Theme of the day
Living up to expectations: Sometimes prospects get overhyped as the baseball world focuses almost exclusively on their strengths, but it's still comforting to see so many of the game's top Minor Leaguers do what they do best on a given night. After initially struggling in the International League, Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller tossed six strong innings for Indianapolis to capture his first Triple-A win. Over in the Pacific Coast League, Peter Alonso -- one of the Minors' best middle-of-the-order producers in 2018 -- became the first player in either the Majors or Minors to reach 100 RBIs this season with a strong night for Triple-A Las Vegas. Red Sox prospects Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec's strengths are their power tools, and they exhibited those by each going deep twice for Double-A Portland.
Video: Indianapolis' Keller records his sixth strikeout
Who stayed hot
Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 86 pitches, 51 strikes -- Sheffield's gem against Norfolk on Thursday was his seventh straight start in which he allowed one or zero earned runs. Since that run began on June 27, the Yankees' top prospect leads all Triple-A pitchers with a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings. He now owns a 2.16 mark with a 1.11 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in 79 innings overall with the RailRiders since his promotion from Double-A Trenton on May 6. If things had worked out schedule-wise, New York likely would've preferred to have given Sheffield his Major League debut over Chance Adams last Saturday, but with the way the 22-year-old southpaw continues to pitch in the International League, he's well on his way to a look in September at the latest, either for spot starts or long relief. Sheffield -- who has two plus pitches in his fastball and slider and another above-average offering in his changeup -- is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, so pushing up his 40-man roster addition won't hurt the Yankees much anyway.
Video: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Sheffield gets the K
Who needed this one
Braves LF Travis Demeritte, Double-A Mississippi: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, K -- The saving grace for the Braves' No. 23 prospect in terms of his offensive has always been his power, and he showed that in spades Thursday night. It was Demeritte's first two-homer game of the season and gave him 14 long balls on the season through 107 contests in his return to Mississippi. Unfortunately, the right-handed slugger hasn't shown much growth at the plate in his repeat of the Southern League; he's once again been a league-average hitter with a .214/.310/.403 line and 100 wRC+. With a 28.8 percent strikeout rate and 11.8 percent walk rate, Demeritte continues to be a bit of a three-outcome offensive performer. The Braves have moved him from second base (where he was impressive with the glove) to left field almost exclusively this season, and while he has the tools to make it work out there, the pressure on his bat will be even heavier. His first foray into Triple-A will have to come in 2019, but it's no given, unless Demeritte carries Thursday's performance into the rest of August.
Video: Demeritte smacks second homer for Braves
Rangers RHP Jonathan Hernandez, Double-A Frisco: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 92 pitches, 53 strikes -- The Rangers' No. 6 prospect carried a 6.46 ERA through his first nine starts with Frisco into Thursday's start at Arkansas, so even though there had been some recent signs of improvement, this was quite the jump for Hernandez, who sports two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider. More on the gem in Marisa Ingemi's story here.
Video: RoughRiders' Hernandez twirls six scoreless
Brusdar Graterol vs. Drew Waters: Graterol and Waters have both placed themselves among MLB.com's top 100 prospects in their age-19 seasons, and on Thursday, their paths crossed for the second time in a week in the Florida State League with Florida hosting Fort Myers. (They also faced each other last Friday.) The Miracle right-hander decidedly had the advantage this time against the switch-hitting Fire Frogs leadoff man, getting him to ground out to second in the first inning, line out to second in the third and strike out swinging in the fifth. Waters is 1-for-6 with a strikeout against Graterol in their two meetings this season. The two may have to wait until 2019 at the earliest to see each other again. The Twins and Braves affiliates aren't scheduled to face each other again in 2018 after this series, and only the former has a chance to compete in the FSL playoffs.
Who strengthened their promotion case
Rays SS Wander Franco, Rookie-level Princeton: 3-for-5, 2B, RBI, 2 R -- His age is the only reason anyone might take pause over the mention that Franco should be playing at a higher level. The 17-year-old shortstop pushed his season line to .363/.413/.614 in his 42nd game with Princeton on Thursday. His 62 hits and 105 total bases are both tops in the league, and he's walked more times (15) than he's struck out (12) over 189 plate appearances. There simply isn't much left for the young switch-hitter to prove in the Appalachian League. The Rays may want to keep him in the circuit, however, with Princeton holding a 1 1/2-game lead in the East Division, but should they choose to challenge the game's No. 40 overall prospect, it's worth noting that Class A Bowling Green has already clinched a Midwest League playoff spot and will also have plenty to play for in the coming weeks.