TWiP (7/22): Bryce Brentz, Gary Sanchez, J.D. Martinez, and More!

Welcome to the July 22, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects. This week, we’ll be looking at some pitching sleepers with incredible numbers, the best hitter from the 2009 draft class you may not have heard of (mainly because he was drafted in the 20th round), a Yankee catcher who could one day outshine Jesus Montero’s prospect status, and quite a bit more. So stay with me after the jump and we’ll look at the ten players who grabbed my attention this week, some good, some bad.

Hot Shots

J.D. Martinez, OF, Astros (AA)—Stephen Strasburg was the #1 pick in the 2009 draft, and he’s obviously delivered on that promise. However, very few of picks 2-610 have done more in the 13 months since the 2009 draft than #611, Martinez.

The 22-year-old hit .348/.399/.598 between Rookie ball and short-season-A last year, and topped that by putting up a .362/.433/.598 line in Low-A this season. The Astros saw no need for such an advanced hitter to play in High-A Lancaster, the most infamous hitter’s park in the minors, so they jumped him to Double-A last week, and Martinez has hit .304/.333/.522 in six games, unfazed by the two-level jump.

Clearly, with this level of performance, Martinez is one of the elite offensive prospects in the minors. He’s been a consistent .350 hitter with good over-the-fence power and an extraordinary amount of doubles as well.

Defensively, Martinez is nothing special. He’s a decent left fielder who can play right field as well, but that’s about it. His bat will need to carry him, but all indications are that it will.

Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Rookie)—Sanchez has missed the last few days with an injury suffered while running out a ground ball, but he could miss two full seasons at his age and still be a coveted prospect.

We’re talking about a 17-year-old catcher who’s not only already playing US ball, but is hitting .378/.455/.692 in the GCL as one of the league’s youngest players. A catcher is doing this, mind you.

Jesus Montero’s defensive issues may scare Yankees fans when they hear about a hitting machine who plays “catcher,” but while Sanchez isn’t a tremendous defender right now, scouts believe he has the athleticism and arm strength to be solid behind the plate in time—Montero never had that benefit of the doubt.

Is 20 games too early to anoint Sanchez the next great Yankee superstar? Of course. But his scouting reports have been glowing, and his numbers are way advanced for his age and position.There’s no question that Sanchez is a major player to watch in coming years.

Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Padres (Short-season-A)—Arguably the most dominant pitcher in short-season-A this year, Sampson’s racked up 46 strikeouts, easily the most of any pitcher at the level. The short 19-year-old has a 1.87 ERA in seven starts, and is far from a wild power pitcher, as he only has walked 11 batters.

The fourth-round selection of the Padres last year (only because of signability concerns), Sampson throws a lively low-90’s heater and a changeup that’s advanced for his age, but his real money pitch is a hard downer curveball he can throw for strikes or bury as a chase pitch. He has the makings of a potentially dominant strikeout pitcher in the majors in the Yovani Gallardo mold.

Slumping Stars

Aaron Thompson, LHP, Nationals (AA)—Thompson, a 2007 first-rounder of the Marlins, posted a 3.31 ERA and 7.4 K/9 with Double-A Harrisburg after coming over in a trade from Florida to Washington last year.

Those numbers have slipped to 5.61 and 5.0 this year at the same level.

Now 23, Thompson is on his third year in Double-A, with just one solid year (2009) and two poor years to show for it. He lacks an out pitch, throwing an inconsistent breaking ball, a fastball around 90 mph, and an average changeup, and he just doesn’t miss enough bats to project as a major league starter. He’ll likely need to move to the bullpen to have a career at this point, although the inconsistent breaking ball makes him a poor fit for the lefty specialist roles that most NL lefty relievers seem to wind up in.

Casper Wells, OF, Tigers (AAA)—Wells was seen as a potential power/speed demon in the majors after bashing 27 homers and swiping 25 bases in 2008, but he took a step backward last year and has fallen flat on his face this year in his first shot in Triple-A.

Wells’ K/BB has headed in the wrong direction. He posted a 105/52 mark in 125 games in 2008, which was decent enough to get by. Last year, that fell to 103/43 in 86 games, a very troublesome amount of strikeouts. This year, he’s kept the strikeouts while losing the walks—82/22 in 75 games.

Wells has managed twelve homers, but he’s hitting just .192 with a .265 OBP. His speed has also regressed, as he’s just 5-for-9 in steals, and he doesn’t get on base enough to utilize his speed in the first place.

Now 25, Wells looks to join hundreds of past prospects as one-year wonders who never could quite duplicate that one year of success.

Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Short-season-A)—The 36th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Brentz has gotten off to a horrible start, batting a meager .150/.224/.257 with 38 strikeouts in 30 games.

The 21-year-old college product certainly needs to do far more than that in short-season ball to impress. Like Wells, his lack of on-base ability has precluded him from using his solid speed on the bases, as he’s only swiped two bags in three attempts this season.

The adjustment from college to pro ball can be difficult for players, many of whom are tired after the long college season and aren’t used to playing every day, so you can’t write Brentz off for 30 bad games. There are certainly many better ways to start a career, however.

Sleeper Alert!

Austin Hyatt, RHP, Phillies (High-A)—A 24-year-old who was selected in the 15th round of last year’s draft at age 23, Hyatt has put together a dominant first full season in the Florida State League.

He struck out 89 batters in 59 innings in his pro debut last year, but that was mostly as a reliever. He’s moved to the rotation full-time this year, but the whiffs haven’t stopped, as Hyatt’s punched out 128 in just 99 innings. He has solid control, with just 30 walks, and he’s only let four balls out of the yard all season.

Hyatt was just a command guy in college at Alabama, but he added some velocity after signing last year, giving him a low-90’s heater to go with his swing-and-miss changeup. His breaking ball lags behind the other two pitches, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up spectacular results.

At his age, Hyatt definitely needs to move fast, but he’s doing just about everything right at this point.

Joel Carreno, RHP, Blue Jays (High-A)—Like Hyatt, Carreno is an older player in High-A (he’s 23) who got little acclaim prior to 2010 but has forced his way onto the radar by getting tons of K’s.

Hyatt has a 128/30 K/BB in 99 IP; Carreno is right there too, with a 126/25 K/BB in 98 IP. He’s had an incredible June, with 29 K and 3 BB in just 19 innings.

Carreno, like Hyatt, isn’t just a finesse guy—he throws in the low 90’s and has a pair of promising offspeed offerings in his slider and changeup. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone.

As with Hyatt, Carreno’s numbers are ahead of his acclaim, but he isn’t a gimmick pitcher by any means, and anyone with this sort of success deserves a hard look.

Adrian Salcedo, RHP, Twins (Rookie)—Salcedo has unbelievable numbers, just like Hyatt and Carreno, but unlike the other two, he projects as a possible ace. The only reason he’s not a top prospect already is because he doesn’t have enough of a track record to be well-known.

The righthander had a 1.46 ERA and 58/3 K/BB last year in the GCL at age 18, and no, that walk number is not a misprint.

It’s carried over to the higher-level Appalachian League this season, as Salcedo has a 42/4 K/BB in 41 innings, posting a 2.41 ERA. He also hasn’t allowed a homer yet and even has a strong 56.5% groundball rate.

Salcedo got a six-start cameo in High-A earlier this year and was below-average but not terrible, an impressive feat for someone who was right around his 19th birthday at the time.

The scouting reports match the numbers on the 6’4” Dominican. He already touches 95 with his lively fastball and has a biting breaking ball in the low 80’s that already grades as a solid-average pitch. His changeup is still on the wrong side of average, but it’s improving and should be a solid third pitch for Salcedo down the road.

Best of all, he’s a good athlete with pristine mechanics and a workhorse frame and mentality, so he’s less of an injury risk than most prized arms. This kid could be a Cy Young winner someday if everything breaks right—you heard it here first.

The Quadruple-A Special

Ruben Gotay, 2B/3B, Cardinals—Somehow, the former Royal, Met and Brave infielder is still just 27 years old. Gotay has four years of big league experience, and is a career .255/315/.371 hitter, which isn’t terrible for a backup infielder. He hit .295/.351/.421 in 2007 with the Mets.

Gotay last appeared in the majors in 2008, and since then, he’s added one crucial skill to his skillset: the ability to draw walks in bunches. Gotay drew a whopping 102 walks last season in Triple-A, and has picked up 61 more in 93 games this year. That led to on-base percentages of .429 and .409 in 2009 and 2010.

Gotay’s no slugger, but he could pop 15 homers if he played every day in the majors, which is just fine for a second baseman with his on-base ability.

Gotay’s a playable defender at second or third base. He won’t win any Gold Gloves, but he’s not a butcher in the field either.

Ultimately, Gotay could excel as a super-utility player, chipping in OBP and gap power while giving guys days off all over the field.

Topics: Aaron Thompson, Adrian Salcedo, Austin Hyatt, Bryce Brentz, Casper Wells, GarySanchez, J.D. Martinez, Joel Carreno, Keyvius Sampson, Ruben Gotay

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