MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Hitters at Every Minor League Level
Selected by the Oakland Athletics with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Addison Russell quickly emerged as one of the game’s top prospects last summer by posting a 1.027 OPS with 26 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases across three levels. After debuting in the rookie-level Arizona League, he made a brief stop in the New York-Penn League before finishing his professional debut at Low-A Burlington.
As a result of his overwhelming success last year, the organization promoted Russell, 19, to High-A Stockton for the 2013 season. The shortstop got off to a slow start at the more advanced level, posting a .749 OPS in April and .705 OPS in May while playing through a few minor injuries.
But Russell officially turned the corner in June. He batted .333/.367/.622 with 21 runs scored, 11 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 15 RBI and seven stolen bases in 22 games. If he continues to improve over the next month, expect the A’s to promote him to Double-A to finish the season.
Here’s a look at the rest of the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level.
Hottest (Only the hottest hitters this week; there's no point in highlighting poor, small samples)
Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
.450/.478/.750, 3 XBH (HR), 8 RBI, 5/1 K/BB (5 G)
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft has collected multiple hits in four of his first five games. He homered and tripled in his first professional game. I’m excited to see the numbers he puts up over the remainder of the season.
Gosuke Katoh, 2B, New York Yankees
.368/.500/.895, 4 XBH (3 HR), 3/3 K/BB (6 G)
The 6’2”, left-handed second baseman showcased surprising power during his first week in the minor leagues, including home runs in back-to-back games to begin his career.
Travis Demeritte, SS, Texas Rangers
.317/.417/.537, 4 XBH (2 HR), 11/7 K/BB (10 G)
Demeritte has been one of the more impressive players across all rookie levels. He's an aggressive hitter who’s shown impressive plate discipline thus far and another young, high-ceiling Rangers prospect.
D.J. Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
.292/.346/.521, 8 R, 6 XBH (5 3B), 2 SB, 12/2 K/BB (11 G)
Davis is raw and will need considerable seasoning in the minor leagues, but the tools are very, very loud. The numbers in his last four games: 7-for-18, 7 R, 3 3B, 4 RBI, 2 SB, 3/2 K/BB.
Avery Romero, 3B, Miami Marlins
.375/.412/.500, 4 XBH (HR), 2 SB, 7/3 K/BB (13 G)
Dating back to last summer, the 2012 third-rounder has batted .377 through 20 games in the New York-Penn League. There's a chance for an above-average hit tool, but he lacks a true defensive position.
Phil Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds
.366/.469/.561, 3 XBH (2 HR), 5 SB, 7/7 K/BB (11 G)
Although he’s maxed out physically, Ervin, 20, has a projectable power-speed profile. He owns a 1.030 OPS through the first 11 games in the Pioneer League. He shouldn’t be long for the level.
Jacob May, OF, Chicago White Sox
.378/.481/.444, 2 XBH, 5 SB, 6/7 K/BB (12 G)
The toolsy outfielder is off to a hot start through 12 Pioneer League games, which is expected given he’s a 21-year-old facing mostly teenage pitchers.
Mitch Nay, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
.366/.447/.488, 3 XBH, 9 RBI, 6/6 K/BB (11 G)
The 58th overall selection in the 2012 draft, May is making his professional debut this season and owns a .935 OPS through his first 11 games in the Appalachian League.
Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, Boston Red Sox
.341/.412/.477, 5 XBH, 3 SB, 4/6 K/BB (12 G)
A top international signing last summer, Lin, 19, has been impressive on both sides of the ball for short-season Lowell to begin the season.
Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
.343/.365/.493, 48 H, 15 XBH, 19/5 K/BB (33 G)
Almora has cooled off over the last two weeks, but he is still enjoying a stellar full-season debut for Low-A Kane County. He's a polished all-around player who has a chance to move quickly.
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
.292/.382/.625, 9 XBH (3 HR), 10/7 K/BB (12 G)
The German-born outfielder has taken over in center for Low-A Cedar Rapids following the promotion of Byron Buxton. The 20-year-old is a very promising player with loud tools and physical strength.
Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, Colorado Rockies
.359/.440/.568, 35 XBH (14 HR), 18 SB, 61/44 K/BB (79 G)
Herrera really struggled last year during his full-season debut at Low-A Asheville and was ultimately demoted to short-season ball. He's an entirely different player this season in terms of plate discipline and power frequency. He should be a candidate for second-half promotion to High-A or maybe even Double-A.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
.304/.355/.411, 4 XBH, 5 SB, 17/3 K/BB (13 G)
The South Siders’ first-round pick signed quickly and is off to a solid start at Low-A Kannapolis, though he has 17 hits and 17 strikeouts through his first 13 games.
Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers
.326/.351/.472, 7 XBH (3 HR), 15/3 K/BB (24 G)
A 6’5”, left-handed hitter, Guzman, 18, has the chance to be a special hitter even as a potential first-base-only prospect. His hit tool is uncharacteristically mature for his age, and he has a genuine feel for using the entire field.
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies
.321/.402/.674, 40 XBH (17 HR), 65 RBI, 64/23 K/BB (58 G)
Although he’s a 22-year-old in Low-A, that doesn’t completely detract from Murphy’s monster full-season debut. He hasn’t received a promotion because his receiving skills need refinement. The numbers in his last 10 games: .333/.381/.821, 8 R, 4 2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 12/3 K/BB.
Travis Harrison, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.276/.373/.516, 38 XBH (14 HR), 69/33 K/BB (78 G)
The 20-year-old has enjoyed an impressive full-season debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids. He has plus power potential, though his defense lags behind his bat. To an extent, Harrison reminds me of Matt Davidson.
Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
.310/.375/.461, 30 XBH (6 HR), 14 SB, 31/23 K/BB (74 G)
The Brewers’ second-round pick in 2012 offers an impressive blend of athleticism, power and secondary skills. He's a very underrated prospect who is a high-follow over the second half of the season.
Michael Perez, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
.184/.230/.332, 18 XBH (5 HR), 83/11 K/BB (50 G)
After posting a .900 OPS in the Pioneer League last season, Perez struggled mightily (.530 OPS in 47 games) after making the jump to High-A Visalia. He was recently demoted to Low-A South Bend.
Charles Jones, OF, San Francisco Giants
.207/.296/.310, 15 XBH (4 HR), 8 SB, 81/28 K/BB (75 G)
The 2010 seventh-rounder has batted .176 in 98 games over parts of two seasons at Low-A Augusta.
Victor Roache, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
.216/.295/.341, 14 XBH (7 HR), 66/23 K/BB (62 G)
Roache has shown plenty of power with seven home runs in 62 games, but his strikeout rate has been a serious problem.
Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics
.258/.339/.484, 50 R, 37 XBH (9 HR), 12 SB, 77/31 K/BB (67 G)
Despite showcasing considerable power, Russell struggled over the first two months of the season. He turned the corner in the June: .333/.367/.622, 21 R, 11 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 7 SB, 19/4 K/BB in 22 games. Russell is one of baseball’s brightest prospects.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
.342/.427/.546, 72 R, 34 XBH (8 HR), 33 SB, 61/45 K/BB (74 G)
The top prospect in baseball has continued to rake following a recent promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League: 9-for-25 (.360), 2B, 5 RBI, SB, 5/1 K/BB in six games. What a (expletive) stud.
Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers
.294/.362/.455, 33 XBH (25 2B), 21 SB, 52/20 K/BB (74 G)
The 19-year-old is one of the younger everyday players at the High-A level. He has impressed with his extra-base pop and speed at an up-the-middle position.
Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego Padres
.300/.363/.447, 25 XBH (8 3B), 26 SB, 36/31 K/BB (77 G)
He’s not a top-tier shortstop prospect at 23 years old and without a game above High-A, but I still think he has a chance to be a big leaguer with his intriguing blend of speed, on-base skills and above-average defense. Peterson tore it up in June: .389/.455/.642, 25 R, 4 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 12/12 K/BB in 27 games.
