MLB Prospects Update: Hottest Players at Each Minor League Level
We’re now approaching the end of the minor league season, but there are plenty of prospects who continue to open eyes with their performances across the rookie, short-season and full-season levels.
For most players the season will conclude at the end of August, with a league playoff title representing the ultimate goal. However, there also will be several notable prospects, many of whom are featured in this article, whose seasons are extended with a September call-up.
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 slideshow. However, we’ll only be looking at just the hottest players because, well, there are a lot of them with the season winding down, and they’re all worth mentioning.
Here are the hottest players at every minor league level.
Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .322/.407/.458, 35 R, 9 XBH, 18 RBI, 12 SB, 17 BB, 26 K (29 G)
Wall, the 35th overall selection in the 2014 draft, has done well in his introduction to professional baseball, posting an .865 OPS with nine extra-base hits and 12 steals over 29 games. The 18-year-old second baseman has the potential to hit .300 and the raw power to hit 20 home runs in the majors, but he is limited to second base due to his poor throwing arm.
He could be moved to center field long term, which would take advantage of his above-average speed.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: .293/.358/.424, 16 XBH (4 HR), 36 RBI, 19 BB, 27 K (53 G)
Tellez has been on fire in August, hitting .400/.458/.680 with three doubles, one triple, three home runs, 17 RBI and more walks (7) than strikeouts (6). The 6’4”, 220-pound left-handed slugger has the thunder to hit 25-plus home runs in the major leagues but will need time to work on his approach in order to tap into his raw power more consistently.
Tanner Murphy, C, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .244/.380/.394, 11 XBH (4 HR), 16 RBI, 28 BB, 29 K (41 G)
Murphy, the Braves’ fourth-round pick in 2013, had a game to remember last Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI, four runs scored and two walks. The 19-year-old catcher quietly has put together an impressive season, showing projectable power with a mature approach that’s produced an excellent 29-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 41 games.
Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: .320/.372/.459, 14 XBH (3 HR), 31 RBI, 12 SB, 15 BB, 55 K (44 G)
Gettys has above-average raw power, an elite arm and elite speed, but has issues making consistent contact when he swings. The 18-year-old center fielder has produced a solid .320 batting average, 14 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases this summer, but he also has 55 strikeouts in 200 plate appearances (27.5 percent strikeout rate).
The upside is huge, but there’s a large gap between his present ability and future potential.
Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats: .375/.442/.662, 22 XBH (7 HR), 46 RBI, 15 BB, 30 K (34 G)
The Indians selected Bobby Bradley in the third round for his big-time power potential from the left side, and so far the 18-year-old has put on a power clinic in the Rookie-level Arizona League, with 22 of his 51 hits going for extra bases. Bradley has been especially hot in August, batting .394/.405/.758 with six extra-base hits and 15 RBI over his last nine games.
Marcos Molina, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats: 62.2 IP, 1.58 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .177 BAA, 12 BB, 73 K (10 GS)
Molina has the potential to be a No. 3 pitcher, but the fact that he’s 19 and in the New York-Penn League means he’s years away from reaching his potential.
The right-hander has the potential to have a mid-90s fastball to go with an above-average changeup and curveball, but he often struggles with his command. Molina has been electric this season, holding opposing batters to a .177/.231/.217 batting line while posting a 10.5 strikeout-per-nine rate.
Stryker Trahan, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats: .211/.279/.400, 46 XBH (17 HR), 65 RBI, 37 BB, 158 K (112 G)
After a brutal 95 games with Low-A South Bend, Trahan has hit well during his time with Hillsboro, batting .284/.360/.582 with six doubles, one triple, and four home runs. More importantly, he has seven walks and 12 strikeouts over 17 games after posting an ugly 146-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 95 games with South Bend.
After being moved to the outfield in the spring, Trahan's ultimate defensive home once again is up in the air, as he’s seen more games behind the plate (8) than in the outfield (2) since the demotion.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats: .321/.405/.482, 15 XBH (3 HR), 23 RBI, 8 SB, 16 BB, 24 K (36 G)
Selected with the No. 21 overall pick in this year’s draft, Zimmer, 21, has collected 44 hits (15 extra-base hits) over his first 36 games with Mahoning Valley. The toolsy outfielder got off to a slow start in his professional debut, but he’s made up for it in a big way with a .436 batting average and five extra-base hits over his last 10 contests.
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats: .278/.315/.393, 23 XBH (6 HR), 58 RBI, 7 SB, 18 BB, 51 K (81 G)
Arroyo has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, batting .352/.352/.667 with three home runs and eight doubles during that span. Reports on his defense have not been positive, however, which have continued to fuel concerns about his ability to stick at shortstop long term. That being said, Arroyo is only 19 years old, and, as a first-round pick, he will be given time to improve and refine his defense.
Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: 96.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .205 BAA, 58 BB, 120 K (19 GS)
Reyes has flashed his huge upside this season as a 19-year-old in full-season ball, posting a 3.82 ERA with 120 strikeouts over 96.2 innings at Peoria. However, while the right-hander has been difficult to barrel (.205 BAA) and has consistently missed bats (11.2 K/9), his lack of control has been a season-long problem and resulted in 58 walks (5.4 BB/9).
