I have had this post sitting on my desktop for awhile and I am finally publishing it. This marks my first post in exactly a month and I apologize for that. I have some interesting topics coming up, however, and I hope to get on here more consistently. The Astros are .500, so let's celebrate the first half of the season.
A quick note about yesterday's Futures Game, which I watched in it's entirety despite a four hour rain-delay. The Astros' Chia Jen-Lo recorded the win, pitching one inning and striking out one, with the bases loaded and two outs. He was throwing in the low 90s with a good slider in the mid 70s. Jason Castro also looked impressive. He belted a hanging curve off a lefty to deep right field, scoring a three-run homer. He also threw out Luis Durango at third on an attempted steal. Durango had a good jump and the pitcher, Dan Duffy, was slow getting the ball to the plate but, Castro threw a strike down the third base line to nab Durango just in time. His arm is definitely a plus tool despite throwing out only three of fourteen would-be basestealers.
I have a couple of topics planned. I am going to grade individual (major league) players on their performance thus far. I also plan to take a trip across state to see Houston's New York-Penn League team, Tri City ValleyCats. They are probably the minor league affiliate of Houston's I know the least about (their players that is), but they are far and away the closest in proximity (I can see them at three locations in the next month, including their home ballpark outside of Albany, within a two and a half hour drive). So, I plan on having some form of scouting reports on some of their top prospects. I may also review my top 15 Astros prospects at some point, but we'll see how things go.
Without further ado, here are the Astros' top Minor Leaguers for the month of June.
Round Rock Express AAA
Pitcher of the Month : Bud Norris RHP
Norris reclaims the monthly honor, having won it in April, but narrowly losing out to Bazardo in May. That's not to say Bazardo made it easy. He pitched 28 innings over four starts (7innings/start), posting a 3.21 ERA with a 1-0 record. He struck out 15, while walking only 5 batters, and also gave up 29 hits. For Bazardo it was another solid, but not dominant month. Norris also pitched 28 innings over four starts (obviously still 7 innings/start). He did it with a 0.96 ERA and 1-1 record though. He gave up only 18 hits, but did walk 12, and stuck out 26 batters. A couple things to note about Norris' month are that his strikeout rate did drop, for the first month this year his k/9 was under 9, but his ground out to air out ratio was much higher, and he gave up only one HR last month. I continue to be inpressed by this duo, and very much look forward to seeing them in Houston soon. Maybe one, or both, of them will become important parts to the Astros' second half.
Batter of the Month: Chris Johnson 3B
Round Rock position players continue to underwhelm me, especially this month, when Brian Bogusevic , Mark Saccomanno , J.R. Towles and Tommy Manzella all had weak performances. I was left with two options for the award. Johnson, my number seven Astros prospect last offseason, or, John Gall a first basemen, with a season.255 AVG, who was born in the '70s. Statistically they had very similar months, but Johnson had more extra base hits, and that was enough for me. Johnson hit .280, with a poor .301 OBP, and .460 SLG%. He hit 2 HRs, along with a total of 11 XBHs (extra base hits), and 28 hits total. Now for the bad stuff, Johnson struck out 23 times, in 100 ABs, and walked only 3 times. Wait a moment, let it sink in... He walked only 3 times. He played in 26 games last month, and walked... 3 times. His K:BB ratio was 7.7 to 1. That is absolutely terrible. I love Johnson. I think he provides a lot of offensive potential, along with solid defense from the hot corner, but he cannot, and will not become a ML contributor until he learns to take a walk, and raises his OBP.
Corpus Christi Hooks AA
Pitcher of the Month: Polin Trinidad LHP
No contest. Trinidad was the lone bright spot on a terrible Hooks pitching staff. Trinidad pitched 37 and a third innings over five starts (>7 innings/start), accumulating a 3-2 record. His ERA for the month was a spectacular 0.72, allowing only three earned runs all month. He struck out 21 batters, walked four, and gave up 27 hits - a WHIP of .83 over 5 starts! In July we'll see if Trinidad can give Bazardo and Norris a run for the AAA monthly crown, as he has been called up to Round Rock once the AA All-Star game is over.
Batter of the Month: Wladamir Sutil SS
This was a very close four-horse race between Sutil , Drew Meyer 2B, Jason Castro C and perennial contender, but never winner, Colin DeLome. Meyer was the runner up, he hit for a good average, on-base percentage, and provided enough power, I just liked what Sutil had to offer a little bit more. Castro was a hitting machine upon getting called up, however, he began to slow down a little as the month ended, and he has yet to hit for power in AA, only two of his seventeen hits went for extra bases. On top of that, Castro only walked twice in 16 games, but he also only struck out six times. DeLome once again showed off some power, collecting nine extra base hits, including four homeruns, he also stole three bases. However, per usual, he also struck out a lot, 27 times in 98 ABs (28 games). DeLome still had one of the higher OPS' this month, though, his was .821, lifting his season OPS to .811. Sutil is typically the leadoff hitter, and was a Texas League All-Star. Usually I overlook Sutil, but this month I want to give him his due. In 109 ABs, he hit .312 with a .390 OBP. He hit no homeruns but, eight of his thirty-four hits were doubles. He scored sixteen runs, and stole four bases. Finally he stuck out only nine times (remember 109 ABs, 29 games) and walked 11 times, hooray for a prospect with a K:BB ratio less than one!
