Each week we pick the hitting prospect and pitching prospects from each level (AAA, AA, A+, A, and later in the season Short Season-A and Rookie league) who, in our opinion, had the best week. We are always on the lookout for candidates, so tweet us (@Prospects1500 or @PaulTheMartin) when you see a great performance. Thanks to @Baseball-viz and Keith Lott (@WeTlkFntsySprts) for providing MiLB statistics to assist in our determining the best hitting and pitching performances of the week.
Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame) will also present one other option (or maybe more) for POTW at each level – both hitter and pitcher. That will give you Martin’s 8 picks in addition to Greene’s 8 alternate choices whom could be just as deserving.
Hitter: Matt Thaiss, 1B (Los Angeles Angels, #8)
Salt Lake Bees [7 G, .429/.515/.893, 3 HR, 2 2B, 3B, 12 H, 5:3 BB:K]
Thaiss gets a bad connotation for being a safe, “boring” first-round selection of the Los Angeles Angels. Granted, he has a great approach which makes him safe and not much defensive flexibility which makes him “boring.” However, Thaiss has put together quite the sample, especially this week moving up to AAA. His walk rate is always special and this week was no different. Thaiss took 5 BB to just 3 K and, if he continues to show power as he has after his promotion, we could have a very coveted skill set building. A guy who doesn’t strike out much walks a ton and mashes tanks in a projected lineup with Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani is attractive and surely not boring. He was able to post all of his extra base hits this week after moving up a level. Even though it is in the Pacific Coast League, a notorious hitters wonderland, it is okay to be impressed with what he has shown in the small sample since his arrival. If he weren’t hitting for power in the PCL that would cause some scare, but he is, and it should be fun to watch given his already advanced approach.
Greene’s AAA hitter: Humberto Arteaga, 3B (Kansas City Royals, N/A)
Omaha Storm Chasers (7 G, .615/.593/.885/1.477, 16 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0:5 BB:K)
Pitcher: Austin Gomber, LHP (St. Louis Cardinals, #12)
Memphis Redbirds [2 GS, 2-0, 14 IP, 15:4 K:BB, 11 H, 1 ER, 14% SwStr%]
This selection is the second such award for the St. Louis lefty on the season. Gomber struggled in the three starts before this week, giving up 6 HR, including a 4 HR outing against the Oklahoma City Dodgers. This week he took it to OKC at home by striking out 9 over the course of 8 IP and winning a pitchers’ duel with Manny Banuelos. Gomber went on to strike out another 6 on Sunday against a Colorado Springs lineup that includes major leaguers like Keon Broxton, Orlando Arcia, and prospect Brett Phillips. These lineups are not easy to navigate, but Gomber did his job by inducing 14% SwStr% on the week and racking up more than a strikeout per inning. This stretch reminds me much more of that 16 K game against the Iowa Cubs on April 26th, which won him his first POTW award. Watch how he continues to work in the Pacific Coast League. If he succeeds as he has for most of his run, then he could be an interesting arm projected to join an already impressive Cardinals rotation.
Greene’s AAA pitcher: Alex Reyes, RHP (St. Louis Cardinals, #1)
Memphis Redbirds (1 GS, 1-0, 7 IP, 13:1 K:BB, H, 0.00 ERA, 27% SwStr%)
Honorable mention: Enyel De Los Santos, RHP (Philadelphia Phillies, #20)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (2 GS, 13 IP, 12:6 K:BB, 6 H, 1.38 ERA, 14% SwStr%)
Hitter: Brent Rooker, OF (Minnesota Twins, #4)
Chattanooga Lookouts [6 GS, .391/.481/.870, 3 HR, 2 2B, 9 H, 4:6 BB:K]
Rooker was one of the biggest draft heartthrobs from 2017. After being taken 5th in the supplemental round, Rooker went off to hit 18 HR in his first 66 G as a professional ballplayer. Since being moved up to AA, things have been different. The strikeout rate went up, walks went down, and the power was missing to start 2018. This week he changed all that by mashing over half of his hits for extra bases including 3 HR and a solid walk to strikeout ratio. An advanced college bat like Rooker should be able to succeed at AA given what he displayed last year, so the weak start was confusing. He hasn’t done anything except hit for amazing contact since rolling through the SEC as a member of Mississippi State. It would be awesome to see this walk rate stick. However, Rooker should be on everyone’s radar now that the power swing seems to be coming back. He is still one of my favorite hitting prospects from last year’s draft and if the strikeouts start to trim down, watch out.
