MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
When talking about baseball, regardless of what level it is, the name of the game is adjustments. Some players can dominate a certain league because they are just that much better than everyone else, but overall, talent has to find ways to react to situations that are presented.
As you scour the minor leagues, especially at the lower levels, when players are still growing into their bodies—and as a result, their power—the numbers may not reflect exactly what fans or teams want to see.
But when you really start to break a performance down to its most fundamental elements, you can find a lot of things to be happy about even when the stats suggest otherwise.
With that in mind, here is a look at the hottest and coldest hitters at every level of the minors, from Low-A to Triple-A, right now.
Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
.332/.436/.556, 62 H, 11 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 104 TB, 35 BB, 39 K, 23 SB
There might not be a more exciting prospect to watch right now than Minnesota's Byron Buxton. The 19-year-old is making Low-A look like child's play, hitting for average and power, showing more patience and baseball skills than it was assumed he had at this point.
Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
.305/.408/.521, 51 H, 9 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 87 TB, 27 BB, 35 K, 2 SB
All the focus for the Reds' system is on Robert Stephenson, Billy Hamilton and Tony Cingrani, but don't forget about Winker. The toolsy outfielder taken with the 49th pick in last year's draft has shown a better present hit tool and more patience than anticipated.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
.292/.410/.424, 42 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 61 TB, 26 BB, 34 K, 5 SB
The Astros made Correa the No. 1 overall pick last year, ahead of Buxton, and while his overall stats don't jump out quite as much as the Minnesota prospect's, he is proving more than worthy of his selection. His lack of power right now isn't a concern, as he is still growing into it. More often than not, the home run pop is the last thing to come for a great hitting prospect.
Stetson Allie, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
.344/.426/.630, 66 H, 14 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 121 TB, 26 BB, 62 K, 5 SB
If the name is familiar to you, Allie was drafted as a pitcher by the Pirates in the second round of the 2010 draft. But his complete and total inability to throw the ball near the plate forced him to move back to being a position player, where he was very good in high school and would have been a relatively high pick had he chose to be a hitter three years ago.
Allie is old for the level, but you have to discount that some because he is switching roles. That said, while he does present some interesting power, there is still too much swing-and-miss in his game to project him as a real prospect.
Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers
.253/.350/.494, 40 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 78 TB, 13 BB, 50 K, 6 SB
Alfaro is loaded with tools and could be one of the better catching prospects in baseball if everything clicks. While his average is a little low, the 19-year-old is showing a better approach—his walk total in 45 games is just three shy of his total from last year in 74 games—and he has already set a career high with nine home runs.
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
.208/.292/.352, 33 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 56 TB, 16 BB, 53 K, 7 SB
Starling was considered raw when he was drafted, but we are seeing just how tender he really is now that he is getting a taste of full-season baseball. His approach, or lack thereof, really leave a lot of questions about whether he will be able to make it in the upper levels of the minors.
Cito Culver, SS, New York Yankees
.214/.320/.324, 37 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 56 TB, 27 BB, 53 K, 4 SB
With Culver being forced to repeat Low-A after a disastrous .215/.321/.283 campaign last year, you would like to see some improvement just to try and salvage something from the first-round pick. Instead, his offensive woes persist because he just doesn't make anything resembling solid contact.
Jordan Akins, OF, Texas Rangers
.242/.266/.365, 43 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 65 TB, 4 BB, 60 K, 6 SB
Akins is a prospect who fascinates me, which is why I included him on the list. He is not going to turn into a big leaguer, and will likely never make it past Double-A (if he even gets there), but when you just look at his raw tools, you can see a very good player with five-tool potential. He is a tremendous athlete, but just hasn't been able to translate any of it into games.
One of my favorite Akins' stats: Career strikeout-to-walk ratio in minors, 199-27.
