Theme of the dayPowering up at the final level: Several of MLB.com's top-100 prospects blasted Triple-A pitching on Thursday night. Nick Gordon (No. 68 overall) hit his first Triple-A home run for Rochester. Francisco Mejía (No. 16) collected multiple hits in his sixth straight game with Columbus. Kyle Tucker (No.
Theme of the dayPowering up at the final level:
Several of MLB.com's top-100 prospects blasted Triple-A pitching on Thursday night. Nick Gordon
(No. 68 overall) hit his first Triple-A home run
for Rochester. Francisco Mejía
(No. 16) collected multiple hits
in his sixth straight game with Columbus. Kyle Tucker
(No. 9) extended his hitting streak to 17 games
and went deep for Fresno. Tyler O'Neill
(No. 52) homered in his third straight contest
for Memphis, marking the fourth time this season that he's accomplished such a run. The power was on in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.
Who stayed hotTwins 1B/OF Brent Rooker, Double-A Chattanooga: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, K --
The Twins challenged the 2017 35th overall pick with an opening assignment at Double-A, and though it's taken time for Rooker to adjust to the Southern League, he's caught fire in June. This performance at Tennessee, which included his second two-homer game of the season, pushed his June line to .322/.394/.678 over 22 games. His 16 extra-base hits in June are tops among all Double-A hitters while his 1.072 OPS ranks third. Rooker was a breakout star in his redshirt junior year at Mississippi State, and given that he's 23, the jump to Double-A in his first full season wasn't inappropriate. But after Rooker hit .250 with just a .638 OPS in April, it seemed possible that he was in over his head. Instead, he's adjusted to the level and has gotten back to showing his strength -- plus power.
Who needed this onePadres LHP MacKenzie Gore, Class A Fort Wayne: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 81 pitches, 50 strikes --
It's been a season of fits and starts for the Padres' No. 2 prospect. Gore has gone on the disabled list twice with blisters on his left middle finger, limiting him to only seven starts with Fort Wayne. This outing at Lake County was one of his best, however. Gore's four frames marked his longest start of the season, and his five strikeouts also set a new 2018 high. It wasn't the most efficient outing from the 19-year-old left-hander, who needed 81 pitches to get through the four innings, but it's a promising sign that he was allowed to run up his pitch count. Gore now owns a 5.40 ERA with 26 strikeouts and five walks in just 20 innings with the TinCaps this season.
The unexpectedRays SS Wander Franco, Rookie-level Princeton: 4-for-5, HR, 3B, 3 RBI, R --
Few people doubt Franco's offensive potential. MLB.com ranked him as the No. 3 international prospect in the 2017-18 class, behind only Shohei Ohtani
and Julio Pablo Martinez
, and the Rays signed him for $3.825 million out of the Dominican Republic because of his ability to make strong contact as a switch-hitter. All that said, Franco is only 17, making him the second-youngest player in the Appalachian League, and is making his stateside debut. Struggles are to be expected of a player who skipped over the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League complex circuits. Instead, Franco looks like a seasoned veteran. This was his second straight game with a homer, and his four hits against Bristol mark a new career high. The shortstop is 11-for-32 (.344) with two homers, a triple and five RBIs in his first eight games with Princeton.
Best matchupTriston McKenzie vs. Ryan Mountcastle:
The Indians' No. 2 prospect is fully back up to speed after missing two months with forearm soreness, lasting a season-best seven innings while allowing three earned runs on six hits and a walk. The 20-year-old right-hander got to measure himself up against Mountcastle (MLB.com's No. 83 overall prospect) and acquitted himself well against the right-handed slugger. Mountcastle struck out on a foul tip in the first inning, singled to left in the fourth and grounded out to shortstop in the sixth against McKenzie. The two have a history after seeing each other in the Carolina League last season, and Mountcastle is now 3-for-10 with a strikeout and no extra-base hits against McKenzie. Assuming they stay healthy and remain in the Eastern League, the two could meet again when Akron hosts Bowie at the end of July.
Who strengthened their promotion caseRockies RHP Peter Lambert, Double-A Hartford: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 94 pitches, 65 strikes --
A second-round pick in 2015, Lambert has yet to be promoted within a season through his first four campaigns in the Minors, but it's clear that he has little left to prove with Hartford. The Rockies' No. 3 prospect has allowed exactly one earned run in each of his last five starts and has lasted at least seven innings in each of them. His 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 92 2/3 innings pitched and 3.4 percent walk rate each lead the Eastern League. A jump to the Pacific Coast League and Triple-A Albuquerque in particular is a tough test for any pitcher, but at this point, it's one that Lambert, who has been given above-average grades for his fastball, curveball and changeup, has certainly earned. A promotion following the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 11 might make the most sense.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.