Hi-res-a7f8fbf35f48824f91602589eb5a27d8_crop_north
USA TODAY Sports

It was a tough week for the Philadelphia Phillies, as they went 2-4 in six games and fell to last place in the National League East.

Thankfully, things weren’t quite as bleak down on the farm; many of the team’s top offensive prospects came out of their respective shells last week and put up impressive numbers, especially those players at Low-A Lakewood in the South Atlantic League.

The following is a look at the early-season performances of the Phillies’ current top-10 prospects, as ranked by Prospect Pipeline headed into 2014. This series is updated weekly, a with a stock “up,” “even” or “down” indication given to each prospect based upon what direction his performance is trending.

37c037ec07c7dce120c0a729b6fda9d6_crop_north
USA Today

Giancarlo Stanton has a reputation as a notoriously slow starter, or at least he did until this year.

The 24-year-old has crushed the ball out of the gate this season, as he entered Friday’s game against the Seattle Mariners batting .299/.347/.597 with five home runs and a major league-leading 21 RBI through 16 games. Through his first 16 games last season, Stanton was batting just .200/.324/.250 with zero home runs, four RBI and 22 strikeouts.

Speaking of Friday night, Stanton contributed three hits along with five RBI. The bulk of that production coming on this particularly timely moonshot.

So, if Stanton is so hot right now, then why aren’t more teams pitching around him?

C73a9c2305821f708bbb5976d8658159_crop_north
USA Today

The Los Angeles Dodgers have something special in Julio Urias.

The 17-year-old Urias made himself known to a larger audience this spring after receiving an invitation to the Dodgers’ major league spring training. While he made only one appearance before a reassignment to the minor leagues, the highly touted left-hander made an indelible impression.

Getting the start for the Dodgers on March 15, Urias worked a perfect first inning against the San Diego Padres, striking out big leaguers Will Venable and Yonder Alonso in the process. The Dodgers went on to win the game, 5-4, and Urias was credited with the win.

The Dodgers discovered Urias during a trip to Mexico to scout Yasiel Puig. According to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

E44f99cea7b58eb137ae19cbe1e27fb8_crop_north
Getty Images

Nobody really knew what to expect from Jose Abreu headed into the season. Sure, we’d all heard about his exploits while playing in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, but it was difficult to say with any certainty how his game would translate in the major leagues.

Well, it turns out the Chicago White Sox knew exactly what they were doing last offseason by signing the 27-year-old first baseman for six years and $68 million. The contract is already looking like a bargain with Abreu’s impressive start to the season, and if he puts up the numbers it seems he will, then the White Sox could have their first Rookie of the Year since Ozzie Guillen in 1985.

Abreu is only batting .217 through his first 15 games in the major leagues, but he was sitting at .300 on April 11 before playing the Indians. Since then the right-handed-hitting slugger has been mired in the first slump of his career, as he’s gone 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts in his last five contests.

D4d7185c2d496e25c00b6cf79a3ec1b7_crop_north
AP Images

After missing the final two months of the 2013 regular season due to injury, Albert Pujols is out to prove this year that he’s still the same guy who won three NL Most Valuable Player awards in a five-year span.

Pujols was, without question, the most productive hitter in baseball during his time with the Cardinals (2001 to 2011), as his average season consisted of a .328/.420/.617 batting line, 41 doubles, 40 home runs, 121 RBI and a 64/89 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Pujols continued to mash in 2012, his first season with the Angels, batting .285/.343/.516 with 50 doubles, 30 home runs and 105 RBI. But he also recorded more strikeouts (76) than walks (52) for the first time since his 2001 rookie campaign.

Last year, Pujols simply wasn’t himself. He struggled out of the gate—at least by his standards—with a .762 OPS and four home runs in April/March, followed by a .703 OPS and four more long balls in May.

C2dcbbb6589cfef87b3d6f37f973b09e_crop_north
Getty Images

The Houston Astros are promoting top prospect George Springer before Wednesday’s game.

The 24-year-old outfielder gets the call after a red-hot start this spring at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he batted .353/.459/.647 with 17 runs, three home runs, nine RBI and four steals in 13 games. The promotion also comes in the midst of a six-game hitting streak, during which he batted .478 (11-for-23) with three home runs, three steals and six RBI.

"We feel pretty good with the reps he's got in Spring Training and the reps he's gotten so far during the season that defensively he's ready to go," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "Offensively, he's been heating up the last week or so, and we want to get a guy when he's hot."

If Springer spends the rest of the season in the major leagues, he will accumulate 166 days of service time and remain under team control through the 2020 season, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

8eda62272fa7dee18514bebfafa3c068_crop_north
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Yordano Ventura picked up the first win of his promising career on Tuesday night against the Astros, and he set new career highs with seven strikeouts and seven innings pitched.

More importantly, the 22-year-old right-hander guided the scuffling Kansas City Royals to their first road win of the season.

Ventura scattered two hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings last week against the Rays in his season debut. On Tuesday night, he was equally impressive despite allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks. He finished the outing with 101 pitches, 66 of which were strikes.

Ventura had his entire arsenal on display against the Astros, who entered the game with a major league-worst .189 batting average through 13 games.

90a330db545ce50588bcf3ae3d5b60e3_crop_north
Charlie Neibergall

The 2014 Minor League Baseball season isn’t even two weeks young, but countless prospects have already made strong early impressions at each of the four full-season levels.

With most teams having played roughly 10-plus games since Opening Day (April 4), it’s important to acknowledge the role of small sample sizes when evaluating a player's success using statistics. However, it's impossible to ignore there’s still a large contingent of young hitters that have either opened the season on a tear or struggled to get things going at the dish.

Here are at the hottest and coldest hitters at every minor league level to begin the 2014 season.

Cb316c0261a8cdc52bfe954956c2a73a_crop_north
Getty Images

After batting just .162 with zero extra-base hits and two RBI headed through his first 10 games, Brian McCann’s bat finally came alive over the weekend.

In Saturday afternoon's contest against the Boston Red Sox, the 30-year-old hit his first two home runs in a Yankees uniform and plated three of his team’s seven runs in a 7-4 win. McCann’s long-ball tear didn’t carry over to Sunday’s game, but he still turned in another strong performance at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a double and walk.

McCann’s weekend outburst raised his triple-slash line from .162/.184/.162 to .205/.239/.364, and he’s in a good position to build on his success this week in the Yankees' upcoming two-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

7e0b7fb7341714e32280a286c42c1fd8_crop_north
Chris Carlson

One of the great disadvantages to playing professional baseball is that the structure of the season is such that a bad day can turn into a bad week very quickly, leading to inevitable questions about what's wrong with someone. 

Minor leaguers are under an even more intense microscope because fans have heard and read so much about a lot of these players for so long that facing non-MLB competition is supposed to be a breeze. 

Unfortunately baseball, regardless of the level, doesn't work like that. Hitters and pitchers have to adjust all the time, especially in the minors, so a slow start in the middle of April shouldn't be misconstrued as a sign of things to come. 

Instead, for the 30 players on this particular list, take the critique of their early season performance as constructive criticism. All of the players have talent and will get better as the year moves along, but they just need time to get in the swing of things.