MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Players at Minor League Level
We’re now well over halfway through 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 rookie and short-season leagues now underway, we have even more prospects to break down each week. However, we’ll only be looking at just the hottest players from those two levels due to the small sample of games.
With teams having played over 80 games since Opening Day on April 3—most starting pitchers have made anywhere from 15 to 20 starts, while everyday players have amassed 350-plus plate appearances—we no longer have to worry about misleading 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, save for Rookie and Short-Season due to the smaller sample size and developmental nature of those leagues.
Taylor Sparks, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: .378/.500/.703, 7 XBH (HR), 5 RBI, 2B, 9 BB, 11 K (11 G)
Sparks, a second-round pick of the Reds in this year’s draft, struggled during his first week in the Pioneer League, but the 20-year-old third baseman has been hot as of late with a .478 batting average and five extra-base hits during his current six-game hitting streak.
Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats: .322/.394/.559, 9 XBH (2 HR), 15 RBI, 6 BB, 16 K (14 G)
Bradley, 18, has some serious pop in his left-handed bat, as nine of his 19 hits in the Arizona League have gone for extra bases.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: 6 IP, H, BB, 9 K (2 G/1 GS)
Flame-throwing right-hander Grant Holmes, the No. 22 overall pick in this year’s draft, has dominated in the first two appearances of his professional career, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out nine batters in six innings.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats: .369/.465/.623, 19 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 24 BB, 22 K (35 G)
Seventeen-year-old Rafael Devers, who was signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic last summer for $1.5 million, tore up the Dominican Summer League en route to an ahead-of-schedule promotion to the Gulf Coast League, where he’s batted .500/.552/.962 with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBI through his first seven games.
JD Davis, 3B, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: .279/.382/.495, 13 XBH (5 HR), 20 RBI, 15 BB, 25 K (30 G)
A third-round pick last month out of Cal State Fullerton, Davis, who was moved to third base after signing with the Astros, has posted an .877 OPS and 13 extra-base hits in his first 30 games for Short Season Tri-City.
Jordan Luplow, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats: .314/.417/.514, 7 XBH (3 HR), 10 RBI, 2 SB (4 CS), 12 BB, 13 K (20 G)
One of the more underrated prospects in this year’s draft class, Luplow is a pure hitter with good contact skills and sneaky power from the right side of the plate. The 20-year-old outfielder has hit safely in 15 of 20 games since joining Short Season Jamestown of the New York-Penn League last month.
Matt Imhof, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats: 15 IP, 0.60 ERA, .167 BAA, 5 BB, 13 K (4 GS)
Imhof, the Phillies’ second-round pick this past June out of Cal Poly, has looked sharp in his three starts with Short Season Williamsport, allowing one run on six hits while striking out 11 batters in 12 innings.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .209/.285/.364, 28 XBH (8 HR), 41 RBI, 30 BB, 56 K (84 G)
Candelario, 20, has had a disappointing season thus far, as he’s currently back at Low-A Kane County after batting just .193 in 62 games with High-A Daytona. However, the switch-hitter still has shown solid power this year with eight home runs and 18 doubles during that span, while his 56-30 strikeout-to-walk rate leaves room for his average to improve.
Candelario also has shown signs of turning things around as of late with a 1.241 OPS, three home runs and five doubles over his last 10 games. In his 2013 full-season debut (at Kane County), he batted .256/.346/.396 with 11 home runs, 35 doubles and an 88-66 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130 games.
Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats: .274/.343/.436, 26 XBH (10 HR), 34 RBI, 8 SB, 32 BB, 100 K (77 G)
After scuffling through the first three months of the season, Frazier, 19, has hit a scorching .431/.473/.804 with five home runs and two doubles in July. Overall, Frazier has 100 strikeouts in 350 plate appearances (28.6 percent) and has 17 in 55 PA in July (30.9 percent).
The toolsy outfielder will need to improve his pitch selection and decrease his swing and miss tendencies, but his performance this month has offered a glimpse at what he could become.
Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: .353/.414/.482, 26 XBH (4 HR), 48 RBI, 24 BB, 51 K (72 G)
Sisco, 19, has been impressive in his first full professional season, and he’s been especially hot since the beginning of June, with a robust .407/.463/.552 batting line, 16 extra-base hits, 33 RBI and a 22-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37 games. However, the left-handed hitter’s .467 BABIP during that span suggests his batting average will regress during the second half.
