Cards' Fernandez leads top prospect perfomers

Cards' Fernandez leads top prospect perfomers

Class A Advanced Palm Beach right-hander Junior Fernandez put his tough start to the season behind him in a truly dominant manner on Wednesday night, retiring the first 19 batters he faced en route to tossing eight scoreless innings to pace the Cardinals in a 7-0 shutout of Tampa.

The win was the first of the season for the Cardinals' No. 10 prospect, who allowed one hit and one walk, while striking out six and generating nine ground-ball outs.

"This was probably his best [outing]," Palm Beach pitching coach Randy Niemann told MiLB.com. "I was very proud of him for not trying to do too much. He's only 20 years old and he's very competitive, and sometimes he'll try to compete too hard. We want that in him, but he also has to do it by staying within himself."

Fernandez's eight innings matched his career high. He previously accomplished the feat on April 23, 2016, when he allowed two earned runs on six hits in a loss for Class A Peoria.

Tampa second baseman Nick Solak's one-out single in the seventh inning spoiled Fernandez's bid for a perfect game, though it was one of just two hits collected by the Yankees in the contest.

Fernandez struggled in his first two starts for Palm Beach, giving up six earned runs on 11 hits in 9 2/3 innings, with six walks and eight strikeouts. But he lowered his ERA to 3.06 with Wednesday's performance, and he's now held opposing hitters to a .197 average through 17 2/3 frames.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Wednesday

No. 10 overall prospect Cody Bellinger (Dodgers' No. 1) upped his season home run total to five with a pair of solo shots in Triple-A Oklahoma's loss to Nashville. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for Bellinger, who's widely considered the top power-hitting prospect in the Minor Leagues.

• No. 46 overall prospect Nick Gordon (Twins' No. 1) improved his average to .341, going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple out of the leadoff spot for Double-A Chattanooga in a win over Biloxi. LaMonte Wade (Twins' No. 22) broke out of a season-opening 3-for-29 slump with a pair of solo home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the seventh inning.

• No. 71 overall prospect Dylan Cease (Cubs' No. 3) was unhittable over a career-high six innings in Class A South Bend's shutout of Great Lakes. The 21-year-old righty retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced in the outing before departing after 92 pitches (55 strikes). He walked three and struck out seven, including five swinging strikeouts.

"I was more excited about going six than I was about going six hitless," Cease told MiLB.com. "I was just excited I was able to get that last guy to swing at a breaking ball. I knew I was running low on pitches, so to make it through six was really exciting."

• No. 83 overall prospect Tyler Beede (Giants' No. 1) got back on track in his third start for Triple-A Sacramento, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision against Salt Lake. The right-hander scattered three hits, walked three and fanned four in the outing, throwing 56 of his 93 pitches for strikes. Christian Arroyo (Giants' No. 2, No. 84 overall) stayed red hot at the plate as he went 4-for-5 with four RBIs, two of which came on his second homer in as many games and third of the season. The 21-year-old infielder is batting a robust .479 (23-for-48) and has recorded a hit in all 12 games for the River Cats.

• No. 90 overall prospect Bobby Bradley (Indians' No. 4) homered for a second straight game and tallied five RBIs to lead Double-A Akron past Reading, 12-2. The 20-year-old first baseman has eight RBIs over his past three contests. Tyler Krieger (Indians' No. 18) collected four hits (4-for-5) including his first Double-A home run, a solo shot in the first inning. The switch-hitting second baseman also notched three runs and a trio of RBIs in the performance, which lifted his average to .419.

Brewers' No. 10 prospect Brett Phillips connected on a pair of home runs, hitting a grand slam and later a solo homer, en route to six RBIs for Triple-A Colorado Springs. He also walked twice and tallied an outfield assist. Phillips, 22, has been on fire of late, collecting multiple hits in four straight games and going 9-for-16 with eight RBIs in that span. Overall, he's batting .318/.375/.568 with three homers and 12 RBIs through 11 contests.

D-backs' No. 8 prospect Jon Duplantier tossed 5 1/3 hitless innings out of the bullpen for Class A Kane County to extend his season-opening scoreless innings streak to 15 1/3. The 22-year-old righty, a third-round Draft pick last June, struck out six and walked one in the outing, giving him 20 strikeouts against just four walks for the season. Opposing hitters, meanwhile, have tagged him for just five hits (.104 batting average against). The Cougars ultimately beat Beloit, 1-0, in 17 innings.

Phillies Nos. 9 and 13 prospects Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins both hit home runs to fuel a seven-run fifth inning, helping to propel Triple-A Lehigh Valley past Columbus, 8-4. Hoskins led off the frame and started the scoring for the IronPigs with his fourth homer of the season, while Cozens' two-out grand slam, his third homer of 2017, to right-center field put them ahead for good. In 2016, the duo finished first and second in home runs in the Minor Leagues, with Cozens edging Hoskins, 40 to 38.

Red Sox No. 10 prospect Michael Chavis hit a career-high three home runs, including a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to give Class A Advanced Salem a walk-off win over Wilmington for a second straight day. He finished 3-for-4 at the plate with five RBIs in what was his second career multi-homer game.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.