MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mastering the High-A Florida State League is usually a challenge for young hitters due to its pitcher-friendly parks and environment. However, somebody forgot to pass along that information to Miguel Sano.
The 20-year-old opened the season on fire at the more advanced level and is yet to lose steam. Through his first 56 games, Sano, whom I recently ranked as baseball’s No. 5 prospect, was batting .330/.424/.655 with 51 runs scored, 15 doubles, 16 home runs and nine stolen bases. And as a result of his overwhelming success, the Twins recently promoted the young slugger to Double-A.
Elsewhere on the Twins front, Byron Buxton continues to do amazing things. Ranked ahead of Sano as the No. 2 prospect, the 19-year-old is without a doubt the most exciting player in the minor leagues.
Here’s a look at the rest of the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level.
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Rosell Herrera, SS, Colorado Rockies
.347/.433/.581, 82 H, 19 2B, 12 HR, 15 SB, 51/34 K/BB (61 G)
The 20-year-old continues to rake in his second tour of the South Atlantic League, as he is currently pacing the league with a .347 batting average. Last 10 games: .375/.419/.575, 15 H (4 XBH).
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
.342/.435/.566, 60 R, 29 XBH (7 HR), 47 RBI, 26 SB, 46/39 K/BB (59 G)
Buxton has shown no signs of slowing down during his very impressive full-season debut, as he’s literally doing it all on both sides of the ball. It doesn’t really factor into his placement on this list, but did you see the 19-year-old’s catch this week? Amazing.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
.320/.355/.568, 42 R, 24 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 38/14 K/BB (60 G)
Traded to the Diamondbacks during the offseason as part of the Justin Upton deal, the 6’2” right-handed hitter continues to post big power numbers in the Midwest League, though he does have some swing-and-miss to his game. Last 10 games: .314/.390/.800, 3 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI.
Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
.332/.414/.629, 16 2B, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 73/31 K/BB (62 G)
In his first season since moving from the mound to the infield, Allie, a 6’2”, 238-pound right-handed hitter, has showcased robust raw power and leads the South Atlantic League with 17 home runs in 62 games.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs
.272/.343/.461, 13 2B, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 48/28 K/BB (62 G)
One of the more underrated pure hitters in the minor leagues, Vogelbach’s plate discipline and approach have been challenged this year at a full-season level, but that hasn’t stopped him from showcasing prodigious raw power. Last 10 games: four home runs.
Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
.413/.451/.547, 14 R, 8 XBH, 11/5 K/BB (18 G)
Almora opened the 2013 season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery for a broken hamate bone, but has been on an absolute tear since joining Low-A Kane County in late May. The sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft has a chance to move through the minor leagues quickly. Last 10 games: .395/.426/.512, 8 R, 17 H, 7/3 K/BB.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
.292/.395/.426, 17 XBH (4 HR), 41 RBI, 6 SB, 41/30 K/BB (50 G)
The No. 1 pick last June has been outstanding in his first taste of full-season ball, as he’s demonstrated a knack for driving in runs and an advanced approach well beyond his age (18).
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
.282/.349/.450, 11 XBH (4 HR), 22 RBI, 7 SB, 31/12 K/BB (36 G)
After a slow start to the season and some time spent on the disabled list, Seager has been on fire since returning to action on June 2. Last five games: 9-for-19, 5 R, 3 XBH, 6 RBI, 2 SB.
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
.328/.412/.496, 59 R, 25 XBH (7 3B), 50 SB (15 CS), 51/33 K/BB (61 G)
A ninth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Indiana, Johnson currently leads all minor leaguers with 50 stolen bases through 61 games, though he has been nabbed 15 times. And after batting .273 in the rookie-level Pioneer League last season, the development of his bat has been a pleasant surprise.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
.235/.327/.548, 48 R, 34 XBH (18 HR), 35 RBI, 100/29 K/BB (62 G)
Gallo struggled mightily in May with a .748 OPS (low by his standards) and 46 strikeouts in 28 games, but has seemingly turned the corner this month: .326/.341/.814, 4 2B, 5 HR in 10 games. He still needs to tone down the strikeouts, though.
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
.207/.286/.364, 16 XBH (7 HR), 7 SB, 66/19 K/BB (55 G)
Starling is yet to turn the corner in his full-season debut, as his long, inefficient swing has led to 66 strikeouts in his first 55 games.
Cito Culver, SS, New York Yankees
.211/.311/.322, 13 XBH (4 HR), 4 SB, 62/29 K/BB (50 G)
The 2010 first-rounder is yet to develop as hoped, as he continues to struggle this season in his second tour of the South Atlantic League.
