Hottest hitting prospect from each team

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We’re coming up on the end of a long season in Minor League Baseball. The High-A and Single-A seasons come to a close on Sept. 11, with Double-A following on Sept. 18 and Triple-A on Sept. 28. After nearly five months of constant play, some hitters might be excused for tiring and slowing down in the final stretch.

But that certainly isn’t the case everywhere.

This is another edition of the hottest hitters in prospectdom, covering the last 30 days ending on Aug. 24. Seven sluggers below (Kyle Manzardo, Elijah Dunham, Parker Meadows, Jose Rodriguez, Sal Frelick, Endy Rodriguez, Hunter Godman) are repeat honorees this season while three more (Edgar Quero, Vaughn Grissom, Elly De La Cruz) are featured for the third time in 2022.

These are 30 of the hottest-hitting Top 30 prospects in the Minors right now, one for each team.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Otto Lopez, 2B/OF/SS (No. 18)Lopez was called up to Toronto from Aug. 6-8, featured in two games without making a plate appearance and was returned to Triple-A Buffalo to make room on the 26-man roster for Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s certainly hitting like a player who wants to force his way back north of the border. Lopez is riding a 15-game hitting streak with the Bisons, going 31-for-62 (.500) with seven extra-base hits and only 10 strikeouts in that span. A career .306 hitter in the Minors, Lopez has the hit tool and defensive versatility to impact an MLB roster in some way when he gets a full-blown opportunity.

Orioles: Joseph Ortiz, SS (No. 19)In our most recent episode of the MLB Pipeline Podcast, Orioles farm director Matt Blood brought up Ortiz as one of the more underappreciated prospects in the No. 1 system in the game, and for good reason. Ortiz has always been able to pick it at shortstop, but the bat has really come on of late with a .349/.430/.698 line over the past month at Double-A Bowie. That includes nine of his 15 homers for the season.

Rays: Kyle Manzardo, 1B (No. 6)Tampa Bay’s 2021 second-rounder has managed an OPS of at least .900 every month this season, yet August may be his hottest of all, even after a move to Double-A Montgomery. Manzardo hit .450/.560/1.025 with six homers in his final dozen games at High-A Bowling Green and has hit the ground running with a .381/.451/.667 with as many extra-base hits (eight) as strikeouts in his first 12 games in the Southern League. The former Washington State star has turned into a legit plus hitter in pro ball and could be on track to see Tropicana Field ahead of schedule.

Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B (No. 2/MLB No. 26)When will Casas make his big league debut with the offensively challenged Red Sox? The 2018 first-rounder from a Florida high school combines hitting ability, power and patience and has batted .304/.404/.533 with three homers in his last 25 games in Triple-A. He’s batting .274/.380/.492 with 10 homers in 68 games for the season.

Yankees: Elijah Dunham, OF (No. 21)The Arizona Fall League’s 2021 breakout player of the year, Dunham has continued to produce this season in Double-A. He has hit .296/.438/.493 with three homers and six steals in his last 20 games and .259/.357/.468 with 16 homers and 32 steals in 94 contests overall. Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Indiana in 2020, he features average tools across the board.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Guardians: Petey Halpin, OF (No. 20)After a slow first half to his season, Halpin has heated up and batted .308/.413/.590 with four homers in his last 21 games in High-A to boost his overall line to .266/.353/.398 with six homers and 16 steals in 94 contests. A 2020 third-round pick as a California high schooler, he’s a center fielder with four solid or better tools and some developing power.

Royals: Gavin Cross, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 75)This year’s ninth overall pick came flying out of the gate, going 5-for-10 (.500) with a homer and two doubles over three games in the Arizona Complex League. That prompted a move to Single-A Columbia on Aug. 10, and he hasn’t slowed down a ton since. Seven of his 12 hits with the Fireflies have gone for extra bases, leading to a .609 slugging percentage and .967 OPS through his first 53 plate appearances in full-season ball. Notably, the Royals have used Cross exclusively in center field, where his well-rounded skill set has even more value.

Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 18)For this week’s reminder that development isn’t always linear, we present Meadows — an athletic outfielder who repeated High-A at the start of 2022 due to serious hit-tool questions, only to end the season on a Double-A hot streak. The 22-year-old is batting .347/.432/.643 with seven homers over 27 games in the last 30 days. Perhaps most impressively, he’s done all that with a near-even 18/16 K/BB ratio through 118 plate appearances. Meadows has the speed to impact a game on the basepaths, and the more he puts the ball in the play, the more chances he gives himself to show off that speed.

Twins: Edouard Julien, 2B (No. 14)Julien made a nice leap up the Twins’ Top 30 in our recent re-rank, thanks largely to how he’s swung the bat all year in Double-A (.294/.439/.505, 16 HR, 15 SB). He’s only helped those numbers over the last 30 days, with a robust .315/.475/.598 line with seven homers. He’s also walked as often as he’s struck out during the period.

