Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday's Trip to the Minors

With the torrential rains that have pounded the Astros farm system lately, it's a wonder that none of the prospects have been washed away yet. Greeneville hasn't played a game since Monday because of rain, Round Rock's game on Thursday was moved to a double-header on Friday because of rain and Lexington, well, Lexington just had a regularly scheduled off-day. But still, that's a lot of rain. So, we have four games to go through today. Without further ado, here's all the news and notes from around the Astros farm system:
Reliever Sammy Gervacio was called up from Round Rock on Thursday after Russ Ortiz was released. The 24-year old appeared in 35 games this season, pitching 46 2/3 innings for Round Rock and striking out 48 while walking 20. His FIP of 4.01 is significantly lower than his ERA of 5.40, mainly because his K/9 rate is at 9.26. His BB/9 rate is not as good at 3.86 but it's definitely playable in the bullpen. Gervacio's BABiP sits at .306, which means he hasn't been lucky or unlucky, so this is a good snapshot of the player the Astros are getting. He's a little like Alberto Arias, but with a livelier fastball and a funkier delivery.

Sergio Perez didn't pitch badly for Corpus on Thursday, lasting three innings while giving up five hits and three runs (two earned), striking out two and walking three. Perez only threw 66 pitches before leaving the game in Ryan McKeller's hands. McKeller, Tyler Lumsden and Evan Englebrook each made scoreless appearances, with McKeller throwing three innings and Lumsden and Englebrook putting up zeroes in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Interestingly, all three were relievers at Round Rock earlier in the season before being demoted to Corpus. Lumsden picked up his first victory as a Hook and Englebrook got his first save. No word on whether Perez' quick exit was due to an injury.

Drew Locke, Jason Castro and Wladimir Sutil each had big days at the plate. Locke went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run, two runs scored, two RBIs and a walk. Locke's home run was his 16th of the season and fourth this month. The 26-year old is now one home run shy of team leader Collin DeLome....Wladimir Sutil also got in on the hit parade, going 2 for 5 and scoring a run. Sutil's hitting .268/.349/.320 this month, but was just 1 for 12 before Thursday. The 24-year old is hitting .289/.369/.345 in 87 games.

Castro also had a multi-hit game, going 3 for 5 with two doubles and two runs scored. The 22-year old's average is up to .309 at Corpus and the doubles were his sixth and seventh since his call up from Lancaster. Since July 21, Castro has hit six of those seven doubles, adding a triple, eight RBIs and 12 runs scored. Castro is 15 for 38 over that stretch, bringing his season average up 32 points from .277. Another interesting fact: Castro also batted .309 in 56 games with Lancaster, so his total season average is also .309. Maybe he should consider wearing 30, 9 or 39 in the pros.

Ebert Rosario had his best game as a JetHawk on Thursday, going 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI and a strikeout. The 22-year old third baseman is batting .205/.244/.256 in nine games since being called up and is hitting .265 on the season. Rosario hit second on Thursday and has batted in the top half of the order every game he's played in Lancaster.

Koby Clemens just won't quit. The 22-year old started in left field on Thursday, which is something he's been doing since T.J. Steele went on the DL about a week ago, and picked up another two hits. More impressive is that Clemens did it from the cleanup spot and the two hits were a triple and a home run. Clemens has now scored 48 runs for Lancaster and is hitting .402/.460/.821. That's an OPS of 1.281 for those counting at home. What's more, his home/road splits aren't too out of sync with his season line, as Clemens is hitting .349/.411/.651 at home and .326/.412/.567 in away games.

I'm a little shocked by this, so bear with me as we get through this together. Lancaster's starter Shane Wolf combined with reliever Jack Tilghman to pitch a nine inning...shutout! The two twirled a five-hitter and Wolf had a game score of 72 after striking out nine in six innings and allowing just four hits and one walk. Tilghman got his third save after allowing just one hit in the final three innings, striking out two and walking one. Wolf started the season in the rotation, but was ineffective and was sent to the bullpen. Lately, he's strung together some good relief appearances, so was given a chance to start on Thursday. I'd say he came through brilliantly.

Not a lot happened in Tri-City, as third baseman Erik Castro was probably the offensive star, going 1 for 3 with two runs scored and a walk. However, Castro also struck out once, was picked off once and caught stealing another time, so his production was kind of a wash. Castro is hitting .236/.374/.486 this season, thanks to 16 walks in 72 at-bats combined with six doubles and four home runs. It's safe to say the hits will come eventually. You know the difference between hitting .250 and .300? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium.

Starter Colton Pitkin got roughed up on Thursday, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in four innings, striking out two and walking three. Pitkin also had a bad G/F ratio of 2/6 and gave up a home run. I don't want to get into too much detail on him, because I want to do a profile later on. Suffice it to say his game score was 25 and the average is 50. Not good, my friends, not good at all.

Outfielder Telvin Nash had his best day as an Astro on Thursday, going 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI. The big 18-year old is batting .176/.247/.279 in July and .190 overall this season, but has shown a little power with six doubles and a triple. I should mention again that he's still a teenager and that we shouldn't worry too much about him struggling through his first 84 professional at-bats. Something about small sample sizes and all.

2009 sixth round pick Enrique Hernandez continues to play well, however, going 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored on Thursday. The 19-year old is hitting .298/.323/.383 in July and .304/.342/.375 in 112 at-bats this season.

That's all for now, but look for something else today, as I decide whether to do a profile of a young pitcher or to come up with something else for your reading please. Till then...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

I'm off today, so this quick and dirty look at the Astros minor league system comes to you live from early Thursday morning. We'll try to get something more in line with my usual 2,500 word posts on Friday. Without further ado, here's the news and notes from Wednesday's minor league games:

Jose Capellan started for Round Rock on Wednesday and was very effective. In six innings, Capellan gave up three hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking one. In addition, Capellan went 2 for 2 at the plate and had a sacrifice hit. To top it all off, the long reliever who was starting for the first time since late April needed just 74 pitches to get through his innings.

Outfielder Brian Bogusevic picked up two more hits on Wednesday, going 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a walk. They were the 49th and 50th runs of the season for Bogey, as the 25-year old has batted in the top three lineup spots for the majority of the season.

A few short notes on Round Rock: Chris Johnson picked up his first hit in three games, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and a GIDP.... Mark Saccomanno hit his 12th home run, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored. It was the second straight game with a homer for the 29-year old from Baylor....Three different relievers threw a scoreless inning, each striking out one batter. Geoff Geary and Sammy Gervacio each earned holds while Casey Daigle picked up a save. Since former closer Chad Paronto was called up to the Astros then designated for assignment, Daigle has finished two games.

Not as much going on in Corpus, but there were some middlingly interesting things in the box score. For instance, Danny Meszaros threw three innings in relief, striking out two and lowering his ERA to 4.47. It was the longest outing I can recall this season for Meszaros but I'll double check that and get back to you on Friday. Former Rice pitcher Kenny Baugh picked up his second victory since joining the Hooks this month.

Collin DeLome didn't get a hit on Wednesday, but he did walk once and stole his 14th base of the season. DeLome also struck out once, but the walk and steal added more value in my eyes, so I won't hold it against him. This time...

Minor notes on the Hooks: Jhon Florentino extended his hitting streak to six games by going 1 for 4 on Wednesday. Florentino had a day off on Tuesday.... Jason Catro went 3 for 4 and has his season average hundreths of a point away from .300....Drew Locke hit two home runs, giving him 15 this season and continuing his run of extra-base hits that started when I called him out in this space a week or so ago. Maybe he just fixed his swing and adjusted to the pitchers. I still think it was all Minor Musings...

An absolute shootout took place in Lancaster as the JetHawks and High Desert combined for 17 runs and 24 hits. Starter Casey Hudspeth picked up the victory for Lancaster by allowing just two earned runs over seven innings. Reliever Ashton Mowdy was actually having a good start in Lancaster before giving up five hits and five runs without recording an out in the eighth inning. Mowdy still has a great strikeout rate, if that's any consolation.

Jon Gaston hit his 29th home run on Wednesday and is now two home runs away from tying the Lancaster single-season record of 31 set by Kyle Nichols in 2003. Koby Clemens also hit a home run on Wednesday, his 12th this season, and went 4 for 5 at the plate. The 22-year old now has multi-hit games in 6 of his last 10 starts.

Jay Austin finally broke his hitless streak, going 1 for 5 on Wednesday but still saw his season average drop down to .259. Austin did pick up an outfield assist, though, so it doesn't seem like he's letting his recent hitting struggles affect his defensive play.

Brandon Wikoff went 2 for 3 with a run scored and a walk, but was caught stealing on his only attempt on Wednesday. Wikoff is batting .455 since his callup from Tri-City three days ago.

Robert Bono put up a rather forgettable start on Wednesday. The 20-year old lasted 5 2/3 innings, striking out one and walking two while giving up seven hits and two earned runs. The right-hander still has a sub-3.00 ERA but hasn't been striking many guys out in his last couple of starts, so his numbers may soon regress.

Former Texas A&M pitcher Scott Migl put together his best appearance of the season on Wednesday, pitching 1 1/3 innings for Tri-City without giving up a run. Migl struck out one and walked none, lowering his ERA to 11.13. Migl battled injury problems while at A&M, but if he can stay healthy, has the arm to be a good prospect.

