Jaff Decker, last week's pick for "Hottest Hitter" at the Triple-A level, was promoted to the big leagues over the weekend and hit his first major league homer on Monday. Here are eight more hitters, two from each full-season level, that are either knocking on the door to the next level as Decker was or proving that they might be in over their head.
Mike O'Neill, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Season stats: .328 BA, 2 HR, 38 RBI, 15 2B, 76 BB, 29 K, 19 SB in 111 games (AAA/AA)
At 5'9" and with limited tools, O'Neill is the type of player that will need to continue proving himself at each level to avoid being written off as a fringe minor leaguer. Now at the highest level before reaching the big leagues, it didn't take the 25-year-old long to make his mark in the International League.
Since a promotion from Double-A in late July, O'Neill is hitting .383 (18-for-47) in 13 games and pushing for a late-season call-up to help the Cardinals down the stretch. Even if his ceiling is as a fourth outfielder in the majors, he's already close to reaching it.
Mike Olt, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Season stats: .199 BA, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 19 2B, 40 BB, 115 K, 88 games (AAA/AA)
After struggling early in the season, Olt's value had dropped by the time he was included in the deal that sent Matt Garza to Texas. Things haven't gotten better with the Cubs. He's off to a 10-for-75 start with Triple-A Iowa with two homers and 20 strikeouts.
While the trade opened a clear path to the majors, unlike in Texas where he was blocked by Adrian Beltre, the only thing blocking the 24-year-old Olt now is his own performance.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Season stats: .274 BA, 29 HR, 88 RBI, 27 2B, 4 3B, 34 BB, 125 K, 18 SB in 111 games (AA/Hi-A)
A level higher in Triple-A, Olt and Josh Vitters are two very recognizable third base prospects who have seen their value dip and their major league futures clouded. In fact, the team's "Third baseman of the Future" could very well be Baez, who is currently playing shortstop but could move over to expedite his arrival in the majors.
Baez, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, made quite an impression in the High-A Florida State League earlier in the season, highlighted by a four-homer game. Since a promotion in late June, he's continued his power surge with 11 homers in 22 July games, although he only reached base at a .297 clip.
While he's only homered once in August, Baez is making up for it with a .373 batting average (19-for-51), five doubles and five stolen bases. It turns out that Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox isn't the only 20-year-old shortstop on the fast track to the big leagues.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Season stats: .304 BA, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 22 2B, 7 3B, 49 BB, 46 K, 25 SB in 103 games (AA/Hi-A)
Unlike Baez, there's no question about where Lindor will play in the majors. He's a defensive whiz at shortstop and that's where he'll have the most value when he reaches Cleveland around 2015. He doesn't have the power profile to play third base, anyways.
While he's projected to be a good hitter in the majors, he's officially hit a rough patch. The 19-year-old switch-hitter, who his .306 with 19 doubles, six triples, 35 walks and 20 stolen bases in 83 High-A games, started off strong after a promotion to Double-A with 15 hits in his first 34 at-bats. Since, Lindor is just 7-for-40.
Brandon Miller, OF, Washington Nationals
Season stats: .264 BA, 19 HR, 80 RBI, 29 2B, 36 BB, 143 K, 4 SB in 114 games (Hi-A/Lo-A)
A fourth round pick in the 2012 draft, Miller showed off his power with 18 homers and 26 doubles in 103 Low-A games. The 23-year-old's weaknesses were also displayed as he hit just .243 with 34 walks and 135 strikeouts.
But Miller's having no such problems putting the ball in play since a call-up to High-A Potomac. In 11 games, the right-handed hitter has 20 hits in 44 at-bats, although he's sacrificing some power with just five extra base hits.
Jake Skole, OF, Texas Rangers
Season stats: .223 BA, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 20 2B, 57 BB, 82 K, 8 SB in 101 games
Skole has been a bit of a disappointment since being taken as the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, posting a .548 OPS in 68 High-A games last season and very little progress has been made in a repeat of the level.
While he showed off some of his potential with a big month of July (.890 OPS, HR, 9 2B, 20 BB, 18 K), he's only 5-for-25 in August and will need to turn things around quickly or the Rangers might have to keep him in the Carolina League for a third consecutive season.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
Season stats: .324 BA, 8 HR, 68 RBI, 29 2B, 47 BB, 70 K, 9 SB in 98 games
Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, might have already established himself as the top prospect in all of baseball with the season he's having. The only player picked ahead of him, Correa, isn't that far behind, though.
Questions over whether the Astros regret not taking Buxton will always come up but the 18-year-old Correa is doing all he can to make them feel good about their choice. The starting shortstop for Quad Cities is having quite a full-season debut with an .880 OPS. He's hitting .375 in August, including 14 hits in a 22 at-bat span from August 3rd through August 7th.
Larry Greene, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Season stats: .211 BA, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 17 2B, 47 BB, 139 K, 6 SB in 96 games
The Phillies didn't draft Greene with the expectation that he'd move quickly through the minors or that he was even a good bet to become a major leaguer. They took him with the 39th pick in the 2011 draft because of his huge potential.
While he held his own during his pro debut, posting a .754 OPS in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2012, Greene's being exposed in the Low-A Sally League. The 20-year-old has just six hits in his last 41 at-bats to drop his average to .202. He's also struck out 19 times in that span, giving him an alarming 139 strikeouts in 350 at-bats.
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