The 2015 minor league baseball season is just over a week old, but there already have been countless impressive performances by top-ranked prospects, both hitters and pitchers, with many of those players also making immediate impacts at new, more challenging levels.
So, which players are off to the best start, you ask?
After sifting through endless box scores, I've written up seven of the most impressive prospects from the past week, with an emphasis on prospects who appeared in Bleacher Report’s 100 Future MLB Stars.
Here are seven top prospects who turned heads during the first week of the minor league season.
Michael Conforto, LF, New York Mets
2015 Stats (A+): 8 G, .321/.429/.607, 4 XBH (2 HR), 11 RBI, 6 BB, 3 K
Selected with the No. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft, Conforto was assigned directly to High-A St. Lucie this year (bypassing the Low-A level) after batting .331/.403/.448 with three home runs last summer in the New York-Penn League.
He projects to hit for average and consistently reach base at a high clip, though questions remain about his potential power frequency in the major leagues. However, Conforto’s early display of power in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League certainly is a good sign.
Trevor Story, SS/2B, Colorado Rockies
2015 Stats (AA): 8 G, .414/.514/.724, 5 XBH (HR), 7 RBI, 6 BB, 10 K
Story, 22, struggled last season after a promotion to Double-A, batting just .200/.302/.380 in 56 games. However, he’s certainly off to a hot start this year in the Eastern League, with a .441 batting average and five extra-base hits through eight games.
Story still has some serious approach and swing-and-miss issues, but his athleticism, power and ability to play both middle-infield positions could get him to the major leagues by the end of the season.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs
2015 Stats (AA): 6 G, .476/.593/.667, 4 2B, 6 BB, 3 K
A slow starter in previous years, Vogelbach is batting .444 with four doubles, five walks and three RBI so far, and he’s hit safely in each of Tennessee’s first six games. The 22-year-old is experiencing the Double-A level for the first time after batting .268/.357/.429 with 45 extra-base hits (16 home runs), 76 RBI and a solid 91/66 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 560 plate appearances last season for High-A Daytona (in the challenging Florida State League).
Vogelbach has a future as a big league first baseman and/or designated hitter, though it’s still unclear where he fits in the Cubs’ long-term plans.
Christian Arroyo, SS/2B, San Francisco Giants
2015 Stats (A+): 7 G, .321/.367/.679, 6 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K
Arroyo is off to a hot start in the hitter-friendly California League, as he’s already collected six extra-base hits over seven games, including a pair of home runs.
The 19-year-old batted .333/.378/.469 with 23 extra-base hits last season in 58 games for short-season Salem-Keizer, although it did come following an early-season demotion from Low-A Augusta.
Arroyo hit only six home runs in 89 games between both levels and projects for below-average power at maturity, but he should have more balls leave the park this year in the hitter-friendly California League.
Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
2015 Stats (AA): 7 G, .273/.448/.727, 4 XBH (3 HR), 7 RBI, 7 BB, 7 K
Olson, 21, led the High-A California League with 37 home runs in 2014, and he also paced the league in runs scored (111), total bases (278) and walks (117), all while batting .262/.404/.543 in 138 games.
His 6’4", 236-pound frame and long arm leave holes in his swing and lead to a fair amount of swing-and-miss (almost 22 percent of the time in 2014). However, he also generates plus power that projects favorably in the major leagues. Olson could be an option for the A’s, either at first base or designated hitter, at some point later this season.
Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2015 Stats (A+): 2 GS, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 20 K
Reyes, 20, has opened his season at High-A Palm Beach with 10 strikeouts in back-to-back games. His impressive starts come after a dominant second half of 2014 at Low-A Peoria, as he finished the season with a 3.62 ERA, 2.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .207 opponents’ batting average in 109.1 innings.
Reyes is among the most projectable pitching prospects in the minors, possessing an enticing combination of athleticism and stuff. Reyes could finish the season in Double-A if he can improve his changeup and develop better control and command, which would put him on track for a potential MLB debut in late 2016.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2015 Stats (A+): 2 GS, 9 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 13 K
After an underwhelming professional debut in 2013, De Leon put himself on the map last season with a jaw-dropping performance at rookie-level Ogden in which he led the Pioneer League in strikeouts (77) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.8) while posting a 2.65 ERA in 54.1 innings.
Yet the 22-year-old was even more impressive after he moved up to the Low-A Midwest League, with a 1.19 ERA and an insanely good 42-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22.2 innings spanning four starts.
De Leon’s uptick in velocity last season pushed his fastball into the mid-90s, and the improved velo also turned his slider into a true swing-and-miss offering, registering in the low 80s with excellent depth and bite.
The right-hander allowed just one hit in five innings and struck out 13 batters in his High-A debut. With a few more performances of that nature, De Leon could wind up spending most of the season in Double-A alongside phenom Julio Urias.
All stats courtesy of MiLB.com and reflect games through April 16.
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