Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

Hope everyone enjoyed the draft coverage last night. We've got another doctor's appointment this afternoon, so I'll probably just have a post tonight highlighting the best or most interesting picks from today's portion of the draft and my thoughts on them. If I have time, I may even get around to a player profile (that I've been promising for weeks now). Until then, let's get on with all the news and notes from around the Astros minor league system (minus Corpus, since they were off yesterday):

Wesley Wright started for Round Rock on Tuesday but wasn't very good. He lasted just three innings, giving up three hits and three earned runs. He struck out four and walked three to pick up his first loss with the Express. I'm not sure if they're trying to stretch Wright out into a starter, or if this was just a way to give their rotation a day of rest. That happens from time to time in this system. It could be to get some extended work for the bullpen guys or, as I said, to just rest the rotation a little. Whatever the reason, I'll be interested to see if Wright gets another start.

None of the hitters distinguished themselves on Tuesday outside of third baseman Chris Johnson. The 24-year old was 3 for 4 with a double and a run scored. He's currently batting .382/.432/.618 with seven runs scored, four doubles and two triples this month, raising his season average to .305. His home run power still hasn't come back, but the Dell Diamond is the toughest park to hit homers in the Astros system. In case you were wondering, Dell Diamond has a park factor of .96 for home runs, while Corpus Christi is at 1.15, Lancaster is at 1.17 and Lexington is at 1.06.

Another interesting sidebar from Tuesday was that utility infielder Chad Spann reached base twice on errors and was starting at second to give Jason Smith the day off. The interesting thing is that only one other Express player has reached on an error this month (J.R. Towles). Brian Bogusevic was the only player to reach more than twice in the entire month of May. Wladimir Sutil leads the farm system by reaching base seven times on errors. It's not a significant stat that speaks to overall talent or anything. It's just the kind of little bits of data that can be fascinating about this game.

Apparently, the Lancaster game last night was suspended after a fuse broke in the light towers around the park. The JetHawks and Inland Empire 66's managed to get in two innings before it became too dark to play, at which point the grounds crew managed to get four of the six light towers back online, but not enough to continue the game. They'll play a doubleheader today starting at 4 p.m. (PST).

One thing I've failed to mention is that Lancaster added an infielder last week. Matt Weston is a utility infielder who played in the Independant Canadian League last season. The former University of Houston outfielder was drafted in the 12th round of the 2006 draft by the San Francisco Giants and this is his Age 24 season, though he will turn 25 on June 20th. In five games with Lancaster, Weston is 3 for 17 with a triple, a home run, two runs scored and four RBIs.

Leandro Cespedes was absolutely rocked in his start last week, giving up eight hits and eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. The 22-year old struck out one and walked one intentionally before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Jordan Powell and Jeff Icenogle combined to pitch 7 2/3 scoreless innings, as Powell gave up one hit in 3 2/3 innings while striking out two and walking one. Icenogle gave up six hits over four innings, striking out two and walking none. Cespedes started the game yesterday that was delayed, striking out six in two innings. There was no word in the game story whether he would try and pitch in either game today, though I doubt it.

Catcher Koby Clemens has been on a roll lately, so he should benefit even more from Castro's promotion to Corpus. In six games, the 22-year old is 7 for 17 with three walks, three doubles, two sacrifice flys, two runs scored, seven RBIs and four strikeouts. His .412/.455/.588 line is one of the best on the team and raised his season average to .295/.382/.451 with a 19/35 BB/K ratio in 144 plate appearances.

Speaking of Jason Castro, he finished his stint in Lancaster by going 9 for 22 in June with six runs scored, six RBIs, two doubles, one home run, seven walks and four strikeouts. Castro is batting .409/.533/.636 this month, with a BABiP of .444, so this success is probably short term. For the season, Castro's line of .311/.403/.515 is very encouraging and his BABiP of .354 is probably sustainable. It will be very interesting to see how he deals with the transition to Double-A ball and to a less hitter friendly ballpark.

Chris Hicks posted his fourth above-average start of the season last week, pitching five innings and allowing four hits and two earned runs. The 22-year old former Georgia Tech closer struck out five and walked three, bringing is K/9 rate up to 7.79 and his BB/9 rate to 3.26. That's a tad high in the walk department, but that's a plenty good strikeout rate, which in that goofy ballpark, is one of the best indicators of success at the next level. Hicks' defense hasn't been great either, as his season Defense Efficiency Ratio is sitting at .598, one of the lowest rates I've seen. His FIP is at 3.99, which seems a better fit for his talent level right now than his actual ERA (6.04).

The team leader in hits this month is T.J. Steele, who's finally back from a pair of injuries that have limited him to just 52 plate appearances this season. In June, the 22-year old is 10 for 26 with two doubles, eight runs scored, two RBIs, a walk, six strikeouts and has been successful on two of his three stolen base attempts. Steele's BB/K rate is a little worrisome right now, but he hasn't gotten very much time at all to get comfortable at the plate. Hopefully, this will trend downward as he gets more playing time.

Jack Tilghman picked up his second loss with Lancaster on Sunday, but his start wasn't terrible. Instead, Tilghman was the victim of bad defense. In four innings, he allowed five hits and six runs, but only two of those were earned. He also struck out four and walked two and faced a season-high 24 batters. His G/F ratio wasn't great at 4/5 but he only gave up two line drives and his Power/Finesse Ratio has consistently been around 1.50, one of the big reasons why his FIP sits at 2.26 this season and was at 2.70 for his last start. His Defense Efficiency Ratio isn't terrible at .733, but it could be better. The impressive thing about Tilghman at Lancaster is his K/9 rate is at 11.65, by far the highest among starters on the team and his BB/9 is a manageable 2.65.

Another Lancaster outfielder who's struggling right now is Jonathan Gaston. After being the Player of the Month for April and May, he's started off slow in June with a .241/.258/.586 average. His power has still been there, hitting three doubles, two triples and a home run but he's walked just once while striking out eight times in 31 plate appearances. His Adjusted OPS of .816 and his Runs Created total of 4.5 put him well behind many of the other players on the team and his weighted OBA of .241 is the second lowest among regulars this month.

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