Lancaster JetHawks High A
Pitcher of the Month: Fernando Abad LHP
Just about every pitcher in Lancaster is a whose-who of bad performers. It was so bad that I had to dig into the Lancaster bullpen, to grab a pitcher with only one save this season and shower him with this award. Don't get me wrong, Abad had a good month. In seven appearances, and seventeen innings, he posted a 1.06 ERA, struck out twelve, walking only three batters, and giving up only eight hits.
Batter of the Month: T.J. Steele OF
I may consider dropping the high A pitching award and in its place, honor two Lancaster batters, because there are more than those deserving of being recognized. Before I continue, I suppose I am obligated to tell you, the California League is an extreme hitters League. That's why the Lancaster pitchers' numbers are terrible and their hitters' numbers can be extraordinary. Still, big numbers are more fun to talk about. Steele is one of my favorite prospects in the system, and he is finally healthy enough to win a monthly award. He leads a stellar group of six contenders. In 104 ABs, Steele hit .394, with a .439 OBP and .692 SLG%. He hit four homeruns and added thirteen other extra base hits, including six triples. He also knocked in twenty-six RBIs and scored another twenty-eight himself. However, like most Astros prospects, Steele had trouble with his plate discipline. Striking out twenty-three times, while walking seven times. Steele stole five bases in ten attempts. Other numbers of note on the offensive end of Lancaster: Gabriel Suarez hit .328 over 67 ABs with a .392 OBP. Brandon Barnes was called up from Lexington and hit .327 over 49 ABs, and added 7 XBHs. Jack Shuck hit .296, and struck out only 8 times over 98 ABs, he walked 7 more times than he struck out, 15. Jon Gaston hit .311, he did not however match his May homerun number, the unbelievable 9 he hit last month, but he did hit 4, with a SLG% of .566. Koby Clemens took over for Jason Castro as the starting catcher, making the most of the opportunity, he hit .329 with an OPS of .955.
Lexington Legends Low A
Pitcher of the Month: Jordan Lyles RHP
Before I talk about the two guys who battled for this award, I'll touch on several of the young Lexington pitchers I've been highlighting since April. Robert Bono and Henry Villar both had their typical, also very good, months. In five starts Bono had an ERA of 2.43, but only struck out six. Henry Villar made eight appearances out of the bullpen, pitching thirteen and two thirds innings, with a 3.29 ERA and striking out eighteen. Both Kyle Greenwalt and Brad Dydalewicz took a small step back, but on the season, both are still performing very well, and both of their first starts in July were very good. That brings us to our winner, Jordan Lyles and runner-up, Ross Seaton. Seaton started five games, pitching thirty-two and a third innings, with a 1-3 record and 2.51 ERA. He finally started to show an ability to strikout batters, he struckout twenty-three of them last month, while walking ten and giving up twenty-eight hits. Lyles has continued to be one of the very best pitchers in the South Atlantic League , I am amazed he, and Seaton as well, have not been called up yet (although if the plan is to wait till the end of the year, then move them both up to AA next season. I am ok with it. Why send your top two pitching prospects to a hitters league, the California League, if you can avoid it, right?). Lyles made five starts in June, pitching twenty-eight and a third innings, with a 2-2 record and 3.18 ERA. He struck out forty-three batters, while allowing only six walks, and giving up only twenty-two hits. From the scouting reports I've seen Lyles has his fastball sitting in the 90s, with a developing and improved curveball and change, along with very good command. All signs are pointing to good things from Lyles moving forward. I would assume Lyles and others from this crop would have made the jump to high A, except for the fact that the front office doesn't want to throw them into the launching pad of Lancaster, which is probably a wise move. Hopefully they can skip a level and start next season in AA.
Batter of the Month: Brian Pellegrini OF
There's no one else in Lexington even challenging him at this point. Ebert Rosario had a bad month, Brandon Barnes was called up, and although April's winner, Albert Cartwright returned from injury, he has not performed well either. Pellegrini hit .437 over 87 ABs, with a .495 OBP and .816 SLG%, that's an OPS of an astonishing 1.311. Need I say more? He hit nine homeruns. Is that enough for you? Good, because the rest is less than stellar, although he "only" struck out 18 times, he only walked 9 times. Pellegrini is 24, and playing in low A, so he should be expected to dominate, as he has been. I would say call him up, but the Lancaster outfield is crowded, as is the Corpus Christi outfield, and Pellegrini did not fare so well when he started the season off in Lancaster, anyways.