With the Minor League season winding down, this is the last time this year we will be looking at the hottest hitting prospects in the Minors.
All year, we’ve been picking the hottest hitter for each organization over the preceding month. While there was no one quite as consistent as a hitter as Andrew Painter was on the pitching side (he became a four-timer in our final hottest pitcher piece), there are a number of hitters who made close to regular appearances in this monthly feature. With the list below, four new players -- the Tigers’ Parker Meadows, the Twins’ Matt Wallner, the A’s Jordan Diaz and the Pirates’ Endy Rodriguez -- are welcomed to the three-peat club in 2022. They join three other players -- Edgar Quero of the Angels, Vaughn Grissom of the Braves and Elly De La Cruz of the Reds -- in that exclusive circle.
While some of these hitters are getting the chance to keep the good times rolling in the Double-A playoffs or the end of the Triple-A season, there are seven who hope to bring their hot bats with them to the Arizona Fall League next month: Mason Auer (Rays), Meadows, Kyren Paris (Angels), Justyn-Henry Malloy (Braves), Johan Rojas (Phillies), Matt Mervis (Cubs) and Noelvi Marte (Reds).
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Orioles: Connor Norby, 2B (No. 12)
Billed as an advanced offensive-minded second baseman from East Carolina in the 2021 Draft, Norby has lived up to that label in his first full year. He’s actually hit better in Double-A than he did in High-A, especially down the stretch, slashing .344/.427/.689 over his final 110 plate appearances with Bowie. That allowed him to finish those levels with a combined .865 OPS with 25 home runs and 16 steals, which earned him a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk for season's end.
Red Sox: Nathan Hickey, C (No. 19)
The Red Sox paid Hickey $1 million as a 2021 fifth-round pick out of Florida because they believed in his power and patience, and he showed off both by concluding his first full pro season by slashing .271/.426/.729 with seven homers and 10 walks in his final 14 games in High-A. He slashed .263/.415/.522 overall with 16 homers in 75 games between Single-A and High-A, though his defense behind the plate remains suspect.
Yankees: Austin Wells, C (No. 4/MLB No. 85)
Wells slashed .273/.383/.568 with seven homers in his final 24 games in Double-A, boosting his season totals to .277/.385/.512 with 20 homers and 16 steals (in 16 tries) in 92 contests between three levels. A 2020 first-rounder from Arizona, he combines hitting ability, power and patience, and he made strides with his receiving and throwing this year.
Rays: Mason Auer, OF (No. 13)
It’s been a big week for the 2021 fifth-rounder. Auer was officially added to the Arizona Fall League roster last Friday, and now he’s helping High-A Bowling Green compete for a South Atlantic League title in the Finals against Aberdeen. Auer, who is known for plus speed and a 70-grade arm, slashed .351/.456/.649 with 11 extra-base hits and nine steals over his final 19 regular-season games with the Hot Rods and has gone 4-for-16 (.250) with one dinger through his first four contests of the postseason. He’ll be packing some momentum along with his bat and glove for his trip to Arizona.
Blue Jays: Dasan Brown, OF (No. 30)
Brown’s prospect value stems from his 80-grade speed that also makes him a plus defender in center, but he started to show something with the bat at the end of 2022, particularly in the Northwest League Championship Series with High-A Vancouver. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter homered twice in Game 1 on Sept. 12, then went deep again a day later in Game 2 (both Canadians losses en route to a Eugene sweep). Those three dingers were half of Brown’s regular-season total over 84 games across three levels. Including postseason play, he slashed .363/.464/.600 with 10 extra-base hits and five steals over his final 21 games.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
White Sox: Wilfred Veras, 1B/3B (No. 25)
Despite being just 19 years old and in his first full pro season, Veras slashed .333/.361/.579 with three homers in 15 games over the last month between High-A and Double-A. He slashed .267/.418/.462 with 20 homers in 113 games overall, displaying some of the best power potential in the White Sox system. Signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, he has three relatives who have played in the Majors: father Wilson, uncle Fernando Tatis Sr. and cousin Fernando Tatis Jr.
Guardians: Jhonkensy Noel, OF/3B/1B (No. 16)
Noel finished 2022 on a .320/.432/.588 tear in his last 27 games in Double-A, by far his best stretch in a year in which he slashed .231/.313/.498 with a system-best 32 homers in 129 games between High-A and that level. Signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, he hits the ball as hard as anyone in the Guardians' system, though his plate discipline and defensive home are questionable.
Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 17)
Always a plus runner and gifted fielder, Meadows has needed a few years to find his hitting stroke following two seasons with an OPS in the .600s, but he just might have accomplished that now. The 22-year-old outfielder slashed .311/.395/.485 with three homers and five steals over the last 30 days, helping to fuel Double-A Erie’s push to the Eastern League postseason (which began Tuesday). He finishes the season with career full-season bests in all three slash line categories (.270/.346/.473) and more than doubled his previous single-season homer high, jumping from eight in 2021 to 20 this campaign.
Royals: Peyton Wilson, 2B/OF (No. 23)
Wilson is athletically gifted enough to move pretty seamlessly between second base and center field, as he did for much of the summer at High-A Quad Cities, and his offensive improvements in August and September bring more cause for optimism. Seven of the 2021 second-rounder’s 14 homers this season came over his last 19 games alone, and he slashed .368/.478/.697 over 92 plate appearances during that stretch, dating back to Aug. 20.
Twins: Matt Wallner, OF (No. 5)
This is the third time Wallner hits this list after posting a .318/.425/.579 line over the last month, including his first four big league games. The slugging outfielder has had a big year in the Minors between Double-A and Triple-A, finishing with a .277/.412/.541 line, 27 homers and 95 RBIs. While his strikeout rate was close to 30 percent for the year, he helped offset that by walking in nearly 17 percent of his plate appearances.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros: Zach Daniels, OF (No. 29)
Daniels has a promising power/speed combination and also a history of not making consistent contact, and both were on display as he finished the season on a .342/.457/.711 run with eight homers, five steals -- and 27 strikeouts -- in his last 20 games in High-A. The 2020 fourth-rounder out of Tennessee slashed .282/.371/.522 overall with 23 homers, 22 steals and 127 whiffs in 95 games at that level.
Angels: Kyren Paris, SS (No. 20)
While Edgar Quero’s 1.084 OPS in this period almost made him a four-peat and fellow catcher Logan O’Hoppe almost became a three-timer (two with the Phillies) thanks to his 1.127 OPS, we’re giving the nod to Paris for closing out a rougher season on a high note. The infielder slashed .354/.475/.677 with six homers and seven steals over the last 30 days.
A’s: Jordan Diaz, 1B/3B (No. 8)
Diaz has swung the bat well all year, a reason why he’s made this list three times. This last month was more of the same: a .364/.400/.561 slash line with four homers and 25 RBIs. That contributed to a combined .326/.366/.515 slash line between Double-A and Triple-A and earned him his first call to the big leagues this week.
Mariners: Cade Marlowe, OF (No. 22)
There might not have been a hotter hitter than Marlowe over the last month. The 2019 20th-round pick raked his way from Double-A to Triple-A, and in the last 30 days has put up a scorching .449/.524/.831 line with eight homers, eight steals and 26 RBIs. That helped him join the 20-30 club for the year, with 20 homers and 39 steals entering play Tuesday.
Rangers: Thomas Saggese, INF (No. 20)
Saggese slashed .367/.415/.694 with 10 extra-base hits in 13 games over his final month of the season -- including a .388/.409/.857 onslaught in his five-game introduction to Double-A -- to finish the year leading all Rangers farmhands in hitting (.312) and slugging (.506) after spending much of it in High-A. An over-slot $800,000 signing in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft out of a California high school, he has a handsy right-handed swing that should continue to allow him to hit for average and power.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Justyn-Henry Malloy, OF/3B (No. 13)
While it wasn’t an overwhelming month for Malloy, he did lead all Braves Top 30 hitters with 37 total bases and continued to show off his very patient approach (22 walks leading to a .395 OBP). It’s been a very strong first full season for the Braves’ 2021 sixth-round pick, as he hit his way from High-A to Double-A and finished with a combined .862 OPS, drawing 90 walks for a .407 OBP.
Marlins: Kahlil Watson, SS/2B (No. 7)
The No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 Draft as a North Carolina prepster, Watson had major strikeout issues early in his first full pro season, but rallied to slash .286/.359/.529 with 10 extra-base hits in his final 17 games in Single-A. He finished at .233/.303/.406 with 10 homers and 16 steals in 88 games at that level, displaying well above-average speed and solid shortstop skills.
Mets: Kevin Parada, C (No. 3, MLB No. 39)
Should anyone be surprised that an advanced college performer is hitting well at Single-A? Of course not. But the 11th overall pick deserves credit for being hot wherever he’s sent, and he’s certainly ticked that box by going 10-for-31 (.323) with a homer, two doubles and nine walks over 10 games this month for Florida State League champions St. Lucie. The Mets' title serves as a great topper to Parada’s busy summer between the New York system and Georgia Tech, where he hit .361 with 26 homers in the spring.
Phillies: Johan Rojas, OF (No. 5)
Rojas has ridiculous tools, starting with close to top-of-the-scale speed that allowed him to swipe 62 bases for the year. He’d been more up-and-down overall offensively, though hit better in the friendly confines of Double-A Reading. And he finished the season well, with 41 total bases, a .283/.365/.446 line and 10 more steals to close things out.
