Farm system storylines: July edition

Jimenez, Ray blast off with big months; trades make major impact

Eloy Jimenez tied for fourth in the International League with six homers in July despite playing only 16 games. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By MiLB.com Staff | August 1, 2018 12:25 PM

Around the start of each month, MiLB.com staff will break down the state of all 30 organizations with updates on their top prospects, Minor League affiliates and more in a new feature called "Farm system storylines."

AL East

 Baltimore Orioles

When Baltimore traded superstar shortstop Manny Machado to the Dodgers for five prospects, it was a clear indication that the O's were looking toward the future, and DL Hall is making a strong case to be part of that future. Last year's No. 21 overall pick in the Draft is ranked third among Baltimore prospects, and over five July starts, he posted a 2-1 record with a 0.67 ERA for Class A Delmarva. He finished the month with 39 punchouts to 10 walks over 26 2/3 innings, and his 0.75 WHIP was second-best in the South Atlantic League. The 19-year-old southpaw allowed two earned runs over that stretch and has yielded just one run or fewer over his last nine starts, dating back to June 10. -- Rob Terranova

 Boston Red Sox

Jalen Beeks was making strides at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 5-5 mark with a 2.89 ERA in 16 starts, but the Red Sox flipped the 25-year-old starter to Tampa Bay this month for Nathan Eovaldi. So Boston's newest rapidly emerging pitching prospect may be Tanner Houck. Ranked fifth in the organization, Houck has turned a corner over his last three starts for Class A Advanced Salem. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed just one earned run over 18 innings with 19 strikeouts to two walks in that span. He lasted six frames each time out and lowered his ERA almost a full run to 4.32 after hitting a rough patch. Taken 24th overall last year, Houck's control needed improvement, and he's starting to show that in the Carolina League. -- RT

 New York Yankees

The Yankees traded away seven prospects this month, but one guy that they let teams know from the beginning was off-limits is Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Justus Sheffield. The top-ranked man in New York's system rewarded the organization's faith in him by posting five straight quality outings -- dating back to June 27 -- in which he allowed one earned run or fewer and lasted at least 5 1/3 innings each time out. The left-hander made an appearance in the Futures Game in Washington on July 15 and boasted a 3-0 record with a 1.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .188 average for the month. He finished July with 20 whiffs and seven walks in 23 2/3 innings. -- RT

Video: RailRiders' Sheffield fans Allen

 Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have already promoted Willy Adames and Jake Bauers to The Show and traded away No. 14 prospect Justin Williams and 25th-ranked Genesis Cabrera on deadline day to the Cardinals. But the farm still seems bright thanks to the beacon being provided by Wander Franco. Still only 17 years old, Franco was signed out of the Dominican Republic last July and quickly put the Appalachian League on notice just 34 games into his professional career. Franco is hitting .355/.405/.616 with seven dingers for Princeton. He ranks atop the circuit in total bases (85), second in hits (49), third in RBIs (32) and fifth in slugging. The No. 5 Rays prospect has also already hit for a cycle and been named the Appalachian League Offensive Player of the Week (7/15). -- RT

 Toronto Blue Jays

With the flurry of moves that happened this month, perhaps least surprising was the announcement that No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was taking another step closer to The Show and joining Triple-A Buffalo. Although the 19-year-old missed more than a month due to a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, he returned for brief rehab stints in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Advanced Dunedin before rejoining Double-A New Hampshire for seven games on July 19. Guerrero is hitting .399 in 66 games this season overall and led the Eastern League with 83 hits, 60 RBIs, a .667 slugging percentage, 136 total bases, 30 extra-base hits and 18 doubles before his injury. -- RT

AL Central

 Chicago White Sox

It didn't always look like July would be a banner month for Eloy Jimenez. MLB.com's No. 3 overall prospect missed two weeks in the first half of July with a left adductor strain, which held him out of potential participation in the Futures Game as well. But when the right-handed slugger returned on July 15, he showed he was no worse for wear and returned to setting the International League ablaze. Jimenez hit .435/.455/.839 with six homers and seven doubles in 16 games. He had almost twice as many extra-base hits (13) as he did strikeouts (seven) in that time. That's huge in today's game when so many sluggers see their K totals skyrocket. Jimenez has struck out in 10.8 percent of his 111 plate appearances with Triple-A Charlotte so far; his previous low with a single club was 17.1 percent, set with Double-A Birmingham earlier in 2018. He still isn't the contact king in the White Sox system, however. That belongs to first-rounder Nick Madrigal, who debuted on July 5 and has yet to strike out over his first 62 career plate appearances between the Arizona League and Class A Kannapolis. -- Sam Dykstra