That being said, he still has pitched especially well over his past nine starts, with a 2.40 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. Reyes has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter at maturity and could be ready for the major leagues in 2017 if everything goes as planned with his development.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: 98 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .197 BAA, 28 BB, 110 K (20 GS)
Giolito has held hitters to a .197/.256/.298 batting line this season while putting up a 10.1 K/9 rate in 98 innings. He is too good for the hitters in the Low-A South Atlantic League and is only still there because of the organization’s developmental plan for him. He should go to High-A Potomac for 2015 and could be in Washington during the 2017 season.
J.D. Davis, 3B, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: .307/.388/.486, 24 XBH (7 HR), 37 RBI, 24 BB, 52 K (60 G)
A third-round pick last month out of Cal State Fullerton, Davis, who was moved to third base after signing with the Astros, posted an .877 OPS and 13 extra-base hits in his first 30 games for Short Season Tri-City. The 21-year-old was subsequently promoted to Low-A Quad Cities, where he’s batted .336/.395/.477 with 11 extra-base hits and 17 RBI over 30 games.
Wilmer Difo, SS/2B, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .319/.363/.470, 84 R, 47 XBH (12 HR), 85 RBI, 46 SB, 33 BB, 57 K (124 G)
August has been Difo’s best month of the season, as he’s batting .415/.480/.631 with eight extra-base hits, 13 RBI and 11 steals over 17 games. Though he’s old for the South Atlantic League at 22, Difo is a great athlete with near-elite speed, and he has the potential to be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman capable of batting .280 with 10-plus home runs and 20-plus doubles.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats: 113.1 IP, 1.43 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .167 BAA, 55 BB, 140 K (21 GS)
To put it simply, Glasnow has been spectacular this season, with a 1.43 ERA, .167 batting average against and an 11.1 K/9 rate over 113.1 innings (21 starts) at Bradenton. The 20-year-old right-hander has been especially dominant over his last eight starts, with a 0.56 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 48.1 innings. Meanwhile, opposing batters are hitting just .169/.249/.187 with two extra-base hits against him during that span.
Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: 77.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .207 BAA, 34 BB, 96 K (23 G/18 GS)
Urias celebrated his 18th birthday on Aug. 12, and then he celebrated it again the following the day with nine strikeouts over five innings. Just for good measure, the left-hander fanned nine batters over five innings in his latest start, this time doing so without yielding a run.
Urias has been electric over his last six starts, holding batters to a .163/.265/.256 line with a 13.7 K/9. The Dodgers have been limiting his innings, and he now has 77.1 on the year, up from 54.1 innings in 2013. He should end the season somewhere shy of 90 innings, which would put him in line for around 120 in 2015.
Taylor Williams, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats: 122 IP, 2.29 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .204 BAA, 25 BB, 127 K (25 G/15 GS)
Williams, 23, was moved up to the Florida State League after he posted an 8-1 record, 2.36 ERA and 112-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107 innings with Low-A Wisconsin. The right-hander hasn’t skipped a beat since reaching the more advanced level, as he’s registered a 1.80 ERA with 15 strikeouts and only two walks in 15 innings over his three starts.
A fourth-round pick in 2013 out of Kent State, Williams projects as a solid No. 3 or 4 starter and could be ready for an audition in the major leagues by late 2015.
Manuel Margot, OF, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats: .292/.358/.465, 37 XBH (12 HR), 52 RBI, 39 SB, 37 BB, 51 K (102 G)
Margot went 0-for-4 in his debut with Salem on Friday, but he bounced back in a big way by going 6-for-9 with two home runs and seven RBI over the rest of the weekend. The 19-year-old center fielder was promoted to Salem after batting .286/.355/.449 with 35 extra-base hits, 39 stolen bases and a 49-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99 games at Low-A Greenville.
Raul Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: .222/.266/.368, 31 XBH (7 HR), 31 RBI, 15 SB, 21 BB, 101 K (95 G)
The 19-year-old Mondesi may be the hottest hitter in the minor leagues over the past nine games, as he's batting .364/.400/1.030 with three doubles, two triples and five home runs. Before his recent power surge, Mondesi had hit just two home runs over his previous 87 games at High-A Wilmington.
Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: 102.1 IP, 3.25 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .234 BAA, 50 BB, 121 K (22 GS)
Over his last seven starts, Manaea has held opposing batters to a .164/.274/.193 line while putting up a 9.1 K/9 rate. There was an argument that Manaea was the top college pitcher in the 2013 draft, but a hip issue caused him to drop to the 34th overall pick.
Suffice it to say the Royals are ecstatic that he fell to them. Manaea has the potential to be a solid No. 2 pitcher and should see time in Kansas City before the end of 2015.
Tyler Danish, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: 114 IP, 1.97 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .237 BAA, 29 BB, 90 K (22 GS)
Danish has been outstanding over his last nine starts at High-A Winston Salem, holding batters to a .207/.268/.296 line while striking out 44 over 50.2 innings. The 2013 second-round pick won't turn 20 until mid-September, but he has been dominating a league where the average batter is nearly three years his elder.
