Let's start this week out by getting an update on the two best prospects currently in the minors.
The Nationals promoted outfielder Bryce Harper(notes) to Double-A Harrisburg, and he didn't disappoint in his debut, notching two singles. His line at Single-A Hagerstown was .316/14/46 with 19 steals, which goes a long way in justifying all the hype that has surrounded him the previous few years. This guy is a freak of nature, and has the tools to be a 30/30 player in the majors if the Nationals allow him to run on a regular basis. Harper could hit 40-50 homers annually in the majors in his prime.
Not to be outdone, Angels outfielder Mike Trout(notes) has posted impressive numbers all season long at Double-A, batting .327 with nine homers and 28 steals. His current on-base percentage of .419 is a great sign. His five-tool ability could be on display as early as September in the majors. He's sure to challenge for a job with the big club next spring.
Now for other prospect notes:
Reds prospect Billy Hamilton has struggled quite a bit at the plate this season, posting a .229 average with only one home run. His speed is his best tool, as he's already stolen 58 bases in 77 games played. Hamilton hit .318 in the minors last season, so he's capable of much better results. Still, any guy who is on pace to steal 100 bases in professional baseball is someone worth following.
A lot of people keep asking about Cubs third base prospect Josh Vitters(notes), so let's talk about him. Vitters has always had issues with staying healthy, which I believe has led to his slow development. His .282 average and seven homers this season is an improvement, but much work still needs to be done. He's dramatically cut his strikeout rate this season (9.0% K/9), but still isn't taking many walks (3.0% BB/9), which is troubling. I still hold out hope that he can be a guy who hits .290 with 20 homers in the majors, but this bullish outlook is a minority opinion.
If you're looking for a catching prospect, take a look into Red Sox farmhand Ryan Lavarnway. His line across Double-A and Triple-A is .294/19/54, and that has been in part due to his great numbers at Triple-A since his promotion (.324/5/17 in 19 games). He could be the long-term solution in Boston as early as next year.
While Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon(notes) has gotten a lot of press recently, you shouldn't sleep on former first round outfielder Tim Wheeler. He's posted an excellent .318/20/63 line at Double-A, and with 13 steals so far, flashes 25 steal upside. Wheeler is a big guy (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) with a developing skill-set that may not be off the radar much longer.
Switching gears to pitching, Tajuan Walker is not the only talented arm in the Mariners' system. James Paxton was recently promoted to Double-A following a dominant performance at Single-A Clinton, where he posted a 2.73 ERA and 80-to-30 K/BB ratio in 56 innings. His debut at Double-A wasn't great (4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO). He's a notch below Walker, but still flashes significant upside.
With John Lamb(notes) needing Tommy John surgery earlier this year, the spotlight now shines on Jake Odorizzi, who the Royals acquired in the Zack Greinke(notes) trade this winter. Odorizzi currently sports a 2.87 ERA at High-A while posting dominant strikeout (11.83 K/9) and walk (2.53 BB/9) ratios. He's a few years away, but should be an immediate add in deep dynasty formats if he's somehow on your waiver wire
One prospect shooting up the charts is Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison, who was recently promoted to High-A. He was striking out batters at a 10.50 K/9 clip prior to his promotion, and is in the discussion of best arm in the Blue Jays farm system.
We close with Brewers prospect Tyler Thornberg, who is a combined 9-0 across two levels of Single-A ball so far this season. His mid-90s fastball, that can hit 98 MPH, has been lethal to hitters en route to gaudy strikeout totals (92 in 79.2 IP). While the Brewers continue to develop him as a starter, many scouts believe he's a future closer.
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Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst whose work also can be found at SNYWhyGuys.com.