Well, it's official. Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the stolen base king of the minor leagues after breaking Vince Coleman's record, and now sits at 147 steals on the season. Batting .301 since arriving in Double-A with strong plate discipline has been proof of his solid offensive growth, although you shouldn't expect power to develop anytime soon. Bottom line, Hamilton is going to be an elite rabbit in the majors, and could carry you in steals all by himself. There is a chance the Reds could promote him in September, so if you're short there, this may be the last call on him before he makes his debut.
Cubs shortstop Javier Baez has struggled a bit through his first 10 games since debuting for High-A Daytona (.184). He was brilliant for Peoria prior to his promotion (.333, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 20 SB), so this just looks like a case of a young player adjusting to more advanced pitching. Baez needs to improve his walk rate a bit, but he's still a promising top prospect, and is in the discussion along with Francisco Lindor to be the second best shortstop prospect in the minors (behind Jurickson Profar, and not counting the recently promoted Manny Machado). His arrival in Chicago in a few years may signal a position change for Starlin Castro.
Staying in Chicago, it's been a solid debut for Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. Recently promoted to Peoria, Soler is batting .333 with a pair of home runs through his first nine games at the level and is showing a solid ability to take a walk thus far. Soler has drawn some comparisons to the Athletics Yoenis Cespedes, although many people feel he has significantly more upside due to his age and tool set. He should begin next season in High-A, and could move quickly through the Cubs system, even possibly earning a look late next season. He should be competing for significant playing time by 2014.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole has been really solid since reaching Double-A Altoona, and is showing exactly why he was selected first overall in the '11 Draft. Cole sports a 3.15 ERA for Altoona, and has allowed three runs or less in each of his first 10 starts. Cole's fastball is explosive and can hit triple digits, making his already deadly breaking stuff look that much more filthy. He's a legitimate ace prospect, and should find a home in the Pirates rotation in the early stages of next season.
Cardinals top pitching prospect Shelby Miller appears to be back on track for Triple-A Memphis after struggling mightily to begin the year. He hasn't yielded more than three runs in any of his past five starts, and owns 45 strikeouts in 32.2 IP during that time. Miller's velocity is back to the mid-90s he's been known for in the past, and it appears his reliance on the fastball is behind him, as he's trusting his secondary offerings much more. The Cardinals will have some pitching decisions to make this offseason, as Miller is knocking on the door for a spot in the rotation. Like Cole, he has ace upside, and the stuff to be dominant on any given day.
With September drawing near, it may be the last chance you have to add Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to your roster for one final playoff push. With the Triple-A season wrapping up, the Royals would be wise to get their top hitting and pitching prospect some major league seasoning, as they look forward to next year. Myers is batting .300 with 21 homers in the PCL, and now has a total of 34 on the year across two levels of the upper minors. Odorizzi's 10-2 mark and 2.80 ERA in Triple-A are strong indicators that he's ready to take the next step as well. His control looks very good right now, and he appears to be on track to compete for a rotation spot next spring.
We close this week with Giants pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn, who is flat-out dominating the hitters of the South Atlantic League. His 2.55 ERA is sparkling, as are the 155 strikeouts in only 123.1 IP. With only 18 walks on the season, one has to believe the tools are there for success in the more advanced levels of the minors. The fastball sits at 94-95 mph and the secondary offerings are above average. He has all the makings to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors down the road, possibly as early as 2014.
Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. Follow him on Twitter
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