Every MLB Team's Prospect off to the Hottest Start in 2015
The 2015 minor league season has just begun, but it's never too early to take note of the hottest-starting prospects around.
In fact, we've done so for all 30 clubs as April is entering its final week.
To be considered, a player must be prospect eligible—meaning, he has not yet exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors—and also must be in the minors at the moment.
That last part eliminates, say, Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs, Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox.
When the decision wasn't so cut and dry based solely on the performance and production to date, prospect status also factored in. In that regard, a high-end young talent was given the edge over a second- or third-tier type.
Now let's take a look at which prospects are trying to make a dragon wanna retire, man.
Kudos to right-hander Braden Shipley and his 0.77 ERA through 11.2 innings, but the choice is clear here.
Peter O'Brien, the slugger acquired last year from the New York Yankees for Martin Prado, has gone 19-for-47 with four homers, five doubles and 14 RBI through his first 12 games at Triple-A. Add it all up, and it comes out to a .404/.429/.766 slash line that is hard to top.
That said, O'Brien has played exclusively corner outfield, so the 24-year-old no longer looks like the club's answer to its black hole at catcher. And his aggressive approach remains, as he has yet to walk. But O'Brien has been hot enough to get away with it so far.
Considering all the wheeling and dealing John Hart did this winter, there was a good chance that one of the prospects the Atlanta Braves president of baseball operations brought in would get this spot.
Early congratulations go to Mike Foltynewicz, a 23-year-old fire-baller acquired from the Houston Astros for Evan Gattis. The right-hander has been erratic and inconsistent as a pro, but he turned in a gem Monday, with a career-high-tying eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball and nine strikeouts.
For the year, Folty has a 1.62 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, as well as a 21-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.2 frames across three Triple-A starts.
Mike Wright, a 2011 third-rounder, often gets overlooked in prospect circles, but he has the chance to help the Baltimore Orioles in 2015, especially with the way he's throwing at the outset of the year.
The 25-year-old right-hander stumbled a bit in his initial outing, but he has since hurled two straight six-inning scoreless starts at Triple-A, bringing his ERA down to 1.72 and his WHIP to 0.96.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have a few worthy candidates, including catcher Blake Swihart (.389 BA), lefty Brian Johnson (9.0 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 13:3 K:BB) and shortstop Deven Marrero (.960 OPS).
The pick, however, is center fielder Manuel Margot, who has put all of his tools on display with a .361/.378/.639 line, five extra-base hits, three steals and—get this—no strikeouts through his first 37 plate appearances.
Oh, and while Margot is back in the High-A Carolina League, where he finished up 2014, the 20-year-old is one of the youngest in the circuit. If he keeps it up, Margot will continue to blaze through a minor league system that arguably is the deepest in the sport.
We'll go ahead and assume you've heard about the promotions of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell over the past few days, which takes two significant youngsters out of play for this. But the Chicago Cubs still have plenty of productive position players in the minors.
Enter Dan Vogelbach, one of the more intriguing—and divisive—prospects around, given that he has huge offensive potential but also lacks any athleticism and thus is limited to playing first base, which is occupied by Anthony Rizzo both short- and long-term.
Regardless of his future role with the Cubs—or perhaps with another organization—the 22-year-old lefty slugger is once again flashing his bat, hitting .436/.522/.641 with seven walks and only three strikeouts in his inaugural experience at Double-A. That's the sort of performance that will get noticed.
Chicago White Sox
Tim Anderson, the shortstop who was the Chicago White Sox's top pick in 2013, deserves some love for his 15-for-43 (.349) start and six stolen bases, but fellow infielder Carlos Sanchez's digits are too good to ignore.
The 22-year-old can't match Anderson's upside—he's really more of a utility infielder than anything else—but the versatile and switch-hitting Sanchez has a .459/.474/.568 triple-slash line through his first eight contests this year with Triple-A Charlotte.
If Micah Johnson, who still profiles as the club's second baseman of the future, doesn't get going, Sanchez could sniff a shot at the keystone sooner than later.
That Phil Ervin is playing well to begin 2015 is a very good sign for the Cincinnati Reds because of how poorly he fared last season, his first full campaign after being selected in the first round of 2013.
The 22-year-old started slowly, never really got going and wound up batting just .237/.305/.376.
So far this year? The athletic outfielder has a .316/.381/.579 line, as well as a pair of homers and three stolen bases in nine games. Better yet, Ervin has done that in his first taste of High-A ball, an assignment that might have been tough for him given his 2014.
