Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves (Kane County, A-): 6 IP, 1 H 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K. No the Cougars didn’t change affiliations mid-year, but Toussaint did. In an inexplicable voiding of assets, the Diamondbacks sent Toussaint to the Braves to alleviate another mistake that they had already made that you’d think couldn’t get any worse but shockingly just did. The trade does nothing to devalue Toussaint, who is every bit as talented as he always was, and every bit as raw. Still, any time he’s throwing strikes, it’s a positive sign.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Pensacola, AA): 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 10 K. Speaking of throwing strikes, that skill is perhaps more important to Stephenson than any other top pitching prospect in the game. Command of the fastball is primarily all that stands in the way of Stephenson and upper-rotation success; and while that has a ways to go, the control has been making progress. Of course, there are still blips. Stephenson has walked one or two batters in five of his last six starts, but the other one was a six-walk face plant in his start previous to this. It’s a work in progress, but it’s one necessary to his success.
Trea Turner, SS, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, K, 2 SB. Turner doesn’t offer much power—though he does have just enough to keep pitchers honest—but it’s when he’s hitting the gaps and running that he does his damage. His speed is enough that any ball into the outfield has a chance for extra bases if the outfielders aren’t on their games, and will buy him some extra-base hits even when he’s not driving the ball with authority.
Justin Steele, LHP, Cubs (Eugene, SS): 5 IP, 2 H 2 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 9 K. Steele is a projectable lefty who the Cubs gave $1 million to in the 2014 draft, but they’re taking their time with him. He stayed back in extended spring training and is now breaking into 2015 with short-season Eugeue, where his potential plus breaking ball will baffle young hitters.
Jorge Mateo, SS, Yankees (Charleston, A-): 4-5, 2 R, 2B, 3 SB. Mateo is showing elite base-stealing skills thus far in his professional career, and that has carried over to his full-season debut this season. We know, however, that minor-league stolen-base success doesn’t carry over as effectively to major-league success as do other skills, as the catchers get better at throwing and the pitchers get better at holding runners. It’s far from his only skill, but it is his best one and it won’t play alone. Luckily his glove and arm are still more than strong enough.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers (High Desert, A+): 3-5, R, 2 2B, K, SB. One of my favorite things about the developmental process is seeing hitters improve in places that were previously their biggest weakness. Brinson is doing just that this season, considerably curtailing his strikeout rate while actually increasing his offensive output. Sure, hitting in the California instead of the Carolina League helps with the overall production, but the more consistent contact is all him. Scouts have dreamt on Brinson for a long time, but the dreams are coming closer and closer to reality with each season.
Tim Anderson, 2B, White Sox (Birmingham, AA): 5-8, R, 2B, SB (DH). Unlike Brinson’s progress, Anderson has not improved at all at on his one major flaw: his complete and utter lack of plate discipline. Fortunately for both he and the White Sox, it hasn’t really slowed him down. The jump to Double-A is typically where an over-aggressive approach can begin to be exposed, but Anderson has proved thus far to be the outlier, continuing to hit at an elite rate. If it has hurt him in one area it’s in his power production, which was limited to begin with, but as a speed-based player, it’s not a death knell. You have to think the over-aggressiveness will get over-exposed at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet, and there’s a chance that Anderson could be the exception to the rule.
Billy McKinney, OF, Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR. Sometimes we get so caught up on things like elite tools or minute swing mechanics that we miss the obvious—good hitters just hit. McKinney is a good hitter, and he’s hit at virtually every level. No, he’s not a toolsy athlete with elite bat speed, but he does have an elite ability to put the barrel of the bat on the baseball. He controls the strike zone well and doesn’t strike out a ton, and while his power production isn’t fantastic, it will be enough to play. While other prospects (even within his own system) get praised for their elite hitting tools, McKinney consistently outperforms them and will continue to do so.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (San Antonio, AA): 4-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, BB, K (DH). We’re seeing glimpses of turning the corner for Renfroe, who has been off to a disappointing start to what was expected to be a breakout season. His trademark power has diminished thanks to a lack of good contact. A strong double-header on Sunday could jumpstart a breakout from his prolonged slump, as it’s come at the end of what is now a four-game hit streak. At this point, the Padres will take any positive signs they can from Renfroe, who has now hit just .232/.301/.345 with only eight home runs in his 119 games in Double-A spanning both this season and last.
Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees (Scranton/WB, AAA): 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 7 K. The strikeouts for which Severino is so famous did not seem to come with him when he was promoted to the minors’ highest level last month. But Sunday saw a performance more in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Yankees right-hander. Scouts remain split on whether or not he can remain a starter, but the Yankees are committed to allowing him to start until they see a reason to make a move otherwise.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 7 IP, 4 H, R (0 ER), 0 BB, 6 K. Appel hasn’t been great this season, but he hasn’t been terrible either. At this point he’s, well, he’s Mark Appel. The stuff is there but the results are underwhelming, though oftentimes that’s in relation to the expectations that come with his 1.1 draft status. Despite his moderate performance this season, he’s essentially ready for the big leagues whenever his number is called.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Angels (Inland Empire, A+): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Newcomb’s ability to miss bats has helped him survive the treacherous California League since his promotion over a month ago. He’s still allowing far too many baserunners, something that has become a trend for him as a professional. That will be an issue in the long run, but for now, a 6-foot-5 lefty who misses bats at an elite rate is a pretty nice thing to have in what is generally the game’s weakest farm system.
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