Temperatures are soaring across the country but prospects aren’t feeling the heat. They’re bringing it.
Heading into the four-day break, Minor Leaguers have kept hitting the cover off the ball. Eleven of them from the July edition of the hottest hitters are on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list: the Yankees’ Anthony Volpe (No. 8), Seattle’s Noelvi Marte (No. 19), the Mets’ Brett Baty (No. 20), Colorado’s Zac Veen (No. 22), Oakland’s Tyler Soderstrom (No. 35), Milwaukee’s Sal Frelick (No. 48), Cincinnati’s Elly De La Cruz (No. 49), Kansas City’s Nick Pratto (No. 69), the Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas (No. 70), Cleveland’s Brayan Rocchio (No. 85) and San Diego’s James Wood (No. 90).
De La Cruz (just promoted to the Reds’ Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga) was on this last month, as were Atlanta’s Vaughn Grissom, the Angels’ Edgar Quero, St. Louis’ Alec Burleson and Toronto’s Spencer Horwitz.
And perhaps not surprisingly, we’ve also seen a bunch of these repeat performers on Pipeline’s Team of the Week over the past four weeks. De La Cruz, Pratto, Quero, Rocchio, Arizona’s Deyvison De Los Santos, the Cubs’ Alexander Canario, Miami’s Nasim Nunez, San Francisco’s Grant McCray and Texas’ Evan Carter all have received kudos.
Here are 30 of the hottest hitters in the Minors right now, one for each team.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Orioles: Heston Kjerstad, OF (No. 8)
After over a year of waiting to make his pro debut due to myocarditis, a viral inflammation of the heart, the 2020 second-overall pick has quickly made his presence known in the system. Kjerstad batted .419/.527/.595 with seven doubles, 14 runs and 13 RBIs over the last 30 days between Single-A and High-A. He's walked as many times as he's struck out in that span (13). The 23-year-old posted a .463/.551/.650 line in just 22 games for Delmarva to get the promotion to Aberdeen.
Red Sox: Ronaldo Hernández, C (No. 24)
After a slow April, Hernández has been tearing up Triple-A ever since. Acquired from the Rays last offseason, the 24-year-old is batting .367/.370/.567 in the past 30 days, smacking nine doubles, three homers, 14 RBIs and striking out just 14 times in 90 at-bats with Worcester. He’s notched multihit performances in 12 of his 30 games, including one four-hit performance and a stretch of six multihit efforts in a row.
Yankees: Anthony Volpe, 2B (No. 1/ MLB No. 8)
The Futures Game participant keeps reinforcing why he is the top-ranked prospect in the system. Over the past month, Volpe posted a .300/.417/.588 slash line with five homers, 14 runs and 10 RBIs at Double-A Somerset. In the last 18 games, the 21-year-old racked up eight doubles. All the while, Volpe also continues to tear up the basepaths with 11 thefts in his last 19 games. He stands second in the league in stolen bases for the year, two off the pace set by Portland's David Hamilton (40). Volpe also ranks fourth in runs scored (52).
Rays: Kyle Manzardo, 1B (No. 23)
In his first full season after being taken in the second round of last year’s Draft, Manzardo has been seeing the ball extremely well. In the past month, the 22-year-old has drawn more walks (21) than he has strikeouts (15), good for a 22.8 percent walk rate in 92 plate appearances. His OPS (1.016) is the highest among ranked Rays prospects in that span, and he’s cranked four homers and five doubles while driving in 18 runs to complement a .310/.467/.549 slash line.
Blue Jays: Spencer Horwitz, 1B (No. 30)
Horwitz hit his way onto last month’s list and he hasn’t cooled down, even with a recent promotion to Triple-A Buffalo. In 11 games at the Minors’ highest level, the 24-year-old is batting .311/.380/.489 with a homer, five doubles and five walks. That performance mirrors the kind of numbers he’s been putting up all year; Horwitz leads all ranked Toronto prospects in average (.356), OBP (.453), slugging (.453), doubles (11) and walks (15) over the past 30 days. His four homers are tied for the most in the system in that span.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
White Sox: Jose Rodriguez, SS (No. 3)
The 21-year-old Dominican native is riding a 10-game on-base streak for Double-A Birmingham, his longest run of the season and the second longest of his career. Rodriguez has hit .376/.404/.47 with five doubles, three triples, 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored over the past 30 days. For the season, he tops the Southern League in hits (97) and triples (six), is tied with Montgomery's Greg Jones with 30 stolen bases while standing fifth in runs (50) and 10th in RBIs (47).
Guardians: Brayan Rocchio, SS (No. 5/MLB No. 85)
Dubbed “The Professor'' for his baseball IQ, the 5-foot-10 shortstop has discovered an immense power stroke over the past month. The switch-hitter has a season total of 10 home runs, with seven coming over the course of his last 17 games for Double-A Akron. Additionally Rocchio has knocked six doubles and is hitting .363/.410/.659 with 21 RBIs and 17 runs scored in the past 30 days.
Tigers: Andre Lipcius (No. 22)
Last year, Lipcius played 94 games for Double-A Erie and batted .235/.312/.378. One year later, he’s conquering Double-A. The third baseman finished June on a tear, with eight multihit games in his final nine for the month for a .500/.537/.806 slash line. Though his numbers have been down in July, Lipcius has been more than holding his own. He's commanded the strike zone with 11 walks against 10 strikeouts in the last month. Through 78 Double-A games this year, the 24-year-old is hitting .282/.409/.451. His .860 OPS is nearly 175 points better than his mark last year.
Royals: Nick Pratto, 1B (No. 2/MLB No. 69)
Pratto enjoyed a brief stint with the Royals when he was called up on July 14 to make his Major League debut during their series in Toronto, collecting his first MLB hit and home run in the four-game span. Before that, the lefty slugger was mashing at Triple-A Omaha, belting six dingers and three doubles while plating 12 runs and walking 18 times in his last 26 games. In total, the 23-year-old has a 1.107 OPS over the past month with 11 multihit efforts, including one at the Major League level.
Twins: Christian Encarnacion-Strand (No. 24)
This one was a tough call between Encarnacion-Strand and former Double-A Wichita standout Matt Wallner, who moved up to Triple-A St. Paul. Recently promoted from High-A Cedar Rapids, Encarnacion-Strand showed no signs of slowing down. After homering twice in his second Double-A game, the third baseman posted the first cycle in Wind Surge franchise history two days later. Encarnacion-Strand capped his time at High-A with a slash line of .296/.370/.599, 20 homers and 68 RBIs. In four Double-A games, he's posted some eye-popping numbers -- .412/.474/1.176.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros: Pedro Leon, SS (No. 3)
Leon continues to prove why he received the largest signing bonus of the 2021-22 international class from Houston. In his last 74 at-bats at the Minors' highest level, the 24-year-old tallied 20 hits while scoring 11 runs and driving in 10 for Triple-A Sugar Land. He whiffed 20 times in his last 17 games, but also drew 15 walks and swiped 11 bags to keep his on-base percentage at .378 for the year. With 30 stolen bases, Leon stands second in the Pacific Coast League to Round Rock's Bubba Thompson. He's also one off the circuit lead with 49 walks and ranks fourth with 21 doubles.
Angels: Edgar Quero, C (No. 8)
The 19-year-old switch-hitter makes the cut for the second straight month following a slow start to the season at Single-A Inland Empire. After posting a .346/.465/.580 slash line in the previous month, Quero hit .300/.324/.543 with three homers, 17 runs, 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases over the past 30 days. In 2021, Quero notched 10 doubles on the season. He matched that total in just his last 21 games, raising his 2022 season total to 20.
Athletics: Tyler Soderstrom (No. 2/MLB No. 35)
While his position mate Shea Langeliers is one step away from the big leagues at Triple-A Las Vegas, Soderstrom continues crushing at High-A. The backstop led the system with 45 total bases in the past month, including five homers, a triple and five doubles. Soderstrom drove in 18 runs over that time, including four performances with three or more RBIs. Soderstrom’s previous-best OPS for a month this season was .920 through 24 games in May. So far in July, his mark sits at 1.079 to go along with a .317 average through 12 games.
Mariners: Noelvi Marte, SS (No. 1/ MLB No. 19)
Marte continues to display his raw power in High-A Everett. The 20-year-old compiled a slash line of .323/.418/.613 with 27 runs and 21 RBIs over the past 30 days. After mashing eight home runs in his last 19 games, Marte has a total of 14 this season. He's repeatedly delivered in the clutch for the AquaSox with 15 of his 44 RBIs this season already in July. Marte stands second in the Northwest League to Spokane's Zac Veen (63) in runs scored with 58 and is tied for eighth in RBIs. He's also second in hits (82), tied for fourth in homers and tied for fifth in walks (40).