The first of the Cleveland Indians' three Round 1 choices last June, Bradley Zimmer has made them look rather savvy in his still-young pro career.
The younger brother of Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Kyle, Bradley hit .302 with an even .400 on-base percentage in 2014. The 22-year-old has followed that up with an even better .325/.429/.625 mark through his first 11 games at High-A.
Oh, and the all-around lefty swinger also has four homers and six stolen bases already.
"I think his future is bright," Indians skipper Terry Francona told Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer after getting a look at Zimmer back in spring training.
So far, so bright.
Third baseman Ryan McMahon (.992 OPS) and infielder Trevor Story (.366 BA) merit mentions here, but Tom Murphy has dwarfed even their hot-starting stats.
The 24-year-old catcher has gone 15-for-37 (.405), with nine of those knocks—six doubles and three homers—going for extra bases. Folks, that's an .811 slugging percentage, which leads the Double-A Eastern League.
After missing all but 27 games a year ago due to a shoulder injury, Murphy looks to be back on track and could be the Colorado Rockies' catcher of the future.
Allowing one earned run on six hits in 10 Triple-A innings with a 14-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio earns righty Buck Farmer an honorable mention.
First place? That goes to shortstop Dixon Machado, who seems to have carried forward the impact bat he flashed last year upon being bumped up to Double-A, where he hit .305 with an .832 OPS—by far his best offensive performance to that point. Until now.
The Detroit Tigers decided that merely 90 games at Erie in 2014 was enough to aggressively push Machado, 23, to Toledo. He's responded by hitting .366/.400/.415 in his first 10 contests.
Carlos Correa's 2014 ended prematurely when he suffered a fractured fibula while sliding into third base at High-A. Now bumped to Double-A Corpus Christi, the former No. 1 overall pick has picked up where he left off with the bat.
Correa, 20, owns a triple-slash line of .356/.431/.667 with eight doubles and two homers through his first 11 games. Yikes, is he going to be special once he arrives, which could be in the second half of 2015, depending on if he can keep this up and force the Houston Astros' hands.
It's worth noting that outfielder Preston Tucker's numbers at Triple-A were similar to Correa's (.378/.440/.756), but the latter's status as one of baseball's best prospects gives him the edge over the outfielder.
Kansas City Royals
Don't look now, but there's a Bubba Starling sighting.
Now 22 and still not out of A-ball, the former fifth overall draft pick in 2011 has shown some signs of life for the Kansas City Royals, hitting .385/.455/.615 with a pair of homers and steals each.
After a few terribly troubling years since turning pro, Starling needs to get going—and fast—so his beginning to 2015 is at least reason for very cautious optimism. That said, the center fielder still has whiffed in 16 of his 44 trips to the dish (36 percent).
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels have to like what they've seen so far out of Sean Newcomb, the lefty they drafted in Round 1 in 2014. If anything, the soon-to-be 22-year-old is showing—with three earned runs allowed on just nine hits and a 20-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings—he might be worthy of a more aggressive assignment than the Midwest League.
The club's hottest prospect so far, however, has been another new arrival, Kyle Kubitza, the third baseman acquired from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Ricardo Sanchez this offseason.
At Triple-A for the first time, the 24-year-old has gone 22-for-53 (.415) with 10 extra-base hits—eight doubles and two homers—through a dozen games. At this rate, Kubitza could be ready to take over for free-agent-to-be David Freese in 2016, if not sooner.
Los Angeles Dodgers
A trio of Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospects are impressing this April. The headliner, of course, is phenom lefty Julio Urias, who has spun 10.2 scoreless innings with a 14-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Double-A—as an 18-year-old.
Meanwhile, right-handers Chris Anderson (1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP at Double-A) and Zach Lee (0.75 ERA, 0.78 WHIP at Triple-A) also have shown why they were worthy of being first-round choices in 2013 and 2010, respectively.
Yet none of those three can match the video game numbers that shortstop Corey Seager has put up so far. The soon-to-be 21-year-old, who mashed .349/.402/.602 in 2014, is making even those stats look bad. Seager, who is the younger brother of the Seattle Mariners' Kyle, has gone 22-for-46—that's a .478 average for all you math majors—with four doubles, a triple and two home runs. Wow.
Second baseman Avery Romero (.351 BA, .901 OPS) and lefty Justin Nicolino (1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) are both playing well to start, but neither is quite on par with right-hander Trevor Williams.
