MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Players at Each Minor League Level
We’re now well into the minor league season, and countless prospects continue to open eyes with their performances at each of the four full-season levels. And with the Short Season New York-Penn League set to begin Friday, we’ll soon have an entirely new crop of prospects to break down each week.
With teams having played around 60-plus games since Opening Day on April 3—most starting pitchers have made anywhere from 10 to 14 starts, while everyday players are nearing 250 plate appearances—we continue to distance ourselves from concerns related to small sample sizes.
As we did in the series’ previous installments, 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 players at every minor league level.
Trey Michalczewski, 3B, Chicago White Sox
2014 stats (62 games): .289/.374/.459, 23 XBH (5 HR), 41 RBI, 28 BB, 67 K
A seventh-round draft pick in 2013 out of an Oklahoma high school, Michalczewski, a 6’3”, 210-pound switch-hitter, is quietly having a breakout full-season debut at Low-A Kannapolis. Surprisingly, the 19-year-old has done most of his damage this season in the current month, with a .378/.425/.865 batting line, four doubles, four of his five total home runs and 12 RBI in 10 games. He’s definitely a hitter to keep an eye on over the rest of the season.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
2014 stats (62 games): .321/.424/.511, 24 XBH (8 HR), 39 RBI, 39 BB, 57 K
The 6’7”, 230-pound Judge failed to collect an extra-base hit through his first 12 games for Low-A Charleston, but the 22-year-old has made up for the slow start by batting .356 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 23 RBI in his last 24 contests. However, Judge also owns a .446 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) during that span, which suggests that his current level of production will be unsustainable.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 stats (9 starts): 39.1 IP, 2.06 ERA, .177 BAA, 17 BB, 47 K
Giolito’s workload has been (and will continue to be) limited by the organization while working back from Tommy John surgery, but it hasn’t prevented the right-hander from absolutely dominating hitters in the South Atlantic League. The 19-year-old hasn’t been scored on in his last 13 innings (dating back to his May 4 start), with 18 strikeouts and four hits allowed during that period.
JaCoby Jones, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 stats (62 games): .260/.336/.407, 19 XBH (7 HR), 12 SB, 22 BB, 70 K
Jones’ performance has trended in the wrong direction after batting .306 in the season’s first month, as the 22-year-old shortstop—yes, he’s playing shortstop everyday for Low-A West Virginia—is batting .233 with 50 strikeouts in his last 36 games.
Trey Ball, LHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 stats (8 starts): 30.1 IP, 7.12 ERA, .351 BAA (46 H), 14 BB, 19 K
The No. 7 overall pick in last year’s draft, Ball, 19, allowed a combined five earned runs in his first two starts for Low-A Greenville this year while working exactly five innings in each game. However, the 6’6” left-hander has been hammered over his last six outings, allowing 19 earned runs on 31 hits to go along with 13 walks and 11 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
Ryan Eades, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 stats (11 starts): 49.2 IP, 7.07 ERA, .322 BAA (67 H), 24 BB, 46 K
Eades pitched well to begin the season, registering a 2.87 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 31.1 innings spanning six starts. Since then, however, the 22-year-old right-hander has struggled to the tune of a 14.24 ERA and .404 BAA with 17 strikeouts and 14 walks in 18.1 innings (five starts).
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
2014 stats (56 games): .332/.421/.509, 25 XBH (5 HR), 52 RBI, 20 SB, 32 BB, 39 K
One of the younger everyday players at the High-A level, Correa, 19, has already blown past all expectations—albeit in the hitter-friendly California League—by batting .332/.421/.509 with 25 extra-base hits (five home runs), 52 RBI, 20 stolen bases (in 24 attempts) and a 39-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 56 games.
Furthermore, the right-handed hitter has done most of his damage this year against same-sided pitching, with a 1.068 OPS, 21 extra-base hits and more walks (25) than strikeouts (20) in 167 at-bats.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 stats (56 games): .342/.388/.615, 38 XBH (12 HR), 49 RBI, 5 SB, 15 BB, 53 K
Seager has been one of the California League’s more impressive hitters this season, highlighted by his .342 batting average, 1.004 OPS and 38 extra-base hits through 56 games. Furthermore, the 20-year-old has been a run-creating machine over his last 15 contests, with four doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI in 69 plate appearances.
