With revamped Minor League scheduling for the 2022 season, this week brings something new for prospects: a four-day break concurrent with the Major League All-Star break.
Across the Minors last week, that gave prospects a chance to push themselves to finish strong before getting their first extended breather since the offseason, and impressive performances abounded. This edition of the Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week features several returnees to the squad including a pitcher who nabs honors for the second straight week and an outfielder who’s back on the team after earning a nod at an infield spot earlier in the year.
To be eligible for the Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week, Minor League players must be ranked among their club's Top 30 prospects on Pipeline's lists. (Those in the Majors do not qualify.)
This is the Prospect Team of the Week for July 11-17:
Catcher: Edgar Quero, Inland Empire 66ers (Single-A)
Angels No. 8
.478/.571/.696, 6 G, 11-for-23, 1 HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 SB
Opposing pitchers must be hoping that there’s just something about July for Quero (although his June contained some hot stretches, too) because no one has been able to stifle the backstop yet. Quero has hits in all 14 games he’s played so far this month and surged into the break with four multihit affairs in his last six. Quero kicked off his team’s series at Stockton with a 3-for-4 day featuring a homer and a double and drove in three runs while scoring four more. The catcher added a pair of two-hit days in his next two games and then went 4-for-10 over his final three for the week. As of the end of May, Quero was a .279/.403/.452 hitter for the season. Thanks to a .418/.507/.673 line so far in July, he’s now a .307/.424/.496 batter in 74 games played this year.
1B: Justin Yurchak, Tulsa Drillers (Double-A)
Dodgers No. 30
.632/.731/.947, 6 G, 12-for-19, 1 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 8 R, 7 BB, 1 K
Dodgers infield prospects have been a common theme on this year’s Prospect Team of the Week squads, and Yurchak makes his first appearance this week thanks to a blistering series against Springfield during which he reached base 19 times in six games. Like Quero, Yurchak hasn’t been held hitless once this month and now owns a .422/.519/.600 slash line for 12 July contests, the best of which came last week. The Drillers' first sacker had multiple hits in four of his games and finished on a monster note, going 4-for-4 with a double, two walks, four runs scored and two RBIs on Sunday. The 25-year-old has boosted his slash line from .223/.322/.296 at the end of June to .263/.363/.357 thanks to his hot first half of July.
2B: Thomas Saggese, Hickory Crawdads (High-A)
Rangers No. 26
.444/.500/.889, 5 G, 8-for-18, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 K
Saggese was a Week 8 selection to the Prospect Team of the Week and makes his return following another stellar showing for the Crawdads. After going 0-for-3 with a walk in Hickory’s series opener against Wilmington, Saggese busted out with eight hits in 15 at-bats to finish his week, including a 3-for-4 performance with a homer and a double on Thursday. Saggese added another double among his two hits on Friday, went 1-for-4 with a single on Saturday and then wrapped the weekend with a homer and a walk on a 2-for-3 Sunday.
3B: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Wichita Wind Surge (Double-A)
Twins No. 24
.462/.517/1.269, 6 G, 12-for-26, 5 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 15 RBI, 8 R, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 SB
After making the jump from High-A Cedar Rapids to Double-A Wichita, Encarnacion-Strand hardly skipped a beat during a terrific last week. The third baseman started things with the Kernels and went 5-for-9 with two homers and two doubles in his last two Midwest League games. Following his promotion, he went 7-for-17 with Wichita and made some franchise history by hitting for the cycle on Sunday, the first Wind Surge player to do so in franchise history. Only once last week did Encarnacion-Strand go hitless -- an 0-for-4 showing on Saturday -- which gave him a 12-for-22 line in his five games with hits.
SS: Alexander Vargas, Tampa Tarpons (Single-A)
Yankees No. 16
.400/.550/.867, 5 G, 6-for-15, 2 HR, 1 2B, 5 BB, 4 K, 3 SB
While Vargas’ season-long numbers haven’t been eye-popping as of yet, last week’s certainly were. Tampa’s shortstop continued a hot start to July by tallying hits in four of his five games played and bookending his week with homers on Tuesday and Saturday. Vargas posted averages of .175 in April, .180 in May and .172 in June. So far in July, the shortstop is a .353 hitter through 10 games with a .406 OPS and a .588 slugging percentage. His four extra-base hits for the month are double his entire total from June in fewer than half as many games.
