Best in the minor leagues

Originally Published: July 6, 2005
By Kevin Goldstein | Baseball America

A couple a big hit streaks took place in the minors this week. Nationals third baseman Kory Casto had a single in his final at-bat for the high Class A Potomac Nationals on Friday night, and followed that up with a 4-for-4 and a 5-for-5 night, giving him hits in 10 straight plate appearances. The streak came to an end this afternoon, as Kasto went 0-for-4. In 297 at-bats, the 2003 third-round pick out of the University of Portland is batting .283-11-55. More impressive was the pro debut of Dodgers outfielder Sergio Pedroza, a third-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton. Playing for Ogden in the Pioneer League, Pedroza reached base in his first 11 plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a walk in his pro debut on Wednesday, following that up with a 4-for-4 night (including a walk and two home runs) the following night, and then starting his third game with two singles and a walk before striking out in the sixth. In six games for the Raptors, Pedroza is now 13-for-22 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.

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It's our weekly snapshot of baseball's hottest prospects, combining prospect status with recent performance. This list is not a replacement or an update to our Top 100, because it will often change drastically from week to week based on performance. We are not replacing Felix Hernandez or Joel Guzman as the top prospects in baseball, rather we are giving you a snapshot of the hottest prospects. Keep up with news on these prospects plus many more on a daily basis with the Daily Dish and The Baseball America Prospect Report.

We love to hear your opinions, so send your list to Kevin at kevingoldstein@baseballamerica.com, but keep in mind there are only 20 spots on this list, and chances are there are more than 20 hot prospects during a week-long span. We aren't intentionally forgetting your guy, there's just only so much room. Also remember the key word in the title --prospect -- so, 25-year-old Class A organizational players who are tearing the cover off the ball rarely apply.

1. Howie Kendrick, 2b, Angels (High Class A Rancho Cucamonga)
Minor league home run leader Brandon Wood called Kendrick the best hitter in the minor leagues, and that's good enough for us. Well that and the fact that Kendrick has delivered multi-hit games in 28 of 53 contests, raising his average to .377, including a .421 mark with runners on base.

2. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels (High Class A Rancho Cucamonga)
The minor league home run race has been a dog first for the past six weeks, but Wood created a little breathing room for himself with homers in back-to-back games this week, giving him 28. For those that subscribe to the theory that doubles turn into home runs as a player progresses, note that Wood is among the minor league leaders in two-baggers as well, with 28.

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  • 3. Joel Zumaya, rhp, Tigers (Double-A Erie)
    As he watched teammate (and last week's No. 1) Justin Verlander get the call to the majors, Zumaya recorded his fifth double-digit strikeout game on Saturday, whiffing 10 over seven innings. In his last six starts, Zumaya is 4-0, 1.08 with more than twice as many strikeouts (53) as hits allowed (26).

    4. Daric Barton, 1b, Athletics (Double-A Midland)
    In his last 28 games at high Class A Stockton, Barton reached base by hit or walk a remarkable 68 times, scoring 26 runs and driving in 25 in the process. Promoted to Double-A over the weekend, Barton was initially thought to miss Monday night's game due to a late flight, but he showed up at the ballpark and was intentionally walked in his first plate appearance, so word is getting around.

    5. Chuck James, lhp, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
    Bench your lefties when James comes to town, as opposing lefthanded hitters are batting .108 (10-for-93) against James with 42 strikeouts.

    6. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays (Double-A Montgomery)
    In his last 162 games, Young has 213 hits, 36 home runs, 146 RBIs, 124 runs scored and 42 stolen bases. He's 19, and just six hits off of a triple crown pace in Double-A. That's what makes him the best offensive prospect in the minor leagues.

    7. Miguel Montero, c, Diamondbacks (High Class A Lancaster)
    From organizational player to Futures Game participant, Montero has been a run-producing machine of late, driving in 45 in his last 33 games, and leads the offensively loaded California League in runs (69) and RBIs (84).

    8. Billy Butler, 3b, Royals (High Class A High Desert)
    While we discuss all of the top prospects in the California League, it's actually Butler who leads the league in OPS (on-base plus slugging), with a mark of 1.102. Since moving to left field, the 2004 first-round pick is batting .370-4-14 in 11 games.

    9. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Dodgers (Double-A Jacksonville)
    LaRoche finally had an off week, going 3-for-16 with 8 strikeouts. Even still, he is among the minor leagues top 10 in home runs (26), RBIs (67), runs (70), total bases (202) and slugging (.650).

    10. Vince Sinisi, of, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
    With a .371 average in nine games since a promotion to the Texas League, Sinisi is finally looking like the hitter that earned a $2.07 bonus as a second round pick in 2003, batting .365-7-30 in 44 games.

