Each week we pick the hitting prospect and pitching prospect from each level (AAA, AA, A+, A, and later in the season Short Season A and Rookie league) who, in our opinion, had the best week. We are always on the lookout for candidates, so tweet us (@Prospects1500 or @PaulTheMartin) when you see a great performance.
Here are our Prospects of the Week for the first four games of the Minor League Baseball season, April 5 – April 8, 2018:
Hitter: Tyler O’Neill (St. Louis Cardinals #4)
OF – Memphis Redbirds
Another year of minor league baseball and, like death and taxes, Tyler O’Neill is predictably raking. Four home runs and five strikeouts are midseason O’Neill at his finest. The most impressive of these dingers coming against Texas Rangers #3 prospect Yohander Mendez. As a lefty, Mendez threw a box-to-box breaking ball that O’Neill had to nearly drop to one knee in order to make contact. The tracking of this pitch was impressive as it seemed like Yohander got the ball to exactly where he wanted, but Tyler still mashed. The 22-year-old needs to prove that he can add some more walks to his high K%, and early on this has not been the case. However, starting off the season this impressively, 8-21 (.381/.381/1.000/1.381) with 4 HR, 10 RBI, and 6 runs, is hard to ignore.
Pitcher: Nick Kingham (Pittsburgh Pirates #16)
RHP – Indianapolis Indians
Kingham is interesting because he is most likely the first man up when the Pirates need a rotation filler. The 26-year-old former Top 100 name is now almost back to where he was after missing nearly all of 2015 and 2016 with Tommy John. He showed off some filthy stuff by striking out 10 Columbus batters, including Yandy Diaz, Francisco Mejia, and even Mike Napoli, in only 5 innings of work (5 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 10 K). He has never been known for having a wipeout repertoire but being a solid pitcher in a smart organization makes for excellent projectability. He is older, and Hurdle has already said that he will be spot-starting this season, so keep an eye on him especially if he is working on generating more whiffs.
Hitter: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (Toronto Blue Jays #7)
IF – New Hampshire Fisher Cats
A bit of a bias pick here as I was lucky enough to spend two games in Hartford this week taking in some action with Scott Greene, President of this fine site, as well as Ralph Lifshitz and Lance Brozdowski of Razzball. Gurriel was making consistently impressive contact throughout the series. Every piece I saw seemed to be struck hard and it shows in his 7-16 (.438/.474/.688/1.161), 4 RBI, 2 R and a SB to start the season. He also has not struck out in four games which displays another one of his tools. He had 10 walks in 46 AA games last season and has already taken 2 free passes to start 2018. If the BB% continues to pick up, with his already above-average K% and tools, he could make an impact somewhere on the big league roster this season.
Pitcher: Shane Bieber (Cleveland Indians #5)
RHP – Akron Rubberducks
Shane Bieber put up some of the most dazzling command numbers in the minor leagues last season. To be honest, that may be downplaying what he did by walking only 9 batters in 144.1 IP between A+ and AA. He also has some decent strikeout rates, so it’s not as if he is just a terribly boring control freak. Bieber (6 IP, 2 H, 9 K) neutralized a solid Altoona lineup that includes Cole Tucker, Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Will Craig. This is one of the guys I will be watching constantly this season, especially if he starts striking out batters as he did in this start. He was only able to achieve 9+ strikeouts 3 times in 23 starts last season, so the 9 he had this week was an encouraging sign.
Hitter: Colton Welker (Colorado Rockies #3)
3B – Lancaster JetHawks
I have already been given the warning that his numbers have come in 4 games in Lancaster, which is one of the best hitting parks in the minor leagues. However, 8-12 (.667/.722/1.250/1.972), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 9 runs scored, 5 walks, 0 strikeouts, and being on base 13 out of 17 plate appearances is quite the feat anywhere at any level. Welker is projected to be a quick mover through the system due to his advanced approach at a young age. This year has started off no different. Welker should be able to tear through Lancaster pretty fast and make it to Hartford over the summer, which I am really excited to see. The park factor is a lot different as balls tend to die in the centerfield abyss of Dunkin’ Donuts Park. “It’s like the Bermuda Triangle out there,” Greene said this weekend as we watched Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Gurriel fly out to deep center multiple times.
Pitcher: Parker Dunshee (Oakland Athletics, N/A)
RHP – Stockton Ports
Dunshee had one of the most impressive starts in the minor leagues this week (5 IP, 2 H, 10 K). It came against a deadly Lake Elsinore lineup that boasts Hudson Potts, Eguy Rosario, Edward Olivares, and Jorge Ona. The 23-year-old Wake Forest product has not allowed a run in his last 43.1 IP while accumulating 55 strikeouts. He currently finds himself outside the Top 50 on the A’s list, but if he continues to perform and stretch out as a starter there could be some serious upside if he reaches the majors. Dunshee has been pumping out a ton of training videos on YouTube this offseason, so if you want to fall in love with a relatively unknown prospect, this could be your guy!
A (Full Season)
Batter: Seuly Matias (Kansas City Royals #2)
OF – Lexington Legends
Seuly’s massive tools are on display in this first week of MiLB. He was 6-15 (.400/.400/1.333/1.733) with 4 HR and 8 RBI. Kansas City’s farm system does not have many big names, but there is tons of upside in Matias. He has 19 home runs in his first 486 PA since coming stateside as a 17-year-old. Matias has also struck out 33.5% of the time and already has 4 in the early-going this season. It is fantastic seeing him hit for the power but I will be watching this year to see if there is any improvement in the approach. He is only 19 now and is already an incredible physical specimen. It should be an interesting, and hopefully, huge year for Seuly Matias.
Pitcher: Michael Baumann (Baltimore Orioles, #14)
RHP – Delmarva Shorebirds
Baumann is a massive pitcher with massive potential. This imposing figure was able to shut down the Ashville lineup this week posting 10 K to only 1 BB and 4 hits over the course of 5 innings. The Tourists don’t have what you would call the most intimidating of hitters, but for Baumann is was just continuation of the stellar numbers he put up last season after being drafted. If he continues to limit the walks the profile will look almost flawless and, as a college arm, could find himself on the fast-track to the show. The 22-year-old with strikeout stuff and a big body could rise quickly and find himself with the O’s, who are constantly struggling to find consistency in their major league rotation.
Article featured image of Shane Bieber – courtesy MiLB.com/David Monseur