Prospect Hot Sheet (5/21/18)

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This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from May 13-20. 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: .516/.568/.903 (16-for-31), 8 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: If Vlad Jr. were to strike out in his next 50 consecutive plate appearances, he would still be hitting .317/.368/.525 on the year. Not that there’s any chance of that happening. Heck, he might not even strike out 50 times the rest of the season. That’s just how ridiculous of a season Guerrero is having, as Eastern League pitchers have yet to expose any offensive holes of the most dangerous hitter in the minors. Including an opposite-field, walk-off dinger in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, Guerrero is hitting a bonkers .421/.472/.697. (BB)

2. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
Team: low Class A Burlington (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .407/.484/1.037 (11-for-27), 6 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Adell is flashing the signals of a potential cornerstone player. He’s strong, extremely athletic and has premium tools in his speed, power and arm strength. Going into his senior year of high school, there were questions about Adell’s bat, but the improvements he has made since then have translated into pro ball, with Adell hitting .326/.398/.611 through 25 games. (BB)

3. Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals
Team: Double-A Springfield (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 2 G, 2 GS, 2-0, 0.00, 12.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 25 SO

The Scoop: Sometimes, we can take Tommy John surgery for granted. There is a good track record of pitchers having their stuff return after surgery, but that’s not always the case, and the road back can be a difficult one. After missing the 2017 season due to TJ, Reyes has shown the same electric repertoire that propelled him to elite prospect status. Between one high Class A Florida State League start and another in Double-A, Reyes struck out 25 of the 44 batters he faced (57 percent) with a mid- to upper-90s fastball, a devastating curveball and a changeup that he mixed in effectively as another out-pitch. Reyes still has to prove his durability, but the stuff itself profiles at the top of a rotation. (BB)

4. Shane Bieber, RHP, Indians
Team: Triple-A Columbus (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.61, 14.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 15 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: As unbelievable as it seems, Bieber matched a career high when he walked two hitters in his Triple-A debut. He’d done that just one other time in three professional seasons, all the way back on May 31 of last year. He’s gone walk-free in 35 of his 46 career appearances, and hasn’t issued a free pass in his last three starts, a span of 21.1 innings. His above-average stuff and elite control should get him to Cleveland soon. (JN)

5. Chance Adams, RHP, Yankees
Team: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 10 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: Adams had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow during the offseason and had looked understandably rusty in the early part of the year. The rust appeared to come off in his last start, a dominant, 10-strikeout outing against Lehigh Valley. The start marked the sixth time in his career, which began as a reliever in low Class A, that Adams has reached double-digit strikeouts. (JN)

6. Cionel Perez, LHP, Astros
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Age: 22
2-0, 1.93, 9.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO, 2 HR

The Scoop: The Cuban lefty struck out a season-high eight batters in his May 20 start against Frisco, though he did allow a pair of solo home runs to righthanded batters in the outing. They were the first two homers allowed by Perez this season. Overall, he has his strikeout and walk rates trending in the right direction after notching seven whiffs and six walks in his first two starts of the season. (ME)

7. Randy Arozarena, OF, Cardinals
Team: Double-A Springfield (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .435/.500/.826 (10-for-23), 9 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO.

The Scoop: Arozarena was handed a tough-luck demotion as the Cardinals sent him back to Double-A in early May because they had too many outfielders in Triple-A. To Arozarena’s credit, he responded by just piling up hits. Arozarena has hit safely in 12 of his 13 Double-A games and has six multi-hit games, including a pair of three-hit games this week. (JJ)

8. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins
Team: low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.84, 10.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 16 SO, 6 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: After jumping on the national scene last year with a 100 mph fastball in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, Graterol has continued dominating in full-season ball. He missed a week with lower back spasms, but has otherwise been excellent. If he had enough innings to qualify, his 0.93 ERA would place second in the Midwest League behind only the since-promoted Eudis Idrogo. (JN)

9. Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 320/.500/.640 (8-for-25), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 9 BB, 8 SO, 1-for-3 on SBs.

The Scoop: Biggio’s 12 home runs in just 38 games has to rank as one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 minor league season. He hit 15 in three seasons at Notre Dame and was much more of a on-base machine than a power threat. But Biggio has junked the stance he used at Notre Dame. When he was there, he started with his hands far above his head in a stance that would not look out of place in the NPB. Instead, he starts with his hands set at shoulder level. The simplified stance has shortened Biggio’s bat path significantly and he also does a better job of hitting the ball in the air, which has paid off with newfound power. (JJ)

10. Starling Heredia, OF, Dodgers
Team: low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .296/.367/.815 (8-for-27), 6 R, 1 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 10 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Heredia plays an especially aggressive brand of baseball that has earned him the nickname “Pit Bull”, and when he’s on he goes off in a big way. The bruising, powerful Heredia hit four home runs in his first three games this week, and most importantly reached base in five of eight games. It was the first time this season Heredia has been able to turn his aggressiveness into success. Even after his big week, he’s hitting .196 with a .615 OPS and 55 strikeouts in 37 games. Heredia has the power to project as a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he needs to harness his aggressiveness in the box to make enough contact for it to matter. (KG)

11. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox
Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO.

