Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Minor League Report for April

Good afternoon everyone!
We’re back to talk about the Players of the Month for April. I know, I know, you were waiting with baited breath. Well, we won’t disappoint. I started figuring two new stats for the minor leaguers last week – Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABiP) and a composite ERA, both of which try to determine how successful a pitcher is in things he can control and how lucky he is on things he can’t. For instance, after many smarter people than me crunched numbers, they figured out that the average BABiP is right around .280. So, anything above that means a pitcher is unlucky. Since the defense in the minors isn’t always as good, I think this is an important stat to rate how good/lucky pitchers have been.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to this month’s player awards:

  • Hitter of the Month: Tommy Manzella, SS, Corpus Christi (Double A) – Remember a couple years ago when Tulane made its run for the College World Series? Well, the Astros drafted pitcher Brian Bogusevic in the first round that year out of Tulane. While Bogusevic hasn’t shown any great potential yet, Manzella has steadily climbed the organizational rungs. This month, he hit .319/.358/.434 with 36 hits, eight walks, six doubles, two steals, 16 runs scored and 17 RBIs. Manzella’s claim to fame right now is his defense; that’s why he’s moved so steadily up the system. Much like Adam Everett, the questions have always been about his glove, but if he keeps up this pace for the entire season, he’ll go a long way to proving he’s got the potential to be a good pro.

  • Pitcher of the Month: Bud Norris, SP, Corpus Christi – One of the first lessons I learned writing for the newspaper was adjectives act as roadblocks in sentences. So, when in doubt, leave them out. That’s why when I tell you Norris has been incredible this year, it’s for cause. So far, Norris has been lights out, allowing just 22 hits in 25 innings, striking out 35 while walking 6 and allowing zero homeruns. He’s throwing just a shade under 4 pitches per plate appearance, which isn’t great, and his ground ball/fly ball ratio also could be better, but when he’s striking out almost half his outs, he can give up some fly balls every now and then. Oh, and did I mention his BABiP is .379? Which means he’s actually been unlucky to this point. I shudder to think… (ed. Note – Norris did get lit up in his first start of May, so I may have jinxed him).

Around the Leagues

  • Second baseman Wladimir Sutil went 55 at-bats this season before drawing his first walk. He’s currently sitting at 82 at-bats with the lone walk, and is the only Astros prospect who had only one free pass in April in at least 75 at-bats. Brian McTaggart of The Chronicle reported in his blog last week that Sutil got called up to Double-A last week. Maybe the Astros are not looking at his .268/.286/.341 splits and worried more about his defense, which is supposedly his strong suit.

  • Lexington’s Collin DeLome, a former Lamar outfielder, led all Astros prospects in home runs last month with 7. He also was first in RBIs with 18. Teammate Craig Corrado had 11 steals to lead the farm system while Salem’s Tim Torres was tops in walks at 14.

  • Matthew Cusick was narrowly edged out by Manzella for POTM honors and put up exceptional numbers in April. Going into the final weekend of the month, Cusick pushed his average above .400 but by month’s end it had dropped to a still-respectable .379. He trailed only Manzella in hits with 33, but had 26 fewer at-bats. Cusick had the most total bases of all Astros farmhands with 56 on 4 home runs, 2 triples and 7 doubles.

  • Two other hitters who have caught fire recently are Corpus Christi’s third baseman Chris Johnson and Salem’s centerfielder Jordan Parraz. Johnson returned from an injury in the middle of the month and has been on fire since. In his return, he hit .297 with four doubles, a home run and two steals. Parraz, playing in the Astros most pitcher-friendly park, still managed to hit three home runs, a triple and six doubles with averages of .259/.370/.459. Parraz also stole 6 bases.

  • After his father clothed himself in such disgrace this week, it’s a wonder Koby Clemens has been performing as well as he has. Going from playing every third day at catcher to starting almost every game at either catcher or designated hitter, Clemens pulled his average above .300 with two multi-hit games in the past week. The 21-year old is also getting on base at a .380 clip and has the highest slugging percentage on his team.

  • On the other side of the coin is 2005 draft pick Brandon Barnes, the only other Astro minor leaguer to join Reggie Abercrombie in the '30 strikeouts in 30 days' club. Barnes is batting a mind-boggling .098 in 61 at-bats. The left fielder does have a couple outfield assists to his credit, but his hitting has been truly atrocious. Barnes is a former football player who went to junior college before being drafted by Houston. He apparently continues to struggle with the transition.

  • Pitchers of note for the Astros: Brad James finished April with a so-so ERA of 4.41 and only 13 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, but did manage to get 53 ground balls to 28 flyouts, easily the best ratio of any Astros pitcher…Josh Muecke led the Round Rock staff in strikeouts with 24…Salem’s Polin Trinidad struck out 19 and had a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings, but had a composite ERA nearly a run higher and a BABiP of .207, meaning his success is a bit of a mirage right now…Lexington’s Colt Adams, however, has a 7.15 ERA for April, but a composite ERA of 2.49. His BABiP is at an unreal .547, largely due to his 16 strikeouts and only one walk….Corpus Christi’s Sammy Gervacio was the Astros best reliever, striking out batters at a 12.60 per nine innings clip.

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