The Blue Jays prospect hot sheet this week covers games between May 7th and 13th and had the best group of performances we’ve seen since the first week of the year. Nine players had legitimate claims to the top five positions, with more than one .900+ OPS position player failing to make the cut. Not only was the positive performance widespread, but it encapsulated a number of names who have yet to make their presence known on the first four hot sheets of the year. Leading off the list is…
1. SS Adeiny Hechavarria (LAS): 26 AB, .462/.517/.615 (1.132 OPS), 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB, 3/6 BB/K
Not only is the slick-fielding Cuban shortstop finally swinging the bat, he’s doing so with authority. With two extra base hits in six games this week, Hechavarria is up to 16 in 36 games on the year, good for a .146 ISO. Perhaps even more impressive than the boost in power is his improved plate discipline, as his three walks raised his season total to 14. The Las Vegas 51s were 4-2 this week – now 9-3 in May – and the offense has been the driving force behind that impressive record. Hechavarria has been the catalyst while playing the leadoff position, producing four multi-hit efforts in the week’s six games.
2. C Carlos Perez (LAN): 20 AB, .350/.409/.700 (1.109 OPS), 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 2/5 BB/K
The 2011 season was heartbreaking for both Carlos Perez and prospect fanatics alike, as he disappointed tremendously after three big years in short season ball. Unsurprisingly, he was reassigned to Lansing to open 2012, and while he hasn’t returned to his 2008-2010 level of performance, the improvements from last year are significant. The augmented power has been noteworthy, as after hitting only 26 extra base hits (17 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR) in 95 games last year for a .99 ISO, he’s already hit 14 in 27 games this year (11 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR) for a .171 ISO. This week’s performance was a big part of that, as despite playing in only five games, Perez had five extra base hits, including his first home run of the year. Now 21 years old in his second go around of the Midwest League, this is a very important season for Perez, and he’s starting it off well.
3. LF Marcus Knecht (DUN): 23 AB, .304/.360/.652 (1.012 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 2/5 BB/K
After producing a vomit-inducing April line of .159/.245/.318 (.563 OPS), Marcus Knecht is finally showing a pulse. The power has been there all year, but simply making contact has proved extremely difficult for the Canadian left fielder. His struggles can almost entirely be tied into his 30.1% strikeout rate, which is significantly higher than the 23.5% mark he had during his breakout 2011 season. His statistics this week were fueled almost entirely by his monster May 8th performance against Fort Myers. Knecht went 4-for-5 with 2 HR and 5 RBI to help lead the D-Jays to a 16-4 victory, and earned Baseball America’s “Hitter of the Night” award for his effort.
4. CF Anthony Gose (LAS): 26 AB, .346/.346/.654 (1.000 OPS), 0 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB, 0/4 BB/K
For the second time in as many weeks, Anthony Gose had made the Blue Jays prospect hot sheet. Last week, his performance was a combination of plate discipline and speed. This week it was all about the power. The stolen bases were still there – Gose was a perfect 3-for-3 on attempts this week – but his extra base power was the story. Gose now has three home runs on the year, all of which have come in the past eight days. So, while only two count for this week’s hot sheet, it’s fairly obvious that he has rediscovered the power stroke that led to 16 bombs in 2011. His .327/.393/.551 slash line in May has boosted his season total to .252/.329/.371, which, while still uninspiring, is a huge improvement from his horrible April. Hitting primarily in the two-hole, Gose and Hechavarria are providing a huge boost at the top of the lineup for the suddenly surging 51’s.
5. RF Michael Crouse (DUN): 20 AB, .300/.440/.500 (.940 OPS), 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 5/4 BB/K
Having all three Dunedin outfielders in my top six this week was a great thing to see, as Crouse’s teammate Jake Marisnick was the final cut for the hot sheet. The trio hadn’t been off to a great start, and Crouse had been the worst of the group. Even after his big week, his batting average is still below the Mendoza line, and his OPS is a John McDonald-like .616. The one thing Crouse had been doing well was taking his walks, a trend he continued this week with five base-on-balls. This is a good sign, as it shows a lot of maturity. Many struggling hitters will go to the plate trying to smash the ball for at least an extra base hit to boost their season numbers back to respectability, but only find themselves walking back to the dugout with their bat in hand. Crouse hasn’t fallen into that trap, and as long as he continues to walk to the plate with a calm mind and sound approach, the hits will come.