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Prospect Hot Sheet (5/14/18)

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This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from May 7-13. Contributing this week were JJ Cooper, Josh Norris, Ben Badler, 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. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .393/.414/.714 (11-for-28), 7 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 SO, 0-for-1 SB.

The Scoop: Guerrero’s week in some ways looks almost ordinary. He hit .393, but that’s actually four points below his average for the season, an absurd .397. He has 12 hits since he last struck out. But just because Guerrero does the inexplicable on a regular basis shouldn’t allow us to get jaded about just how impressive Guerrero’s season is. He’s a 19-year-old who is more advanced than all the 23 and 24-year-old pitchers he’s facing. Guerrero leads the Eastern League in batting, hits, RBIs and is among the league’s top five in nearly every other offensive category. He’s also the second-toughest player in the league to strike out. He’s simply unlike any hitter we’ve seen in the minors in years. (JJ)

2. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Rays
Team: low Class A Bowling Green (Midwest)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: McKay earned a promotion to high Class A Charlotte this week, which comes as welcome news for Midwest League hitters, whom he terrorized during his month on the circuit. He struck out 40 and walked just two in his 24.2 innings with Bowling Green, and his latest start defies description. He needed just 54 pitches to get through six innings, including a 19-pitch stretch to get through the third through fifth innings. That’s dominance. (JN)

3. Chris Paddack, RHP, Padres
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 10 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: Paddack continues to be untouchable since his return from Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-4 righthander, acquired by the Padres from the Marlins for Fernando Rodney in June 2016, has pitched 16 scoreless innings with eight hits allowed, one walk and 26 strikeouts in three starts since coming off the disabled list. His darting 90-95 mph fastball and plus changeup gave him two dynamic weapons, and now he’s mixing in a rapidly improving 12-to-6 curveball to round out his arsenal and baffle hitters even further. (KG)

4. Jack Flaherty, RHP, Cardinals
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 13 SO, 0 BB, 1 HR

The Scoop: Whether in the majors or the minors, Flaherty has been on point this year. The No. 52 prospect in the BA Top 100 pitched well in two spot starts with the Cardinals this season and has carved up Triple-A hitters in the interim, improving to 4-1, 2.27 with his latest performance this week. Flaherty struck out a career-high 13 at Oklahoma City, including seven straight at one point. With Adam Wainwright likely headed back to the disabled list after a poor start in San Diego, Flaherty’s return to St. Louis shouldn’t be too far off. (KG)

5. Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .345/.387/.690 (10-for-29) 10 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 8 SO, 1-for-1 SB.

The Scoop: Riley’s spot on the Hot Sheet was earned on one day, but what a day it was. Riley came into Sunday having produced one extra-base hit in his first six games in Triple-A. On Sunday, Riley ended that by going 4-for-5 with three home runs including a grand slam. Riley now has nine home runs this season. After hitting exactly 20 home runs in each of the past two seasons, he should top that this season. (JJ)

6. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 7 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Repeating Double-A after registering a 5.09 ERA in a full season there last year, Reid-Foley has shown crisper, more consistent stuff this season. Working off a 92-96 mph fastball, Reid-Foley mixes in a slider that flashes plus to get swings and misses to both lefties and righties. He changed his changeup grip in spring training and the pitch had the best action yet in his start last week against Portland. Fastball command remains a focal point for him to improve, but Reid-Foley’s stuff has come together this year to help him hold down a 1.88 ERA in 38.1 innings with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks. (BB)

7. Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves
Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: While Allard doesn’t light up radar guns like many top pitching prospects, a number of his indicators are pointing in the right direction. Specifically, he’s the youngest pitcher in the International League and has proven durable as he moves farther out from back surgery he had in his draft year. Allard has pitched to a 1.71 ERA through six starts this year, ranking him second in the IL, thanks in part to the development of an outstanding changeup that makes him an intriguing three-pitch lefty. (ME)

8. Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals
Team: High Class A Potomac (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .556/.657/.815 (15-for-27), 8 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 7 BB, 2 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Early last year, Kieboom and Juan Soto were flat-out destroying low Class A Hagerstown before injuries derailed their seasons. They’re both healthy now, and back to their hot-hitting ways. After a slow April, Kieboom has been on fire in May, hitting .417/.525/.646 with a pair of home runs and just four strikeouts in 48 at-bats. His six longballs this year are just one off the lead in the Carolina League, which is held by four players, including the since-departed Soto and Kieboom’s teammate Rhett Wiseman. (JN)

9. Ryan Lillie, RHP, Marlins
Team: low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.68, 13.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 16 SO, 1 BB, 1 HR

The Scoop: Lillie entered UC Riverside as a catcher before being converted to a pitcher by head coach Troy Percival, who famously made the same transition as a minor leaguer. Initially a closer, Lillie began starting in conference play last year for UCR and has continued starting in pro ball since the Marlins made him a fifth-round pick. He’s taken to it, going 7-1, 2.88 with 43 strikeouts and six walks in 40.2 innings to start the season for Greensboro. With a 92-95 mph fastball that reaches 97, a potential above-average slider and growing feel for a changeup, Lillie has all the components to start for the long run. (KG)

10. Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 11 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 12 SO, 4 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: It’s been a long road for Turnbull, who has battled through various injuries just to get to Double-A. When he’s right, he has a vicious arsenal backed by a mid-90s fastball that ticks into the upper 90s as well as a pair of swing-and-miss breaking balls. He ended last year with a goal of throwing more quality strikes more often, and he’s still got little work to do in that regard, but the early results in his return to Double-A are promising. (JN)

11. Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Shawaryn shut down a talented New Hampshire lineup that included Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and others last week. The results were good, although the stuff itself didn’t jump out, with a fastball that sat at 89-92 mph and a solid slider. Shawaryn isn’t overpowering but he has been effective this year with a 2.88 ERA in 34.1 innings. He has a chance to develop into a back-end starter. (BB)

12. Christin Stewart, OF, Tigers
Team: Triple-A Toledo (International)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .333/.379/.963 (9-for-27), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO.

The Scoop: The biggest knock on Stewart has always been his propensity to strike out. So far, things are looking better on that front. He’s raised his hands a bit in his setup and is much quicker to the ball, and as a result has cut his strikeout rate more than eight percent. That extra contact hasn’t come with a plunge in power, either, seeing as his 11 home runs are tied for third in the minors. (JN)

13. Kevin Newman, SS, Pirates
Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .519/.552/.778 (14-for-27), 7 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB.

The Scoop: Three years and four seasons since he was drafted out of Arizona (where he was teammates with Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery), Newman is what he is. He doesn’t drive the ball much, but he makes contact regularly, giving him a chance to be a bottom-of-the-order shortstop. And when he gets on hot streaks like the one he is on now, he collects hits in bunches. (JJ)

14. Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .261/.250/.783 (6-for-23), 5 R, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 0 BB, 8 SO.

The Scoop: Biggio is the third of the triumvirate of sons of famous big leaguers at New Hampshire. He’s not Guerrero or Bichette, but if he can keep this up, he is a prospect in his own right. At Notre Dame and in the early part of his career, Biggio was best at slapping the ball around the field and taking plenty of walks. This year he’s tapped into some major power and gone from having a sub-.100 isolated slugging percentage to a a nearly .400 ISO. He’ll likely have some regression as the season wears on, but his newfound power makes him a much more interesting prospect. (JJ)

15. Jason Martin, OF, Pirates
Team: Double-A Altoona (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .522/.577/.826 (12-for-23), 1 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-2 SB.

