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Sunday 21st Jan 2018

Well, I have to apologize for the late posting, but over the weekend I hit the Medicare age and my family decided that yesterday we would celebrate such that I could watch the epic Game 5 of the Series that tied us all up for five hours, thus pushing the Hotpage publication to late Monday morning.

But, I also need to remind readers that starting next week, The Hotpage returns to Creativesports, the original publication site of the column 21 years ago. My seven years partnering with my dear mate Todd Zola were great and fruitful, and Z and I are still the best of friends. In fact, Mastersball will continue to publish via the same server space and I carved the Creativesports 2.0 space out of the same greater space, and Todd will keep his "Z Zone" slot on The Tout Wars Hour and I will be offering Todd's projections via the new site. 

In the meantime, we are witnessing a crazily wonderful and wild World Series, not to mention football season and mock drafts and all the other fun insanity that seems to be driving the sports and games universe these days. On Wednesday, I will be heading down to Phoenix for First Pitch Arizona and will be providing live reports to the FNTSY network and of course I will be identifying the players I see at the Fall League who are worthy of note.

Since we started looking at the names at Double-A ball last week with the Eastern League, today the focus moves to the Southern League. Ideally, you will see some of the players noted both here and over the past few weeks covered on the Hotpage since I started the Hot Stove analysis of the Minors. 

So, here we go, and here's hoping we get two more games as magical as the five already logged!

Mike Soroka (P, Braves): Atlanta's first-round selection in 2015, a high schooler from Calgary, Soroka has tossed 330.6 minor league frames, posting a 21-19, 2.91 mark with 287 whiffs and a 1.11 WHIP. Soroka, 20, played the entire year at Mississippi, going 11-8, 2.75 with 125 strikeouts over 153.3 innings to go with a 1.14 WHIP. The right-hander is tall (6'5"), ranked #7 on the 2018 Top 250 Prospect list, and is on a good and improving young Braves team.

Luiz Gohara (P, Braves): It seems the Braves are loaded with prospects at Double-A much like the Rays were clogged with them at Triple-A, and Gohara, a native Brazilian, is one of Atlanta's gaggle of fine young players. The 21-year-old has four years of pro experience, but that saw the Southpaw climb through three minor league levels culminating with 29.3 frames at Turner Field (1-3, 4.91). But from Florida up through Gwinnett, Gohara went 7-4, 2.62 over 123.6 innings, posting 147 strikeouts while surrendering just six homers and logging a 1.21 WHIP. Gohara is on an even faster track than Soroka (#13 on the Top 250).

Braxton Lee (OF, Marlins): At 24, Lee is a little old for play at Double-A. Lee was drafted out of Mississippi in 2014 in the 12th round by the Rays, who swapped shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (along with another pitcher, Ethan Clark) for the outfielder last July. Lee mastered Southern League pitching in 2017 despite splitting time between Montgomery (.321-2-16) and Jacksonville (.294-1-21), giving a cumulative .309-3-37 line with 21 doubles and 20 steals (though 13 times caught) to go with 65 walks to 104 strikeouts (.395 OBP).

Kolby Allard (P, Braves): Like I said, Atlanta has some pretty good stuff on the horizon, and Allard, another 20-year-old, gets to go in the mix. A first-rounder from San Clemente, Ca., Allard spent all of 2017 with Mississippi, going 8-11, 3.18 over 150 innings with 129 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. Another lefty, Allard has toiled 243.6 minor league innings since being drafted with 236 strikeouts. His stuff is as good as any of the troika of Atlanta hurlers.

Michael Kopech (P, White Sox): The first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2014, Kopech was included with Yoan Moncada et al as part of the Chris Sale deal initiated last December. The change of "sox" had little impact upon his skill set, as he notched an 8-7, 2.87 line over 22 starts and 119.3 innings with a fantastic 155 punchouts. Kopech posted a 1.15 WHIP and his totals precipitated three Charlotte starts good for a 1-1, 3.00 mark at Triple-A over 15 innings. The right-handed 21-year-old figures to factor in the Pale Hose rotation in 2018.

Joe McCarthy (1B, Rays): I am old enough to still blanch when I see the name of the potential future first sacker for the Rays. But make no mistake, the 23-year-old has some potential pop living underneath the .284-7-56 line posted at Montgomery, as witnessed by the 31 doubles and eight triples. Also note that 36% of his hits were of the extra-base variety. McCarthy, who generated 76 runs, also controlled the zone well, walking 90 times to 94 strikeouts and producing a .409 OBP. The left-handed hitter could wind up at first with a Mark Grace-type profile, or based upon the 57 swipes McCarthy generated over the past two years, his future could be in the outfield.

Charcer Burks (OF, Cubs): This 22-year-old was selected out of high school in the ninth round of the 2013 draft, climbing up a level a year since 2015. At Tennessee in 2017, Burks hit .270-10-40 with 20 doubles and 16 swipes (coupled with 12 CS), walking 69 times to 107 strikeouts with a .370 OBP. Over 449 minor league games, Burks has a .265-25-164 line, albeit with 253 runs and 86 steals. Burks has some solid basic skills though similarly, there are some holes in his portfolio. That said, the combination of speed and zone judgement tells us to keep an eye on the outfielder.

LaMonte Wade (OF, Twins): A ninth-round pick out of Maryland in 2015, Wade flew through A-ball in 2016, earning full-time play at Double-A Chattanooga for 2017. The outfielder responded with a .292-9-67 line that included 22 doubles. Wade swiped nine bags and scored 74 runs over 117 games last year, walking an impressive 76 times to 71 strikeouts, good for a .395 OBP. Wade's on-base skills and potential power make a case for a big league career of some success, and he will likely get a big league shot this coming season.

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

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