Video: Charlotte's Jimenez homers in second straight

 Cleveland Indians

The Indians made a lot of noise when they dealt No. 21 overall prospect Francisco Mejia to the Padres for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Part of the calculus there was that the Tribe didn't see Mejia cracking it as a defensive catcher, especially with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez holding down the position in the Majors. But perhaps the ascendance of No. 24 prospect Eric Haase helped things along. As Mejia moved to the outfield, Haase basically took up full-time catching duties at Triple-A Columbus and absolutely thrived in the role in July. He hit .293/.333/.606 with seven homers, 10 doubles and 30 RBIs in 26 games last month. (No other Triple-A player drove in more than 27 in July.) He's also thrown out 51.0 percent of attempted base stealers on the season, a significant jump from years past and the second-best caught-stealing rate in the IL behind only Logan Moore's 51.2 percent for Lehigh Valley. No one would say Haase could be the all-around hitter that Mejia was for Cleveland, but he's got the pop and arm to carve out in his own role in the organization. -- SD

 Detroit Tigers

The Tigers system is notably loaded with arms, highlighted by the addition of top overall pick Casey Mize, who made his Minor League debut in July, but No. 12 prospect Isaac Paredes is demanding attention for the way he's stood out among position players. The shortstop moved up to Double-A Erie on July 19, joining Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto and Andres Gimenez on the list of Eastern League position players to play in the circuit during their age-19 seasons in 2018. He showed he belonged rather quickly, hitting .389/.467/.500 with a 5/6 K/BB ratio through his first dozen games for the SeaWolves. Including his time at Class A Advanced Lakeland to begin the month, Paredes finished with a .330/.421/.582 line with seven homers and two doubles in 26 July games overall. Acquired from the Cubs before the deadline last year, the Mexico native was thought to be a strong potential hitter but has broken out in the power department with a career-high 13 homers already. His situation got even more interesting at this year's deadline when the Tigers picked up Willi Castro from the Indians for Leonys Martin, giving them three potential Double-A shortstops next to Paredes and No. 19 prospect Sergio Alcantara. Alcantara had started to play second base more since Paredes' arrival, and all three will likely to have to shuffle around some to get ample playing time. Still, having too many middle-infield prospects is one of those good problems for a system hoping to rebuild. -- SD

Video: Erie's Paredes slugs a first-inning grand slam

 Kansas City Royals

Kyle Isbel was already coming off a breakout junior year at UNLV when the Royals took him in the third round at 94th overall in June. Now ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the Kansas City system, the 21-year-old outfielder has showed no signs of slowing down in the Minors. Isbel opened up his career at Rookie-level Idaho Falls before moving up to Class A Lexington on July 19 and hit .376/.453/.602 with three homers, 14 steals and an even 13/13 K/BB ratio through 23 games between both levels. It's true that a college hitter should thrive at the lower levels, but it's been encouraging to see Isbel, who didn't posted an OPS above .850 in either of his first two NCAA seasons, carry his momentum in this way into the pro ranks. His best skill remains his speed, but the Royals would love to see him continue to develop into an all-around offensive weapon as he works his way up the ladder.  -- SD

 Minnesota Twins

Stephen Gonsalves may have dropped out of MLB.com's top-100 prospect ranking, but the 24-year-old left-hander is coming off one of the best months of his professional career, primarily due to his ability to limit hard contact. Gonsalves gave up 17 hits in 30 2/3 innings in July for Triple-A Rochester; only one of those went for extra bases. The Red Wings southpaw limited the 113 hitters he faced to a collective .186 slugging percentage and posted a 0.88 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his five starts last month. He's seen his stock drop because his once-solid control has dropped off a bit -- like when he walked five in six scoreless innings on July 18 -- and the stuff doesn't stand out much beyond his plus changeup. But if Gonsalves, who is on the 40-man roster, can continue to keep IL hitters off-balance in this manner, he should get a couple September looks with the big club when rosters expand. -- SD

AL West

 Houston Astros

Forrest Whitley , who missed the bulk of the first half of the season under a drug-related suspension, was more or less untouchable in three of five June starts, but he recorded only two outs in July before being sidelined again. This time, left oblique discomfort was the issue. He told The San Antonio Express-News on Thursday that the final full week of the month was a good one for him and that he should be back soon. Corpus Christi could use him; Hector Perez was sent to Toronto as part of the Roberto Osuna deal on Monday. On a positive note concerning pitching, it seems like all season long, Class A Advanced Buies Creek has been getting flat-out dominant performances from different pieces of the staff. This month, Brandon Bailey logged four straight scoreless appearances, including a no-hit start of five innings on July 18. Through that stretch, the 2016 sixth-rounder punched out 25 over 22 innings. Cristian Javier continued his strong first full season. There was also a piece of good news on the offensive side: Seth Beer was not slowed in the least by an end-of-June promotion to the Midwest League and is now off to the Carolina League. -- Josh Jackson

