Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday's Trip to the Minors

Lexington was off Thursday night, but here's the rest of the news and notes from Thursday's games:

26-year old Jeremy Johnson pitched the first six innings of a seven hit shutout on Thursday night. Casey Daigle picked up a hold and Chad Paronto got the final five outs for his 12th save of the season. Johnson has started five games this month, pitching 27 innings and allowing 29 hits and 11 earned runs while striking out 20 and walking seven. His BABiP of .337 is a little high, so he may get a bit better from here.

As for the hitters, Tommy Manzella, Chris Johnson and Brian Bogusevic each had two hits while Mark Saccomanno exended his hitting streak to 17 games. Manzella leads all Astros farm hands with 38 hits this month and finally got his season average up to .300. Johnson had his fourth straight two-hit game and his average for the month is up to .333.

Outfielder Yordany Ramirez has cooled off considerably in the past week. Through the last seven games, Ramirez is hitting 2 for 24 and his averages this month has plummeted to .241/.256/.460. His season average is down to .286 and his slugging percentage has fallen considerably. He did steal his third base of the season on Thursday, but his speed isn't good enough to make an impact at Triple-A, much less in the big leagues.

Reliever Danny Meszaros gave up his first two runs with Corpus Christi on Thursday when he gave up a two-run homer in his second inning of work. Meszaros didnt' strike out anyone but also didn't give up a walk and has only given up three runs total this season in 20 innings.

Outfielder Josh Flores is hitless in his last eight at-bats, but was 7 for 15 prior to that. Flores is hitting .259/.326/.407 this month, which is an improvement on his April stats. Flores is slowly rounding into form after missing an entire season. The 23-year old has been starting mostly in center field and playing solid defense. He's supposed to have the best tools in the Astros system, according to Baseball America, and if he can keep hitting, will be a valuable prospect.

Lancaster third baseman David Flores is 8 for 17 in his past four games, with three doubles, two stolen bases and eight RBIs. Flores has been struggling this month, though, with a line of .247/.293/.398 and has struck out 13 times in 97 plate appearances.

Starter David Duncan pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits and three runs in his best start this season. The 23-year old only had a game score of 49, but he was one out away of his first Quality Start in 2009. I don't really talk about that stat much, because I'm not sure how valuable it is, but the strikeout numbers are solid and his Power/Finesse Ratio suggests he can be a power pitcher, though the strikeout totals haven't come yet. His peripherals are not great, but he may be a talented guy who is getting beaten up by this ballpark in Lancaster.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday's Rundown

Here's a quick rundown of the past day's boxscores:

Mark Saccomanno has a 16-game hitting streak currently. In May, the 29-year old has only gone hitless in three games and is hitting .287/.325/.389. While his RBI count has gone down this month, he's second on the team with 17 runs scored and has scored 27 runs this season.

Chris Johnson put up his third straight 2 for 4 game on Wednesday. The 24-year old is 12 for 38 with a double, three runs scored, three RBIs and nine strikeouts since coming off the DL earlier this month. Johnson's power hasn't come back yet, but he's been consistent, which has been a knock on his scouting reports.

Jason Smith's addition to the Round Rock meant Chad Spann got sent back to Corpus Christi. I've previously written about how good Spann has been since his promotion and he finished the month going 13 of 46 with three walks, seven runs scored, two RBIs and 13 strikeouts. His .283/.353/.304 line isn't impressive, but should have been good enough to stay up a level over the older Smith.

Corpus Christi managed just three hits against Arkansas on Wednesday. They only avoided a shutout because one of those hits was a solo home run from catcher Brian Esposito. The 31-year old has been catching almost every game since his demotion to Double-A, and is 10 for 46 over that time frame. The home run on Wednesday was his first extra-base hit this month and makes him an interesting comparison to backup catcher Jonathan Fixler, who's 6 for 29 this month and all six hits have been for extra bases.

Douglas Arguello threw 8 2/3 innings in the game, allowing seven hits and four earned runs while striking out six and walking one. Arguello also gave up his first home run in four starts while getting a staggering 16/3 G/F ratio. His game score was 59, which was his second-highest total of the season and he induced three double plays.

At Lancaster, Jack Tilghman got his first start of the season on Wednesday, striking out five in 3 1/3 innings. The 22-year old gave up a hit, two earned runs and walked three but didn't figure into the decision. I'm not sure whether this is a sign of him moving into the rotation or just the team needing a spot starter and trying to stretch him out.

Outfielder Eric Suttle continues his impressive run at Lancaster, going 2 for 4 with two RBIs on Wednesday. He's 8 for 24 with three walks, three runs scored, five RBIs with four strikeouts since joining the JetHawks. The 24-year old has started games at all three outfield positions as well.

Lexington starter Robert Bono continued his excellent season, throwing six strong innings on Wednesday. The 20-year old allowed nine hits and one unearned run while striking out five and walking one. His team scored three runs in the ninth, so he didn't get the victory, but his expected win percentage is sitting at .728 and his walk rate (1.08) and strikeout rate (6.08) are both very good. In addition to that, Bono hasn't given up a home run all season. He started 15 games in short season ball last year but should be ready to move up soon.

Michael Diaz had his second straight two-hit game on Wednesday, raising his average to .271 this season. In those games, he's hit his first double of the season, scored one run and driven in two runs. The 22-year old has started at second base, trading off with Andrew Simunic, but was at DH on Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

Not much going on Tuesday evening as both Corpus and Lancaster had the day off. I'm going to give you some quick notes on those box scores before I start to work on my first Organizational Profile on one of the Astros four minor league affiliates. Without further ado, here's the news and notes from Tuesday night:

Pick a player, any player on the Round Rock roster, and they probably had a good night on Tuesday. Brian Bogusevic? Back in the leadoff slot, he was 3 for 5. Tommy Manzella? A 2 for 5 night brought his average up to .293 and he scored two runs. J.R. Towles? 2 for 4 with two runs scored, a double and an RBI. Chris Johnson? 2 for 4 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. Yordany Ramirez was the only Round Rock regular not to get a hit as the club banged out 15 hits and scored 8 runs. That run total was the most the Express have scored in ?? games. Johnson did get picked off and caught stealing a base, so his day was tempered a little, but he's definitely starting to hit after missing a month with a broken finger.

Yorman Bazardo threw out another excellent start, getting the victory by pitching 8 scoreless innings. The 24-year old allowed three hits, striking out six and walking one. His game score of 81 was the highest in the Astros minors this season. Bazardo only needed 112 pitches to get through eight innings, throwing 75 of those for strikes and only giving up one line drive. Bazardo has come on in May, throwing 33 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.54, 22 strikeouts and six walks. His FIP of 3.29 for the month is higher than you'd like, mainly because he doesn't strike out a ton of batters. His K/9 rate is at 5.94, which is right at the cutoff between pitchers who can survive and those who can't. As a general rule, a pitcher needs to strike out 6 or more batters per 9 innings to succeed in the big leagues. Bazardo gets a lot of ground balls and hasn't given up many home runs since a few rocky starts in April. His HR/9 rate of 0.54 is excellent but is BB/9 of 1.62 is a tad high. He's still young enough to develop into a good pitcher, but he's already been through three organizations, so time is definitely ticking for him.

Lexington's Jay Austin has put together a nice six-game hitting streak lately, going 10 for 27 over that time with a double, five runs scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. Austin is a very young hitter and in many ways is still learning the game. Like most young guys, he's very streaky at the plate and that's showing right now. For example, Austin hit .191 in April but is at .256 in May. His OBP hasn't been above .300 yet, which is troubling, but in terms of progress, he's gone from a .198 batting average last season in rookie ball, to .228 through last night's game.

Ross Seaton won for the first time this month last night, pitching 5 innings and allowing seven hits and one earned run. Seaton struck out three while walking none. A big reason why he did better yesterday than in previous starts was that he didn't give up line drives. In five innings, he had two line drives hit off him, both fell for singles and both were in his last inning of work. In his previous starts, that number has been at least five or six, which is why teams are scoring more runs off of him. Seaton has the stuff to be dominant, as he has good life on his fastball and has a hard slider he can use to strike people out. He still needs to learn how to harness his stuff though, and it looks like he'll take a little time to develop.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Brieflys

Longer post today, but I got a lot of good, meaty stuff in there about the Memorial Day weekend. I know it's a little late to the presses tonight, but between another pre-baby doctor's visit and work stuff taking over the rest of the day, blogging got put on hold. Nevertheless, here's all the news and notes from the past four days*:

*Incidentally, if you haven't checked out the first Minor League Notebook column that the Chronicle published today, here it is. Zachary Levine takes over for the recently-departed Brian McTaggart, who left to be the beat reporter for Levine is a statistics nut, so hopefully we should get some good info in his columns. Of note in this one is Ricky Bennett not wanting to rush the young pitchers to Lancaster, since it's such a hitter's haven. Imagine that...if only someone had been saying that for the past two months...

Round Rock's Jose Capellan was sent to the bullpen recently and made his first appearance over the weekend in relief of Josh Johnson, who took Capellan's rotation spot. This tactic reminds me of how the big league club starts Mike Hampton and brings in Russ Ortiz as the reliever every time.

