Prospect Heat Check: The Most Unhittable Pitcher You Haven\'t Seen

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7. James Hoyt, RP, Triple-A, Houston

Hoyt didn't join affiliated baseball until he was 26. Now, on the cusp of 30, he's become impossible to ignore, going from a secondary piece of the Evan Gattis trade to the cusp of Houston's bullpen. In 36 innings, Hoyt has 64 strikeouts, and while the Astros' bullpen has stabilized – their June strikeout-to-walk ratio is 63 to 11 – depth is never a bad thing.

8. Joe Jimenez, RP, Double-A, Detroit

Much like first-base prospects, relief prospects are a fickle bunch. Jimenez may be the best in the minor leagues. He's a classic two-pitch bullpen arm, and his fastball and slider may be all he needs. Jimenez, 21, still hasn't given up a run this season and has struck out 44 and walked just six in 26⅓ innings. For a team long seeking a closer, Jimenez may finally be what Bruce Rondon was supposed to.

9. Kevin Newman, SS, Double-A, Pittsburgh

Newman slid to the Pirates with the 19th pick in the first round of last year's draft, and the Pirates happily snapped him up, aware that a decent shortstop with even an average hit tool is an extremely valuable major-league piece. A decent shortstop with a hit tool like Newman's – he's at .363 this season with just 15 strikeouts in 182 at-bats – is a potential All-Star. And if his gap power ever turns into more … well, that's just scary.

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Willy Adames (AP)

10. Willy Adames, SS, Double-A, Tampa Bay

If the return for the David Price trade – the first one – felt rather underwhelming at the time, it's because Adames still was a little-known pup. Now he's a 20-year-old not just holding his own at Double-A but putting up some of the best numbers in the league. After all the failures of highly touted Rays shortstops – hello, Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee – Adames could be the one to bring stability to a position that still vexes them.

11. Clint Frazier, OF, Double-A, Cleveland

With Michael Brantley nowhere near returning and the first-place Indians looking for ways to improve, could that mean the 21-year-old Frazier brings his nuclear bat speed to title town? Probably not. Jose Ramirez is playing well in left field and Lonnie Chisenhall well enough in right not to rush Frazier, even as he's hitting .305/.396/.498. Sometime in the next year, Frazier and Bradley Zimmer should join Brantley and Tyler Naquin with the Indians, giving them the very desirable problem of too much of a good thing.

12. Tyler O'Neill, RF, Double-A, Seattle

Every year provides a true breakout star, and O'Neill may be this season's. Barely 21, he's shredding Double-A to the tune of .320/.383/.545, proving his 32 home runs last season weren't just a Cal League mirage. A stout 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, O'Neill grew up a catcher in Canada. Now he's the Mariners' best prospect, a rather undesirable title considering recent history but one he'll take nevertheless.

13. Tito Polo, CF, High-A, Pittsburgh

Rock Shoulders no longer in affiliated baseball, the heir to the Best Name in the Minor Leagues crown is Polo. He can play, too. Polo's power-speed combination – he's got a dozen home runs and 22 stolen bases – earned him a promotion to High-A after repeating his level. He's 21, the same age as the Pirates' best hitting prospect, Austin Meadows, who's already at Triple-A. Polo isn't in that class. Just a deep sleeper with four fun syllables." data-reactid="84">With the amazing Rock Shoulders no longer in affiliated baseball, the heir to the Best Name in the Minor Leagues crown is Polo. He can play, too. Polo's power-speed combination – he's got a dozen home runs and 22 stolen bases – earned him a promotion to High-A after repeating his level. He's 21, the same age as the Pirates' best hitting prospect, Austin Meadows, who's already at Triple-A. Polo isn't in that class. Just a deep sleeper with four fun syllables.

14. Christin Stewart, OF, High-A, Detroit

It's been 19 days since Stewart last homered, which wouldn't feel like a lot had he not spent the first six weeks of the season leading the minor leagues in home runs. Still, the exciting part about Stewart isn't simply the power. He is tied with Ockimey for the second most walks in the minor leagues. What the Tigers do with him is the big question. Victor Martinez is their DH, Justin Upton their left fielder and J.D. Martinez their right fielder. Players usually can unblock themselves through their bats, but with those three – not to mention their accompanying contracts – finding Stewart any at-bats could prove problematic.

15. Dylan Cozens, OF, Double-A, Philadelphia

Stewart ceded his minor-league home run lead to Cozens, an absolute monster at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds whose size has translated to 19 tanks. He's an athlete, too, swiping 13 bases. The issue, of course, is his strikeouts: 93 in 272 at-bats. That's unacceptable, and once he leaves the hitters' paradise that is Reading, the truest view of Cozens will emerge: Is he a major leaguer or someone destined for AAAA?

16. Ryon Healy, 3B/1B, Triple-A, Oakland

Speaking of monster size and power, Healy has emerged this season among the best of a sizeable contingent of good A's infield prospects. Once Danny Valencia gets traded, Healy could find himself taking over at third (though Renato Nunez's place on the 40-man roster does give him the inside lane). Few believe Nunez is the better prospect, not with Healy showing good bat control to go along with the pop he generates through his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame.

