Top MLB Prospects Hot Sheet (7/2/18)
This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from June 25 to July 1. Contributing this week were JJ Cooper, Matt Eddy, Josh Norris 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. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .500/.571/1.000 (6-for-12), 4 R, 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB.
The Scoop: At this point, Tatis’ rough April is a long forgotten memory. Since May arrived, he’s handled the Texas League much like he did the Midwest League last year. Tatis had his third two home run game of the season on Sunday. After hitting .336/.414/.639 in May, Tatis finished June with a nearly as impressive .330/.413/.527 in June. He has 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases in the past 53 games. (JJ)
2. Francisco Mejia, C/OF, Indians
Team: Triple-A Columbus (International)
Why He’s Here: .593/.645/.926 (16-for-27), 8 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-0 SB
The Scoop: Mejia’s slow start is a thing of the past. The gifted switch-hitter reeled off eight consecutive multi-hit games to put the finishing touch on a scorching June during which he hit .455, and he began July by going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. Mejia is seeing an increased amount of time in the outfield rather than behind the plate, but with the way he’s hitting, his bat will play anywhere. (KG)
3. Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
Team: low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .500/.577/.850 (10-for-20), 8 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 5 BB, 3 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Lewis spent the first part of the season showing he could hit. Now he’s showing he can hit for power. Lewis has hit five of his eight home runs the last 20 games, slugging over .700 in that time while maintaining batting average well over .300. Lewis keeps adding pieces to his game month-by-month, and is living up to his billing as a No. 1 overall pick. (KG)
4. Tyler O’Neill, OF, Cardinals
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .278/.381/1.000 (5-for-18), 7 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-0 SB
The Scoop: O’Neill’s steep uphill swing path continues to scare evaluators, but he keeps hitting balls a mile. O’Neill’s latest power outburst this week gives him 19 home runs in 49 minor league games this year, as well as three homers in 16 big league games. Most encouraging, O’Neill has cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 24.3 percent this year, a more than adequate number for a power hitter. (KG)
5. Brandon Lowe, OF, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Why He’s Here: .484/.590/.935 (15-for-31), 9 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBIs, 8 BB, 7 SO, 0-for-0 SB
The Scoop: How hot has Lowe been over the last week or so? One of his teammates crossed out his name on Durham’s lineup card and wrote “Ruth” in its place. While he’s not quite the Babe, Lowe hasn’t stopped hitting since getting promoted from Double-A Montgomery. After entering the season with 16 home runs, Lowe has doubled that total before the all-star break. (JN)
6. Ronaldo Hernandez, C, Rays
Team: low Class A Bowling Green (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .348/.360/.913 (8-for-23), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: In a system full of emerging prospects, Hernandez’s start has allowed him to jump into BA’s Top 100 prospects list. He has shown the ability to hit for average and power, and has also showcased a throwing arm that rates as a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. Very quietly, the Tampa Bay system has vaulted itself into the game’s elite. (JN)
7. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox
Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International)
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 0.75, 12 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 17 SO, 6 BB, 1 HR
The Scoop: By any estimation, Kopech’s right arm is one of the most electric in the minor leagues. His fastball can get well into triple-digits and commonly sits in the upper 90s. He’s had a rough time with his control and command, walking 27 in 28 innings in June. He’s added a curveball this season and is continuing to refine his changeup to add a third weapon to go along with his fastball and slider. (JN)
8. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays
Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.71, 12.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 SO, 1 HR
The Scoop: Drafted out of high school in 2014, Reid-Foley reached Double-A in his fourth pro season last year. The results were not pretty. He allowed 145 hits and 22 home runs in 133 innings for New Hampshire. Toronto sent Reid-Foley back to the Eastern League this year, and he commanded his power arsenal much better to earn a rapid promotion to Buffalo. He has looked sharp in the International League lately, recording a 1.97 ERA in his past five starts with 36 strikeouts in 32 innings and a .196 opponent average. (ME)
9. Corey Ray, OF, Brewers
Team: Double-A Biloxi
Why He’s Here: .353/.421/.941 (6-for-17), 4 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Brewers showed enormous faith in Ray by starting him at Double-A after a disastrous campaign at high Class A Carolina in 2017, and Ray has rewarded them with an improved season. Though he still strikes too much (97 strikeouts in 77 games), Ray is walking more, getting to his power better and stealing bases at a more efficient clip. He reeled off a five-game hit streak featuring three home runs this past week, giving him an .814 OPS on the season. (KG)
10. Justin Dunn, RHP, Mets
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 10 SO, 1 BB, 1 HR
The Scoop: Dunn, the Mets’ first-rounder in 2016, has taken a step forward in 2018. He’s commanded the baseball better this season and has kept it low in the zone. That, coupled with his already-excellent three-pitch mix and big-time arm speed, have helped him put together a 2.51 ERA over the first three months of the season. His 80 strikeouts are already five more than he had all of last year — in roughly 24 fewer innings. (JN)
12. JoJo Romero, LHP, Phillies
Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.45, 11 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 13 SO, 1 HR
The Scoop: Like many pitchers, Romero hit a wall at Double-A during his first exposure to the level this season. The three-pitch lefty has recovered nicely and is in the midst of a hot stretch at Reading. In his past seven starts, Romero has recorded a 2.86 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 44 innings while allowing a .210 opponent average. Crucially, he has allowed just three home runs in that time after allowing nine in his first 10 starts.