Round Rock reliever Sammy Gervacio's ERA isn't very good right now at 6.85, but he's gone 9 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run. In that stretch, he's allowed five hits while striking out seven and walking four. His BABiP of .306 this month means this might be his baseline. I'd expect his ERA to settle in around 4-4.50.

Another Round Rock reliever, Tyler Lumsden, returned from the DL on Saturday, pitching a scoreless ninth to close out a Brandon Backe start. In his first appearance this season for the Express, Backe gave up 11 hits and four runs in six innings and was hung with a loss. Corpus Christi reliever Andy Van Hekken found himself back with the Hooks after Lumsden was activated.

Corpus outfielder Josh Flores went 3 for 3 with a walk on Memorial Day, raising his May average to .288/.358/.452. He's also stolen three bases in five attempts with five doubles, two triples and a home run. His 19 strikeouts are second on the team to Collin DeLome (23), and his BABiP is very high at .377, but with his speed, he's an excellent candidate to make that number higher legitimately. Basically, the theory is that pitchers have no control over their own BABiP, but that batters do. For instance, Flores can beat out a slowly hit grounder to third for a hit, whereas the pitcher has no control over whether the third baseman can actually throw him out. Flores has also created 12 runs this month, which is third on the team behind the two Drews (Locke and Meyer).

As the 2009 draft nears, it's fitting that 2008 10th overall pick Jason Castro is 6 for 14 in his last four games.The 22-year old from Stanford went 3 for 3 day on Saturday with one walk, two doubles and two RBIs. This month, Castro has driven in 20 run, scored nine times and walked a team-high 17 times. His .286/.423/.464 line is a little skewed by the ballpark he plays in, but it doesn't affect walks, which is the most encouraging part of Castro's line. Right now, he's still profiling as exactly the player the Astros selected last June: a polished hitter with gap power and good defense behind the plate.

Jack Shuck isn't hitting for a high average this month with a .283/.377/.364 split, but he's only been hitless in five of 24 games this month, which is exactly what a leadoff hitter should do. I like his K/BB ratio (13/9) and his speed (11 of 13 in stolen base attempts). Shuck hits a ton of ground balls, but his BABiP this month is down a bit, which probably is why his batting average is also down. He's still got the third-highest Runs Created this month at 15.

Lancaster's hitter of the month for April Jon Gaston has been by far the best hitter in May as well. He's 31 of 88 with 20 runs scored and 21 RBIs with seven doubles, three triples, six home runs, two stolen bases, 12 walks and 21 strikeouts. He's filling up the stat sheet in every possible category and, at 22, he's still young enough to be considered a prospect. The problem is there aren't any spots open in the outfield in Corpus right now, so Gaston may spend the entire year in Lancaster. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we won't be able to get a good read on his talent level until we see him in a non-bandbox park.

Robert Bono (5-1) picked up his fifth victory of the season for Lexington on Friday, pitching five innings and allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out two and walking one. He also had a very nice 9/4 G/F ratio. Bono's game score wasn't great, mainly because he only went five and he didn't strike out many batters. Still, his 17 strikeouts this month is second only to Jordan Lyles.

I talked briefly about Marquis Williams in a previous post, so I won't delve into his background again, but the speedy outfielder was 6 for 6 on Friday and Saturday, with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.

Former Aggie Kirkland Rivers made his 2009 debut on Sunday, pitching a scoreless inning of relief to earn his first hold of the season. Rivers, 23, gave up a hit and walked one. Another Lexington reliever putting on quite a show is Ashton Mowdy, who has appeared in ten games this month and only given up a single run over 12 1/3 innings. Mowdy has struck out 11 while walking three.

Jordan Lyles (2-4) put up a sub-par game on Sunday...for him. He gave up four hits and one earned run in six innings to earn his second victory of the season, but his strikeout total (4) was his lowest in six starts. Lyles lowered his FIP to 2.19 this month and he has a BABiP of .292, meaning this success is for real. His season FIP is 2.69, a shade lower than his ERA of 3.14, which explains why his expected winning percentage (.626) is much higher than his actual winning percentage (.333).

0, 2, 3, 3, 1. That's how many hits Brad Dydalewicz (3-0) has given up in his five starts this season, including his five scoreless innings on Monday. Only one of those lasted fewer than 5 innings, and that was his first start back after spending a month on the DL. Dydalewicz doesn't miss many bats, striking out only 12 in 24 innings and his BABiP is absurdly low right now. Something in his delivery or his pitches is just damn tough to hit. Baseball America said that his delivery has many moving parts, making the ball tough to pick up and his 1-7 curveball is also tough on hitters. So, I guess the answer could be both.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Forgotten Post

As I was writing about Edwin Maysonet's callup earlier today, I went back through my posts to see when I'd last mentioned him and was shocked to see how long it had been. I had remembered being intrigued by his stats many times recently and was sure I had mentioned him a couple of times. He didn't play regularly, but was still very good, especially in May. Still, I hadn't mentioned him in weeks. So, that got me thinking...are there players that I've been overlooking so far? Players that I notice but just don't write about? This post is my attempt to right that wrong. Here are some selected players at all four levels of the Astros farm system who may not have been mentioned regularly, but who are doing interesting things.

Round Rock (Triple-A)

Lou Santangelo, catcher — The 25-year old is hitting below the Mendoza line this season, .185/.247/.284, with one home run and five doubles. You may remember that Santangelo served a 50-game suspension last season for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The Astros moved him up from Corpus Christi to Round Rock this season, and he's been the back-up for most of the season. His playing time has been jerked around enough that I'm not concerned about his stat line. He was the back-up to J.R. Towles at the beginning of the season, was the regular catcher when Towles was called up and has been a backup once Quintero and Towles came back to Round Rock. His 26 strikeouts in 81 at-bats is troubling, but he has the kinds of skills you like in a backup catcher: some pop, decent receiving skills and few mistakes. He's not a starting catcher, but it would have made more sense to call him up when Q got hurt that Towles (especially if they weren't going to play whomever they called up).

Matt Kata, utility — The 31-year old super-utility man has started games at second, third, short, left field and right field this season. He's hitting .288/.338/.379 this season but his defense and versatility are why he's played so much (132 at-bats over 38 games). Kata had a stint with the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Pirates and Phillies over the course of four seasons and 90 plate appearances in the show. He reminds me a bit of Casey Candaele at this point, and will be a nice replacement part should the Astros suffer a catastrophic injury at the big-league level.

Casey Daigle, LHP — When you're better half is former standout Arizona softball player Jenny Finch, and you were once forced to wear her uniform as a rookie hazing prank, it's safe to say you can handle the rigors of minor league baseball. Daigle has been rock solid since signing with the Astros last month. The 28-year old has pitched in 15 games and thrown 19 1/3 innings. Daigle (1-0) has an ERA of 1.89 and has struck out 15 while walking five. His WHIP of 1.24 is the third-best mark on the team. If the Astros need a situational lefty (look out Wesley Wright), they can look no further than Daigle.

Corpus Christi (Double-A)

Jhon Florentino, third base — The 25-year old is listed as 6-foot, 155 lbs., so you know he probably weighs less than that. Guys with his body-build don't typically hit for power, and Florentino hasn't done much to bust up that theory. In all four of his minor league seasons, Florentino has hit four home runs each year. The fact that he's sitting at three home runs now is a feat. Don't get me wrong-- Florentino shows nice gap power and coupled with his speed (14 SB in 2008), he could be a good top of the order hitter. This season, he's batting .295/.362/.377 in 122 at-bats. Florentino also has the versatility to play short and second, which he did when starting shortstop Wladimir Sutil went down with a hamstring injury earlier this month.

Rob Semerano, RHP — The 27-year old was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2004 and has also played for the Yankees organization. He's never played above Class A ball before this season and hasn't pitched more than 46 2/3 innings yet in a season. With Corpus Christi, Semerano (0-1) has thrown 18 2/3 innings with an ERA of 6.75. He's struck out five and walked six while giving up 23 hits. He's not the best reliever the Hooks have, but he's dependable, appearing in 11 games already, one shy of the club lead. Frankly, he's done nothing to impress me, but he has played a lot and I haven't mentioned him once, so I wanted to set the record straight.

Erick Abreu, RHP — The 25-year old is a player I actually like. I've followed him for a couple of years now. He's never been impressive or overpowering (3.42 career ERA in 77 games), but he's effective and has moved up steadily. This season with Corpus, Abreu (0-0) works mostly in middle relief and has an ERA of 4.50 in 16 innings. He has struck out 14 and walked six, so his stuff is good, but he just doesn't profile as a big time arm. If he continues this path, he'll pitch for Round Rock eventually, which leaves him an injury away from the big time.

