Monday, June 2, 2008

Players of May

Welcome to the David Coleman Minor League Player of the Month Awards, given to one hitter and one pitcher at each level of the Astros farm system.

Round Rock Express (Triple-A)

Pitcher: Josh Muecke - You may be familiar with Muecke from my previous posts. I won't say much else here about him, besides pointing out that he has a 57-26 ground ball/fly ball ratio and had a WHIP of 1.19. At 26, he SHOULD be dominating Triple-A competition, but he probably deserves a look in the revolving-door pitching staff the Astros have.

Player: Mark Saccomanno, 3B - I mention Bob, er, Mark Saccomanno every other blog entry, it seems. What he's done this month is pretty incredible, though. Sixteen extra-base hits, 40 total hits, 26 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Not bad for the former Baylor Bear. If the Astros ever need a solid infield bat, Saccomanno may be the guy they call up.

Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-A)

Pitcher: Sergio Perez - One of two players picked for this who were returning from injury, Perez has been solid in May. He's started four games and pitched at least three innings in all of them. Perez has also shown great control, with 16 strikeouts and only 3 walks in 18 1/3 innings. His 2-2 record isn't great, but Corpus has been struggling to score runs lately.

Player: Chris Johnson, 3B - Johnson hit well all month long. He finished the month 31 for 95 with seven doubles and three home runs. His 16 RBI tied him with Mitch Einertson for second on the team, one behind Tommy Manzella. Sidenote: Manzella had one of the coolest stat lines I've seen in the past two months. In May, Manzella never struck out more than once in a game. So, he collected all 16 of his strikeouts in 16 different games. On the season, he's only struck out more than once in two games. Pretty cool, no? (I digress because I don't really have anythign meaningful to say about Johnson. He cooled off considerably in the middle of the month before heating up late, much like the rest of the Hooks team).

Salem Avalanche (High-A)

Pitcher: Casey Hudspeth - Hudspeth started six games for Salem, going 2-3 in 39 1/3 innings. His 17 strikeouts aren't inspiring but his seven walks and 1.09 WHIP is encouraging. He looks like a flyball pitcher at this point, so may not have as much success in Corpus, since Salem is such a good pitchers park. Hudspeth is 23, but needs to show continual signs of improvement before being considered a "good" prospect.

Player: James Van Ostrand, 1B/OF - We talked a little about Van Ostrand last week, but he really had a solid May. He hit 4 home runs and 9 doubles, while leading the farm in RBIs with 28 and was second in hits with 37. Plus, as an even bigger bonus, Van Ostrand only struck out 11 times, giving hope that maybe not every Astros prospect is hack-happy.

Lexington Legends (Low-A)

Pitcher: Jeff Icenogle - Icenogle wins the award justifiably, though is probably the weakest winning pitcher on this list. Icenogle came back from injury to start six games in May. He progressively pitched more innings, starting with 1 and ending with 5 1/3. Take away a 6 run outing in the middle and his ERA is much less than the 4.05 it currently sits at. Icenogle has also managed to strike out 21 in his 20 innings and seems to be getting stronger every time out.

Player: Matt Cusick, 3B - The weird thing about Lexington this month? No hitter created more than 16 runs in May for the Legends. Cusick was on top with 16 RC, followed by first baseman Eric Taylor with 14 RC and Collin DeLome with 13. Russell Dixon was excluded from the list after striking out 33 times in 91 at-bats. Cusick only had 78 at-bats this month to create runs with, else his number would have been higher. He apparently took the last week off to learn how to play third base. I'm assuming he left the team to head down to Kissimmee and work with the Astros minor league instructors on the nuances of the hot corner. Maybe the Legends staff tutored him on it, but since he didn't play in a game until Sunday, I'm of the opinion he left for other instructors. At any rate, his return was marked by sounds of trumpets here at Minor Musings, before we saw his stat line: 0 for 4 with FOUR strikeouts. The Golden Sombrero. Considering Cusick had only struck out 11 times previously this season, that game was shocking. Hopefully the stress of learning a new position won't adversely affect his offense.

General Awards

Best Minor League Reliever: Chris Blazek, Corpus Christi - Blazek has been solid in May. In 11 innings, he struck out 16 and walked just one. His ERA of 2.45 was a bit unlucky, as his BABiP was .346 and his FIP came in at a sterling 0.56. I don't trust minor league relievers or, for that matter, college relievers. They've been notoriously streaky in the past decade, but Blazek looks like a solid prospect. At 24, he should probably be bumped up to Triple-A soon and see if he can hang with the big boys.

Most Disappointing May: Yordanny Ramirez, OF, Round Rock - Ramirez should be better. At 24, he's the Astros youngest every day player in Triple-A. While his defense is supposedly incredible, we can only see his offensive statistics and in May, they were truly offensive. In 91 at-bats, he hit .209/.215/.341 while hitting out of the 8-spot in the batting order. He also grounded into four double plays and was caught stealing twice, completely erasing the good of his one successful steal. Oh, he also only walked once in 91 at-bats and only has 3 walks this season. Ugh. No wonder we were able to sign him in the off-season.

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