MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances from the previous seven days. Any player currently on an organization Top 30 Prospects list on our Prospect Watch is eligible, including big leaguers.
Yency Almonte had a chance to go in the early rounds of the 2012 Draft, but he experienced a dead-arm period as a Florida high school senior that dropped him to the Angels in the 17th round, where he signed for $250,000. He posted a 6.44 ERA in three seasons in the Los Angeles system before the White Sox chose him as the player to be named in a trade for Gordon Beckham.
Almonte made a better impression with his second organization, recording a 2.42 ERA in seven high Class A outings at the end of last season, but not enough for Chicago to resist dealing him to the Rockies for Tommy Kahnle. While Kahnle has had trouble locating the strike zone with the White Sox, Almonte has boosted his profile by taking over the Minor League strikeout lead.
He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three starts, and he permitted just one unearned tally in two outings last week while striking out 20 in 14 innings. Almonte now has 132 whiffs in 132 1/3 frames, registering many of them with a fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and tops out at 98 with good life. He also has a hard slider and an improving changeup.
Almonte is the spotlight performer on the latest edition of our Prospect Team of the Week, which covers games from July 25-31. Here's the rest of the squad:
C: Tom Murphy, Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A)
(Rockies' No. 11 prospect)
5 G, .500/.571/.889, 5 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 4 SO
Despite missing the first month with an oblique injury, Murphy still has earned PTOW recognition three times this season, tying him for the most with Dodgers second baseman Willie Calhoun, Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins and two players we'll get to below. Murphy hit safely in all five of his games and homered twice last week, boosting his Triple-A numbers to .307/.339/.642 with 15 homers in 56 games. He also drew three free passes after walking just eight times in his first 51 contests.
1B: A.J. Reed, Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A)
(Astros' No. 2 prospect)
8 G, .414/.485/.793, 9 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 5 SO
He went just 7-for-45 (.156) with two homers in a 17-game trial with the Astros, but Reed reacclimated himself well to Triple-A in his first full week back. He had three homers and four multi-hit games, and he's now batting .284/.361/.537 with 14 home runs in 69 games there. Once he figures out how to handle quality left-handers, baseball's No. 2 first-base prospect will have an everyday job in Houston.
2B: Omar Estevez, Great Lakes Loons (low Class A)
(Dodgers' No. 16 prospect)
5 G, .391/.400/.652, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO
The Dodgers signed Estevez, a Cuban defector, last November for a $6 million bonus and a matching tax penalty for exceeding their international pool. He's the youngest regular in the Midwest League at 18 and started to heat up in July, batting .333/.376/.570 with five homers after hitting .206/.242/.310 with two homers in the first three months.
3B: Matt Chapman, Midland RockHounds (Double-A)
(Athletics' No. 3 prospect)
7 G, .333/.448/.762, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 3 SO, 1 SB
Chapman collecting two homers and five extra-base hits last week isn't particularly notable, because he has huge power and tops the Texas League in both categories with 24 and 46. The bigger news (small sample size, of course) was that he walked twice as much as he struck out. Making consistent contact will be the key for Chapman, who's hitting .231/.325/.482 in 104 Double-A games, leading the TL in strikeouts (133) and ranking second in walks (53).
SS: Richard Urena, Dunedin Blue Jays (high Class A)
(Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect)
6 G, .444/.481/.720, 11 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO
Perhaps the most anonymous prospect on MLBPipeline's recently revamped Top 100 Prospects list, Urena is an offensive-minded shortstop capable of playing solid defense. He's now batting .301/.348/.445 with eight homers in 96 games, ranking first in the Florida State League in hits (117), third in total bases (173) and fifth in batting.
OF: Andrew Benintendi, Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A)
(Red Sox' No. 2 prospect)
6 G, .478/.520/.957, 11 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 0 SO, 1 SB
Another three-time PTOW honoree, Benintendi had the best game of his young career on Sunday when he went 4-for-5 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 Draft is now hitting a combined .312/.378/.532 in 97 games between high Class A and Double-A, with more extra-base hits (52, including nine homers) and as many walks (39) as strikeouts.
OF: Eloy Jimenez, South Bend Cubs (low Class A)
(Cubs' No. 2 prospect)
7 G, .600/.607/1.080, 7 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO, 1 CS
The Yankees reportedly could have taken Jimenez instead of Gleyber Torres in the Aroldis Chapman trade, and it will be interesting to see whom would have been the better choice. Jimenez continued his breakout season with five multi-hit games last week, topping all Minor Leaguers with a .600 batting average and 15 hits. He's hitting .342/.378/.544 in 93 games and making a run at the Midwest League triple crown by ranking first in RBIs (70), second in batting and fourth in homers (12).
OF: Johan Mieses, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (high Class A)
(Dodgers' No. 27 prospect)
6 G, .417/.407/1.042, 6 R, 3 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 0 BB, 9 SO, 1 SB
Though he gets overshadowed in a deep Dodgers system, Mieses has an interesting package of tools that could turn out to be average or better across the board. He led all Minor Leaguers with 12 RBIs last week, including six in a two-homer game on Monday, and went deep four times last week to move into second place in the California League with 18. He's hitting .233/.302/.471 overall in 91 games.
LHP: Thomas Szapucki, Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season)
(Mets' No. 8 prospect)
0-1, 0.43 ERA, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO, 0.43 WHIP
Szapucki is the only pitcher to make the PTOW three times in 2016, a feat that's even more impressive considering that his season didn't begin until late June. A fifth-round pick as a Florida high schooler a year ago, he has surrendered a total of two earned runs in seven starts this summer. He struck out 10 while allowing just three baserunners and an unearned run in a tough 1-0 loss on Sunday. Between Brooklyn and Rookie-level Kingsport, he has a 3-2, 0.44 record with 65 strikeouts and just 36 baserunners permitted in 41 1/3 frames.
RHP: Yency Almonte, Modesto Nuts (high Class A)
(Rockies' No. 20 prospect)
2-0, 0.00 ERA, 14 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 20 SO, 0.86 WHIP
Almonte's strikeout (9.0 per nine innings) and walk (2.4) rates are career bests, which has helped him survive the ultra-hitter-friendly California League. He misses bats, throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone, all of which will be essential when he eventually rises to Coors Field. He also leads the Cal League and ranks fifth in the Minors in innings.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast