Monday, June 1, 2009

May Players of the Month

Triple-A (Round Rock Express)
(Age, year and round drafted)
Hitter of the Month: Tommy Manzella, SS (26, 3rd, 2004): The question with Manzella hasn't been his glove (which is excellent); it's if he can be consistent enough with his bat to be successful in the big leagues. Starting last season, Manzella has shown signs that his bat can be a legitimate threat. He overcame a two week slump at the end of May to raise his average up over .300 for the season. His line of .339/.397/.492 for May is excellent and his 24.4 runs created is tops on the Express for the month. In 133 plate appearances, Manzella has 42 hits, 11 walks, 20 runs scored, 12 RBIs, 11 doubles, 1 triple, two home runs, four sacrifice hits and 22 strikeouts. The strikeouts are worrisome, but he has started taking some walks this month, which somewhat balances that out. He has a ridiculous .400 BABiP this month, which means he may just be lucky, but he also had the most plate appearances on the team with 133. Defensively, Manzella is very smooth and turns the double play about as well as anyone. If the Astros decided to move Miguel Tejada to third base, kept Edwin Maysonet at second and installed Manzella as the shortstop, they'd have one of the best infield defenses in the league.

Pitcher of the Month: Yorman Bazardo, RHP (24, signed in 2000 by Florida): Before I get into his stats this month, I thought I'd elucidate the winding road Bazardo took to Round Rock. He signed out of Venezuela in July of 2000 for $85,000. Five years later, he was listed as the Marlins' third-best prospect by Baseball America. In 2005, he was then traded to Seattle but dropped down to No. 13 on the Mariners' list when he couldn't consistently throw strikes with his off-speed stuff. In 2007, Bazardo was traded to Detroit, where he spent the entire season in Triple-A and posted an ERA of 3.75. He just got rocked in 130 innings last season, with an ERA over 6 with Toledo and a 24.00 ERA in 3 innings with the Tigers. Bazardo has a total of 28 1/3 innings at the big league level over three different seasons with two clubs (Florida & Detroit). He did not make the Tigers team out of spring training and was signed as a minor league free agent by the Astros on April 6, 2009. His first few appearances for the Express were out of the bullpen and weren't exactly impressive. Since joining the rotation, though, he's been better and better. In May, Bazardo has an ERA of 1.49 and a WHIP of 0.79 in 42 1/3 innings. He's 4-0 in six starts and has struck out 28 while walking seven. His FIP of 3.13 is very solid, but his BABiP of .211 suggests he benefitted from luck this month. He's also been very economical, throwing just 3.37 pitches per batter faced this month. He's created 21.11 runs this season, which is tempered just a bit by his K/9 rate of 5.13. He still throws a ton of ground balls, which is good for a pitcher who isn't overpowering, and his walk rate of 2.13 per 9 shows his control has been good. Overall, he has a good shot to be a fill-in starter if the Astros need him.
Double-A (Corpus Christi Hooks)

Hitter of the Month: Drew Locke, LF (26, 19th, 2005 by LA Dodgers): There has been one consistent member of the Corpus Christi offense this season and that's Locke. His numbers weren't as astronomical as April's, but a line of .327/.375/.533 for May is pretty solid. Locke had 35 hits, 10 walks, 18 runs scored, 31 RBIs, seven doubles, five home runs, and 18 strikeouts in 120 plate appearances. His BABiP of .345 wasn't much higher than his batting average and his wOBA of .349 and 20.8 runs created were both tops on the team. Locke has shown good power and hits for a consistent average, something fellow outfielder Collin DeLome lacked this month, but Locke's RBI total was helped greatly by second baseman Drew Meyer being on base enough to score 25 runs in May.

