Top MLB Prospects Hot Sheet (7/9/19)

Image credit: Joey Wentz (Photo by Mike Janes)

Welcome back to the Hot Sheet, which ranks the 20 hottest prospects from the previous week. This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did from July 2-8. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, J.J. Cooper and Justin Coleman. 

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. Joey Wentz, LHP, Braves
Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 1.42, 2 GS, 12.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 R, 5 BB, 19 SO

The scoop: While his Mississippi rotationmates have soared, Wentz has found Double-A to be a little more difficult. But lately there have been some very positive signs. His velocity has ticked back up to the 91-94 mph range, which helps his changeup play as the above-average and even plus pitch it can be at its best. Wentz tied his career high in strikeouts with nine on July 1 and then set a new career high with 10 strikeouts on July 6. (JJ)

2. Seth Beer, OF, Astros
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .583/.655/1.042 (14-for-24), 10 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 1 BB, 3 SO, 4 HBP

The scoop: This week the Astros cut loose AJ Reed, who was claimed on waivers by the White Sox. Reed’s declining offensive production was the key reason for his departure, but the Astros also expect a good bit defensively from their first baseman, which was an expectation Reed never fully met. Now that same question falls to Beer, who has focused on first base almost exclusively with Corpus Christi. As a hitter, he’s mashed all season and has boosted his on-base percentage with 19 hit-by-pitches. (JJ)

3. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .412/.429/.706 (14-for-34), 7 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2 SB

The scoop: After missing a chunk of the early season with a broken hand, Bichette is quickly making up for lost time. The top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system now that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the big leagues, Bichette gave fans a few fireworks over the holiday weekend by swatting home runs on both July 4 and July 5. With Guerrero shining in the Home Run Derby, Nate Pearson wowing at the Futures Game and Bichette slugging in Triple-A, the next few years in Toronto have the potential to be very entertaining. (JN)

4. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants
Team: Rookie-level Giants Orange (Arizona)
Age: 17
Why He’s Here: .440/.481/.920 (11-for-25), 11 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 2 SB

The scoop: Luciano wasted no time putting the fire in fire league. The 17-year-old shortstop who ranked as the top prospect in the 2018 international class has absolutely exploded in his first few weeks of official games as a pro. He’s launched seven home runs in his first 64 ABs, which puts him halfway toward the total that led the AZL a year ago. If he keeps hitting like this, he’ll push his way to Salem-Keizer in no time. (JN)

5. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 1.08, 12 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 17 SO

The scoop: After tossing seven innings while allowing just one run against Palm Beach, Skubal made his Eastern League debut this weekend and did not disappoint. The lefthander allowed just one hit while striking out 11 batters, tying a season high. His three-pitch mix and good control allowed him to fill up the strike zone effectively. While some hitters were able to work the count against him, Skubal got plenty of swings and misses on offerings late in at-bats. (JC)

6. Cal Raleigh, C, Mariners
Team: High Class A Modesto (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .346/.370/.846 (9-for-26), 5 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1 SB

The scoop: Raleigh got off to a poor start this season. He drew some walks and hit some home runs, but he didn’t hit for average. But since the start of June, Raleigh has been on a monstrous tear. He’s hit .299/.364/.626 since June began. That kind of bat from a catcher with solid defensive chops gives Seattle a solid catching prospect to build around. (JJ)

7. Travis Swaggerty, OF, Pirates
Team: High Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .542/.560/1.185 (13-for-24), 4 R, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2 SB

The scoop: Swaggerty came into the 2018 college season viewed as one of the best bats in the class. And then he raised questions about that assessment by failing to hit .300 in his junior season at South Alabama. Nothing in his first year as a pro has alleviated those concerns—he hit .172/.252/.237 in June—but this fast start to July is a much-needed salve to a season that’s not gone as hoped. (JJ)


8. Griffin Conine, OF, Blue Jays
Team: Low Class A Lansing (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .478/.538/.870 (11-for-23), 4 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 9 SO

The scoop: Conine’s season got off to a late start as he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a PED, which also means he’s still in low Class A while many of his 2018 college draft contemporaries have made it to high Class A. But if Conine keeps hitting like this, he’s making a very strong argument for a bump up to Dunedin. (JJ)

9. Joe Ryan, RHP, Rays
Team: High Class A Charlotte (Florida State)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.73, 12.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 16 SO

The scoop: With another set of stellar performances this past week, Ryan, the Rays’ seventh-rounder last year out of Cal State Stanislaus (which produced Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz) is up to 120 whiffs on the year, which is second in the minor leagues. He’s accomplished that feat by blowing fastballs past hitters in the upper part of the strike zone. He’s still working on his offspeed arsenal, but his fastball right now is enough to get plenty of swings and misses. (JN)

10. Gavin Sheets, 1B, White Sox
Team: Double-A Birmingham (Southern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .400/.400/.700 (12-for-30), 5 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 8 SO, 2 SB