Stetson Allie, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
.308/.400/.566, 39 XBH (17 HR), 97/43 K/BB (78 G)
The erratic, hard-throwing right-hander-turned-corner-infielder posted a 1.021 OPS with 17 home runs for Low-A West Virginia to open the season, but he has struggled after a promotion to High-A Bradenton: .214/.320/.333, 5 2B, 18 K in 12 games.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
.209/.277/.339, 24 XBH (6 HR), 12 SB, 108/23 K/BB (75 G)
April: .503 OPS. May: .581 OPS. June: .727 OPS. He’s taking baby steps, but it’s been a disappointing season for a guy I consider to be one of the better shortstop prospects in the minor leagues.
Will Swanner, 1B/C, Colorado Rockies
.230/.316/.404, 22 XBH (7 HR), 5 SB, 81/26 K/BB (59 G)
Against right-handed pitching this season: .199/.306/.342, 6 2B, 5 HR, 57/22 K/BB in 146 at-bats.
Richie Shaffer, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
.240/.294/.370, 23 XBK (5 HR), 5 SB, 63/18 K/BB (71 G)
The 22-year-old has struggled this season after making the jump from short season to High-A; last 10 games: .200/.279/.314, 4 2B, 6 K.
Jake Skole, OF, Texas Rangers
.204/.305/.299, 15 XBH, 58/31 K/BB (66 G)
At his current pace, there’s a realistic chance that the 2010 first-rounder doesn’t make it out of A-ball. Skole has batted .194 with 130 strikeouts in 134 games for High-A Myrtle Beach over the last two seasons.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
.303/.396/.638, 43 XBH (22 HR), 9 SB, 83/39 K/BB (76 G)
Sano hasn’t hit for average since arriving at Double-A New Britain, though the power has been on full display (as usual): .215/.308/.585, 12 R, 6 HR, 16 RBI, 22/10 K/BB in 20 games.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS, Cleveland Indians
.299/.317/.441, 26 XBH (6 3B), 9 SB, 42/8 K/BB (70 G)
His hyper-aggressive approach and max-effort swing result in a lot of swing-and-misses, but he absolutely crushed the ball in June: .392/.405/.532, 15 R, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 SB, 9/3 K/BB in 18 games.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins
.279/.347/.491, 24 XBH (10 HR), 10 SB, 53/14 K/BB (55 G)
The 22-year-old outfielder is having an under-the-radar season after a broken hand sidelined him for all of April. The numbers in June: .318/.400/.557, 6 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB, 15/7 K/BB in 22 games.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
.320/.362/.602, 47 XBH (20 HR), 41/21 K/BB (78 G)
The 20-year-old has been a monster following a promotion to Double-A Reading: .418/.429/.727, 11 R, 7 XBH (4 HR), 2/1 K/BB in 13 games.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
.347/.469/.526, 31 XBH (22 2B), 15 SB, 46/53 K/BB (73 G)
He’s having an awesome season, though his lack of over-the-fence power isn’t a clean fit at third base. But the on-base skills, speed and hit tool seemingly have him on the fast track to the major leagues.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets
.331/.395/.602, 32 XBH (15 H)R, 18 SB, 55/14 K/BB (63 G)
The 22-year-old is finally healthy and tapping into the potential that led to his signing back in 2007. Last 10 games: .333/.350/.590, 4 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 9 K.
Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle Mariners
.331/.422/.513, 69 R, 35 XBH (7 HR), 24 SB, 75/50 K/BB (78 G)
The 2012 first-rounder has done nothing but hit since turning pro last summer. He posted a .950 OPS with 30 XBH (7 HR) and 20 stolen bases in 67 games for High-A High Desert to open the season. His numbers following a promotion to Double-A Jackson: .837 OPS, 5 XBH, 4 SB.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals
.262/.326/.399, 31 XBH (26 2B), 51/28 K/BB (76 G)
Cuthbert hasn’t responded since a midseason promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas: .197/.215/.328, HR, 14 K.
