Each team's hottest-hitting prospect
We here at MLB Pipeline strive to bring you the most current updates possible about prospects and young players at all levels. Last week was the debut of our Rookie Hot List, which looked at hot starts from first-year players in the big leagues.
This week, we bring you a brand new feature on hot hitters in the Minor Leagues, giving you one scorching bat for each organization, based on performance from the start of the Minor League season through Sunday’s action (April 24). This will be a monthly feature, shining a light on who is raking the most at the time. And don’t think we’re ignoring the arms. We’ll bring you a monthly hot pitchers story starting next week.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Tanner Morris, INF (No. 29)
The 2019 fifth-rounder has reached the upper Minors for the first time at Double-A New Hampshire and is making an early smooth transition through 13 games. He’s one of 16 Minor League qualifiers with a walk rate above 20 percent (21.8) and a BB/K ratio above 1.2 (his exact number). Morris is doing more than just showing discipline too; he already has three homers, nearly half his total of seven from 2021 in 415 fewer plate appearances.
Orioles: Hudson Haskin, OF (No. 16)
Haskin, the club’s second-round pick out of Tulane in 2020, had a solid full-season debut in 2021 across two levels of A ball, but he also only played 83 games because of a thumb fracture. That hasn’t impacted his jump to Double-A in any fashion as the power has shown up in a much bigger way with four homers over his first 44 plate appearances. The approach needs to be refined (14 K’s, 3 BB), but it’s hard to complain about a 1.201 OPS over his first 11 games.
Rays: Carson Williams, SS (No. 9)
As if the Rays need another talented shortstop. Well, they did take Williams 28th overall last July, so they knew he would add to their logjam at the six, and the 18-year-old is showing just how much of a good problem he could be. Williams ranks fourth among Single-A qualifiers with a .723 slugging percentage and fifth with a 1.146 OPS through 52 plate appearances. Known more for his defense, the California native has turned nine (two homers, three triples, four doubles) of his 18 hits into extra-base knocks.
Red Sox: Alex Binelas, 3B (No. 22)
A 2021 third-round pick by the Brewers from Louisville, Binelas batted .309/.390/.583 with nine homers in his 36-game pro debut last summer before going to the Red Sox as part of the Hunter Renfroe trade in December. His left-handed power is continuing to play in High-A, where he's hitting .306/.436/.714 with a South Atlantic League-best six homers in 13 contests.
Yankees: Elijah Dunham, OF (No. 27)
Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Indiana in 2020, Dunham broke into pro ball last year with 40 extra-base hits and 28 steals between two Class A stops, then won breakout player of the year honors in the Arizona Fall League. Equipped with at least average tools across the board, he's batting .250/.367/.550 with two homers and as many steals in 11 Double-A games.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Jhonkensy Noel, 3B (No. 13)
Despite hand and ankle injuries last year, Noel still managed to hit .340/.390/.615 with 19 homers in 70 games at the three lowest levels of Cleveland's system. Signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, he hits the ball as hard as any Guardians prospect and has lit up High-A pitchers for a .263/.383/.632 line and four homers in 12 games.
Royals: Tyler Gentry, OF (No. 28)
It doesn’t get much hotter than this. Kansas City’s 2020 third-rounder has opened the season 15-for-31 through nine games with High-A Quad Cities. His .484 average began the week atop the Minor League leaderboard. Gentry has shown good discipline as well with an even 8/8 K/BB ratio through 41 plate appearances. His absurd .591 BABIP will normalize in time, but it’s a promising sign that the 23-year-old could get off to such a strong start after knee injuries cut his 2021 season short last August.
Tigers: Izaac Pacheco, 3B/SS (No. 8)
Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden received a lot of publicity as the Tigers’ top two picks in 2021 and rightfully so. Pacheco, the club’s first hitting selection, is making a big splash in his own right at Single-A Lakeland. The left-handed slugger is hitting .264/.409/.491 with two homers and six doubles in 15 games. Of his 35 batted balls measured by Statcast, 19 have met the hard-hit standard of a 95-plus mph exit velocity, topping out on a 106.1 mph homer last Saturday.
Twins: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B (No. 29)
This guy pretty much hits everywhere. He had an 1.103 OPS at Oklahoma State in 2021 to land in the fourth round of last year’s Draft, then hit .391/.424/.598 in 22 games during his pro debut after signing. He’s somehow bettering that so far with a move up to High-A, with a ridiculous .426/.444/.771 line over 14 games, leading all Twins Top 30 prospects in total bases and OPS.