Jacob Lindgren, LHP, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 13 K (5 G)
Lindgren was one of college baseball’s better relievers this spring at Mississippi State, and his ability to miss bats at a high rate and potentially reach the major leagues in a hurry led to his selection by the Yankees in the second round (No. 55 overall) of this year’s draft.
After a warm-up outing in the Gulf Coast League, the left-hander has allowed one run on one hit in five innings for Low-A Charleston to go along with 11 strikeouts compared to zero walks.
D.J. Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: .212/.271/.326, 22 XBH (6 HR), 39 RBI, 9 SB (13 CS), 26 BB, 121 K (82 G)
Davis’ rawness has been exposed this year in his full-season debut, as the 19-year-old has shown decent power (22 extra-base hits) but struggled to make consistent contact (.212 AVG, 121 strikeouts through 82 games) and utilize his top-flight speed on the basepaths (nine stolen bases in 22 attempts).
Nick Travieso, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: 91 IP, 4.05 ERA, .261 BAA (7 HR), 19 BB, 76 K (17 GS)
Travieso, 20, has been slow to develop since the Reds made him their first-round draft pick in 2012 (No. 14 overall), as the right-hander’s currently in his second season with Low-A Daytona.
His numbers appear respectable on paper, but that’s largely due to the 1.55 ERA and 23-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio he posted in April over 29 innings; since then, Travieso has pitched to a 5.23 ERA and .774 opponents’ OPS in 62 innings.
Andrew Velazquez, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats: .306/.386/.461, 32 XBH (6 HR), 40 RBI, 40 SB, 46 BB, 88 K (90 G)
Beyond his breakout performance this season at High-A Visalia, Velazquez, 20, set a new minor league record on Sunday when he extended his on-base streak to 72 games. Kevin Millar (1997) and Kevin Youkilis (2003) shared the previous record of 71 games. Velazquez then pushed his record to 73 games on Monday with a walk.
Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .276/.300/.395, 24 XBH (6 HR), 47 RBI, 6 SB, 11 BB, 42 K (82 G)
Almora struggled during the first half of the season, batting only .245/.266/.325 with two home runs and six walks through his first 59 games. Since then, however, Almora has quickly made up for the slow start by batting .350/.381/.560 with 35 hits (11 extra-base hits) over his last 23 contests. The 20-year-old also had a night to remember on Monday for Daytona, going 5-for-7 with four runs scored and five RBI while hitting for the cycle.
Rio Ruiz, 3B, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: .307/.399/.460, 36 XBH (8 HR), 59 RBI, 56 BB, 66 K (88 G)
Ruiz is one of the best hitters in the minor leagues no one is talking about. The 20-year-old third baseman is already an extra-base machine with excellent plate discipline and an advanced approach, and it’s only a matter of time until some of those doubles begin to clear fences.
Austin Voth, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: 95.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, .179 BAA (2 HR), 26 BB, 102 K (17 GS)
Voth, 22, has been a beast since a promotion to Potomac last month, as he's allowed just one run (0.35 ERA) and nine hits while posting a 28-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 innings over four starts. The 2013 fifth-round draft pick was moved up after posting a 2.45 ERA and 74-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69.2 innings at Low-A Hagerstown.
Between both stops, Voth has allowed just two home runs and held opposing hitters to a paltry .179 batting average in 95.2 innings.
Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 88.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, .222 BAA, 21 BB, 98 K (18 GS)
Severino, a 6’0”, 195-pound right-hander, is opening eyes this year in his first full season as a professional, as he’s already received a promotion to High-A Tampa after dominating older hitters over 14 starts in the South Atlantic League.
If you’re interested in more information on the quick-armed right-hander, then I strongly suggest checking out this glowing scouting report by Mike Newman of ROTOscouting. The 20-year-old owns a 1.31 ERA and 28-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20.2 innings spanning four starts since joining Tampa.
Chris Anderson, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: 86.2 IP, 5.09 ERA, .284 BAA (10 HR), 46 BB, 97 K (19 G/18 GS)
Anderson has a durable build and power arsenal, and he knows how to miss bats, evidenced by his 97 strikeouts in 86.2 innings this season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, but his lack of fastball command and tendency to pitch up in the zone will need to be straightened out before moving up to Double-A.
Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: 36.2 IP, 9.57 ERA, .376 BAA (9 HR), 10 BB, 31 K (10 GS)
Appel’s disappointing season continued last week with another horrendous start for High-A Lancaster, as the 2013 No. 1 overall pick allowed seven runs on a career-high 13 hits while lasting only 4.1 innings. And while it recently was reported that the 23-year-old right-hander is dealing with a right wrist issue, per Evan Drellich (via Twitter), it could very well be another excuse for his poor showing this season.
