Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
Monday’s stats: 2-for-5, 3B, 3 RBI
The Braves’ top prospect and first-round pick in 2007, Heyward was batting a healthy .296/.369/.519 at High-A Myrtle Beach, but promoting the 19-year-old to Double-A, along with first-baseman Freddie Freeman, was nonetheless seen as an aggressive maneuver. To his credit, Heyward hasn’t missed a beat at the upper level, going 5-for-12 with a double, two triples and nary a strikeout in his first three games. He’s a truly special talent who suddenly looks like he might get a legitimate shot at a big league job next spring.
The wheels have officially come off
Andrew Brackman, RHP, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
Monday’s stats: 1 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 2 K
Yes, he’s a 6-foot-10 righty with (at times) a great fastball who got a $3 million bonus, but he’s also a guy with no extended track record of success anywhere who missed all of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery. After the first two months of the season, which could only be described as neither good nor bad, Brackman has completely fallen apart of late, allowing 26 runs over 14 2/3 innings in his last five starts while walking 24. Something clearly is wrong here, and he just doesn’t have the kind of time many do to figure it out. More than anything else, he could enter next year as a 24-year-old (he’s six-months older than perennial prospect Phil Hughes), who has yet to solve Low-A. I received some flak for not putting him in my Top 100 going into the year and, at this point, he wouldn’t even sniff my Yankees’ Top 20 list.
Holding down the No. 1 spot for the Nats until Strasburg signs
Derek Norris, C, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
Monday’s stats: 2-for-4, 2B, HR (18), R, 3 RBI, 2 BB
In his last three games, Norris has now gone 6-for-11 with four bombs to raise his season averages to .317/.410/.583. He’s has plus power, tons of patience (42 walks), plays solid defense, and scouts love his max-effort style of play. I don’t know what else you’d look for in a catching prospect, and Norris is quickly putting his name among the best young backstops in the game.
Returning to form
Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Monday’s stats: 2-for-4, 2B, HR (10), 2 R, RBI, BB
While first baseman Lars Anderson and outfielder Ryan Kalish have been disappointments at Portland, Reddick continues to shine after missing all of May with a strained oblique muscle. A great find in the 17th round of the 2006 draft, Reddick struggled in his first exposure to Double-A pitching last year, but he has been the best hitter for the Sea Dogs of late, as three straight multi-hit efforts have raised his season averages to .274/.347/.549.
Not a sleeper anymore
Dan Hudson, RHP, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
Monday’s stats: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
An eigth-round pick last year out of Old Dominion, Hudson began the year with four dominant starts at Low-A Kannapolis, but as a polished college player in the Sally League, it failed to elicit much attention. 49 strikeouts in 45 innings at High-A Winston-Salem garnered some interest, but now that he’s at Double-A and continuing to pitch well, he’s looking more and more like a legitimate prospect. His low 90s sinker can occasionally get into the mid-90s, and his changeup has gone from a rarely used pitch in college into a true plus offering. His low three-quarters, almost slingy arm action leaves some scouts to question his ability to ever develop a quality breaking ball, but he has got enough to at least get there in a bullpen role.
Tim Stauffer, RHP, Padres (Triple-A Portland)
Monday’s stats: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K
Is it fair to call a guy who was once the fourth overall pick in the draft a sleeper? Stauffer’s career has certainly been a journey. One of the best college pitchers in baseball six years ago, Stauffer originally agreed to a $2.6 million signing bonus out of the University of Richmond, but a pre-contract MRI revealed a physical weakness in his shoulder, which forced him to settle for less than one-third of that. He has really never been the same pitcher since, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors, getting whacked around for a 6.37 ERA in 18 big league games, and then seemingly going backwards before missing all of 2008 to surgically repair that shoulder than cost him so much in the first place. All but written off, Stauffer began the year in the Double-A San Antonio bullpen, where he had a 1.89 ERA in 12 appearances, and he has been just as solid in a starting role back at Triple-A Portland, including a season-best outing on Monday. He still doesn’t have much stuff, sitting at 88-90 mph with his fastball while mixing in a solid slider and changeup, but six years of pitching without his best stuff has taught him a lot of lessons, and he knows how to throw strikes and keep hitters off balance. There’s no more star projection for Stauffer, who turned 27 last month, but there’s still hope, and it’s impossible not to root for him.