MLB Power Rankings: Jesus Montero and All 30 Teams' Hottest Prospects
The minor league baseball season is nearly a month old, and it's already been full or surprises, good and bad.
Who could have envisioned former UNC Tar Heels Alex White and Matt Harvey combining for a 5-0 record, a 0.99 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 45.2 innings?
Likewise, who would have envisioned Mike Moustakas, coming off of a career-year in which he hit .332 with 36 homers and 124 RBI, would be so bad? He's batting .225 with only two homers and 14 strikeouts in 71 at-bats.
For this particular slideshow, we're going to focus on the best that each team has had to offer over the past month and select the hottest prospects from each MLB team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Despite what you may think of Goldschmidt as a prospect, and yes I'm referring to the fact that he's a 23-year-old man-child destroying Double-A pitching, he's still off to one of the hottest starts in recent memory. Like Brandon Belt circa 2010 hot.
His average has fallen back to earth just a bit over the past week, but still sits at .344. He also has nine home runs and 20 RBI through 18 games. Half of his base hits have gone for home runs, and he's been so homer-happy that he only has two extra-base hits that AREN'T home runs.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Goldy, he's been a homer-happy guy throughout his three-year career with the D-Backs. He hit 35 last year, which shouldn't come as too big of a surprise since he spent the entire season in the Cal League, which is notorious for inflating lesser players' statistics.
But he also hit 18 in 74 games in 2009 in the Pioneer League.
Before Goldschmidt was winning free steaks and denting windshields all across the minors, he was the home run king at Texas State, where he hit 35 dingers over his final two seasons.
And before all that, he was a star for The Woodlands High School, home of former first-round picks Kyle Drabek and Jameson Taillon.
Atlanta Braves: Randall Delgado, RHP
Of all the Braves' top pitching prospects, and believe me they have more than anyone, none has gotten off to a better start than Delgado, the 21-year-old Panamanian.
Through four starts, Delgado has been brilliant, allowing only four runs in 21 innings and working his way around 23 base hits to hold on to a 1.71 ERA. He's been a strikeout machine, three times striking out six batters and the other sending down seven on strikes.
He has 25 Ks for the season to go along with nine walks for the Braves' Double-A affiliate.
Delgado came into the season as the Braves' third overall prospect, and with the ascension of Freddie Freeman to the majors and the inevitable rise of Julio Teheran, he could find himself as the top guy come 2012.
Remember, it was Delgado—not Teheran—who led the Braves' farmhands in strikeouts last season.
Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop, SS/3B
While Schoop may not have the most impressive numbers of any Orioles farmhand, if you take into account his relative inexperience AND his performance so far, he's easily the runaway star of the first month of the minor league season.
Hitting in a lineup that includes 2010 No. 3 overall pick Manny Machado, 2009 third-rounder Mychal Givens and 2010 fourth-rounder Trent Mummey, Schoop has outshined them all.
Through the team's first 15 games, Schoop is hitting .319 with three doubles, two triples, two homers and nine RBI. He's scored 13 runs and had more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven) before last night's 0-for-4 performance that ended his 12-game hit streak.
Most impressive, Schoop is playing at such a high level despite playing this entire season at age 19, only one year older than Machado.
Schoop has all the skills to stick at shortstop long-term, but that's not exactly plausible with Machado playing at the same level. Hence his move to third base, where he's played decent defense through the first month. You can tell he's new to the position though.
In Givens (2B), Machado (SS) and Schoop (3B), the Orioles have one of the most athletic, talented infields in the minor leagues.
Boston Red Sox: Brandon Jacobs, OF
The Red Sox saw a ton of potential in Brandon Jacobs and were comfortable shelling out $750,000 for him as a 10th-round pick back in 2008. Even though he struggled greatly the past two seasons, the team was confident he would eventually break out.
It looks like "eventually" is this year for Jacobs.
Playing full-season ball for the first time, he has jumped out to the hottest start of any Sox farmhand, hitting .391 with seven doubles and three homers in just 17 games. He's been an incredible run-producer, driving in 14, while scoring 13. He's still prone to strikeouts (23), but he's also showing a better approach that has led to more walks (10).
