MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
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Given the recent shakeup of the Seattle Mariners’ middle infield, it’s only a matter of time until the organization decides to tap into its wealth of talent in the high minors.
That being said, Nick Franklin is doing everything he can at Triple-A Tacoma to reach the major leagues ahead of schedule this season. Through his first 17 games, the switch-hitter is batting .410/.538/.623 with 16 runs scored, seven extra-base and four stolen bases. As a player who has always struck out more than he seemingly should, the 22-year-old’s plate discipline has been outstanding so far with 8/16 K/BB. Franklin is especially hot over his last 10 games with a .500 batting average (17-for-34), 11 RBI and 13 walks.
Having always shown more power and consistency from the left side of the plate, it’s also encouraging that Franklin is already 4-for-7 with four walks against southpaws this season.
Here’s a look at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level through the first month of the season.
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Rock Shoulders, 1B, Chicago Cubs
.370/.457/.642, 19 R, 12 XBH (5 HR), 21/13 K/BB (22 G)
Besides owning one of the best names in the minor leagues, Shoulders has been an extra-base machine thus far, and has collected eight extra-base hits an eight walks over his last 10 games.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs
.315/.354/.494, 5 HR, 2 SB (!), 12/7 K/BB (22 G)
Say what you want about his body type and lack of physical projection, but Vogelbach can flat out rake. Homering in each of his last three games, the left-handed hitter is also batting 6-for-13 with five RBI during that span.
Kevin Plawecki, C, New York Mets
.391/.455/.667, 16 XBH (4 HR), 20 RBI, 11/7 K/BB (23 G)
The 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Plawecki is showing improved power and a more aggressive approach this season, and is quickly proving to be too advanced for the level. Last 10 games: .444/.512/.722, 16 H, 9 RBI, 5/4 K/BB.
Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
.351/.409/.660, 14 XBH (8 HR), 26 RBI, 33/11 K/BB (24 G)
Allie, a former second-round flame-thrower-turned-masher, is posting gaudy power numbers in the South Atlantic League as evidenced by his .660 slugging percentage. He was mired in a homer draught last week, but busted on April 29 with a multi-homer performance.
Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, Colorado Rockies
.363/.433/.593, 19 R, 11 XBH (5 HR), 6 SB, 21/10 K/BB (23 G)
2012 was a learning year for Herrera, who spent most of the year in the Short-Season Northwoods League after an early-season demotion from Low-A Asheville. He’s showing mastery of the level this year, however, as he’s posted a .945 OPS over his last 10 games.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
.392/.510/.684, 25 R, 12 XBH (4 HR), 9 SB, 17/19 K/BB (22 G)
Words don’t exactly do Buxton’s performance justice; things are coming together earlier than expected for the 19-year-old, as he’s literally doing it all on both sides of the ball.
Andrew Toles, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.368/.406/.600, 15 XBH (5 3B), 21 RBI, 11 SB, 12/5 K/BB (22 G)
Toles has opened the season on a tear, as he currently leads of Midwest League hitters with 35 hits, five triples and 57 total bases.
Corey Seager, SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
.280/.366/.451, 15 R, 3 HR, 24/10 K/BB (23 G)
After a sluggish start at Low-A Great Lakes, Seager is officially on fire as he’s batting .417/.488/.667 over his last 10 games. The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter is also batting .400 with two home runs and five RBI during his current five-game hitting streak.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers
.232/.290/.404, 4 HR, 4 SB, 41/6 K/BB (23 G)
So far this season, Brinson has looked like either the best or worst player on the field on a given night. He’s showing plenty of pop, but the 41 strikeouts in 23 games—including an ugly 18/2 K/BB over his last 10 games—is worrisome.
Austin Schotts, OF, Detroit Tigers
.141/.243/.156, 6 SB, 32/9 K/BB (20 G)
Even though the 2012 third-rounder has plenty of speed and a promising hit tool, strikeouts has been a major problem for Schotts as he now has 14 in his last 10 games.
Wyatt Mathisen, C, Pittsburgh Pirates
.186/.250/.214, 2 2B, 12/4 K/BB (17 G)
The good news is that Mathisen isn’t striking out a ton and making contact, albeit weak. After batting .295 last season in the Gulf Coast League, the right-handed hitter’s bat is bound to pick up as he settles in.
Dorssys Paulino, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians
.208/.288/.208, 0 XBH, 15/8 K/BB (20 G)
After posting a .938 OPS with 32 extra-base hits last season across the rookie and short-season levels, Paulino is yet to record one this season through his first 20 games.
Patrick Leonard, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
.150/.209/.175, 2 2B, 10 RBI, 21/5 K/BB (20 G)
The least notable prospect acquired by the Rays in the deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, Leonard has struggled against more advanced pitching thus far in his full-season debut.
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Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.368/.435/.747, 21 R, 17 XBH (9 HR), 24 RBI, 28/11 K/BB (25 G)
Sano’s hot start in the Florida State League is astonishing, as he’s hitting for power and average. He’s currently pacing the circuit with nine home runs and 71 total bases through 25 games.