White Sox: Bryan Ramos, 3B (No. 9)
Many of Chicago's best prospects are Cubans, including Ramos, who signed for $300,000 in 2018 and has the tools and approach to hit for average and power. He's doing so in High-A, batting .388/.434./.592 with two homers in 12 games.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF (No. 7)
Adams dropped a bit this year in their Top 30 because he lost his approach at the plate in 2021, leading to a .600 OPS and an ugly 116/28 K/BB ratio. Ten games into the 2022 season, back in High-A, it looks like he might have rediscovered his stroke at the plate, with a .378/.442/.568 line. He’s struck out just seven times and walked three, an encouraging early reversal of those numbers as well.
Astros: Jordan Brewer, OF (No. 20)
Brewer has battled toe and knee injuries since the Astros drafted him in the 2019's third round after he led Michigan to the College World Series finals. One of the best all-around athletes in Houston's system, he's finally healthy and hitting .293/.412/.585 with three homers and as many steals in 11 High-A games.
A's: Shea Langeliers, C (No. 2/MLB No. 58)
Traded to a new team during Spring Training? No problem. Jumping to Triple-A full-time? Easy. After showing his power was legit with 22 homers in the Braves system in 2021, he’s making a very strong first impression with the A’s since coming over in the Matt Olson trade. He’s hit five homers in 15 games, he’s drawing walks and not striking out much for a .309/.397/.636 line. And while this story is about hitting, it should be noted he’s thrown out six of 10 potential basestealers.
Mariners: Jonatan Clase, OF (No. 20)
He needs to cut down the strikeouts (28.6 percent), though he is offsetting it with walks (14.3 pct) and he won’t be 20 until next month. That makes his .302/.413/.453 line, with 11 steals in 12 tries, even more impressive as he’s in full-season ball for the first time, swinging the bat well from both sides of the plate.
Rangers: Bubba Thompson, OF (No. 29)
Hampered by injuries and an overly aggressive approach in his first few years as a pro, Thompson stayed healthy and settled down while enjoying the best season of his career in 2021. An outstanding athlete who was a star quarterback in high school before the Rangers made him the 26th overall pick in 2017, he's raking in Triple-A (.387/.387/.565, two homers, seven steals in 14 games) but has struck out 19 times without a walk in 62 plate appearances.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Michael Harris II, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 64)
He’s the Braves’ only prospect on the Top 100, and he’s sure been playing like he belongs there. He already has seven extra-base hits, in just 15 games, leading to a .317/.379/.500 line. Those all are improvements over his strong 2021 full-season debut, with the 21-year-old showing no issues with moving up to Double-A even though he’s more than three years younger than the average hitter at the level.
Marlins: Jerar Encarnacion, OF (No. 22)
Signed for $78,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Encarnacion had a breakout season in 2019 but had to endure the pandemic shutdown in 2020 and knee and finger injuries last year. Healthy again, he's once again showing off some of the best power in the Miami's system, leading the Double-A Southern League in runs (14), hits (22), homers (five) and total bases (40) while batting .367/.441/.667 in 15 games.
Mets: Francisco Álvarez, C (No. 1/MLB No. 10)
Álvarez only turned 20 in November and is already at Double-A. You couldn’t tell by his early performance at Double-A Binghamton. The right-handed slugger has collected 11 hits -- four have been homers, and four have been doubles. That works out to a .711 slugging percentage through 45 plate appearances. His .289 average and .378 OBP prove that this is more than just a power show, so Álvarez is very much living up to the hype as a potential middle-of-the-order bat for the Mets, perhaps earlier than previously expected.
Phillies: Donny Sands, C (No. 27)
Sands is the quintessential late bloomer, one who signed with the Yankees out of high school back in 2015 and was left off of the 40-man roster, but wasn’t taken in the Rule 5 Draft, more than once. Then things clicked in 2021 as he reached Triple-A, with the Yankees adding him to the roster right before trading him to the Phillies. He’s hitting even better so far this year with his new organization, posting a .326/.476/.478 line, with more walks than strikeouts in Triple-A.
Nationals: Brady House, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 48)
The Nats grabbed the 6-foot-4 shortstop with the 11th overall pick in July because of his offensive potential more than his work with the glove. It’s certainly playing out of the gate in his first full season. House ranks third among all Minor League hitters with 25 hits (most among Single-A batters) and owns a .379/.455/.530 overall line through 77 plate appearances. It’s likely more power is coming, considering only six of his 25 hits have gone for extra bases for the 60-grade slugger.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Felix Valerio, INF (No. 11)
Milwaukee acquired Valerio in January 2019 for Keon Broxton, and the infielder has done nothing but hit ever since. This year is no different, even after a move to Double-A Biloxi for the first time. The right-handed slugger, who is a career .302 hitter over four seasons in the Minors, owns a .306/.400/.592 line through 60 plate appearances. Even more mind-boggling: he has as many homers as strikeouts (three each) over that span. Valerio has always produced a healthy contact rate with not much power but is keeping the former and adding to the latter early this spring.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman, 2B (No. 2/MLB No. 32)
It’s been a streaky start to 2022 for the St. Louis second baseman -- in a great way. Gorman homered in five straight games for Triple-A Memphis from April 13-19 and entered Monday with a 12-game hitting streak, tied for the longest active run in Triple-A at the time. His eight homers place him second in the Minors in the category and he's tied atop the Triple-A leaderboard in the category. It might not be long before he is bringing his signature pop to the Cards’ lineup.
Cubs: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF (No. 6)
Drafted 19th overall out of a California high school in 2020, Crow-Armstrong couldn't make his pro debut that summer because of the pandemic and played just six games last year before tearing the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Traded for Javier Báez and Trevor Williams last July, Crow-Armstrong is known best for his center-field skills but is making noise with his bat, hitting .326/.463/.581 with two homers and seven steals in 11 Single-A games.
Pirates: Mason Martin, 1B (No. 24)
Prospects who aren’t protected on the 40-man roster can react to that “snub” in one of two ways: They can fold up like a card table or they can use it as fuel. So far, the Pirates have had more than one prospect choose the latter. (Cal Mitchell has also been swinging it well.) Martin, who has hit 60 homers over the last two seasons, typically walks a lot, strikes out a lot, and hits balls over the fence. He does have 13 extra-base hits, including three homers, for a 1.046 OPS in 15 Triple-A games and he has 20 strikeouts. Look for him to improve the walk rate (just two of them so far) as he settles in.
Reds: Mike Siani, OF (No. 18)
Siani really struggled in 2021, finishing with a .648 OPS in High-A. The Reds were hoping a solid Arizona Fall League campaign (.300/.451/.450) would carry over and so far, they were right. Siani has moved up to Double-A and hit .320/.444/.580 with eight extra-base hits in 14 games, all while continuing to play his typical plus defense in center field.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 19)
Carroll’s move to Double-A seemed like an aggressive assignment out of the gate, considering he played only seven games at High-A before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last May. So much for that. The 21-year-old outfielder has been firing on all cylinders for Amarillo, hitting .380/.500/.700 with nine extra-base hits and five steals through his first 15 games. Carroll was already showing improved power before the shoulder injury, so it’s even more promising that he’s building on that even after the injury.
Dodgers: Michael Busch, 2B (No. 3/MLB No. 66)
Busch went 31st overall in the 2019 Draft out of North Carolina because of his all-around offensive ability, though it was muted a bit by injuries to his right hand after he was hit by pitches in both his pro debut in 2019 and his first full season in '21. He's healthy and thriving in Double-A with a .321/.479/.755 line, seven homers (fifth in the Minors) and 15 walks in 15 games.
Giants: Casey Schmitt, 3B (No. 13)
The third baseman on our All-Defense Team and also a closer at San Diego State, Schmitt went in the second round of the 2020 Draft. The Giants thought he was on the verge of an offensive breakout this year after he dealt with a broken nose and wrist injury in '21, and he's off to a .324/.375/.649 start with three homers in 12 High-A games.
Padres: Joshua Mears, OF (No. 10)
Put it this way -- Mears hit a home run for High-A Fort Wayne on Saturday that TrackMan measured at 504 feet, and it was just the latest in a series of impressive offensive feats for the 21-year-old outfielder. Mears leads all High-A batters in home runs (seven) and slugging percentage (.784) through 15 games, playing perfectly into his skillset as a right-handed batter with plus-plus raw power. His 36.7 percent K rate -- roughly in line with his career marks -- needs monitoring, but Mears has had little issue playing into his strengths during his first foray in the Midwest League.
Rockies: Adael Amador, SS (No. 10)
The teenager has made the transition to full-season ball look pretty easy so far, with a .326/.446/.500 line and a pair of home runs in 14 Single-A games. He’s drawn more walks (12) than strikeouts (8), showing the advanced approach on display in the Arizona Complex League last year was not an aberration.