After struggling in three Double-A outings upon being promoted late in 2014, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has turned the tables on the Southern League so far, with just six baserunners and only one run allowed in 12 innings across his first two starts.
It will be interesting to see if the 2013 second-rounder, who sported a strikeouts-per-nine rate under 7.0 in 2013-14, can maintain a strikeout rate anywhere close to his current 10.5 per nine or if the 14 whiffs in a dozen innings to date is just super-small sample-size noise.
Orlando Arcia's performance so far this season suggests the 20-year-old Venezuelan-born shortstop is looking to build on a 2014 campaign that put him on the prospect map.
In his first nine contests, Arcia has gone 11-for-28 (.393) and has struck out all of two times in 34 plate appearances, compared to five walks. His high-contact approach should allow Arcia to excel at Double-A.
Special nods go to catcher-turned-outfielder Clint Coulter, who has a .409 on-base and .649 slugging percentage through 10 games, and lefty Kodi Medeiros, the Brewers' top pick last June, who has permitted but one earned run on three hits against 12 strikeouts in 10.1 innings.
Sorry, no Byron Buxton here. The 21-year-old remains one of the game's very best prospects, but he is off to a slow go at .205/.239/.341 at Double-A.
Southpaw Stephen Gonsalves, on the other hand, has flown out of the gate with 13 frames of 10-hit, two-run ball and a robust 19-to-1 strikeout-to-walk mark.
It's just two turns, but the 20-year-old 2013 fourth-rounder shouldn't be long for the Midwest League and could be making a move up the Minnesota Twins prospect rankings this season.
New York Mets
The New York Mets have seen nice early season efforts from second baseman Dilson Herrera (.362 BA) and shortstops Gavin Cecchini (.978 OPS at Double-A) and Matt Reynolds (.885 OPS at Triple-A).
The best first two weeks, though, belong to outfielder Michael Conforto. The team's top pick—and 10th overall—in 2014, the 22-year-old is hitting a cool .366/.460/.707 with four homers and more walks (eight) than whiffs (six) through 50 trips to the plate.
The way he's swinging it, Conforto won't be long for High-A. In fact, one scout told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, "Get him out of this league. The kid has been incredible."
New York Yankees
Back at Double-A, where he finished up 2014, Luis Severino has made just two starts so far in 2015, but both have been dominant.
All told, the 21-year-old righty has tolerated four hits and one run in 10 innings. Severino also is sporting a 14-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, showing his strikeout stuff as usual (9.3 K/9 career).
After Severino threw a career-high 113 frames last year, the New York Yankees should take the reins off and turn him loose.
Hard-hitting first baseman Matt Olson has three homers and a 1.025 OPS at Double-A, while righty Chris Bassitt has as many strikeouts (16) as baserunners allowed in his 16 Triple-A frames.
Speedy outfielder Billy Burns, though, is off and running at Nashville, with a .396 average, .463 on-base percentage and .542 slugging—to go with five stolen bases—in his first 12 games.
The 25-year-old switch-hitter has had brief MLB experience with the Oakland Athletics, and it's likely he'll get another shot at some point in 2015.
Incoming right-hander Zach Eflin has twirled 14 scoreless innings while allowing only nine batters to reach, and first/third baseman Maikel Franco is slugging .612 with 10 extra-base hits, but Roman Quinn has them beat.
The shortstop-turned-center fielder, who turns 22 in mid-May, is triple-slashing .425/.489/.675 with 14 runs scored and eight stolen bases in his first 10 contests at Double-A, his first try at the level.
"I just feel back at home in center field since I started off there," Quinn said, per Craig Forde of MiLB.com. "I'm happy with where I'm at—a lot more room to show off my speed and my range, too."
Now that he's fully recovered from torn Achilles tendon in early 2014, the speed is back. But the pop is something new, and while it might not last, it's at least promising for a Philadelphia Phillies club that needs all the promising it can get.
Sent to High-A after playing only 38 games of A-ball in the South Atlantic League last year, in part due to injury, Austin Meadows is making the Pittsburgh Pirates look smart for that decision.
The lefty-swinging center fielder, who was taken ninth overall in 2013 and will be just 20 on May 3, has started 16-for-42 (.381) in his initial 10 games in the Florida State League.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who has surrendered but a run on six hits against 13 whiffs in his first 11 frames at Double-A, comes in a close second.