The scoop: After an underwhelming season in 2018, Sheet started slowly in 2019 as well. Over the last five or so weeks, however, all the changes the White Sox have worked to instill in Sheets appear to be paying off. They worked to get his legs incorporated more in his swing and to optimize his bat path to leave pitchers with few holes to exploit. Since June, Sheets is hitting .328/.399/.536 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. (JN)

11. Sam Hilliard, OF, Rockies
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .333/.357/.815 (9-for-27), 5 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 BB, 7 SO

The scoop: Even though Hilliard has always been known for his combination of power and speed, he’s been the beneficiary (like many other players) of the introduction of the major league baseball at Triple-A. Combine that with the already hitter-friendly atmosphere at Albuquerque, and you get a player who, in just 86 games, has already eclipsed his previous career high for home runs. With 56 games remaining, it will be fascinating to see how far Hilliard can climb. (JN)

12. Hector Yan, LHP, Angels
Team: Low Class A Burlington (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.86, 9.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO

The scoop: Yan allowed just one hit in four innings of work during his first start this week while racking up six strikeouts. He faced Peoria again later on, throwing 95 pitches to get through 5.2 innings. He allowed two earned runs, but he struck out nine batters thanks in part to a slider that flashes plus and a quality splitter. 

13. Jacob Amaya, SS, Dodgers
Team: Low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .345/.424/.759 (10-for-29), 5 R, 0 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO

The scoop: The Dodgers might have struck gold with their 11th-round selection two years ago. He hasn’t exploded in his return to the Midwest League, but Amaya has shown scouts a hit-over-power profile and the athleticism to stick up the middle, whether it’s at second base or shortstop. (JN)

14. Abraham Toro, 3B, Astros
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .484/.529/.677 (15-for-31), 10 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2 HBP

The scoop: Toro is one of the best pure hitters in the Astros’ organization. He works counts and has shown that while he has a hit-over-power profile, he has enough thump to keep pitchers honest. What isn’t clear is how he can find a spot on a very loaded Astros big league roster. Toro keeps getting better at third base, but he’s not pushing Alex Bregman off the spot. He’s played a little second base this year also, but that spot is also well covered in Houston. (JJ)


15. Paul Richan, RHP, Cubs
Team: High Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.08, 13 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO

The scoop: One of the most polished pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system, Richan has shown future plus control this year despite subpar results. He doesn’t have knockout stuff, but he will command all of his pitches throughout the strike zone. (JN)

16. Alex Wells, LHP, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.64, 11 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO

The scoop: Speaking of control artists, Wells made a name for himself (and earned a Futures Game bid) in 2018 on the strength of an immaculate ability to limit walks. In his first full season he struck out 133 against just 10 walks, and this season he has been stellar in his first taste of the upper levels. His 1.92 ERA is the best in the Eastern League. (JN)

17. Patrick Weigel, LHP, Braves
Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.96, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 SO

The scoop: Wiegel had his swing-and-miss stuff working against Norfolk, whiffing nine batters in just 4.1 innings. Weigel’s fastball-slider combo is especially effective because he can work the slider on both sides of the plate. His second outing saw more baserunners, but he managed to get through five innings with just one run coming across. (JC)

18. Brian Howard, RHP, Athletics
Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.69, 13 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO

The scoop: 

Howard allowed one hit per inning pitched this week, but did his best Houdini impersonation to maneuver his way out of trouble. The righthander made good use of timely ground balls while sprinkling in some strikeouts to keep runners from crossing home plate. These two starts have been a good window into his season so far, as Howard has given up plenty of hits but has good control numbers and gets outs while pitching to contact.

19. Ryan McKenna, OF, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .346/.433/.769 (9-for-26), 7 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO

The scoop: McKenna drew raves last year when he opened the season by laying waste to the Carolina League in the first half. He struggled when he got to Double-A, and his return to the level has been much of the same. That said, he’s gotten excellent reviews for his defense and had a week that could portend a second half turnaround. (JN)

20. Austin Allen, C, Padres
Team: Triple-A El Paso (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .389/.421/.944 (7-for-18), 5 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO

The scoop: If you’re an El Paso Chihuahua this year, you’re hitting the ball out of the yard. Although he’s played just 38 games with El Paso (a big league callup will do that for you), he’s already launched 12 home runs. That puts him 10 away from passing his career-best, which he set in 2017 and matched in 2018. (JN)


Jonathan Stiever, RHP, White Sox

When you think of flamethrowers in the White Sox’s system, the names Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech quickly come to mind. Start adding Stiever to that list. He works with a fastball that sits between 92-97 mph and backs it up with a pair of offspeed pitches that each project to be above-average. His changeup lags behind, but he’s shown a willingness to attack hitters with his entire arsenal. His 98 strikeouts are tied for the most in the system.

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