Dorssys Paulino, SS, Cleveland Indians
.199/.271/.238, 30 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 36 TB, 13 BB, 29 K, 6 SB
The "other" shortstop prospect in the Cleveland system, Paulino hasn't adjusted well to an aggressive assignment in Low-A. He was always a high-risk, high-reward talent, especially offensively, but he is really struggling to find himself right now. The good news is he is just 18 years old and has plenty of time to adjust before we hit the full-scale panic button.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
.206/.306/.424, 35 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 72 TB, 25 BB, 48 K, 1 SB
For all the good in the Cardinals' system, and there is a whole lot of good, Wisdom has been one of the few disappointments right now. He came into the system after a down season at St. Mary's in 2012 and doesn't appear to have figured things out yet.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
.312/.386/.435, 58 H, 12 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 81 TB, 22 BB, 22 K, 13 SB
The Cleveland shortstop having great success in the minors, Lindor continues to show a hitting approach well beyond his age. His home run pop will never be more than fringe-average, but a plus defender who hits for average, gets on base and can hit a lot of doubles is a star.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals
.325/.404/.452, 41 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 57 TB, 16 BB, 22 K, 0 SB
For Bonifacio, the question will be about how he finishes rather than his hot start. He hit .314/.369/.469 in the first half of last season before finishing at .282/.336/.432. Those were still very good numbers for a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. He is a natural hitter who can spray the ball all over the field and make loud contact.
Nolan Fontana, SS, Houston Astros
.317/.452/.475, 44 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 66 TB, 34 BB, 32 K, 7 SB
Take a lot of these offensive numbers with a grain of salt, because the California League will inflate even the most pedestrian hitter. That isn't to say Fontana is without talent, as he is a solid do-it-all shortstop. His approach at the plate has been very good, and he has really cut down on the strikeouts from last season.
Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins
.315/.358/.476, 53 H, 10 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 80 TB, 12 BB, 27 K, 3 SB
Not that the Twins are hurting for high-end hitting prospects, but Rosario is joining Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano as future fixtures in the Minnesota lineup. He obviously doesn't have the ceiling of those two potential studs, though he could hit at the top of the order as a gap-to-gap player with fringe home run pop. The team just has to find a position he can play.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
.295/.367/.513, 46 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 80 TB, 18 BB, 28 K, 4 SB
When he isn't running around like a mad man with a bat, Soler is proving to be a more advanced talent than initially expected. He is hitting for average and power, which was to be anticipated, but the fact that his pitch recognition and approach look better this year makes him arguably the top player in the Cubs' system right now.
Jake Skole, OF, Texas Rangers
.188/.288/.232, 26 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 32 TB, 20 BB, 42 K, 2 SB
Another Rangers prospect struggling to get things going, Skole has actually regressed from the already low bar he set for himself last year. He put together a .191/.309/.263 line in 2012, yet has somehow managed to fall below that mark in 44 games this season.
Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres
.269/.341/.323, 50 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 60 TB, 22 BB, 42 K, 29 SB
While not nearly as bad as the other players on this list, Jankowski is still finding his niche in his first full year in the Padres organization. A star on the Stony Brook team that made it to the College World Series, he has slumped over the last 10 days, hitting just .250/.280/.250 with no extra-base hits.
Brandon Jacobs, OF, Boston Red Sox
.198/.275/.370, 32 H, 13 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 60 TB, 14 BB, 50 K, 6 SB
There was a time, not that long ago, when you could put Jacobs alongside Xander Bogaerts on a Red Sox prospect list and no one would bat an eye. But where Bogaerts' career has taken off, Jacobs' has stalled out as he struggles to put his big-time power on display thanks to issues making contact with off-speed stuff. A hamate bone injury suffered last year isn't helping matters.
