MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Players at Each Minor League Level
We’re roughly six weeks into the minor league season, and countless prospects continue to open eyes with their performances at each of the four full-season levels.
With teams having played 30-plus games since Opening Day on April 3—most starting pitchers have made at least five starts, while hitters have already eclipsed 100 plate appearances—we’re beginning to distance ourselves from concerns related to small sample sizes. As we did in the series’ previous installment, this week’s list of players once again combines reports on both hitters and pitchers in the same article.
Here are the hottest and coldest hitters and pitchers at every minor league level.
Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (6 starts): 29.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, .168 BAA, 20 BB, 39 K
One of the more high-ceiling pitching prospects in the low minors, Reyes is making his full-season debut this year and consistently missing bats (12.0 K/9, 32 percent strikeout rate) with his high-end stuff. After walking 12 batters between his first two starts (eight innings), the 19-year-old right-hander has issued eight free passes over his last 21.1 frames (four starts). He’s also posted a 2.95 ERA with 28 strikeouts during that span.
Austin Voth, HP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats (7 GS): 33.2 IP, 1.87 ERA, .220 BAA, 12 BB, 40 K
A fifth-round draft pick in the 2013 draft, the 21-year-old continues to fly under the radar despite owning a 1.87 ERA with 40 strikeouts through 33.2 innings for Low-A Hagerstown. The right-hander has flat-out dominated in three starts this month, with a 0.53 ERA and 19/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 innings. Voth, like rotation mate Lucas Giolito, is a candidate for a promotion to High-A sometime before the All-Star break.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats (7 GS): 21 IP, 0.86 ERA, .162 BAA, 9 BB, 23 K (4 GS)
Harvey’s start on Monday against Delmarva was one of the best pitching performances in the minors this season, as the 19-year-old allowed a hit a walk while establishing new career highs in innings pitched (seven) and strikeouts (10). The right-hander currently leads the South Atlantic League with 45 strikeouts, ranks fourth in WHIP (0.87) and is tied for fifth in ERA (1.38).
Tyler Danish, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (7 GS): 38 IP, 0.71 ERA, .206 BAA, 10 BB, 25 K
Danish's six shutout frames on Sunday pushed his scoreless innings streak to 22, dating back to his outing on April 23. The right-hander is dominating South Atlantic League hitters this season with his plus sinker and unorthodox arm angle, as he's posted a 0.71 ERA, .206 BAA and 25/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings spanning seven starts. He's also completed exactly six innings in each of his previous five starts.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats (34 games): .328/.421/.481, 22 R, 11 2B, 3 HR, 8 SB, 20 BB, 21 K
Crawford turned in an impressive professional debut last summer after the Phillies selected him with the No. 16 overall pick in the draft; he batted .345/.443/.465 with 12 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 39 Gulf Coast League games and finished his inaugural campaign with 14 games at Low-A Lakewood.
After a slow start this year back at Lakewood, the 20-year-old is batting .397/.500/.638 with 10 extra-base hits (two home runs), 10 runs scored and a 9/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the last 16 games.
Mitch Nay, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats (37 games): .303/.361/.408, 7 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 14 BB, 22 K
I tabbed Nay as one of my preseason breakout prospects for 2014, and so far he hasn’t let me down six weeks into his full-season debut at Low-A Lansing. The 20-year-old has hit safely in all but seven games this season, and he’s batting .328/.382/.459 with four extra-base hits (two home runs), eight RBI and a 9/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 15 games.
Gosuke Katoh, 2B, New York Yankees
2014 Stats (30 games): .188/.319/.292, 4 2B, 3 3B, 9 SB, 17 BB, 41 K
Katoh, the Yankees’ second-round draft pick last June, turned in a surprisingly good professional debut last summer, batting .310/.402/.522 with 22 extra-base hits in 50 Gulf Coast League games.
Making his full-season debut this year at Low-A Charleston, the 19-year-old second baseman has shown a decent eye at the plate (.319 OBP) but struggled to make consistent contact, highlighted by his .188 batting average and 35 percent strikeout rate in 30 games.