Greene’s AA hitter: Cedric Mullins, OF (Baltimore Orioles, #6)
Bowie Baysox (6 G, .560/.607/.680/1.287, 14 H, 2B, 3B, 5 RBI, 3:3 BB:K)
Honorable mention: Elier Hernandez, OF (Kansas City Royals, #11)
Northwest Arkansas Naturals (7 G, .500/.533/.857/1.390, 14 H, 5 2B, 3B, HR, 7 RBI, 2:3 BB:K)
Pitcher: Kyle McGowin, RHP (Washington Nationals, N/A)
Harrisburg Senators [2 GS, 2-0, 13 IP, 20:2 K:BB, 8 H, 2 ER, 17% SwStr%]
Attention readers, let me reintroduce you to Kyle McGowin. The result of a Danny Espinosa trade to the Los Angeles Angels, McGowin has not been able to make much of the two years since joining the Nationals system. Until last season’s Arizona Fall League. It started just a bit before in August of last year when something clicked, and McGowin stopped walking batters, starting striking out more, and halted the earned runs. Running hot into the Fall League, he was able to rack up 26 strikeouts, and no walks in 6 GS for the Mesa Solar Sox. Although he is 26-years-old, McGowin has impressed yet again to start this season as he tries to work him and his three pitches back up to AAA. This week was a continuation of the newfound strikeout stuff. His walk rate is now minuscule as he generates just as many swinging strikes as always. The stuff is impressive, but this week shows that it may be the season he finally puts it all together as a hidden, late-bloomer with no more hype in the tank.
Greene’s AA pitcher: Keegan Akin, RHP (Baltimore Orioles, #9)
Bowie Baysox (2 GS, 1-0, 13 IP, 17:4 K:BB, 7 H, 2.08 ERA, 12% SWStr%)
Hitter: Buddy Reed, OF (San Diego Padres, #48)
Lake Elsinore Storm [6 GS, .476/.520/1.190, 4 HR, 5 SB, 1 3B, 1 2B, 10 H, 3:7 BB:K]
Man, Buddy Reed continues to rake. Adding 4 HR and 5 SB to his already impressive stat line was quite the feat. He now has 9 HR and 23 SB on the season, while only being caught twice on the basepaths. What more can you say about the gaudy numbers at the top of this paragraph? I would love to see him move up to AA now that he has proven to decimate High-A pitching. After his great offseason in the Australian League, Reed continues to prove that people should not forget about him in this stacked system. There are a ton of tools in the profile that all on display this season. While Reed still isn’t walking or striking out to the rates that we would like to see from a 23-year-old in A+, he is showing that he can improve with his athleticism and God-given talent. He was a 2nd round pick just two years ago. The stud outfielder is also one of the only players the San Diego Padres seem to be taking their time with as they have plenty of prospects in their system who are young for their level including Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, Josh Naylor, and more. They seem to have a plan with Reed that is working, and it has produced an exciting season to watch thus far.
