Minor League Roulette: Prospect notes for the week ending July 16

Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleland Indians, Indians, Indians prospects
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleland Indians, Indians, Indians prospects

Feature Photo: Brady Aiken, LHP, Indians

Minor League Roulette

This week Emily and Jared are stopping at every rung of the organizational ladder, beginning with a Cubs’ outfielder with the Short-Season A Eugene Emeralds, and running all the way up to a Rockies’ outfielder in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League who is on an absolutely torrid run. Along with that, there are a few players who impressed in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game, including a pair of prospects who earned promotions shortly afterward. Meanwhile, in the High A Carolina League, Eloy Jimenez (OF, White Sox) switched clubhouses mid-series after being the centerpiece of the Cubs trade for lefty starter Jose Quintana, and he got right to work with his new team, the Winston-Salem Dash, by driving in the game-winning runs on the same day he was traded.

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Players Who Stood Out for Emily


Jose Siri, RF, Reds (Class A Dayton, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 175 lbs.    B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 8m
Season Stats: .290/.338/.514 93 H, 14 2B, 16 HRs, 49 RBIs

The word many are using to describe the 2017 season for Siri is “different”. Originally signing as an international free agent with Cincinnati in 2013, Siri boasts plus speed, as evidenced by his career-high 26 stolen bases already this season, and a plus arm from his corner-outfield post. This season in Class A isn’t the first for Siri, who began 2016 with Dayton but struggled to produce, hitting .145 with a 39% strikeout rate before a move back to Rookie League ball. The return to the Dragons this season has produced a more polished version of the 21-year-old, who has dropped his strikeout percentage to 23% and boosted his ISO to .224, up from .036 in his Class A debut last year. Adding to the mix, Siri has an active 18-game hit streak, hitting in 22 of his last 23 games with the Dragons. Still viewed as a bit of a sleeper prospect, Siri’s aggressive approach and clear offensive development have him on a fast track for a promotion to High A before the close of the year.


Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros (High A Buies Creek, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 6’7” / 240 lbs.   B/T: R/R         Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 19y, 6m
Season Stats: 15 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 24 SO, 0.57 ERA (Promoted to High-A on July 2)

Since entering the Astros’ system as their 2016 first-round pick (#17th overall), Whitley has quickly shown the value he brings to Houston’s system. Whitley experienced a seven-inch growth spurt in high school, creating a bigger downhill plane for his four-pitch arsenal. At just 19 years old, Whitley shows confidence in, and an advanced feel for, a fastball that tops out at 97 mph, a power curveball with tight spin, and an above-average slider and changeup. After generating 13.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings with Class A Quad Cities, Whitley earned a promotion to High A Buies Creek at the start of July. Since his promotion, he has only sharpened his effectiveness. Over his first three outings for Buies Creek, Whitley has allowed one earned run, fanning 24 and dropping his walks per nine innings from 4.1 in Class A to 1.2 over 15 2/3 innings for the High A Astros. Combining an already well-developed frame and an advanced arsenal, Whitley is showing the makings of a future number three starting pitcher. Dave DeFreitas and Nick Faleris dug deeper into Whitley’s skillset in the 2080 Astros Organizational Review earlier this season.


Kyle Young, LHP, Phillies (Short-Season A Williamsport, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’10” / 205 lbs.      B/T: L/L     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 19y, 3m
Season Stats: 23 1/3 IP, 16 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 30 SO, 1.16 ERA

