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

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. 20. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser and J.J. Cooper.

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. Alek Thomas, OF, Diamondbacks
Team: Triple-A Reno (West)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .455/.520/1.091 (10-for-22), 7 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: No matter where he goes, Thomas just keeps hitting. A career .307/.384/.485 hitter over three minor league seasons, Thomas has a mature approach in the box for a 21-year-old with a simple swing, frequent contact and the approach to use the whole field. He hasn’t stopped since getting to Triple-A, where he’s hitting .336/.405/.619 in his first 26 games there with impressive defense in center field as well. (BB)

2. Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs
Team: Triple-A Iowa (East)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .417/.481/.833 (10-for-24), 6 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Davis announced his presence nationally with a pair of home runs in the Futures Game. He closed his season on a similarly high note by swatting two more longballs in his first game after a promotion to Triple-A Iowa. Overall, Davis’ season delivered on the promise he showed as an amateur. Among 21-year-olds, he finished 10th in OPS (.891) and seventh in isolated slugging (.242) while playing the bulk of his games at the upper levels. He’s easily the top prospect in Chicago’s system and should be a key piece of the team’s rebuild. (JN)

3. Daniel Espino, RHP, Indians
Team: High-A Lake County (Central)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: Espino finished extremely strong in his first full year as a pro. He was excellent at the lowest levels of the minors in 2019, but this year has taken his game to another level. His outing last week was his seventh with 10 or more strikeouts, and his second such game in as many outings. In his last two starts, Espino has gone 10.2 innings, allowed one run on two hits, walked nobody and struck out 20. His 152 punchouts on the season were the most in the Cleveland organization and 10th overall in the minor leagues. (JN)

4. Gabriel Arias, SS, Indians
Triple-A Columbus (East)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .462/.500/.769 (12-for-26), 6 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO 

The Scoop: The defensively-gifted Arias showed signs of offensive growth at the end of the 2019 season, but he didn’t get a chance to build on it with the 2020 minor league season canceled. The Indians jumped him from High-A straight to Triple-A this year and, after an adjustment period the first month, Arias has continued to move in the right direction as a hitter. The 21-year-old finished last week with three consecutive three-hit games to close out Columbus’ series with Toledo and is now batting .299/.352/.482 since the season’s first month. He remains a Gold Glove-caliber defender at shortstop and, with his offensive gains, is starting to earn reviews as a potential all-star from rival evaluators. (KG)

5. Ryan Cusick, RHP, Braves
Low-A Augusta (East)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO.

The Scoop: Two of the first three batters Cusick faced on Thursday singled against him. He walked the fourth. For a moment, it looked like the Myrtle Beach Pelicans were going to face the Cusick who struggled at times at Wake Forest. Instead, they got a righthander who started spotting a 96-98 mph fastball that touched 100 mph on the Pelicans stadium gun. Cusick routinely got strike one and sometimes strike two on well-located fastballs that Myrtle Beach hitters took for strikes. Once that happened the Pelicans were introduced to a truly dastardly plus 12-to-6 curveball. No Pelicans hitter came close to making contact with Cusick’s curve when he spun it well. Most of his 10 strikeouts finished with a hitter missing the curve by a foot or more—in one case, a batter swung at a curve that almost hit the plate. (JC)

6. Jimmy Glowenke, 2B, Giants
Low-A San Jose (West)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .478/.556/.870 (11-for-23), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: A supplemental second-round pick in 2020 out of Dallas Baptist, Glowenke finished his first pro season with a flourish, batting .345/.486/.582 in 15 games in September. As a 22-year-old college draft pick in Low-A, he’s on the older end for a prospect in the league, but his swing and actions could continue to lead to him being a productive offensive-minded middle infielder as he moves up. (BB)

7. Shay Whitcomb, SS, Astros
High-A Asheville (East)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .421/.421/1.000 (8-for-19), 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Whitcomb earned lofty comparisons as a hitter after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League and pushed himself into the fifth round of the shortened 2020 draft. He delivered on that promise in his first pro season and finished with a flourish, stringing together six consecutive multi-hit games and homering in back-to-back games to close out the year. Overall Whitcomb hit .293/.363/.530 with 23 home runs, 78 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in his professional debut. It was the type of offensive showing that reinforced that, even with an expected move off of shortstop, his bat may be enough to carry him to the majors. (KG)


8. Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins
Team: Triple-A St. Paul (East)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .357/.357/.643 (10-for-28), 3 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: Miranda was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, period. Among hitters with 300 or more plate appearances, Miranda’s 167 hits were the most in the minor leagues, his .338 average ranked sixth and his .959 OPS ranked 14th. His average was the best in Minnesota’s system, and his 154 wRC+ tied with catcher Edouard Julien for the top spot in the organization. Perhaps most impressively, Miranda is the only player in the minor leagues who hit better than .300 while collecting more than 25 doubles and more than 25 home runs. (JN)

9. Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers
Team: Triple-A Round Rock (West)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: .409/.458/.773 (9-for-22), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: When the Rangers drafted Jung with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft, he had a reputation as one of the most advanced hitters in college baseball. He’s living up to that billing as a career .311/.382/.517 hitter through his first 111 games in the minors, with most of that playing time coming at Double-A and Triple-A. The Rangers came into the year with a deep farm system, but between the ascension of Jung, drafting righthander Jack Leiter at No. 2 overall and the steps forward from righthander Cole Winn, they have three top 50 prospects in baseball. (BB)

10. Hans Crouse, RHP, Phillies
Team: Double-A Reading (Northeast)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO.

The Scoop: Crouse has made a solid first impression with his new team. Traded to Philadelphia in the deal that saw Ian Kennedy and Kyle Gibson also come to the Phillies in exchange for Spencer Howard, Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner, Crouse has shown he can find the strike zone with a funky, slow-to-fast delivery that begins with a slow leg kick and ends with a max-effort, head-whacking finish. Crouse finished his season with the second-longest outing of his season. He held opponents to a .189 average this year. (JC)

11. Owen White, RHP, Rangers
Team: Low-A Down East (East)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.35, 7.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: White’s performance on the final day of the regular season was among the most clutch of the week. With his team needing a win over Charleston to have a chance at a spot in the playoffs, White spun seven hitless innings with 10 strikeouts before the RiverDogs got to him a little bit in the eighth. Nonetheless, White’s outing carried Down East to the victory it needed, which paid off later in the day when Salem fell to Delmarva. Though injury limited White to just nine outings (eight starts), the righthander saved his best for last. He whiffed 33 hitters in 18.2 innings in September, the most of any pitcher in the minor leagues. (JN)

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

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO

The Scoop: Few pitchers at any level had a better end to the season than Teng. After pitching six innings with one run allowed and 13 strikeouts in his previous start, the 22-year-old pitched seven masterful innings with one run allowed, one walk and 12 strikeouts against Tri-City in his final start of the year. Teng retired 16 of his first 18 batters and took a shutout into the seventh inning against the Angels affiliate. After losing the shutout on a sacrifice fly, he recorded his 12th and final strikeout of the night to strand the go-ahead run on third and end his season with a punchout. (KG)

13. Fran Alduey, SS, Indians
Team: Dominican Summer League Indians Red
Age: 17

Why He’s Here: .556/.600/1.056 (10-for-18), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Between Alduey and Angel Genao, the Indians added two switch-hitting shortstops from the Dominican Republic at the top of their 2020-21 international signing class in January. Alduey has a smaller 5-foot-8 frame and didn’t seem like he would hit for much power early on, which was mostly true until this past week, when he hit his first two home runs and recorded four extra-base hits. That equaled the four extra-base knocks he had all season coming into the week, boosting him to a solid .260/.355/.404 line overall. (BB)

14. James Triantos, SS/2B, Cubs
Team: Arizona Complex League Cubs
Age: 18

Why He’s Here: .727/.769/1.545 (8-for-11), 8 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 0 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Triantos played in just three games over the past week, but he got on base in nearly every plate appearance and clobbered the ball when he did swing, with five extra-base hits in 11 at-bats. It’s just a continuation of what he’s done all summer since the Cubs drafted him with their second-round pick in July, with Triantos showing plenty of hitterish qualities en route to a .327/.376/.594 line with six home runs in 25 games. (BB)

15. Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, Mariners
Team: DSL Mariners
Age: 17

Why He’s Here: .500/.579/1.000 (8-for-16), 8 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: The Mariners’ group of prospects in full-season ball is enviable enough, but they’ve got players bubbling at the lowest levels, too. Gonzalez, whom Seattle signed for seven figures this February, has been excellent in his pro debut. His six home runs placed him in a three-way tie for second place among 17-year-olds, and his .947 OPS was fifth-best among the same group. He’s got the look of a prototypically powerful corner-outfield prospect. (JN)


16. Drew Ellis, 3B, D-backs
Team: Triple-A Reno (West)
Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .320/.414/.920 (8-for-25), 10 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: Ellis spent just over a month with the D-backs before they returned him to Triple-A on Sept. 10. He’s taken the demotion in stride, batting .325 with six homers in 10 games since returning to Reno. He has reached base in all 10 games and has more multi-hit games (five) than hitless games (two). While Ellis has undoubtedly been aided by his hitter-friendly home park this season, his excellent defense and improved contact skills have made him a solid prospect again after years of underwhelming showings. (KG).

17. James Wood, OF, Padres
Team: Arizona Complex League Padres
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .550/.625/.950 (11-for-20), 8 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Wood was one of the most tooled-up players in the 2021 draft but fell out of first-round consideration after he struggled to hit this spring. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound behemoth apparently found his hitting stroke in the ACL and did his part to show teams that they made a mistake by passing on him. Wood finished the year on a seven-game hitting streak and hit .372/.456/.535 overall in his professional debut. While it was only 26 games, it was nonetheless encouraging for Wood and the Padres moving forward. (KG)

18. Lawrence Butler, 1B, Athletics
Team: High-A Lansing (Central)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .500/.542/.773 (11-for-22), 7 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Butler is one of the more fascinating breakout prospects this season. The 2018 sixth-rounder out of high school in Georgia played all over the diamond at both Class A levels, including time at first base and all three outfield positions. No matter where he played, he showed hints of blossoming into a true power-speed prospect. To that end, he was one of just 12 minor leaguers with more than 20 doubles, more than 15 home runs and more than 25 stolen bases. (JN)

19. Aaron Sabato, 1B, Twins
Team: High-A Cedar Rapids (Central)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .333/.533/.833 (6-for-18), 7 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 4 SO.

The Scoop: Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for a player. Sabato didn’t do much to actually earn a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids—he was hitting .189/.365/.357 at the time he got the bump from Low-A Fort Myers. But he’s gone on to be one of the most productive hitters in the High-A Central league in the final month of the season anyway. Sabato has shown he can draw walks and he can hit for power. That’s a good starting place, even if he needs to add some polish to his game. (JC)

20. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates
Team: High-A Greensboro (East)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .412/.583/.706 (7-for-17), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 7 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: The final week of the regular season put a tidy bow on an excellent pro debut for Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-rounder. Billed as an offense-first infielder, Gonzales racked up 18 home runs in a year limited to just 80 games by a broken finger. Scouts are enthused by Gonzales’ ability to spray the ball to all fields with authority and believe he will be a player who can produce both average and power. His numbers were boosted somewhat by an extremely friendly home park (13 of his homers came in Greensboro), but Gonzales’ year was impressive nonetheless. (JN) 


Luis Rodriguez, LHP, Mets

If you’re looking for a sneaky, under-the-radar sleeper prospect most people have never heard of, Rodriguez is a good name to know. Rodriguez signed out of the Dominican Republic for $75,000 on July 2, 2019 when he was 16, so with the 2020 minor league season washed out, he didn’t make his pro debut until this year. Once he got ramped up and ready to pitch in games in August, he quickly generated buzz as a 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefty dialing his fastball into the mid-90s as an 18-year-old, mixing in a slider and a changeup as well. Rodriguez started pitching in the Florida Complex League in August, but he showed enough there that by the end of the month the Mets promoted him to Low-A St. Lucie. The overall numbers on the surface might not jump out with a 5.11 ERA, 16 strikeouts, five walks and five hit batsmen in 12.1 innings, but Rodriguez has the stuff and projection that makes him a pop-up guy to watch. (BB)


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