Welcome back to our weekly Hots ‘n’ Nots feature for the 2010 Minor League season. For those of you who are new here, this space attempts to provide you with the Hottest (and Notso Hottest) players currently going in the Minor Leagues. We track over two thousand players on a daily basis and this is our weekly look at who is turning in the most relevant performances. Each week we will be bringing you the ten most productive hitters, ten most productive pitchers, and then ten players with relevant performances on the other side of the coin. We measure their performance over the preceding two weeks. While this isn’t necessarily a prospect ranking, we do value the performance of a 20yo tearing up AA far more than a 22yo raking in the SAL. For those returning regular readers—you’ll notice a change. This year, we are doing our Hitter List on Wednesday and our Pitcher List on Thursday, instead of just one long list.
Mike Stanton heads the year’s first list, as he turned heads with his performance in Big League camp this Spring, and has continued his torrid pace all the way through the beginning of the year. There were those that felt he was ready for the Majors coming out of Spring, so the real surprise was when the Marlins returned him to Jacksonville to open the season. A little less than three weeks into the Minor League season the question still holds. Without further ado…onto the list.
1) Mike Stanton, RF, FLA -
Stanton struggled in roughly 300 ABs in AA in the second half of last season—mainly due to an abysmal 30% strikeout rate. So, to some degree we can understand the logic of returning him here despite an eye opening performance this spring. However, after 90 PAs to start the season Stanton is destroying Southern League (SOL) pitching. Over the last two weeks he has posted a .321/.446/.792 line, but the most impressive number has to be his 20:18 BB:K ratio and a strikeout rate that hovers around a much more palatable 20%. His nine home runs on the season lead professional baseball. At only 20yo, his AA days are numbered, but the real question is where he will be stopping next?
2) Lars Anderson, 1B, BOS –
Few players were maligned as much as Anderson was—and justly so, after his awful 2009 season. While we dropped him significantly in our off-season rankings (he finished at #95), we warned in our Guide that we were issuing Anderson a ‘mulligan’ for 2009, and we expected a rebound this season in the Eastern League (ESL). Anderson hasn’t disappointed, as he has posted a 1.086 OPS over his first 70 PAs to open the year. Over the last two weeks, the 22yo has posted a .410/.500/.821 line, and looks to be right on track for a Major league debut this fall.
3) Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCR –
Another player who put up disappointing 2009 numbers, Moustakas’ 2010 debut was pushed back because of an oblique injury, not making his debut until last week. Apparently, he is trying to make up for lost time, as he has posted a .360/.407/.840 line with 3 Home Runs in his first 25 Texas League (TXL) ABs. We still feel that RF will be his eventual destination, and thus requiring a more cautious development path, but we have few doubts about his ability to hit.
4) Eric Hosmer, 1B, KCR –
We were amazed at the number of people that were writing Hosmer off after a disappointing 2009. Six months later, Hosmer has become the poster boy for lasix surgery and is performing like the hitter the Royals thought they were getting with the third pick in the 2008 draft. Only 20yo, Hosmer has a 1.148 OPS over his first 73 PAs, and has put together a .409/.500/.591 line over the last two weeks. His 13:8 BB:K ratio provides further evidence that he is seeing things more clearly now.
5) Brett Wallace, 3B, TOR –
With an .860 OPS over 800 professional plate appearances, Wallace has left little doubt about his ability to hit. So it should come as little surprise that he has opened the season with a 1.052 OPS. But after hitting a home run every 27 ABs entering the season, Wallace has hit eight of them in 73 ABs in 2010, including six over the last two weeks. The Jays do have a tandem of Bautista and Encarnacion currently holding down third base in Toronto, but it shouldn’t be too terribly long before Wallace gets his shot. What we are still trying to figure out is why the Cardinals and Athletics were so willing to let him go?
6) Oscar Tejeda, 2B, BOS –
Comebacks after disappointing 2009 seasons seem to be the order of the day with the Hot list this week, and Tejeda fits right in, after a .643 SAL performance left him disappearing from prospect lists around the country this past off-season, including ours where he went from #16 after the 2008 season to #33 after 2009. But a switch to secondbase and an improved contact rate is making all the difference for Tejeda in 2010. Entering the season, it had taken over 500 ABs for Tejeda to hit five home runs. So far this year, he has five in his first 72 ABs. Over the last two weeks he has gone .364/.364/.691. Tejeda’s over aggressive plate approach is certain to lead to prolonged slumps as the year goes on, but remember that the Red Sox paid over $500,000 to sign him in 2006, and expected big things from him. Now just 20yo and playing in Hi-A, just maybe things are starting to click.
