Minors' top prospects: O'Conner among 10 best Thursday
Rays No. 1 prospect hits his 6th home run of the year and notches 3 RBIs for the Biscuits
Get excited, Rays fans. No. 1 prospect Justin O'Conner appears to be a changed man at the plate.
The Double-A Montgomery catcher struggled at the plate in the season's first two months, culminating in an 0-for-23 stretch that finally ended on June 10. Since then, O'Conner has been hitting like a top prospect. He's 7-for-21 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs over his past five games. Thursday night, he went 2-for-5 with a double, two-run homer and three RBIs for the Biscuits.
This is the O'Conner that Tampa Bay is used to. Last season, baseball's No. 52 overall prospect hit .278/.316/.466 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs across two levels, all while providing solid defense at catcher and showing off an elite arm behind the plate.
The 2010 first-rounder is better known for his defensive work than his hitting, but that could change if his hot streak continues.
The rest of the 10 best performances from top Minor Leaguers
• Astros No. 5 prospect (No. 87 overall) Michael Feliz scored his first win for Double-A Corpus Christi in spectacular fashion, allowing just two hits in 5 1/3 innings of shutout work. The righty rebounded nicely from a shaky June 10 start when he gave up six earned runs in four innings. Thursday's outing, which moved Feliz to 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA, showed why he was worthy of a quick big league call-up in late May.
• Athletics No. 4 prospect Renato Nunez swatted his third homer in six games for Double-A Midland. The third baseman now has nine dingers on the year to go with 24 RBIs, and has registered 10 extra-base hits since June 3. His season line currently stands at .226/.312/.421 with five doubles.
• Blue Jays No. 24 prospect Chase De Jong had a game to remember, tossing nine frames while striking out 10 as Class A Lansing clinched a playoff spot. The 6-foot-4 righty gave up four hits and one earned run to walk away with his third straight victory -- his second straight start with double-digit Ks. De Jong now stands at 7-4 on the year with a 3.13 ERA, his lowest since April 20.
• Braves No. 8 prospect Ricardo Sanchez won his first game of the year for Class A Rome, shutting out Hickory over six innings of work. The southpaw scattered five hits while striking out six, and has now gone two straight starts without allowing a run (10 total innings). Sanchez missed all of May with a right calf strain, but returned to start June 7, and has dropped his ERA from 7.36 to 4.76 since.
• Dodgers No. 8 prospect Scott Schebler is safely out of a power drought. The Triple-A Oklahoma City outfielder went 3-for-4 with a solo jack and three RBIs Thursday, the third time he's homered in the past eight games. Before that, he failed to clear the fences in 24 straight contests. Schebler is back on track on and boasts nine homers, eight doubles, four triples and 22 RBIs this season.
• Phillies No. 2 prospect (No. 31 overall) Aaron Nola gave up four hits while striking out seven in five shutout innings to win his Triple-A Lehigh Valley debut. Nola hurled 98 pitches on the night -- 66 for strikes -- and collected a game score of 65. The righty was promoted earlier this week after going 7-3 with a 59-to-9 K/BB ratio at Double-A Reading. "The experience was pretty cool," Nola told MiLB.com after his start. "Phillies fans are passionate about their baseball, love their baseball. They were pretty loud."
• Red Sox No. 7 prospect Garin Cecchini knocked out two solo homers for Triple-A Pawtucket, his first long balls since going deep in consecutive games on June 6 and 7. The outfielder is back up over .200 for the first time since May 22, and has collected five homers on the year to go along with 10 RBIs.
• Twins No. 13 prospect Adam Brett Walker broke a tie with Astros No. 12 prospect A.J. Reed for the Minor League home run lead by jacking his 18th dinger of the year for Double-A Chattanooga. The slugger finished 2-for-3 with a walk and sports a .273/.318/.574 line with 57 RBIs this year. The Lookouts clinched the first half North Division title thanks in large part to Walker and teammate Max Kepler, the Twins No. 15 prospect. Kepler connected for two triples and recorded his third straight game of at least three hits.
• Yankees No. 2 prospect (No. 58 overall) Aaron Judge hit his third homer in six games for Double-A Trenton. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound outfielder went 2-for-3 Thursday night with the dinger, a double and four RBIs. He's up to 11 jacks on the season -- along with 42 RBIs -- and has seven extra-base hits in the past 10 contests.