Toolshed: Prospects in need of strong finish

Astros' Tucker, Twins' Gordon hope to keep stocks high in August

Kyle Tucker has impressed with Fresno but will need to do so again after a rough stretch with Houston. (Jesus Sepulveda/Fresno Grizzlies)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | August 3, 2018 11:45 AM

It's Aug. 3, meaning one month from today, most Minor League circuits will be playing their final game of the regular season. Indeed, the clock is ticking on 2018.

Of course, it's not over 'til it's over -- and that's a good thing for some big-name prospects who need these next four weeks to either end on an upswing or build momentum going into Major League roster expansion. This Toolshed explores which top prospects will need strong Augusts to keep their stocks high before the curtain falls on the 2018 season.

Twins SS/2B Nick Gordon, Triple-A Rochester: Minnesota sent its No. 3 prospect back to Double-A Chattanooga to begin the season in what looked like a passive move, but ever since he made the jump to Rochester on May 22, it's been difficult to say the organization wasn't justified with its spring decision. Gordon is hitting just .212/.240/.299 with a 47 wRC+ in 68 games in the International League, and the trend has not gotten better as he's grown more accustomed to Triple-A pitching. The middle infielder has put up a .170/.205/.232 in 28 games since July 1 and is 2-for-38 (.053) in his last 10 games. Still 22 until October, Gordon is fairly young for Triple-A, and barring him tearing up the IL, he was likely headed back to the level for 2019 anyway. But an August turnaround would go a long way toward cementing his place in the Twins' long-term plans, especially with Royce Lewis charging up the system at shortstop.

Marlins OF Monte Harrison, Double-A Jacksonville: After hitting his organization-best 14th homer of the season Thursday, the Marlins' top prospect might be getting August off on the right foot. There's never been much doubt about Harrison's bat speed or power potential during his first season in the Miami system, but the 22-year-old has had some holes in his swing exposed -- his 36.8 percent strikeout rate is highest among all Double-A hitters this season. It hasn't improved significantly over time either with Harrison is hitting .256/.314/.384 with a 33.1 percent K rate since the start of July. He's got the power, speed (23 steals), glove and arm to be a star, but his lack of contact has made him an average hitter in the Southern League -- in fact, his wRC+ is exactly 100. August will be his chance to show he can be a more well-rounded offensive threat.

Video: Jacksonville's Harrison homers

Astros OF Kyle Tucker, Triple-A Fresno: Let's get one thing straight -- Tucker is still one of the best outfield prospects in the game. However, his initial run in the Majors didn't quite go the way anyone would have hoped. The 21-year-old left-handed slugger was called up to Houston on July 7 and hit just .156/.240/.222 with two extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts in 16 games before being optioned back to Fresno on Wednesday. It wasn't like MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect didn't earn that Major League look -- he'd hit .304/.369/.517 with 14 homers and 14 steals in 81 games with Fresno before the promotion. But after going through the humbling grinder of Major League Baseball, Tucker will need to pick up where he left off in the PCL if he's going to force his way back into the conversation regarding the starting left field spot with Houston down the stretch as the Astros try to hold off the A's and Mariners in the AL West.

Padres C Francisco Mejia, Triple-A El Paso: Everyone mentioned above was featured for their offense, but with Mejia, this might be more about his defensive work. The Padres made one of the bigger moves before the Trade Deadline by acquiring MLB.com's No. 21 overall prospect for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. The Indians had moved the 22-year-old switch-hitter around -- third base in last year's Arizona Fall League, the outfield during the regular season -- to get his bat to the Majors, because they didn't believe he was ready defensively to break past Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez in Cleveland. The Padres said they plan to keep Mejia behind the plate long term, and his first full month in the organization will be his time to show he's worthy of their optimism. It should help that El Paso's manager is former Major League catcher Rod Barajas. Already with 12 games of MLB experience under his belt, Mejia will no doubt be with the big club in September, but he's got a few things to show before then.

Video: Chihuahua's Mejia ropes leadoff double

Tigers RHP Beau Burrows, Double-A Erie: Ranked as MLB.com's No. 77 prospect to begin the season, the 21-year-old has fallen to No. 94 in the latest update, and that's not just because of the influx of 2018 Draft talent added to the top 100. Burrows, who sports a plus fastball and above-average curve, looked like he was about to crack the Double-A nut after making 15 starts with Erie in 2017 but has fallen on rough times of late. He has put up a 6.95 ERA over his last five starts as his season mark has climbed from 3.43 to 4.18. Part of that comes from control woes; he's walked 15 batters in 22 innings over those five starts and most recently issued four free passes in 3 2/3 frames Thursday night. It's been a fairly quick climb through the Tigers ranks for the 2015 first-rounder, but with Detroit loading up on so many arms during its rebuild, Burrows can't afford to be stuck in neutral again at Double-A. Reining in his control over his next few starts would be a big help toward keeping his stock right where it is entering the offseason.

Braves LHP Luiz Gohara, Triple-A Gwinnett: The Braves still think the world of their No. 6 prospect, who has bounced up and down between the Majors and Minors this season after making his big league debut in 2017, and rightfully so with his mid-90s fastball and impressive slider. But it hasn't been a banner year for the 22-year-old by any means. He's posted a 5.95 ERA in nine Major League appearances, and his Triple-A numbers -- 5.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings -- aren't much better. There's been some hope of late, however. Gohara fanned a season-high 10 on July 29 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he still hasn't walked more than one batter in a Triple-A appearance since May 2. But MLB.com's No. 61 overall prospect will need a few more quality Gwinnett starts in August if he's going to be anything but an extra arm during the division title race in September. The Braves already gave Kolby Allard his Major League debut this week, and Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint are both up at Triple-A, meaning Gohara is in danger of being passed over already.

Video: Gohara picks up his 10th K for Gwinnett

Yankees RHP Chance Adams, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Though no longer a top-100 prospect like the other names on this list, Adams is facing one of the biggest months of his career. The 23-year-old has struggled for a good part of 2018 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 102 strikeouts and 48 walks in 98 innings, all with the RailRiders. However, he struck out eight and didn't allow a run over 7 1/3 innings on Monday, his longest outing of the season. He's scheduled to pitch Saturday, but it just so happens that the Yankees needed to use scheduled starter Luis Cessa in mop-up duty Thursday, leaving the Saturday slot open for their game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Manager Aaron Boone told reporters it's likely his club will have to dip into the Minors to fill that slot, and Adams makes the most sense, even if he would need to be added to the 40-man roster first. If he does make the start, Adams will have a chance to prove his earlier issues this season are behind him, and he could get back in the Yanks' good graces with a solid outing against their rivals on the road. If he doesn't get the call, he'll need to use the rest of August to show he should have. 

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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