D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners
2014 stats (56 games): .306/.359/.553, 41 R, 31 XBH (13 HR), 54 RBI, 18 BB, 56 K
Since returning to action in late April after suffering a minor hamstring injury, Peterson, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is batting .313/.368/.614 with 14 doubles, 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 39 games.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
2014 stats (54 games): .309/.339/.489, 25 XBH (4 HR), 10 SB, 6 BB, 52 K
Anderson has been one of the minor league’s hottest hitters lately, as the toolsy shortstop is batting a robust .418 with 12 extra-base hits in his last 16 contests. Despite the 20-year-old’s success at the plate so far in the Carolina League, it’s doubtful that he will move up to Double-A without first improving upon his ugly 52-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio (22.0 K%, 2.5 BB%) and raw defense at shortstop (26 errors in 54 games).
Francellis Montas, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 stats (7 starts): 44 IP, 1.23 ERA, .200 BAA, 6 BB, 46 K
Acquired from the Red Sox last season as part of the Jake Peavy deal, Montas, a 21-year-old right-hander with an electric fastball in the upper 90s, has been nothing short of dominant this year at High-A Winston Salem, allowing more than one earned in only one of his seven starts thus far while posting a ridiculous 46-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 stats (13 starts): 73 IP, 4.32 ERA, .235 BAA (6 HR), 26 BB, 87 K
Blair, a product of the Diamondbacks’ 2013 draft (No. 36 overall), has struggled since being promoted to High-A Visalia in early May with a 4.58 ERA and .278 opponents’ batting average in 37.1 innings (seven starts). While his command has plenty of room to improve, the 21-year-old has still missed bats at a high rate this season, with an 87-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 10.7 strikeout rate in 73 innings between both levels.
Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
2014 stats (46 games): .243/.292/.323, 10 XBH, 8 SB, 12 BB, 55 K
Raul Mondesi got off to a great start at High-A Wilmington, batting .304 in 20 April games, but since then, he’s struggled to make adjustments at the plate and is batting just .200 with a 32-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 26 contests.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 stats (63 games): .357/.460/.722, 57 R, 18 2B, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB, 39 BB, 72 K
What’s there left to say about Kris Bryant? The 22-year-old slugger continues to put up otherworldly numbers this season in his first taste of the Southern League, as he currently leads all Double-A hitters in batting average (.357), on-base percentage (.460), slugging (.722), home runs (22), OPS (1.182), total bases (166), runs scored (57), hits (82) and RBI (55).
Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals
2014 stats (59 games): .323/.409/.595, 28 XBH (15 HR), 46 RBI, 17 SB, 30 BB, 82 K
The 23-year-old has been one of the more productive hitters in the minors, as he’s doing a little bit of everything offensively while offering his usual plus defense in center field. Taylor’s game still features too much swing-and-miss, evidenced by his 82-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 255 plate appearances, but his contact rate is still trending up, and he’s already established a new career high with 15 home runs.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers
2014 stats (60 games): .327/.467/.760, 56 R, 36 XBH (23 HR), 56 RBI, 53 BB, 67 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 after making an adjustment to his swing, which you can read more about here courtesy of Ryan Parker of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required).
Gallo was moved up to Double-A Frisco on Sunday after the Rangers placed first baseman Mitch Moreland on the disabled list (ankle), a challenge that the 20-year-old responded to by going 3-for-7 with six RBI and a home run in each of his first two games.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians
2014 stats (62 games): .329/.382/.454, 48 R, 18 XBH (4 HR), 14 SB, 22 BB, 58 K
Naquin, 23, began the season by batting .267 through his first 23 games, but since then, he’s been one of the more consistent hitters in the Eastern League with a .362 average, 36 runs scored, 11 extra-base hits and nine steals over his last 39 games. At the moment, Naquin is riding a 13-game hitting streak during which he’s batting .482 with five extra-base hits.
Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 stats (62 games): .314/.386/.568, 36 XBH (9 HR), 47 RBI, 22 BB, 56 K
Lamb has been a hitting machine over the last six-plus weeks, with the 23-year-old third baseman batting .367/.439/.646 with 20 doubles, six home runs and 33 RBI in 41 games during that span. Lamb currently ranks among the Southern League leaders in most offensive categories, as he’s first in doubles (23) and second in hits (72), slugging (.568), OPS (.954) and total bases (130). He’s also fourth in batting with a .314 average.
Devon Travis, 2B, Detroit Tigers
2014 stats (25 games): .286/.315/.476, 11 XBH (3 HR), 3 SB, 4 BB, 11 K
Travis struggled to get going after returning from nearly six weeks on the disabled list, but the 23-year-old has finally found his stroke at Double-A Erie and is batting .407 with 11 extra-base hits in the last 14 games.
