Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (Triple-A Durham)
It was easy to just write off Beckham in late April. The number-one overall pick in the 2008 draft was hitting .204 in his first 11 games of the season before being hit with a 50-game suspension for a 'drug of abuse.' Beckham's progress though the system had been steady but exceedingly slow, and losing one-third of a season due to stupidity was enough for some to simply give up on him. He's 14-for-39 (.359) since returning to the Bulls, however, including an 8-for-14 weekend that included his first home run of the season, and it's an important reminder that not every player is painted in black and white strokes of either a “star” or a “bust.” Those are the two least likely outcomes for Beckham, actually, who, like many prospects, looks like a big leaguer, just not an impact-level one.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Athletics (Low-A Burlington)
Cole was one of the biggest pieces to come over from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez deal, but he also got off to a miserable start at High-A Stockton, putting up a 7.82 ERA in eight starts while allowing the league to hit .364 against him. The only good news was that Cole's stuff, which includes mid-90s heat and a promising curveball, were still there. It was his command that had gone haywire as he grooved pitch after pitch. Sent down to the Midwest League in late May, Cole has made progress and is starting to return to his 2011 levels of dominance. With a season-high nine strikeouts over six shutout innings on Saturday, Cole posted a 1.65 ERA in six June starts to go with 30 strikeouts and three walks in 27 1/3 innings. Again, the stuff is still there and he's just 20 years old; his stock is quickly climbing back.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers (Rookie-level AZL Rangers)
It's just nine games—a small sample size and all of that—but what a nine games it has been. A supplemental first-round pick who signed for $2.25 million, Gallo went 4-for-7 over the weekend with three home runs, bringing his line up to .346/.585/.962 with seven of his nine hits (including four home runs) going for extra bases. He has plus-plus raw power and a great approach (he has 15 walks in his last 26 plate appearances!), and the only bad news is seven errors, including four on throws, which was seen as an issue before he signed. Again, it's only nine games, but wow.
Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo)
We've now entered July, and the Mets continue to scrap their way towards the top of the National League East standings. It's time to start thinking about moves, and one of them might be internal. Harvey continues to look better as the season wears on, including seven two-hit innings on Friday with nine strikeouts. In April, he had a 4.85 ERA. In May, he lowered that to 3.24, and in six June starts, it was 2.45 with 40 strikeouts in 33 innings. The Mets shouldn't sacrifice their future to deal for a starter when their turn-around is ahead of schedule, so promoting a free upgrade in Harvey could be appealing in the second half.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
The day the Red Sox prospect list came out in the off-season, I got a call from a scout (and a non-Boston one at that) telling me I was crazy not to include Hazelbaker. Questions about his hitting ability made him a late cut for me, but the scout saw a big, toolsy outfielder with power and speed. With 73 strikeouts in 66 games, the questions about the hit tool remain, but with a 7-for-12 weekend that included three doubles, a triple, and a pair of stolen bases, he's up to .255/.338/.428. He'd be so much more valuable as a center fielder, but in a corner he still has future bench possibilities.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
On the surface, it doesn't make a ton of sense for Marte to be on this team. Marte is a center fielder, and the Pirates have kind of a good one in the big leagues. At the same time, Marte has been white-hot, going 7-for-12 over the weekend to continue what is now a seven-game multi-hit streak to raise his triple-slash line to .287/.344/.493 for the year. A plus runner with the potential for average power, Marte loses some value with a move to the corner, but with Jose Tabata a complete non-factor in a corner, Marte doesn't lose enough to represent anything less than a significant improvement to the Pirate lineup.
Wil Myers, OF, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
Ho hum. Another weekend, another six hits, and another two home runs, and Myers is now hitting .329/.408/.688 this year while leading all of the minors with 27 round-trippers. Last year, when it was clear that Eric Hosmer was just wasting time in Triple-A, the Royals called him up, but they seem reticent to do the same with Myers. Hosmer was an easier call-up because of his position. With Myers, the Royals would be better off opening a corner slot; despite playing center this year, Myers is a right fielder in the end. He has turned into the best offensive prospect still in the minors, but it's hard to figure out when that gets him to Kansas City.
Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
Taveras won Texas League All-Star game MVP honors last week and continued to roll in the regular season as well, hitting two more home runs over the weekend to give him four in his last six games as part of an overall line of .324/.377/.607. He's no longer a teenager, having turned 20 in mid-June, but he is on the short list of prospects most likely to hit third in a big league lineup. Taveras possesses the rare combination of plus power to go with plus-plus pure hitting ability despite an ultra-violent swing that he shows remarkable control of. He's an improved approach away from being discussed among the best prospects in the game, and even without that, he's pretty close.
Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
It feels like the third overall pick in the 2007 draft has been around forever, but Vitters is still just 22 years old. Scouts have always loved his swing, but Vitters' desire to use that swing against bad pitches had always slowed his development. He's hardly turned into Eddie Yost, but with 19 walks in 80 games, he's already three away from his career high, and with a six-hit weekend, he's now batting .298/.350/.510. With Ian Stewart likely out for the year, Vitters is suddenly in line for a late-season look to see if he should be taken more seriously next spring.
Michael Ynoa, RHP, Athletics (Rookie-level AZL Athletics)
As we all get excited about the July 2 international signings and get excited about the feats and abilities of players we know so little about, Ynoa is here to remind you just how many things can go wrong. It was four years ago that the A's signed Ynoa to a $4.25 million dollar deal, with many international scouts seeing him as the best pitcher to come out of the Dominican in a decade. Four years later, he's pitched a grand total of ten professional innings after showing up in a box score for the first time in two years over the weekend. The good news is that he touched 95 mph while sitting comfortably at 92-93, and he showed a pretty good breaking ball. The shocking news is that he's still only 20 years old. The important news is that big J2 signing is optimistically six years away, and realistically just a pipe dream.