Welcome back to NoMaas’ Minor League Players of the Week. It was a short week for all the affiliates, but that won’t stop us from getting this thing in gear. If you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions, get at me on Twitter.

Minor League Players of the Week (v1):

Pitcher:
Michael O’Brien, 21, RHP, A
6 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 2 ER
Notable: 8 GBO, 3 FBO

NoMaas Ranking – Unranked

The first Pitcher of the Week is a somewhat dubious distinction, as there were few good performances out of Yankee pitching prospects. That isn’t meant to diminish O’Brien’s start; he had a great full-season league debut, displaying a penchant for the strikeout not seen last year from small right hander (5.6 K/9, 16.0 K% in 2010). There were definite signs of the old Michael, namely the good control (2.7 BB/9, 7.6 BB% in 2010) and strong ground ball rates (51.9 GB% in 2010), two talents that will serve him very well this season.

In all honesty, O’Brien should be doing this to Sally League hitters. This is his fourth year; he’s seasoned enough to dominate younger hitters who, for the most part, lack plate discipline. Combine that with strong command of his pitches and a good changeup and you’ve got a recipe for immediate success. You could make a strong case that he’s Charleston’s ace (after leading Staten Island’s rotation last year) and while I wouldn’t expect him to be promoted to Tampa this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it occurred.

Hitter:
Slade Heathcott, 20, LHB CF, A
.500/.474/1.667 in 19 PAs
Notable: 2 HRs

NoMaas Ranking – #4

After being drafted with the Yankees’ first pick in 2009 (29th overall), expectations were high for the young Texas native. While Slade didn’t exactly tear the Sally League up like fellow first rounder Mike Trout (25th overall), there was a lot to like in his full-season debut, namely his patience (12.0 BB%). The Yankees are going to expect performances like this out of Heathcott, as this is his second year at the Low-A level.

The first thing that jumps out at you from Slade’s line this past week is the huge display of power; 7 of his 9 hits in 2011 have been for extra bases (77.8%) and in a mere four games he managed to match his home run total from 2010 (2). He’s done this (seemingly) without swinging at everything he sees; he’s struck out only three times so far (15.8%). While Heathcott hasn’t managed a steal yet, I’d attribute that to him being on second base more often than first base so far. A big thing for Slade this year will be improving his efficiency when swiping bags, as last year was a less than stellar performance in that regard (15 SB, 60.0%).

We’re talking about less than twenty trips to the plate for Slade, so I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but if Heathcott is 200 plate appearances into the season and performing well, I’d expect to see a promotion to Tampa. I seriously doubt the Yankees to keep him at Charleston for a second consecutive year unless absolutely necessary and if Slade’s performance indicates he’s ready for a new challenge, Mark Newman and the assorted Yankee brass shouldn’t hesitate to give him one.

Honorable Mentions:

Abraham Almonte, 21, RHB CF, A+
.310 / .350 / .737 in 20 PAs
Tools, tools, tools. Hopefully this is his breakout year.

Jesus Montero, 21, RHB C, AAA
.400 / .400 / .600 in 15 PAs
The Jesus. That is all.

Tim Norton, 27, RHP, AA
2 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 0 H, 0 ER
Legit relief arm. Heed this advice, Tim… Stay healthy.

Jose Ramirez, 21, RHP, A+
4 IP, 6 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 2 ER

Good, not great, start for Ramirez. 4 GBO, 3 GBO make it a tad better, as well.

*Batted ball data from:

Minor League Splits (Jeff Sackmann) / CC BY-SA 3.0