Top MLB Prospects Hot Sheet (7/9/18)

Image credit: Wander Franco (Photo by Carl Kline)

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from July 2-8. Contributing this week were JJ Cooper, Matt Eddy,  Josh Norris and Ben Badler.

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. Wander Franco, SS, Rays
Team: Rookie-level Princeton (Appalachian)
Age: 17
Why He’s Here: .400/.500/.760 (10-for-25), 9 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: When we ranked Franco as the No. 1 international prospect last year, we knew he was a talented hitter whose offensive ability was well beyond his years. Since then, he’s only gotten better, annihilating extended spring training to the point where the Rays skipped him over the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and had him debut in the Appy League, where he’s hitting . 352/.403/.592. Franco has a sweet, smooth, short stroke with excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate. His barrel stays on plane with the pitch for a long time, with the ability to recognize and square up both fastballs and breaking pitches. Oh, and he has above-average raw power too. There are still questions about whether Franco ultimately sticks at shortstop or moves to second base, but either way, he has a chance to develop into an impact hitter, the type who could race through the minors and get to the big leagues by the time he’s 20. (BB)

2. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves
Team: high Class A Florida (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 18 SO.

The Scoop: Sorting through the Braves large number of pitching prospects is not easy. But here’s an easy way to figure it out–Anderson is both one of the highest-ceilinged starting pitching prospects in the Braves’ system and also one of the most successful. As a 20-year-old, he’s still got moments or outings where his control gets a little loose and wild, but there are also days like last Monday where he strikes out 11 in six scoreless innings. And he followed that up by throwing five more scoreless innings on Sunday. Anderson has the stuff and the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. The path from high Class A to the front of a rotation is a long, winding and rocky one but Anderson has that kind of potential. (JJ)

3. Taylor Ward, 3B, Angels
Team: Triple-A Salt Lake (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .615/.656/.769 (16-for-26), 5 R, 4 2B, 7 RBIs, 5 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: For a first-round pick out of college, Ward hasn’t moved particularly fast. But having stopped catching and moved full time to third base, his offensive production has spiked in 2018. While he’s relatively old for his level of competition, Ward is batting .359/.450/.552 between Double-A and Triple-A this season, with a career-high 11 home runs through 74 games. (BB)

4. Bryse Wilson, RHP, Braves
Team: high Class A Florida (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 2 G, 2 GS, 13.1 IP, 5 H, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 16 SO.

The Scoop: After five dominating starts in high Class A, the Braves bumped Wilson up to Double-A Mississippi and for the first time as a pro, he found himself in over his head. Wilson failed to get out of the third inning in four of five starts at one stretch. But his stuff is still the same stuff and twice this week he had those dominating outings that were pretty common when he was in Class A. Now, Wilson has to show that this was the sign he’s starting to figure out Double-A as a 20-year-old. (JJ)

5. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians
Team: Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.73, 12.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 10 SO, x BB, 1 HR

The Scoop: McKenzie has been excellent since returning from injury, but his last two starts have been particularly good. The rail-thin righthander carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on July 3 against Altoona, then backed it up on Sunday with six innings of two-hit ball against Richmond to close the first half of the Eastern League season. (JN)

6. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Red Sox
Team: High Class A Salem (Carolina)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .481/.484/1.185 (13-for-27), 8 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBIs, 2 2B, 6 SO.

The Scoop: Dalbec is treading the path that Joey Gallo trod. He’s a third baseman with massive power potential, but he swings and misses enough that he is trying to stay on the right side of that narrow line where the walks and home runs make up for the strikeouts. Dalbec’s power has been much more apparent this year at Salem than he was in Greenville last year, so so far so good. (JJ)

7. Jackson Tetreault, RHP, Nationals
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.29, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 15 SO.

The Scoop: Tetreault was a teammate of Cubs’ first round pick Brendon Little at State College of Florida JC last year. So far, he’s actually had a little easier adjustment to pro ball, as he’s shown flashes of dominance this year, including seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball against West Virginia on July 2. Tetreault has shown solid stuff all year (with a low-90s fastball) and reliable control. He’s walked more than two batters only once all season. (JJ)

8. Chad Spanberger, 1B, Rockies
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .542/.538/1.083 (13-for-24), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-2 SBs.

The Scoop: Putting Spanberger in Asheville is a perfect combination of man, moment and many, many home runs. Asheville’s right field wall is only 297 feet from home plate and right center is still only 320 feet away. It’s a hitter’s paradise. Spanberger’s power can clear fences pretty much anywhere and nine of his 20 home runs have come on the road. But Spanberger’s OPS at home is 1.139 and on the road is .778. Spanberger had plenty of experience in the Southeastern Conference before being drafted by the Rockies, so it’s probably time for the Rockies to see how he can handle high Class A. (JJ)

9. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Red Sox
Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 11.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 17 SO.