 Los Angeles Angels

In a year plum full of Angels prospects taking their game up a notch (what's that? Jo Adell ended the month with Double-A Mobile?), few players around baseball have broken out the way Taylor Ward has, and his July was especially impressive. Through 25 games of his second month with Triple-A Salt Lake, he batted .400/.500/.600 with four homers and seven doubles. That lifted his season average to .352, which was No. 1 among all full-season players, beating out Guerrero, who has dropped below the qualifying standards. Meanwhile, one Bees teammate who can't exactly be called a prospect -- Eric Young Jr. -- also demanded attention with a strong July, hitting around .400 and seeing approximately half his knocks go for extra bases. He was rewarded with a promotion Friday. The Halos added two upper-level bullpen arms in Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez from the Red Sox in the Ian Kinsler deal.-- JJ

Video: Salt Lake's Ward blasts his seventh homer

 Oakland Athletics

Jesus Luzardo got a lot of publicity in July, and for good reason. The 20-year-old left-hander posted a 0.69 ERA and 0.65 WHIP with 26 strikeouts and only four walks over five starts (26 innings) and was the World team starter at the Futures Game. Now, the A's have announced their top prospect will make his next start at Triple-A Nashville. But don't sleep on No. 26 prospect Wyatt Marks at Class A Beloit either. After posting a 5.22 ERA in May and 4.33 ERA in June, the 23-year-old right-hander was much, much better in July with a 0.87 mark, 0.87 WHIP, 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 31 innings. A reliever during his final season at Louisiana-Lafayette, Marks has been moved back to a starting role with the A's, and the transition has taken some time. But he certainly improved his chances of sticking as a starter over the last four weeks. -- SD

 Seattle Mariners

If Kyle Lewis stays healthy but averages .200 from now through September, this will have been a successful season. After right knee problems limited the 2016 No. 11 overall pick to 79 games over his first two seasons, cut his Arizona Fall League assignment short after two games last October and delayed his 2018 debut until May, he's played in 58 games since -- not counting the California League All-Star Game and Futures Game. The tooled-up outfielder was promoted to Double-A Arkansas on July 21, and although he's struggled in the Texas League (he's batting .152 over his first nine games), the results matter far less than the fact that he's there, playing. Besides, the Travelers have had lots of offensive help from Joey Curletta, who bashed a system-best eight homers while posting a July on-base percentage of .366. -- JJ

 Texas Rangers

In acquiring Taylor Hearn from the Pirates in Monday night's Keone Kela trade, the Rangers added a third 70-grade fastball into their Minor League system. The owners of the other two -- Class A Short Season Spokane's Hans Crouse and Class A Hickory's Alex Speas -- are each enjoying remarkable seasons. So is Hearn, for that matter. The lefty had a 3.12 ERA and 107 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .198 average over 19 Eastern League starts amounting to 104 innings. He's been assigned to Double-A Frisco. Down on the Crawdads, 2017 first-rounder Bubba Thompson put together far-and-away his best month of pro ball yet, batting .349/.389/.500 with 15 steals in 18 July attempts. He entered the month with eight steals in nine attempts. -- JJ

NL East

 Atlanta Braves

As the prospect train continues to roll to Atlanta, the Braves' top active prospect kicked it into high gear in July. In four starts with Double-A Mississippi, Kyle Wright posted his best monthly ERA of the season (2.33) with 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 27 frames. The right-hander began to pitch deeper into games, going at least six innings in four straight starts for the first time in his career. Before getting promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on July 30, Wright completed his longest pro start by turning in eight frames. While an innings limit could halt some of that progress, given it's the first full season for MLB.com's No. 25 overall prospect, efficiency should still be a theme as he adjusts to the Minors' highest level. -- Kelsie Heneghan

Video: Kyle Wright K's 13th

 Miami Marlins

The training wheels are coming off for Trevor Rogers, and he is cruising. After not pitching following his first-round selection last summer, the 20-year-old began his pro career in late May with Class A Greensboro. There definitely proved to be an adjustment period, but all that seemed to be put behind him when Rogers entered July. The southpaw bounced back from a 9.15 ERA in his first six starts with a stellar last month, going 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33 2/3 innings over six outings. And through all the learning curves, Rogers remains a punchout machine, averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. -- KH