Lancaster (High A)

Nick Moresi, right fielder — The 24-year old was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft out of Fresno State. He was hurt his junior year when he was drafted, but the Astros took a chance on him because of his speed and potential to hit the ball. Well, a funny thing happened...none of that panned out. Moresi has been hurt for parts of the past couple seasons and currently sports a career batting average of .219. He's had a good month of May, hitting over .300 with a .500 slugging percentage, but he strikes out a ton and has only stolen 27 career bases. He does play pretty good defense, and his arm is good enough to play right field after Moresi was a centerfielder in college. He currently has 11 outfield assists in four seasons, including four for Lancaster this season.

Fernando Abad , RHP — Believe me when I say that the JetHawks pitching staff has been atrocious. Truly awful stuff has been going on in California. Still, if you look past the ERAs and the WHIPs, there are some solid numbers being posted by some members of the staff. Because of the overall futility, I've focused mainly on starting pitchers here when Lancaster comes up, but Abad deserves a mention too. His 18/1 K/BB ratio is outstanding, and his 1.02 HR/9 ratio will also play at higher levels. Heck, even his 1.24 WHIP is great for that ballpark, but that's mostly because he hasn't walked anyone this season. Abad has appeared in 16 games, easily the highest on the JetHawks staff. At 23, he's definitely a prospect, and may find his way to Corpus before too long.

Lexington (Low A)

Patrick Urkfitz, RHP — The 20-year old was mentioned in Baseball America's review of the Astros farm system as an undrafted free agent that the team was very excited about. In his first full season, Urkfitz has been used out of the bullpen with mixed results. He was hit around pretty well in April, but has lowered his ERA to 3.63 since then. Urkfitz has appeared in 13 games this season, throwing 17 1/3 innings, striking out 18 and walking six. He's also tied for the club lead with four holds.

Arcenio Leon, RHP — At 22, Leon is older than most of the pitchers on the Legends' staff, but he's been one of its most versatile performers. His stats don't sparkle, but he has started three games and appeared in seven more while compiling a 3-1 record and an ERA of 4.56. His 16/12 K/BB is not great, but Leon has only allowed 21 hits in 23 2/3 innings. He apparently has the stuff to miss bats and has only given up one home run this season, but he will need to lower his walk rate to be successful at the higher levels.

Roster Moves

First things first, Astros infielder Jason Smith was designated for assignment earlier today (last night?). His replacement will be Round Rock's Edwin Maysonet. At 27, Maysonet is old for a prospect, but he's a good defensive player and has been hitting well in a part-time role this season. Maysonet was 25 for 78 this season with 15 walks, 12 runs scored, 5 RBIs, seven doubles and 13 strikeouts. His Runs Created per 27 Outs was second highest on the team next to J.R. Towles. He doesn't have much pop, but could definitely spell Matsui at second and even Tejada at short.

There haven't been any minor league roster moves to replace Maysonet just yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if Drew Meyer gets the call to move up from Corpus Christi and maybe Craig Corrado moves up from Lancaster. There is also the possibility that no one will move up at all and that Round Rock utility man Matt Kata will take over at second base. Still, with Eli Iorg moving onto the 7-day DL again this week, the possibility that they make some move seems high.

UPDATE: One roster move I missed earlier was that Taiwanese righthander Chia-Jen Lo was called up to Corpus Christi, but was immediately placed on the 7-day DL before appearing in a game.

I'll be back later today with a more in-depth notes column on the past two days.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brief Thursday Rundown

Don't have much time today for detailed analysis, but here's some quick hits from yesterday's games:

Collin DeLome struck out two more times on Wednesday, but stole his fifth base of the season. His power/speed combination is very intriguing, but he's got to either walk more or start making better contact to advance up the ladder.

Shortstop Wladimir Sutil was 2 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in the game. Since returning to the field after a sore hamstring sidelined him for almost two weeks, Sutil has been slow to come around at the plate. He had put together a nice April and was improving in May before the injury. He already plays solid defense at shortstop and with a good bat, he'll make a nice utility infielder off the bench.

Righthander Casey Hudspeth (3-3) threw six innings in the Corpus Christi loss. The 24-year old allowed 10 hits and three earned runs, striking out one and walking two. His two favorable stats on the afternoon were that he was very efficient, needing just 78 pitches to complete six innings, and that he allowed a 1/1 G/F ratio.

Lancaster almost played two whole games last night, as the game against Lake Elsinore went 17 innings. All but two of the JetHawks picked up hits in the game. The unluckiest of the bunch was definitely Craig Corrado, who's been hitting well lately, but was 0 for 8 with a run scored, an RBI and three strikeouts. Koby Clemens and Jon Gaston both had three hits while Clemens had two RBIs to lead the team.

Starter Chris Hicks turned in a bounce-back start after getting roughed up over the weekend. Hicks posted his second highest game score of the season with a 57 after going six innings and allowing six hits and one earned run. He also struck out three and walked two while inducing two double plays. This game was only the second time this season Hicks has pitched into the sixth inning, after being used primarily as a reliever at Georgia Tech.

Three other relievers pitched at least three innings in the game, as Bryan Hallberg, Phillip Rummel and the recently-promoted Jack Tilghman all three three frames. Rummel got the victory, though he was the only one of the three to allow a run. 26-year old Reid Kelly pitched the last inning for his second save of the season.

Lexington starter Brad Dydalewicz had a so-so return on the mound. He only lasted two innings, giving up three hits and his first run of the season while striking out two and walking three. The earned run came off a solo home run in the second inning.

As much as I've complained about the lack of offense by the Legends this season, four different Lexington players finished Wednesday's game with multiple hits. Michael Diaz was 3 for 5 while Jay Austin was 2 for 5 and Ebert Rosario and Brandon Barnes each had two hits. Steve Brown, in his own return from the DL, hit a home run while Ronald Ramirez tripled.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

Both Corpus and Lexington were off last night, so a brief update on what Round Rock and Lancaster did before I try and bang out another pitching profile. In other good news, Lexington lefthander Brad Dydalewicz is scheduled to make his first start in over a month on Wednesday. He had missed the last few weeks due to a strained oblique.

After a blistering six week stretch, Yordany Ramirez has started to cool off at the plate. The 24-year old is 3 for 19 in his past five games. His average for May is down under .300 for the first time this month and on the season, his 16 extra-base hits are one shy of the team lead.

Bud Norris started his eighth game of the season on Tuesday, pitching five innings and allowing five hits and two earned runs. The 24-year old struck out five and walked two but his teammates were being shut out by former Astros farmhand Chad Reineke. Norris' record fell to 1-3, but he's still the most promising pitcher in the system and could be called up to the big team at any time.

In other Round Rock news, Brian Bogusevic is leading the club in runs scored this season with 27. His .290 batting average is only bettered by Ramirez. Bogusevic also has more walks (20) and strikeouts (36) than anyone on the Express roster.

Lancaster's game on Tuesday was started by Chad Wagler, who was recently demoted from Corpus Christi. The 25-year old turned in a decent start, but the Lancaster offense did not give him much support. Reliever Jordan Powell pitched two scoreless innings after Wagler left, allowing two hits and striking out one. Powell has a 1.17 ERA in May after he appeared in six games over 7 2/3 innings. The 24-year old has struck out three this month and has a 13/4 G/F ratio.

Offensively, Lancaster did have a pair of bright spots as Koby Clemens went 2 for 2 with two walks and recently signed outfielder Eric Suttle was 2 for 5 with a run scored. 2008 first round draft pick Jason Castro also drove in his 14th RBI of the month. Suttle is 4 for 10 since signing over the weekend, while Castro is hitting .273/.348/.446 this season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Brieflys

A little late today, but here's the lowdown on what happened on Monday down on the Astros farm:
Reliever Evan Englebrook picked up his first victory for Round Rock, pitching a scoreless inning in relief. Englebrook has appeared in seven games, all this month, and has an ERA of 7.36 but his FIP is at 2.38. He's struck out six and walked two with a G/F ratio of 10/5. The only player with a higher BABiP this month in Round Rock is Bud Norris.

Catcher J.R. Towles has been hitting consistently since he was sent down to Round Rock last week, but Monday was his biggest game yet. Towles was 3 for 5 with a home run, four RBIs, three runs scored and a stolen base. Since his demotion, he's hitting .375/.474/.625 with a weighted OBA of .386 and a 3/1 BB/K ratio.

Third baseman Chad Spann got the start on Monday, giving Chris Johnson the night off. Spann is hitting .268 in 44 plate appearances since his callup to Round Rock, but hasn't fared as well in pinch-hit duty of late, going 1 for 10 in his last six games. Johnson, however, is off to a 3 for 9 start in his return to Triple-A, with a sacrifice fly and an RBI.

Astros starting pitcher Brandon Backe was brilliant on Monday for Corpus Christi. In his final rehab start with the Hooks, Backe went eight scoreless innings, giving up five hits and striking out five. Newly promoted reliever Danny Meszaros pitched two perfect innings in relief of Backe, striking out one in his Hooks' debut. Hooks reliever T.J. Burton was hung with the loss when he gave up one run on two hits in the top of the 12th.