The Phillies’ 22nd-round selection in 2016 out of St. Dominic H.S. (Oyster Bay, NY), Young is wirey and projectable southpaw, drawing comparison to another gargantuan lefty by the name of Randy Johnson (LHP, 1988-2009, multiple teams). Despite his “all arms and legs” build, Young works a surprisingly compact, smooth delivery that stays online and generates solid downhill plane from his 3/4’s arm slot. The 6-foot-10 lefty has a fastball that reportedly tops at a 90 mph, but he also adds in a high-70s curveball and a changeup, both of which are considered to be works-in-progress presently. Young has adapted rapidly to his move to Short-Season A ball this season, halving his ERA of 2.67 in 2016 to 1.16 over 23 1/3 innings this year. At just 19 years old, Young has shown enough command of his developing arsenal to average 11.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings; he does well keeping the ball on the ground (1.86 career GO:AO ratio, no home runs allowed), and he’s allowed just three earned runs (all in a single start on June 24). Young’s most recent three outings have generated 15 consecutive scoreless frames, including a career-high 11 strikeouts on July 7. He’ll be given plenty of time to develop his arsenal while he fills out physically, and while he’s still a ways’ off, a future mid-rotation role is not out of the question.


Here’s a Player to Watch


Brandon Hughes, CF, Cubs (Short-Season A Eugene, Northwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 215 lbs      B/T: S/L       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 3m
Season Stats: .435/.462/.783 10 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs

After three seasons of hitting .260-plus with Michigan State University, Hughes was selected as the Cubs’ 2017 16th-round pick. His pro career has begun with an assignment to the Short-Season A Emeralds. At 6-foot-2, Hughes draws comparison to Yankees left fielder Clint Frazier – though with a slightly stockier build – and flashing similarities in their aggressive style of defense in the outfield. Hughes has always had a good eye at the plate, with his strikeout rate at 14 percent or lower for two of his three seasons with the Spartans’ program. With 12 career home runs over his three collegiate seasons, Hughes showed his value isn’t as much in power as it is an ability to drive the ball for enough extra-base action to remain a dangerous presence in a lineup. As the Cubs had hoped, Hughes has carried his offensive consistency into his first seven games with the Emeralds, hitting safely in six of seven games, including an active four-game hitting streak. His strikeout percentage has climbed to 19.2 percent, but the natural feel fir the barrel that he developed during his time in East Lansing should become more evident as he continues to familiarize himself with his first taste of pro pitching. As long as Hughes stays on top of his pitch recognition, his speed and outfield routes both work in favor of a future as an everyday outfielder.


Players Who Stood Out to Jared


Matt Thaiss, 1B, Angels (Double-A Mobile, Southern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 195 lbs.      B/T: L/R     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 11m
Season Stats: .412/.421/.471 7 H, 1 2B, 0 HR, 3 RBIs (promoted from High-A Inland Empire on July 11)

Thaiss has hit safely in all five games he has played for Double-A Mobile since being promoted to the Southern League. In only his second game with his new team, Thaiss went 3-for-4 and drove in a run in an 11-5 win against the Birmingham Barons. Thaiss was a catcher while in college at the University of Virginia, but the Angels moved him to first base after selecting him in the first round (#16 overall) of the 2016 MLB Draft. He impressed as a collegian with his patient plate approach and ability to hit the ball to all fields, and Thaiss has continued to do both through his first two seasons a a pro. In only his second professional season, Thaiss has already advanced through three levels of the Angels’ farm system and is on to his fourth, so keep an eye out for the first baseman in Anaheim as early as the second half of 2018. Read more about Thaiss in our 2017 Angels organization review.


Jordan Patterson, OF, Rockies (Triple-A Albuquerque, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 215 lbs      B/T: L/L     Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 25y, 2m
Season Stats: .288/.357/.556, 88 H, 20 2B, 18 HR, 64 RBI

Hitting at a .487 clip over his last 10 games, Patterson had 10 hits in three games going into the weekend. And five of those hits were home runs. He started the season somewhat slowly, finishing the month of April hitting below .200. His bat only really started to click around the start of June, but it has been a steady climb since then, especially in the past two weeks. Patterson has hit at every level since the Rockies took him in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Although he strikes out quite a bit, the strikeouts have been offset by hitting for both average and for power at every level. In a brief look at the major league level last September after rosters expanded, Patterson hit .444 in 18 at-bats for the Rockies. If he doesn’t earn another call-up before rosters expand on September 1, expect Patterson to get another taste of the majors after September 1, as Colorado makes a push for a postseason berth.


Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays (Triple-A Durham, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 180 lbs.      B/T: R/R       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 11m
Season Stats: 79 1/3 IP, 92 H, 40 R, 22 BB, 99 SO (promoted from Double-A Montgomery on April 16)

Honeywell was impressive as the starter for Team USA in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Miami last Sunday, striking out four and allowing only one hit in two scoreless innings. His efforts helped Team USA to a 7-6 win and earned him the game’s MVP honors. After starting the season in the Double-A Southern League and impressing in two starts for the Montgomery Biscuits, Honeywell earned a promotion to Triple-A Durham in mid-April. The International League has proven to be more of a challenge, as Honeywell has struggled to keep runners from scoring; however, his strikeout totals have remained high, as he has fanned 99 batters in 79 1/3 innings. In June, 2080’s Ted Lekas noted Honeywell’s five-pitch mix, which includes a screwball, although his mid- to upper-90s fastball is his premier offering. According to Lekas, Honeywell might be wise to simplify his repertoire and cut back on or ditch his curveball altogether in favor of his slider, a 45-grade pitch at the moment.


Here’s a Player to Watch


Brady Aiken, LHP, Indians (Class A Lake County, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 205 lbs.     B/T: L/L       Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20y, 8m
Season Stats: 90 IP, 91 H, 41 R, 67 BB, 57 SO, 4.10 ERA

In his first year in the Midwest League, Aiken has struggled to keep runners from scoring through the first half, but he showed signs in his most recent start of the promise that led the Indians to take him with the 17th-overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, a year after the Astros’ selected him #1 overall but failed to sign him. Holding the Class A Peoria Chiefs scoreless through six innings, Aiken helped secure a 6-1 win for the Lake County Captains. Aiken had Tommy John surgery prior to being drafted, so he is still working to show the promise of an eventual number two starter in a major league rotation. Aiken can regularly hit the mid-90s with his fastball and shows potentially plus secondaries in his changeup and curveball. Check out video on Aiken from late last year in our 2016 Prospect Video Library.


Key Minor League Transactions

  • After both starred in the MLB Futures Game last weekend, Padres right-hander Cal Quantrill and first baseman Josh Naylor were promoted to Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League last Monday.
  • Still only 19, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in the International League last Thursday, where he homered in his first game with the new team. This is already the third rung of the Braves’ system that Acuna has reached just this season.
  • Red Sox third base prospect Rafael Devers was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after scorching the Double-A Eastern League to the tune of a .300/.369/.575 slash line – including 18 home runs. The numbers are all the more impressive considering he was also the youngest player in the league.


Notes of Interest

  • A former 10th-overall selection of the Athletics in 2010, outfielder Michael Choice’s career was looking all but done at the beginning of the year. Choice hit only .038 in 10 games for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides before the Orioles released him on May 2. The Brewers signed him to a minor league contract on May 5 and sent him to Double-A Biloxi in the Southern League. Since then, he has hit .268 with eight home runs, including a three-homer game last Monday.
  • On the same day that he was a centerpiece in the deal that sent lefty starter Jose Quintana to the Cubs from the White Sox, Eloy Jimenez walked across the ballpark at Myrtle Beach to join his new team, the High A Winston-Salem Dash, who happened to be in Myrtle Beach to play the Cubs’ affiliate over the weekend. Jimenez hit a two-RBI single in the third inning to give his new team the lead in their eventual 3-2 win.
  • Pirates Triple-A shortstop Gift Ngoepe put on a defensive show Friday against Louisville, racing back to shallow left field to make a play…just…didn’t…make…sense.
  • The Class A Lexington Legends (Royals) and Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles) blew regulation baseball out of the water last week, producing a two-day, 21-inning marathon that fell one inning shy of tying the South Atlantic League record set in 2006.


What We’re Reading

  • In the Chicago Tribune, Bernie Lincicome argues that by fixating on the possibility that MLB balls are juiced, we are wasting the opportunity to enjoy the home run surge.
  • A former MTV reporter took to photographing minor league life 15 years ago, and now Tabitha Soren’s project will be on exhibit at the San Francisco City Hall beginning July 20.