 New York Mets

July has been a tale of two Jarred Kelenics. The No. 6 overall pick in June's Draft started off the month hitting .292 with three homers and 14 RBIs in his first 13 games as he made the leap from the Gulf Coast League to Rookie-level Kingsport. But it hasn't been so rosy since. Kelenic finished the month hitting .085 with no long balls and three RBIs in his final 13 games for the K-Mets. The 19-year-old isn't striking out more -- he just seems to be having trouble getting balls to fall. Mets fans will look for their new No. 3 prospect to find his rhythm once again in the final month of the season.-- KH

 Philadelphia Phillies

In his first full season, Adam Haseley has gotten better and better each month. And in July, he kept that progress rolling across a midseason promotion. After playing with Mickey Moniak in Class A Advanced Clearwater, the 2017 first-round pick leapfrogged his 2016 counterpart and got the call to Double-A Reading first. Haseley posted a composite .330 average with nine extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and 10 walks in 26 games across two levels. What's more, the Phillies' No. 4 prospect is striking out less often as he adjusts to Eastern League pitching. The 22-year-old UVA product has never had the flashiest tools, but he's making it work, posting a .306/.364/.434 slash line in 98 games this season. -- KH

 Washington Nationals

Victor Robles is back. After injuring his elbow while trying to make a catch four games into the season, baseball's No. 5 overall prospect was sidelined until kicking off his rehab on July 7 in the Gulf Coast League. In eight Rookie ball games, Robles went 6-for-18 (.333). After three hits in four games with Class A Short Season Auburn, the 21-year-old got to return to the Triple-A Syracuse lineup. He got back to his top prospect ways immediately, going 3-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs, a walk and two runs scored. -- KH

Video: Robles homers in first game back with Chiefs

NL Central

 Chicago Cubs

Oscar De La Cruz's 80-game suspension was a rough way to start July for the Cubs' Minor League arms, especially in a system that already lost top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay for the season, but several other Chicago pitchers took a step forward last month. Duane Underwood Jr. bounced back from a brutal June at Triple-A Iowa to post a 3.86 ERA in July, including three straight starts allowing one run or fewer to close out the month. Keegan Thompson and Cory Abbott struggled after June promotions to Double-A Tennessee and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, respectively, but Thompson posted a 1.48 ERA in July while Abbott pitched to a 2.91 mark, with neither allowing a home run. -- Chris Tripodi

 Cincinnati Reds

Any Reds fan who tuned into the Futures Game two weeks ago knows the future is bright in Cincinnati. Taylor Trammell, the team's top active hitting prospect with Nick Senzel hurt, won MVP honors after homering off Kieran Lovegrove -- who hadn't allowed a home run all season -- and tripling as the U.S. topped the World team. Top pitching prospect Hunter Greene threw 19 fastballs in the game, all of which topped 100 mph; his fastest clocked in at 103.1. A week and a half later, Greene set a record for the fastest pitch in the history of Dayton's Fifth Third Field park, hitting 102 mph to break a record previously held by himself, Aroldis Chapman and Aneurys Zabala-- CT

Video: Dayton's Greene throwing heat

 Milwaukee Brewers

Corey Ray hasn't had many memorable moments in the Minors since being taken fifth overall in the 2016 Draft, but July was certainly a month to remember for the former Louisville star. The 23-year-old outfielder led the Minors with 11 home runs, doubling his season total, and his 13 stolen bases tied him for ninth across all leagues. Ray was the only Minor Leaguer to hit at least eight home runs and steal at least six bases in July, and he hit .282 with a .993 OPS, the latter of which represented a career high for any month. There are still holes in Ray's swing, as evidenced by his 41 strikeouts in 28 games, but the above-average power and plus speed that made him a top-five pick are obviously still intact. -- CT

Video: Ray smacks his 22nd homer for Biloxi

 Pittsburgh Pirates

This offseason, the Pirates traded veteran stalwarts Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen to jumpstart their rebuild, getting four prospects and two Major Leaguers in return. Fast forward less than seven months later, and Pittsburgh is packaging prospects and young players to make a run at the playoffs. Taylor Hearn was shipped to Texas with a player to be named later in exchange for Keone Kela late Monday night after posting a 3.12 ERA and 107-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 104 innings at Double-A Altoona. And while neither Austin Meadows nor Tyler Glasnow still qualifies as a prospect, both are less-than-seasoned big leaguers who were included in Tuesday's blockbuster for Rays right-hander Chris Archer. Pittsburgh's offseason trades netted them outfielders Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin, both of whom have enjoyed productive seasons and rank among the organization's top 15 prospects, and their presence likely made it easier for the Pirates to deal their top outfield prospect and remain confident in their system-wide depth at the position. -- CT

