MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
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The last edition of this feature included Wil Myers and Xander Bogaerts as the "Who's Hot" in Triple-A and Double-A so it's not surprising that both have earned promotions since.
Myers debuted with the Rays on Tuesday and is 2-for-12 with a double and two runs batted in thus far. Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop who is easily the top prospect in the Red Sox system, homered in his second Triple-A game but only has five hits in his first 23 at-bats.
On the flip side, it seems that I've also motivated the pair of "Who's Cold" hitters from the same levels. Giants center-field prospect Gary Brown has turned it on since a rough start with 17 hits in his last 41 at-bats, including five homers and five doubles for Triple-A Fresno.
My Double-A pick, Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, is doing what he can to turn his season around. He still has a long way to go, but he's raised his average to .183 with 12 hits in his last 37 at-bats, including a homer, triple and three doubles.
OF Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Season stats: .296 BA, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 21 2B, 35 BB, 57 K, 3 SB in 74 games
One of my recent predictions for the "Next 8 Top Prospects To Make Their MLB Debut," Castellanos continues to make a case for the starting left field job in Detroit while Andy Dirks is clearly losing his grip on the gig (.448 OPS in June).
The 21-year-old can still have the occasional game where he looks far from being ready—he went 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts on June 15-16—but his overall numbers tell a different story. He's hitting .317 with seven homers, 28 runs batted in, 12 doubles, 26 walks and 34 strikeouts over his last 47 games.
At the least, he should be platooning with Dirks early in the second half. If the current trend continues, the job will be his much sooner.
IF Carlos Sanchez, Chicago White Sox
Season stats: .227 BA, 0 HR, 19 RBI, 10 2B, 3B, 18 BB, 43 K, 9 SB in 64 games
The switch-hitting infielder rose up the prospect ranks in 2012 quickly as he went from High-A to Triple-A with a stop at the Futures Game on the way.
After hitting well over .300 in 122 games between High-A and Double-A, Sanchez struggled in a late-season 11-game stint with Triple-A Charlotte. The 20-year-old appeared close, however, so it's surprising that he's continued to struggle at the level in 2013.
OF Reymond Fuentes, San Diego Padres
Season stats: .332 BA, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 14 2B, 2 3B, 31 BB, 50 K, 23 SB in 63 games
Acquired from the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, the former first-round prospect fell completely off the prospect radar after two mediocre seasons with the organization (.711 OPS in High-A in 2011; .604 OPS in Double-A in 2012).
But the 22-year-old Fuentes, who is the cousin of Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, is finally starting to live up to his potential in a repeat of Double-A. If he finishes out the year strong, the Padres could end up with one of those good problems to have with Fuentes knocking down the door to the majors by 2015 and current center fielder Cameron Maybin signed through the 2016 season.
3B Kaleb Cowart, Los Angeles Angels
Season stats: .209 BA, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 11 2B, 3B, 22 BB, 60 K, 7 SB in 68 games
When the Angels signed third baseman Alberto Callaspo to a contract extension this offseason that pushed his free agency back to the end of the 2014 season, I was not a fan of the move.
For starters, Callaspo is not a highly productive third baseman—he had a .692 OPS in 2012 and has a .682 OPS this season. And then there was Cowart, the top prospect in the organization and "Third Baseman of the Future" who was coming off of a strong season between High-A and Low-A (.276 BA, 16 HR, 103 RBI, 31 2B, 7 3B, 67 BB, 111 K, 14 SB).
Why block his chances of breaking through to the majors in 2014 by bringing back Callaspo?
Well, this is why. And by "this," I mean he is completely overmatched in Double-A, which is a good test for any prospect. At 21 years old, Cowart is not proving to be ready. It doesn't mean he won't be a good big leaguer, but expecting him before 2015 is unrealistic.
SS Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Season stats: .291 BA, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 14 2B, 5 3B, 24 BB, 49 K, 19 SB in 63 games
Low-A teammates Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco proved in 2012 that the Pirates didn't just have elite pitching prospects in their system. Hanson, a switch-hitting shortstop, finished the season with a .909 OPS, 62 extra-base hits (16 HR, 33 2B, 13 3B) and 35 stolen bases, while center fielder Polanco showed off his plus tools with a .910 OPS, 48 extra-base hits (16 HR, 26 2B, 6 3B) and 40 stolen bases.
It's been more of the same in 2013 with Polanco so impressive that he earned a call-up to Double-A after just 57 games. The 20-year-old Hanson, who struggled in April (.654 OPS), had a big May (.840 OPS) and is now doing what he can to rejoin Polanco with an even better June (.920 OPS).
OF Luis Domoromo, San Diego Padres
Season stats: .198 BA, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 7 2B, 3B, 12 BB, 54 K, 2 SB in 50 games
One of the top prospects in Latin America when the Padres inked him to a seven-figure deal in 2008, Domoromo has been a bust thus far with only one decent season under his belt (.740 OPS in Low-A in 2011).
The 21-year-old is now struggling for a second consecutive season in the hitter-friendly High-A California League, which usually means the end of the line for a minor leaguer. If you can't hit there, it's not a good sign, although the Padres will probably be more patient with him considering the investment made.
OF Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Season stats: .344 BA, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 15 2B, 8 3B, 40 BB, 51 K, 29 SB in 64 games
The 19-year-old is clearly a man among boys in the Midwest League, dominating in all facets of the game. It's not a stretch to think he's the top prospect in all of baseball after his impressive run.
Between Buxton and power-hitting third baseman Miguel Sano, the Twins also probably have the top prospect duo in all of the minors. Both could reach Minnesota as 21-year-olds in 2015.
3B Dante Bichette Jr.
Season stats: .201 BA, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 7 2B, 3B, 20 BB, 66 K in 63 games
A second-round pick in 2011, Bichette looked like the second coming of his father, Dante Bichette Sr., the former member of the Rockies' famed Blake Street Bombers, after he posted a .952 OPS in 52 rookie league games.
But the 20-year-old third baseman is having trouble with Low-A pitching for the second consecutive season—he had a .653 OPS there in 2012. He's only 3-for-44 in the month of June and could be a candidate for a demotion to short-season ball so he can try to get some confidence back.
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