Mitch Walding, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
.244/.319/.317, 14 XBH, 30 RBI, 61/22 K/BB (57 G)
After posting a .721 OPS in 23 April games, Walding is yet to post an OPS north of .600 in any subsequent month. I thought he'd at least start tapping into his above-average raw power, but he has only left the yard once in 462 professional at-bats.
Victor Roache, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
.211/.307/.351, 25 R, 12 XBH (6 HR), 54/21 K/BB (47 G)
Roache possesses some of the best raw power in the minor leagues, but is still very raw despite his college background and continues to be plagued by his propensity to swing and miss.
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*This week's installment features only the hottest hitters across the three High-A leagues.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals
.281/.353/.416, 24 XBH (20 2B), 37/26 K/BB (59 G)
Cuthbert got off to a slow start as he batted .250 in April and .263 in May, but has been on a tear since the start of June: .412/.487/.676, 5 2B, 2 3B, 4/5 K/BB (10 G).
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
.291/.339/.570, 45 R, 17 2B, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB, 60/11 K/BB (57 G)
The hottest hitter in the minor leagues, Baez has been crushing the ball over his last 10 games: .432/.523/1.054, 12 R, 5 2B, 6 HR, 16 RBI. He’s also coming off the best offensive performance by a prospect this season, as the 20-year-old was 4-for-4 with four home runs and seven RBI on Monday.
Nick Delmonico, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
.291/.399/.615, 20 R, 8 2B, 10 HR, 31/21 K/BB (32 G)
The 2011 sixth-rounder spent some time on the disabled list during April and May, but has still made tremendous strides at the plate this season in High-A, especially in the power department. Last 10 games: .278/.366/.639, 4 HR, 8/5 K/BB.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
.313/.366/.479, 28 R, 17 2B, 6 HR, 23 SB, 35/16 K/BB (55 G)
Polanco continues to build off a breakout 2012 campaign in the South Atlantic League, as he’s made noticeable adjustments this season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
.271/.371/.417, 19 R, 11 2B, 16/15 K/BB (29 G)
The top defensive catcher in the minor leagues, Hedges spent over a month on the disabled list and was limited to only 20 games over the first two months of the season. Since returning, however, the 20-year-old is batting .346 with six doubles and eight RBI.
Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
.234/.324/.435, 27 XBH (6 HR), 7 SB, 61/27 K/BB (52 G)
Receiving an aggressive opening-day assignment to High-A, Russell struggled in the early going as he battled both an ankle and back injury. The good news is that he’s finally showing signs of breaking out of his early-season funk. Last five games: 8-for-19, 8 R, 12 H (8 2B), 6/4 K/BB.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
.214/.277/.345, 18 XBH (5 HR), 9 SB, 84/17 K/BB (59 G)
After an impressive full-season debut in 2012 for Low-A Asheville, Story got off to a painfully slow start this spring as he batted .150 in April (22 games) and .213 in May (27 games). June has been a different story for the right-handed hitter, as he’s batting .341/.400/.561 with four extra-base hits and seven RBI through 10 games.
Max Muncy, 1B, Oakland Athletics
.283/.397/.494, 47 R, 8 2B, 15 HR, 44/45 K/BB (65 G)
A fifth-round selection in 2012, Muncy continues to reap the benefits of facing weak pitching in the hitter-friendly California League. Last 10 games: .325/.400/.775, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 7/5 K/BB.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians
.304/.364/.472, 27 XBH (6 HR), 6 SB, 63/21 K/BB (61 G)
The 2012 first-rounder continues to turn in an excellent full-season debut and has the chance to develop an above-average hit tool.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
.310/.406/.507, 40 R, 24 XBH (6 HR), 5 SB, 49/34 K/BB (54 G)
Xander Bogaerts is going to be a star. He’s still learning to tap into his exceptional raw power, but the improvements in his plate discipline and approach this season are exactly why he’s such a special hitter.