The Hooks' offense is struggling this month. The team only has two players hitting over .300 in May and just three with OBPs higher than .360. First baseman Mark Ori has been consistent, hitting .316/.361/.421 but doesn't hit for enough power to be a huge impact. April's best hitter, Drew Locke, has struck out 13 times and has hit just three home runs this month. I've talked a little this month about 27-year old Drew Meyer's hitting numbers this month, which have been very good, but Collin DeLome has gone the other way, hitting just .250/.298/.519 in May. DeLome has walked just once this month while striking out a team-high 17 times.

Lancaster pitcher Leandro Cespedes started his first game of the season on Monday, in place of injured starter Jose Duran. Cespedes was hung with a loss because of a lack of run support. The 22-year old lasted six innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs while striking out six and walking one. His game score of 57 was the fourth-highest on the team this season. Cespedes was dealing with an injury early this season, but in three games since his activation, has allowed just two earned runs in 11 innings and has struck out 10 while walking five. Duran, incidentally, has not been placed on the 7-day DL and would be expected to make his next start, though neither he nor David Duncan have pitched particularly well and might get bumped to the bullpen in favor of Cespedes.

Lancaster outfielder J.B. Shuck had a six-game hit streak broken up on Monday. The 21-year old is 9 for 30 during the last seven games and has a .304/.377/.391 line in May. His 8/6 BB/K ratio has been great this month and has been successful on 11 of 12 stolen base attempts this season.

Another Lancaster outfielder, Jon Gaston, is 1 for his last 15, all road games for the JetHawks. As a team, Lancaster hasn't hit well on the road this season, and Gaston is no stranger to that. He has had some big games on the road, but has not been consistent.

Lexington starter Jordan Lyles turned in a gem on Monday. In seven scoreless innings, the 18-year old gave up three hits and two walks while striking out eight. His game score of 77 tied for the highest in the Astros minor leagues this season. Still, he didn't get a decision because the Lexington offense waited until the eighth inning to score its two runs to win the game. Lyles was particularly good against leftys in the game, going 0 for 9 against the southpaws.

After getting onto Jay Austin in a previous post, he went out and slapped together a nice 5 for 17 streak this weekend, complete with a couple stolen bases. Austin hasn't been particularly adept at swiping an extra bag yet, but has gone 4 for 6 this month. His average is at .200 on the nose for the season, while his average in May is at .210.

Third baseman Ebert Rosario went 4 for 5 on Sunday, the first four hit game in Lexington this year. Rosario isn't walking much, as he has one in 61 plate appearances this month, but has only struck out five. His line for the season is an impressive .339/.356/.513 and he's leading the Legends with 19 runs created.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend Leftovers

Some abbreviated thoughts from this weekend. I didn't get to check out all of Lexington's games, but there's plenty here for your minor league enjoyment. Corpus Christi had one of its games rained out this weekend, but everyone else played a full four games. Here's the news and notes from those:

Shortstop Tommy Manzella is 11 for 21 in his last four games. The 26-year old has nine XBH in May, bringing his average up to .289 on this season. He's also created 19 runs, but 16 of those in May. Manzella is much more valuable for his glove than his bat, but he's been hitting consistently this season at Round Rock. He may be able to help the Astros sometime this season if there is an injury in the middle of the infield.

Bud Norris started on Thursday and had a pedestrian start. The 24-year old gave up four earned runs and eight hits in six innings, striking out eight and walking three. His game score of 45 was his lowest of the season as was his DER of .529. No help from the defense really hurts pitchers, as most of Norris' peripheral stats were good. He threw almost exactly the same number of pitches in his last two starts, but threw 10 more strikes on Thursday in 2/3 less innings. He still rates as a definite power pitcher, with a PFR of 1.65 on the season and no start with a ratio under 1.00.

Polin Trinidad only needed 105 pitches to pick up the third complete game of the season for the Hooks staff. In nine innings, he allowed seven hits and two earned runs, striking out six and walking one. Trinidad also took over the Hooks lead in PRC with 15.68 and posted a game score of 70, second only to Douglas Arguello's 75 in his complete game last week.

Chris Hicks saw his May ERA balloon up over 8.00 this weekend. The 22-year old has lost all three of his starts this month and has allowed 25 hits in 13 innings. A big reason for this is his .489 BABiP, which means that almost half of the time a batter makes contact, the ball will fall for a hit. That's pretty unbelieveable and a big reason why Hicks can be considered a prospect even when his numbers stink.

Lancaster added another outfielder to the fold over the weekend. Former Georgia State outfielder Eric Suttle was signed before spring training and has (probably) been in extended spring training until now. The 24-year old graduated after the 2007 season and spent last year with the Southern Illinois Miners, an independant team in the Frontier League. He was 1 for 3 with a double, a walk and two RBIs in his debut on Sunday.

Lexington's Ross Seaton took his third loss of the season last Thursday. Seaton's ERA didn't nudge up that much, but he gave up 5 unearned runs, which led to his lowest game score of the year (36). He still isn't getting much run support, as the Legends have only scored 31 runs for him in seven starts. If you exclude a 15 run outburst in his fifth start, that's 2.67 runs a game.

Teammate Robert Bono may not have posted his best game score of the season in his start this weekend, but he did strike out more batters than he has all year. In six innings, Bono struck out seven and walked none, pushing his PFR up to 1.17 for the second time in three starts. He's still profiling as more of a finesse pitcher, but the uptick in strikeouts means he may be able to sustain his success long-term.

Some other player moves from this weekend: A few relievers moved around, as Danny Meszaros was promoted from Low A Lexington to Double-A Corpus Christi and Andy Van Hekken was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock this weekend. To make room for him on the Hooks' roster, former Kent State Golden Flash Chad Wagler was sent to Lancaster. ... Replacing Meszaros with Lexington is lefthander Michael Hacker, a 25th round pick in 2008 out of Cosumnes River College. Hacker pitched in 23 games last season with an ERA of 2.73 in 26 1/3 innings, striking out 27 and walking 17... To make room for Suttle on the JetHawks roster, it looks like Eric Taylor was released from the team. He last appeared in a game on May 4, and is not currently listed with any team on ... Another Lancaster outfielder, Brian Pelligrini, was sent back to Lexington. The 24-year old was 3 for 39 in May, forcing the team to pull him from the lineup. ... Lexington also added outfielder Marques Williams to its roster. Williams was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2007 draft out of Compton Community College and was a graduate of MLB's Urban Youth Academy. The 23-year old played for short-season Tri-City in 2008, hitting .213 in 46 games.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday's Rundown

I wish I had more to give you today, but a notes column is about all I have time for. My profile of Jack Shuck is coming along nicely, but yesterday's setback was too much to overcome in a day. I'll try to update at some point with my impressions of Wrigley Field. Until then, dear readers...

The Round Rock everyday lineup was a bit different on Wednesday as utility infielder Matt Kata led off. Since Brian Bogusevic has been dropped to third in the order, Reggie Abercrombie, Kata and Yordany Ramirez have all manned the top spot, with varying degrees of success. Abercrombie has the speed to succeed in that spot, but his 29 strikeouts in 119 at-bats hurt. Ramirez is too hot right now to put anywhere but the middle of the order and Kata is a nice player, but not really leadoff material. I'll be interested to see if they try Tommy Manzella in that spot, as he's batting 17 for 53 this May with seven walks.

Catcher J.R. Towles returned to the Express lineup, going 1 for 3 with a walk, two RBIs a sacrifice hit and a double. In four games with the Astros, Towles was 2 for 11 with an RBI and four strikeouts. Hopefully, all that time on the bench helped his game-calling skills while not impacting his hitting much.

Josh Muecke was hit and hit hard on Wednesday. In three innings, the 27-year old righthander gave up 12 hits and 11 runs, including four home runs. Sammy Gervacio pitched well in his 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief work, allowing one hit and striking out three. Gervacio is prone to giving up the big inning, as his ERA sits at 9.28 for the season, but his underlying numbers aren't bad. He has a WHIP of 1.59 and a K/9 rate of 10.12. His FIP is at 4.70, so the defense hasn't done him any favors.

In Corpus, Brandon Backe made his fourth rehab start and did fairly well. He got hit a bit in his last inning, but has a 2.00 ERA in those four starts. He may be back in Houston by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi's Collin DeLome hit his 10th home run of the season on Wednesday. The 22-year old outfielder has continued to hit to all fields, but is absolutely great at pulling the ball. DeLome has hit 46 balls to the right side of the field and 23 have fallen for a hit. He's 8 for 10 on fly balls hit to right, with five of those clearning the fence for home runs. His power is definitely legitimate as he's also hit five home runs to the opposite field.

Teammate Jimmy Van Ostrand snapped an 0 for 16 slump in May with a three-run home run on Wednesday. The 24-year old is batting .059 in May after hitting .426 in April.

I forgot to mention on Wednesday that third baseman Chris Johnson made his debut with Lancaster in his return from a broken finger. Johnson was 1 for 3 with a double and two RBIs on Tuesday and went 2 for 4 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs on Wednesday. He also had a throwing error on Tuesday, so he's still shaking the rust off, but he's hitting High A pitching like he should and hopefully, he'll be back in Round Rock by next week.