He's also shown some pretty good speed, and he's swiped six bases, setting a new career-high in less than a month's worth of games.
Baseball America touted Jacobs as having,"one of the highest offensive ceilings in the system" in their 2011 Prospect Handbook and compared him favorably to former NL MVP Kevin Mitchell.
It's still early, but Jacobs has the look of one of the top breakout stars of 2011.
Chicago Cubs: Robert Whitenack, RHP
The Cubs have had a lot of surprising performers so far this season, and while none have been as impressive as Brett Jackson, I'm actually leaning toward Robert Whitenack as the team's top performer of the month.
Whitenack has been nearly unhittable in four starts for the Cubs' High-A squad, allowing only 11 hits in 23 innings. He's allowed even fewer (three) earned runs and has an ERA of 1.17. He's also won three of his starts.
The main reason I decided to go with the 22-year-old right-hander over Jackson, though, is the dramatic improvement in his command. A year after walking 40 batters in 143 innings, Whitenack has only walked one through his first 23.
He's also struck out 25, marking the first time in his short career that his K/9 rate is over 9.00.
Whitenack had a solid 2010 campaign, winning 11 games over two levels, but he really came into his own in a seven-start promotion to Daytona, where he went 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
It seems Daytona agrees with him, as he has posted a 6-1 record, 1.72 ERA and a 53-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 starts there.
Chicago White Sox: Jacob Petricka, RHP
There were many reasons the White Sox were so excited to pounce on Petricka with their second pick in last year's draft.
Chief among them was his ability to fire 100-mph bullets and his ability to hold his mid- to high-90s velocity throughout his outings.
After an impressive debut ending with 10 strikeouts in 10 relief innings in Low-A ball, Petricka is back pitching for Kannapolis, this time out of the rotation, and results have been astounding.
He's struck out 22 batters in just 17 innings, issued only four walks and has only allowed one earned run, good for an ERA of 0.53. Batters are hitting just .153 against him, with righties hitting only .094.
Like the team's first-round pick last year (Chris Sale), Petricka is also a lanky hard-thrower, except he's a righty, while Sale was a southpaw.
The team will certainly keep their eye on Petricka, making sure they don't expose him to any situations that could damage the best arm in their system.
Cincinnati Reds: Yasmani Grandal, C
Grandal has gotten off to exactly the kind of start you would like to see from a guy who signed a five-year major league contract last August.
And he's gotten off to a hot enough start that the Reds should start thinking about what they intend to do with Grandal and his hot-hitting counterpart, catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Making his debut in High-A ball, Grandal has posted a .333 average in 14 games, cranking five homers and driving in 11 runs. He also has rapped five doubles and actually has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14).
Behind the plate, he's been solid, posting good pop times and showing the Reds why he was considered the top catcher in last year's draft.
Grandal's two most impressive contests came within the past five days. In the first, he went 4-for-4 and slugged two homers, also driving in four runs. In the second, two days later, he didn't record an official at-bat, but instead walked five times.
Cleveland Indians: Alex White, RHP
Alex White's meteoric rise through the minors has almost culminated in a big-league job.
The way that the hard-throwing right-hander has pitched this year in just four starts has given Indians fans something else to be excited about.
White has been dazzling in those starts, allowing only 19 hits in 23.2 innings. He has 28 strikeouts, only five walks and his ERA currently sits at 1.90. During White's most recent start, he allowed five hits and one run in 5.2 innings. He gave up his first homer of the season, but he also struck out a season-high eight batters, walking just two.
His two starts before Monday's saw him allow only one run in 13 innings, while he struck out 14 and walked none.
White split the 2010 season between High-A ball and Double-A, so there's no reason to think he won't be doing the same thing again this year. He's already proven himself as one of the most polished pitchers in the minors, and the Indians' rotation could use a little extra boost if they hope to remain in contention for a good part of the season.