Slade Heathcott, OF, New York Yankees
.242/.310/.362, 20 XBH (12 2B), 7 SB (6 CS), 78/25 K/BB (69 G)
The organization challenged Heathcott with a promotion to Double-A after a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League. He plays all-out and will have a big game every now and then, but he has been overmatched at the more advanced level.
James Ramsey, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
.276/.387/.440, 20 XBH (7 HR), 6 SB, 60/39 K/BB (63 G)
After making quick work of the Florida State League, Ramsey has struggled following a promotion to Double-A Springfield: .244/.349/.396, 6 HR, 5 SB, 48/27 K/BB.
Mikie Mahtook, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
.238/.320/.375, 29 XBH (7 3B), 16 SB, 68/31 K/BB (84 G)
The 2011 first-rounder has batted .241 in 123 Double-A games over two seasons. He's got impressive tools, but the bat and approach have holes. Last 10 games: .162/.279/.162, 15 K.
Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros
.245/.343/.490, 31 XBH (14 HR), 7 SB, 91/29 K/BB (66 G)
Considering he’s a 20-year-old in Double-A, Santana is having a pretty impressive season; that said, he’s struggled over his last 10 games: .156/.289/.375, 2 HR, 11 K.
Jonathan Villar, SS, Houston Astros
.280/.335/.450, 30 XBH (8 HR), 28 SB, 88/25 K/BB (83 G)
Villar, 22, is enjoying the best season of his career, utilizing power and speed more consistently since the beginning of May. He’s already on the 40-man roster, so he’ll at least get an audition in September.
Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
.296/.374/.482, 39 XBH (11 HR), 60/43 K/BB (86 G)
Castellanos really put things together in June: .361/.441/.583, 9 2B, 5 HR, 13/16 K/BB in 28 games. He has made impressive strides with plate discipline, pitch recognition and power frequency over the last two months. I’d be surprised if he’s not in the major leagues by the end of July.
Grant Green, 2B, Oakland Athletics
.317/.376/.503, 37 XBH (11 HR), 64/27 K/BB (77 G)
Last 10 games: .452/.500/.833, 10 R, 19 H, 10 XBH (3 HR), 7/4 K/BB. I'm not sold on him as an everyday second baseman at the next level, but he could be valuable in a utility role.
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
.299/.405/.585, 42 XBH (21 HR), 25 SB, 103/46 K/BB (80 G)
Since his promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City: .333/.481/.667, 2 HR, 2 SB, 7/4 K/BB in seven games. He should get his first taste of the major leagues later this season.
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
.351/.371/.483, 32 XBH (7 HR), 12 SB, 72/11 K/BB (85 G)
Owings currently leads the minor leagues with 131 hits this season. The 21-year-old makes a lot of hard contact, but don’t expect him to maintain the ridiculous .422 BABIP.
Joey Terdoslavich, OF/1B, Atlanta Braves
.322/.363/.574, 43 XBH (18 HR), 63/23 K/BB (84 G)
He's coming off a monster June: .317/.390/.635, 10 HR, 23 RBI in 28 games.
Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants
.243/.304/.424, 36 XBH (11 HR), 11 SB, 86/21 K/BB (82 G)
Brown has enjoyed a power surge thanks to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but the strikeout rate remains a legitimate concern. He could see time as a fourth or fifth outfielder in the majors later this season.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
.247/.302/.343, 18 XBH (5 HR), 49 SB, 65/25 K/BB (76 G)
Although he’s continued to be a menace on the basepaths this season (49-for-58 in stolen base attempts), Hamilton’s plate discipline and secondary skills have regressed. Since June 1: .245/.274/.363, 14 R, 19 SB, 28/4 K/BB in 25 games.
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