Lancaster's Jose Duran also got touched up yesterday. In two innings, he gave up three hits and three runs before turning the ball over to 22-year old Leandro Cespedes, who pitched three shutout innings to pick up his first victory of the season. Cespedes was rehabbing an injury and made his 2009 debut earlier this week. In five scoreless innings, he's allowed four hits and struck out four while walking four.

Lexington avoided getting no-hit on Wednesday night when Ronald Ramirez hit a solo home run with one out in the ninth inning. Lexington managed just three baserunners, as Jay Austin and Andrew Simunic reached on walks. Have I mentioned how disappointing the Lexington offense has been this season? The Legends now have five players with at least 20 at-bats hitting under .200 and two more hitting under .250.

The anemic Legends offense wasted a good start by Jordan Lyles (1-4), who got a game score of 58 by going five innings while allowing four hits and two runs. The 18-year old struck out nine and walked two, but was hung with the loss. His expected winning percentage based on his pitching stats is .515, meaning he should have two or three more wins than he does now. The nine strikeouts were a season-high for him and the most anyone in the Astros farm system have recorded in 2009. Lyles has 44 strikeouts and eight walks this season.

Ashton Mowdy gave up his first run of the season in the ninth inning of Lexington's game on Wednesday. The 22-year old reliever has pitched in five games this season, striking out six, allowing six hits and walking one in eight innings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

I realize I probably don't talk enough about what kind of year Yordany Ramirez is having at the plate. Let's look at Ramirez for a minute. He's a 24-year old defensive whiz who can play all three outfield spots. Seriously, he's good enough to be in the top 10 best defensive centerfielders in the majors if he started regularly. The thing that holds him back is his bat. In his first season with the Astros organization in 2008, Ramirez hit .231/.254/.382 with 12 home runs and 23 doubles. In 2,055 career minor league plate appearances, Ramirez is batting .252/.285/.382. That, as you may guess, is pretty terrible. It's worse than Adam Everett, if you can believe it, as Everett hit .259/.346/.368 in 2,083 plate appearances in the minors.

So, what does this mean? I'm a little skeptical about this early season surge by Ramirez. He has hit five home runs in May, giving him six for the season, which is exactly half his total from 2008. He's batting .346 with a .692 slugging percentage, but hasn't all this month. He has an 11/2 K/BB ratio currently and is riding a seven-game hitting streak. His BABiP is at .289 for May, which means he's been a little unlucky in hitting .346, but I am still skeptical. After all, we're talking about 112 plate appearances compared to over 2,000. Do I hope he's growing as a hitter and this is the mark of a turnaround rather than a statistical anomaly? Of course I do! Gold Glove-level centerfielders that hit .300 don't grow on trees. If nothing else, he gives us a very valuable trading chip, which the Astros can use in spades.

So, with that out of the way, let's get on with the daily rundown:

Brian Bogusevic has really responded since he was dropped to third in the batting order. In his last seven games batting in the three hole, Bogey is 15 for 29 with four doubles, two home runs, nine run scored and nine RBIs. He also has an 25/18 K/BB ratio for the season. The number of strikeouts is a little concerning, but he's also walking a bunch, which means he's a Lance Berkman-type who strikes out a lot but also walks a bunch. His 24 Runs Created this season is the most in Round Rock and the third highest in the system, behind Drew Locke at 29 and Jon Gaston at 31.

Another Express player who's had a good half-month is Tommy Manzella. The 26-year old shortstop did the same thing in April before falling into a slump for the last two weeks of the month. In May, though, the former Tulane star has gone 15 for 49 with seven walks, four doubles and a home run, raising his batting average to .268.

At Corpus Christi, 27-year old utility infielder Drew Meyer is on a hot streak lately. In his last four games, Meyer has gone 6 for 18 and hit three doubles and a home run. When Wladimir Sutil tweaked his hamstring, Meyer moved over to shortstop but has mainly manned second base this season.

Doug Arguello got the start for Corpus and pitched well in the loss. In six innings, Arguello gave up seven hits and two earned runs, striking out five and walking none. He induced one double play ball but gave up five line drives, including three in the fourth inning when San Antonio scored both runs.

The best starting pitcher in Lancaster this season? 22-year old Shane Wolf who was drafted in the 26th round of the 2008 draft out of Ithaca College. Wolf was 10-1 in 12 starts for the Bombers in 70 2/3 innings with 75 strikeouts and 11 walks. He also batted .321 in 162 at-bats with seven steals and three home runs. Wolf's numbers with the JetHawks are not spectacular, as he's given up 46 hits in 35 innings, but he has struck out 23 and walked only 6, so he's got pretty good control. His 41/37 G/F ratio also shows that he trends towards allowing ground balls, which means he's highly dependant on his defense to pick him up. When he's in a park like Lancaster where singles are more frequent, it puts more pressure on the defense and leads to some bad numbers, like the .661 DER in his seven starts. Still, Wolf has a pretty solid 14.68 PRC, which ranks fourth on the JetHawks team behind three hitters.

I also wanted to touch on Chris Jackson for a minute. The 22-year old has been playing shortstop for Lancaster after being drafted in the 29th round of the 2008 draft out of Virginia Commonwealth, where he played third base. The Baseball America draft scouting report on him says he's a plus defender, which explains his move to short. His bat, though, hasn't impressed yet, which may have also necessitated the switch. Jackson hit .250/.316/.356 in 45 games last season between Tri-City and Lexington. In 2009, Jackson is hitting .216/.310/.257 with a double and a triple, striking out 17 times while walking seven times.

Kyle Greenwalt started for Lexington on Tuesday, throwing five innings and allowing nine hits and three runs. The nine hits were the most the 20-year old has allowed this season. Greenwalt struck out four and walked one, giving him 18 strikeouts and four walks this season. He also gave up his first home run of the season but induced a double play ball and stranded 81.4% of the base runners he allowed.

One hitter who showed promise last season (and who I was excited to see in 2009) is Lexington first baseman Phil Disher. Unfortunately, Disher has not hit at all this season. The 23-year old's line is .147/.248/.263 for the season with 40 strikeouts in 109 plate appearances. Even with his 13 walks, three home runs and two doubles, Disher has been a disappointment at the plate. The same thing can be said for the entire first base situation in Lexington, as platoon-mate Kody Hinze, who is 13 for 72 with four home runs and 23 strikeouts in 2009. You wonder why Lexington is in the bottom half of the South Atlantic League in runs scored? A giant black hole at first base is a good start.

That's all for now, but (hopefully) I'll have some sort of profile for you later today. I was working on a hitter's profile of Lancaster's J.B. Shuck, but my excel file got corrupted, wasting an entire night's worth of work, so I may be too discouraged to go back to that well today.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekend Leftovers

Before we jump into the past four days around the minors, I just wanted to update you on this week's schedule. Yesterday, my day got eaten by a doctor's visit and hospital tour for the baby and Thursday afternoon I leave for Chicago. It'll be my first trip to Wrigley Field and I get to see the Astros play the Cubs, which is very cool. I'll try and take some pictures to post on here after I get back. I'll have a short roundup-style post up here Thursday morning before I leave, but the blog will be dark until Sunday. At any rate, he are the best news and notes from around the Astros farm:

Two minor league players were honored with Players of the Week awards. Doug Arguello was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week after he was the first Hooks pitcher to throw a complete game this season. Jonathan Gaston was also named Player of the Week by and was the first Lancaster player to win an award this season. Another Hooks player, Collin DeLome, was featured in a nice article on the team's website.
There are six Express players currently hitting .300 or better for May, which is a big reason Round Rock is 8-3 in games this month. Brian Bogusevic leads the way with a line of .433/.528/.633 with a home run and three doubles. Bogey has played mostly in left field but has started a couple games in center, a stark contract from April when he played almost exclusively in center.

Chad Spann is also making a nice showing with the Express since his call-up late last month. The 25-year old third baseman is 9 for 27 in May with a double, four runs scored and two RBIs. He's struck out eight times, but is a capable enough eight-hole hitter in the Round Rock lineup.

Bud Norris picked up his first win of the season on Saturday. The 24-year old righty went 6 2/3 innings, giving up one unearned run and four hits. He struck out five and walked three for a game score of 66, his highest of the season. His PRC also adjusted up to 16.36, which puts him third on the team in Runs Created, behind Yordanny Ramirez and Brian Bogusevic.

Another pitcher for Round Rock who's been performing rather well lately is Yorman Bazardo. In two starts this month, he's pitched 11 1/2 innings, giving up nine hits and four earned runs, striking out eight and walking two. At 24, he's the same age as Norris and may well get himself a pitching profile sometime soon.

According to, Wladimir Sutil has been nursing a sore hamstring, which is why he went almost two weeks between games. Sutil last played on April 26 at home against Frisco when he injured his leg while running out an infield hit in the fifth inning. In order to make room for Sutil on the active roster, infielder Mike Diaz was reassigned to Low A Lexington, where he started at DH on Monday.

Josh Flores is off to a good start in May. After hitting just .169 in April, he's brought his average up over .200 by going 11 for 35 with three walks, nine runs scored, two doubles, two triples and his first home run of the season. The dinger was a leadoff shot to in the bottom of the first inning on Monday.

