MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Players at Each Minor League Level
As we close in on the end of the minor league season, fans and teams alike have their eyes pointed at the highest levels of the farm system wondering which players might be making an appearance in the big leagues when rosters expand in September.
To be sure, there's no shortage of candidates, with a large number of prospects hitting their stride. Some of those prospects are of the highly touted variety like Philadelphia's Maikel Franco, who is raking at Triple-A, or hurlers such as Los Angeles' Julio Urias and Pittsburgh's Tyler Glasnow, who are making batters look foolish at High-A.
You won't find them on this list (under the "hottest" category, at least), as I've decided to focus on some lesser-known names that are deserving of attention. With the good comes the bad, of course, and there are plenty of players whose performances have left much to be desired.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the hottest and coldest players from each minor league level.
Daniel Cordero, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats (Single-A/Rookie): 5-4, 4.72 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 80 IP, 91 H, 31 BB, 65 K (17 GS)
Cordero, 21, got knocked around pretty good in five starts for Single-A Rome (7.29 ERA, 2.24 WHIP) before heading to short-season Danville, where he's finally begun to hit his stride.
He's thrown 19 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three starts, allowing 19 baserunners (13 hits, four walks, two hit batsmen) and striking out 18.
Vicente Lupo, LF/DH, New York Mets
2014 Stats: .282/.413/.511, 16 XBH (7 HR), 24 RBI, 27 BB, 52 K (43 G)
What the 20-year-old Lupo has pulled off over his last 20 games is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that he's struck out nearly twice as many times as he's walked this season.
Lupo has drawn 16 walks against 20 strikeouts during that span, hitting a robust .349/.488/.730 with 12 extra-base hits (six home runs) and 21 RBI.
Niklas Stephenson, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: 3-3, 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 59 IP, 45 H, 9 BB, 47 K (11 G, 6 GS)
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012, the 20-year-old Stephenson has steadily improved in each of his three professional seasons and has really come into his own over his last four appearances (three starts).
Spanning 24.1 innings of work, Stephenson has allowed only three earned runs and 17 hits, walking four while striking out 22.
Matt Tellor, 1B/DH, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .228/.298/.374, 10 XBH (4 HR), 25 RBI, 13 BB, 40 K (37 G)
While some of the other members of the 2014 draft class have thrived as professionals, the same can't be said for the 22-year-old Tellor, Atlanta's 11th-round pick.
Over his last 23 games, Tellor is hitting .135 with a .482 OPS and 31 strikeouts, fanning nearly 37 percent of the time that he steps to the plate.
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats (Single-A/Low-A): .284/.319/.401, 26 XBH (6 HR), 62 RBI, 19 BB, 52 K (86 G)
After a rough start to the season at Single-A Augusta where he hit only .203 with a .497 OPS in 31 games, the 19-year-old Arroyo was sent to short-season Salem-Keizer. As he's become more comfortable with his surroundings, his bat has come to life.
Arroyo has driven in 22 runs over his last 18 games, hitting .342 with 11 extra-base hits and 18 runs scored.
Auston Bousfield, OF, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: .322/.421/.553, 24 XBH (3 HR), 13 RBI, 22 BB, 35 K (41 G)
San Diego's fifth-round pick in this year's draft, the 21-year-old Bousfield has had little problem making the transition from college to the professional ranks.
He's reached base safely in 18 of his last 19 games, hitting .387 with 13 extra-base hits (nine doubles, two triples and two home runs) while driving in nine runs and successfully swiping five bases in seven attempts.
Joe Musgrove, RHP, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: 7-1, 2.62 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 72 IP, 56 H, 10 BB, 63 K (14 G, 12 GS)
Originally drafted by Toronto as the 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Musgrove was traded to Houston in 2012 as part of the 10-player deal that bought J.A. Happ to the Blue Jays. After being used almost exclusively as a reliever, the 21-year-old has found his groove in the starting rotation.
He's allowed one earned run and 10 hits over his last 25.2 innings of work, walking three while striking out 22. That works out to a 0.35 ERA and 0.51 WHIP, with the opposition hitting a paltry .120 against him during this run.
Dillon Maples, RHP, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Rookie/Low-A): 0-4, 8.88 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 24.1 IP, 27 H, 24 BB, 22 K (9 GS)
It's been a season to forget for the 22-year-old Maples, Chicago's 11th-round pick in the 2011 draft. Not only has he failed to record a win, but he's been absolutely shelled with Low-A Boise.
He's lasted only 11 innings over his last four starts, allowing 18 hits and 19 earned runs while walking twice as many batters (16) as he's struck out (eight).
Willians Astudillo, C/1B/3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats: .338/.371/.444, 35 XBH (4 HR), 60 RBI, 18 BB, 20 K (112 G)
While Astudillo is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak for Single-A Lakewood, you have to go back two months to fully appreciate how insanely hot the 22-year-old has been.