 St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have continued to churn through the upper levels of their Minor League system, but what they got out of that strategy during a two-day stretch in July was something special. Fourteen-plus months after taking a line drive off the head, an injury that cost him most of the 2017 season, Daniel Poncedeleon was called up for his big league debut. The 26-year-old right-hander no-hit the Reds for seven innings before getting pulled from the game, which St. Louis eventually lost. Austin Gomber made his first career Major League start the following day and picked up where Poncedeleon left off, holding Cincinnati hitless through 6 1/3 innings. Both are back to working out of the bullpen now, but future starts should come their way later in the season; it'll just be tough to match what they did this month. -- CT

NL West

 Arizona Diamondbacks

A pleasant surprise in the D-backs system has been the improvement of Jasrado Chisholm, the organization's No. 2 prospect. In 76 games at Class A Kane County to start the year, the shortstop batted just .244/.311/.472, but Arizona saw enough to promote him to Class A Advanced Visalia. Though it is a limited sample size, Chisholm fared better early in the hitter-friendly California League, posting a .289/.347/.667 slash line through his first 11 games at the level and belting four homers after hitting 15 in Kane County. Arizona hopes its top prospect Jon Duplantier is on the way back to full strength. Duplantier didn't start his season until April 21 with Double-A Jackson but went 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA in seven starts before being sidelined in late May. He's now back with the Generals after two starts in a rehab assignment with the Rookie-level AZL D-backs. -- Tyler Maun

 Colorado Rockies

Save for a deal for big league reliever Seunghwan Oh that cost them now-No. 26 Blue Jays prospect Forrest Wall, the Rockies were mostly quiet at the deadline, choosing to hang on to their still-considerable prospect core and pursue their first National League West division title with the group they've already built. Colorado's biggest prospect name at last reached the final frontier of the Minor Leagues as the deadline approached. MiLB.com reported on July 29 that baseball's No. 6 prospect Brendan Rodgers was headed up to Triple-A Albuquerque. In 95 games with Double-A Hartford, the 21-year-old batted .275/.342/.493 with 42 extra-base hits and 62 RBIs. With All-Star Trevor Story entrenched at shortstop and two-time Gold Glove winner and former batting champion D.J. LeMahieu at second, Rodgers should be given ample time at finishing school. -- TM

Video: Rodgers walks it off for Hartford

 Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles reshaped its system with the trade that landed Manny Machado for the five-time reigning NL West champs. The Dodgers shipped out five prospects in a trade headlined by baseball's No. 57 overall, outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The deal didn't force Los Angeles to part ways with many of its other top talents, though. Prospects like outfielder Alex Verdugo, catchers Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith, and pitchers Dustin May and Dennis Santana remain in the system. Verdugo continues to wreck PCL pitching, batting .349/.396/.506 in 67 Triple-A games this season, and he's started discovering his groove in a couple of big league stints, as well. Over 14 games in the Majors, Verdugo is now a 280/.345/.440 hitter.-- TM

 San Diego Padres

The Padres now have eight of MLB.com's top 100 overall prospects after they reeled in Francisco Mejia in a deal with the Tribe. Though Mejia was rumored to be trade bait to be possibly shipped out of San Diego, the catcher stuck and will be in Triple-A El Paso, at least in the short term. The backstop has adjusted fine to the Pacific Coast League, posting a three-hit performance in just his fourth game in the circuit. Mejia's development will be interesting for the Padres, who already have a catcher they like at the Major League level in Austin Hedges. With one of the game's most talented pitching groups in development, Mejia's bat-first profile could spell the perfect tandem with Hedges' impressive glove in America's Finest City. -- TM

Video: Chihuahua's Mejia ropes leadoff double

 San Francisco Giants

The second-overall pick in June's Draft, catcher Joey Bart has had an impressive professional bow. San Francisco gave Bart the largest up-front signing bonus for a position player in the history of the Draft at $7,025,000, and with lofty expectations to one day succeed Buster Posey in the Bay Area, the Georgia Tech product has put a solid start under his belt. Bart needed just six games with the Rookie-level AZL Giants to earn a promotion to Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer. With the Volcanoes, he went yard nine times and added nine doubles to go along with 24 RBIs in his first 21 Northwest League games. Bart's bat is impressive, but his defensive presence and arm are equally so. There's a long way to go until he cracks a Major League roster, but with an advanced set of tools as a college product, Bart could climb quickly for a catcher. -- TM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More