MLB Pipeline's Prospect Team of the Week honors the best performances in the Minors from the past week. Any player currently on an organization Top 30 Prospects list is eligible.
After homering five times in six games to earn recognition on MLB Pipeline's final Prospect Team of the Week in 2017, Tyler O'Neill has picked up right where he left off. The Cardinals outfielder bashed two homers in the second game of this season and has four in 10 contests, claiming a spot on our inaugural PTOW of 2018.
Each week, we'll pick an all-star team of prospect performers. For this edition, we included the first 11 days of the Minor League season, which began April 5.
A year ago, Rockies shortstop Brendan Rodgers led all players with four PTOW honors in 21 weeks, helping Colorado top all organizations with 13 total mentions. Cubs catcher Victor Caratini, Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery, Royals first baseman Ryan O'Hearn and Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker each made the PTOW three times. The Astros, Braves, Padres and White Sox had 12 nominees, while the Cardinals and Nationals tied for last with three each.
Here's the complete PTOW squad for games from April 5-15:
C: Connor Wong, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Class A Advanced)
(Dodgers' No. 15 prospect)
.361/.439/.889, 9 G ,13 R, 13 H, 4 2B, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 17 K, 2 SB, 1 CS
It took Wong just nine games to match his home run total from 2017, his pro debut. He homered in each of his first two games and twice on Sunday, when he showed off his athleticism and versatility by playing second base. Wong is tied with Colton Welker (see below) for the Minor League lead in runs, and he sits atop the California League in homers, extra-base hits (nine), totals bases (32), slugging percentage and RBIs.
1B: Josh Naylor, San Antonio Missions (Double-A)
(Padres' No. 16 prospect)
.472/.545/1.000, 10 G, 10 R, 17 H, 1 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 7 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 CS
Naylor's massive power potential led the Marlins to draft him 12th overall in 2015, but it didn't translate into huge production during his first three pro seasons as he homered just 23 times in 261 games. That may be starting to change, as Naylor (sent to the Padres in a 2016 trade for Andrew Cashner) already has two multihomer games to his credit, paces the Minors in homers and total bases (36) and is tied for the lead in hits.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Naylor's sixth homer - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1935738083
2B: Nick Solak, Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A)
(Rays' No. 12 prospect)
.429/.538/.607, 9 G, 5 R, 12 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 9 BB, 6 K, 3 SB, 2 CS
Sent from the Yankees to the Rays in the three-team Brandon Drury trade in February, Solak has made a nifty first impression with his new organization. He placed no worse than third in his league in hitting and on-base percentage in each of his first two seasons, and he has reached base in all nine of his games in 2018. He's hit safely in eight of them. A potential leadoff man, Solak is tied for the Southern League lead with nine walks and is tied for sixth with three steals.
3B: Colton Welker, Lancaster JetHawks (Class A Advanced)
(Rockies' No. 4 prospect)
.455/.578/.848, 10 G, 13 R, 15 H, 4 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11 BB, 7 K
The Hangar in Lancaster may be the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the Minors, and Welker took advantage of seven home games to open the season by batting .522/.600/.870 prior to going 3-for-10 with a homer in three road contests. Welker is now a career .348/.401/.519 in two-plus years as a pro and could boost those numbers if he spends the bulk of 2018 in the California League. He leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS (1.426) and is tied for first in runs scored.
SS: Joe Dunand, Jupiter Hammerheads (Class A Advanced)
(Marlins' No. 18 prospect)
.372/.429/.628, 10 G, 12 R, 16 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K
Reminiscent of his uncle, Alex Rodriguez, Dunand is a shortstop packed with plenty of raw power. He finished his 2017 pro debut with a three-game cameo with Class A Advanced Jupiter, and has thrived there at the start of this season. He paces the Florida State League in total bases (27) and hits while being tied for first in runs. It's a small 18-game sample size, but Dunand now has a .371/.446/.643 slash line as a pro.
OF: Khalil Lee, Wilmington Blue Rocks (Class A Advanced)
(Royals' No. 1 prospect)
.387/.513/.742, 9 G, 6 R, 12 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 13 K, 3 SB
Though some clubs liked him as a left-handed pitcher with a low-90s fastball and an intriguing slider, the Royals made Lee a full-time outfielder after drafting him in the third round in 2016. He since has blossomed into their top prospect and has done nothing to diminish that status with a hot start that has him atop the Carolina League leaderboards in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.255).
OF: Tyler O'Neill, Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A)
(Cardinals' No. 4 prospect/MLB No. 94)
.410/.405/.821, 10 G, 10 R, 16 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 1 BB, 10 K
The son of a former Canadian national bodybuilding champion, O'Neill looks the part and is known best for his pop. He started slowly with just five homers in the first two months of 2017, then reclaimed his power stroke with 26 long balls in the final three months (including 12 in 37 Triple-A games after the Mariners traded him to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales). Since going 0-for-5 in his '18 season opener, O'Neill went deep four times in the next three games and has hit safely in nine straight.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: O'Neill crushes two-run homer - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1919446283
OF: Juan Soto, Hagerstown Suns (low Class A)
(Nationals' No. 2 prospect/MLB No. 29)
.361/.489/.861, 10 G, 7 R, 13 H, 2 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 10 BB, 7 K, 2 SB
The highest-ranked prospect on this week's PTOW, Soto had his 2017 full-season debut marred by right ankle, right hamate and hamstring injuries, but batted .360/.427/.523 in the 23 games he managed to play in the South Atlantic League. Soto has done even more damage in the SAL this year, with games of four and six RBIs that have him atop the Minors with 19 overall. He is tied for the league lead in homers and paces the SAL in extra-base hits (eight), total bases (31), slugging percentage and OPS (1.350).
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Soto doubles in two more RBIs - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1927211583
LHP: Zac Lowther, Delmarva Shorebirds (low Class A)
(Orioles' No. 17 prospect)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 0.17 WHIP
Though his fastball usually resides in the upper 80s, Lowther was a strikeout machine in college at Xavier. The southpaw's heater plays well above its velocity thanks to the deception and extension in his delivery, not to mention the running life it creates and his ability to command the pitch. After whiffing 75 batters in 54 1/3 innings in his 2017 pro debut, he fanned 13 and allowed just one baserunner (a walk) over six innings in his first outing this year.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Lowther punches out 13 in six - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1922987683
RHP: Shane Bieber, Akron RubberDucks (Double-A)
(Indians' No. 8 prospect)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 GS, 13 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 17 K, 0.46 WHIP
Bieber led the Minors with a miniscule walk rate of 0.5 per nine innings in his 2017 full-season debut, notching as many wins as he gave up free passes (10) in 28 starts. He's back at it again, with one victory and no walks in his first two starts in '18. Bieber has yet to give up a run in 13 innings either, lowering his career ERA in pro ball to 2.40.
MILB Video - Title: Watch: Bieber's eighth strikeout - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1925656883
RP: Lou Trivino, Nashville Sounds (Triple-A)
(Athletics' No. 27 prospect)
0.00 ERA, 3 G, 1 SV, 4 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0.00 WHIP
The lowest-ranked prospect on this PTOW, Trivino has advanced steadily to Triple-A since the A's made him an 11th-round choice out of Slippery Rock (Pa.) in 2013. Left unprotected in last year's Rule 5 Draft, he went unpicked despite his mid-90s fastball and solid cutter, and he has responded by retiring all 13 hitters he has faced so far, eight via strikeout.