He’ll never put up the kind of gaudy numbers he did in his eye-opening 2013 full-season debut (.351/.418/.518, 48 XBH, 22 SB in 132 games), but the right-handed hitter’s feel for the strike zone and knack for making hard contact should give him the chance to be a successful big leaguer.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 stats (14 starts): 66 IP, 3.82 ERA, .222 BAA, 40 BB, 57 K
Sanchez hasn’t taken the step forward this season that many expected following his impressive showing in last year’s Arizona Fall League and then this spring in major league camp. In his first taste of Double-A, the 21-year-old right-hander has seen his strikeout (7.8 K/9) and walk (5.5 BB/9) rates move in opposite directions, though he’s still managed to hold opposing hitters to a .222 average over 66 innings.
However, he’s shown more consistency over his last two starts with a 2.32 ERA and 14-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 innings.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2014 stats (13 starts): 71 IP, 2.41 ERA, .240 BAA, 21 BB, 47 K
Lorenzen has been one of the biggest surprises this season, as the 22-year old has drawn rave reviews for his improved command and general domination of the Southern League—wait for it—in his first season as a starter. The right-hander allowed a career-high six earned runs on seven hits on May 30 in what was easily his worst outing of the season, but he’s since bounced back nicely with back-to-back scoreless starts.
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
2014 stats (53 games): .251/.328/.414, 19 XBH (7 HR), 36 RBI, 23 BB, 39 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. However, the 21-year-old backstop has struggled since then with a .212 batting average and 26 strikeouts in his last 34 games.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 stats (60 games): .223/.274/.374, 20 XBH (6 HR), 27 RBI, 14 BB, 72 K
The Cardinals handed Wisdom an aggressive promotion to Double-A Springfield this season after he batted .235 with 137 strikeouts last year across both Class-A levels. Unsurprisingly, the 22-year-old’s long swing and lack of pitch recognition have been exploited this season, as he’s batting just .211 with 43 strikeouts and five walks since the start of May.
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 stats (12 starts): 65.1 IP, 3.99 ERA, .239 BAA (7 HR), 28 BB, 66 K
Back in the Eastern League for a second tour, Biddle hasn’t taken a step forward this season as hoped with his command—though his 3.9 BB/9 still looks good on paper compared to last year’s 5.3 BB/9—and has already yielded seven home runs (three off his 2013 total). However, the 22-year-old is still missing more than a bat per inning (9.1 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a .234 batting average.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 stats (51 games): .239/.298/.457, 21 XBH (9 HR), 31 RBI, 9 SB, 14 BB, 71 K
As you know by now, Baez had a horrendous start to the season at Triple-A Iowa. However, given his track record as a slow starter and immense natural talent, it seemingly was only a matter of time until the 21-year-old made the necessary adjustments and started to put up big numbers. So it’s not surprising Baez is batting .345 with nine doubles and six home runs in his last 24 games.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 stats (13 games/12 starts): 76.2 IP, 2.47 ERA, .236 BAA, 15 BB, 79 K
Andrew Heaney is already on his second level this season after a late-May promotion to Triple-A New Orleans in the wake of Jose Fernandez’s injury. Since arriving at the more advanced level, the 23-year-old left-hander has posted a 3-0 record (including a shutout) to go along with a 2.74 ERA and 27-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 innings.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 stats (11 games/10 starts): 71.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, .167 BAA, 21 BB, 76 K
Nelson picked up his first win in the major leagues in a May 25 spot start for the Brewers, striking out six batters while keeping the Marlins off the board for 5.2 innings. It won’t be long until the 25-year-old right-hander is back in the majors, possibly for good this time, as he’s posted a 0.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts in two starts since returning to the Triple-A rotation.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 stats (12 starts): 62.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, .223 BAA, 28 BB, 75 K
Meyer, 24, has held opposing hitters to a paltry .223/.313/.314 batting line while posting a 10.8 K/9 in 62.2 innings. The right-hander’s command still needs some refinement, hence the career-worst 4.0 BB/9, as he’ll get hit around when working up in the zone with his fastball (less of an issue at Target Field), but it’s time for the Twins to turn him loose on major league hitters and see what he can do.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 stats (61 games): .213/.276/.338, 19 XBH (5 HR), 25 RBI, 19 BB, 43 K
Franco appeared to be back on track in May with an .803 OPS and 11 extra-base hits, a welcomed improvement from his .487 OPS in April. However, the 21-year-old’s bat has gone ice cold this month, as he’s currently mired in a 5-for-43 slump over the last 10 games.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox
2014 stats (58 games): .184/.258/.368, 19 XBH (10 HR), 20 BB, 79 K
Davidson’s season-long slump is a direct result of him striking out two or more times in exactly half of his 58 games this season. That being said, the 23-year-old has shown some signs of life lately, as four of his 10 home runs have come in the last 10 games.