Pitcher of the Month: Douglas Arguello, LHP (24, signed in 2001): I've already covered most of Arguello's numbers in the profile I did of him earlier this month. Now, I'm going to look at his numbers in May. In 27 2/3 innings, Arguello allowed 27 hits and seven earned runs, striking out 19 and walking two. His record of 1-2 was very low, as his expected winning percentage sits at .674. Arguello has a 2.28 ERA this month, a WHIP of 1.05, a FIP of 2.73 and a BABiP of .302. His strikeout rate isn't outstanding (6.18 K/9), but he keeps the ball inside the park and doesn't allow many extra baserunners. Arguello's 19.2 runs created is tops on the Hooks staff.
High-A (Lancaster JetHawks)
Hitter of the Month: Jonathan Gaston, LF (22, 7th, 2008): I'd like to tell you Gaston's ridiculous numbers this month are inflated due to his home ballpark, but his
park-adjusted OPS of 1.184 is still tops on this list of the best players in the Astros farm system. His line this month of .365/.461/.798 is off-the-charts good and his home/road splits show a good hitter no matter where he plays. In 127 plate appearances this month, Gaston has 38 hits, 18 walks, 30 runs scored, 25 RBIs, eight doubles, five triples, nine home runs, three stolen bases and 25 strikeouts. His BABiP of .397 is only questionable when viewed alone. Once you realize it's only thirty points higher than his batting average, it seems much more normal as does his wOBA of .413, by far the highest in the minor leagues. I haven't even gotten to the most ridiculous part yet...Gaston has created 40 runs this month. That's a career for some people. He did it in May. Gaston was not rated by any of the prospect lists, but after this season, he might just be on there next year.

Pitcher of the Month: Leandro Cespedes, RHP (22, signed in 2002): My journalistic integrity may have been compromised by sheer amazement in the last entry, it's firmly back in check for this one. Cespedes is an interesting prospect because scouts don't know what to make of him. He exploded onto the scene last season with a 4.02 ERA in 130 innings. His strikeout rate has always hovered between 8 and 10 per 9 innings, and because of this, he's uniquely suited to succeed in Lancaster. Pitchers need to limit contact and avoid big innings at JetHawk Field, and with a 8.74 K/9 rate and a 3.57 BB/9 rate, Cespedes is halfway there. His walk rate is a little high, but not overly so. Since coming off the DL earlier this month, Cespedes has thrown in 22 2/3 innings, allowing 22 hits, six earned runs, 22 strikeouts, nine walks, two home runs and one hit batsman. He has a 2.38 ERA and a WHIP of 1.37, both sustainable numbers considering his BABiP is at .299. Hopefully, Cespedes can keep this up long enough to escape to Corpus Christi, where they can use a few more good starters.

Low-A (Lexington Legends)
Hitter of the Month: Brandon Barnes, OF (23, 6th, 2005): Lexington hitters haven't exactly struck fear into opponents lately, but neither have the other South Atlantic League hitters. Teams in the Sally League are averaging 4.1 runs scored a
game, which is a full run lower than any of the other minor leagues with an Astros affiliate. I bring this up before I profile Barnes simply because his numbers aren't overwhelming, but when put into context, they are very good. In 106 plate appearances, Barnes has 26 hits, five walks, 11 runs scored, 14 RBIs, five doubles, one triple, two home runs and 25 strikeouts. His BABiP of .324 shows these numbers are pretty legitimate and his wOBA of .276 shows he's a better hitter than a .260 batting average would lead you to believe. His adjusted OPS is at .711 and his 11.1 runs created is tops on the Legends roster. Barnes is a converted football player who I was convinced was going to wash out due to a lack of plate discipline, but he's shown this year that he can consistently play and hit. Now if only the rest of the Lexington hitters can follow suit.

Pitcher of the Month: Jordan Lyles, RHP (18, 1st supplemental, 2008): I've already written up a pitching profile on the first-round pick, but Lyles has been excellent all month long. His 21 runs created is one of the highest totals at any level and his 9.91 K/9 rate is just fantastic. Many baseball executives were puzzled when the Astros took him so high in the 2008 draft, but he's quickly proving that his live arm was worth it. He's also shown good control, as his walk rate of 1.99 BB/9 is excellent. He's allowed two home runs this month but struck out 40 while walking six in 36 1/3 innings. His FIP of 2.21 is also very good and his BABiP of .323 shows his numbers shouldn't trend upward. Like many of the pitchers on this list, his expected winning percentage (.542) is much higher than is actual winning percentage (.250) this month. Still, Lyles has proven he can handle big league hitters and should be moving up sometime this summer.

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