    11. Jared Wells, rhp, Padres (High Class A Lake Elsinore)
    In a system that has few power pitchers, Wells has taken a major step forward of late. Now 10-2, 3.08 on the season in 16 starts, Wells has fired 23 1/3 shutout innings in his last three games and is 8-0, 1.99 in his last 10 starts.

    12. Corey Hart, of, Brewers (Triple-A Nashville)
    Batting .395 in his last 36 games, Hart is making a run to become yet another Nashville player getting the invite to Milwaukee. Almost as cool is the fact that last week, Hart was taken out of the game for a pinch hitter. That pinch-hitter: another player named Corey Hart. We kid you not.

    13. Thomas Diamond, rhp, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
    One of the most important things for a pitcher is to keep the leadoff man off base, and Diamond has done just that, limiting the first batter in an inning to a .141 average, with just one extra-base hit.

    14. Shane Lindsay, rhp, Rockies (Short-season Tri-City)
    Aussie Sleeper Alert!TM The 20-year-old with the mid-90s fastball has been unhittable in three starts for the Dust Devils, allowing seven hits over 17 innings and striking out 32. Lefthanded batters don't stand a chance, going 0-for-16 with 11 Ks.

    15. Jeff Bianchi, ss, Royals (Rookie-level AZL Royals)
    A second-round pick out of a Pennsylvania high school, one scout said that right now, Bianchi is every bit the hitter that No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton is. That scout looks prophetic right now, as Bianchi has gone 19-for-38 in his first 11 games with four doubles, two triples, four home runs and 15 RBIs.

    16. Conor Jackson, 1b, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Tucson)
    Jackson recovered from last week's batting practice bonking with four two-hit games in six contests. No platoon advantage here, as Jackson is hitting .374 against righties, and .372 against southpaws.

    17. Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Mets (Low Class A Hagerstown)
    A 2004 third-round pick, Hernandez already has a no-hitter under his belt and hasn't lost since April 28. In 17 starts, he's allowed two or fewer earned runs 13 times while limiting Sally League hitters to a .182 average.

    18. Wes Bankston, 1b, Devil Rays (Double-A Montgomery)
    After batting .226 in his first 18 Double-A games, Bankston has hit .415 with 16 RBIs in 16 games, including a .435 mark with runners in scoring position.

    19. Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Indians (Double-A Akron)
    After giving up five runs over five innings in his Double-A debut, the 2004 first-round pick out of Vanderbilt has stepped it up in his next two outings, allowing one run over five innings on June 28, and firing 6 2/3 innings of one-hit shutout baseball on Sunday.

    20. Chris Young, of, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
    With one of the best raw packages of power (17 home runs) and speed (15 stolen bases) in the minors, Young has gone 18-for-36 in his last nine games with five doubles, five home runs and 13 RBIs.

    Special Mention Category
    Brian Boehringer, rhp, Yankees (Rookie-level GCL Yankees)
    When perusing box scores from the complex leagues, it's not uncommon to find a familiar name here and there as spring training sites are a popular destination of rehabbing major leaguers. Still, even we were surprised to see Boehringer's name show up. After missing much of last year with shoulder surgery, the 10-year veteran fired a 1-2-3 first inning on Monday, proving that even 36-year-old middle relievers on the downside of their careers can get out 18-year-olds.

    In The Team Photo
    Brian Bannister, rhp, Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
    Michael Bourn, of, Phillies (Double-A Reading)
    Melky Cabrera, of, Yankees (Triple-A Columbus)
    Chip Cannon, 1b/dh, Blue Jays (High Class A Dunedin)
    Kory Casto, 3b, Nationals (High Class A Potomac)
    Yuniel Escobar, ss, Braves (Low Class A Rome)
    Josh Fields, 3b, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
    Sean Gallagher, rhp, Cubs (Low Class A Peoria)
    Ryan Garko, c, Indians (Triple-A Buffalo)
    Anderson Hernandez, ss, Mets (Triple-A Norfolk)
    Casey Janssen, rhp, Blue Jays (High Class A Dunedin)
    Justin Orenduff, rhp, Dodgers (Double-A Jacksonville)
    Eric Patterson, 2b, Cubs (Low Class A Peoria)
    Ryan Patterson, of, Blue Jays (Short-season Auburn)
    Troy Patton, lhp, Astros (High Class A Salem)
    Sergio Pedroza, of, Dodgers (Rookie-level Ogden)
    Glen Perkins, lhp, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
    Chris Roberson, of, Phillies (Double-A Reading)
    Clete Thomas, of, Tigers (Short-season Oneonta)
    Anthony Webster, of, Rangers (High Class A Bakersfield)