A number of pitching prospects are doing impressive things in the Minors of late, but it's hard to find anyone who was more impressive in the past week than the Mariners' Danny Hultzen.
Seattle's first-round pick (No. 2 overall) last June is No. 2 on the Mariners' Top 20 list and No. 16 on the overall Top 100. Making his pro debut in the Double-A Southern League, Hultzen won both of his starts this week (Thursday, April 19 through Wednesday, April 2).
The University of Virginia product didn't allow a run in 12 total innings of work. He yielded only four hits for a .103 batting average against while allowing five walks and striking out 10. For the year, spanning four starts, the southpaw has a 2.08 ERA (fifth in the Southern League) and a .122 BAA while compiling 26 strikeouts (fifth in the SL) in 21 2/3 innings.
The Marlins' Jose Fernandez gets an honorable mention. No. 3 on the team's Top 20, the 2011 first-rounder contributed to a no-no in the South Atlantic League with six no-hit innings. He struck out eight and is now second in the SAL with 33 K's and 10th with his 1.57 ERA.
Middlebrooks earns Player of Week nod
It was a tough call between a third baseman and a first baseman for Prospect Watch Player of the Week honors, but the guy at the hot corner got the nod.
Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox's future third baseman (No. 1 on the Red Sox's Top 20 prospects list, No. 55 on the overall Top 100), had his power swing working for Triple-A Pawtucket. The third baseman hit five homers and drove in 15 runs over the course of the week (last Thursday through Wednesday).
His .400/.500/1.08 line raised his overall numbers to .377/.429/.792 with nine homers and 27 RBIs. He entered games on Thursday tied for second in all of the Minor Leagues in both home runs and runs batted in.
Astros first baseman Jonathan Singleton (Houston's No. 1 prospect; No. 43 overall) wasn't far behind. He hit .462/.533/.962 with three homers and eight RBIs for his week. He's now hitting .368/.456/.662 with three homers and 13 RBIs for the year.
Fallen future Friars on the mend
Every organization has to deal with its fair share of injuries up and down the system. But sometimes when it rains, it pours.
The Padres had to feel that way over the past few weeks when three of the top 10 prospects in the organization's Top 20 rankings were all shelved. Fortunately for the Padres, they may have dodged any severe injury issues.
No. 2 Padres prospect (and No. 49 on the overall Top 100) Casey Kelly provided the biggest scare. The right-hander was off to a very promising start over his first two starts at Triple-A before having to deal with an elbow problem that turned out to be a strain of the ligament. That set off warning bells for obvious reasons, but the Padres were able to collectively sigh in relief when it was determined surgery was not needed.
Instead, Kelly is now finishing up a second week of a no-throwing program. He'll start his throwing program back up and will throw for two weeks. Assuming he gets through that without any difficulty, he'll be back in game action following that two-week period.
"It was about as good news as you can hope for," said Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting. "We're being cautious and conservative with him. It should be roughly about a month [when he returns to games]."
Kelly's batterymate in Triple-A Tucson, Yasmani Grandal, also went down. The system's No. 4 prospect had a typical hamstring tweak. After going 6-for-12 in his first four games as a Padre -- he came from the Reds in the Mat Latos deal -- he was placed on the DL with the hamstring injury. As those things often go, what was thought to be a few-day thing turned into just about two weeks. He was set to be activated for this weekend's series in Sacramento.
A few levels down, another catcher was on the mend. Austin Hedges, the organization's second-round pick (and No. 10 prospect) experienced some stiffness in his shoulder and was placed on the disabled list on April 16. Again, the Padres were being cautious. With the cooler temps in Fort Wayne and the Midwest League, they felt it best to shut down Hedges and send him to Arizona for about a week of strengthening and throwing. He made it back to Fort Wayne on Thursday and was back in the lineup, going 1-for-3 and throwing out one of two basestealers from behind the plate.
"Two of the three are back," Smith said. "It looks like none of them, knock on wood, were very serious."
The Padres didn't corner the market on top prospects hitting the DL. Manny Banuelos, the Yankees' top prospect and No. 13 overall Top 100 list, hadn't gotten off to a very good start in Triple-A. Maybe now there's an explanation. He's on the disabled list with a sore back and is expected to miss one start with his lat issue. ... Chad Bettis is No. 4 on the Rockies' Top 20 (and No. 65 overall), but he's yet to make a start with Double-A Tulsa due to a triceps injury. ... Josh Bell of the Pirates (No. 4 on the Pirates' Top 20; No. 69 overall) was off to a solid start to his pro debut with Class A West Virginia before being shelved with a knee injury on Thursday. He tweaked his knee after a base hit for West Virginia on Tuesday. ... A left wrist injury has felled the Rays' Tim Beckham, No. 4 on the Rays' Top 20 and No. 91 overall.
Royals' Arteaga gets extended look
Extended spring camp in Surprise, Ariz., has not been everything Royals infield prospect Humberto Arteaga has expected.
It's been more.
"It's been a little hot, but things are great," Arteaga said with a smile. "In Venezuela, I never played every day like this. We played three games a week, but I'm getting used to it. I feel more comfortable. I have one year under my belt and I'm working on my physical strength."