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
.247/.286/.368, 43 H, 9 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 64 TB, 8 BB, 44 K, 3 SB
Considered one of the best college bats in last year's draft, Shaffer has really struggled to find himself at High-A this season. He wasn't going to be an elite all-around hitter, but there was a lot of excitement about his ability to hit for power and get on base. A nearly 6-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is really disconcerting.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
.192/.259/.311, 34 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 55 TB, 14 BB, 67 K, 7 SB
If Nolan Fontana is the extreme case of how the California League can inflate numbers, Story is proof that not everyone will get a boost by playing in a hitter-friendly environment. He hasn't been able to get anything going all year, though he did have a three-hit game with a home run on May 26.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
.316/.360/.487, 59 H, 15 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 91 TB, 5 BB, 26 K, 4 SB
The Angels system is so depleted right now that they need to find any silver lining they can. Their best prospect has really scuffled, though we will get to him in a bit. Cron, while not showing the best approach at the plate, is hitting the ball with good authority. You do hope to see his home run power and walk rate increase as the season moves on, but for now he's hitting enough where it isn't a huge issue.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
.299/.415/.616, 53 H, 11 2B, 0 3B, 15 HR, 40 RBI, 109 TB, 31 BB, 60 K, 15 SB
Things are looking up for the Astros' system right now, with Springer and Correa performing very well and Jonathan Singleton returning from his suspension this week. Springer has always had big tools, but has had some issues making contact that lowered his ceiling a bit. He is still missing too much for comfort, but he is hitting for a lot of power and getting on base.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
.266/.335/.531, 38 H, 10 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 76 TB, 16 BB, 43 K, 4 SB
Despite hitting a paltry .125/.186/.200 over the last 10 games, Yelich still has an OPS over .860 on the season. Given how easy his swing is, there should be no panic over his current struggles. Plus, he missed the first few weeks of the season with a plantar fasciitis, the same ailment that has left Albert Pujols looking like a walking corpse at times.
Andrew Susac, C, San Francisco Giants
.275/.402/.507, 38 H, 14 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 70 TB, 27 BB, 38 K, 1 SB
Not that the Giants are hurting at the catcher position right now, but they have an excellent situation developing with Susac having a very strong bounce-back season. His defensive capability, as well as this new-found offensive game, make him look the part of at least a big league regular with the potential for more.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
.319/.400/.527, 60 H, 11 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 99 TB, 26 BB, 40 K, 15 SB
Pederson has never been at the top of a Dodgers' prospect list, but all he does wherever he goes is hit. There have been some questions about whether he will end up in center or right field. His average power potential would certainly work better at an up-the-middle spot than a corner, but with his bat control and approach, he will find a big league job eventually.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
.227/.289/.343, 41 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 62 TB, 15 BB, 43 K, 5 SB
The Angels' top prospect entering the season, Cowart has struggled with the aggressive assignment to Double-A. He only played 69 games at High-A last season, hitting .259/.366/.428 in 263 at-bats. They need him to live up to his potential, because this system is bare right now thanks to trades and forfeited draft picks.
Mikie Mahtook, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.232/.315/.432, 45 H, 13 2B, 7 3B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 84 TB, 19 BB, 41 K, 9 SB
Mahtook was a player I really liked coming out of LSU. I thought his hit tool was very good and he would hit for enough power, while playing a decent center field. But his bat really hasn't materialized the way I expected, as he is struggling to drive the ball and looking more like he will have below-average power.
Trayce Thompson, OF, Chicago White Sox
.239/.366/.398, 42 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 70 TB, 31 BB, 49 K, 10 SB
The good news for Thompson is that his approach at the plate seems to have improved slightly, as he is walking more and striking out a bit less. The bad news is his power isn't showing up right now. Perhaps that is just a sign of bad luck in a small sample size, or if his approach really has changed, it could be a permanent issue.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals
.242/.351/.389, 48 H, 7 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 77 TB, 29 BB, 56 K, 10 SB
Since the Nationals moved Goodwin to Double-A in the middle of last season, he has been terrible. In 92 games dating back to last year, he is hitting .233/.321/.354. He is also just 13-for-21 on stolen base attempts. He still shows good tools and could be an above-average regular, but he has to start showing it in games.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Cleveland Indians
.255/.329/.370, 47 H, 6 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 68 TB, 21 BB, 42 K, 0 SB
Not a top prospect, Aguilar has always had one intriguing tool—power. He is a huge physical specimen who can put on displays in batting practice, but as you can see from the numbers, the pop isn't playing in games. Without that, he is basically a non-prospect at the age of 22.
Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
.330/.363/.505, 62 H, 11 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 95 TB, 11 BB, 24 K, 7 SB
Another player whose numbers are inflated by a hitter-friendly environment, Kolten Wong is not entirely a product of the Pacific Coast League. He has always been a solid hitter with line-drive power, but the instincts and ability to place the ball wherever he wants is remarkable. He is going to be an above-average player because of his bat control.
Ryan Wheeler, 3B, Colorado Rockies
.364/.420/.492, 48 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 65 TB, 12 BB, 27 K, 1 SB
Wheeler keeps getting better as a prospect, giving him a chance to at least become an average regular. He has a good swing and path with bat control and some pop, though he will have fringe power in the big leagues. His ability at third base is another feather in his cap, where he has a strong arm and shows good lateral quickness.
Grant Green, 2B, Oakland Athletics
.302/.369/.447, 60 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 89 TB, 18 BB, 35 K, 4 SB
I almost feel bad for Green, who has performed well everywhere he has played only to get passed over for even a cup of coffee in the big leagues despite being as close to ready as you can possibly be and repeating Triple-A this year. He is a tweener prospect, with a decent hit tool, gap power and improving defense at second base. He's 25 and should warrant a look sometime this season.
Bryce Brentz, OF, Boston Red Sox
.280/.330/.489, 52 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 91 TB, 13 BB, 46 K, 1 SB
Brentz is an all-or-nothing type of player, with a lot of power in his swing and a lot of swing-and-miss. So far this season, even though the strikeout total is a little high, there has been more of the pop showing. He has a big uppercut and will struggle to hit for average, but in a league where power is more of an asset than ever, he certainly has some value.
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.266/.346/.473, 49 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 87 TB, 23 BB, 56 K, 3 SB
I'm not sure if you have heard of this guy, but he has a bright future in Tampa Bay that will probably start very soon. He is hitting .317/.333/.756 with three doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI in the last 10 games.
Even though I don't want to completely dismiss some of the issues he had early in the season, because the strikeout total is a little alarming for a player with a swing as good as his, Myers had to be bored and/or frustrated about returning to Triple-A after hitting 37 home runs at the level last year. Now that we are getting closer to where the Rays can call him up and delay his free agency by a year, Myers is really starting to heat up.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
.220/.285/.340, 46 H, 12 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 71 TB, 14 BB, 51 K, 6 SB
Brown's unusual batting style, where he takes no stride and puts very little authority behind the bat, has really caught up to him in the upper levels of the minors. He has some value as a good defensive center fielder, but until he starts hitting for average, he is going to be an org. guy.
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
.244/.327/.382, 32 H, 6 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 50 TB, 13 BB, 40 K, 5 SB
Remember all that talk about Brett Jackson's new swing in spring training? Yeah, we didn't either. He has always been a player who doesn't make enough contact to let his raw power play against advanced pitching. When he isn't hitting for power, there really is very little value to his bat, which is why you see the numbers you do this year.
Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
.227/.343/.325. 35 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 50 TB, 23 BB, 41 K, 5 SB
While Gose was called up to Toronto last week, there really was no justifiable reason to do so. Even though he is an exciting four-tool talent, the problems that have plagued him throughout his career and prevented him from reaching his ceiling still persist. He has a long swing and gets fooled by off-speed stuff too often, leading to high strikeout totals. It's a shame, because the excitement level he can bring when he is on is incredible.
Cody Asche, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
.265/.322/.436, 48 H, 10 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 79 TB, 16 BB, 49 K, 2 SB
Asche could have been the heir apparent to Michael Young when the Philadelphia third baseman eventually hit the wall, which it appears he has. But Asche has also struggled to find himself in Triple-A. His average, on-base and slugging percentages are all down significantly from where they were in 2012.
Christian Colon, SS, Kansas City Royals
.251/.304/.349, 44 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 61 TB, 13 BB, 21 K, 4 SB
Hindsight is obviously 20-20, and the Royals have done well through the draft in recent years, but Colon is one of those players they will quietly regret when you look what came after him in the 2010 class, notably Matt Harvey and Christian Yelich. With the exception of a 70-game stretch last year in Double-A, his offensive game has never materialized, leaving him stuck in Triple-A purgatory this season and behind Alcides Escobar on the depth chart.
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