Nationals: Jared McKenzie, OF (No. 22)
McKenzie ran hot and cold in his time at Baylor, but he hasn’t had an issue bringing his hit tool to the pro ranks so far. The 2022 fifth-rounder played exclusively for Single-A Fredericksburg in the Minors and slashed .373/.397/.573 with 10 extra-base hits in his 19 games with the FredNats, including a pair of contests in the Carolina League playoffs. Washington is certainly loaded in the outfield -- including its top three prospects in Robert Hassell III, Elijah Green and James Wood -- so McKenzie will need to keep hitting in '23 to elbow his way into a more prominent spot on the organizational depth chart.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: Matt Mervis, 1B (No. 21)
Mervis is making a run at the Minor League home run lead by going deep 10 times in his last 26 Triple-A games while slashing .344/.427/.733, giving him 34 total blasts (two behind the Cardinals' Moises Gomez and the Rockies' Hunter Goodman entering play Tuesday). He's slashing .310/.376/.610 overall between three levels and also leads the Minors with 74 extra-base hits, while ranking second with 299 total bases and third with 113 RBIs. An undrafted free agent signed out of Duke in 2020, he has done a better job of tapping into his well-above-average raw power after improving his swing decisions and tightening his left-handed stroke.
Reds: Noelvi Marte, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 18)
Marte started the season very slowly, but he came on in the second half, making this list while still with the Mariners in July. He finished off his season in High-A Dayton with style, slashing .347/.467/.449, clearly working on his approach (more walks than strikeouts). Even with his early struggles, Marte finished just a homer shy of joining the 20-20 club for the season.
Brewers: Joey Wiemer, OF (MIL No. 3, MLB No. 87)
It looked like Wiemer’s kinetic swing was maybe catching up to him at Double-A earlier this season as he fanned 30.2 percent of the time with Biloxi. But following an early August promotion to Triple-A Nashville, the 23-year-old outfielder has turned things around in a way not often seen at a higher level. Over the past 30 days, Wiemer’s K rate is down to 15.2 percent, and he’s actually walked more often (17.1 percent of the time). He has a .333/.438/.631 line with five homers over 105 plate appearances in that time too, so he isn’t making more contact at the detriment of his power.
Pirates: Endy Rodriguez, C/2B/OF (No. 6/MLB No. 100)
Rodriguez just got added to the Top 100 Prospect list and was bumped up to Triple-A for the end of the season for good reason. He’s made this list three months in a row, and finished his time with Double-A Altoona with a .349/.441/.686 line to go along with six homers and 25 RBIs. For the year prior to his most recent promotion, Rodriguez had a .317/.406/.580 line with 24 homers and 87 RBIs.
Cardinals: Joshua Baez, OF (No. 11)
Baez missed more than two months with a left wrist injury and didn’t return to the Single-A Palm Beach lineup until Aug. 16. From that point until the end of the season, the 19-year-old outfielder was on fire, slashing .303/.434/.561 with three homers, one triple and six doubles in 21 games. He did strike out 30 times in 83 plate appearances (36.1 percent), so that will merit watching as he climbs the ladder. But the 2021 second-rounder put up some of Palm Beach’s best exit velocities, topping out with a max of 111.6 against Major Leaguer Anthony Kay on Sept. 10, meaning the impact is certainly there.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Blaze Alexander, SS (No. 15)
How’s this for a case of nominative determinism on a list of hot hitters? Alexander was as hot as they come in September with a .362/.492/.681 line, three homers and 10 walks in his final 14 games with Double-A Amarillo. Because of that stretch alone, the 23-year-old infielder lifted his season OPS from .885 to .928, while his 18 total homers also represent a new career high.
Rockies: Benny Montgomery, OF (No. 6)
Montgomery put up solid numbers overall in his first full season of pro ball after the Rockies took him in the first round of the 2021 Draft, but injuries limited him to just 62 games overall. He did finish the season with plenty in the tank, posting a .372/.449/.628 line over his final 89 plate appearances. That helped him finish with a very respectable .879 OPS for the year.
Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C (No. 9)
The Dodgers' top pick (second round) in the 2022 Draft, Rushing has made this list in each of his two months as a pro. He raked at a .352/.478/.592 clip with three homers in his final 20 games to finish at .389/.517/.699 with eight homers in 33 contests between three levels, mostly in Single-A. The Louisville product combines power and patience and also displays solid arm strength behind the plate.
Padres: Jackson Merrill, SS (No. 1, MLB No. 86)
Wrist and hamstring injuries slowed down the 27th overall pick in the 2021 Draft for parts of his first full season. There’s nothing slow about him now. He’s been scorching in the California League playoffs, going 9-for-13 (.692) with four doubles in three games entering Tuesday, and he slashed .323/.380/.523 over his final 15 regular-season games for Single-A Lake Elsinore before that. The Storm need one more win against Fresno to capture a Cal League title, and even after that, Merrill’s promising '22 won’t be done. Next up: the AFL.
Giants: Aeverson Arteaga, SS (No. 5)
Arteaga stood out more for his defense when the Giants signed him for $1 million out of Venezuela in 2019, but he has shown more offensive aptitude than expected and could develop into a 20-20 threat. He concluded his first full pro season by slashing .337/.426/.512 with three homers and four steals in 21 Single-A games. At age 19, he slashed .268/.342/.427 overall with 14 homers and 12 steals in 124 contests.