Prospect Roundup: Games of July 1

Astros' James racks up more K's; Cease gets back on track

Josh James has posted a 3.14 ERA over 71 2/3 innings at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno. (Tammy Tucker/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra and Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | July 2, 2018 12:40 PM

Theme of the day

Milestones for the Cardinals, injuries for the White Sox: Two different systems, two different ways to open the month of July. The Cards got to celebrate a cycle by Luke Voit with Triple-A Memphis -- one that occurred over two days due to a suspended game -- and the second triple play of the season turned by Double-A Springfield. The Sox had to spend the day worrying about top prospect Eloy Jimenez, who exited Triple-A Charlotte's game with an apparent leg injury, and No. 3 prospect Luis Robert, who was placed on Class A Advanced Winston-Salem's disabled list with the same injured left thumb that delayed his season debut. Between the Futures Game, the Triple-A All-Star Game and upcoming Trade Deadline, so much can happen in July, and these two organizations learned in that very different ways Sunday.

Video: Redbirds' Voit completes cycle with homer

Who stayed hot

Astros RHP Josh James, Triple-A Fresno: 5 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K, 104 pitches, 62 strikes -- It wasn't the most efficient outing from the Astros' No. 30 prospect, but that can happen with K totals like this. The 25-year-old right-hander fanned double-digit batters for the third time in his last five starts with Fresno and is now tied with Dodgers prospect Dean Kremer for the Minor League lead with his 114 punchouts in 71 2/3 innings between Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi. James' 38.5 percent strikeout rate is tops by itself among all Minor League pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings. A 34th-round pick in 2014, James has made a huge jump in effectiveness, thanks to the way he's dealt with previously undiagnosed sleep apnea, and with his plus fastball and good slider, he could end up helping the Major League club down the stretch.

Video: Fresno's James strikes out 12

Who needed this one

White Sox RHP Dylan Cease, Double-A Birmingham: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 102 pitches, 66 strikes -- The White Sox got some much-needed good news in the form of Cease's second Double-A outing. The first one didn't go so great with the 22-year-old right-hander giving up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in just 4 2/3 innings at Montgomery on June 25. On Sunday, he turned things around with a quality start at home against Jackson. Including his spell at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, this was the fourth time in 15 starts this season that MLB.com's No. 42 overall prospect has completed at least seven innings. Cease earned his promotion to the Southern League after posting a 2.89 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 82 strikeouts over 71 2/3 innings at the lower level. It just took his second start for his potential to come through in Double-A.

Video: Barons' Cease fans Leyba for seventh strikeout

The unexpected

Blue Jays 2B Samad Taylor, Class A Lansing: 0-for-3, 2 RB, R, BB, HBP, 4 SB -- The Blue Jays' No. 13 prospect didn't have a hit Sunday, but that didn't hold him back from swiping a career-best four bags in Lansing's 8-4 win at Great Lakes. How? He got his first steal after a walk in the third inning, stole two more bags after reaching on an error in the fifth and rounded out the set with another steal of second after reaching on a fielder's choice in the seventh. A 10th-round pick by the Indians in 2016, Taylor has earned average grades for his run tool, but he's been plenty aggressive in the Midwest League, where he ranks third with 26 thefts on the season.

Best matchup

Griffin Canning vs. Jeff McNeil: It hasn't been a fun introduction to the Pacific Coast League for the Angels' No. 5 prospect, and it didn't get any easier Sunday. The Salt Lake right-hander allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks in just four frames during the Bees' 7-2 loss. McNeil, who is batting .343 with a 1.035 OPS between Vegas and Double-A Binghamton, walked against Canning in the first inning, hit a two-run single in the third and grounded out in the fourth. McNeil has hits in each of his last 13 games and is batting .400/.456/.600 with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs in 15 games since joining the 51s. 

Who strengthened their promotion case

D-backs RHP Taylor Widener, Double-A Jackson: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 99 pitches, 63 strikes -- Acquired from the Yankees in February, Widener is making a strong push toward the Majors. The highest ERA the righty has posted in any month this season was April's 3.05, and he got July started on the right note with a strong six-inning showing for Jackson. The No. 4 D-backs prospect leads the Southern League in opponents' average (.204), ranks second in WHIP (1.05) and strikeouts (101) and checks in third with a 2.71 ERA. Widener's strikeout rate is higher than last year's (31.7% vs. 26.4%), and his walk rate is lower (7.8% vs. 10.2%). The 9.83 baserunners per nine innings he averages are the second-fewest among Southern League starters. With the Triple-A All-Star Game nine days away, Widener may be soon headed to Reno in the Pacific Coast League.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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