Believe it or not, we are getting to the half-way point in the minor league season with the all-star games beginning next week. It also signals the start of the expanded minor league season with short-season contest beginning. That’s seven additional leagues in which to pull players. Perhaps I should expand the list to 15?
With your feedback, I went a little deeper this week. I focused on some guys who had truly great weeks, but not great seasons. Are they real or just hot? Read on and find out.
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Jo Adell (LAA, OF, High-A) – Jo Adell continues to swing a hot bat and is hitting .340 in the month of June. He’s a toolsy player with plus raw power and plus speed that could translate into a 20/20 player once he has fully developed. The best part is that he’ll play the entire season as a 19-year, not turning 20 until next April.
Jake Rogers (Det, C, Double-A) – After hitting three home runs in a game earlier this week, Jake Rogers makes our Hot Prospect List. Granted, he’s only hitting .187 for the season, but when you hit .381 in the month of May with a 1,000 SLG, you get noticed. Rogers is a plus defender with a cannon for an arm and if he can continue to cut down on his strikeouts, he might be more than just a backup catcher in the big leagues.
Ryan Noda (Tor, OF, Low-A) – After batting .169 in May and .233 in April, Ryan has hit .406 since June 1st with six home runs and a SLG of 1,000. Through his struggles and success, one thing has stayed constant – his ability to take a walk. To-date, he has more walks than strikeouts with a 23% strikeout rate. There is definite intrigue with Noda as he has a nice approach with plus raw power. Before jumping totally in, let’s see what he can do as he moves to Dunedin of the Florida State League.
Keston Hiura (Mil, 2B, Double-A) – We know that Keston Hiura can hit, but since being promoted to Double-A on June 1st, he has five stolen bases. That’s nine for the year to go along with eight home runs and a plus hit-tool. The Brewers are pushing him hard and he’s responding. With Jonathon Villar sporting a 30% strikeout rate and a BABIP induced .277 batting average, it’s only a matter of time before Hiura pushes Villar to the utility role that better suits his skill set.
Khalil Lee (KC, OF, High-A) – After a slow start, Khalil Lee is starting to heat up. In 11 games in June, he’s slashing .325/.386/.625 with two home runs and two stolen bases. He still strikeouts out too much but the effect is muted given his ability to work a walk. If it all comes together, he profiles as a prototypical corner outfielder with plus power.
Jhailyn Ortiz (Phi, OF, Low-A) – I really liked Jhailyn Ortiz entering the season, but after a rough start to the season and a trip to the DL, I was getting worried. He’s really heated up in June with a .395 batting average and a .750 SLG. The raw power is real but the approach is not. In 37 games, he has struck out 50 times while only walking seven times. Granted he’ll play the entire season as a teenager, but he needs to learn to control the strike zone better in order for him to reach his ceiling.
Chris Paddack (SD, RHP, High-A) – I’ll be at the California League all-star game next week and I’m assuming that Chris Paddack will get the honor to start the games for the South Team. If not, there should be an investigation. In eight starts, he has struck out 70 batters while only walking three. Yes, that’s a 70-3 strikeout to walk ratio. I’m assuming that game will be his swansong to the California League. He’s primarily a fastball/change-up pitcher with his change-up being absolutely unhittable at-times. I hear the curveball still needs work but will let you know once I see him next week.
Josh James (Hou, RHP, Triple-A) – In each of my Dynasty Leagues, Josh James was added over the past week. Yes, that makes him the flavor of the week, and for good reason. With a 2.36 ERA and nearly a 13.9 strikeout rate, he’s making the PCL look pretty easy. The arsenal says starter, but if you haven’t seen him pitch, the delivery still says reliever. There’s just a lot of effort in his delivery but so far, he looks like he can repeat it.
Jesus Luzardo (Oak, LHP, Double-A) – Jesus Luzardo continues to dazzle with back-to-back five-inning three-hit, eight strikeouts, and zero walk performances. The former Nationals draftee has premium stuff with good control and should start to make noise for a big league promotion sometime next year.
Justin Dunn (NYM, RHP, Double-A) – When the Mets drafted Justin Dunn with their first pick in the 2016 draft, I cheered. I loved the combination of stuff, athleticism, and makeup. However, last season was a tough year for the 22-year-old right-hander as he pitched to a 5.00 ERA. This season though has been a different story. He righted the ship with a return to the Florida State League flashing his premium stuff and pitching to a 1.52 ERA in eight starts. The Mets promoted him to Binghamton last week and in his debut, he pitched seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts.