Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (Low-A Greenville)
With his late-season run, Bogaerts has gone from good story to one of the biggest in the Sally League. He generated plenty of buzz in the Dominican Summer League last year, and was expected to follow a more standard developmental path this year with a Gulf Coast Least assignment. Instead, he was placed in the South Atlantic League on June 9, and with home runs on Friday and Saturday, he's now hitting .253/.321/.515 with 15 bombs in 66 games. Bogaerts, who is only 18 years old, might not be hitting for much average, and there is no way he's a shortstop down the road, but he's also hit more home runs in fewer at-bats then Bryce Harper did at the same level at the same age, and that alone deserves note.
Gary Brown, OF, Giants (High-A San Jose)
Brown got the day off on Sunday, which was understandable, as he had amassed 13 hits over his last four games, including one of the best games of the year on Thursday when he went 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles and homers. Now hitting .334/.404/.508 with 12 home runs and 49 stolen bases, Brown is one of the favorites to win California League MVP honors. While we could argue that he should be at Double-A, the scouting reports are still borderline obscene for a plus-plus center fielder with hitting ability, top-of-the-line speed, and power that is more than just a product of the environment. Even though he hasn't been promoted, Brown might get a more important one; there are whispers he could hit the big leagues in September.
Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds (Rookie-level Billings)
Cingrani, a third-round pick in June who signed who just $210,000 as an affordable senior option, is a 22-year-old in the Pioneer League, so while that forces one to take his numbers with a grain of salt, they're still eye-popping. His best start came on Saturday, when he whiffed 13 over six no-hit innings. But that's not really new with Cingrani; in 40
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
I had Dickerson as my Rockies system sleeper heading into the year, and he's certainly made me look smart, as with a weekend that included his second three-homer game of the year, he's hitting .288/.361/.633 in 101 games with 30 jacks to lead the circuit in homers and slugging. A ripped 210-pound 22-year-old who was drafted out of a Mississippi junior college, Dickerson's numbers might excite, but they have to come with the warning of Asheville, a home park that plays like it is in the southern division of the California League. The Tourists have hit 158 home runs this year, 101 of which have come at home, and no player has taken advantage of the environment as much as Dickerson. In Asheville, Dickerson is the best hitter in the minors at .353/.415/.826 with 24 home runs in 207 at-bats. On the road, he's a bust, at .205/.291/.385 with six homers in 161 at-bats. He's the most extreme example of why Rockies prospects can be tough to rank at the lower levels, and it's hard to say we'll have a better feel for him next year as he plays in the California League.
Tyler Matzek, RHP, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Matzek had the best start of his career on Friday, as he struck out 13 over seven two-hit innings while walking just two and retiring 13 of the last 14 hitters he faced. The Rockies still deserve tremendous credit for allowing Matzek to leave the team to work with his high school coach—it can't be easy for a professional baseball team, filled with highly-paid and respected instructors, to let a 20-year-old kid choose his own path, but with mid-90s heat and as many as five pitches, it's looking more and more like the right decision.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing)
In April, or even June, Marisnick was a good story as the ultra-toolsy player who was finally translating his athletic ability to on-field ability. Now he's not just some work in progress—he's been the best position prospect in the Midwest League this year, batting .323/.396/.500 after a seven-hit weekend that included three doubles and a home run. Now that he has simplified his swing, Marisnick has plus hitting ability , and his 13 home runs are just an indication of what's to come. Throw in plus running ability, including 35 stolen bases, good outfield play, and a strong arm, and he's one of the few prospects out there for whom the term “five-tool player” doesn't sound like a misused cliché.
Max Perlman, RHP, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento)
I'm not going to lie to you; before Friday night, I had barely heard of Max Perlman; I just remembered him pitching well in the Cape Cod League last year. Sure, I try to keep up with everything I can, but it's hard to have knowledge of 35th-round picks who concentrated on government studies at Harvard. Yet, there Perlman was, not pitching in the complex league (where he made his first 13 appearances), but pitching in Triple-A, where he fired five one-hit innings while striking out three in a 6-2 win over Fresno. To be fair, Perlman was picked late for a reason; he has average velocity and a slurvy breaking ball, but he commands his stuff well, gets some swings-and-misses with an impressive changeup, and has a slider to provide a different look to hitters. Until Trevor Bauer comes up to the big leagues (which is still an if), no 2011 draftee has pitched at a higher level than the 1066th pick.
Eddie Rosario, OF, Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton)
Rosario continues to be the talk of the Appalachian League. After walking four times on Friday (twice intentionally), Rosario was pitched to again for the rest of the weekend and went 6-for-9 with two triples and his 20th home run of the year, leaving his batting line at .330/.392/.663 in 65 games while leading the league in homers, slugging, runs, triples, and total bases. Rosario, a fourth-round pick last year out of Puerto Rico, has earned 50-60 grades from scouts on both his power and speed this year, leaving some to think he might be able to stay in center field, and if you are handing out some kind of short-season player of the year award, this is your guy.
The biggest second-half power surge in the minors continued over the weekend, as Soto smacked his 28th home run on Friday and number 29 on Sunday; 24 of his long balls have come in the 62 games since the All-Star break, in just 238 at-bats. His overall batting line is .270/.324/.571, and there are still plenty of questions about his ability to hit. One scout described his approach at the plate as, “swinging out of his ass at everything.” Still, that scout also put a 70 on Soto's power; Sunday's bomb cleared the 70-foot scoreboard in Montgomery, so while he's a first base-only type, he's most definitely a prospect.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
Strasburg cruised through his first Triple-A start of the year on Saturday, striking out seven over five two-hit innings while needing only 64 pitches. With a fastball sitting at 95-98 mph and his breaking ball as good as ever, Strasburg is lined up for some big-league outings during the final month of the season, meaning he will have his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery 100 percent in his rearview mirror come next spring. He's still going to be an ace, could be the best pitcher in baseball, and if you had to bet on one player earning the most National League Cy Young awards in the next 10 years, is there a better choice?