Colorado Rockies: Tim Wheeler, OF
Before the season, I pegged Colorado's Tim Wheeler as a break-out candidate for 2011, and through 16 games, he's proving me right.
A five-tool talent, Wheeler has put a disappointing 2010 campaign behind him and has shown fresh legs, a strong arm and considerable ability at the plate, despite playing in a less offense-happy league.
He's currently hitting .302 with three doubles, one triple, five homers and a team-leading 17 RBI. He also paces the squad with 16 runs and 39 total bases. He's posted a solid 9-to-15 BB-to-K ratio and has five steals, putting him on pace for another 20+ steal season.
Wheeler had an OK season last year (12 HR, 63 RBI, 22 SB), but he struggled to maintain any sort of consistency and finished with a .249 average and 114 strikeouts in 129 games.
He has great power, and he should have no trouble cracking the 20 HR mark while showing the same solid approach at the plate.
Detroit Tigers: Hernan Perez, SS
Perez was a relative unknown heading into the 2011 season, with Baseball America ranking him at the very bottom of the Tigers' depth chart at shortstop.
Maybe it's that motivation or maybe he's just finally hitting his stride, but something has finally clicked for the 20-year-old Venezuelan.
He's raking at a record pace so far, racking up a .353 average and six steals in just 14 games. He isn't, and never will be, an extra-base hit machine, so the three (two doubles, one homer) in 51 at-bats shouldn't come as a total surprise. Still, like a few other guys on this list, Perez is on pace to set career-highs in numerous offensive categories.
So, what's been the key to Perez's success so far this season?
How about his .636 average against lefties? He's 7-for-11, and while he'll be lucky to hit half of that for an entire season, it's an encouraging sign for the career .236 hitter.
Florida Marlins: Tom Koehler, RHP
Koehler is another player who has carried over the momentum from a break-out season last year into a fantastic month-long debut in 2011.
He's not a top-notch prospect, but don't tell him that. He won a MiLB-leading 16 games last year, going 16-2 with a 2.61 ERA. He also struck out 145 batters in 158.2 innings en route to winning Southern League Pitcher of the Year honors.
This season, Koehler's back at it. He's 2-0 through four starts and again has a sub-3.00 ERA. He has 19 strikeouts and only six walks in 23.0 innings.
He hit a bit of a stumble during his last start though (5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER), and the performance jacked his ERA up more than a full run.
Given that Florida's rotation is questionable near the back end, Koehler will probably get a chance to make his big-league debut sometime this summer. If not, look for another 12-16 victories.
Houston Astros: J.D. Martinez, OF
Martinez has quietly developed from a sleeper (20th round, 2009) into a full-blown legit prospect in just two seasons.
Last year, Martinez exploded onto the scene, hitting a combined .341 between Low-A and Double-A, adding on 40 doubles, four triples, 18 homers and 89 RBI.
This season he's back in Double-A, where he hit .302 in 50 games last year, and he looks just as good as he did in 2010.
Currently, he's hitting .339 with a team-leading nine doubles, two homers and 22 RBI in just 17 games. He also has shown a great eye at the plate, walking 10 times.
Martinez has driven in a run in eight of his last 10 games and has notched three multi-hit games in that same stretch.
The 23-year-old outfielder should spend another season splitting time between two levels, and he could be on his way to Triple-A as soon as the All-Star break.
Kansas City Royals: Clint Robinson, 1B
For all the talk of the "super-prospects" in Kansas City's system, it's an unsung hero of the organization who's had the hottest first few weeks.
Clint Robinson will never live up to the prospect status of fellow teammate Mike Moustakas, and heck, he's not even the best first baseman on the Omaha roster.
But he's jumped out to a sizzling start, hitting .373 with six homers through 18 games. That's more homers than Moustakas and a higher average than Hosmer's.
Robinson has been most of Omaha's offense, driving in 14 runs and scoring 15 of his own. The 26-year-old has 10 walks and 14 strikeouts, showing his trademark solid plate discipline.
While Robinson is slightly older than the most of the main pieces of the Royals' rebuilding project, he still could be a useful piece. He's a consistent run-producer, who drove in 98 runs last year, and is also a doubles machine (41 in 2010, 31 in 2009).
