Hot and Cold 5/12-5/18

This week's hot and cold features a couple of under the radar prospects that are having strong seasons. Also, a former second round pick is struggling in Birmingham.

Hot Hitter: Tyler Kuhn, IF, AA
Kuhn is a good contact hitter that is adjusting well to AA in his second stint at the level. The former West Virginia standout is a career .300+ hitter as a professional and could find a role as a utility play in the Majors in a couple years. At 24, he's not young for the level but still has good value. In a system filled with prospects that strike out a lot, it's refreshing to see a guy like Kuhn who only has 17 strikeouts in 144 plate appearances this year. Throw in a .352 batting average and you're going to draw some attention. He doesn't draw a lot of walks (.411 OBP), but does hit for decent power for an infielder (.516 SLG). Kuhn brings some speed to the table (8/9 SB) and plays decent defense, mostly at second and third. This week he hit .458/.500/.583 mostly from the top of the order. Kuhn is one to keep an eye on. Honorable mentions:  Michael Blanke (.471/.526/.647), Lastings Milledge (.375/.500/.563) and Brandon Short (11-game hit streak).

Cold Hitter: Eduardo Escobar, SS, AAA
Escobar's aggressive AAA assignment has gone probably as expected. He's hitting just .240 with Charlotte, his lowest batting average since coming over to the US, but thanks to improved plate discipline (.294 OBP) and power (.376 SLG) his OPS is exactly what it was at Birmingham, .670. He's still not what you would call a patient hitter and he doesn't have big power, but considering he had been poor in both areas it's good to see progress. This week he hit just .136 (3-22) with no walks and two doubles, but on the plus side he only struck out once. It's probably just a bit of bad luck that more of his balls in play aren't finding holes. No reason to worry about Escobar yet, especially considering his defense has always been his most valuable asset. "Honorable" mentions: Daniel Wagner (.182/.167/.182), Andy Wilkins (.150/.217/.200) and Juan Silverio (.154/.250/.231).

Hot Pitcher: Hector Santiago, SP, High-A

It was extremely difficult to pick one pitcher this week. Several had very strong starts during the week as you can see in the longer-than-usual honorable mention category. Santiago gets the nod because his one-hit outing this week (6 IP, 0 R, 6 K, 2 BB, 1 H) was his third straight start allowing two or fewer runs. On the year, the 23-year-old lefty has a 3.75 ERA in 36 innings with 37 strikeouts and 13 walks. This is his first year as a starter and he's handling the move from the bullpen well. Given his late transition, he could be a bit of a sleeper prospect down the road. Honorable
mentions: Dylan Axelrod (7 IP, 0 R, 6 K, BB, 4 H), Charlie Leesman (11.1 IP, 1.59
ERA, 13 K, 3 BB, 7 H), Lucas Harrell (6 IP, 1.50 ERA, 9 K, BB, 5 H), Matthew Heidenreich (6 IP, 1 UER, 6 K, BB, 3 H) and Brian Omogrosso (4 IP, 1 UER, 6 K, 0 BB, 3 H).

Cold Pitcher: Nevin Griffith, SP, AA

The White Sox drafted Griffith in the second round in 2007 out of high school. At the time he was considered a high upside, high risk pick. Unfortunately we've never seen able to see his talent turn into performance. Injuries have mostly derailed his career, the latest of which caused him to ditch his plus slider for a curveball. Supposedly his stuff still grades well, but it seems like injuries did too much harm. He still hasn't pitched 200 innings combined in four years as a pro and is just 22 so there are reasons to hold out hope. Maybe a move to the bullpen would help him long term, but he still needs to pitch more to refine his pitches. This week probably felt like rock bottom. He recorded just one out and gave up seven runs in his May 14 start. That's a 189 ERA. Ouch. "Honorable" mentions: Tyson Corley (5.1 IP, 10.13 ERA, 4 K, 4 BB, 7 H), Gaby Hernandez (10.1 IP, 9.58
ERA, 6 K, 4 BB, 14 H) and Anthony Carter (3.2 IP, 9.82 ERA, 4 K, 2 BB, 7 H).

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