Prospect Team of the Week, July 11 2022

A theme presents itself in this edition of the Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week: seasons coming alive.

After sluggish Junes or Mays or first halves of the season, a majority of this week’s honorees have taken off to start the month of July with a flurry of multihit performances and power outbursts at the plate and dominant work on the mound. The Pirates and Royals place a pair of selections on this week’s roster while the Rays nab three slots.

To be eligible for the Pipeline Prospect Team of the Week, Minor League players must be ranked among their club’s Top 30 prospects on Pipeline’s lists. (Those in the Majors do not qualify.)

This is the Prospect Team of the Week for July 4-July 10:

Catcher: Carter Jensen, Columbia Fireflies (Single-A)
Royals No. 13
.467/.583/.800, 6 G, 7-for-15, 1 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 8 R, 7 BB, 4 K

Jensen’s best offensive month of the season was June, when the 19-year-old batted .200/.302/.387 in 22 games. He’s discovering something at the plate so far in July with just one hitless game in his first nine for the month and a .423/.553/.615 line. That includes last week’s home series against Myrtle Beach, during which Jensen reached base in all six contests and produced 13 runs. The backstop’s biggest performance was on Saturday, when he went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, two RBIs and four runs scored. A third-round pick in 2021, Jensen was “arguably the best pure hitter in the 2021 Draft” according to his Pipeline scouting report and might be putting things together at the dish.

1B: Nick Pratto, Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A)
Royals No. 2, MLB No. 70
.375/.531/.875, 7 G, 9-for-24, 4 HR, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 6 K

Three steps up the ladder, Jensen’s organizational teammate Pratto continued knocking on the big league door. Following a resurgent June, Pratto has been even better so far in July. The first baseman kicked off his team’s series against visiting Toledo on Independence Day with a 3-for-7 line that featured a homer. After an 0-for-4 game in Wednesday’s doubleheader opener, Pratto registered at least one hit in his remaining five games of the week with a homer and three walks in Wednesday’s nightcap and homers on Saturday and Sunday to cap the series. Just a .217/.349/.447 hitter entering play on June 4, Pratto has batted .271/.408/.525 over his last 31 games.

2B: Adrian Placencia, Inland Empire 66ers (Single-A)
Angels No. 9
.412/.500/.765, 5 G, 7-for-17, 1 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K, 3 SB

After struggling at the plate in his pro debut last year, Placencia is showing why the Angels liked him enough on the international market to sign him in the 2019-20 period. Last week’s series against visiting Rancho Cucamonga featured three two-hit performances with a double in each. Placencia went 2-for-4 in the series opener with a homer and a double, his same line as a July 3 series finale at Lake Elsinore. The biggest run production day of the second baseman’s week was Saturday, when he doubled on a 2-for-5 night and drove in four runs while scoring a pair.

3B: Willy Vasquez, Charleston RiverDogs (Single-A)
Rice No. 8
.421/.476/.947, 5 G, 8-for-19, 2 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBI, 8 R, 2 BB, 2 K

Like many on this week’s list, Vasquez had struggled to find his footing at the plate before turning the corner to start July, and the third baseman may be doing it better than anyone so far this month. Vasquez has hits in all but one game this month and has multiple hits in six. Last week, his most productive day came courtesy of a grand slam on Thursday, part of a 2-for-3, 5 RBI day with a walk. Through eight games so far in July, Vasquez’s numbers are even better than last week, with a .469/.528/.906 line for the month.

SS: Elly De La Cruz, Dayton Dragons (High-A)
Reds No. 2, MLB No. 50
.421/.500/1.211, 6 G, 8-for-19, 5 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 3 SB

De La Cruz reached the 20-homer plateau for the season with, perhaps oddly, five solo shots last week against visiting West Michigan. The shortstop belted a pair of homers in Thursday’s doubleheader opener and one in the nightcap before adding two more — from each side of the plate — in a Saturday doubleheader finale. De La Cruz hit seven homers in all of June (25 games) before adding five over that four-game span in early July. Of his four strikeouts against West Michigan, three came in the series opener. Over the next five games, the shortstop walked three times while fanning only once.