He might not find a home in the starting lineup with Hosmer gunning for first base and Billy Butler holding down the DH spot, but you could do a lot worse than Robinson as an extra bat off the bench.
Los Angeles Angels: Jean Segura, SS
Jean Segura so impressed the Angels last season with a .313 average, 12 triples, 10 homers, 79 RBI and 50 steals that not only did they happily grant his promotion to High-A for the 2011 season, but they also shifted the dynamic defender to shortstop in an effort to further increase his value.
And so far, it looks like it's working.
Segura has carried over the momentum from his break-out 2010 season and is hitting .348 through 16 games for High-A Inland Empire. He's been an extra-base hit machine, rapping four doubles and two triples, and while he has yet to homer for the first time, he's still driven in six runs and scored 11 of his own.
And his speed is as good as ever. He's swiped six bags in eight tries, including a two-steal performance last week that also saw him go 5-for-8 at the plate with two RBI.
Segura has also shown solid plate discipline walking six times, with only nine Ks.
If Segura can continue to play solid defense at shortstop, while remaining the dynamic offensive catalyst that he's proven he can be, he should emerge from the 2011 campaign as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
You can only imagine the kind of damage he could do teamed with Mike Trout at the top of a lineup in the majors.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee, RHP
Lee has more than justified his $5.25 million bonus awarded to him last season, with four very impressive outings that have cemented his status as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
A former two-sport star who earned a scholarship to play football at LSU, Lee has looked every bit the seasoned pro pitcher, winning three of his first four games and posting a 1.37 ERA.
He has yet to go more than 5.2 inning in any of his starts, but he's been efficient, allowing only 18 hits and nine walks. He's erased the majority of his base-runners with 25 strikeouts.
Lee picked up his third victory on Sunday with 5.2 innings of four-hit, one-run ball. He walked two batters and struck out a season-low four, but he's still looking at a K/9 rate of 11.4, one of the best numbers in the entire organization.
Lee is clearly polished enough to dominate Low-A hitters, so the Dodgers might eventually try to bump him up to see how he handles the competition in High-A.
If he continues to perform well, he could be on the fast track, ala Clayton Kershaw.
Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta, RHP
In a system bereft of elite or even above-average pitching, Peralta has stood out like a sore thumb through four early-season starts.
The six-foot, 240-pound beast has posted a 2-1 record, a 2.31 ERA and 26-to-6 K-to-BB ratio in 23.1 innings, showing dramatic signs that he could be on the verge of a break-out season. It's been especially impressive that while his stats look good, he's actually had to gut his way through three of his outings, struggling to keep the ball in the park and hitters off the bases.
In his first start, he gave up only one hit and one run in six innings, but he has since allowed 17 in the same number of innings. He gave up six runs, all unearned, in his third start of the season and allowed eight hits and three runs in his most recent start.
Peralta, a 2005 international sign from the Dominican Republic, has worked his way into the Brewers' long-term plans, and they showed their faith in him by adding him to their 40-man roster this offseason.
He could be a nice mid-rotation starter for Milwaukee by next season.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Benson, OF
While Ben Revere might be the best pure hitter in the Twins' system, and Aaron Hicks may have the most appealing combination of tools, it's Joe Benson who is arguably the best all-around prospect.
Benson has solid speed, surprising pop and looks capable of hitting .300 as he rises through the ranks. Playing at Double-A for the second season in a row, he's hitting .379 with seven doubles, one triple two homers, 12 RBI and three steals.
Always a patient hitter, Benson also has a 7-to-13 BB-to-K ratio, which is slightly better than his career average.
Benson came to the Twins out of high school in the 2006 MLB Draft, and they have watched him work his way through the system, showing mild improvement at each level.
He played 102 games at Double-A last season, splitting time between High-A and New Britain, so he'll likely work his way up to Triple-A at some point during the 2011 season.
A late-season call-up isn't out of the question either.
