Hot Sheet: Baseball's 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (9/7/21)
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. 6. Contributing this week were Josh Norris 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. Michael Busch, 2B, Dodgers
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Central)
Why He's Here: .542/.581/1.167 (13-for-24), 9 R, 6 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBIs, 5 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Busch has two four-hit games this year—both of which came this week. He’s one of several hitters who seem to be making a final push to bring their 2021 stat line to a higher level. Busch’s 2021 season is even better than it looks when you consider that the Double-A Central league isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse this year. Busch’s .260 batting average is actually a notch above the league’s .247 average. His .382 on-base percentage ranks fourth in the league and his .478 slugging percentage is eighth best in the league and is more than 70 points above the league’s .403 slugging percentage as a whole. (JC)
2. Matt Brash, RHP, Mariners
Team: Double-A Arkansas (Central)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO.
The Scoop: Brash threw the first six innings of a no-hitter this week. He’s holding Double-A hitters to a .140 average. It’s reasonable to fear that Brash could end up as a reliever. His high-energy approach and reliance on his excellent slider could lead to that being a useful path to big league success for the righthander. But no one is hitting against him in Double-A and his control is steadily improving. His slider causes heartbreak to all types of hitters. Double-A lefthanded hitters are hitting .111/.222/.238 against him while righthanded hitters are hitting .160/.218/.230. (JC)
3. Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Northeast)
Why He's Here: .471/.571/1.353 (8-for-17), 6 R, 5 HR, 11 RBIs, 4 BB, 2 SO, 1 CS.
The Scoop: If there has been one blemish in Casas’ 2021 season, it is that his power numbers haven’t always matched expectations. Casas is a hitter first, but he has big power potential, so when he entered September with only 18 extra-base hits and seven home runs all season, it was somewhat puzzling. This week has helped round out those numbers to some extent. Casas hit five home runs this past weekend, raising his slugging percentage by nearly 70 points over the course of five games. (JC)
4. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Team: Double-A Arkansas (Central)
Why He's Here: .565/.630/.696 (13-for-23), 5 R, 3 2B, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO, 3 SB.
The Scoop: Rodriguez’s stint with the Dominican Republic Olympic team means that he doesn’t currently qualify among the minor league leaders for rate stats. So maybe his season is sliding a little bit under the radar. It shouldn’t be, as Rodriguez is currently hitting .350 this year. He’s hitting .374 with Double-A Arkansas and is now hitting .330 for the entirety of his minor league career. In case you are wondering, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit .331 in his minor league career. Wander Franco hit .332. (JC)
5. Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 1 G, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 HBP, 2 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: The Giants’ pitching in the low minors this year has been sublime—three of the top six strikeout totals this year belong to pitchers at either Low-A San Jose or High-A Eugene, and among lefties Harrison’s 141 strikeouts are second only to the Yankees’ Ken Waldichuk. In his latest start, Harrison whiffed a dozen, good for a career best. Harrison is also one of just two pitchers in the minors this season to have thrown more than 80 innings and allowed two or fewer home runs. (JN)
6. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B, Twins
Team: Low-A Fort Myers (Southeast)
Why He's Here: .538/.556/.808 (14-for-26), 1 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Encarnacion-Strand was one of the more productive sluggers in the Midwest this spring, leading Oklahoma State in batting average (.361) and home runs (15). In the very early going of his pro career he’s looked too advanced for Low-A. Encarnacion already has a 456-foot home run on his resume and is hitting .420 in 12 games with Fort Myers. (JC)
7. Austin Wells, C, Yankees
Team: High-A Hudson Valley (East)
Why He's Here: .524/.583/.810 (11-for-21), 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Wells, like the rest of his teammates at High-A Hudson Valley, feasted on Greensboro pitching in their most recent series. In particular, Wells shined in the finale, when he racked up five hits, including a long, loud opposite-field home run that left the stadium entirely. More than that, the blast put him in an exclusive club: He is the only catcher in the minors this season with 20 or more doubles, 15 or more homers and 10 or more stolen bases. Wells has a lot of rough edges to polish to stay behind the plate, but his bat has shown promising signs. (JN)
8. Nick Swiney, LHP, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.00, 2 G, 2 GS, 7.1 iP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 SO.
