With only two weeks of Spring Training left, big league clubhouses in Florida and Arizona are thinning out.
On Saturday, the Astros assigned two of their top prospects -- right-hander Francis Martes and outfielder Ramon Laureano -- to Minor League camp, while the Twins made a handful of cuts, including their top prospect, shortstop Nick Gordon. Cardinals No. 3 prospect Luke Weaver was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
Martes, MLB.com's No. 20 overall prospect, reached Double-A Corpus Christi for three starts in 2015, his first full season, and thrived for the Hooks last year. In 25 games, including 22 starts, he went 9-6 with a 3.30 ERA and 131 strikeouts over 125 1/3 innings. He was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in four Grapefruit League games and fanned three in three perfect innings on Friday against the Red Sox.
"That's a big arm," Red Sox manager John Farrell told MLB.com. "He's powerful. He's got some quality secondary stuff. He's consistently in the mid-90s. He's a good-looking power pitcher."
The 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is likely ticketed for Triple-A Fresno, where Laureano could join him before long, if not as soon as camp breaks. The 22-year-old outfielder ranks seventh among Houston prospects after a breakout season in which he led the Minor Leagues with a .428 on-base percentage while collecting 15 homers, 28 doubles and 43 steals in 80 games for Class A Advanced Lancaster and 36 for Corpus Christi. Laureano was 3-for-14 (.214) in 15 Spring Training games.
Gordon was a Florida State League All-Star and made the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars and All-Prospect teams last year. After going 2-for-11 this spring, the 21-year-old shortstop is expected to open the season with Double-A Chattanooga. Minnesota sent seven others to Minor League camp, including top prospects Daniel Palka (No. 14), Mitch Garver (No. 15), Zack Granite (No. 22) and Engelb Vielma (No. 29).
Weaver, who entered camp with a chance to compete for the final spot in the Cardinals rotation, returns to Triple-A Memphis, where he tossed six scoreless innings in his lone start last season. The 23-year-old righty's Grapefruit League stint was hampered by back tightness that forced him out of his second appearance and kept him off the mound for 10 days. He wound up throwing five innings in five games, including one start, and allowed seven runs on seven hits and eight walks while fanning one.
The Padres optioned outfielder and No. 25 prospect Franchy Cordero to Minor League camp. He worked through three levels last season, finishing with Triple-A El Paso, but went 5-for-27 (.185) in the Cactus League.
"Franchy got a ton of at-bats, an opportunity was here for him," Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune,"but it's kind of get down to the Minor League side to start that grind."
The Blue Jays assigned two of their top four prospects -- outfielder Anthony Alford (No. 3) and shortstop Richard Urena (No. 4) -- to Minor League camp along with infielder Lourdes Gurriel and outfielder Harold Ramirez.
"I don't think I've ever seen as much improvement in a year, in a young kid, as I have in him," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of Alford. "I'll be honest, I had my doubts. It's tough for football players that go strictly to baseball. He always had a great powerful swing, but last year he didn't make the adjustments in Spring Training.
"This year, he sees the ball better. He was able to foul off breaking balls, stay alive. I'll tell you what, he has hit as many rockets down here as anybody in camp. He was really impressive. I thought he played the outfield very well. He's got a better arm than I thought he had. In a year's time, I've seen as much improvement as any kid I've ever seen."