Since the beginning of July, Astudillo is hitting .370 (57-for-154). Over those 42 games, he's failed to record at least one hit only six times and failed to reach base safely on only five occasions.
Over his last 19 games, however, he's been even more impressive, posting an absurd .471/.500/.529 slash line with four doubles and nine RBI.
Kyle Lloyd, RHP, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: 6-5, 3.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 115.2 IP, 112 H, 31 BB, 147 K (26 G, 20 GS)
San Diego's 29th-round pick in the 2013 draft, the 23-year-old Lloyd has been on the kind of run that you usually only see in video games.
Over a nine-start stretch that dates back to July 12, Lloyd has a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, allowing only one home run and issuing 10 walks (1.8 BB/9) while striking out 73 batters (13.1 K/9) in 50 innings of work.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats (Low-A/Single-A): 7-3, 1.15 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 78.1 IP, 41 H, 24 BB, 65 K (15 GS)
After allowing six earned runs and 12 hits over his first 7.2 innings for Single-A Hagerstown, Lopez was demoted to Low-A Auburn. His stay at the lower level lasted only seven starts, and he returned a different pitcher.
He's allowed one earned run in six starts since returning to Hagerstown, holding the opposition to 14 hits over 34.2 innings of work while walking six and striking out 29.
Travis Demeritte, 2B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: .215/.316/.456, 41 XBH (24 HR), 63 RBI, 48 BB, 161 K (112 G)
Demeritte, the 30th overall selection in the 2013 draft, has flashed his big-time power but little else in his first full professional season. Over the last month, however, even that big-time power has disappeared for the 19-year-old.
Over his last 21 games, Demeritte has gone 6-for-58 (.103 BA) with only two of those hits going for extra bases (one double, one home run) and five RBI. While he's drawn nine walks, he's also struck out 35 times—nearly a 51 percent clip.
Jake Esch, RHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats: 5-6, 4.13 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 128.2 IP, 142 H, 33 BB, 102 K (24 H, 23 GS)
Esch, 24, apparently never got the memo that said he wasn't one of Miami's better pitching prospects.
While his numbers on the season don't jump off the page, his performance over the past month certainly does.
Over his last four starts, spanning 27.2 innings, Esch has allowed only three earned runs (0.98 ERA), scattering 20 hits while walking three and striking out 28.
Dennis Raben, 1B/DH, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats: .297/.369/.575, 45 XBH (28 HR), 89 RBI, 37 BB, 82 K (100 G)
It might be a stretch to call the 26-year-old Raben a prospect—after all, he began the season playing for the independent Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League—but what he's doing at the plate is impressive even in the hitter-friendly California League.
Over his last 24 games, Raben has put up a .394/.468/.787 slash line with 11 home runs and 33 RBI. He's reached base safely in 22 of those 24 games and put together hitting streaks of seven and eight games in the process.
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Low-A/Single-A/High-A): .349/.436/.665, 38 XBH (18 HR), 53 RBI, 39 BB, 53 K (70 G)
Schwarber, 21, continues to silence those who questioned Chicago's decision to make him the fourth overall selection in this year's draft. Not only has he advanced through three levels of the team's minor league system in less than three months, but he's dominated everywhere he's played.
Currently riding a 14-game hitting streak for Dayton that has seen him hit .418 (23-for-55) with 12 runs scored and 14 RBI, Schwarber has turned nearly 70 percent of those hits into the extra-base variety: seven doubles, seven home runs and a triple.
Six of those bombs came over a five-game span (Aug. 21 to Aug. 24), with the slugger going deep at least once in each game.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: 8-8, 4.74 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 119.2 IP, 120 H, 50 BB, 135 K (26 G, 23 GS)
Part of the package that the New York Yankees sent to San Diego in exchange for Chase Headley, De Paula's career with the Padres started off well enough, with the 23-year-old tossing six innings of one-hit, one-run ball on July 26.
Things have fallen apart for him since then.
He's allowed 21 earned runs and 31 hits (including six home runs) over his last five starts (24.2 innings), walking 10 and striking out 28. While he showed improvement in his latest outing on Aug. 22, allowing only two earned runs over six innings of work, he threw three wild pitches.
Jayce Boyd, 1B/DH, New York Mets
2014 Stats: .292/.381/.412, 30 XBH (8 HR), 56 RBI, 50 BB, 65 K (113 G)
Forget about the fact that Boyd is hitting .389 in August and consider this: Of the 22 games in which he's played, Boyd has failed to reach base in only one.
That's pretty darn impressive.
During that run, he's drawn more walks (13) than he's struck out (eight), picked up 10 extra-base hits (including three home runs) and driven in 15.
Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 10-8, 2.19 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 135.2 IP, 127 H, 35 BB, 101 K (23 GS)
The 23-year-old Matz sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when people talk about all the young pitching the Mets have, but he's giving Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard a run for their money when it comes to who the organization's best pitching prospect is.
Matz has been especially impressive in August, allowing one earned run in four starts spanning 25 innings. His monthly innings total happens to equal the number of baserunners he's allowed—19 hits, five walks and one hit batsman. That works out to a ridiculous 0.36 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats: 5-7, 3.87 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 107 IP, 108 H, 35 BB, 97 K (20 GS)
We often talk about players who could use a change of scenery around the trade deadline, but hardly ever does that involve a minor league prospect. That might have to change.
Acquired by Boston in the trade that sent left-handed reliever Andrew Miller to Baltimore, the 21-year-old Rodriguez, who pitched to a 4.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP for Double-A Bowie, has been nearly unhittable since joining the Red Sox's Eastern League entry in Portland.
He's allowed a total of two earned runs in his first four starts for the club, scattering 18 hits while walking six and striking out 28 in only 24.1 innings of work. Rodriguez has failed to pitch through the sixth inning only once, and he's struck out at least seven batters in three of his four outings.
Angel Villalona, 1B, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats (Rookie/Double-A): .213/.273/.339, 28 XBH (8 HR), 52 RBI, 22 BB, 90 K (101 G)
Once known for signing the then-franchise-record deal for an international free agent ($2.1 million as a 16-year-old in 2006) and his prodigious power—Baseball America named him San Francisco's best power-hitting prospect for three years running (2006-2008)—Villalona's star has crashed into the ground.
He was charged with murder in his native Dominican Republic in 2009, missing his age-19 and age-20 seasons, sued the Giants in 2011 for how they handled the situation and eventually resurfaced with the club in 2012.
In his first full season at Double-A (save for a weeklong trip back to Rookie ball in mid-July), Villalona has struggled badly. He's managed only six hits—five singles and a double—in his last 66 at-bats, striking out 17 times. That's a .091 batting average for those keeping score at home.
Xavier Scruggs, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: .282/.363/.486, 49 XBH (20 HR), 85 RBI, 49 BB, 112 K (129 G)
At the end of play on July 3, Scruggs was hitting .244. Since then, the 26-year-old has hit .333, including a .351/.418/.670 slash line in August, raising his season average 38 points.
His eight home runs on the month are tied with the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant for the Pacific Coast League's third-highest total, and he's now hit at least 20 four-baggers in four consecutive seasons.
Joey Terdoslavich, 1B/OF, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .257/.339/.388, 33 XBH (15 HR), 59 RBI, 60 BB, 101 K (132 G)
Since being named Atlanta's Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, the 25-year-old Terdoslavich has been a relative disappointment. He spent part of 2013 in the big leagues, hitting only .215 with a .581 OPS over 79 at-bats, and has spent all of 2014 with Triple-A Gwinnett.
While he's not hitting for an insanely high average, Terdoslavich's power has been on display as of late, as he homered in five straight games from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, the only player in Gwinnett history to accomplish that feat.
He's reached base 21 times over his last 10 games and is hitting .266 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and a .873 OPS in 25 August contests.
Mike Wright, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: 5-11, 4.83 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 136 IP, 157 H, 38 BB, 96 K (25 GS)
Few pitchers ever enjoy the kind of roll that Wright, Baltimore's third-round pick in the 2011 draft, is currently enjoying.
He's allowed one earned run over his last 23 innings of work, allowing fewer baserunners (15) than he has strikeouts (18), and he came within one strike of throwing a no-hitter against Durham (TB) on Aug. 21.
Asked by The Virginian-Pilot's David Hall how it feels to be on such a run after flirting with baseball immortality, Wright left little doubt as to why he's throwing as well as he is:
Oh, it's tremendous. It definitely helps my confidence, but the reason I'm here now as opposed to where I was at the beginning of the season because of confidence. I decided to just go out there and stop trying so hard and just try to be as comfortable as possible and relaxed on the mound and go out there with confidence in every pitch. With an outing like that, it's just a testimony to how much confidence means.
Over his last six starts dating back to July 25, Wright has pitched to a 1.11 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, issuing only five walks while striking out 30 batters in 40.2 innings.
Aaron Northcraft, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A) 7-9, 4.49 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 126.1 IP, 140 H, 48 BB, 111 K (25 G, 23 GS)
For those who don't believe that there's a big difference between Double-A and Triple-A, meet Mr. Northcraft. After going 7-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 13 games for Double-A Mississippi, the 24-year-old got the call to join Triple-A Gwinnett in late June.
He hasn't won a game since.
Not only is Northcraft winless (0-6) in 12 games at the highest level of the minor leagues, but he's getting his head handed to him by the opposition. He's allowed at least four earned runs in six of his 11 starts and pitched to a 6.30 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP over five August appearances.
Over his last 10.2 innings of work, Northcraft has allowed nine earned runs and 17 hits. While he's struck out 12 batters, he's also walked six and hit two.
*All statistics courtesy of MiLB.com and are current through games of Aug. 26.