Corpus Christi's Casey Hudspeth twirled a gem for the Hooks on Monday. The 24-year old righthander pitched a complete game, scattering nine hits and two earned runs. Hudspeth struck out two and walked none for a game score of 63, inducing two double play balls and throwing the most pitches of the season at 116. His PRC sits at 12.33 right now, which is tops on the Hooks staff, though his strikeout rate (3.68/9 inn.) is the lowest among the five starters.

Another Astros farm hand coming back from injury this weekend was Leandro Cespedes. The 22-year old righthander made his 2009 debut with Lancaster on Sunday, striking out two in two innings and giving up three hits and no earned runs. Cespedes had a 4.06 ERA in 130 innings with Lexington last season, striking out 137 and walking 45.

One Lancaster player I haven't mentioned much is Craig Corrado, who's slowly heating up at the plate. The 23-year old second baseman is 10 for 35 this May with three runs scored and four RBIs. He's also hit two doubles and stolen three bases while striking out just once. Corrado was drafted in the 14th round in 2007 out of the University of Tampa and hit .275/.315/.349 in 126 games at Lexington last season.

Ashton Mowdy extended his scorless inning streak to seven on Monday, giving up five hits this month and striking out six. Another Lexington reliever, Danny Meszaros, hasn't given up a hit in his four appearances this month. In five innings, he's struck out six and walked one.

Ross Seaton's start on Friday may have been his worst of the season, but that's just a product of how well he'd pitched to that point. In six innings, Seaton gave up eight hits and three earned runs, striking out two and walking none. His defense efficiency ratio was the worst of the season at .652 and he gave up six line drives, three of which came in the fourth inning.

After starting off the month on a hot streak, Jay Austin has cooled off and his average has dipped under .200 again. The 18-year old centerfielder has one hit in his last 16 at-bats, but has wlaked twice during that time frame and hit a double.

Lexington's roster was in flux this weekend, as the aformentioned Diaz arrived and two shortstops went down with injuries. Both Ricardo Bonfante and Ronald Ramirez left games this weekend and haven't played since, though neither have been added to the 7-day DL yet. Other additions to the Lexington roster were designated hitter Jacob Priday, an 11th round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2008, Jorge De Leon, a 21-year old shortstop signed out of the Dominican Republic three years ago, and 21-year old catcher and former first round pick Max Sapp, who was battling a potentially deadly strain of meningitis this winter and has been added to the 7-day DL in Lexington. Priday is currently on the restricted list, meaning he probably won't appear in a game any time soon.

Another few roster moves were made over the weekend, with Koby Clemens being sent back to Lancaster, Chris Johnson starting a rehab assignment with the JetHawks, Brian Esposito sent back to Corpus Christi, Humberto Quintero being recalled to the majors, Paul Estrada was promoted to Corpus Christi and J.R. Towles optioned back to Round Rock. No performance-related promotions yet, but I expect as we get closer to the June draft, the Astros might promote some of their top performers just to clear a little room on the rosters.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One Quick Note

So in doing my latest pitching profile, I discovered that the formula I was using to calculate the Pitching Runs Created had copied wrong in Excel. Essentially, I was getting bad data. This happens from time to time as I keep all my baseball spreadsheets in Excel, and most of the formulas I'm using are fairly complicated and reliant on references to other cells. That being said, my last two entries about Jordan Lyles and Bud Norris were incorrect when I talked about their PRC.

Norris actually has the highest number of any pitcher, at 13.31. He's trailed by Lyles at 12.39, Arguello, who I just wrote about, and Seaton at 10.01. Just wanted to clear that up. I may be back tonight with a hitting profile. Stay tuned...

Douglas Arguello Pitching Profile

Douglas Arguello is a left-handed pitcher from Managua, Nicaragua. The 24-year old was signed as an international free agent in 2001 and has been playing in the Houston farm system since he was 18.

Last season in Salem was the first year he's really broken out and had a great statistical year. He was good with Tri-City in 2006, but hasn't ever had an ERA of under 4 until last season. His strikeout to walk ratio was actually better in 2007 than 2008, but he had an ERA almost a run higher in 2007 with Lexington. His home run rate has remained around 1 per 9 innings for his entire career until last season. Now, before rushing to conclude Arguello made some sort of breakthrough then, it should be noted that Salem is very friendly for hitters and the park just doesn't give up home runs.

That being said, Arguello has been great this season. His PRC is at 11.96, which is the second highest that I've seen this season. He's still walking too many batters, but he's limiting the number of hits and how hard he's being hit by keeping his line drive percentage down (16.9%). The one troubling blip in his stat line is his splits. He's death to lefties, giving up a .192 average when matched up with other southpaws, but right-handed hitters are batting .274 off of him.

His game scores have all been around 50, except for his last two starts. In his last April outing, he didn't make it out of the fourth inning, giving up seven hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out just two and walked five while giving up a home run and hitting a batter. Can't get much worse than that. Five days later, he came out and pitched a complete game, giving up the same number of hits and only one run while striking out six and walking none. His game score for that start was a 75, the highest yet in the minors.

He's given up more line drives in each of his last two starts than he had in his previous three combined. He's also throwing more pitches in games, as his arm has had time to get into a rhythm again after a winter off. Dating back to last season, Arguello has been throwing longer and longer in games, as he was the only Astros minor leaguer to have two complete games last season and was the only member of the Salem staff to throw a shutout. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure.

Arguello also doesn't miss a ton of bats. He gets his share of swinging strikeouts, but his K/9 rate of 6.67 is not great for the Texas League. It doesn't appear that he has a great fastball, but I'd bet he has either a slider with good break or a screwball that makes life tough on lefties, much like Randy Johnson or Mike Cuellar had. Obviously, I'm not comparing him to either of those Hall of Fame-caliber guys. Arguello also doesn't induce a ton of ground balls, so I'm leaning towards the possibility of him being more of a left-handed arm out of the bullpen. I'm sure the Astros will keep using him in the rotation for now, but he can definitely be an effective lefty out of a big league bullpen with his numbers from the past few years.

Friday is Here

Before we delve into today's Houston Astros minor league notebook, I'd like to talk about one aspect of this blog. I have to admit something to you, dear readers: frankly, I don't have the time or inclination to follow every player in the Houston organization. I do good work on players who I consider having a shot at reaching the major leagues. If they're not too old for the level, or if they were old when they were drafted, I'll follow their stats. But there are some guys, like Marcos Cabral and Chris Minaker at Lancaster, that I just can't keep up with them.

Those two guys are both regulars for the JetHawks and they both have high averages right now. However, they're both 25 and have been around for a while. At Double-A and Triple-A, I'm a little more lenient, if only because those players are closer to the majors. Players such as John Gall (32) and Drew Locke (26), even though they're older, have a legitimate shot at getting to the pros, even if it's just an injury call-up.

I do factor them in when I say things like 'most hits in the minors' or various other comparisons, but I don't track their game-by-game stats. I just don't have the time, as this is my hobby, not my job. I do, however, have a list of 54 hitters and 47 pitchers that I track every day. Think of this blog as the Top 100 Astros Prospects. Now, with that said, let's get to the notebook:

  • Yesterday, Yordanny Ramirez continued his blistering May by hitting a solo home run in his first at-bat against New Orleans. Unfortunately, his day ended there as his admiration for the ball made some people angry. Ramirez was ejected and third baseman Chad Spann took his place in the lineup after the defense was shuffled. Spann, incidentally, is 6 for 16 with three runs scored and two RBIs in May.
  • Jonathan Gaston has absolutely lit up the Lake Elsinore pitching staff in the past two games. He's now 8 for 8 with a walk, three home runs, a double, a walk, five runs scored and eight RBIs in those games. He's reached base safely in his last nine trips to the plate and is 11 for 22 this month. His teammate, Jack Shuck, is the only other JetHawk player with 11 hits and he has nine more at-bats than Gaston. Did I mention this was away from Lancaster's hitter's haven? Yeah, Gaston's been impressive of late. I'll have a hitting profile of him sometime next week.
  • Jose Duran was touched up pretty good in his start for Lancaster. Duran (1-4) gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 innings of work. Duran also struck out one and walked three.
  • Earlier this week, Lancaster shook up their roster, placing Jason Dominguez on the DL and bringing in right-hander Philip Rummel, a 31st-round draft pick in 2008 out of Kutztown University. This has been unfortunate for Rummel, as no sane pitcher would want to work in this ballpark. In 5 2/3 innings, Rummel has given up 10 earned runs and 12 hits while striking out three and walking two. His ERA sits at 15.88 while his WHIP is 2.47. Here's hoping his time in California gets more enjoyable.
  • Jordan Lyles turned in his best start of the season, throwing 7 innings and giving up seven hits and one run. The right-hander struck out eight and walked none, with the game's only run coming from a solo home run Lyles (1-3) gave up in the fourth inning. The loss was the third time in five starts that Lexington has been shut out with Lyles on the mound. In an interesting quirk, Lyles did not face a lefthanded batter in the game, as Rome's entire lineup consisted of rightys. He did give up the most line drives (5) that he has in four starts, but made up for it by his big strikeout total. I talked about the Power/Finesse Ratio yesterday in the profile of Bud Norris. Lyles' PFR sits at 1.34 right now, which isn't great, but shows he has the stuff to be a top-line pitcher.
  • The only Lexington player to have a good day at the plate? Second baseman Andrew Simunic was 1 for 3 with a double and a stolen base. Since his callup once Albert Cartwright went on the DL with a broken hand, Simunic is 2 for 9 with a walk and two runs scored.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bud Norris Pitching Profile

David 'Bud' Norris was drafted with the 23rd pick in the sixth round of the 2006 draft. A right-handed pitcher out of Cal Poly, the 5-foot-11, 200 lb. Norris came in as one in a line of college players the Astros targeted during the previous administration under scouting directors David Lakey and Paul Ricciarini.

