Hottest-hitting prospects -- 1 for each team
It’s late May in the United States. The weather is getting warmer by the day, and so are the bats across the Minor Leagues.
Our last edition of Hottest Hitters ran on April 26, and since then, a new crop of top prospects have shown what they’re capable of with the bats. Well, not a whole new crop. We have five repeats in this version -- Carson Williams (Rays), Alex Binelas (Red Sox), Michael Harris II (Braves), Pete Crow-Armstrong (Cubs) and Corbin Carroll (D-backs). Some of those listed below are using hot Mays to bang on the door of the Majors. Others are proving they are ready to take the next steps in their careers at the lower levels.
These are hot-hitting prospects of the last 30 days, one for each organization:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C (No. 1/MLB No. 4)
Since his breakout last year, we’ve always been confident in Moreno’s ability to hit for a good average, and he’s certainly accomplishing that of late, going 25-for-73 (.342) over the last 30 days for Triple-A Buffalo. You can quibble that Moreno hasn’t quite flexed the power of yet for the Bisons, considering his one homer and .438 slugging percentage over that stretch, but the other parts of his offensive game are proving 2021 was no fluke. A few more weeks of this, and a trip north of the border won’t be far off.
Orioles: Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B (No. 3/MLB No. 48)
Just 20 and in Double-A, Henderson’s very loud tools have really been showing up in games consistently. He’s hit an impressive .300/.459/.625 with all seven of his 2022 homers and nine steals (in 10 tries) over the last 30 days. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that Henderson has walked 24 times against just 18 strikeouts in 109 plate appearances.
Rays: Carson Williams, SS (No. 9)
Tampa Bay selected Williams 28th overall out of a San Diego high school last July as if it needed another promising middle-infield prospect. Now in the second month of his first full season, Williams is performing like he could be a bigger name for the Rays soon. The 18-year-old shortstop is hitting .326/.438/.598 with 17 extra-base hits over 112 plate appearances in the last 30 days at Single-A Charleston. He’s taking his walks (15.2 percent rate in that span) and stealing bases (eight) too, making him a good presence near the top of the RiverDogs lineup despite his youth and inexperience.
Red Sox: Alex Binelas, 1B/3B (No. 21)
The hottest hitter in the Red Sox system for the second straight month, Binelas has batted .278/.423/.432 with six homers in his last 23 games in High-A. A third-rounder out of Louisville last July who came from the Brewers in the Hunter Renfroe trade in December, he stands out most with his power and ranks third in the High-A South Atlantic League with 10 bombs in 34 contests.
Yankees: Austin Wells, C (No. 4/MLB No. 89)
Wells has lived up to his reputation as one of the best all-around offensive prospects in the 2020 Draft -- he went 28th overall out of Arizona -- by raking everywhere he has gone, including at a .361/.458/.721 clip with six homers in his last 18 games in High-A. He's batting .323/.429/.576 overall and stands second in the South Atlantic League with a 1.005 OPS.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Bo Naylor, C (No. 15)
Naylor went 29th overall in the 2018 Draft as a Canadian high schooler because of his batting prowess but hit just .189 with a 31 percent strikeout rate in Double-A last year. He's been much better while repeating the level in 2022, batting .317/.464/.571 over the last month and .281/.423/.479 overall.
Royals: Michael Massey, 2B (No. 21)
There’s been a lot of noise around Vinnie Pasquantino (.638 slugging, .983 OPS in this period) of late, and rightly so. Consider this: Massey has been arguably even more productive over the last 30 days. The 24-year-old second baseman is hitting .340/.391/.630 over 115 plate appearances for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, while his 34 hits and 63 total bases are both fourth-most in the Texas League in this time. The 6-foot left-handed hitter is slugging above .500 for the second straight season, adding some pop to his already Gold Glove-caliber defense at second.
Tigers: Colt Keith, 3B/2B (No. 12)
No one has more Midwest League hits in the last 30 days than Keith’s 37 for High-A West Michigan. The 20-year-old infielder is hitting .363/.426/.588 with four homers, one triple and nine doubles over his last 25 games, making him the only ranked Tigers prospect with an OPS above 1.000 (1.014, in this case) and at least 20 plate appearances in this span. Detroit has been high on Keith’s bat speed from the left side since taking him in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft, and he’s starting to turn into more power in his second Minor League season. His four homers on the year are already double his 2021 total.