Dace Kime, RHP, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (8 GS): 30.2 IP, 8.51 ERA, .364 BAA, 12 BB, 23 K
Kime, a third-round pick last June out of Louisville, had a productive professional debut last summer in the New York-Penn League. However, the right-hander has been absolutely hammered this year in his full-season debut, as he’s already allowed 51 hits in 30.2 innings (.364 BAA).
Phil Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats (36 games): .187/.261/.259, 8 2B, 18 RBI, 12 SB, 13 BB, 35 K
Ervin, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2013 draft, turned in a stellar professional debut last season, posting a .989 OPS with 21 extra-base hits (nine home runs) and 14 stolen bases in 46 games between the rookie-level Pioneer League and Low-A Dayton. However, the 21-year-old outfielder is off to a painfully slow start this season back at the level, with a .520 OPS, zero home runs and 35 strikeouts in 157 plate appearances.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats (37 games): .318/.427/.712, 37 R, 4 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 32 RBI, 28 BB, 43 K
Gallo led all minor league hitters last season with 40 home runs (38 of which came while playing for Low-A Hickory), and he’s on pace to shatter that mark this year with a minor league-leading 14 home runs in his first 37 games. Beyond his legitimate 80-grade power, the 20-year-old slugger has shown better place discipline and pitch recognition this season with a 43/28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 164 plate appearances.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (7 GS): 36.1 IP, 2.72 ERA, .248 BAA, 13 BB, 35 K
Berrios opened eyes last season in his full-season debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids, as the 19-year-old posted a 3.99 ERA (3.58 FIP) and 100/40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103.2 innings. The 19-year-old is thriving this season at High-A Fort Myers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League; he’s coming off back-to-back scoreless outings in which he’s allowed a combined five hits and six walks with 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.
Jose Rondon, SS, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats (36 games): .333/.361/.408, 9 2B, 3B, 16 RBI, 7 BB, 31 K
Rondon is making his full-season debut this year in the California League after spending his entire 2013 campaign in the rookie-level Pioneer League. The 20-year-old shortstop has been insanely hot at the plate during his current seven-game hitting streak, batting .548/.563/.710 with 17 hits (five doubles) in 35 plate appearances during that span.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (30 games): .320/.377/.488, 11 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 5 SB, 11 BB, 31 K
Seager struggled at High-A Rancho Cucamonga during the final month of the 2013 regular season, batting just .160 with 31 strikeouts in 27 games. However, the 20-year-old has been one of the California League’s more impressive hitters this season, highlighted by his .320 batting average and .865 OPS through 30 games.
Seager has been especially hot this month following his return from a minor hamstring injury, as he’s batted .375/.457/.500 with five doubles and a 7/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46 plate appearances.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats (7 GS): 33.1 IP, 0.81 ERA, .210 BAA, 10 BB, 42 K
To say that Daniel Norris has figured things out might be an understatement. Between the 21-year-old left-hander’s six starts last August after adjusting his mechanics, and his seven outings this season at High-A Dunedin, he’s registered a 0.80 ERA and 72/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62.1 innings. Meanwhile, opposing hitters are batting .184 with eight extra-base hits (one home run) against Norris during that span.
Jake Thompson, RHP, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats (7 GS): 42 IP, 1.07 ERA, .182 BAA, 12 BB, 39 K
Thompson, 20, turned in an impressive full-season debut last year at Low-A West Michigan, as the right-hander posted a 3.13 ERA and a 91/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.1 innings. Moved up to High-A Lakeland for the 2014 season, the 20-year-old has dominated through seven starts in the Florida State League, recording at least five innings pitched and five strikeouts in all but one outing.
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats (34 games): .153/.279/.266, 8 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 5 SB, 17 BB, 44 K
Starling posted a .727 OPS with 38 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases at Low-A Lexington last year in his full-season debut, but he also struck out 128 times in 498 plate appearances. The 21-year-old has been even worse this season at High-A Wilmington, with a .153 batting average, 10 extra-base hits and 44 strikeouts in 147 plate appearances (29.9 percent strikeout rate).