Rangers: Evan Carter (No. 9)
Carter has been increasing his profile this month, finding himself on the Prospect Team of the Week within the past month for providing offense for High-A Hickory. The 19-year-old left-handed hitter has shown increased power with four home runs, four triples and five doubles in his last 21 games, to raise his season slugging percentage to .474. In fact, he went into the break on a three-game home run streak, having belted four over the course of the three contests. For the season, the outfielder stands second in the South Atlantic League in triples with eight and is tied for fifth in runs (54).
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Vaughn Grissom, SS (No. 4)
After a strong showing for High-A Rome that landed him on last month’s list of hottest hitters, Grissom was promoted to Double-A Mississippi. He has been enjoying a torrid debut at the new level ever since. The 21-year-old homered in his M-Braves debut and has collected 12 hits in his first 26 at-bats, good for a .462 average and a 1.154 OPS through six games. Overall, he’s slashing .390/.470/.590 over the past 30 days across both levels with four homers, six doubles, a triple, 18 RBIs, eight walks and 10 stolen bases.
Marlins: Nasim Nunez, SS (No. 17)
After being named to Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week on June 27, the switch-hitting shortstop continued to stay hot for High-A Beloit. In 77 at-bats over the past month, the 21-year-old posted a slash line of .312/.490/.468 with 14 stolen bases, two homers, two triples, two doubles, 17 runs and 10 RBIs. Although Nunez struck out 16 times in that span, he also has showed a penchant for drawing walks with 26. He leads the Midwest League with 41 stolen bases, and with 60 bases on balls, Nunez stands second to only Great Lakes' Imanol Vargas (63) this season.
Mets: Brett Baty, 3B/OF (No. 2/MLB No. 20)
Baty has far and away been the best performing ranked Mets prospect for the last month, as he’s the only one to hit over .300 and post an OPS over 1.000 in that time period. The 22-year-old has slugged 10 extra-base hits (seven homers and three doubles) with 16 RBIs and 16 walks in that span. With a walk rate of 14 percent, the 2019 first-rounder has an OBP of .429 to go with a .319 average and .574 slugging percentage. On the season, Baty is slashing .288/.387/.484 with a career-best 13 long balls in 75 games.
Phillies: Jhailyn Ortiz, OF (No. 11)
Over the past 30 days, no ranked Philadelphia prospect has collected more doubles than Ortiz. Ten of his last 27 hits have been two-baggers, and in addition to three home runs (one off rehabbing Mets righty Max Scherzer), the 23-year-old is slashing .314/.398/.535 in his last 86 at-bats for Double-A Reading. He’s also walked 11 times and driven in 10 runs in that span. The righty slugger has put together 10 multihit performances, and six of those have come in his seven most recent games.
Nationals: Israel Pineda, C (No. 24)
Pineda has been an on-base machine in the past month, posting an OBP of .433 with 12 walks in 90 plate appearances. The 22-year-old has slugged six homers, three doubles and a triple among his 26 hits in 76 at-bats, good for a .342 average and a .645 slugging percentage. Those numbers lead all of Washington’s ranked prospects. The catcher struggled with High-A Wilmington last year, batting just .208 in 77 games, but has turned a corner this year, slashing .264/.325/.443 with more walks (22) through 67 games than he had all of last year (18).
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cubs: Alexander Canario (No. 18)
Although Canario only has a .264 average for the month his 23 hits in 87 at-bats came with a lot of thump. The outfielder clobbered seven homers and added eight doubles for a .598 slugging percentage. Canario also swiped six bases successfully in seven attempts. Selected to the Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week just prior to the Minor League midseason break, Canario put together one of his best stretches with four homers over a five-game stretch from July 12-16. His overall Double-A numbers are .236/.307/.511, but his slash line for 15 games in July is .314/.444/.706.
Reds: Elly De La Cruz, 3B/SS (No. 2/MLB No. 49)
Not only has De La Cruz’s performances landed him spots on this month and last month’s list of hottest hitters, but it also garnered him a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. The 20-year-old phenom has cranked seven homers and swiped 10 bags to go along with 20 hits in 67 at-bats (.299 average) in the past month. The infielder has arguably been the Reds’ best hitting prospect all season, topping the system with 20 home runs (shattering his previous career high of eight), 28 stolen bases and a .968 OPS in 73 games this season.
Brewers: Sal Frelick, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 48)
Frelick missed the latter half of June with a hamstring injury, but once he came back on July 6, it was like he never left. Over his last 58 plate appearances, the 2021 first-rounder has slashed a torrid .385/.421/.500 with a homer, a triple, a double and seven RBIs for Double-A Biloxi. Frelick has been putting as many balls as he can into play, and it shows with just three walks and five strikeouts in his 11 games since coming off the injured list. He’s batting .317 with a .815 OPS in 43 games for the Shuckers this year.
Pirates: Endy Rodriguez (No. 6)
Rodriguez only put two balls over the wall in the past 30 days, but he’s driving almost everything he hits with authority. The catcher/outfielder, who has also put in some time at second base this season, ripped 13 doubles over the last month, giving him 15 extra-base hits among his 27 total. Rodriguez has only gone hitless twice since June 25 and has walked 11 times against 13 strikeouts during the month. His run production has been consistent as well, with 16 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
Cardinals: Alec Burleson, LF (No. 8)
Burleson's another repeat performer on the hottest list as he continues to show why he started the season in Triple-A Memphis alongside Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman. The left-handed hitter batted .376 with 16 RBIs and 10 runs over the past 30 games. Burleson picked up 32 hits in 85 at-bats. And while he struck out 17 times this past month, the 2020 70th overall pick smacked six doubles and two home runs in his last 21 games to raise his slugging percentage to .553 for the season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Deyvison De Los Santos (No. 12)
De Los Santos put up the most total bases in the D-backs system over the past 30 days by far. The 19-year-old went off for Single-A Visalia, tallying three homers, two triples and six doubles among his 42 hits for 61 total bases, 17 more than any other player in the system. De Los Santos batted .400/.433/.632 in June, and he’s been even better so far in July. The corner infielder sports a .423/.458/.577 slash line this month to run his season numbers to .329/.370/.513. De Los Santos put together four straight three-hit games in late June and had a 4-for-6 day on July 14.
Rockies: Zac Veen (No. 1/MLB No. 22)
Colorado’s top prospect has been pushing his case for a promotion to Double-A with a revelatory performance across the offensive board. Veen has posted a .349/.419/.602 line in the last month with three homers, three triples and six doubles. The 2020 ninth overall pick has gone hitless just once since June 26, and his most impressive work may have been on the basepaths. Veen has gone 17-for-18 in stolen-base attempts over the last month. He has swiped 41 bags this year while only being caught twice. Since June 11, Veen is batting .336/.407/.618 with six homers and 21 RBIs.
Dodgers: Miguel Vargas (No. 5/MLB No. 70)
Vargas barreled the ball consistently over the last month, with three homers and 10 doubles among his 31 hits. The 22-year-old, a Futures Game selection, has kept a discerning eye at the plate with 12 walks against nine strikeouts over that span. Vargas had a power-packed stretch to close June and open July, belting a pair of homers and doubling five times between June 26 and July 2. He’s only been held hitless twice so far in July and has picked up seven walks while striking out only three times over his first 12 games this month.
Padres: James Wood (No. 3/MLB No. 90)
San Diego’s 2021 second-rounder missed all but three games in May with a right wrist injury but has been outstanding since returning to Single-A Lake Elsinore in mid-June. July has been his best stretch yet, with the outfielder batting .333/.449/.579 with two homers and 14 RBIs. Wood came within a double of the cycle to start the month. Five days later, he collected three hits and five RBIs. In his debut season last summer, Wood batted .372/.465/.535 in 26 games for the Rookie-level ACL Padres. Now through 41 with Lake Elsinore, his numbers sit at .325/.447/.563.
Giants: Grant McCray (No. 25)
One of McCray’s most notable biographical elements is that his father, Rodney, was the player who literally ran through a wall in 1991. Now the younger outfielder is making a name for himself. McCray surged to the end of last month, putting up multiple hits in six of seven games from June 18-25. Though his July hasn’t been quite as prolific, Gray has put together some impressive performances. The 21-year-old tallied eight homers, a triple and five doubles over the past 30 days, scoring 23 runs while driving in 22. He also swiped five bases in eight attempts.