Twins: Matt Wallner, OF (No. 10)
Wallner was the Twins rep in our recent story on each team’s top power prospect, but he’s been a pretty complete hitter over the last month. Yes the K rate was still high (30.6 pct), but so was the walk rate (17.3), helping him put together a .338/.459/.650 line to go along with six homers and 23 RBIs.
White Sox: Lenyn Sosa, INF (No. 22)
Signed for $325,000 out of Venezuela in 2016, Sosa has some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the White Sox system but has been undermined by an overly aggressive approach. He's making better swing decisions this year, tied for the Minor League lead in hits (42) over the last month while batting .396/.448/.717 with nine homers in 25 games, pushing his average to a Double-A Southern League-best .368.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
A’s: Jordan Diaz, 1B/3B (No. 13)
Diaz took a step forward last year to earn a spot on the 40-man roster and as he’s gotten comfortable in his first taste of Double-A, he’s proving he deserved it. The corner infielder has a .330/.381/.649 line with 12 doubles, six homers and a miniscule 11.4 percent strikeout rate during this time period.
Angels: D’Shawn Knowles, OF (No. 27)
The move to full-season ball in 2021 was rough for Knowles, but sometimes repeating the level can help! Knowles has a .333/.422/.485 line with six steals over the last 30 days. The really encouraging thing is that isn’t much of a departure for how he started, as he has a .331/.438/.451 line for the season in Single-A.
Astros: Pedro Leon, OF (No. 3)
Leon's five-tool potential earned him a $4 million bonus, the largest in the 2020-21 international class, but he looked overmatched at times last year while making his U.S. debut against Double-A and Triple-A pitchers. The Cuban has settled in nicely in 2022, hitting .272/.382/.576 with five homers and six steals in his previous 25 games, and he tops the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with 13 doubles and 22 extra-base hits.
Mariners: Edwin Arroyo, SS (No. 8)
Remember last Draft season when there were questions about whether Arroyo would be able to impact the ball as a pro? Neither does he. The 18-year-old shortstop hit .369/.431/.699 with all eight of his homers for the season over the past month. He collected 16 total extra-base hits while striking out just 19 percent of the time with Single-A Modesto.
Rangers: Ezequiel Duran, SS/2B (No. 4/MLB No. 77)
When the Rangers traded Joey Gallo to the Yankees last July, the hard-hitting Duran was part of the return. He's on a roll in Double-A, batting .327/.376/.622 with six homers and 22 RBI in his last 24 games, and he paces the Texas League in doubles (18) and extra-base hits (25).
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Michael Harris II, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 59)
Harris started the season well, repping the Braves on this list last time and he’s kept it going. He ht .300/.363/.545 over the past 30 days, with the power starting to show up. He hit his first five homers of the season. And 17 of his 22 total extra-base hits, during the time span.
Marlins: Griffin Conine, OF (No. 26)
The son of Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine, Griffin has more raw power than his father did and finished second in the Minors with 36 homers last season. Acquired from the Blue Jays in an August 2020 trade for Jonathan Villar, he comes with swing-and-miss issues but has batted .368/.449/.588 with three homers in his previous 19 Double-A games.
Mets: Alex Ramirez, OF (No. 6)
Ramirez was in just his age-18 season when he first moved to the Florida State League last year, and after taking a bit to find his footing, he’s taking the circuit by storm this time around. The 19-year-old center fielder leads qualified ranked Mets prospects in hits (35), total bases (54) and OPS (.821) over these 30 days despite playing in a more pitcher-friendly circuit. He’s hitting .353/.387/.529 with 17 extra-base hits over 36 games on the season, and his offensive growth and overall athleticism have him on the cusp of our Top 100 following the most recent update.
Nationals: Jeremy De La Rosa, OF (No. 13)
Washington returned the 20-year-old outfielder to Single-A Fredericksburg after he posted just a .595 OPS and 34.1 percent K rate there last season. He’s done a much better job of meeting expectations this time around, especially of late. De La Rosa hit .351/.438/.526 with three homers and nine steals over 25 games in this period. His seasonal strikeout rate is down to a more manageable 23.4 percent while he’s already surpassed his 2021 home run total (five) with six dingers over 51 fewer contests.