OF: Yoelqui Céspedes, Birmingham Barons (Double-A)
White Sox No. 4
.412/.565/.941, 5 G, 7-for-17, 2 HR, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB, 5 K, 4 SB
Last year, Céspedes reached Birmingham for 27 games before the close of the season and impressed there with a .298/.340/.404 slash line. This year, his average is down over 30 points from that mark at the level, but his OPS is nearly 50 points higher thanks to loud contact and some more plate discipline. Last week was a terrific example, with the outfielder bashing five extra-base hits in as many games. Céspedes doubled in Birmingham’s first two games against visiting Montgomery, then homered in two of his last three. On Saturday, his only hitless game of the award period, Céspedes worked three walks in a game for the first time since last Aug. 11 and just the second time in his career.
OF: Alexander Canario, Tennessee Smokies, (Double-A)
Cubs No. 18
.316/.480/1.000, 6 G, 6-for-19, 4 HR, 1 2B, 7 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB, 5 K, 4 SB
Much like Dodgers infield prospects, Cubs outfield prospects have often seen their names put on Prospect Team of the Week squads. All five of Chicago’s picks this year have been outfielders with Canario nabbing his second selection of the season and fifth all time between his stints in the Giants' and Cubs' systems. After crushing Midwest League pitching for the first month-plus of the season, Canario moved up to Tennessee in early May. Last week, he had a trio of two-hit games with a home run in each. The outfielder kicked off his week with two homers, four RBIs and a walk on Tuesday. Two days later, he homered and doubled while adding another walk, and on Saturday, Canario again homered as part of a 2-for-3 day. The 22-year-old worked at least one free pass in five of his six games and stole a base in four of six.
Duran joined this list as a second baseman back in Week 4, but the versatile defender has played all over the place this year, including half his games last week as Round Rock’s center fielder. On the road at El Paso, Duran ran his hitting streak to nine games and notched multihit games in four of his team’s six contests. The 23-year-old homered and doubled in the Express’ series opener, driving in three runs, and kept raking from there. Duran added a homer on Thursday, a double on Friday, and finished with a two-homer, four-RBI day on Sunday. With hits in 13 of his 15 games played this month, Duran is batting .328/.347/.627 in July after spending most of June with the parent club and hitting .258/.281/.435 in 16 big league games.
Hall claims our lefty slot for the second straight week even with a tough-luck loss among his two starts. The southpaw was dominant against Worcester, allowing one unearned run on two hits in 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday, striking out eight while walking four. Five days later, Hall came back even stronger in a no-decision on Sunday. Baltimore’s young star struck out 10 while walking one and allowing two hits over five scoreless innings. Last month, Hall gave up at least one run in each of his five starts and yielded seven over 3 1/3 in his June 26 outing, posting a 5.40 ERA to go along with a 1-2 record for the month. So far in July, he’s gone 1-1 with a miniscule 0.44 ERA and 40 strikeouts against eight walks over 20 2/3 innings spanning four starts.
RHP: Ben Brown, Jersey Shore BlueClaws (High-A)
Phillies No. 26
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K, 0.29 WHIP
Like Hall, Brown stumbled in June to a 5.21 ERA and an 0-3 record in four starts. After surrendering six runs (four earned) over his first two outings in July, the righty was back on track at Aberdeen. The six-foot-six righty stormed through seven shutout innings by throwing 74 strikes among his 91 pitches and fanning 13, his most in a game since a 16-strikeout performance on July 24, 2018, in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Brown retired the first nine men he faced, six via strikeouts, and then finished on seven straight outs, five more via K’s. Every one of the right-hander’s 13 strikeouts were of the swinging variety.
RP: Anthony Solometo, Bradenton Marauders (Single-A)
Pirates No. 7
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 0.00 WHIP
OK, yes, Solometo is usually a starter, but his performance last week in a piggybacking role for Bradenton couldn’t be ignored. The left-hander was perfect over four innings after Marauders starter Bubba Chandler struggled over 2 2/3 in his Friday start during the first game of a doubleheader, and Solometo righted the ship, pitching the final four frames and not allowing a baserunner. In his lone other relief appearance this year, the 2021 second-rounder threw four hitless, scoreless innings on June 9 against Clearwater.