OF: Rodolfo Nolasco, Bradenton Marauders (Single-A)
Pirates No. 22
.455/.571/1.136, 6 G, 10-for-22, 4 HR, 3 2B, 9 RBI, 10 R, 6 BB, 4 K

Nolasco carries a seven-game hitting streak into the week after notching knocks in all six against Lakeland to put himself on this week’s squad. Nolasco went 1-for-4 in each of the Marauders’ first two games on the road before breaking out over his next four, going a combined 8-for-14 with homers in all four and doubles in three. Nolasco homered just four times in 21 June games and only twice in 38 combined contests between April and May.

OF: Matt Wallner, Wichita Wind Surge, (Double-A)
Twins No. 8
.450/.542/.950, 5 G, 9-for-20, 3 HR, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K

Wallner has made himself at home on this year’s Prospect Team of the Week with this being his third selection of the season. The 24-year-old had hits in all five games he played against visiting Amarillo with a trio of multihit affairs. Wallner opened his series with a pair of homers on Independence Day and drove in three runs. The outfielder then closed his week with three hits and a homer in Sunday’s finale. The stretch pushed Wallner’s season-long OPS back over 1.000 with a .292/.430/.596 line in 76 games for the year.

OF: Cameron Misner, Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A)
Rice No. 13
.500/.636/.813, 5 G, 8-for-16, 1 HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB, 4 K, 3 SB

One game took Misner’s week from good to great. After starting Montgomery’s series against Biloxi 2-for-9, the outfielder went off in a 5-for-5 performance with two doubles and a pair of runs scored on Saturday night. It was the first game in Misner’s career with more than three hits, and it helped lift the Biscuits to a 7-6 win in extra innings. Trailing by two heading into the bottom of the 10th, Misner’s team mounted a two-out rally that included a Misner single through the left side. Three batters later, with the bases loaded, Misner came home to score the game-winning run when Garrett Hiott was hit by a pitch.

LHP: DL Hall, Norfolk Tides (Triple-A)
Orioles No. 4, MLB No. 67
1-0, 1.50 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 0.83 WHIP

Although he surrendered a run in the bottom of the first inning at Jacksonville on Wednesday, Hall put together one of his most dominant outings ever. The southpaw set a new career high with his 14 K’s and threw 68 of his 98 pitches for strikes. Hall struck out eight of the last nine batters he faced and didn’t allow a single baserunner after Peyton Burdick’s leadoff single to left in the third. Through his first two starts in July, Hall has allowed one run on four hits while striking out 22 and walking only three in 10 innings, quite a bounceback effort after the lefty yielded 12 runs (nine earned) on 10 hits over 7 2/3 innings in his last two June outings.

RHP: Taj Bradley, Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A)
Rice No. 2, MLB No. 34
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.33 WHIP

Having not allowed an earned run over his previous three outings, Bradley kept that streak alive with six more stellar innings for Montgomery. The righty silenced Biloxi’s bats, allowing just two singles and no walks over his Thursday outing, and got six groundouts and four on the fly to go along with his seven strikeouts. Bradley has allowed more than one earned run in just one start this year, when he gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits over four innings on April 27. When removing that start, the 21-year-old’s ERA is 0.94 in his other 14 outings this year.

RP: Tahnaj Thomas, Altoona Curve (Double-A)
Pirates No. 24
0-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 3 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 0.00 WHIP

While the Curve have gotten most of their prospect headlines thanks to guys like Henry Davis (Pittsburgh’s No. 1), Nick Gonzales (No. 3), Quinn Priester (No. 4) and Liover Peguero (No. 5) on their roster, Thomas is coming into his own. On the road at Akron last week, the right-hander got the ball twice and came through for Altoona. Thomas earned the save with five perfect outs on Thursday, notching a pair of strikeouts, and then came back Sunday for two more perfect innings with two more K’s. Through three July appearances, Thomas has struck out six in 5 1/3 innings and has not allowed a hit, run, walk or hit batsman.

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