Greene’s A+ hitter: Keston Hiura, 2B (Milwaukee Brewers, #3)
Carolina Mudcats (7 G, .414/.469/.655/1.124, 12 H, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBI, 2:2 BB:K)
Honorable mention: Andres Gimenez, SS (New York Mets, #1)
St. Lucie Mets (6 G, .474/.545/.579/1.124, 9 H, 2 2B, 6 SB, 2:3 BB:K)
Pitcher: Alex Lange, RHP (Chicago Cubs, #6)
Myrtle Beach Pelicans [1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 10:0 K:BB, 0 ER, 6 H, 27% SwStr%]
The first round pick out of LSU showcased his deadly curveball this past week against the Lynchburg Hillcats. He fooled batters all game without walking a single hitter. It was an impressive outing for Lange who has harnessed some control this year to go along with strikeout stuff. He still has not given up a home run in his professional career after 51.1 innings. The most shocking number from this week comes in his 27% SwStr%. More than one-quarter of the Hellcats’ swings were whiffs, which is unreal. Lange was keeping hitters confused all game as he has with his highly graded curveball. He should continue to work his way up the ranks this year showing more of what he had on display this week. The command and swinging strike abilities are hard to come by with young arms, but the Cubs may have found one with the 30th pick of the 2017 draft. Lange was not striking out batters to this extreme of a rate so far this season, so last week’s performance was encouraging.
Greene’s A+ pitcher: Austin Warner, LHP (St. Louis Cardinals, N/A)
Palm Beach Cardinals (1 GS, 1-0, 9 IP, 10:1 K:BB, 3 H, 0.00 ERA, 10% SwStr%)
Hitter: Jonathan Arauz, 2B/SS (Houston Astros, #37)
Quad Cities River Bandits [7 GS, .519/.567/.741, 0 HR, 1 SB, 2 3B, 2 2B, 14 H, 3:4 BB:K]
After being suspended for a banned stimulant last season, Arauz has come back this year with a bat on fire. He now has 4 HR, 6 3B, and 9 2B on the season, which is phenomenal considering the raw power grades he received from scouts. This week the young shortstop added 2 more triples, 2 more doubles, and a whole bunch of hits and walks to stack atop his gaudy 28:31 BB:K in 2018. The 19-year-old is reminding people exactly who he is this season. He hasn’t done a lot for this Astros system since coming over in the Ken Giles trade, but this year has looked completely different. The power numbers are coming out of nowhere, and the approach has looked more advanced since returning from suspension. Arauz had 5 multi-hit games to showcase that he does, in fact, know how to hit, this would have been foreign to anyone following his career to this point. He looks to be producing at the higher ends of his scouting grades this year, and it has been exciting to watch so far.
Greene’s A hitter: Bret Boswell, 2B (Colorado Rockies, #3)
Ashville Tourists (8 G, .452/.469/.710/1.178, 14 H, 3 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, SB, 0:7 BB:K)
Pitcher: Cristian Javier, RHP (Houston Astros, #18)
Quad Cities River Bandits [2 GS, 1-0, 10 IP, 18:1 K:BB, 0 ER, 4 H, 23% SwStr%]
It was a banner week for the Quad Cities River Bandits who are the owners of both our hitting and pitching prospect of the week for A-ball. Our Astros writer, Brandon Lute, wrote that Javier is, “Not just a thrower, but a pitcher. One to keep an eye on.” Well, this week we see what the kid was able to do as he posted a ridiculous 23% SwStr% across two starts with 18 K to just one single walk. The 21-year-old has been impressive since being signed in the 2015 international free agency class by the Houston Astros. They’re taking their time with him, but he was able to cover three levels last year and has looked good starting this year where he left off the last. It is exciting to see a young, international prospect that doesn’t rely on a mid-upper 90s fastball velocity to survive. Javier can extinguish opposing batters by sitting 90-91 MPH with multiple breaking balls and a changeup to create confusion. The Quad Cities River Bandits have a few guys we all should be paying attention to this year, so add these two to your list as they progress.
Greene’s A pitcher: Andres Sotillet, RHP (Kansas City Royals, N/A)
Lexington Legends (2 GS, 2-0, 14 IP, 16:1 K:BB, 11 H, 0.64 ERA, 14% SwStr%)
Featured image of Buddy Reed – Credit: East Village Times Sports/ Matt Kreg