Arteaga, ranked No. 19 among Kansas City prospects, hit .254 with 11 doubles and two triples for the Royals in the Arizona Rookie League last year. The young Venezuelan committed 15 errors in 220 chances and knows he can do better. He has been concentrating on his defense in Arizona.
"It wasn't an excellent year if you look at the numbers, but I learned so many things," Arteaga said. "It was a year of lessons. If you look at it that way, it was a great year. As a player, I feel like I am getting better."
Arteaga's teammate Adalberto Mondesi is also making the most of his opportunity in the Valley of the Sun. The infielder had five hits in an extended spring game on Monday.
At 16, the switch-hitting infielder is the youngest player in camp. The son of former Major Leaguer Raul Mondesi, the teenager signed with club for $2 million as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic last season.
"My dad always tells me I can be better than he ever was," Mondesi said. "He says I have developed at a rapid pace."
The elder Mondesi, an outfielder, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1994 and was an All-Star the next season for the Dodgers. He played in the Majors for 13 years. Raul Mondesi Jr. is a prospect in extended spring camp with the Brewers in Phoenix.
"Having my father play in the Major Leagues has helped me," Adalberto said. "I know a lot of people have fantasized about playing in the Major Leagues, but it is not a fantasy to me. It's not a dream. It's a place where I want to be. I know my father did it and he knows I can do it, too."
Adalberto recalls visiting Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium as a child and has fond memories of Toronto and playing with Carlos Delgado's kids in the clubhouse.
Mondesi's five-hit performance came against Mariners prospects, but Naususel Cabrera, the pitching coach for Seattle's Class A team in Pulaski, is not worried about the results in extended spring camp. He's looking for progress.
"These young men have so much to learn," Cabrera said. "They are going to have to adjust to the talent of the competition and that starts here. These guys are raw but very talented. It's up to us to bring all the talent out of them."
Cabrera has been impressed with hard-throwing right-handed pitchers Richard Vargas, who pitched at Pulaski, and Fray Martinez, who played in Class A Clinton last season, in the last few weeks. The pair is working on the command of their breaking pitches but has wowed Cabrera with 98-mph fastballs.
Charles Kaalekahi, who pitched in the Arizona League last year along with Pulaski pitchers Jeremy Dobbs, Dylan Unsworth and Seon Gi Kim have also had strong camps. Kim played at three levels last year.
"They are working on command and mechanics and that's where we come it," Cabrera said.
Reds prospect Gregorius impresses scouts
There are a number of outstanding shortstop prospects in the game today. Two -- the Orioles' Manny Machado and the Rangers' Jurickson Profar -- are in the Top 10 of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list. The scout we spoke to this week didn't see either of them but did come away raving about one of the more underappreciated prospects at the position, the Reds' Didi Gregorius.
The native of Curacao, Gregorius began the year at No. 7 on the Reds' Top 20. According to this scout, a re-ranking might be in order soon.
"There's not much he can't do," the scout said after seeing Gregorius play for the Reds' Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahos. "The only tool he doesn't have that isn't plus is power, but that's average.
"He doesn't swing at bad pitches. He has an outstanding two-strike approach. He's short to the ball. He plays to his strengths. To me, he's a fast-track guy."
As of Thursday's games, Gregorius led the Southern League with his .373 average and his .424 on-base percentage was good for sixth. But he's not just bat. The scout said there's no question he'll be able to stay at short long term, even if there are some things he still needs to work on.
"He does some things at times that you don't like," the scout said. "Sometimes he'll field the ball deep, but his throws are good, they're accurate. He has plus, plus range. He's going to be able to play shortstop. He has really good hands. Sometimes his body isn't in the right position to field the ball. That's just a matter of repetition."
It gives the Reds a very good problem to have. With a solid rookie in Cincinnati, a fine defensive shortstop in Triple-A and a speedster at short a level behind Gregorius, there is an embarrassment of riches up the middle in this organization.
"They have Billy Hamilton [in the California League], they have a very good big league shortstop in Zack Cozart," the scout said. "They have Paul Janish in Triple-A. They might have the most shortstop prospects in baseball. There's no place for Gregorius to go right now."
Gregorius isn't the only prospect this scout has seen recently in his travels, making a few other Double-A stops. Some highlights.
Kyle Skipworth, Marlins: "He looks a lot better this year. His swing is more efficient. He's hitting from a solid base now. He's catching better. He might be the most improved prospect for a guy who had flamed out that I've seen in a while. He was a lost soul last year. He looks a lot like the guy everyone thought he would be. He may not be an elite guy, but he's sure looking like a big leaguer."
Evan Reed, Marlins: "He has a huge arm. He still has to work on his slider consistency, but he was up to 97 mph. He's an aggressive power guy who looks like he has a high upside of a setup guy."
Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals: "He was really impressive. He was 94-100 mph with his fastball, his slider was 88-92 mph; his curve was 80-86 mph and the change up was 80-85 mph. The fastball, slider and curve were all plus and the changeup was solid average now. He just needs to throw it more and it will get better."
Jonathan Mayo and Jesse Sanchez are reporters for MLB.com. Mayo writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 and @JesseSanchezMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.