At 24, Norris is the youngest Astro on the Round Rock roster and uncharacteristically, has been pushed through the system by the front office. He spent most of his first full season in the minors with the Lexington team, making 22 starts and throwing 96 2/3 innings. His numbers were solid, as he went 117 strikeouts to 41 walks. His ERA was a bit high at 4.75 and his record (2-8) reflected that. He did make one start with High A Salem, winning that by throwing six innings and allowing four hits and one run. His strikeout total ranked him second in the Astros system and put him on the map as a prospect.

In 2008, Norris started off strong at Corpus Christi, going 3-0 in five starts in April. He threw 25 innings and gave up 22 hits and five earned runs, striking out 35 and walking six. He didn't give up a home run all month and had an ERA+ of 198. However, his May was terrible, mainly due to a strained elbow that kept him out of the rotation from May 15 to July 6. He returned to post a season line of 19 starts, 80 innings, 89 hits, 84 strikeouts, 31 walks and an ERA of 4.05. The elbow strain clearly knocked him out of the rhythm he was in during the month of April, as he didn't win a game the rest of the year (3-8).

Norris is undoubtedly the prospect closest to the majors right now, since Felipe Paulino got called up last month. The park Norris is pitching in trends towards the pitcher's favor, with a .94 park factor for runs, .98 for hits, .91 for doubles and .96 for home runs. Still, he's posted a solid like of 29 strikeouts to 15 walks, starting five games and throwing 29 innings while giving up 23 hits and 10 earned runs.

He's posted solid if not spectactular game scores in each of his five starts. He's not dipped below 50 on any of his game scores, but his highest is a 61, which is a bit low. As I mentioned in my profile of Jordan Lyles, the big thing with pitch counts isn't to stick to one number for everyone. It's to gradually ease into bigger numbers, so the young pitcher's arm has a chance to catch up and, hopefully, avoid catastrophic injury. Norris has thrown 85, 95, 106, 121 and 87 pitches in his five starts, so he's gradually thrown more and lengthened out his time on the mound. His strikeout numbers are ridiculous and his Power/Finess Ratio is off the charts at 1.71. As a comparison, the highest starting pitcher's number in the majors right now is Rich Harden with a 1.95. Harden is considered one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league, so it's easy to see why the Astros are considering Norris for the closer role if/when El Papa Grande gets traded/leaves via free agency.

As for Norris' contribution this season, he's got a PRC of 6.79, which is not bad, but is lower than expected because of all the walks he's given up. He's got solid splits and is holding lefties to a .209 batting average this season. His line drive percentage has creeped up in each of his last three starts and Norris has given up four line drives in each of the past two games. His BABiP is a little low at .270, which is not surprising since his DER is at .711 and his team's overall DER is at .644, meaning the team has fielded quite a bit better with Norris on the mound than for the other pitchers on the team. His expected winning percentage means he should have won at least two games by this point, but at 0-2, he's still struggling to pick up victories.

Norris has given up two home runs, but at .62 HR/9 innings, that rate is lower than his career minor league average of .9 HR/9 innings. He's also got a great G/F ratio of 31/22, which explains why his FIP is so close to his real ERA...well, that and the strikeouts.

Overall, Norris is a solid if not spectacular starter. He throws a lot of pitcher per batter (3.92 right now and third highest on the team) which is another reason why he's probably slotted for the bullpen. He's definitely a power arm, though and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a late season cameo with the Astros.

Thursday's Thoughts

Here's a look at what happened on Wednesday night in the Astros minor league system. I'm going to try and get up another pitching profile up later this afternoon.

Jose Capellan had an okay start on Wednesday, especially considering his track record to that point. He allowed four earned runs in five innings, but that actually lowered his ERA to 10.16. Capellan also struck out 5, his most strikeouts in a start this season. Fellow Round Rock pitcher Evan Englebrook pitched another scoreless inning in his second game of the season.

Douglas Arguello turned in the first complete game in the Astros minors this season, scattering seven hits and one earned run in a complete game victory. Arguello (1-1) also struck out six and walked none.

A pair of home runs by Jonathan Fixler and Drew Locke were all the support Arguello needed in the victory. Fixler is hitting .231 in May, but all three of his hits this month have been for extra bases and he has a slugging percentage of .710 on the season. Fixler only has 31 total at-bats this season as he played behind Brian Esposito for most of April, but has gotten most of the starts since Koby Clemens was called up from Lancaster.

Locke's home run was his sixth of the season and the 26-year old has scored 15 runs and driven in 30 RBIs. He's slowed down some in May, hitting .263/.348/.421 in 19 at-bats.

Jonathan Gaston went 5 for 5 with three home runs, seven RBIs and four runs scored. The more impressive thing is he did it on the road in Lake Elsinore. Gaston's home/road splits have been pretty lopsided this season, but the entire team beat up on the Storm on Wednesday as seven of the nine regulars collected multiple hits and everyone in the lineup got at least one.

One of the Lake Elsinore players last night was former Baylor shortstop Beamer Weems. The 2008 eighth-round draft pick by the Padres is hitting .264 in 24 games this season and, if he ever makes it to the majors, is a lock for the Ty Wigginton Memorial All-Stars*.

*Incidentally, this year's winner was a very tough call. Boston's Jonathan Van Every has a a very cool name. Craig Calcaterra over at The Hardball Times said it's a name that some 22-year old literary student would use in his first manuscript. Doesn't make it any less awesome, though. Still, it doesn't hold a candle to Elvis. Elvis Andrus, that is. Andrus is your 2009 TWMAS.

For all the grumbling I do about the Lexington offense, they have four players hitting over .300 in May and two players hitting .400. Kody Hinze is off to a 5 for 14 start with a home run and two doubles. Jay Austin has also brought his overall average up to .222 by hitting .318/.348/.409 in May. The two players who have gone the craziest, though, are Ebert Rosario and Brandon Barnes.

For Barnes, it seems like he's finally tapping into his potential after moving over from the football field. This is his second trip through the Sally League, but with an OPS of 1.223 and five extra-base hits in 25 at-bats this May, he's certainly mashing right now.

We discussed Rosario yesterday, and he didn't slow down last night, going 1 for 3 with a run scored and a strikeout. The only thing that concerns me about Rosario is that he consistently bats eighth. For someone who hits for such a good average and has flashed power, shouldn't his manager be batting him higher?

Finally, some sad, sad news for Houston hitting coach Sean Berry. The former Astros third baseman and minor league coach was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Wednesday. Our best wishes go out to him and his family.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jordan Lyles Pitching Profile

Jordan Lyles is an 18-year old right-handed pitcher from South Carolina. A three-sport athlete from Hartsville High Schol, Lyles was selected with the 38th overall pick in the supplemental portion of the first round in the 2008 draft.

At 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., Lyles has a good frame for a pitcher. His delivery is an 'easy' three-quarters motion and is not a violent affair. didn't do a scouting report on Lyles before the draft last season, but they did post video of his throwing motion, which faintly reminded me of Scott Elarton.

As for his pitches, I'm not sure exactly what he throws, but I'd wager he has a good four-seam fastball and a slow curve. I'm not sure what his fastball velocity is either. I will suppose, however, that he has a ton of movement on his pitches. Very few of his 27 strikeouts are looking, which means he's missing a ton of bats -- a very good sign.

There is a downside to this, however. Lyles isn't a polished pitcher. Right now, he's more of a thrower. He walks more batters than you'd like, he gives up a ton of line drives and he hits about a batter a game. All this suggests he struggles iwth his control. Whether that's due to his pitches having more movement than he expects or just the batters being more discerning in the minors than in high school, I'm not sure.

The other way this lack of control can hurt his is he doesn't get through many innings. Lyles has not completed the sixth inning in any of his five starts this season and has not faced more than 25 batters in any one start. I do not have his pitch counts*, but because of his large strikeout totals, he has to be running up against a limit earlier than you'd like in his starts.

* I'm reading the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers right now, and Bill James and Rany Jaziersky/Keith Woolner are arguing over whether high pitch counts are actually detrimental. It's changed my mindset on the subject a bit, as I think the problem lies in not taxing a young arm too early. Pitchers can throw 120-130 pitches, but work up to it. That's why these young guys are being started off slowly. The More You Know!