Starling looks like a best-case scenario fourth or fifth outfielder in the major leagues unless he starts figuring things out and learns to make adjustments.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (35 games): .242/.319/.320, 4 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 15 BB, 25 K
Vogelbach had an impressive full-season debut in 2013, as the left-handed hitting slugger posted an .824 OPS with 23 doubles, 19 home runs and 89/73 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 131 games between both Single-A levels. The 21-year-old is known for his light-tower power, so it’s somewhat surprising he’s hit only two home runs this season in 140 plate appearances. He’s now gone 67 plate appearances since his last dinger.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (38 games): .324/.425/.620, 35 R, 9 2B, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 5 SB, 20 BB, 46 K
Bryant continues to pass every test the organization throws his way, and he’s done nothing but surpass all expectations since the Cubs selected him second overall in last year’s draft. The 22-year-old slugger has put up monster numbers this season in his first taste of the Double-A level, as he currently leads the Southern League in home runs (11), OPS (1.045), total bases (88), runs scored (35) and RBI (33).
As a power hitter who works deep counts, Bryant will always have some swing and miss to his game. However, his on-base skills and underrated feel for hitting makes him more than a one-dimensional player.
Joe Wendle, 2B, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (38 games): .250/.325/.443, 11 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 13 BB, 27 K
Wendle is absolutely raking right now, as he’s batting .405/.410/.838 with eight doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI during his current nine-game hitting streak. Furthermore, 11 of his 15 hits during the streak have gone for extra bases. A sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Wendle, 24, batted .295/.372/.513 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs and a 79/44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107 games last season for High-A Carolina.
Even though his hit tool projects favorably as a big-league second baseman, Wendle is blocked by Jason Kipnis at the keystone for the foreseeable future.
Ketel Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (35 games): .324/.377/.403, 11 2B, 13 SB, 15 BB, 13 K
Marte, 20, is one of the youngest everyday players at the Double-A level—a few months older than Addison Russell and Francisco Lindor—but the Mariners clearly were confident he'd be able to at least hold his own in the Southern League.
Through Jackson's first 35 games, the switch-hitting shortstop is batting .324/.377/.403 with 11 doubles, 13 stolen bases and an impressive 15/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's already put together a pair of seven-game hitting streaks and had a 10-gamer snapped on Monday.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (33 games): .399/.462/.601, 40 R, 11 2B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 17 SB, 18 BB, 12 K
Betts extended his on-base streak to 63 games Tuesday by going 2-for-4 with double, walk and two stolen bases for Double-A Portland. No player has been more impressive than Betts this season, as 21-year-old currently leads all Double-A hitters in batting average (.399), on-base percentage (.462), OPS (1.063), hits (55), runs scored (40) and stolen bases (17).
Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats (16 games): 5 SV, 17.2 IP, 1.02 ERA, .089 BAA, 7 BB, 37 K
And now for the obligatory Cam Bedrosian update. The 22-year-old has been scored on once in 16 appearances this season between High-A Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas, and he’s struck out two or more batters on 12 occasions. The right-hander currently leads all minor league pitchers (with at least 10 innings pitched) in K/9 (18.9) and strikeout rate (57.8 percent).
Trayce Thompson, OF, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (38 games): .236/.343/.357, 6 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 24 BB, 49 K
Thompson, 23, has been mired in a deep slump since the calendar turned to May, as he’s batting just .146 (7-for-48) with 23 strikeouts in the last 13 games. With Avisail Garcia out of the year, Thompson, who's already on the White Sox's 40-man roster, could conceivably get a look in the major leagues later this season as a September call-up.
Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees
2014 Stats (35 games): .188/.282/.257, 5 2B, 3B, HR, 8 RBI, 5 SB, 19 BB, 23 K
Williams is back at Double-A Trenton after batting .153 last season in 17 games at the level. The 22-year-old hasn’t fared any better this year, evidenced by his .539 OPS through 35 games, but at least he’s showed respectable plate discipline with a 23/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
2014 Stats (31 games): .256/.336/.421, 8 2B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 14 BB, 24 K
Sanchez got off to a hot start this season in his return to Double-A Trenton, posting an .875 OPS with nine extra-base hits in 19 April games. The 21-year-old backstop has cooled off considerably in the season’s second month, as he’s batting just .156 with 11 strikeouts in his last 52 plate appearances (12 games).
Andrew Susac, C, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats (21 games): .329/.417/.644, 5 2B, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 9 BB, 14 K
The 24-year-old has hit five of his six long balls in the last 10 games, and he’s batting .353 with three doubles, 11 RBI and a 6/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span. He has put impressive numbers this season (albeit in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League), with a 1.061 OPS, 11 extra-base hits and 17 RBI in 21 games, though it will likely take an injury for him receive significant playing time in the major leagues this season.
James McCann, C, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats (30 games): .308/.364/.430, 10 2B, HR, 17 RBI, 8 BB, 20 K
McCann has been on fire lately at Triple-A Toledo, going 8-for-14 with five doubles and three RBI in his last four games. A second-round pick in 2011 out of Arkansas, McCann enjoyed a breakout campaign last year at Double-A Erie, batting .277/.328/.404 with 39 extra-base hits (eight home runs) in 119 games.
He’s off to an even better start this year, with a .308/.364/.430 batting line, 10 doubles and 17 RBI through 30 games, and he’s also thrown out opposing base stealers at a 35 percent clip (14 of 40).
The 23-year-old profiles as a solid platoon catcher given his well-rounded game and knack for hitting lefties, and developing more in-game, over-the-fence power could push him into an everyday role.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats (37 games): .378/.439/.622, 11 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 8 SB, 15 BB, 29 K
After falling into a mini-slump (1-for-14) over the weekend, Polanco has gone 6-for-8 with two doubles, home run, triple and six RBI in his last two games. The 22-year-old leads the International League in most offensive categories, including batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.439), slugging (.622), total bases (92), triples (five), runs scored (28) and RBI (35). Yeah—he’s pretty awesome.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats (8 GS): 51 IP, 1.76 ERA, .181 BAA, 16 BB, 53 K
Nelson flashed his potential last season as a September call-up, posting a 0.90 ERA and allowing just two hits in 10 innings that included one impressive start. The 24-year-old has dominated in his last two starts, allowing one earned run on eight hits with five walks and 17 strikeouts over 12 innings. Nelson seems ready to join the Brewers’ big league rotation when there’s an opening.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (27 games): .147/.237/.265, 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB, 10 BB, 43 K
Baez’s struggles have continued since his return from an early-season hamstring injury, as he’s batting .145/.244/.211 with two extra-base hits and 33 strikeouts over his past 19 contests (86 plate appearances).
The 21-year-old’s past five games have been especially rough, as he’s just 1-for-19 with nine strikeouts in 22 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, Baez is currently tied for last place (with Paul Janish) among all qualified Triple-A hitters in both wOBA (.230) and wRC+ (28).
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (8 GS): 41.1 IP, 4.57 ERA, .298 BAA, 12 BB, 27 K
Lee, 22, pitched well in his first four starts this season, allowing a combined five earned runs in 22.2 innings. Since then, however, the right-hander has registered an ugly 7.71 ERA in his last 18.2 innings (four starts), with opposing hitters batting .382/.423/.596 with 12 extra-base hits during that span.
Lee isn’t missing many bats this season in the Pacific Coast League, as his current 5.9 K/9 rate represents the lowest mark of his professional career.
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats (8 GS): 36.1 IP, 4.46 ERA, .288 BAA, 11 BB, 43 K
Wisler, 21, posted a 2.10 ERA and 35/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 innings at Double-A San Antonio to begin the season, but has now been shelled in back-to-back starts following a promotion to Triple-A El Paso. Between the two outings, the right-hander has allowed 11 earned runs on 16 hits (four home runs) in 6.1 innings.
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