Danny Hultzen had been putting up pretty good numbers in his first pro season. But in his past two Double-A Southern League starts, he may have taken things to another level.
As a starter who has averaged better than a strikeout per inning, that uptick in isn't what's most impressive. That he only walked two in those two outings could be the sign of improvement and making adjustments. The one small knock against last year's No. 2 overall pick had been about his command. He's walked 4.4 per nine innings to date, so the drastic drop in walks last week could be a harbinger of good things on the horizon.
Another Blue Jays catcher honored
On the heels of J.P. Arencibia winning American League Player of the Week honors, the man some think will eventually supplant Arencibia behind the plate in Toronto was chosen as the Prospect Watch Player of the Week.
Travis d'Arnaud, ranked No. 22 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 1 on the Blue Jays' Top 20, hit .417/.440/.875 in six games for Triple-A Las Vegas, with his 1.315 OPS among the highest in the Minors for the week. The catcher had three homers and six RBIs and struck out just twice in 21 at-bats.
After starting the season slowly -- he was hitting .222 on April 24 -- d'Arnaud has been looking much more like the prospect who hit .311/.371/.542 in Double-A a year ago. He's hit .306/.351/.583 in May and is up to a .293 average overall with seven homers, 21 RBIs and a .497 SLG.
Rangers' Garia showing speed in camp
Rangers top prospects Leury Garcia and Luis Sardina, ranked ninth and 15th, respectively among the club's tops prospects, are considered the two fastest runners in the system, but outfielder Chris Garia is making a run at them.
Garia, who signed with the Rangers out of Curacao along with shortstop Jurickson Profar on July 2, 2009, continues to impress the staff at extended spring training with his speed.
"If he puts it in play and it's not right at you, then there's a good chance that it's a hit," Arizona Rookie League Rangers manager Corey Ragsdale said. "That's the thing with him, even if he is not barreling up balls, he will still be able to bunt and get on base and do those things."
Garia, who played for The Netherlands Antilles' Little League World Series championship team in 2004, has spent the past two years playing in the Dominican Summer League. The club likes his athleticism but also understands he needs more game action.
Garia, competing for a spot in the system, is mastering the fine art of the well-placed bunt.
"He is still learning how to be a baserunner and basestealer but he's so fast right now that he can get [stolen bases] when he wants to," Ragsdale said. "He's come so far from two years ago."
Ragsdale said several other players at extended spring training are also "turning a corner." Specifically, he mentioned the progress of infielders Luis Marte, Alberto Triunfel and Smerling Lantigua, who all played in the Dominican Summer League last year.
"Triunfel has really good hands but he's just too good sometimes and we have to slow him down," the manager said. "He's also come a long way with the bat. Marte makes all the routine players, which is good because a lot of times those are the plays the young players struggle with."
Ragsdale added that Lantigua has shown his power in Arizona but he's also displayed a need to work on his footwork.
"He's a big kid and he will have a chance to be a corner guy in the future," he said.
Giants prospect Galindo gets back on field
Giants outfield prospect Jesus Galindo is off the disabled list, back with Class A Augusta and hopeful that the hamstring issue that kept him in extended spring training at the start of the season is behind him.
Galindo, ranked No. 13 in San Francisco's Minor League system, led the Northwest League in runs scored and stolen bases in his U.S. debut last year. He was also named a Northwest League postseason All-Star.
"Galindo didn't get a lot of playing time in Arizona but that was because we were just trying to get to a point where he can help us in Augusta," said Bobby Evans, San Francisco's vice president of baseball operations. "He is going to play himself into baseball shape and the good news is that he is healthy."
Galindo, 21, joined the Class A GreenJackets on Monday.
"He has tools as a young player and he has ability," Evans said. "He will face challenges with the quality of pitching in Augusta but age is a factor. We need to get him out into the system and he needs to climb."
Galindo is not the only notable player on MLB.com's top prospects list making his way back. Oakland shortstop prospect Yordy Cabrera, ranked No. 8 in the organization, has recovered from a back problem and made his debut with Stockton. Atlanta catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, ranked No. 4 in the organization, returned from the disabled list and had four hits in his first 11 at-bats in Double-A.
Other players have not been as fortunate.
Yankees left-hander Manny Banuelos, the top-ranked prospect in the organization, is on the disabled list for a second time this season with a sore left elbow. Milwaukee left-hander Jed Bradley, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the organization, is on the disabled list with a groin strain and right-hander Carlos Martinez, ranked No. 2 among Cardinals prospects, is on the shelf with mild shoulder tendinitis.
Scout likes what he sees of Mariners pitchers
Not long ago, a scout went to check out the Seattle Mariners' Double-A affiliate and came away extremely impressed with the pitching staff assembled for the Jackson Generals.
"It's one of the finest pitching staffs I've ever seen in baseball," the scout said.
With three top-notch starting prospects and, at the time, two hard-throwing relievers, it's easy to see why the scout was so enamored. Here's what he had to say about the quintet of talented arms in the Mariners' system.
Danny Hultzen: "His fastball is 93-95 mph. His changeup is plus and his command of it is plus. But he used it too much. He needs to use his fastball more (something he may have been doing in his past two starts). His slider is average now, with below-average command, but it should be above-average in the future. He's athletic and should be a No. 3 starter."
Taijuan Walker: "I project him as a No. 2. He has below-average command right now of an electric, top-notch fastball, with plus life, up to 99 mph. He'll have to control the life on it. If he can do that, he could be a No. 1 starter. He has a below-average curve now, but I project it to be plus. His command is inconsistent with his release point. But he's just learning how to pitch. He's a two-pitch guy with a show-me changeup. But the two pitches will be plus and he'll be able to throw the changeup enough to keep hitters honest. It's a great scouting story, from the scouting director all the way down to the area guy. That was a gutsy pick."
James Paxton: "I've never been a big Paxton guy, but he could be a No. 4 starter. He has an easy power arm, but below-average command of it right now. It projects to be average. His slider and changeup are below-average now, but should be average for both. He could end up in the bullpen, where everything would play up. He might have to develop a hard cutter."
Carter Capps: "It's an 80 fastball, 97-100 mph. He has an average slider and a plus changeup that he throws 86-88 mph. He has a cross-fire delivery that makes him impossible for right-handed hitters to hit. His deception and angle make him even tougher. He won't be here very long."
Stephen Pryor (since promoted to Triple-A): "Another 80 fastball, 97-100 mph. His slider is 90-94 mph. He has closer stuff and dominates with two pitches. He's strong, durable, pitches downhill and is really aggressive on the mound. He'll be in the big leagues soon."
Jonathan Mayo and Jesse Sanchez are reporters for MLB.com. Mayo writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 and @JesseSanchezMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.