12. Anthony Kay, LHP, Mets
Team: low Class A Columbia (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 SO, 1 BB, 1 HR
The Scoop: The Mets 2016 first-round pick missed two years with elbow troubles, but he finally made his pro debut this spring and showed increased velocity following Tommy John surgery. Kay’s season has been uneven as gets re-acclimated to pitching, but he was on the upswing last week, striking out a career-high 11 against Asheville while pitching into the seventh inning. Evaluators see a potential back-end starter in Kay. He just needs to stay healthy and keep pitching after such a long layoff. (KG)
13. Kevin Smith, SS, Blue Jays
Team: high Class A Dunedin (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .414/.433/.690 (12-for-29), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Smith’s breakthrough season continues in the Florida State League, where his strikeout rate has climbed but his power production remains plus. He hits the ball hard and can elevate for power, which combined with his above-average speed and defensive versatility makes him a prospect worth believing in.
14. Gavin Sheets, 1B, White Sox
Team: high Class A Winston-Salem (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .485/.486/.758 (16-for-33), 7 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The White Sox’s first-round pick from two drafts ago had struggled to hit for power over the first three months of the season. In fact, with two home runs this week, Sheets doubled his season’s output. He’s made a mechanical change that has allowed him to get the ball in the air more often and tap into his raw power, and the results are starting to show. (JN)
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15. Akil Baddoo, OF, Twins
Team: Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .365/.412/.613 (11-for-31), 8 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB.
The Scoop: April in the Midwest League is a pretty brutal time to be a hitter. But now that the weather has warmed up, so have the bats. Baddoo hasn’t hit for average, but he’s shown both the ability to get on-base (thanks to a 16 percent walk rate) and power (five home runs and 15 extra-base hits in June). Even with Alex Kirilloff promoted to high Class A Fort Myers, Cedar Rapids is one of the more interesting teams in the minors with David Banuelos, Blayne Enlow, Royce Lewis and Baddoo. (JJ)
16. Luis Garcia, SS, Nationals
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .429/.448/.607 (12-for-28), 7 R, 5 2B, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The lefthanded-hitting Garcia has made consistent contact and found the gaps with regularity in the South Atlantic League while navigating his first full pro season. The Nationals continue to rotate Garcia around the Hagerstown infield—he has appeared most often at third base—as they develop both him and teammate Yasel Antuna, a fellow prized prospect from the Nationals’ 2016 international signing class.
17. Bobby Bradley, 1B, Indians
Team: Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .308/.379/.846 (8-for-26), 7 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 8 SO.
The Scoop: Bradley’s season looks somewhat disastrous. He is struggling to stay on the right side of the Mendoza line with a .208 batting average. But dig a little deeper, and Bradley keeps doing what he always does. He strikes out 25 percent of the time, which is a sustainable rate for a slugger and he does draw some walks. And he’s homering at about the same rate this year as last year. What’s happened is when Bradley hits the ball in the park, he’s not getting any hits. A .216 BABIP means you’re really unlucky no matter how many shifts you’re facing. Bradley’s .216 BABIP is the worst of any hitter in full season ball. It will get better, and with it, Bradley’s .208 average will also get better. (JJ)
18. Kevin Cron, 1B, D-backs
Team: Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .462/.483/1.115 (12-for-26), 9 R, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 15 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Twice last week, Cron had the kind of day that many players maybe get to experience once a season. A day after a three-hit day with two doubles, Cron hit three home runs against Salt Lake. Then just three days later, Cron had a two home run game against Tacoma. Cron had six multi-hit games in his last nine games of May. Reno is a great place to hit, but Cron is making a case to join his brother in the big leagues. (JJ)
19. Anderson Tejeda, SS, Rangers
Team: high Class A Down East (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .385/.448/.577 (10-for-26), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 11 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Power. Speed. A cannon arm. The ability to play shortstop. The lefthanded-hitting Tejeda brings all these tools to the table on a nightly basis in the Carolina League, where he ranks among the leaders in total bases and RBIs. If he can find a way to make more contact, he could move into the next tier of shortstop prospects. Tejeda’s raw tools are that loud.
20. Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pirates
Team: Double-A Altoona
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.84, 2 GS, 12.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO, 1 HR
The Scoop: Hearn has long had one of the best left arms in the minors, but scouts have long suspected that he will end up as a reliever who can reach 100 mph. But to Hearn’s credit he keeps giving the Nationals reasons to see him as a potential starter. Hearn has improved his control and he has proven equally effective against righthanded hitters and lefties. (JJ)
Moises Gomez, OF, Rays
Tampa Bay’s system has seen several players take steps forward this year, including the low Class A Bowling Green trio of second baseman Vidal Brujan, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and Gomez, the 19-year-old outfielder who bears similarity to Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna. He needs refinement at the plate and in the field, but the raw tools are there for Gomez, who signed with the Rays out of Venezuela in 2015, to make his mark among a slew of talented prospects. (JN)