The Scoop: Over the last couple of years, Kopech’s development has been about as steady and linear as possible for a power pitcher climbing through the minors.The stuff has remained the same, which is good news when you sit in the upper 90s and mix in a hard, bitting slider. But step by step, the control is getting a little bit better and the consistency is getting better. Kopech has had one bad start all season, and he followed that up with this week’s start, which was his best of the season. (JJ)

12. Kevin Smith, SS/3B, Blue Jays
Team: low Class A Lansing (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .318/.464/.773 (7-for-22), 7 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 5 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: While Vlad Jr. rightfully dominates the headlines, the Blue Jays have two prospects—Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith—whose stocks are soaring quickly. A fifth-round pick out of Maryland last year, Smith is an excellent defender (he’s splitting time between shortstop and third base because Lansing also has shortstop Kevin Vicuna) who showed promising power last year, but it came with swing-and-miss risk. He’s altered his swing path, staying on plane longer with the baseball, which has resulted in more contact while retaining his power, with more extra-base hits (29) than strikeouts (24). (BB)

13. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins
Team: low Class A Cedar Rapids
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .433/.455/.733 (13-for-30), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: The Twins drafted Kirilloff with the No. 15 overall draft pick in 2016, and after a strong pro debut that summer in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, Kirilloff looked poised for a breakout 2017 season. Instead, he had Tommy John surgery in spring training, wiping out what would have been his first full season. He’s back now, and the injury appears to have merely delayed the rise he’s making this season. He’s hitting .324/.363/.600 through 36 games, showing a promising blend of hitting ability and power upon contact. (BB)

14. Shed Long, 2B, Reds
Team: Double-A Pensacola (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .381/.435/.782 (8-for-21), 6 R, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-2 on SBs.

The Scoop: The Reds have found a surprisingly solid second baseman in Scooter Gennett. The waiver claim has proven to be more productive than Brandon Phillips, the veteran he replaced. Gennett has only one more season before he hits free agency, but with Eugenio Suarez signed to a long-term extension, Nick Senzel is Gennett’s likely long-term replacement. That leaves Long as a man who may remain blocked for a while. The former catcher may not have a clear path to a job in Cincinnati, but the man can hit. (JJ)

15. Andy Ibanez, 2B, Rangers
Team: Triple-A Round Rock (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .471/.571/.765 (8-for-17), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 4 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: Ibanez racked up a trio of two-hit games early last week and stayed hot on Round Rock’s road trip. His average rose from .294 to .319 because of the outburst, and for the season he has nearly as many walks (15) as strikeouts (20). Ibanez has the barrel control and flexibility—he also plays third base—to profile as a multi-positional asset. (ME)

16. Oscar Mercado, OF, Cardinals
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .524/.565/.667 (11-for-21), 6 R, 3 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Mercado entered the year known as a tooled-up athlete with subpar plate discipline, poor pitch recognition and generally a fringe-average ceiling as a hitter. Well, he shored up his plate discipline in the offseason and is showing a vastly improved approach, completing his toolset and sending him skyrocketing up scouts’ preference lists. Mercado’s improved approach, quick, line-drive swing and wiry strength have produced big offensive results this year. His season slash line now stands at .320/.382/.463 with, most notably, 15 walks against just 21 strikeouts. The Cardinals are flush with outfield prospects, but an increasing number of evaluators are starting to write up Mercado as the best of them. (KG)

17. Tirso Ornelas, OF, Padres
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .364/.462/.591 (8-for-22), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The Padres signed Ornelas for $1.5 million during their 2016 international spending spree, and he stood out to evaluators immediately upon his arrival in the U.S. as a 16-year-old. With projectable power, an attractive swing, advanced strike-zone discipline and surprising athleticism in his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, Ornelas checks all the boxes scouts look for in an 18-year-old. He was the second-youngest player in the Midwest League on Opening Day and went through some understandable early-season struggles, but he showed signs of heating up with three multi-hit games this week. (KG)

18. Leody Taveras, OF, Rangers
Team: high Class A Down East (Carolina)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .417/.417/.625 (10-for-24), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 0 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The Rangers’ top prospect has started quite nicely in high Class A, and this week he added his third home run of the season. He’s shown the ability to barrel the ball from both sides of the plate as well as above-average range in center field. He’s also sporting a 12.5 percent walk rate, more than 4 percent better than his mark last year. (JN)

19. Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates
Team: low Class A (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .350/.435/.650 (7-for-20), 4 R, 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: The top prospect the Pirates acquired from the Dodgers for Tony Watson last year, Cruz has sprouted from 6-foot-1 when he signed to nearly 6-foot-7 today. Despite his size, the Pirates have kept running Cruz out as a shortstop at low Class A West Virginia, although it’s been messy with 15 errors in 35 games this season. Wherever Cruz ends up on the diamond, his bat will be what carries him. After a slow start to the season, he has raised his average from .234 to .277 with 15 hits in his last 10 games, including homering on back-to-back days to end the week. (KG)

20. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP, Rangers
Team: high Class A Down East (Carolina)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 3.00, 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO, 1 HR

The Scoop: Now in his sixth pro season, Hernandez’s strikeout rate has spiked in the Carolina League. He fanned 11 in his May 16 start against Carolina after racking up a pair of nine-strikeout games earlier in the season. Hernandez leads the CL with 52 strikeouts and isn’t getting hit hard when opponents manage to contact the ball. They’re hitting just .187 thanks to the righthander’s standout fastball that features life up in the zone. (ME)


Luis Patino, RHP, Padres: As an amateur player in Colombia, Patino was a shortstop who later converted to pitching. When he pitched at the MLB international showcase in 2016, he threw in the mid-80s. Then, on July 2 of that year, the Padres signed him for $130,000. His fastball jumped after signing, but it was his control and pitchability that stood out most last year. Patino, 18, made his full-season debut last week as the youngest pitcher in the low Class A Midwest League, and he showed his polish by allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings with only one walk and four strikeouts. He also reached 97 mph in that start, bringing an extra power gear in his repertoire to pair with his advanced touch and feel for pitching.

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