Aaron Altherr, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
.348/.413/.576, 17 R, 14 XBH (3 HR), 6 SB, 21/11 K/BB (25 G)
Finally moved up to High-A for his fifth minor-league season, things seem to be clicking for the toolsy, 6’5” outfielder. Last 10 games: .400/.436/.714, 6 XBH, 3 SB.
Eddie Rosario, 2B, Minnesota Twins
.346/.386/.538, 23 R, 13 XBH (3 HR), 19 RBI, 20/7 K/BB (25 G)
Rosario has the potential for an above-average-to-plus hit tool with sneaky pop from the left side. And if he continues to rake—he’s leading all Florida State League hitters with 36 hits—the 21-year-old could hop on the fast track to the major leagues.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
.392/.478/.709, 19 R, 15 XBH (3 HR), 10 SB, 13/13 K/BB (21 G)
After batting .305/.394/.433 with 38 doubles and 51 stolen bases last season in his full-season debut, Cecchini is making a strong case for an early-season promotion. Last 10 games: .500/.617/1.056, 16 R, 11 XBH (3 HR), 7 SB, 5/11 K/BB.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
.341/.406/.505, 10 XBH (3 3B), 7 SB, 13/10 K/BB (24 G)
Lindor is an absolute stud and not your normal 19-year-old prospect. Besides the plus-plus defensive profile, the shortstop has made noticeable improvements from both sides of the plate. Don’t be surprised if he’s promoted to Double-A for the second half of the season.
Sean Coyle, 2B, Boston Red Sox
.317/.377/.730, 17 R, 11 XBH (7 HR), 6 SB, 17/6 K/BB (15 G)
Repeating the High-A level, the 5’8” Coyle is posting monster numbers for Salem. Over his last 10 games, the right-handed hitter has six home runs and four stolen bases.
Nolan Fontana, SS, Houston Astros
.365/.513/.565, 22 R, 11 XBH (2 HR), 19 RBI, 18/26 K/BB (24 G)
The 2012 second-rounder continues to be an on-base machine, as he’s already amassed 26 walks through his first 24 games.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
.234/.333/.359, 12 R, 10/9 K/BB (18 G)
The top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Hedges is overcoming a painfully slow start with a .910 OPS over his last 10 games. His average should continue to rise, too, as the 20-year-old is demonstrating improved plate discipline thus far.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
.262/.295/.515, 17 R, 14 XBH (5 HR), 17 RBI, 31/4 K/BB (25 G)
After a slow start, Baez’s bat has come alive as he’s batting .351/.390/.622 with two home runs and nine RBI over his last 10 games.
Drew Vettleson, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.191/.208/.287, 6 XBH, 14/2 K/BB (23 G)
After a promising full-season debut in 2012, Vettleson has been overmatched in the Florida State League and coaxed only a pair of walks in 23 games.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago White Sox
.182/.253/.468, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 45/7 K/BB (22 G)
So far this season, Hawkins has been all or nothing—literally. Although he’s showcasing plenty of raw power, his 58-percent strikeout rate calls for an early-season demotion… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
.150/.253/.250, 5 XBH, 37/9 K/BB (22 G)
After a monster 2012 campaign at Low-A Asheville, Story has been over-swinging at the plate and trying to pull anything he deems within reach. It’s hard to see him striking out at a 46-percent clip for the entire season, but the fact that it’s even happening is disconcerting.
Will Swanner, C/1B, Colorado Rockies
.150/.215/.250, 4 XBH, 35/5 K/BB (16 G)
The concern about his swing and lack of hit tool are legitimate, as Swanner has now fanned 21 times in his last 39 at-bats.
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Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
.306/.379/.412, 6 XBH, 24/10 K/BB (20 G)
After a dreadful start to the season, Bogaerts is finding his groove at Double-A Portland, though he’s yet to jump the yard. Regardless, the hit tool offers plenty to be excited about, as the 20-year-old is now batting .395/.389/.605 over his last 10 games.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
.297/.307/.648, 19 R, 16 XBH (8 HR), 20 RBI, 32/15 K/BB (25 G)
The toolsy outfielder is showcasing his usual robust raw power despite moving up to Double-A for the 2013 season. Through the first month, Springer’s eight home runs and 1.056 OPS rank atop the Texas League leaderboard. Expect to see him in Houston later this season.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
.304/.481/.620, 22 R, 15 XBH (6 HR), 16 RBI, 7 SB, 16/12 K/BB (24 G)
It’s been a great month for Pederson, 21, who is currently leading the Southern League with a 1.001 OPS through the first month of the season. More importantly, he’s quieting the skeptics who view him as a “tweener” by hitting for more power without sacrificing his approach.
Joe Panik, SS, San Francisco Giants
.320/.400/.433, 17 R, 9 XBH, 9/13 K/BB (25 G)
The 29th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Panik is currently tearing up the Eastern League while proving to be one of the more advanced everyday players at the level. Last 10 games: .486/.558/.676, 12 R, 5 2B, 6/6 K/BB.
