Billy Butler, 1B, Triple-A Omaha (Royals)
What, did you think he suddenly couldn’t hit? Butler is just 22 years old and struggled some in his big league debut. It happens, and more often than you might think with players who turn out to be stars. Back in Triple-A after a rough May, Butler hit a pair of home runs on Friday, had a three-hit game on Saturday, and despite an 0-for-4 showing on Sunday, he’s still batting .366/.438/.613 in 24 games for the O-Royals. It’s not like Ross Gload is exactly setting the world on fire with his sub-.300 on-base percentage and slugging, so Butler should get another chance soon.
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Double-A Midland (Athletics)
The mid-season point makes for a lot of player movement, and one of those moves was Cahill’s advancing to the Texas League, where he allowed one run on two hits and struck out six over six innings in his first outing. The minor league strikeout leader with 109, Cahill doesn’t seem to be getting the kind of attention his statistics deserve, and that might be because he doesn’t really stand out in a crowd. He’s not massive, but at 6’3″ and 195 lbs., he’s plenty big enough. He doesn’t have top-notch velocity, but his fastball is above-average in terms of both velocity and movement. It’s not a Barry Zito curve, but it’s an above-average pitch. It’s not a crazy changeup, but it has plenty of deception and fade, and while his control is not exactly Maddux-esque, he throws plenty of strikes. That’s the thing with Cahill–he has no glaring weaknesses, but pretty much everything about him is good, and that goodness could be lined up for a September look.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF, High-A Stockton (Athletics)
If there is one word to describe Carter’s season, it’s “streaky.” After opening the season with 13 homerless games and a .163 batting average, he hit six home runs in five games. He had an 18-game streak without a home run as part of a miserable May, but then hit three more long flies in two games, and now he’s on fire again, going 7-for-14 in his last three games with a double, triple, and four home runs. Carter leads the California League with 20 homers in 264 at-bats, and he’s improved his walk rate dramatically this year, so despite a .242 batting average and 82 strikeouts in 74 games, he has a 902 OPS thanks to a .364 on-base percentage and .538 slugging. It’s kind of Jack Cust-esque all of a sudden, no?
Trevor Crowe, OF, Double-A Akron (Indians)
In 2006, Crowe looked like one of the best leadoff prospects in the game, reaching base 178 times in 101 games. In 2007, he fell off the table at Double-A, with a batting average that stayed around the Mendoza line for much of the season, and only a strong finish brought him up to .259/.341/.353. Repeating Double-A this year, Crowe dealt with some early injuries and was batting just .155 at the beginning of the month, but since then something has clicked. In three games over the weekend, Crowe went 9-for-14 and is now hitting .377/.451/.558 in 18 June games. In addition to the inconsistency, Crowe’s poor defense has forced him to slide over to play left field more than center, but while he no longer profiles as an everyday player, he sure looks like a nice fourth outfielder.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Low-A Ashville (Rockies)
The Rockies have always been busy in Latin America, with most of their focus being on the pitching side of things. This year’s breakout performer in the system, Chacin went six shutout innings on Friday, striking out nine to pull his ERA down to a scintillating 1.98 in 104 2/3 innings, with 78 hits allowed, 28 walks, and 93 punchouts. Chacin’s best pitch is his fastball, as not only does it have above-average velocity, but also explosive late life, leading to a groundball ratio of nearly 3-to-1. Both his breaking ball and changeup are at least average and show promise for more, and with 12 consecutive starts of six-plus innings and three or fewer earned runs, as well as the stuff to back it up, the 20-year-old Venezuelan is quickly placing himself among the top prospects in the system.
Tyler Flowers, C, High-A Myrtle Beach (Braves)
Flowers had a career game on Friday night for the Pelicans, going 3-for-4 with four runs scored, a double, a pair of home runs, and seven RBI in a 22-3 thrashing of Lynchburg. One of the more interesting prospects in the system, Flowers is an absolutely massive presence at the plate and behind it, standing at 6’4″ and tipping the scales at somewhere around 250 pounds. His .259/.407/.427 line shows how great his strike zone control is, as he’s walked 58 times in 239 at-bats, and playing in one of the worst hitters parks around belies his power, for on the road he has seven home runs in 126 at-bats. The key to his future is his defense, and right now the chances of him staying behind the plate are right around 50/50.
Brett Gardner, OF, Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Yankees)
Gardner just keeps on plugging along. He had two hits on Friday and three more on Saturday, and while he went without a safety on Sunday, he made up for it with four walks, a pair of stolen bases, and three runs scored. Now batting .292/.408/.436 in 73 games for the SWB Yanks, Gardner is an 80 runner with outstanding defense and on-base skills. While Melky Cabrera is a popular player and all, doesn’t it seem like Gardner could provide more production both offensively and defensively at this point? It might not be the most popular decision, but if the Yankees are going to make a run at the postseason, it might take some risky maneuvers.
Juan Silverio, SS, Rookie-Level Bristol (White Sox)
While the White Sox have one of the worst minor league systems in the game, one of the positives is a renewed focus on Latin American talent. They signed a number of players during last year’s international signing period, and none garnered more attention than Silverio, a long, lean shortstop with monster-level tools. After going 3-for-12 in his first three professional games to start the season, Silverio turned up the heat over the weekend by going 2-for-4 with a double on Friday, and then 3-for-5 with his second home run of the year and seven RBI in Saturday’s 10-4 drubbing of Burlington. Only 17 years old, Silverio’s plus power/speed combination, as well as athleticism to stay up the middle long term, could have him shooting up the prospect charts by the time the season ends.
Neftali Soto, 3B, Rookie-Level Billings (Reds)
One of those forgotten-about prospects, Soto was a third-round pick last year out of Puerto Rico who ranked No. 11 in the system coming into the season, but he didn’t show up this year in a box score until the short-season leagues began. Now, he’s been showing up in a big way. After slugging three home runs in his first three games, the 19-year-old went 8-for-13 with three doubles, a triple, and his fourth homer of the season, giving him a six-game line of .481/.517/1.111. A shortstop last year, Soto has already moved to third base, where he’s already been charged with a trio of errors. Many see him as being forced to a corner outfield spot eventually, and while it’s early, it looks like the bat will certainly play there.
Mike Stanton, OF, Low-A Greensboro (Marlins)
A second-round pick last year out of a California high school, Stanton looked very raw in his 2007 pro debut, going 9-for-56 with 21 strikeouts. A player who backs up his 6’5″ frame with outstanding athleticism, Stanton has undergone one of the biggest breakouts in the minors the year, going deep Friday and Saturday to give him 18 home runs in 265 at-bats and an overall line of .291/.349/.581. There are still some huge steps that need to be made in Stanton’s approach, as he’s struck out 90 times so far while drawing just 16 unintentional walks, but this kind of production, especially on the power side, from an 18-year-old in a full-season league is very special, and Stanton’s prospect status is going through the roof.