will be critical for Bleday to rebuild his stock. (BB)

8. Kai-Wei Teng, RHP, Giants
High-A Eugene (West)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.50, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 SO 

The Scoop: Teng has struggled at times in his first full season in the Giants organization after arriving in a 2019 trade deadline deal from the Twins as part of the return for righthander Sam Dyson, but he was nothing short of dominant in his latest start against Everett. The 22-year-old righthander struck out a career-high 13 batters over six innings of one-run ball while inducing 16 swinging strikes. Teng sits in the low 90s on his fastball, but relies heavily on his offspeed stuff, utilizing a changeup that is his best offering and a slider with solid spin rate. (CHT)


9. Yainer Diaz, C, Astros
High-A Asheville (East)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .480/.536/1.160 (12-for-25), 10 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: The Indians signed Diaz at the end of 2016, though he didn’t play a game in a full-season league until this year. They traded him to the Astros at the deadline in July along with righthander Phil Maton in exchange for outfielder Myles Straw, and Diaz has been on a power binge since the Astros promoted him to High-A in August, batting .384/.432/.836 with 10 home runs in 81 plate appearances. That’s nearly double the six homers he hit in his previous 307 trips to the plate this year. (BB)

10. Buddy Kennedy, 3B, Diamondbacks
Double-A Amarillo (Central)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .524/.565/1.143 (11-for-21), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: After never appearing above Low-A before this season, Kennedy posted an .881 OPS at 30 games at High-A Hillsboro and has been even better at Double-A Amarillo, with a .909 OPS and 15 home runs in 61 games, easily surpassing his previous career high. He’s excelled in September, with 15 hits in 35 at-bats (.429), including a two-homer game as part of a 20-12 win over Tulsa on Sept. 11. Kennedy barrels the ball well and his dramatic uptick in power adds another element to his game, giving him a path to the big leagues as a utility option who can play in the infield and outfield. (CHT) 

11. Kyle Brnovich, RHP, Orioles
Double-A Bowie (Northeast)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 10 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO 

The Scoop: Acquired from the Angels in December 2019 as part of the return for righthander Dylan Bundy, Brnovich has impressed in his first professional season, making just eight starts at High-A Aberdeen before receiving a promotion to Double-A in late June. Brnovich cruised through July, struggled to a 6.75 ERA in 16 innings in August and righted the ship in September, with back-to-back starts of five innings while not allowing an earned run in either outing. Brnovich relies on a plus slider to lead his operation, mixing in a low-90s fastball and a changeup. He’s shown an improved ability to throw consistent strikes this season, walking just 2.5 batters per nine innings after walking 3.8 per nine in three seasons at Elon. (CHT)

12. Ryne Nelson, RHP, D-backs
Team: Double-A Amarillo (Central)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 3.75, 12 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Nelson has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the minors this season. The righthander’s 12.68 strikeouts per nine innings is fifth-best in the minor leagues, and he’s racked up three games with 10 or more strikeouts. He works with a full four-pitch arsenal, and each of his breaking balls has the potential to be average or better. The 2019 second-rounder’s year is all the more impressive when you consider that the bulk of his season has been played with Double-A Amarillo, whose home park is one of the most hitter-friendly in the minor leagues. At home, he’s allowed 10 home runs in 37.2 innings. Elsewhere in the league, he’s surrendered just two home runs in 32.1 innings. (JN)

13. Joey Wiemer, OF, Brewers
High-A Wisconsin (Central)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .478/.571/.957 (11-for23), 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 8 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: It’s not a textbook swing, but it’s working for Wiemer, a fourth-round pick last year out of Cincinnati. He didn’t get off to a strong start in Low-A Carolina, but he turned things around to hit .276/.391/.478 in 320 plate appearances for the Mudcats before the Brewers promoted him to High-A Wisconsin a month ago. After hitting 13 home runs in 75 games in Low-A, Wiemer already has 11 homers in 28 games in High-A to go with a .362/.430/.743 slash line. Wiemer is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds with big tools between his power, speed and arm strength, so the progress of his hitting ability is an exciting development if it continues at the upper levels. (BB)

14. Dominic Fletcher, OF, D-backs
Double-A Amarillo (Central)
Age: 24 

Why He’s Here: .458/.481/1.167 (11-for-24), 9 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: The 2019 supplemental second-rounder from Arkansas played well at Low-A in 2019 and impressed team officials at the alternate training site in 2020, but he’s experienced growing pains in his first season in the upper minors. Coming into September he hit below .240 in all but one month while striking out more than 25% of the time. Fletcher has looked like a different hitter this month, however, with four home runs, nine RBIs and 16 hits in 40 at-bats (.400) as he looks to finish his first full pro season on a positive note.  (CHT)