White Sox: Jose Rodriguez, SS/2B (No. 7)Rodriguez cracks this list for the second straight month on the strength of a .278/.404/.667 batting line with 10 homers and nine steals in 23 Double-A games. Signed for just $50,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, he combines hitting ability with sneaky power and solid speed. He’s hitting .280/.340/.430 overall with 11 homers and 40 steals in 104 games.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels: Edgar Quero, C (No. 3)We received a lot of questions about how close Quero, a 19-year-old backstop who has a season line of .313/.426/.531 in his first full year in Single-A, was to making the Top 100. And he’s not far off. If he keeps doing what he’s done, and his .315/.423/.620 performance over the last month is right in line with what he’s done all season, then he’ll work his way onto the list soon enough.

Athletics: Shea Langeliers, C (No. 1/MLB No. 36)The A’s top prospect is now in the big leagues, but it’s easy to see why the A’s thought he might be ready. In his 15 games before getting called up, Langeliers hit .361/.412/.541 with seven extra-base hits while providing his typically outstanding defense.

Astros: Justin Dirden, OF (No. 12)Dirden turned pro out of Southeast Missouri State as a nondrafted free agent in 2020 and has blossomed into one of the best power prospects in the Astros system. He has raked at a .378/.462/.678 clip with five homers in his last 23 contests between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s hitting a combined .323/.409/.600 with 21 homers in 105 games at the two levels and still ranks as the Double-A Texas League leader in batting (.324) and slugging (.616).

Mariners: Robert Perez Jr. (No. 21)After hitting 20 homers in 92 Single-A games, Perez was bumped up to High-A Everett and he hasn’t missed a beat. Over the past month combined, he hit .372/.500/.574 with 11 XBH. He has a .959 OPS in 20 games since the promotion.

Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B (No. 1/MLB No. 39)Jung’s season debut didn’t come until July 28 after he tore the labrum in his left shoulder while lifting weights in February, but he’s making up for lost time by batting .307/.381/.733 with nine homers in 20 games between Rookie ball and Triple-A. (Lest you think he fattened up against Rookie-level arms, he posted a .945 OPS against them, compared to a 1.200 mark in Triple-A.) The eighth overall pick in the 2019 Draft out of Texas Tech, he’s one of the best all-around hitters in the Minors and on the verge of reaching the Majors.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Vaughn Grissom, SS/2B (No. 1/MLB No. 79)What Grissom has done in the big leagues (1.024 OPS) since being called up is nothing short of extraordinary. Clearly, the Braves were striking while the infielder was hot. In his 13 games prior to the promotion, Grissom had a .359/.404/.528 line, leaving his season line in Double-A at .324/.405/.494 with 14 homers and 27 steals. Something tells us he won’t be back in Mississippi any time soon.

Marlins: Jose Gerardo, OF (No. 20)Signed for $180,000 from the Dominican Republic in January, Gerardo clocked a 102-mph throw from the outfield as an amateur, leading to some discussion whether he should pursue a career on the mound. He also has a lot of raw power and an aggressive approach that have translated into a .276/.404/.579 line with six homers and five steals in his last 22 games in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He’s hitting .284/.417/.551 overall with 11 homers (third in the DSL) and 18 steals in 50 contests.

Mets: Mark Vientos, 1B/3B (No. 7)Vientos’ carrying tool is always going to be his power, so it’s a major point in his favor that his .692 slugging percentage over the last 30 days leads all International League qualifiers in that span. He’s been far from a one-trick pony of late, however, with a .397 average and .460 OBP over his last 20 games for Triple-A Syracuse. The Mets chose Brett Baty over Vientos when they had an opening at third base because of Baty’s hit-tool and defensive advantages, but the latter is showing enough with his bat to earn his chance at seeing Queens before the season is out.

Nationals: James Wood, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 35)New organization, no problem. Wood ended his Padres tenure on a bender, going 8-for-11 (.727) with a homer and six RBIs in his final three games with Single-A Lake Elsinore, and picked up four hits in his Fredericksburg debut three days after being moved in the Juan Soto trade. The 19-year-old outfielder is hitting .328/.403/.535 with two homers and four steals in 15 games with the FredNats, showing the same five-tool potential that made him such a key piece in the August blockbuster.