Danish has the potential to be a solid No. 3 pitcher, with a low-90s sinker thrown from highly deceptive low slot, and he has the makings of another White Sox pitcher who climbs the organizational ladder very quickly.
Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats: 143.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .221 BAA, 44 BB, 160 K (25 GS)
Blair has had one forgettable outing (6 ER in 4.2 IP) over his six starts in Double-A, but he’s still held opposing batters to a .190/.255/.286 line with an 8.9 K/9 rate over 35.1 innings. He profiles as a durable No. 3 starter capable of missing some bats and would fit nicely behind current teammates Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley in the Diamondbacks rotation as soon as mid-2015.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: .265/.354/.479, 42 XBH (19 HR), 84 RBI, 60 BB, 110 K (106 G)
The 19-year-old Mazara is hitting .277/.314/.553 with five doubles, one triple and two home runs over 12 games since his promotion to Double-A Frisco. Mazara made the jump directly to the Texas League after posting an .828 OPS with 19 home runs while repeating the Low-A level. At maturity, Mazara has the potential to hit 30 home runs at the major league level but won't reach it until 2016.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: .353/.403/.609, 67 XBH (19 HR), 86 RBI, 34 BB, 102 K (105 G)
Seager has batted .388/.408/.567 during his current 17-game hitting streak, and he now has hits in 23 of his 25 games at Double-A Chattanooga. He has four walks and 26 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances at the more advanced level, but Seager continues to hit for power and average at the Double-A level as a 20-year old, which is very, very impressive.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats: .307/.370/.530, 63 XBH (23 HR), 90 RBI, 44 BB, 86 K (124 G)
Drury has stung the ball during his first 17 games at Double-A Mobile, batting .362/.406/.638 with four doubles and four home runs. Drury only has average power upside, as it’s important to remember that 19 of his 23 home runs this season came in the hitter-friendly California League.
That being said, he profiles as a solid defensive third baseman capable of hitting .300 with around 12 to 15 homers and 30-plus doubles. Depending how what happens with Jake Lamb—whom Drury replaced as Mobile’s third baseman earlier this month—Drury could be in the major leagues by the end of 2015.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: 22.2 IP, 0.79 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, .163 BAA, 3 BB, 19 K (9 G/5 GS)
Selected by the Royals with the No. 17 overall pick, Brandon Finnegan began his professional career at High-A Wilmington, where he posted a 0.60 ERA, allowed five hits and fanned 13 batters in 15 innings.
The Royals moved him up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas last week to work out of the bullpen, and the southpaw has responded well to the challenge with one run allowed in 7.2 innings over four appearances. The Royals will continue to limit Finnegan’s innings this summer after his long college season, but I wouldn’t rule out the chance they use him out of the bullpen in September.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: .301/.425/.578, 90 R, 48 XBH (30 HR), 68 RBI, 28 SB, 85 BB, 133 K (110 G)
Pederson would be a starter for pretty much every other team in baseball, but the Dodgers outfield is overloaded with players under long-term, expensive contracts. The good news is that he’ll at least have a chance to showcase his ability next month as a September call-up, according to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti (via ESPN's Jim Bowden).
The 22-year-old has enjoyed a power surge as of late, posting a 1.008 OPS to go along with seven home runs over his last 65 plate appearances (14 games), and he’s now two stolen bases shy of joining the 30-30 club.
Christian Binford, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: 132.2 IP, 2.65 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .236 BAA, 17 BB, 133 K (23 G/22 GS)
Binford made his Triple-A debut on Monday, striking out three batters and allowing one hit over two scoreless innings. The Royals promoted Binford to Triple-A and put him in the bullpen to give them another late-inning option for their run to the playoffs.
The 21-year-old right-hander is not on the 40-man roster, so it’s unlikely that he will be promoted before September. He profiles as a solid No. 3 pitcher but could be a dynamite late-inning option in September and October.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats: 120.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .222 BAA, 28 BB, 129 K (21 G/20 GS)
Heaney, 23, struggled in July after a demotion from the major leagues, posting a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings over four starts back at Triple-A New Orleans. However, he’s certainly righted the ship over his last three turns in the rotation, evidenced by his 1.71 ERA, .139 batting average against and 24-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21 innings during that span.
Heaney will almost definitely rejoin the Marlins in September, as he’ll look to improve upon the 6.53 ERA he previously registered over four starts in the major leagues.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: 113.2 IP, 2.22 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .211 BAA, 36 BB, 148 K (23 GS)
Norris received a midseason promotion to Double-A New Hampshire after beginning the year at High-A Dunedin of the Florida State League, and now it appears that he may make his major league debut in September when the rosters expand, per Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
The 21-year-old left-hander was outstanding in his first two starts with Triple-A Buffalo, registering a 0.77 ERA and 23-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 11.2 innings. He likely will work out of the bullpen if promoted so as to manage his innings, but Norris is a big part of the youth movement the Blue Jays may undergo in the next few years.