Phillies: Logan O’Hoppe, C (No. 5)
After a rather pedestrian start to the year with Double-A Reading, O’Hoppe has come on like gangbusters of late. The 22-year-old backstop has hit .329/.436/.709 with eight homers in 94 plate appearances over the past month, with an impressive 17/11 K/BB ratio. His OPS for the year is now over 1.000 and before you think it’s because of Reading’s friendly confines, O’Hoppe’s road OPS is actually 1.115 for the season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Joey Wiemer, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 82)
Only five players have at least 10 homers and 10 steals for the entire season. Wiemer almost met that standard in the last 30 days alone, finishing with 10 dingers and nine thefts over his last 27 games for Double-A Biloxi. Those stats, alongside his .296/.367/.657 line and 33.3 percent K rate in this timeframe, underline his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect. Wiemer is as toolsy as they come with power and speed to burn, and only swing-and-miss concerns, brought about by his kinetic swing, keep him from being an even more prominent prospect.
Cardinals: Alec Burleson, OF (No. 10)
Following Iván Herrera’s promotion Monday, eight Cardinals have made their Major League debuts this season, tied with the A’s for the most in the game. Burleson is hitting like a player dead-set on expanding that number to nine soon. The 2020 70th overall pick is 32-for-94 (.340) with five homers over his last 30 days for Triple-A Memphis. His .958 OPS on the season is seventh-best in the International League, a significant jump from his .667 mark over 45 games with the Redbirds last season.
Cubs: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 97)
Also our pick as the hottest-hitting Cubs prospect last month, Crow-Armstrong is making up for lost time after playing just six games in his 2021 pro debut before tearing the labrum in his right (non-throwing) shoulder and requiring surgery. Changes to his left-handed swing have unlocked some power, and he's hitting .408/.474/.602 with four homers in the last month and .372/.463/.584 overall with six homers and 10 steals in 33 Single-A contests. A 2020 first-rounder by the Mets out of a California high school, he joined the Cubs via the Javier Báez trade last July and leads the Carolina League in OPS (1.047), hits (51) and total bases (80).
Pirates: Liover Peguero, SS (No. 5/MLB No. 62)
Just 21 and in Double-A, Peguero is putting up some serious offensive numbers to go along with his outstanding defense. He led all of the Pirates’ Top 30 hitters with 51 total bases in the last 30 days, putting up a .317/.345/.490 line, which is kind of what he’s been doing all year (.317/.346/.517).
Reds: Allan Cerda, OF (No. 21)
The strikeout rate remains too high (34.4 percent), but he drew a ton of walks (16.7 percent) too. That helped him get to more power. The outfielder hit six homers (his total for the season) and a .959 OPS for the past month and now has an impressive .389 OBP and .490 SLG for the year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Corbin Carroll (No. 1/MLB No. 13)
One of our repeats from last time, but how could we choose anyone else? Carroll’s 72 total bases and 1.232 OPS both rank fourth in all of the Minors in this 30-day window, and he’s hit .340/.466/.766 over 116 plate appearances in that time. His 10 homers are tied with Wiemer and Moises Gómez for most among Double-A sluggers in this period. Carroll has benefited from a hitter-friendly environment in Amarillo when it comes to his slugging extremes, but his overall performance and health coming off a shoulder surgery have a big arrow pointed upwards next to his name.
Dodgers: Jacob Amaya, SS (No. 19)
Drafted in the 11th round out of a suburban Los Angeles high school in 2017, Amaya stands out as one of the most disciplined hitters and best defenders in a deep Dodgers system, but he slumped last year when he got too power-conscious. He's hitting home runs without swinging for the fences in 2022, going deep eight times while batting .345/.438/547 in his last 23 Double-A games. He's hitting .322/.421/.669 overall.
Giants: Grant McCray, OF (No. 25)
Slowed by nagging injuries since San Francisco made him a third-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2019, McCray is healthy and showing off his power/speed combination. The son of former big league outfielder Rodney McCray, he has hit .302/.393/.594 with six homers (double his previous career season high) and eight steals in the last month in Single-A.
Padres: Matthew Batten, INF (No. 28)
San Diego could use utility help. Could Batten be part of the solution? He’s playing like someone who deserves at least a shot. The 2017 32nd-rounder is hitting .295/.427/.600 with eight homers and a near-even 23/21 K/BB ratio over 117 plate appearances for Triple-A El Paso in the last 30 days, while receiving defensive starts at second, short, third and even center field. Those eight homers already represent a new career high, besting the six he hit in 2019 and 2021.
Rockies: Ezequiel Tovar, SS (No. 6)
He’s only 20 and in Double-A and boy has he been hot. The best defender in the organization has also been swinging the best bat, with a .333/.404/.627 line over the past month. He’s had 14 extra-base hits, including seven of his eight homers while also going a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases.