Prospect Hot Sheet (4/23/18)

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from April 16-22. Contributing this week was JJ Cooper, Josh Norris, Matt Eddy and Kyle Glaser.

Remember, 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. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .522/.560/1.043 (12-for-23), 5 R, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Atlanta seems to have its shortstop and second baseman of the future in Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and it appears that Riley could fill the hot corner role. He’s got power in spades, an improving approach and the ability to stay at third base for the long-term. His hot start, paired with the imminent arrival of phenom Ronald Acuña, should have Braves fans excited for the future. (JN)

2. Jorge Alcala, RHP, Astros
Team: high Class A Buies Creek (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 1.00, 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 13 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: Because of the way the Astros utilize their pitchers, Alcala has gotten use this year as a starter and out of the bullpen. No matter the role this week, Alcala flourished. His fastball is one of the best in the minors. It parks in the upper 90s and has peaked at 102 mph. His offspeed offerings are inconsistent and need refining, but the elements are there for a special arm. (JN)

3. Buddy Reed, OF, Padres
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here:  .625/.625/1.333 (15-for-24), 9 R, 5 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Reed was known as an elite athlete with questionable hitting ability when the Padres picked him 48th overall in the 2016 draft, and he lived up to that reputation by hitting .254 in short-season ball and .234/.290/396 in low Class A last year. But Reed has found his offensive stroke in the Cal League, rolling off a current eight-game hit streak that included back-to-back four-hit nights. It’s not just slap-hitting singles either. Reed has four home runs in 15 games this year after hitting just six in his first 139 professional games. (KG)

4. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies
Team: Double-A Hartford (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .520/.538/.800 (13-for-25), 3 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Rodgers struggled in his first taste of Double-A last year, but the second time around is going much better. Rodgers finished the week on a six-game hit streak, capped by a 5-for-5 performance against Harrisburg on Sunday. He’s off to a .300/323/.533 start for Hartford, although his 15 strikeouts against just two walks is a continuation of a longstanding concern evaluators have regarding Rodgers’ patience. (KG) 

5. Zac Lowther, LHP, Orioles
Team: low Class A Delmarva (South Atlantic)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.90 5 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 18 SO.

The Scoop: It’s hard to say if it’s made or born, but Lowther has it. Yusmeiro Petit had it. Ben Lively has it to an extent. “It” is that maddening ability to use your delivery to make hitters hiccup. Nothing about Lowther’s stuff appears to be dominating. The velocity is average and completely unexceptional. But Lowther’s fastball doesn’t arrive at the time hitters are expecting it to cross the plate. Lowther struck out 123 in 83 innings as a junior at Xavier. He struck out 75 in 54.1 innings last year at Aberdeen and he’s now struck out 31 in only 16 innings this year. Lowther’s strikeout rate will decline as he climbs the ladder—more advanced hitters don’t get as deceived. But Petit is in his 11th year in the majors. Lively is now in the Phillies rotation and Lowther is on his way. (JJ)

6. J.D. Davis, 3B, Astros
Team: Triple-A Fresno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .448/.500/.724 (13-for-29), 11 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO.

The Scoop: Davis has now made two brief appearances with the big league Astros. But with Yuli Gurriel back, Davis will have to return to waiting in Fresno for the next opportunity to get back to Houston. He’s not going stale as his .400/.475/.629 line attests, but he also doesn’t have a clear path to the big leagues until the next injury arises. (JJ).

7. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics
Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .500/.500/.808 (13-for-26), 5 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Murphy has long had a reputation as one of the better defensive backstops in the minor leagues, as demonstrated by his nine career passed balls. That alone would make him an intriguing prospect, but there’s more. He performed well at the plate in the Arizona Fall League and has continued that trend in his return to the Texas League. If his offense can get anywhere near his defense, he’ll find a long-term role in Oakland. (JN)

8. Ranger Suarez, LHP, Phillies
Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.20, 15 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 12 SO, 0 BB, 1 HR

The Scoop: Suarez has always had a reputation as a control artist, but his stuff has ticked up as he’s gotten older and more physically mature. As that has happened, he’s moved up the prospect ranks. This year represented his first test at Double-A—in one of the most hitter-friendly environments in the Eastern League—and this week he came up aces, including an eight-inning start that featured 10 strikeouts. (JN)

9. Resly Linares, LHP, Rays
Team: low Class A Bowling Green (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 7 SO.

The Scoop: Linares’ first start of the season was a disaster. The skinny lefty gave up seven runs on eight hits in only 3.2 innings. His second start was one of the best in the minors this season.  West Michigan hitters could not hit Linares’ big, slow curveball that he showed he could locate in and out consistently. Once he’d dropped in a curve, Linares had enough fastball to beat Whitecaps hitters with it as well.  Linares left the game with a no-hitter, but his bullpen couldn’t complete it. (JJ)

10. Calvin Mitchell, OF, Pirates
Team: low Class A West Virginia (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .467/.500/.733 (14-for-30), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Mitchell was considered a potential early first-round pick as arguably the top high school hitter in the 2017 draft class, but a so-so senior year dropped him to the second round. He’s looked like the top-flight hitter he was projected to be in his first taste of full-season ball, recording a hit in 15 of 17 games and posting a 1.070 OPS. Mitchell is currently riding an eight-game hit streak, which included a stretch of four consecutive multi-hit games. (KG) 

11. David Fletcher, 2B, Angels
Team: Triple-A Salt Lake (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .464/.484/.767 (14-for-30), 9 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Fletcher made a convincing case to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster as a utilityman and hasn’t slipped since the season opened. He’s been collecting hits by the bunch, posting five three-hit games and one four-hit game in his last nine contests, and is taking advantage of Salt Lake’s thin air with six doubles, two triples and a home run. While Fletcher’s ceiling is that of a utilityman, he’s showing he’s awfully close to fulfilling it, and may even be ready. (KG) 

12. Austin Allen, C, Padres
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .500/.577/.909 (11-for-22), 7 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: The 2015 fourth-rounder out of Florida Tech stealthily ranked among the California League leaders last year with 22 home runs and a .497 slugging percentage. And he accomplished that as a lefthanded-hitting catcher. Now, Allen has jumped out to a fast start at Double-A, with six homers and six doubles through 15 games. The challenge Allen faces is that he’s more of a first baseman or DH, because opposing basestealers tend to run at will when he works behind the plate. (ME)

13. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 SO.

The Scoop: Since he’s gotten back on the mound from Tommy John surgery, Luzardo has pitched too well to ever stay in any one place for long. He dominated in three starts with the GCL Nationals. He was equally impressive in four appearances for the AZL Athletics after being dealt in the Sean Doolittle trade. That led to a five-start cameo with short-season Vermont to end the 2017 season. Now, he’s pitched his way out of Stockton after just three starts, earning a promotion to Double-A. Luzardo’s career stats: 4-2, 1.55 with 11.3 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. (JJ)

14. Trevor Oaks, RHP, Royals
Team: Triple-A Omaha (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Two-start pitchers are fantasy currency—and also Prospect Hot Sheet currency. More innings can equal more strikeouts or, in Oaks’ case, a gaudier ERA because his run-prevention ability stretches over a larger sample. Oaks pitched to his scouting report last week by using his low-90s sinker not so much to miss bats, but to induce weak contact early in counts, keep the ball out of the air and work deep into games. (ME)

15. Fernando Romero, RHP, Twins
Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 2.45, 11 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 14 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Romero throws a big fastball and big breaking ball from a not-so-big frame. His 6-foot stature and max-effort delivery lead to forecasts of relief work in his future. However, Romero doesn’t need to convince anyone he can miss bats. He has fanned 17 through 16 innings at Triple-A after striking out 8.8 per nine innings in the Double-A Southern League a year ago. (ME)

16. Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS, Rockies
Team: Double-A Hartford (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .385/.484/.577 (10-for-26), 6 R, 3 2B, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 0 SO, 6-for-6 SB

The Scoop: Hampson often gets issued the “gamer” label because of his 5-foot-11 stature, but that moniker criminally undersells his athleticism. Hampson brings top-flight speed as a 70-grade runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and he showed it off by stealing six bases in as many tries this week. After swiping 51 bags last year, he’s 11-for-11 in 16 games this season. Part of what makes Hampson such a prolific basestealer is how often he reaches base in the first place, showing excellent contact skills and excellent plate discipline, which has yielded more walks (nine) than strikeouts (four) so far this season. (KG)

17. Tony Santillan, RHP, Reds
Team: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO.

The Scoop: Santillan has a fastball that sits 95-97 mph and has touched 100 mph and a 90-91 mph slider, giving him a pair of potentially plus pitches. In the past, Santillan’s control was so erratic and shaky that he alternated dominance with despair. Santillan cut his walk rate from 5 BB/9 in 2015 and 2016 to 4 BB/9 last year. This year he’s walked only five in 22.2 innings (2.0 BB/9). If Santillan can keep throwing strikes like this, his stuff will have him moving very quickly. (JJ)

18. Blake Rutherford, OF, White Sox
Team: High Class A Winston-Salem (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .409/.440/.591 (9-for-22), 3 R, 4 2B, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Dealt as the centerpiece prospect of last summer’s David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle trade between the Yankees and White Sox, Rutherford has always had intriguing offensive potential with one caveat—the eventual power output he’ll need to profile at a corner outfield spot. He’s gotten noticeably thicker this season and has started strong in his first taste in the center of a stacked lineup at high Class A. There’s some cleaning up to do defensively as well, but the early trends are promising. (JN)

19. Connor Wong, C, Dodgers
Team: high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .500/.538/1.250 (6-for-12), 3 R, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Wong is the latest in a line of college middle infielders-turned-catchers the Dodgers love to collect, following the footsteps of Kyle Farmer, Austin Barnes and Will Smith. Drafted in the third round last year mainly due to his athleticism and potential as a defender, Wong has opened his first full season on an offensive tear, leading the Cal League with eight home runs in just 12 games and posting an overall .396/.463/.979 line. Wong concluded his week with a 3-for-4, two home run, four-RBI game against Lake Elsinore, and he’s established his sneaky pop is no longer so sneaky. (KG)

20. Jesus Sanchez, OF, Rays
Team: high Class A Port Charlotte (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .423/.464/.654 (11-for-26),

The Scoop: Sanchez has hit wherever he’s played. His career line—.319/.357/.504—is exceptional when you consider he’s been one of the younger players in every league he’s played in so far. Sanchez is a corner outfielder—he still plays center field occasionally, but he doesn’t fit there long term. The rest of Sanchez’s game isn’t as advanced as his bat, but his ability to hit will carry him a long way. (JJ)

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