The Scoop: A concussion forced Swiney to miss nearly two months of this season—he made one start in May and then didn’t pitch again until July. But since returning, the Giants’ 2020 second-round pick has been exceptional. The NC State product has not allowed an earned run in his last 17 innings and has a 0.36 ERA overall this year. He hasn’t allowed an earned run (and only one run overall) in five appearances with San Jose. (JC)
9. Davis Daniel, RHP, Angels
Team: Double-A Rocket City (South)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 3.00, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 11 SO.
The Scoop: Daniel has become one of the best control specialists in Double-A. Overall he’s throwing strikes on 66% of his pitches, but since jumping to Double-A his strike percentage has been an even better 68%. That’s flirting with throwing too many strikes to the point, but it hasn’t hurt Daniel yet. He’s held batters to a .193 average against and he’s walked only eight batters in his last 47 innings of work. (JC)
10. Steven Kwan, CF, Indians
Team: Triple-A Columbus (East)
Why He's Here: .591/.640/1.000 (13-for-22), 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Very quietly, Kwan has put together a very loud performance in the upper levels of Cleveland’s system. Known more as a slash-and-burn player at Oregon State, Kwan has tapped into a great deal of power in his third full season as a pro (not counting the Covid year). In 1,346 plate appearances between college, two stops in summer ball and his first two seasons with Cleveland, Kwan hit six home runs. This year, he’s clubbed nine in just 57 games. Moreover, he’s one of just five players in the minors with 250 or more plate appearances and a slash line of better than .350/.400/.500. (JN)
11. Jon Heasley, RHP, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Central)
Why He's Here: 0-1, 3.00, 2 GS, 2 G, 9 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 15 SO.
The Scoop: The Royals came into this season with a bevy of pitching prospects, but significant questions about who would be the hitters to join them on the road to Kansas City. The improvements of M.J. Melendez, Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino have answered some of the questions about the club’s position prospects, and Heasley has joined a second wave of pitching prospects. Heasley has steadily gotten better, mixing his mid-90s fastball with a breaking ball that comes out of his hand looking like a fastball. When he’s spotting it, he gets more called strikes with it than swings and misses, because hitters think it’s a fastball that is out of the zone. Since Aug. 1, Heasley has held opponents to a 1.45 ERA with 42 strikeouts and six walks in 31 innings. (JC)
12. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates
Team: High-A Greensboro (East)
Why He's Here: .364/.440/.955 (8-for-22), 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 3 BB, 8 SO, 1 SB.
The Scoop: Billed as a potentially explosive offensive player, Gonzales has shown an extreme amount of firepower since coming off the injured list on June 26. In that time, the Pirates’ 2020 first-round pick has hit a whopping .305/.372/.580 with 15 of his 17 home runs. Perhaps more impressively, he’s shown plenty of strength with his hands and wrists to shoot line drives out to the opposite field as well as pulling them over the cozy confines of the left-field wall at his home park. He does have a particularly stark home-road split: In Greensboro, he’s hit 13 home runs and has an OPS of 1.094. On the road, that mark drops to .761. (JN)
13. Jordan Nwogu, OF, Cubs
Team: Low-A Myrtle Beach (East)
Why He's Here: .556/.619/.889 (10-for-18), 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2 SB
The Scoop: Nwogu was the Cubs’ third-round selection in the abbreviated 2020 draft. A Michigan product, Nwogu has put together an up-and-down season. After an August which saw him put forth an OPS of .693, Nwogu collected eight hits in the first 15 at-bats of September. He’s hit one home run already this month, equaling his total from all of August. He’s one of just three players in the Cubs’ system (and just 30 in the minors) with 10 or more doubles, 10 or more homers and 15 or more stolen bases. (JN)
14. Thomas Dillard, 1B, Brewers
Team: Double-A Biloxi (South)
Why He's Here: .533/.611/.800 (8-for-15), 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 SB
The Scoop: Dillard was the Brewers’ fifth-rounder in 2019, selected out of Mississippi. So far, he’s lived up to his reputation as a masher: His 17 home runs are third in the Brewers’ organization behind Joey Wiemer and Joe Gray Jr. He earned a promotion to Double-A Biloxi on Aug. 9 and has seen an uptick in hittability, producing a slash line of .304/.418/.411 in his first 17 games with Biloxi. His home run this week was his first at Double-A. (JN)
15. Anthony Garcia, 1B, Yankees
Team: Low-A Tampa (Southeast)
Why He's Here: .381/.435/1.000 (8-for-21), 7 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 10 SO, 1 SB
The Scoop: If there was a home run derby composed only of Yankees prospects, the finals might come down to a Garcia vs. Garcia matchup, with Dermis pitted against Anthony. The latter is a 21-year-old switch-hitter with massive raw juice from both sides of the plate. Recently promoted to full-season ball for the first time in his career, Garcia made an instant impact with Low-A Tampa, where he slammed five home runs in his first 33 at-bats. Garcia is one of just four players in the minors this year with 100 or fewer at-bats and double-digit homers, and two of those players—Khris Davis and Ryan O’Hearn—are established big leaguers, leaving himself and Texas’ Abimelec Ortiz as the only two prospect-eligible players to accomplish the feat. (JN)
16. Alex Binelas, 3B, Brewers
Team: Low-A Carolina (East)
Why He's Here: .423/.464/.731 (11-for-26), 7 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO.