San Diego Padres
Long considered perhaps the best defensive catcher in the minors, Austin Hedges finally is showing some signs of life with the wood. That's good news for the San Diego Padres, who spent much of the offseason trading away prospects.
Not only is Hedges, 22, slashing .355/.459/.645, but he also has more walks (six) than strikeouts (five) in his first 11 games. A career .251 hitter, Hedges appears to be taking to the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
While he's unlikely to become an impact offensive player, if he can at least continue to do occasional damage while proving he has a plan at the plate, then he'll remain the Padres backstop of the future.
San Francisco Giants
At 26 and still in the minors, Adam Duvall is a fringy prospect, especially compared to the other players on this list, but his production to this point in 2015 has been way too loud to ignore here.
The righty slugger, who has smacked at least 20 homers in three of the past four years, is batting a staggering .431 and already has 11 extra-base hits—including four homers—in 12 games.
Duvall, who spent 28 games with the San Francisco Giants a year ago, is bound to get back to the bigs, particularly because the reigning world champs are having such a hard time scoring runs.
Tyler Marlette has the High-A California League down. The 2011 fifth-rounder hit .301 with an .870 OPS at the level in 2014, earning him a brief nine-game promotion to Double-A to finish out the year.
Well, the Seattle Mariners need to put the 22-year-old back in the Southern League soon, because he's not being challenged enough, as evidenced by his .438/.486/.656 line through nine games with Bakersfield.
St. Louis Cardinals
Alex Reyes is just flat nasty, and his first three starts of 2015 are proof. The 20-year-old electric-armed right-hander has allowed just four runs on nine hits in 15 innings—and he has struck out a whopping 27 batters in that span.
"He was overpowering with the fastball," said Oliver Marmol, Reyes' skipper at High-A Palm Beach, per Jake Seiner of MiLB.com after the youngster's second start of the season on April 15. "He dominated."
Of course, Reyes also can be wild, which explains how he has walked 11 so far at High-A.
Still, no St. Louis Cardinals prospect has been hotter—or nastier—these first two weeks, and if Reyes ever gets his control under, well, control, he's going to shoot up prospect rankings as fast as his upper-90s heater.
Tampa Bay Rays
All lefty Blake Snell has done through his initial three outings this year? Hurl 15 scoreless frames, permit just eight hits and strike out 21.
The 22-year-old 2011 first-rounder is back at High-A after spending the majority of 2014 there, so as long as he continues to throw well, look for a promotion to Double-A in the coming weeks.
Going forward, the main thing Snell has to work on is repeating his delivery and tightening up his command and control. He has walked seven so far, which translates to 4.2 per nine, and that's actually good for him considering he owns a 4.9 walks-per-nine rate for his five-year pro career.
Coming off a big 2014 breakout in which he hit .318 with 13 homers and 21 RBI, Ryan Cordell is making a very interesting—and value-changing—position switch.
An 11th-round pick in the 2013 draft, the 23-year-old Cordell is being converted from outfield to shortstop on a full-time basis this season, according to Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs. So far, it seems to be going rather well, at least in terms of how the move is affecting his offense.
Although Cordell has made five errors in his first 12 games, he also sports a .365 average, seven hits of the extra-base variety and a dozen runs. Cordell clearly is enjoying the opportunity to bat at hitter-friendly High Desert in the High-A California League. Now let's see how the defense holds up going forward.
Toronto Blue Jays
Practically all of the Toronto Blue Jays' top prospects already are in the majors, having made the club out of camp. And those who aren't in the bigs, like 2014 first-rounders right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost, are still recovering from injuries.
That's another way of saying there just aren't many options from which to choose the hottest Jays prospect so far. Thus, outfielder Dwight Smith is something of a by-default pick here.
Smith, 22, is getting his first taste of the high minors after being drafted 53rd overall in 2011. The athletic outfielder isn't exactly tearing up Double-A, but he has gone 16-for-52 (.320) and continues to make plenty of contact with only four whiffs.
Wilmer Difo became a pop-up prospect in 2014, hitting .315, smacking 14 homers and pilfering 49 bases. Now at High-A, the just-turned 23-year-old infielder is working on an encore.
The switch-hitter is sporting slash stats of .326/.404/.587 with three home runs and four stolen bases already. The fact that Difo has played shortstop exclusively also is a good sign after he split his time between short and second last season.
Considering he's slightly on the older side for the High-A Carolina League, it's incumbent upon the Dominican-born Difo to keep up the pace. This is the kind of start he needs to help prove his breakout performance a year ago wasn't a fluke.