Phillies: Simon Muzziotti, OF (No. 12)It’s been a frustrating, injury-riddled year for Muzziotti (though he did reach the big leagues for the first time). He was swinging the bat very well of late, before a mid-August knee injury end his season. The good news is he was starting to impact the ball a bit more, a concern regarding his offensive ceiling, and he hit .377/.426/.623 with four homers in the 68 plate appearances before he got hurt again.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Sal Frelick, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 49)Milwaukee keeps trying to find a challenge for Frelick in his first full season, and the 2021 first-rounder keeps answering the call. The Brewers promoted the former Boston College star to Triple-A Nashville (his third level of the season) on Aug. 2, and he’s responded by hitting .419/.494/.514 with more walks (10) than strikeouts (seven) through his first 19 games with the Sounds. Frelick’s advanced approach and plus-plus speed have helped ease his transition at every stop, and it’s worth wondering if the contending Brewers could use those skills in the Majors during September roster expansion.

Cardinals: Jordan Walker, 3B/OF (No. 1/MLB No. 6)St. Louis has given Walker a new challenge by giving him looks in all three outfield spots his month. One thing’s for sure, it hasn’t affected his offensive performance. The 20-year-old slugger is hitting .343/.407/.614 with five homers in 19 games with Double-A Springfield thus far in August. That’s bumped his already-high season OPS from .905 entering the month to .926, eighth-best among Double-A qualifiers despite being four years younger than the Texas League average.

Cubs: Matt Mervis, 1B (No. 21)A 2020 nondrafted free agent from Duke, Mervis has emerged as one of the Cubs’ best left-handed power prospects this season. He has hit .292/.360/.494 with three homers in his last 24 Triple-A games and a combined .309/.368/.590 with 25 homers in 107 games across three levels. He ranks third in the Minors in doubles (35), extra-base hits (62) and RBI (96).

Pirates: Endy Rodriguez, C/OF (No. 6)Rodriguez clearly didn’t get the memo about how the move to Double-A is hard, absolutely mashing in his 11 games since moving to Altoona (1.116 OPS). For the month, he hit a ridiculous .395/.500/.711 with five homers and more walks than strikeouts, bringing his season line to .308/.399/.558 across two levels.

Reds: Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 15)Who else? One of the most exciting prospects in the game, De La Cruz just keeps on putting up ridiculous numbers, with the 20-year-old hitting even better since he got to Double-A. Over the last month there, the switch-hitter has posted a .344/.390/.698 line with seven homers and five steals. For the season, he’s now at .308/.362/.618 with 27 homers and 36 steals, putting him at or near the top of any hitter of the year talk.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Dominic Canzone, OF (No. 20)Following brief appearances in the ACL and Texas League, Canzone returned to Triple-A Reno on Aug. 2 and has been on fire for the Pacific Coast League club ever since. On a team that also includes No. 3 overall prospect Corbin Carroll, Canzone leads Reno hitters in average (.344), OBP (.382), slugging (.609), homers (four) and total bases (39) this month. That context is important considering how inflated PCL numbers can look. It still looks like Carroll might be the most likely Ace to jump to Arizona in the coming weeks, but don’t sleep on Canzone pushing for a look.

Dodgers: Dalton Rushing, C (No. 9)The Dodgers’ top pick (second round) in the 2022 Draft, Rushing has broken into pro ball by batting .424/.527/.847 with six homers in his first 17 games, mostly in Single-A. The Louisville product combines power and patience and also exhibits solid arm strength behind the plate.

Giants: Vaun Brown, OF (No. 10)Not only has Brown batted .366/.500/.620 with three homers and 10 steals in his last 21 games in High-A, but he also has maintained roughly that pace for the entire season. He’s hitting .348/.439/.626 with 23 homers and 44 steals in 102 games between two Class A stops, leading the Minors in batting and runs (100) and ranking second in total bases (241) and OPS (1.065). A $7,500 senior sign out of NCAA Division II Florida Southern in the 10th round of the 2021 Draft, he’s old for his level of competition at age 24 but also loaded with tools: well-above-average power, plus-plus speed and quality center-field defense.

Padres: Eguy Rosario, INF (No. 6)Added to the 40-man roster last offseason, Rosario has been with Triple-A El Paso all season and is hitting like someone who’d like to see San Diego before the season is out. The 23-year-old infielder owns a .337/.405/.611 line over his last 24 games, all while striking out only 16.2 percent of the time. Rosario has moved around from third to short to second in that time as well, with the Padres trying to make the most of his above-average speed and strong arm. Though there isn’t an obvious starting spot for him right now, Rosario has enough tools and production to help the Padres in some way should he get the call in September.

Rockies: Hunter Goodman, C/1B (No. 23)It looks like the power is going to play, huh? Goodman hit 22 homers in 73 games with Single-A Fresno but is now showing it works up a level in High-A, too. He’s hit .327/.361/.673 with eight homers (18 XBH total) over the last month with Spokane. For the year, the 2021 fourth-rounder now has 31 homers to put him in a tie for second among all Minor Leaguers.