MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
Byron Buxton has posted a 1.292 OPS through 11 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids. // Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Although early season returns from prospects tend to be misleading, it’s hard not to be impressed with Byron Buxton’s hot start for Low-A Cedar Rapids. Through the first 11 games of his highly anticipated full-season debut, the 19-year-old outfielder is batting .474/.556/.737 with five extra-base hits and four stolen bases.
However, Buxton is just one name on a long list of notable prospects putting up big numbers to start the 2013 season.
So, here’s your weekly look at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level.
Joey Gallo and Nick Williams are products of the Rangers strong 2012 draft.
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
.474/.556/.737, 10 R, 5 XBH (2 HR), 4 SB, 8/6 K/BB (11 G)
The second overall pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton is off to a torrid start in his full-season debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids, and he has reached base in all 11 games.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets
.442/.508/.558, 14 R, 3 XBH, 10/5 K/BB (13 G)
Brandon Nimmo has continued his assault on South Atlantic League pitching, as he’s now 10-for-19 with five RBI over his last four contests.
Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
.298/.353/.617, 6 XBH (4 HR), 16/3 K/BB (11 G)
A second-round draft pick last June, Nick Williams has showcased impressive power with four home runs through 11 games, but he has also fanned 16 times.
Rossell Herrera, 3B/SS, Colorado Rockies
.347/.418/.673, 8 XBH (4 HR), 2 SB, 11/5 K/BB (12 G)
Rossell Herrera, 20, struggled in his first taste of Low-A last season and was ultimately demoted to the Short-Season Northwoods League. However, the switch-hitter has fared significantly better in his second tour this season, as he’s 9-for-19 with five extra-base hits in his last five games.
Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
.411/.469/.804, 10 XBH (6 HR), 18 RBI, 15/7 K/BB (13 G)
An impressive two-way player in high school, Stetson Allie was popped in the second round of the 2010 draft as a right-handed pitcher. However, his ongoing control problems led to a position change last season (third base), as he posted a paltry .654 OPS in 42 GCL games.
This season, however, he’s been a monster and currently leads the South Atlantic League with six home runs
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
.143/.192/.245, 3 XBH, 22/2 K/BB (14 G)
As was the case last season in the Appalachian League, Bubba Starling’s struggles stem from poor pitch recognition and the inability to adjust his bat path and plane. Over his last 10 games, the toolsy outfielder has posted a 15/0 K/BB rate.
Carlos Tocci, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
.191/.255/.213, 6/3 K/BB (13 G)
Carlos Tocci’s initial struggles aren’t entirely surprising considering that he’s the youngest everyday player (17) at a full-season level.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
.204/.273/.490, 6 XBH (4 HR), 20/4 K/BB (13 G)
After shattering the rookie-level Arizona League’s home run record last year (18 in 43 games), Joey Gallo has been streaky so far in his full-season debut. Although he’s already launched four bombs, the 6’5”, left-handed hitter has also fanned multiple times in five of his last 10 games.
Charlie Tilson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
.114/.139/.114, 9/1 K/BB (9 G)
A second-rounder in 2011, Charlie Tilson missed the entire 2012 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. So, even though he’s off to a painfully slow start at Low-A Peoria this season, it will likely take him additional time to establish a sense of rhythm at the plate.
Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
.163/.217/.209, 2 XBH, 18/3 K/BB (11 G)
A supplemental first-round selection last June, Matt Olson, a 6’4” left-handed hitter, posted an .873 OPS across two levels in his professional debut. However, he’s struggled to be consistent thus far for Low-A Beloit, as he recorded multiple strikeouts in six of his last 10 games.
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Nick Delmonico, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
.375/.512/.688, 6 XBH (2 HR), 7/9 K/BB (9 G)
Although injuries limited him to only 95 games at Low-A Delmarva during his professional debut last season, Nick Delmonico still showcased above-average power potential as well as mature plate discipline.
He’s been firing on all cylinders to begin the 2013 season and is currently riding an eight-game hit streak.
Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
.346/.386/.596, 9 XBH (2 HR), 9/4 K/BB (13 G)
The Los Angeles Angels' fourth-round selection last June, Alex Yarbrough, a switch-hitter, isn’t known for his power. However, his first two weeks in the hitter-friendly California League has already resulted in nine extra-base hits.
Eddie Rosario, 2B, Minnesota Twins
.388/.407/.551, 12 R, 6 XBH, 10/2 K/BB (12 G)
One of the more underrated hitters in the low minors, Eddie Rosario has absolutely raked so far in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Over his current 10-game hitting streak, the left-handed hitter has collected 19 hits, including five doubles.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.413/.472/.761, 8 XBH (4 HR), 12 RBI, 13/5 K/BB (12 G)
Although he boasts the best raw power in the minor leagues, Miguel Sano’s swing and approach may always result in high strikeout totals. However, the fact that he’s made more consistent contact (at a higher level) to begin the season is encouraging, though it’s definitely aided by a .500 BABIP.
