Prospect Roundup: Games of July 17

Astros' Martin stays hot with four hits; Braves' Sims fans 11 again

Jason Martin has hit 13 homers and stolen 13 bases this season between Class A Advanced and Double-A. (Tammy Tucker/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | July 18, 2017 12:40 PM

Mariners OF Tyler O'Neill, Triple-A Tacoma: 3-for-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R -- Seattle's No. 2 prospect put to bed any worries that his hot July was about to cool off by following up an 0-for-5, four-strikeout Sunday with a powerful Monday. O'Neill has seen his OPS rise with every passing month in his first season at Triple-A, and he's produced a .973 OPS with four homers and nine RBIs in 12 games in July. Since the beginning of June, he owns a .266/.367/.531 line with 10 homers, eight doubles and 28 RBIs in 28 contests -- he entered that stretch at just .216/.288/.384. His recent performance is closer to what was expected out of the recently turned 22-year-old, who hit 56 long balls over his previous two seasons. Consistent contact continues to be an issue with a 27.8 percent strikeout rate that's ninth-highest in the Pacific Coast League, but even that's below his 28.4 career percentage. With a 96 wRC+ on the season, O'Neill remains below league average offensively in the PCL, but he's trending in the right direction.

Video: The Rainiers' O'Neill hits his 15th Triple-A homer

Braves RHP Lucas Sims, Triple-A Gwinnett: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR, 102 pitches, 64 strikes -- The Braves' No. 18 prospect set a career high with 11 strikeouts over six innings on June 26 at Toledo. Three weeks later, he matched it in an 8-4 loss to Lehigh Valley. Sims leads International League pitchers with 115 strikeouts in 103 1/3 frames and ranks third among all Triple-A pitchers with a 27.3 percent strikeout rate. He's also improved his control, bringing his walk rate down from 14.6 percent at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 to just 7.6 percent with Gwinnett this time around. That's big for a pitcher whose control woes once seemed to have him headed to the bullpen. However, other problems have popped up, namely his inability to keep the ball in the yard. Sims' 19 home runs allowed are second-most in the IL, leading to a 4.01 and 4.55 FIP that doesn't jibe with his strikeout and walk totals. The road remains rocky for the 23-year-old right-hander, but as he's shown recently, the building blocks for a starter are still there.

Reds 2B Shed Long, Double-A Pensacola: 3-for-3, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 R, BB -- The Reds' No. 13 prospect was in the discussion for top hitter in the Florida State League with a .312/.380/.543 line and 13 homers in 62 games at Class A Advanced Daytona before a June 22 promotion to Pensacola. It has not been the same story in the Southern League -- that is, until Monday. Long had only eight hits in his first 20 games and no multi-hit performances before flirting with the cycle and reaching base four times in a 5-2 win over Mississippi. It may be taking Long some time to figure out Double-A arms, but don't be surprised if the hits start coming more consistently in the coming weeks -- his .184 BABIP simply won't hold that low. Parts of Long's game could use some work -- his defense at the keystone, for instance -- but his hit tool shouldn't be considered one of them just yet. 

Astros OF Jason Martin, Double-A Corpus Christi: 4-for-4, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, R, CS -- The Astros' No. 27 prospect stole the show from Hooks rehabber Dallas Keuchel with a season-high four hits in a 7-2 win over visiting Frisco. Over his last three games alone, he's 8-for-13 (.615) with two homers, a triple and four doubles. Despite the fact that Martin hit .270/.357/.533 with 23 homers last season at Lancaster, the Astros had the outfielder repeat the Class A Advanced level -- this time in a much less friendly hitting environment at Buies Creek -- only to see him once again post the same 134 wRC+ from a year ago. He moved up to Corpus Christi on May 30 and has more than held his own, hitting .301/.323/.556 with six homers, three doubles and 15 doubles in 38 games since. (His 24 extra-base hits are most in the Texas League since his debut.) An eighth-round pick out of a California high school in 2013, the 21-year-old was a breakout prospect last season and continues to trend upward. With Ramon Laureano and Kyle Tucker also on the roster, Corpus Christi has one of the most potent outfields in the Minors.

Video: Corpus Christi's Martin belts leadoff homer

Rangers LHP Cole Ragans, Class A Short Season Spokane: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 87 pitches, 52 strikes -- The Rangers' No. 8 prospect tossed the longest scoreless outing of his career Monday night in a 2-1 win over Salem-Keizer. Taken 30th overall last year out of a Florida high school, the 19-year-old southpaw has been on the slow road in his first full professional season, starting out in extended spring training before moving to the Northwest League -- Texas' lowest affiliate outside of the complex in Arizona. He's shown his potential in flashes since joining the Indians, posting a 2.17 ERA with a league-best 42 strikeouts and a .153 average-against in 29 innings. Walks, however, have been an issue with Ragans issuing 21 so far for a free-pass rate of 17.7 percent. The number in the BB column has been steadily falling in each of his last four outings, however, and he continues to miss bats with regularity. The 6-foot-4 hurler has three solid pitches in his fastball, curve and changeup. The hope is that these control woes are just early speed bumps, and that outings like Monday's will come with some regularity, especially at the lower levels.

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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