15. Devin Mann, 1B/OF, Dodgers
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Central)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: .318/.385/.1.136 (7-for-22), 7 R, 6 HR, 12 RBIs, 2 BB, 9 SO, 2-2 SB

The Scoop: Mann returned from the coronavirus shutdown this year lacking strength and struggled at the start of the season as a result. He slowly began rounding back into form in July, continued with a solid August and now appears to be back to normal just in time for the end of the season. Mann had three consecutive multi-home run games against Amarillo last week, hitting two home runs apiece on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He now has seven home runs in 12 games in September after hitting six in his first 93 games. (KG)


16. Shane Baz, RHP, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (East)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: Even with the graduations of Wander Franco and Luis Patiño from prospect consideration, the Rays have one of the most enviable collections of talent in the minor leagues. Baz stands squarely at the forefront of the system and also is one of the players whose future has turned most starkly since the end of the 2019 season. Then, Baz looked like a power reliever, which would not have been a bad outcome for a player who was viewed as the third piece in a deal that also netted Tampa Bay Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Now, he looks more polished in all facets of his game and has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter in the long term and is a player who could help the Rays this October. (JN)

17. Andy Pages, OF, Dodgers
Team: High-A Great Lakes (Centra)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .417/.500/.958 (10-for-24), 8 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Pages can be frustratingly inconsistent, but when he’s right, he’s a game-changing talent. Pages homered in three straight games to close out Great Lakes’ series against West Michigan, including hitting two homers in the final game of the series. The outburst gave Pages 30 home runs on the season, tied for fifth-most in the minor leagues. (KG)

18. Chris Murphy, LHP, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Northeast)
Age: 23 

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO 

The Scoop: Murphy has pitched well at times this season, but he had yet to turn in the kind of start he did Sept. 10 in a win over Binghamton. The 23-year-old lefthander struck out 11, walked none and allowed two hits over six scoreless innings while inducing 18 swings and misses. Murphy sits in the low 90s on his deceptive fastball, topping out at 95 mph, and complements it with a plus changeup. He’s struggled to find an effective third pitch, with a pair of below-average breaking balls, but has worked to improve his arsenal, giving the organization confidence that he can be a back-end starter. (CHT)

19. Jose Ramos, OF, Dodgers
Team: Low-A Rancho Cucamonga (West)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .407/.484/.889 (11-for-27), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 7 SO, 0-1 SB 

The Scoop: Ramos continued his breakout season with another loud series for Rancho Cucamonga, recording a hit in all six games against Inland Empire and an extra-base hit in all but one game. Ramos is now batting .314/.381/.573 with the Quakes since being promoted from the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League. Combined with his impressive athletic ability in the outfield and cannon for an arm, he is solidifying his place as one of the Dodgers’ most exciting young prospects. (KG) 

20. Alex Binelas, 3B, Brewers
Low-A Carolina (East)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .450/.500/.917 (11-for-24), 7 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: With their first two picks in the 2021 draft, the Brewers took a pair of high-contact, polished college hitters with strong 2021 performances in outfielder Sal Frelick and second baseman Tyler Black. They switched it up with the next hitter they took in Binelas, a college hitter who has plus-plus raw power but looked overmatched at times this spring with Louisville, especially early. The strikeouts have been on the higher end as expected so far in pro ball (27 whiffs in 104 plate appearances in Low-A Carolina), but so has that big lefthanded power with six home runs and a .348/.413/.652 batting line. (BB)


Cody Freeman, C/INF, Rangers
Age: 20

The Rangers curiously tried to convert Freeman to catcher despite his small stature and the fact his glovework and instincts in the infield were some of his best traits. Freeman caught this year and struggled until he went on the injured list in late July. Since returning from the IL though, he’s played the infield exclusively and taken off. Freeman hit .440 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBIs in five games for Low-A Down East last week. He is now batting .279/.421/.459 since coming off the IL on Aug. 21 while playing third base and first base. A shortstop in high school who was seen as a potential plus defender at second base, Freeman has the rare ability to play all around the infield. Now that he’s back doing what comes naturally to him defensively, he’s showing what he’s capable of offensively. (KG)

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