New York Mets: Matt Harvey, RHP
It's hard to imagine a pitcher having a more perfect start than St. Lucie's Matt Harvey, the seventh-overall pick in last year's draft.
Harvey signed too late to make an appearance for the Mets, but he's more than making up for it, tossing 22 scoreless innings to begin his professional career.
Harvey has been dominating, striking out 27 in those 22 innings, while allowing only 14 hits and only one unearned run. He's a perfect 4-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA.
And he's been amazingly consistent in each of his four starts. He's struck out nine, eight, three and then seven, while issuing two walks in each contest. In only one game has he allowed more than four hits, and for the season, batters are hitting .184 against him.
Look for Harvey to follow a career path similar to that of Cleveland's Alex White, who split time between High-A and Double-A in his debut season, and is now on the verge of making his big-league debut less than two full seasons after signing.
New York Yankees: Jesus Montero, C
Montero hasn't let his demotion to the minor leagues to start the 2011 season affect his play.
In fact, he's looked as good as ever in 14 contests for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .407 with four doubles and a homer. He hasn't been at his usual run-producing best (four RBI), but that isn't surprising considering Scranton ranks near the middle of the pack in the International League in runs scored.
Still Montero is expected to hit,—that's what he does—so the fact that he has continued to do it after holding out hope that he might actually make the big-league roster out of Spring Training is impressive.
Other hitters have fallen prey to psychological slumps over the past few seasons. And the Yankees, who will inevitably call on Montero sometime during the 2011 season, will need him at his best.
Behind the plate, where calling Montero a "work in progress" is generous, things are going about the same. He still doesn't look like he's got the tools to remain at catcher long term, but getting extra work there isn't going to hurt.
Oakland Athletics: Ryan Doolittle, RHP
The A's seem to have a monopoly on players named Doolittle. While slugger Sean has yet to make an appearance this season, Ryan, a pitcher for High-A Stockton, has been exquisite.
The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed only one run (a solo HR) in 15 innings, and he's been incredibly stingy with the base hits as well, allowing only eight of those. His ERA currently sits at 0.60, and he's come out with a win in each of his three starts.
Doolittle's lone run was given up in his most recent start, which also happened to be the site of his first issued walk of the year. He now has 17 strikeouts and only one free pass.
He has already set a career-high with his three victories, and now he's out to surpass his numbers from two shortened seasons that saw him split time between the bullpen and starting rotation.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jon Pettibone, RHP
For all the love Joe Savery has been getting for his miraculous transition from struggling pitcher to sizzling hitter, there's been another Phillies farmhand who has been racking up some very impressive numbers so far in 2011: the unheralded Jon Pettibone, the team's 2008 third-round pick.
The 20-year-old right-hander has quietly worked his way through the system, improving at each level and pitching in High-A ball for the first time, he has gotten off to a tremendous start. He's won three of his four starts and has only allowed one earned run in 24 innings.
He's been incredibly stingy with the base hits too, allowing only 14. And while Pettibone has never been a big strikeout guy or an impressive K-to-BB pitcher, he's been on the money so far, striking out 18 batters and issuing only two walks.
In his most recent start against Tampa, Pettibone was incredibly efficient, utilizing five ground balls and seven strikeouts to blank the Yankees for seven innings, allowing only four hits. He struck out a season-high seven batters, picked up his third win and lowered his ERA to 0.38.
Pettibone doesn't have the "prospect status" of Trevor May or Brody Colvin, but he's posted much better numbers pitching at the same level at roughly the same age. As a result, he could be the first one headed up to Double-A, where his polish and solid repertoire of pitches should allow him to succeed there too.
He certainly has the big-game pitching ability. He threw six no-hit innings and recorded a career-high nine Ks in the series-clinching game that sent Low-A Lakeland to the South Atlantic League Championship Series.
Pettibone checked in at No. 18 in Baseball America's Phillies' Top-30 rankings.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Starling Marte, OF
One of the Pirates' top hitting prospects, Marte couldn't have imagined a better start to the 2011 season.