The Scoop: The Pirates are realistically not going to “win” the Gerrit Cole trade, but like Manhattan Change Bank, the Pirates are relying on volume in their return. Colin Moran has been fine at third base. Michael Feliz is a useful reliever. Joe Musgrove should be in Pittsburgh soon after an injury-plagued start to the season and Martin has gotten off to a fine start at Altoona. Martin can play all three outfield spots and he has average power potential, although he’s best suited as a table-setter. (JJ)

16. Kevin Smith, SS, Blue Jays
Team: low Class A Lansing (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .500/.480/.792 (12-for-24), 6 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBIs, 0 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The Blue Jays drafted college shortstops in the first and fourth rounds last year, nabbing North Carolina’s Logan Warmoth at No. 22 overall and then Smith out of Maryland at No. 129. Warmoth has started slowly at high Class A Dunedin, but Smith has excelled one level lower in the Midwest League, which he leads in hits (50), RBIs (31), doubles (19) and slugging (.639). While Smith doesn’t necessarily have a plus tool on his report, his well-rounded game is making the case for a second-half bump to the Florida State League. (ME)

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Kevin Smith Closes Hole In His Swing

The 2017 fourth-round shortstop owes his Midwest League success to a revamped swing and new hitting approach.

17. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Mariners
Team: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .429/.543/1.107 (12-for-28), 9 R, 4 2B, 5 HR, 8 RBIs, 7 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: The Mariners optioned Vogelbach to Triple-A when Ryon Healy came off the disabled list, and the hefty lefty has done everything he can to show he belongs back in the majors. In the two and a half weeks since he was demoted, Vogelbach is batting .317/.455/.700 with six home runs and more than twice as many walks (16) as strikeouts (7). Vogelbach will always be a liability defensively, but his continued displays of big lefthanded power will get him more shots at the big league roster. (KG)

18. Ryan Boldt, OF, Rays
Team: Double-A Montgomery (Southern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .318/.385/.909 (7-for-22), 8 R, 2 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Boldt is an above-average runner and a good athlete for someone who is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, but despite a strong, physical frame, he hit just five home runs in 120 games last year with high Class A Charlotte. He’s nearly equaled last year’s home run output already, with five home runs in 28 games and a .260/.319/.490 overall line, though the increase in power has come with more strikeouts (34). Finding the right balance between contact and impact will be a key to watch in Boldt’s development the rest of the year. (BB)

19. Vince Fernandez, OF, Rockies
Team: high Class A Lancaster (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .471/.526/1.000 (8-for-17), 2 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 0 SO

The Scoop: The Rockies drafted Fernandez in the 10th round out of UC Riverside in 2016 because he could mash. Fernandez led the Big West Conference in hits and total bases that season, and he’s continued to hit in pro ball. He put together five consecutive multi-hit games before going hitless on Sunday, and overall is hitting .312/.433/.523 on the year. Fernandez won’t win any Gold Gloves in the outfield, but he makes the plays he should and is an offensive force from the left side, a potent combination that should help him climb the minor league ladder. (KG)

20. Albert Abreu, RHP, Yankees
Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1 G, 1 GS, 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield are the big names when it came to young players the Yankees acquired in trades to help bolster their farm system, but Abreu is right behind them. Acquired from the Astros in the December 2016 deal that sent Brian McCann to Houston, Abreu entered the year as the No. 6 prospect in the organization and has shown three pitches that flash above-average. He’s a power pitcher who sits in the mid- to upper 90s, with the ability to put away hitters with either his breaking ball or his changeup. Now, it’s a matter of Abreu developing more touch and feel to go with his power arsenal. (BB)

HELIUM

Jose Rojas, 3B
The Angels drafted the Anaheim-born Rojas in the 36th round in 2016 out of NAIA Vanguard University, located just 12 miles from Angel Stadium. Since entering pro ball, the hometown kid has proven to be much more than an organizational filler. Rojas was a California League All-Star in his first pro season last year, including beating Josh Naylor in the semifinals of the Home Run Derby, and is off to a .364/.485/.618 start at Double-A this year, which includes hitting for the cycle on Saturday. Slightly plump at 6 foot, 200 pounds, Rojas does everything well. He is a solid-average defender at third base with enough arm for the position, has the footwork and athleticism to handle second base and can downright hit. He has a gap approach with excellent feel to hit from the left side, and he can drop the barrel for some long home runs with the best of them. Evaluators see Rojas as a big leaguer who can stick on a bench as a lefthanded utilityman, a heck of an outcome for the 1,086th player picked in his draft. If Rojas can live up to that projection, he would become the first position player from Vanguard to ever play in the majors.

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