7) Japhet Amador, 1B, Diablos-MEX
Amador is a name you likely won’t find anywhere else, but we have been watching Amador closely for two seasons now, as he was the Mexican League’s first draft pick in 2008 and the League’s Rookie of the Year in 2009. The Mexican League, in overall quality, is someplace between the U.S. AA and AAA Leagues. This season, the 23yo is clearly the best offensive player in the League, as he currently leads the League in doubles; ranks second in the League in HRs, RBIs, SLG and OBP; and 3rd in AVG. No Major League team currently holds his rights, but much like the Padres’ pitcher, Juan Oramas, who we have been touting for just as long, he is worth giving an opportunity to. Over the last two weeks, Amador has posted a .400/.500/.767 line.
8) Gerald Sands, OF, LAD –
The Dodgers selected Sands out of a small Division II school in 2008. In his first two seasons, he has posted strong numbers (.934 OPS), but has always been old for his league. We truly had hoped the Dodgers were going to challenge him in 2010 with a Hi-A assignment after he posted an .871 OPS at Lo-A in 2009, but with Austin Gallagher at 1B and Mattingly and Russell set to man the OF corners, they instead returned the 22yo Great Lakes. Midwest League (MWL) pitchers have clearly been no match for Sands, as he has a .410 OPS in 75 PAs and has posted a .429/.478/1.000 over the last two weeks--the best numbers in the Minors. While we find the defensively challenged Sands an intriguing prospect, we will have no idea as to his upside until he plays against more appropriate competition.
9) Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS –
It has been fairly widely accepted that the Red Sox are going to need a backstop answer sometime over the next couple of seasons, as Jason Varitek is nearing the end of his career and Victor Martinez isn’t likely to be able to stay there much longer. They are concerned enough about it to have recently signed Adalberto Ibarra to a $4.3MM Major League deal, and aren’t especially high on Federowicz, Exposito, Wagner or Brown that entered the season in front of Lavarnway. He lacks movement behind the plate, and is therefore a serious candidate to move to an outfield position, but Lavarnway is showing that his bat may play elsewhere. Over the last two weeks Lavarnway has posted a .370/.414/.741, and is showing an improved approach to strike zone management.
10) Bo Greenwell, OF, CLE –
While many thought that the Indians drafted Greenwell in the sixth round of the 2007 draft in large part because his father was long-time Red Sox OF Mike Greenwell, the truth lies in the fact that they thought they were getting a gifted athletic talent that had flown under the radar because his best sport in high school was football. Tremendously athletic, it is his hard-nosed approach that endears Greenwell to us. After three non-descript seasons, Greenwell has started to put everything together, hitting .388/.434/.694 over the last two weeks and now has a 1.099OPS on the season. He has always had excellent plate discipline skills, but now has shown signs of added power, as his three HRs this year in the MWL are more than his entire 2009 total. Greenwell has the potential to be one of the fastest movers in the Indians system in 2010.
1) Mycal Jones, SS, ATL –
Jones was a favored prospect this off-season, as he was a 4th round JuCo draftee by the Braves last year—an organization with limited talent at the shortstop position. We weren’t as high on him, as he is the typical ‘toolsy’, unproven talent that often cause us pause. He is off to an inauspicious beginning. A 23yo at Lo-A with a .310 OPS isn’t a good thing. Over the last two weeks, Jones has managed a meager .091/.111/.091, with no XBHs and a 1:17 BB:K ratio.
2) Drew Stubbs, CF, CIN –
Despite years of lofty prospect rankings, Stubbs has never made any of our Top 100 rankings list. The reason is that we have never been convinced that he will actually hit enough to be a productive Major Leaguer. Through 240 MLB ABs we have seen little to change our mind. Stubbs is struggling so far this season, and has managed a .097/.222/.097, with no XBHs, over the last two weeks. At 25yo, we aren’t expecting huge improvements and don’t really expect him to ever be even an average hitter.
3) Beau Mills, 1B, CLE –
As a first round pick, son of an ex-Major Leaguer, and extremely productive small college career, Mills entered professional ball with lofty expectations. While he has posted solid numbers since the Indians drafted him #13 in 2007, he has done little to distinguish himself in an organization that is loaded with 1B/DH types. Mills spent the entire 2009 season in the Eastern League (ESL), yet the Indians chose to return the 23yo to Akron to begin this season. It isn’t working out so far, as Mills has posted a .118/.151/.196 line over the last two weeks.
4) Jefry Marte, 3B, NYM –
Marte spent a number of weeks on the Not list last season, and returns here to open up 2010. This is a player that is still just 19yo, and one that has plenty of raw tools and upside, so there is no reason to panic, but a .111/.172/.148 over the last two weeks and a .374 OPS on the year aren’t positive signs.
5) Ty Morrison, OF, TBR –
Primarily due to a $500,000 signing bonus that Morrison received as a 4th round pick in 2008, plenty of people have been high on his long-term outlook. His ‘toolsy’, defensively-deficient, low baseball IQ, approach, has made us more weary than most. Morrison isn’t making anyone look good with his .147/.147/.206 line over the last two weeks. The biggest red flags for us are his continued strikeout rates around 25% and the fact that he has but a single base on balls in 52 ABs on the season. While still only a 19yo, his plate management challenges are going to hinder his advancement.