Through 15 games, he's hitting a robust .385 with four doubles, two triples, a homer and 11 RBI. He's also stolen six bases in seven tries and has scored eight runs.
His two best games of the season came this past week. In the first, he went 3-for-7 with a triple, six RBI and a walk. In the second, he went 4-for-5 with another triple, a RBI and a stolen base.
The Pirates could benefit greatly from Marte having a strong season, as he has shown the ability to be an exciting all-around player and a potential top-of-the-order hitter. At the rate he's going, he is on pace to shatter most of his career-highs by the All-Star break.
If he keeps his stellar level of play up, he could find his way to Triple-A before the end of the season, positioning himself for a potential September call-up to Pittsburgh.
San Diego Padres: Anthony Rizzo, 1B
It's really hard to pick a Padres farmhand who's had the most impressive start to the 2011 campaign, and it's not because of a lack of candidates.
Jaff Decker, Jedd Gyorko, James Darnell and Keyvius Sampson are all having exceptional seasons so far, but the one who's stood out the most has to be Anthony Rizzo, formerly of the Boston Red Sox.
Rizzo was one of the major pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and he's done nothing but hit since joining the Padres. His average stands at a ridiculous .432 right now, pacing the team—and the organization—with seven homers and 26 RBI in only 18 games. Always a patient hitter, Rizzo has a 8-to-13 BB-to-K ratio and has actually shown some sneaky speed, stealing three bases without getting caught.
He also leads the team with 20 runs, six doubles and 59 total bases.
The Padres couldn't have hoped for a better start for Rizzo, who could reach the big leagues as early as the All-Star break if he keeps hitting like he is now. With Gonzalez's departure, the Padres have had to use a makeshift combo of Jorge Cantu and Brad Hawpe at first base, and both players are currently hitting below .200.
As if Rizzo wasn't already impressive enough, he's also one of the better defenders at first base in the minor leagues.
San Francisco Giants: Gary Brown, OF
Giants first-round pick Gary Brown has made a much better impression so far this season than he did in his sneak-peak of a debut in 2010.
After hitting .159 in 12 games last season, Brown has reversed that trend in a big way, hitting .338 through 18 games so far. He only has three extra-base hits, but he ranks near the top of the team chart with 13 RBI and leads the way with 16 runs.
Drafted primarily for his top-notch speed, Brown hasn't disappointed in that department—swiping 15 bags in 20 tries—ranking near the top of all base-stealers in the minors.
Brown has also shown a very polished approach at the plate, walking seven times while striking out only 12 times.
Brown is another player who could split time between two levels this season, assuming he can maintain a solid average. He's going to steal bases wherever he goes, so his bat will be key to his progression.
St. Louis Cardinals: Nick Additon, LHP
Pitching in the same rotation as the Cardinals' top overall prospect, Shelby Miller, has allowed Nick Additon to thrive out of the spotlight so far in 2011.
The 6'5" lefty has been stellar, posting a 2.75 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. He's given up only six earned runs on the season and incredibly has yet to issue a walk in three starts. His most recent start saw him pitch one of the best games of his career; he went eight innings, allowing only four hits, one run and struck out eight batters.
He also picked up his first victory of the season, which is one more than Miller has.
Additon has quietly worked his way through the Cardinals' system since signing as a 46th-rounder back in 2006. He had an 11-5 season in 2008 that came with a 2.23 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 137 innings and has followed that up with an 11-9 record in 35 Double-A starts.
It looks like it's finally time for Additon to take the next step up to Triple-A.
Seattle Mariners: Daniel Carroll, OF
For all the other top prospects in Seattle's system, including Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin, it's been 21-year-old Daniel Carroll who's gotten off to the hottest start.
The outfielder, who didn't even rank in the top-30 according to Baseball America's Mariners rankings, is hitting .328 through 18 games with five doubles, two homers, seven RBI and 11 steals in 12 attempts. He has shown excellent plate discipline, walking 13 times, and he leads the High Desert Mavericks with 17 runs and 33 total bases.
Last week alone, Carroll had a four-hit game and a three-steal outing.
