Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Around the Minors

Well, apparently, the Astros are giving Jack Cassel another shot with the big club. Given his numbers pre- and post-promotion at Round Rock, it seems more than fair. With Wandy Rodriguez coming back and Geoff Geary right behind him, it'll make for an interesting roster crunch later this week. Will Cooper consider putting Cassel in the bullpen or moving Brian Moehler back there and putting Cassel in the rotation? I'd hope Cooper is smart enough to give Cassel another shot at the rotation. Maybe the club will send Chris Sampson down to get his head right. He's been much too inconsistent to pitch every fifth day for a team in playoff contention.
(It seems Coop and Wade are going with Cassel in the 'pen. He looked good last night, and I chuckled when the TV guys compared him to Jeremy Piven).

Let's go through some of the leader boards in the minors right now. Jordan Parraz is sixth in walks in the Carolina League and Koby Clemens is sixth in OPS. Orioles first-round pick Matt Wieters leads the Carolina League in OPS right now, noteworthy only because the catcher was chosen 5th overall in the 2007 draft. Chosen 10th (a.k.a when the Astros draft this year)? Giants new pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who shut down Lexington earlier this year.

Staying with the leaders, Matt Cusick is second in OPS and OBP in the South Atlantic League, while Mitch Einertson is third in doubles in the Texas League. Former Texas A&M player Cliff Pennington leads the Texas League in walks with 35 and is second in steals with 19 (no real reason to list that other than alma mater pride). Corpus Christi's Drew Sutton is second in walks with 35 and we'll discuss him more in a bit. Last, but not least, Reggie Abercrombie is third in strikeouts in the Pacific Coast League with 62 (!!!), after an epic 4-strikeout night Wednesday against the immortal Tony Armas Jr.

Now, about Sutton...I didn't include him in my initial look at Astros prospects simply because he's a bit too old to be considered a good prospect. He's 25, but in his Age 24 season and was drafted back in 2004. This season, Sutton is batting .315/.422/.490 and is +4 in steals. These are great numbers, if he were two years younger. The fact that he's making his second trip through the Texas League also contributes to his lack of "prospect" sheen. There are a couple other players I'm looking at in his age range, but it's mainly because the other players are at positions the Astros simply don't have, like catcher and shortstop. I will say that Sutton has been great this year, solidifying the leadoff spot for the Astros. But, if you look at it, if he's going to contribute to the big league club, shouldn't he be leading off for Round Rock by now?

Now it's time for the Airing of Grievances...even though it's not Festivus yet. There are a number of players and situations that I'm either disappointed or frustrated in right now. First, let's talk about Einertson. At 22, he's should be showing signs of power and/or hitting prowess. While he's a great doubles hitter, he never has duplicated the power he showed off in his first trip through the South Atlantic League in 2004. Now, he's hitting .224 with a sub-.300 OBP, which is very disappointing...Staying with Corpus, I'm disappointed the Astros promoted Wladimir Sutil to let him languish on the bench. He's just gone 14 for 36 in limited playing time without a strikeout and one steal. Meanwhile, Tommy Manzella has cooled off considerably as May has stretched on. Maybe Sutil should be starting a few more games at short to rest Manzella (who, it should be noted, only has four errors on the season)...Did Russell Dixon meet up with Reggie Abercrombie early this month or something? Lexington's Dixon is the only Astro within three strikeouts of Reggie's month-leading 31. I blame Brian McTaggart for listing Dixon as a player on the rise in the Astros system. After that, he started flailing around like a man possessed...Corpus Christi's Eli Iorg really had a disappointing May, batting only .235 for the month. At 25, he's a little too old to be considered a good prospect, but has moved up quickly through the system. He needs to keep hitting and maybe play adequately in Round Rock later this summer to have a shot at making the team next spring...Can we talk about Craig Corrado? I mentioned him in my last post about mvoing Cusick to third, but he's a giant enigma right now. For a guy who's got 17 steals on the year, his 10 GIDP is startling. This month, he's grounded into 9 of the 10 double plays and managed only 6 steals. That's not a good ratio...Finally, Brian Bogusevic drives me crazy. McTaggart mentioned his only good start of the year in his column earlier this week, but I'm not so sure you can even call that start good. Sure, he only allowed two hits in eight innings while striking out three and walking one. So, in eight innings, he has as many strikeouts as baserunners allowed. The bad part for Bogusevic is his three strikeouts doubled his total in five starts this May. On the season, he's got a K/9 inning rate of 3.02. For reference, pitchers struggle to be successful in the majors when their K/9 rate is below 5. In exceptional cases, such as Chien-Ming Wang, the pitcher finds success because he has one great pitch like a sinker. Bogey doesn't seem to have that though and the Astros should probably look at switching him to an outfielder.

Let's finish on a high note, giving out kudos to a couple players I haven't said much about. Edwin Maysonet is a guy that's been in the Astros farm system since 2003 when he was drafted out of Delta State. Maysonet is a solid defensive player who has shown flashes of being good offensively. He's gotten more at-bats in May than in April, playing short instead of Tomas Perez lately and has more Runs Created than anyone on the team not named Saccomanno. While Maysonet is older than you'd like at 26, he's probably a better player than Mark Loretta right now and a much better defender. He might not see any time this year, but look for him to make the team in 2009 as a backup infielder, sort of like Eric Bruntlett. Another guy who hasn't gotten a lot of mention here is Jimmy Van Ostrand. Of course, you might already be familiar with him since he played in the MLB Futures Game during last year's All-Star Weekend and hit a pinch-hit home run in his only plate appearance. Drafted in 2006, the Canadian has an OPS of .909 in Salem right now and has only struck out 21 times in 181 at-bats. Van Ostrand has bounced between the outfield and first base with Salem, but looks to be a decent power prospect, especially if he can hit home runs in Salem, one of the toughest hitters parks in the minor leagues.

Well, that's all for this post. Tune in next week when we'll name our Players of the Month and name the best pitcher and position player for each minor league team.

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