Prospect Roundup: Games of June 20

Keller turns in another quality start; Jackson tees off twice

Mitch Keller owns a 3.04 ERA in 112 2/3 innings with Double-A Altoona between 2017 and 2018. (Terrance Williams/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | June 21, 2018 12:30 PM

Theme of the day

Welcome back: Wednesday's theme was multi-faceted. First, it applies to the biggest story of the night: Randy Cesar returning to the Double-A Corpus Christi lineup after missing six games with a sore thumb and extending his hitting streak to 37 games, tying the Texas League record in the process. But it also applies to Pirates No. 3 prospect Shane Baz, who made his season debut with five scoreless innings for Rookie-level Bristol. There were quite a few happy returns in the Minors on Wednesday.

Video: Hooks' Cesar extends hitting streak

Who stayed hot

Pirates RHP Mitch Keller, Double-A Altoona: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 94 pitches, 62 strikes -- This was the fourth straight quality start for MLB.com's No. 12 prospect and his seventh straight that lasted at least six innings. In his last four outings, Keller has gone 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. He now owns a 3.00 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go with a 70/30 K/BB ratio through 78 frames on the season. The Eastern League All-Star Game isn't until July 11, but it seems fair to say Keller won't be around in Altoona much longer after that, given his track record of consistency. (Fun fact: the Pirates' top prospect also notched his first career RBI in the Curve's 5-1 win at Richmond.)

Video: Altoona pitcher Keller plates run

Who needed this one

Pirates RHP Luis Escobar, Class A Advanced Bradenton: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 77 pitches, 51 strikes -- Staying in the same system, Pittsburgh's No. 11 prospect was coming off a rough outing in which he allowed six earned runs on five hits and four walks while striking out no one in three innings. On Wednesday, he came much closer to his true potential. Escobar's scoreless start against Clearwater was his first zero-laden outing since May 1, a stretch of seven starts. The 22-year-old right-hander has been praised for his fastball-curveball-changeup mix, but his issues with command can hold him back. That wasn't the case Wednesday, with 77 pitches in six frames speaking to his efficiency. Escobar owns a 4.06 ERA with 58 strikeouts and 31 walks in 68 2/3 innings this season, and he'll need his walk rate to drop from 10.9 percent.

Video: Escobar gets sixth K for Marauders

The unexpected

Dodgers 2B/SS Drew Jackson, Double-A Tulsa: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R -- The Dodgers' No. 24 prospect hadn't homered in his previous 27 games before going deep twice in Tulsa's 7-1 win against Springfield. It was the first career two-homer game for Jackson, whom Los Angeles took in the fifth round out of Stanford back in 2015. The 24-year-old middle infielder is known primarily for his plus speed and has never been shown much power, but he seems comfortable at Tulsa's ONEOK Field, where he's hit five of his seven homers this season. He's also slugging .566 in 25 games at home compared to just .371 in 29 road games. Jackson is batting .256/.338/.461 with seven homers and 11 steals in 54 games this season.

Video: Tulsa's Jackson homers for second time in game

Best matchup

Michael Kopech vs. Francisco Mejia: Earlier this week, the Roundup noted how rare it is to see two top-10 prospects face each other, as Forrest Whitley and Fernando Tatis Jr. did on Monday. On Wednesday, two top-11 prospects crossed paths in Kopech (No. 8) and Mejia (No. 11), though without many fireworks. Mejia reached on an error by the second baseman in the first inning, grounded out to first base in the third and singled on a ground ball up the middle off Kopech in the fifth. The Charlotte starter earned the win after allowing three runs (two earned) in five innings but struggled again with control by walking four. Mejia is 1-for-5 with two walks in his two games facing Kopech this season.

Who strengthened their promotion case

Athletics C Sean Murphy, Double-A Midland: 3-for-3, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 BB -- MLB.com's No. 92 overall prospect continues to improve offensively in his second season with Midland. Murphy reached base in all five of his plate appearances yesterday and now has a .346/.435/.635 line in 15 June games. After hitting just .209 with a .547 OPS in 53 Texas League games in 2017, Murphy has improved those numbers to .315 and .905 in his first 56 contests this year. Known mostly for his defensive work behind the plate, a new challenge should be coming soon for the 23-year-old. A version of Murphy that provides value at the plate as well as with his glove and arm would be a huge development for Oakland.

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

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