The California-native is on pace to shatter career-highs in just about every offensive category, and we're not even through the first month of the season yet.
Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Torres, LHP
While Alex Torres might not have the "prospect status" that was awarded to David Price, Jeremy Hellickson or Matt Moore, he certainly hasn't let that bother him as he's jumped out to the most impressive start in the organization.
Capitalizing on the extra attention bequeathed to him due to poor performances by the rest of the Rays' stellar pitching depth, Torres has shined, allowing only one run through 15.1 innings in three starts. This is Torres' first exposure to Triple-A, so the Rays have taken it easy with him, but eventually they're going to have to stretch him out.
And given his results so far, including 27 strikeouts and just six walks, it doesn't look like that's going to hinder his performance in the slightest.
In just three outings, he already has an eight, nine and 10-strikeout game.
Torres also doesn't have the prototypical size that the other Rays pitchers feature, but he's slowly proving himself worthy of a crack at the rotation, further justifying why Tampa is the best pitching factory in minor league baseball.
Texas Rangers: Joe Wieland, RHP
Despite the presence of Martin Perez in the Rangers' system and Robbie Erlin in his own rotation, there hasn't been a hotter pitcher in the Rangers' system than Joe Wieland.
The 21-year-old right-hander picked up his first win of the season a few days ago after pitching seven sterling innings of six-hit ball. He struck out six, walked none and lowered his ERA to 0.95.
Wieland checked in at No. 22 in the Rangers' organization according to Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, but despite his lesser prospect status, he's got the most eye-popping stats. He's only 1-1 on the year, but his microscopic ERA, combined with his 23-to-3 K-to-BB ratio, make him the top arm in the system right now according to productivity.
And he's managed to improve during each start so far. His first game saw him pitch five innings of one-run ball, his second outing was six-innings of one-run ball and his most recent seven shutout innings outing.
Wieland was a fourth-rounder back in 2008, so his success shouldn't be overlooked as overachieving. He's incredibly polished for a high school draft pick and has great control that rivals that of his teammate Erlin.
He doesn't profile to have as much of an impact as a big-leaguer, but for now, he's the most productive pitcher in the system.
Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie, 3B
A position change (his third in three seasons) hasn't affected Brett Lawrie's bat so far this season.
The Blue Jays' top overall prospect, Lawrie has been arguably the toughest out in the Pacific Coast League, hitting at a .421 clip through 18 games. He has seven doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI, 17 runs and five steals.
Formerly a top prospect with the Brewers, Lawrie has adjusted nicely to his new organization the Canadian-born hitter can truly call home. Combining a lightning-quick bat with impressive plate discipline and surprising pop, the 21-year-old has shot through the minors, despite defensive limitations that have forced multiple position changes.
Once upon a time, Lawrie was drafted back in 2008 as a catcher. He then switched to second base and finally to third base, where scouts are saying he looks more comfortable than he has anywhere else.
It shouldn't be long before the Blue Jays call on Lawrie. He's mastered hitting in the minors, and it's time for a new challenge.
Washington Nationals: Brad Meyers/Brad Peacock, RHP's
It's been a two-man show for the Nationals so far this season, with the Brad Meyers/Brad Peacock combination doing some serious damage.
The duo has combined to go 5-2 in seven appearances, striking out 48 batters in just 38.1 innings while issuing only two walks, both of which have come from Peacock. They have a combined 2.35 ERA.
For Meyers, consistency has been the name of the game. He's allowed just four hits in three of his starts, striking out nine, three and then 10. His other start saw him get rocked for nine hits and four runs in 4.2 innings, but he still struck out five and didn't issue a walk.
Peacock has taken a different path, easing his way into the rotation, and then responding with back-to-back nine-strikeout performances. His most recent start saw him allow only three hits and no runs in seven innings. He's picked up consecutive wins, and batters are hitting .197 off him through 17 innings.
Both pitchers figure to factor into Washington's long-term plans, but in very different roles.
Despite his success as a starter, the Nats see Peacock more as a reliever, while Meyers figures to stick in the rotation, likely as a back-end starter.