The Scoop: Binelas was a potential first-round pick coming into the year, but pretty much everything he needed to do (fast start at the plate, show he could handle third base) went poorly. He settled in at first base and struggled with strikeouts, although he did hit for power. As a pro, Binelas is getting another shot at proving he can play third base, and he’s also getting to show he can make enough contact to regularly get to his power. He’s got plenty of work to do to prove he can handle the hot corner (he has an .842 fielding percentage right now) but he has been hitting as a pro. (JC)
17. Jay Groome, LHP, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Northeast)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO.
The Scoop: Groome has had an up-and-down first full season back from Tommy John surgery. This week definitely counts as one of the ups. Promoted to Double-A Portland, Groome struck out a career-best 10 in his Sea Dogs debut. Groome is throwing plenty of strikes, and his fastball velocity has gotten back to the mid 90s he showed pre-injury. At his worst, he’s quite hittable—he gave up three home runs in a mid August start to Bowling Green and eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in five innings just three starts ago. But he can get swings and misses on his fastball at the top of the strike zone and his curveball can lock up hitters. (JC)
18. Allen Facundo, RHP, Yankees
Team: DSL Yankees
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.00, 2 G, 2 GS, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 20 SO.
The Scoop: Facundo has been one of the stars of the Dominican Summer League season. Facundo leads the DSL with 58 strikeouts, and struck out 20 of the 32 batters he faced last week. He’s gotten better and better—he had a 6.14 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP after five starts, but since then he’s allowed nine hits in his last 17.2 innings with 34 strikeouts and only four walks. (JC)
19. Patrick Bailey, C, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He's Here: .455/.538/.818 (10-for-22), 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Bailey has hit since he was demoted to Low-A San Jose, but the tricky question is how much does that really matter? Bailey is a 2020 first-round pick out of a prominent four-year college (NC State) who looked overmatched in High-A this year, an assignment that should have been right in line with his development. Bailey is hitting .314/.410/.533 for San Jose, but his struggles at Eugene mean he’s hitting .253/.356/.415 overall. Bailey should get another shot at Eugene next year, but he’s going to need to ace his repeat of the level. (JC).
20. Leonardo Jimenez, 2B, Blue Jays
Team: Low-A Dunedin (Southeast)
Why He's Here: .500/.769/.750 (6-for-12), 6 R, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 9 BB, 2 SO, 1 SB.
The Scoop: Jimenez has done excellent work this year when he keeps his bat anchored to his shoulder. He’s hit .316 in 48 games this year between the Florida Complex League and the Low-A Southeast league, but it’s his ability to get on base that truly stands out. Jimenez is currently working on a 40-game on-base streak and had a .491 OBP this year. He’s gotten on base at least once in all but two games this season, last being kept off the bases on June 20. Since then he’s had six games where he reached base four times or more, including a 2-for-3 day with two walks and two hit-by-pitches this week. (JC)
Jean Pinto, RHP, Orioles
Pinto came to Baltimore as one half of the package used to bring Jose Iglesias to the Angels. Iglesias has since been released by the Angels, but Pinto's talents may just be beginning to pay dividends. The 20-year-old righthander was masterful in his last turn, whiffing 11 against a Carolina team stocked with 2021 draft picks plucked from the college ranks. Pinto works with a full four-pitch arsenal fronted by a fastball up to 94 and a sinking changeup that currently stands as his best offspeed. Both his slider and curveball show promise as well. In his first year with the Orioles, Pinto has whiffed 76 in 56.2 innings while working to a 0.76 WHIP.