The Scoop: Hernandez has been erratic at times this year, but scouts are pretty universal in acknowledging that he’s shown big league stuff, although it may end up working better out of the bullpen then in the rotation. Hernandez can carry 93-95 mph velocity deep into starts and his slider gives him a second weapon, especially against lefties who are hitting only .203 against him. (JJ)

10. Matt Hall, LHP, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 12.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 18 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR

The Scoop: Hall has always been armed with an excellent curveball, but improved fastball command has helped make the pitch even more effective. He’s cut his walk rate drastically this year, and the results have been stark. In fact, his latest outing gave him 27.1 consecutive scoreless innings, a streak that dates back to June 5. (JN)

11. Eli Morgan, RHP, Indians
Team: high Class A Lynchburg (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO.

The Scoop: Morgan succeeds to an extent with deception and location, but it’s impressive deception and location. Morgan’s changeup is simply too good for Class A hitters, and it makes his 88-90 mph fastball just enough. It’s fair to wonder if Morgan’s excellent changeup will be as effective against more advanced hitters, but he does get a curveball over as well. His feel and command have allowed him to dominate so far, and there are scouts who think it will work well enough to get him to the majors. (JJ)

12. Kevin Cron, 1B, D-backs
Team: Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .476/.560/1.048 (10-for-21), 8 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Can Cron follow the Jesus Aguilar path of presumed 4-A slugger to legitimately productive major leaguer? For now, the fringe big leaguer is a higher probability outcome, but Cron has cut his strikeout rate from 26 percent in 2016 to 23 percent last year and now 20 percent this year while moving up a level. The park and league inflate his numbers, but Cron has legitimate power for the position if he can keep improving his approach to keep his strikeouts to a manageable level. (BB)

13. Gilberto Celestino, OF, Astros
Team: Short-season Tri City (New York-Penn)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .393/.433/.786 (11-for-28), 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 5-for-5 on SBs.

The Scoop: Celestino is either the best center field prospect in the Astros organization or the second best, depending on one’s opinions about whether Myles Straw is a center fielder long-term. The 19-year-old has proven to be quite the base stealer in the New York-Penn League. He’s swiped 10 bags in 10 attempts in 21 games. (JJ)

14. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays
Team: High Class A Charlotte (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .409/.536/.682 (9-for-22), 4 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 6 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SBs.

The Scoop: Sorting out the Rays’ Lowes is a difficult task. There’s Nate Lowe, the Futures Gamer who is a great story. The older brother of Josh, he has turned himself into a prospect with a breakout year. Then there’s Brandon Lowe, who is no relation to Josh or Nate. He doesn’t even pronounce his name the same way (it’s pronounced Lough, rhymes with cow), but like Nate, he’s turned himself into a prospect with a breakout 2017 season, which he’s followed by having an even better 2018 season. Josh is the first-round pick who was a prospect before he made his pro debut. He’s struggled at times this season, but the 20-year-old is showing signs he’s catching up to the Florida State League. (JJ)

15. Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .286/.500/.762 (6-for-21), 8 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 9 BB, 9 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: After a monster two-month stretch to open the season, Biggio’s performance cooled in June, but he’s off to a great start to July. An offseason adjustment to lower his hand setup has helped his bat stay through the hitting zone longer, with Biggio transforming from a longshot prospect to one of the better players in Toronto’s talented farm system. (BB)

16. Ernie Clement, SS, Indians
Team: High Class A Lynchburg (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .522/.577/.609 (12-for-23), 4 R, 2 2B, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO.

The Scoop: Now that Willians Astudillo has graduated to the big leagues, we need a new never-strikes-out hero in the minors and Clement is one of the best candidates. Clement has always made a lot of contact, but in his 50 plate appearances since his promotion to high Class A, he’s amped it up to a new level. He’s struck out one time while making tons of contact spraying singles around the yard. Clement likely is a utility infielder in the long-term where his contact skills will be quite useful. (JJ)

17. Akil Baddoo, OF, Twins
Team: low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .409/.458/.727 (9-for-22), 5 R, 3 2B, 2 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: A high school player drafted in the top two rounds who spends two years in Rookie ball is usually a red flag, although Baddoo was young for his high school class. Plate patience and plus speed work in Baddoo’s favor, but he will still have to cut down on holes in his swing to make more contact against better pitching. (BB)

18. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mets
Team: Rookie-level GCL Mets
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .296/.333/.519 (8-for-27), 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO, 3-for-3 on SBs.

The Scoop: Kelenic can now say he’s truly a pro baseball player, because on Sunday for the first time as a pro, he went hitless. Sure, his pro career is just two weeks long right now, but until Sunday, Kelenic had never headed home after a game as a pro where he didn’t get a hit. He went 3-for-4 in his pro debut. In his next game he got two hits, but the next day he got three hits once again. He’s had a pair of one-hit games since, but followed those up with a pair of multi-hit games and a home run on Saturday. (JJ)

19. Grant Lavigne, 1B, Rockies
Team: Rookie-level Grand Junction (Pioneer)
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .381/.480/.524 (8-for-21), 4 R, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 3-for-3 on SBs.

The Scoop: The Rockies’ supplemental first round pick has gotten off to about as good a start as a first-year pro can. After 14 games, he’s hitting .412/.500/.709 with four home runs and nearly as many walks (8) as strikeouts (9). The bar as a hitter/slugger that a high school first baseman has to clear is a very high one, which is why not many of them get drafted in the first two rounds. Lavigne is showing signs he’ll clear that bar. (JJ)

20. Sebastian Rivero, C, Royals
Team: low Class A Lexington (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .435/.480/.913 (10-for-23) 8 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO.

The Scoop: Rivero is part of a potent 1-2 catching punch for the Royals in low Class A Lexington. M.J. Melendez is the Royals’ second-round pick last year and he’s living up to those expectations with 13 home runs and a strong arm behind the plate. But Rivero has a chance to be potentially even a better receiver than Melendez and his bat is coming around as well. (JJ)


Carlos Rodriguez, OF, Brewers
Rodriguez has proven he’s too advanced for the Dominican Summer League. The No. 8 international prospect in 2017, Rodriguez was seen as a polished hitter with excellent bat control and hand-eye coordination before he signed. He’s lived up or exceeded those expectations so far in his pro debut. He leads the 44-team DSL with a .421 average. He has six three-hit games and two four-hit games in just 25 games overall.

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