Prospects of the Week: June 4 thru June 10

Each week, we search the boxscores and use our own proprietary roto weighting system to pick one hitter and one pitcher who had the best week at each minor league level.

Here are Baseball Farm’s Prospects of the Week for the tenth week of the season, June 4 thru June 10, 2018:

Pitchers


AAA

Josh James – Fresno Grizzlies (Astros)

James earns his second straight AAA PotW award with a dominant start this week for the Fresno Grizzlies. James was a 34th round pick by the Astros back in 2014. This week, he struck out 13 batters in a 7-inning start, walking just 1 batter, scattering 3 hits, and allowing 0 earned runs. James needed his best stuff on the evening, as he was facing off against Brewers top prospect Freddy Peralta, who flirted with a no-hitter in his side of the pitcher’s duel. James said in a post-game interview that the Astros staff has him focused on attacking hitters with his stuff, not trying to pitch around anyone.

James also credits an offseason conversation he had with Max Scherzer in helping to solidify his mentality heading into 2018:

“He makes himself available for questions,” James said. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little timid to go up to him at first, being of his stature, but he told me don’t ever be scared to come and ask him a question. He made himself available to me, and I thank him for that. That was awesome.

“He mentioned to me a little bit how he goes after guys. A lot of that [aggressiveness] came from this past offseason, and I was able to transition that into Spring Training, work and refine stuff in spring and take that into the season.”

James’s last 2 outings have been outstanding. And PCL league hitters are now batting a mere .192 against him in the 5 starts since his call-up. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him called-up to the bigs this summer.

Also considered:

Freddy Peralta (MIL)
2 GS, 12.1 IP, 20 K, 4 BB, 6 H, 2 ER


AA

Justin Dunn – Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)

Dunn made his final Florida State League start this week on 6/4 for the St. Lucie Mets. His start was the subject of an excellent in-person scouting report by our contributor Jason Woodell. In short, he dominated the outing while also flashing 3 potential 60-grade pitches in the outing.

The Mets promptly followed Jason’s advice and called Dunn up to AA Binghamton, where he made his first AA start on Sunday 6/10 against the Yankees AA affiliate, the Trenton Thunder. While the leap from A-Advanced ball to AA ball can be one of the toughest on a prospect, Dunn continued throwing smoke and punching batters out, racking up 9 Ks in 7 innings. His slider looked particularly disgusting against Trenton. The Mets 2016 1st-rounder has really rounded into form in 2018, giving Mets fans something to distract them from the trials and tribulations of their major league club this year.

Also considered:
Duncan Robinson (CHC)
2 GS, 1 W, 11 IP, 17 K, 0 BB, 9 H, 1 ER
Sam McWilliams (TB)
2 GS, 2 W, 13 IP, 15 K, 1 BB, 9 H, 2 ER


A-Advanced

Chris Paddack – Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres)

The second PotW award of 2018 for Paddack is a combination of a great performance in his start this week (5.2 IP, 10 K, 0 BB, 3 H, 0 ER), and his overall line in the A-Advanced California League for the year, which has been outstanding (7 GS, 3-1, 1.93 ERA, 61:2 K:BB ratio in 37.1 IP). Paddack’s performance came against a loaded Inland Empire 66ers team which features top Angels prospects Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones, and Brandon Marsh.

Paddack is a tall (6-4) righty out of Austin, TX who is returning from TJS after missing all of 2017 in recovery. The Padres system is loaded with great pitching prospects (Michel Baez, MacKenzie Gore, Logan Allen, Adrian Morejon, Cal Quantrill, Anderson Espinoza, Eric Lauer), so we don’t envison the team rushing Paddack up the ladder anytime soon. In fact, his longest outing of 2018 thus far has only been 6-innings, so you can see that the organization is being conservative with him as he works his way back.

Paddack has a change-up you can drool over. Razzball’s Ralph Lifshitz (@ProspectJesus) put a double-plus grade on it in his recent Razzball Prospects Podcast. The filthy changeup has pushed Paddack’s strikeout rate to an unfair 43.6% (2nd best in the MiLB).

Also considered:
Hector Perez (HOU)
1 GS, 1 W, 6.2 IP, 12 K, 3 BB, 2 H, 2 ER


A-Full Season

Paul Balestrieri – Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals)

A 23-year old pitching in the Midwest League with a 5.97 career professional ERA doesn’t usually ring the bell for PotW, but his week Balestrieri was brilliant in throwing a no-hitter against the Kane County Cougars. Balestrieri only allowed 1 baserunner all night on a first-inning error. He punched out six Cougars as well. 14 of his 25 outs came on groundouts. Balestrieri was a 26th round pick out of Cornell in 2017. Congrats to Paul and the Chiefs on the no-no.

