Prospect Roundup: Games of May 23

D-backs' Clarke pushes for MLB debut; Yanks' Sheffield returns

Taylor Clarke has held opposing batters to a .211 average over five starts in May. (Reno Aces)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | May 24, 2018 12:10 PM

Theme of the day

O, what a relief: It's a rough time to be a fan of the Baltimore Orioles. The Major League club owns the worst record in the game at 15-34 and sits 19 games back in the American League East. At least two prospects provided some momentary relief Wednesday. Wilson Garcia had the performance of the night in the Minors by going 4-for-6 with two homers and seven RBIs in Class A Advanced Frederick's 16-5 win over Salem. No. 15 prospect Zac Lowther bolstered Class A Delmarva by fanning 10 over six one-hit innings in his latest gem for the Shorebirds. Two strong performances in the lower levels of the Minors might not be much, but O's supporters will take whatever they can get these days.

Who stayed hot

Astros OF J.J. Matijevic, Class A Advanced Buies Creek: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R -- Last year's 75th overall pick burned through the Midwest League, hitting .354/.446/.708 with three homers in 13 games with Class A Quad Cities, and hasn't cooled down since his promotion to Buies Creek on May 8. He went deep twice Wednesday -- his second two-homer game of the season -- and is now hitting .333/.351/.685 with 10 extra-base hits over his first 13 Carolina League games. An impressive hitter at the University of Arizona, Matijevic stumbled out of the blocks with a .228 average and .674 OPS over 59 games last year. The left-handed slugger, who is transitioning to left field after playing mostly first base in college, seems back on track with a 191 wRC+ over 113 plate appearances -- second-highest in the Astros system behind only J.D. Davis's 194 for Triple-A Fresno.

Who needed this one

Yankees LHP Justus Sheffield, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, 70 pitches, 43 strikes -- What's the best way to prove an 11-day disabled list stint due to shoulder stiffness was no big deal? Four scoreless innings against a team with a rehabbing former MVP -- in this case, Dustin Pedroia -- should do the trick. The Yankees' No. 3 prospect has now tossed 7 2/3 scoreless frames over his last two starts, having exited his last outing early due to the shoulder issue, and owns a 1.46 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings overall with the RailRiders. Barring any other health-related hiccups, the 22-year-old southpaw remains on course for a Major League debut this summer.

The unexpected

Cubs RHP Alex Lange, Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K -- It's not that the Cubs' No. 5 prospect isn't capable of tossing a gem, though this was his first scoreless outing of the season in his eighth start. But he did enter Wednesday's outing with nine strikeouts in his previous three outings combined, and his previous season high in the K department was just five. Lange was a first-round pick last year out of LSU on the strength of his plus curveball and above-average fastball, and he needs both to keep the strikeouts coming. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 3.64 ERA with 36 strikeouts and eight walks in 42 innings.

Video: Pelicans' Lange picks up 10th strikeout

Best matchup

Cal Quantrill vs. Keibert Ruiz: The Dodgers' No. 3 prospect extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the sixth inning, but the Padres' No. 4 prospect largely kept him quiet, limiting him to only one hit in three at-bats. The outing was one of Quantrill's best -- he was charged with just one earned on six hits while fanning six and walking none in 5 2/3 innings. (He had allowed 13 earned runs combined in his previous two starts.) With the single that extended his streak, Ruiz bumped his season line to .291/.342/.447 through 35 games -- an impressive run for a player who was one of two 19-year-olds to open the season in the Texas League. Tulsa and San Antonio play each other next week, making it likely these two top-100 prospects will meet again soon.

Who strengthened their promotion case

D-backs RHP Taylor Clarke, Triple-A Reno: 5 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 pitches, 54 strikes -- With Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker all on the disabled list, the D-backs have been on the lookout for rotation help, with their latest option being veteran right-hander Clay Buchholz. But the club's No. 7 prospect is looking more and more like a strong candidate with each passing start. After positing a 7.43 ERA over five starts in April, Clarke has been impressive in May. The 25-year-old right-hander owns a 2.43 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with 35 strikeouts in five starts (29 2/3 innings) this month. Those 35 K's are the second-most among Pacific Coast League pitchers this month. With a plus fastball, solid slider and usually impressive control, Clarke has typically shown the stuff of a No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues, and may soon get a chance to prove it.

Others of note

Athletics C Sean Murphy, Double-A Midland: 3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB -- Known as one of the best defensive catching prospects in the game, Murphy is also impressing offensively in his return to the Texas League, where he hit just .209 with a .597 OPS in 53 games last season. The A's No. 6 prospect is hitting .324/.368/.559 and leads the league with 20 doubles through 36 games.

Rays OF Jesus Sanchez, Class A Advanced Charlotte: 3-for-5, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R -- The Rays' No. 4 prospect can't stop hitting. Sanchez is now batting .372 over 18 games this month, a run that's pushed his season average up to .358 -- second-best in the Florida State League. He still rarely walks, with only four free passes in 167 plate appearances, but it's tough not to get excited about what the 20-year-old is doing in a league not known for its offense.

Braves OF Drew Waters, Class A Rome: 3-for-3, 3B, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R, BB, SB -- This was the No. 18 Braves prospect's second three-hit game of the season, but this time all three knocks went for extra bases. Waters was taken in the second round of last year's Draft for his plus run and fielding tools, and he's coming around offensively. He's hitting .319/.385/.660 with nine extra-base hits in 12 games this month.

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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