Jose Peraza, 2B, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .349/.374/.461, 29 XBH (2 HR), 43 SB, 14 BB, 40 K (86 G)
Peraza, 20, received a well-deserved promotion to Double-A Mississippi last month after mastering the High-A Carolina League with a .342/.365/.454 batting line, 22 extra-base hits and 35 steals in only 66 games.
The speedy second baseman has been unaffected by the promotion, as he’s batting .374/.400/.484 with seven extra-base hits and eight steals through 20 games at the more advanced level.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .397/.471/.808, 18 XBH (6 HR), 24 RBI, 10 BB, 19 K (22 G)
Soler missed most of the first half of the season dealing with a hamstring injury, but the 22-year-old has been on fire this month since returning to Double-A Tennessee, with a .462 batting average and five home runs over his last eight games.
Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: 95.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, .246 BAA (3 HR), 23 BB, 73 K (18 GS)
Chi Chi, the No. 23 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has seemingly hopped on the fast track to the major leagues in his first full professional season. The 22-year-old has spent the last month at Double-A Frisco, where he’s pitched to a 2.97 ERA and 24-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30.1 innings.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .297/.403/.502, 33 XBH (5 HR), 32 RBI, 21 SB, 41 BB, 85 K (67 G)
Story, 21, is enjoying a solid rebound campaign after a dismal 2013 season at High-A Modesto. However, he’s struggled since moving up to Double-A in late June, with a .190/.299/.259 batting line and 23 strikeouts through 15 games.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: .228/.301/.329, 24 XBH (4 HR), 39 RBI, 34 BB, 86 K (89 G)
Bonifacio’s promising bat has taken a step back this season in his first full year at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but the 21-year-old is still young for the level and has plenty of time to development.
Delino DeShields, OF, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: .239/.343/.328, 13 XBH (5 HR), 30 RBI, 35 SB, 33 BB, 69 K (69 G)
DeShields has struggled this season in his first taste of Double-A—though, in his defense, he did miss time early in the season after taking a pitch directly to the face—with an OPS (.671) that’s over .200 points lower than his 2013 total at hitter-friendly High-A Lancaster. However, he’s still managed to post a respectable .343 on-base percentage and swipe 35 bases in 42 attempts this season.
Steven Souza, OF, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .371/.449/.615, 37 XBH (14 HR), 62 RBI, 21 SB, 41 BB, 52 K (74 G)
Souza is the type of player who will surprise people once given consistent playing time, as his combination of size, athleticism, tools and secondary skills profile favorably in a big league outfield. However, it’s hard to see him getting an extended look in the Nats' overcrowded outfield this season unless there’s an injury.
Zach Walters, IF, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .284/.342/.592, 34 XBH (13 HR), 45 RBI, 17 BB, 60 K (53 G)
The switch-hitting Walters’ power, defensive versatility and previously accrued service time make him valuable in a utility role, but his swing-and-miss tendencies and lack of on-base skills hurt his chances at becoming an everyday player. The 24-year-old has been red-hot with a .464 batting average, two home runs, four doubles and nine RBI during his current six-game hitting streak.
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: 92.2 IP, 4.56 ERA, .254 BAA (9 HR), 44 BB, 89 K (19 G/16 GS)
Foltynewicz, 22, continues to showcase an upper-90s fastball and flashes a devastating secondary when he’s on, but, at least for me, his below-average command and overall lack of consistency from start to start suggest a future in the bullpen.
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: 102.1 IP, 4.93 ERA, .277 BAA (12 HR), 39 BB, 70 K (19 G/18 GS)
Originally projected as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter when the Dodgers selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft, Lee looks like more of a No. 4 or 5 starter these days on account of his lack of an overpowering pitch but good feel for a deep arsenal.
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: 2 SV, 29 IP, 4.97 ERA, .257 BAA, 10 BB, 32 K (30 G)
After breezing through the Florida State (High-A) and Southern Leagues (Double-A), Vizcaino, 23, has allowed multiple runs in four of his seven relief appearances since reaching Triple-A Iowa.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats: 74.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, .297 BAA (6 HR), 31 BB, 57 K (15 G/14 GS)
Barnes is yet to show the promise flashed during his impressive 2012 full-season debut, as his fastball command and ability to miss bats have regressed over the last two years between Double- and Triple-A.