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Amir Garrett (AP)

17. Amir Garrett, SP, Triple-A, Cincinnati

Garrett might be the least-hyped potential ace in the minor leagues. He's left-handed, tops out at 97 mph, throws strikes and generates groundballs. At 24, Garrett is a bit old for a top prospect, though there's good reason for that: He initially forsook baseball to play basketball at St. John's. He let that dream evaporate, and now he's part of a young pitching staff that could include Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, Anthony DeSclafani, Robert Stephenson and John Lamb – quite the collection for a team in the throes of rebuilding.

18. Brock Stewart, SP, Triple-A, Los Angeles Dodgers

After stalling out in High-A last season, Stewart returned for two starts, jumped to Double-A quickly thereafter and pitched himself to the cusp of the big leagues. In his first two Triple-A starts, he struck out 17 and walked one. A sixth-round pick out of Illinois State in 2014, Stewart is 24 and just another arm for a Dodgers organization teeming with them. For all the hype about the Braves' young pitching depth, Los Angeles may have even more. Julio Urias, Jose DeLeon, Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton and Stewart could pitch in the big leagues today. Chase De Jong and Walker Buehler aren't far off. And Grant Holmes, Yadier Alvarez and Josh Sborz are quite the next generation.

19. Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Double-A, Minnesota

Stolen in fourth round of the 2013 draft after a marijuana-related incident dropped him, Gonsalves signed for $700,000 and gives the Twins hopes that after years of producing craptastic soft tossers, the ascent of him, Jose Berrios, Tyler Jay and Kohl Stewart will fortify a rotation in desperate need of it. Gonsalves, 21, is a tall, lanky left-hander, and after dominating the Florida State League, he was promoted this week to Double-A.

20. David Paulino, SP, Double-A, Houston

Just remember: Players to be named later really can turn out to be something. In 2013, the Tigers, looking to fortify their bullpen, acquired Jose Veras for outfielder Danry Vasquez and a PTBNL. Vasquez has flamed out in Double-A. The player to be named was Paulino, out at the time because of Tommy John surgery. Healthy now, he's destroying Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Paulino, 22, is either an enormous trade chip or another arm developed by an Astros organization with a faculty for mining diamonds in the rough.

21. Josh Hader, SP, Triple-A, Milwaukee

Speaking of, Hader once was an Astro. Now he's the Brewers' best pitching prospect, an unorthodox left-hander who piles up strikeouts. It's still too early to say whether the Brewers have found long-term rotation pieces in Zach Davies and Junior Guerra, but Hader is the sort who will make room for himself. First he needs to brave the altitude of Colorado Springs and survive the Pacific Coast League. Then, come next season – he's not yet on the 40-man roster, so a September call-up is less likely than not – he'll join the rotation at some point and see whether his funk can translate.

22. Marcos Diplan, SP, Low-A, Milwaukee

At 12.3 strikeouts per nine, Diplan punches out even more hitters than Hader. Why isn't he more highly touted? Well, size for one: Diplan stands only 6-foot. As does Red Sox uberprospect Anderson Espinoza. So let the crowding of the Diplan bandwagon begin here. The Rangers saw enough to give him $1.3 million to sign before shipping him off to the Brewers in the Yovani Gallardo deal. Diplan is still just 19, and one scout said: “Nobody, not even Hader, has his upside.”

23. Mike Soroka, SP, Low-A, Atlanta

Never was Atlanta's strategy to stockpile young pitching more evident than in the last two drafts. This year, it spent its first three picks on high school arms, and last year, it was two, including the then-17-year-old Soroka, out of Calgary. Unlike another famous Albertan, Soroka is not the hitman. Despite being pushed to full-season ball at 18, he has put up a sub-3.00 ERA, and one scout who covers the South Atlantic League said: "I think he might be their best pitching prospect." Considering that group includes Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint, Tyrell Jenkins, Lucas Sims and the three top draft picks this year, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller, that's high praise.

24. Francisco Mejia, C, Low-A, Cleveland

Very few things excite baseball men more than a legitimate switch-hitting catcher, and to have one doing what Mejia's done – slashing .336/.370/.515 and playing frontline defense – is thrilling. Granted, Mejia is repeating a level, which slightly diminishes the performance, but still: a 20-year-old, switch-hitting catcher who can rake and show off with the glove. Nothing more need be said.

25. Brady Aiken, SP, Rookie, Cleveland

More than two years after Houston chose him first overall in the draft and didn't sign him, Aiken made his professional debut with two scoreless innings. His fastball ticked up to 94 mph and, best of all, he made it through healthy. Issues with Aiken's elbow blew up his deal with the Astros, and his eventual Tommy John surgery – not to mention them getting Bregman with the compensatory pick – validated Houston's tack. Now Aiken wants to reward the Indians' faith in spending their first-rounder last year on him, and with his 20th birthday on the horizon, the Indians won't be shy moving him to more age-appropriate levels, so long as his arm shows it can withstand that.

 

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