Lyles has also been fairly unlucky with the defense behind him. His strikeouts help limit the effect of defense, but when the ball has been put in play, his fielder's have had a DER over 100 points lower than Ross Seaton. Lyles has a BABiP of .348, so his numbers should trend down a little. The biggest difference between Seaton's 4-1 record and Lyles 1-2? Seaton has stranded 91.6% of his base runners while Lyles is at 67.3%. Some of that is because Lyles gives up more hits, ubt he's also been hit harder as Lyles has a line drive percentage almost 10 percent higher than Seaton. Also, Lyles has gotten zero run support in two of his five starts, which hurts his record even more.

So what does this all mean? Lyles has been okay this season, but hasn't posted a Game Score of 60 or abvoe yet and his PRC is at 4.40, half as much as Seaton. Lyles does have great natural stuff, however, and if he can refine his breaking pitches or clean up his control, he has the ability to be a top of the rotation starter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wednesday's BIG Rundown

One day later than I wanted to get this up, but I hope to get a couple pitching profiles done this afternoon and rush those straight to your eager internet browsers. Here's the news and notes from the past five days in the minors:

  • As I mentioned on Monday, Albert Cartwright broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday. He'll miss four to six weeks and was replaced on the Lexington roster by 2008 17th-round draft pick Andrew Simunic, a second baseman out of the University of Tennessee. Anyone want to guess who the last middle infielder Houston drafted from Tennessee? Simunic made his debut on Tuesday, going 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
  • Outfielder Yordanny Ramirez is just on fire right now. He's 6 for 22 in May with two home runs, two doubles and only one strikeout. He's also driven in six runs and scored four, bringing his season totals to 13 RBIs and 10 runs. He started on Tuesday in center field, as Brian Bogusevic was bumped over to left field for the second time this week.
  • One Round Rock player who's scuffling since the calendar flipped is John Gall. The 32-year old slugger has played first and left field for the Express, but is just 1 for 10 this month, dropping his average down to .276. His last two appearances have been as a pinch hitter.
  • Lexington's Ebert Rosario is enjoying his May so far, by going 7 for 17 with three home runs and a double. He also had two home runs and five RBIs in one game last weekend. Rosario is hitting .384/.408/.644 this season.
  • Corpus Christi outfielder Collin DeLome clubbed his Texas League-leading eighth home run of the season on Tuesday and the Hooks gave starter Casey Hudspeth (2-2) enough run support to pick up his second victory. The 24-year old right-hander pitched 7 innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out four and walking two.
  • Fellow Hooks' starter Sergio Perez (3-1) also had a nice start to May, pitching six shutout innings in a win over the weekend. Perez gave up eight hits and struck out six while walking one. The outing nearly doubled his season strikeout total and he now has 13 strikeouts and nine walks in 2009.
  • 2004 eighth-round draft pick Evan Englebrook was activated to the Round Rock roster on Monday and pitched two innings in his 2009 debut. The 27-year old gave up two hits and a run in two inning and was credited with a blown save.
  • The lone good start in the past five days for Lancaster was lost in extra innings. Jeff Icenogle (0-2) pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen. The 25-year old left-hander gave up four hits while striking out two and walking one. His game score of 77 is one of the highest in the Astros farm system this season.
  • Lexington's Henry Villar started his second game on Monday as Brad Dydalewicz missed his second straight start with a strained oblique. Villar struck out six in 3 2/3 innings, raising his strikeout total this season to 32. He's giving up a fair number of hits and walks, with a WHIP of 1.47 but his FIP is at 1.62 largely due to all the strikeouts. He's one of the Lexington pitchers that shouldn't have a problem transitioning to the ballpark in Lancaster.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sick Day

So I took Monday off of work since I've come down with a little bit of a sinus infection and EVERYONE in my office is also sick right now. I just didn't want to contribute to the infection gang.

At any rate, I didn't get a chance to review the first few box scores of May, but Brian McTaggert of the Houston Chronicle did post about various minor league happenings.

Of interest:
-- Third baseman Chris Johnson is at least a week away from returning to the lineup.
-- Catcher Koby Clemens' promotion is not permanent and he'll return to Lancaster once Quintero is healthy.
-- RHP Brad Dydalewicz strained his oblique, which necessitated his move to the 7-day DL. He should be back soon.
-- One of our Players of the Month, second baseman Albert Cartwright, broke his hand over the weekend and is out four to six weeks. That is not good news for the Lexington offense.

I'll definitely be back tomorrow with a roundup of the past four days.

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Players of the Month

Well, I'm still working on my defensive ratings, so they won't come out until some time this weekend. I got behind at some point and it's taking me a long time to catch up on all the box scores I've missed. Still, I have enough hitting and pitching data to give you the first Players of the Month awards from the people at Minor Musings.

Triple-A (Round Rock Express)
(Age, year and round drafted)
Hitter of the Month: Mark Saccomanno, 1B/3B (29, 23rd, 2003) -- Saccomanno is tied for fifth in the PCL in RBIs with 20. He's also hit four home runs, three doubles and a triple. He's batting .282/.305/.500 with an Adjusted OPS of .830 and a weighted OBP of .322. His walks may be down but he's also only struck out four times in 81 at-bats, which is a rare skill in the Astros farm system. His BABiP is at .254, which is lower than his batting average, meaning he's probably going to do better than this next month.

Pitcher of the Month: Bud Norris, RHP (24, 6th, 2006) -- Norris is the youngest member of the Round Rock staff and, since Felipe Paulino left for the big leagues, has been it's most consistent member. Norris has started four games, pitching 23 2/3 innings with 25 strikeouts and 15 walks. He's given up six earned runs for an ERA of 2.28 and a WHIP of 1.39. His FIP (Fielding Independant Pitching) is at 3.66, a shade higher than his overall ERA but not high enough to suggest he's been lucky rather than good to this point. He's thrown 407 pitches and is averaging 3.88 pitcher per batter faced, which is higher than you'd like for a young guy. Still, he's been very efficient and should be a good contributor for the Astros, maybe sometime this summer.
Double-A (Corpus Christi Hooks)

Hitter of the Month: Drew Locke, LF (26, 19th, 2005 by LA Dodgers) -- I have players on the Hooks I like more than Locke, but there's no question he's been the best player on that team through the end of April. He's batting a ridiculous .446 in 74 at-bats, and has 33 hits, five home runs and six doubles. He has some troublesome spots (his age, high strikeout rate, low walk rate) but he put up a monster month. The Round Rock outfielders better watch out, because he could be on the move.

Pitcher of the Month: T.J. Burton, RHP (25, 18th, 2001 by Cleveland) -- I didn't want to put a reliever here, but Burton really has been the best pitcher on the Hooks' staff. In 10 innings, he's allowed just six hits, one earned run while striking out six and walking none. He's also picked up two saves and two holds in seven appearances. In his last three outings, he's thrown less than 10 pitches each time. The one bad spot? He gives up a TON of fly balls (18 in 34 batters faced). Still, he's become the rock of that bullpen.
High-A (Lancaster JetHawks)

Hitter of the Month: Jack Shuck, CF (21, 6th, 2008) -- Seems like I'm talking about Shuck every day. While Jonathan Gaston and Brian Pelligrini each came close in Runs Created, Shuck led the way on the back of his 29 hits in 82 at-bats, his .411 OBP and his 8/9 BB/K ratio. Shuck has scored 13 runs and is 6 for 6 on stolen base attempts. The outfielder from Ohio State has also reached base four times on errors, giving him a wOBA of .353.

Pitcher of the Month: Chia-Jen Lo, RHP (23, 2008 Int'l FA) -- Lo is the second straight reliever to win the award, rightfully so. In 14 2/3 innings, he's given up five hits and two earned runs while striking out 24 and walking seven. Lo (1-0) has one save and three holds and has pitched longer than one inning in all seven of his appearances.
Low-A (Lexington Legends)

Hitter of the Month: Albert Cartwright, 2B (21, 36th, 2007) -- Cartwright was the only Legend in double figures in Runs Created before Thursday's game (Ebert Rosario had a triple to join him). The second baseman is tied for the Astros minors lead in doubles with seven and has two home runs and a triple to boot. His 22 hits are the most on the Legends and he's second in steals with three. Cartwright's got a wOBA of .367 and a BABiP of .400, so we'll see if he can sustain this success, but right now's he's been the bright spot in a lonely offense.

Pitcher of the Month: Ross Seaton, 19 (3rd, 2008) -- Seaton has gotten plenty of press on this site. In comparison with the rest of his teammates, he's thrown the most innings, faced the most batters and is third in strikeouts. Only Brad Dydalewicz and Kyle Greenwalt have a lower ERA of all the starters and both have less strikeouts. Now, let's avoid a May letdown, shall we?

Notes for Friday: Brad Dydalewicz was placed on the 7-day disabled list and right-hander Ashton Mowdy, the 19th-round pick in 2008 from Eastern Oklahoma State Community College, took his place and pitched a perfect inning of relief on Thursday.