Jabari Blash, OF, Seattle Mariners
.341/.388/.818, 9 XBH (5 HR), 16 RBI, 4 SB, 15/3 K/BB (11 G)
Jabari Blash launched a career-high 15 home runs last season in the Midwest League (Low-A) and is on pace to shatter that mark this year in the California League. He’s been especially hot over his four games, as he’s 8-for-16 with seven runs scored, three home runs, three stolen bases and eight RBI.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
.333/.393/.588, 9 XBH (2 HR), 13 RBI, 8/5 K/BB (12 G)
The 20-year-old has been an extra-base machine over the first two weeks of the season, including a five-game stretch last week in which he amassed six doubles and two home runs.
James Ramsey, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
.429/.538/.690, 12 R, 7 XBH, 7/8 K/BB (12 G)
The 23rd overall draft pick last June, James Ramsey struggled in his Florida State League debut last summer with a .648 OPS over 56 games. He certainly hasn’t struggled so far this season while repeating the level, as he’s currently riding a nine-game hit streak.
Alen Hanson, SS/2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
.191/.224/.255, 2 XBH, 4 SB, 14/2 K/BB (10 G)
Coming off a breakout campaign at Low-A in which he posted a .909 OPS with 62 extra-base hits and 35 stolen bases, Alen Hanson has struggled in the early going for High-A Bradenton (Florida State League) with seven strikeouts over his last four games.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
.173/.214/.423, 7 XBH (2 HR), 2 SB, 17/2 K/BB (12 G)
Even though he possesses arguably the best bat speed in the minor leagues, Javier Baez’s plate discipline and pitch recognition leave something to be desired.
So far, his shortcomings have been amplified back in the Florida State League, as he’s fanned 17 times in 12 games. He’s been all or nothing, too, with seven of his nine hits going for extra bases.
Angelo Gumbs, 2B, New York Yankees
.088/.139/.147, 2 SB, 6/1 K/BB (8 G)
After collecting three knocks over his first two games, Angelo Gumbs has gone ice cold, as he’s 0-for-24 over his last six contests.
Brandon Jacobs, OF, Boston Red Sox
.154/.227/.333, 5 XBH (HR), 2 CS, 14/2 K/BB (11 G)
After a poor showing at High-A Salem in 2012 (.732 OPS, 128 K in 114 games), Brandon Jacobs has struggled mightily thus far while repeating the level. Over a recent seven-game stretch (April 9-15), the 22-year-old struck out 10 times in 20 at-bats.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago White Sox
.162/.225/.486, 4 HR, 2 SB, 23/2 K/BB (10 G)
Coming off an impressive professional debut last season in which he posted an .804 OPS across three levels, the 6’3”, 220-pound outfielder received an aggressive Opening Day assignment to High-A Winston-Salem.
Unsurprisingly, the 19-year-old has been all-or-nothing (literally) in the early going with four home runs (six total hits) and 23 strikeouts through the first 10 games.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
.136/.255/.250, 3 XBH (HR), 20/5 K/BB (12 G)
Admittedly one of my favorite prospects, Trevor Story put up monster numbers last season at Low-A Asheville and has the potential to one-up that performance this year in the California League. However, he’s been out-of-sync thus far and seemingly pressing at the plate.
For what it’s worth, I’m not concerned.
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Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
.341/.396/.591, 6 XBH (2 HR), 2 SB, 10/4 K/BB (12 G)
Since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, Yasiel Puig has been an absolute force at the plate. And although he has holes in both his swing and approach, the 6’3”, 245-pound outfielder still collects tons of hits due to his sheer strength.
He may not be challenged until reaching the major leagues.
Adam Duvall, 3B, San Francisco Giants
.378/.465/.757, 9 XBH (2 HR), 6/6 K/BB (11 G)
Coming off a 30-homer season in 2012 at High-A San Jose, Adam Duvall made a strong impression over his first two weeks in Double-A with a 1.219 OPS through 11 games. However, the 24-year-old was recently placed on the disabled list with a sprained thumb and is expected to miss the next three weeks.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
.311/.467/.533, 6 XBH (2 HR), 7/12 K/BB (13 G)
Boasting arguably the best combination of natural ability and plate discipline in the minor leagues, Anthony Rendon is going to put up big numbers in Double-A (and Triple-A) this season.
However, it’s doubtful that he’ll reach the major leagues unless there’s an injury to either Ryan Zimmerman or Adam LaRoche.
Kyle Parker, OF, Colorado Rockies
.318/.348/.636, 7 XBH (3 HR), 11/2 K/BB (11 G)
The 26th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Kyle Parker is quickly making up for lost time after a slow start to the 2013 season. Over his last two games, the 23-year-old outfielder is 6-for-9 with two doubles and two home runs.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
.308/.327/.712, 16 R, 10 XBH (5 HR), 4 SB, 8/2 K/BB (13 G)
After posting a .913 OPS with 26 stolen bases last season as a 20-year-old in the California League, all eyes are on Joc Pederson as he makes the jump to Double-A. The left-handed hitter has been on fire over his last 10 games with a 1.105 OPS and three stolen bases.
Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Los Angeles Angels
.108/.214/.135, 5/5 K/BB (11 G)
Like Cowart, Taylor Lindsey has struggled in his first taste of Double-A. However, his .125 BABIP suggests that things will improve in the near future.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
.140/.260/.163, 2 SB, 14/6 K/BB (12 G)
Coming off a breakout campaign in 2012 across both Class-A levels, the Angels moved up Kaleb Cowart to Double-A for the 2013 season. The 20-year-old switch-hitter is bound to get things going at the dish, but he’s off to a slow start with 14 strikeouts through 12 games.
Sebastian Valle, C, Philadelphia Phillies
.176/.222/.412, 4 XBH (2 HR), 13/2 K/BB (10 G)
Although Sebastian Valle spent the final month of the 2012 season in Triple-A, it had more to do with injuries at the upper levels rather than his mastery of Double-A. Unless he starts making adjustments to his swing and approach, the 22-year-old is going to pile up the strikeouts once again.
Tyler Collins, OF, Detroit Tigers
.133/.257/.167, 2 CS, 6/3 K/BB (9 G)
After batting .290/.371/.429 with 20 stolen bases last season in the Florida State League, Tyler Collins has struggled to get things going at the plate and is yet to turn in a multi-hit effort.
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Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
.390/.429/.525, 6 XBH, 4 SB, 15/4 K/BB (13 G)
Chris Owings has always showcased the tools and athleticism to be an up-the-middle player in the major leagues but has simply lacked the all-around consistency. Granted it’s a small sample, but his plate discipline has noticeably improved.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
.463/.500/.878, 13 XBH (11 2B), 15 RBI, 5/4 K/BB (11 G)
After turning heads with an impressive spring, Nolan Arenado’s been on an extra-base binge to open the 2013 season. The 22-year-old has collected a double in each of his last seven games and is 12-for-25 with 11 RBI during that span.
Scott Van Slyke, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
.489/.561/.979, 11 XBH (6 HR), 18 RBI, 11/9 K/BB (13 G)
Although he’s not much of a prospect at 26 years old, the numbers Scott Van Slyke’s put up to start the 2013 season are remarkable in any context. He’ll get another audition in the major leagues at some point, though it may ultimately come with a different organization.
Jurickson Profar, SS/2B, Texas Rangers
.281/.425/.469, 3 XBH, 3 SB, 10/8 K/BB (9 G)
Although Jurickson Profar, baseball’s top prospect, had been working deep counts and getting on base at a favorable clip to open the season, he hadn't really busted out at the plate. Well, that finally happened on Tuesday when the 20-year-old was 3-for-5 with a double, triple and three RBI.
Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics
.288/.406/.577, 13 R, 7 XBH (4 HR), 16 RBI, 13/9 K/BB (13 G)
Michael Choice was beginning to put things together last year at Double-A when an errant pitch broke his hand and prematurely ended his campaign. The 2010 first-rounder seems to back on track, though, as he’s 7-for-11 with seven runs scored, three home runs and seven RBI over his last three games.
Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners
.250/.311/.675, 8 XBH (4 HR), 18 RBI, 13/3 K/BB (10 G)
After opening the season on a tear, Mike Zunino’s is in the midst of his first slump as a professional. Over his last four games, the 22-year-old is 0-for-14 with six strikeouts.
Jon Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
.140/.229/.233, 2 XBH, 10/3 K/BB (12 G)
Expect the Baltimore Orioles to allow Jon Schoop to play through his struggles this season, just as they did last season at Double-A. Keep in mind that he’s currently the fifth-youngest position player at the Triple-A level.
Tim Wheeler, OF, Colorado Rockies
.167/.286/.222, 2 XBH, 14/5 K/BB (11 G)
Since he posted a .900 OPS with 21 stolen bases at Double-A Tulsa in 2011, Tim Wheeler’s prospect stock has been on the decline. It’ll be interesting to see how much power he shows in his second tour of the Pacific Coast League.
Jared Mitchell, OF, Chicago White Sox
.146/.263/.188, 2 XBH, 3 SB, 23/8 K/BB (12 G)
Jared Mitchell appeared to be turning the developmental corner last year at Double-A and Triple-A, but he has taken a step back in the early going. He’s struck out at least once in every game and recorded multiple strikeouts in seven games.
Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers
.102/.185/.163, 3 XBH, 24/5 K/BB (13 G)
After posting a .977 OPS at Double-A and spending the final two months of the 2012 season on the major league roster, Mike Olt has struggled mightily at Triple-A Round Rock to begin his highly anticipated follow-up campaign.
Over his last six games, the 24-year-old is 2-for-22 with 13 strikeouts.