Randal Grichuk, OF, Los Angeles Angels
.169/.242/.325, 7 XBH (2 HR), 12/7 K/BB (24 G)
After a solid opening week for Double-A Arkansas, Grichuk—who was selected ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 draft—has gone ice-cold. He’s picking up knocks here and there, but that’s mostly a product of swinging at everything. Oh yeah, the 2.8-percent line-drive rate through 24 games is astonishingly bad.
Miles Head, 3B, Oakland Athletics
.180/.223/.281, 5 XBH (2 HR), 24/4 K/BB (22 G)
Head enjoyed a breakout season in 2012—his first with the A’s after being traded by the Red Sox—as he posted a .968 OPS with 23 home runs and reached Double-A. That said, he also struck out 130 times in 124 games—an ugly trend that has been amplified in the early going this season.
Vinnie Catricala, 3B, Seattle Mariners
.186/.207/.233, 10 RBI, 22/2 K/BB (23 G)
After posting a 1.021 OPS with 25 home runs across two levels in 2011, Catricala has steadily regressed and is now back in Double-A. I admittedly haven’t seen him and have no idea what his deal is, so if anyone has some insight on Vinnie C., please share.
Trayce Thompson, OF, Chicago White Sox
.187/.302/.363, 18 R, 9 XBH (3 HR), 5 SB, 23/13 K/BB (24 G)
Thomson is one of the better athletes in the high minors with a collection of above-average-to-plus tools. His plate discipline has been solid thus far with 13 strikeouts through 24 games, and his .215 BABIP suggests that the batting average should start to improve.
Slade Heathcott, OF, New York Yankees
.191/.282/.294, 12 R, 4 XBH, 20/9 K/BB (17 G)
Heatchcott continues to look overmatched at the Double-A level, as his lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition has resulted in excessive weak contact and a concerning 10-percent line-drive rate.
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Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.289/.383/.456, 8 XBH (3 HR), 17 RBI, 30/14 K/BB (23 G)
Yes, Myers’ 30 strikeouts through 23 games leaves something to be desired. However, he’s also made an increasing amount of hard contact over the last two weeks, and is starting to find his power stroke with three home runs in his last 10 games.
Nick Franklin, SS/2B, Seattle Mariners
.410/.538/.623, 16 R, 7 XBH (3 HR), 4 SB, 8/16 K/BB (17 G)
Franklin is absolutely raking to open the 2013 season. More importantly, the switch-hitter’s plate discipline has been shockingly good. Considering that he posted a 106/48 K/BB in 121 games last season, his 8/16 K/BB is very, very encouraging. Last 10 games: .500/.646/.853, 12 R, 17 H, 3 HR, 3 SB, 4/13 K/BB.
Stefen Romero, 2B, Seattle Mariners
.324/.375/.541, 5 XBH, 6 RBI, 8/2 K/BB (9 G)
Moved up to Triple-A after batting .352/.391/.599 with 64 extra-base hits and 101 RBI last season across two levels, expect Romero to post huge numbers in the PCL. It’ll be interesting to see how the Mariners handle the inevitable promotions of both he and Franklin this season.
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
.403/.425/.468, 12 R, 4 SB, 11/2 K/BB (19 G)
Gennett never hit for power and is only an average defender at the keystone, but the bat is legitimate and should get him to the major leagues later this season. Last 10 games: .439/.465/.537, 18 H.
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
.342/.374/.487, 25 R, 11 XBH (2 HR), 6 SB, 27/5 K/BB (26 G)
Moved up to Triple-A despite struggling at Double-A Mobile last season, Owings is currently pacing all PCL batters with 40 hits. The lack of plate discipline is still a concern, though, as he’s drawn only 29 walks in 152 games over the last two seasons.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
.258/.327/.371, 3 HR, 33/9 K/BB (22 G)
Given his plus raw power, Davidson should be posting gaudy numbers in the Pacific Coast League. Instead, he’s struggling to make contact and hitting for minimal power. Last 10 games: .400 OPS, 0 XBH, 16/1 K/BB.
Mike Olt, 3B/1B, Texas Rangers
.139/.235/.236, HR, 32/9 K/BB (20 G)
After fanning 32 times through his first 20 games, Olt is scheduled to have his eyes examined after recently complaining of vision problems.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
.180/.255/.280, 19 R, 1 SB (3 CS), 23/7 K/BB (25 G)
Since his monster 2011 campaign in the hitter-friendly California League, Brown has been on a steep decline.
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
.219/.315/.406, 2 HR, 24/7 K/BB (19 G)
The new swing hasn’t changed his propensity to swing and miss, as Jackson has now fanned 24 times in 19 games. He’s shown signs of life, though, with a pair of home runs and five RBI over his last three contests.
Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners
.222/.333/.542, 11 XBH (5 HR), 26 RBI, 24/10 K/BB (19 G)
After a torrid start to season, Zunino has fallen on tough times over the last two weeks. He’s still tallying extra-base hits and driving in runs, but is also batting just .167 over his last 10 games.