Henry Urrutia, OF, Baltimore Orioles
.352/.410/.549, 24 R, 20 XBH (6 HR), 31 RBI, 31/16 K/BB (41 G)
Urrutia tends to get overshadowed by Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler, but probably won’t be for much longer. Over his last 10 games, the 6’5”, left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .442/.455/.698 with 19 hits, three home runs and 12 RBI; he’s recorded multiple hits in seven of those contests.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
.330/.403/.604, 40 R, 26 XBH (13 HR), 46 RBI, 17 SB, 46/14 K/BB (53 G)
After spending three seasons between both Class-A levels (2010-2012) and battling a host of injuries, Puello, 22, looks like the legitimate power-speed prospect the Mets envisioned when they signed him in 2007.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
.303/.405/.618, 51 R, 36 XBH (18 HR), 50 RBI, 18 SB, 77/35 K/BB (61 G)
Although his strikeout rate leaves something to be desired, Springer has exceeded expectations so far in his first full season at Double-A. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s promoted directly to the major leagues sometime around the All-Star break.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.330/.424/.655, 51 R, 35 XBH (16 HR), 9 SB, 61/29 K/BB (56 G)
After destroying the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Sano was recently promoted to Double-A New Britain along with second baseman Eddie Rosario.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins
.272/.327/.503, 16 XBH (8 HR), 8 SB, 41/7 K/BB (37 G)
Marisnick missed the first month of the season with a broken hand and returned to post a .738 OPS with 36/5 K/BB in 28 May games. The toolsy outfielder has seemingly settled in, though, as he’s batting .342/.405/.684 with seven extra-base hits over his last 10 games.
Travis Witherspoon, OF, Los Angeles Angels
.208/.287/.347, 15 XBH (5 HR), 14 SB, 56/25 K/BB (61 G)
Witherspoon’s lack of plate discipline was exploited last year following a midseason promotion to Double-A and has been once again this season in his second tour of the level.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
.218/.278/.311, 14 XBH (3 HR), 18 RBI, 6 SB, 54/19 K/BB (60 G)
Cowart had a breakout season in 2012 between both Class-A levels but has struggled to adjust to the more advanced pitching at Double-A. I have faith he’ll bust out before the All-Star break.
James Ramsey, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
.273/.397/.409, 14 XBH, 5 SB, 46/34 K/BB (50 G)
Ramsey opened the season by posting a 1.038 OPS through 18 games in the Florida State League before receiving a promotion to Double-A Springfield. His early-season success hasn’t carried over to the more advanced level, however, as the outfielder owns just a .681 OPS through 32 games.
Nick Ahmed, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
.174/.245/.226, 8 XBH, 7 SB, 40/7 K/BB (63 G)
After an impressive full-season debut in 2012 in which he posted a .728 OPS with 36 doubles and 40 stolen bases, Ahmed got off to a painfully slow start at Double-A Mobile by batting .163 in April and .113 in May. The good news is that he’s hit the ball better as of late, as he owns a .343 batting average over his last 10 contests.
Zach Collier, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
.198/.268/.317, 13 XBH (4 HR), 7 SB, 65/17 K/BB (55 G)
Coming off a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, Collier has struggled in his first taste of the Double-A level this season.
Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.283/.358/.515, 41 R, 12 2B, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 7 SB, 67/29 K/BB (60 G)
After batting .255 with six home runs in May, Myers' bat has come alive this month in a big way. The 22-year-old is finally firing on all cylinders, batting .341/.391/.732 with four home runs, 11 RBI and four stolen bases over his last 10 games.
Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
.298/.374/.492, 19 2B, 10 HR, 48/33 K/BB (67 G)
The 21-year-old started to heat up during the second half of May, and it’s carried over into June, as Castellanos is batting .432/.510/.750 with four home runs and a 3/7 K/BB. His plate discipline has noticeably improved and the power has been more consistent, so expect to see him sometime before the All-Star break.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
.228/.293/.367, 47 R, 24 XBH (5 HR), 6 SB (5 CS), 63/16 K/BB (62 G)
Brown has steadily regressed since his outstanding campaign at High-A San Jose in 2011. But over his last three games, the speedy outfielder has been an extra-base machine: 9-for-13, 5 R, 3 2B, 2 HR.
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
.343/.358/.458, 21 XBH (5 HR), 11 SB, 54/6 K/BB (65 G)
His plate discipline and inability to consistently coax walks is worrisome, but the 21-year-old is raking as one of the younger players in the Pacific Coast League.
Kyle Skipworth, C, Miami Marlins
.137/.210/.247, 5 XBH, 30/5 K/BB (23 G)
Skipworth has bounced between Triple-A and the major leagues this season but has failed to make consistent contact at both levels.
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
.236/.322/.404, 15 XBH (6 HR), 7 SB, 58/20 K/BB (51 G)
Jackson’s quest to get back to the major leagues isn’t going well, as the 24-year-old still strikes out in bunches, highlighted by 14 in his last 10 games.
Zach Walters, SS, Washington Nationals
.210/.242/.442, 26 XBH (12 HR), 59/8 K/BB (57 G)
Walters, a switch-hitter, hits for a higher average from the right side of the plate, while all 12 of his home runs have come from the left.