Also considered
Aaron Leasher (SD)
2 G, 1 W, 10 IP, 14 K, 4 BB, 6 H, 0 ER
Bowden Francis (MIL)
2 GS, 2 W, 14 IP, 12 K, 3 BB, 8 H, 1 ER
Huascar Ynoa (ATL)
1 GS, 1 W, 6 IP, 11 K, 2 BB, 4 H, 0 ER
Orlando Romero (TB)
1 GS, 6 IP, 10 K, 1 BB, 1 H, 0 ER

Hitters


AAA

Christian Lopes – 2B
Scott Heineman – CF
Hunter Cole – RF
Round Rock Express (Rangers)



It’s a three-way dance between three Texas Rangers prospects for this week’s AAA hitter(s) of the week, each of whom had a 2 home-run game on a different day this week. The Round Rock Express was humming this week, putting up 10, 16, 8, 12, 18 (!), and 10 runs respectively during a 6-game road trip. Christian Lopes, Scott Heineman, and Hunter Cole led the charge for the Express.

Cole, 25, started the week off for the Express with a 2-homer performance in his AAA debut on 6/5. Cole had been raking at AA Frisco before his call-up, and now is continuing to rake for Round Rock. Cole was the Giants 26th round pick in 2014, and slugged .515 in 200 AA at-bats this season.

Lopes, 25, was a 7th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. This week, lopes strung together 5-straight multi-hit games, racked up 26 total bases, hit 3 home runs, drove in 9, scored 9, and slugged 1.300. On 6/8, Lopes hit an inside-the-park home run in the 8th inning, and then followed it up with a traditional blast to left-center in the 9th.

Heineman, 25, was the Rangers 11th round pick out of Oregon in 2015. He had a 2-homer night as well this week, but his came on 6/9 at Las Vegas. Then on Sunday the 10th, Heineman drove in a career-high 6 runs. He’s now posted a .288/.350/.428 line at AAA this season with 6 HR and 9 SBs.

Also considered:
AJ Reed (HOU)
Hit safely in 5 of 6, 23 TB, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 6 Runs, 1.095 SLG


AA

Brennon Lund – CF – Mobile BayBears (Angels)

Lund played the role of stat-sheet stuffer for the BayBears this week, racking up 22 total bases in 5 multi-hit games. He looked every bit the part of a future leadoff man, scoring 10 runs, driving in 10, and stealing 5 bags on the week. He also showed some pop, blasting a solo home run against Jackson on 6/10. Lund is a speedster (14 swipes in 50 games in 2018), who also has shown the discipline to get on plate at a decent clip in his professional career (.368 minors career OBP). He keeps rising up the ranks in the Angels system, but it is hard to see where he fits into a future outfield of talented and extremely athletic Angels prospects.

Also considered
Brent Rooker (MIN)
3 multi-hit games, 20 TB, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 Runs, 8:5 BB:K, .800 SLG


A-Advanced

Braxton Davidson – 1B – Florida Fire Frogs (Braves)

Braxton flexed his muscle this week, hitting 4 home runs, driving in 8, and slugging an even 1.000 on the week. He also managed to hit safely in 6 of the 7 games he played in this week, including 3 multi-hit efforts. Davidson was Atlanta’s 1st round pick in 2014, and has had a brutal run in the Florida State League this season, slashing .172/.276/.366 in 54 games, striking out in nearly 42.5% of his at-bats. But the raw power is obviously there if he can ever figure the contact piece out. Maybe this is the week that gets Braxton back on track. He’s just about to turn 22, so there is still time.

Also considered
Gio Brusa (SF)
Hit safely in 5 of 6, 4 HR (including 3 HR game 6/10), 10 RBI, 9 Runs, 1 SB, 1.000 SLG
Luis Torrens (SD)
Hit safely in all 6, 1 HR, 21 TB, 4 RBI, 4 Runs
Johan Mieses (STL)
Hit safely in all 7, 2 HR, 20 TB, 6 RBI, 9 Runs, 2:2 BB:K, 2 SB


A-Full

Ryan Noda – LF – Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays)

There were some great young prospects turning in great performances in Full-Season A ball this week, including rising prospect names Jhailyn Ortiz and Khalil Lee. But it was Ryan Noda, the unheralded 15th round draft pick out of Cincinnati, who led the charge and earned PotW honors. Noda hit safely in all 5 games he played in this week, racking up 20 total bases and posting an excellent 5:4 BB:K ratio. His power was on full display this week as well, as he popped dingers in 3 straight games and slugged 1.428 on the week. He also posted his first career 2-HR game this week, hitting 2 solo shots in a 4-2 loss against Bowling Green on 6/7.

Noda was excellent in rookie ball last summer, posting a 1.082 OPS. He’s struggled thus far at A-Full Season ball in 2018, but he’s lifted his average from .195 to .238 in his last 10 games, hitting 5 home runs in that stretch.

Also considered
Pedro Gonzalez (TEX)
3 multi-hit games, 3 HR, 22 TB, 8 RBI, 6 Runs, 1 SB, .880 SLG
Ramon Marcelino (COL)
Hit safely in all 7, 3 HR, 20 TB, 5 RBI, 5 Runs, .833 SLG
Jhailyn Ortiz (PHI)
4 multi-hit games, 2 HR, 19 TB, 6 RBI, 5 Runs, 1 SB, .434 AVG, .826 SLG
Khalil Lee (KC)
Hit safely in 6 of 7, 2 HR, 19 TB, 8 RBI, 8 Runs, 4:2 BB:K, .826 SLG

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