The Chicago Cubs won the bidding for Jorge Soler, the 20-year-old Cuban defector with purportedly five-tool talent. Soler is not MLB-ready and will require some seasoning in the minors. Nevertheless, he has a power bat and is projected to be a future corner outfielder for the Cubbies. Perhaps there is something to look forward to on this side of Chicago after all, with Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson coming through the pipeline shortly as well.
Let's look at the rest of the prospect scene in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS – After a slow start, the 19-year-old shortstop from Aruba is showing signs of life. Bogaerts is hitting a blistering .393/.528/.750 over his last 10 contests for High-A Salem. He's blasted three home runs and knocked in seven runs over that span as well. Perhaps most impressive has been his plate discipline; the teen-ager has drawn seven walks while fanning just six times in those 10 games. Bogaerts' numbers have gained respectability overall now, as he is slashing .288/.360/.482 with eight home runs, 35 RBI and two steals through 60 games. His progress at the dish, as well as his pop, has made him an attractive future option for the BoSox and fantasy owners alike.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, MIA – It's tough to have better consecutive games than Ozuna did earlier this week. The 21-year-old slugger hit five home runs and knocked in 12 runs in back-to-back games for High-A Jupiter. Yes, you read that correctly. Over his last seven games he's garnered an absurd 17 RBI. While his monster power is certainly worth noting, Ozuna is hitting just .261 overall for the Hammerheads and has not hit above .266 in any of the past three seasons. He is also on pace for more than 100 strikeouts for the third straight season. Still, 15 home runs and 46 RBI through 61 games make him intriguing. Not to mention he's swiped six bags as well. At 21, he still has time to improve his plate discipline, which would make him a dangerous prospect.
Anthony Meo, P, AZ – It's hard to believe that a talent like Meo could be lost in the shuffle, but that's exactly what has happened in the pitching-rich Arizona organization. Initially viewed as a closer, the 22-year-old has been stretched out and used as a starter for High-A Visalia this season. The results have been favorable to the tune of a 3.64 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. He has been getting a decent amount of grounders due to his excellent slider (1.29 GO:AO ratio), and opposing batters are hitting a mere .229 against him. Control could be a concern, though, as Meo has walked 32 batters in his first full season in the minors. Likewise, with so many rotation options around him (Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, to name a few), it remains to be seen whether Meo will end up in the bullpen by the time he hits the big leagues.
Ariel Pena, P, LAA – Though last season Pena showed monster strikeout potential with 183 Ks in 155.2 innings, he still issued 85 walks and posted a 4.39 ERA. This season has been the real breakout campaign for the 23-year-old righty. Pena has a 3.28 ERA and 71:26 K:BB ratio in 68.2 innings for Double-A Arkansas. Opposing batters are hitting .237 against him. Pena has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts for the Travelers. Pena tends to struggle when runners get on base, but he's limited the damage overall. It looks like Pena is finally putting it all together for the Halos.
Jonathan Villar, SS, HOU – Villar has been swinging hot bat recently, slashing .316/.438/.474 with two home runs, eight RBI and seven steals over his last 10 contests for Double-A Corpus Christi. It's nice to see him being patient at the dish. Despite this hot streak, Villar is still batting .266 with 60 strikeouts in 59 games. His 28 steals in 33 attempts is certainly excellent, and he did slug 14 home runs in 2011. However, Villar's biggest problem at the higher levels will be hitting for average, as he has not hit above .277 at any level since entering the minors in 2008. He's a prospect to keep on your radar, but not much more at this juncture.
L.J. Hoes, OF, BAL – Hoes received a promotion to Triple-A following a line of .265/.368/.372 with two home runs, 16 RBI and 12 steals in 51 games for Double-A Bowie. Perhaps it was a bit premature, as Hoes has been woeful in 11 games for Norfolk. Hoes is hitting a crisp .140/.178/.256 with three RBI. The sample size is small, and the 22-year-old remains one of the better hitting prospects for the O's. Still, his move from second base to the outfield does diminish his value a bit, as does the fact that his career high in home runs is nine, and his high for steals in a year is 20.
Zach Lee, P, LAD – The good news? The 20-year-old's control has been superior, as he has a 49:9 K:BB ratio through 47.1 innings for High-A Rancho Cucamonga. The bad news? Lee's ERA sits at 4.32, which is fine but certainly not spectacular. Lefties in particular have given Lee a hard time, batting .304 against him. The No. 28 overall pick in the 2010 draft is still on a short leash as well, so don't expect him to make an impact at the major-league level until late 2013 at the earliest.
Trevor May, P, PHI – May can be overpowering most outings, as witnessed by his 208 strikeouts in 151.1 innings in 2011 for High-A Clearwater. However, he's been knocked around a bit recently for Double-A Reading, allowing six home runs in his last four starts. By comparison, he surrendered eight home runs all last season. This recent subpar stretch has moved the 22-year-old righty's ERA to 4.95. While May has a standout arm and is still arguably the best prospect in the Philadelphia system, his location has not been outstanding in 2012. Look for him to get more seasoning in the minors before being called up to the show.
Neil Ramirez, P, TEX – Ramirez could not have picked a worse time to struggle. The Rangers have had an array of injuries to their starting pitchers including Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando. The 23-year-old righty could have been looked at as a possible replacement even despite the signing of Roy Oswalt. However, he has been downright dreadful in 2012, posting a 7.88 ERA through 61.2 innings for Triple-A Round Rock. Ramirez has been bitten by the long ball, having surrendered 10 home runs already after allowing seven all of last season. He has also had difficulty getting lefties out, as they are batting .324 against him. Ramirez has a respectable K:BB ratio of 52:27, but has even been wild of late, issuing at least three free passes in three of his last four starts. All in all, it's been a nightmare of a season thus far for Ramirez.
Robbie Erlin, P, SD – A former Texas Ranger, Erlin has not pitched since May 12 due to what has been deemed an elbow strain. Though he has been rehabbing the injury, it is unclear as to the severity of the injury or how long the 21-year-old lefty will be out. Erlin had been mowing down opposing hitters at Double-A San Antonio prior to getting hurt, compiling a 2.67 ERA and 45:10 K:BB ratio in 33.2 innings for the Missions. One of the prized prospects of the San Diego system, the Padres will likely be extremely cautious with Erlin so as to not risk any further or more severe injury.
Sonny Gray, P, OAK – The No. 18 selection in the 2011 MLB draft, Gray has been less-than-stellar for Double-A Midland in his first full season in the minors. The 22-year-old has a 4.95 ERA and got blown up in his last start June 8. Gray allowed six runs on seven hits in just 2.2 innings. Gray has been allowing entirely too many base runners, including a 34:26 K:BB ratio in 56.1 innings. On the plus side, Gray continues to get ground balls to the tune of a 2.18 GO:AO ratio. Still, his control needs work, Gray remains surprisingly raw for a college product, and his size and stature certainly doesn't help his cause.
Deck McGuire, P, TOR – This has been a campaign to forget for McGuire, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2010 draft. McGuire's 2011 season went pretty much as expected, as he accumulated a 3.02 ERA and 124:45 K:BB ratio through 125.1 innings between two levels. Double-A New Hampshire has been a rude awakening for the 22-year-old, who possesses a bloated 6.83 ERA and 40:23 K:BB ratio through 59.1 innings. The lack of control has been particularly disconcerting. The Jays clearly thought highly of McGuire, just two years ago, so they aren't going to give up on him so easily. Nevertheless, he's got a long road back to being a noteworthy prospect.