Third baseman Erik Castro reached base all four times he went to the plate on Wednesday, going 1 for 1 with a run scored, a double and three walks. Castro is hitting .232 this season, but has not played regularly since college, where he caught No. 1 oveall draft pick Steven Strasberg. Castro is making the transition from catcher to third, giving the Astros more depth at the position.

Former Stanford pitcher Brandt Walker wasn't bad on Wednesday, he just wasn't that great either. Walker gave up just two hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings, while striking out four and walking six. The 21-year old has had a devil of a time finding the strike zone since being drafted. Walker has walked 22 batters in 27 1/3 innings while striking out 20. For those of you scoring at home, that's not a good ratio at all and makes for a BB/9 rate of 7.24.
That does it for today, but I'll be back on Friday, so stay tuned...

Wednesday's Rundown, Part II

Continuing on:
Right-hander Chris Hicks was lit up on Tuesday for Lancaster. Though it wasn't as bad as Round Rock's game, Hicks did give up eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in six innings. The 22-year old struck out five and walked one while giving up three home runs. If you neutralize his stats for this season, taking Clear Channel Stadium and its hitter-friendly confines out of the equation, Hicks looks like a fairly good pitcher. In 102 innings, Hicks has given up 134 hits, 15 home runs, 30 walks and struck out 78. If we take the ballpark factor out of these numbers, we see Hicks should have around 126 hits, 84 strikeouts, 31 walks and 13 home runs. His K/9 rate goes up from 6.88 to 7.40, his BAA goes down from .312 to .295 and his ERA drops from 5.50 to 4.57. Interestingly enough, his adjusted ERA is almost right in line with his FIP of 4.52.

Outfielder T.J. Steele returns from his hamstring injury with authority, going 3 for 4 with a double, a triple and two runs scored on Tuesday. Steele had missed two weeks with the injury but is still batting .327/.351/.473 in 57 plate appearances this month.

Outfielder Brandon Barnes hit his seventh home run since joining Lancaster and his fourth this month. the 23-year old former football player is 29 for 99 with nine walks, 23 runs scored, 20 RBIs, six doubles and 22 strikeouts in July, giving him a line of .293/.355/.475. On any other team, his Runs Created total of 16.4 would put him in contention for the team lead, but he's a distant fifth in Lancaster, behind Koby Clemens, Jon Gaston, Matt Weston and J.B. Shuck.

Center fielder Jay Austin went hitless again, making him 0 for his last 21 at-bats. The 18-year old has walked three times in the past two games, so he's at least getting on base, which is something he hasn't done consistently this season. In 83 games, Austin has 25 walks compared to 65 strikeouts. He doesn't strike out a ton, but does need to take a few more pitches as he learns and develops.

Shortstop Brandon Wikoff had two hits on Tuesday in his second game with Lexington. The 21-year old is now 3 for 8 with one strikeout in two games with the Legends, and, if the next paragraph's evidence is any indication, is helping stabilize the infield defense there. With the return of Albert Cartwright and the promotion of Jeff Hulett, Lexington has an all-new infield, which will hopefully help out those young pitchers, since the team has a Defense Effiency Ratio of .700 on the season.

Left-hander David Duncan pitched well in his latest outing with the Legends, allowing three runs (two earned) and five hits in seven innings but picking up his second loss. Duncan struck out six and walked one for a game score of 62, but Lexington scored just two runs for him. Duncan did hit a batter and gave up two home runs, but had a solid 8/6 G/F ratio and an excellent Defense Efficiency Ratio of .824. In fact, his FIP was high at 6.06, meaning it was the defense behind him that helped him more than anything. Still, a solid start as he tries to repair the damage done to him in Lancaster. At 23, he's young enough to be a mid-level prospect, and he skipped Lexington to start in High A ball this season, but obviously needed some more work.

First baseman/left fielder J.D. Martinez pounded out five hits on Tuesday, raising his average with Tri-City to .345/.375/.586. Martinez has hit three home runs and nine doubles in 17 games with the ValleyCats and is 51 for 135 between Greeneville and Tri-City this season with 14 doubles, one triple and eight home runs. Martinez also has a 21/9 K/BB ratio, which is fairly reasonable for a power hitter.

Right-hander Wander Alvino gave up one run and six hits in six innings on Tuesday, rebounding nicely from his first bad start back on July 22. In that one, the 22-year old gave up six runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3, registering a game score of 20 which was is his lowest total this season in seven starts. Alvino needs to miss some more bats, though, as his K/9 rate is at 5.23 in a pitcher-friendly league.

Center fielder Brian Kemp is 3 for 15 in his last four games with four runs scored, three walks and one stolen base. After beginning the season red-hot, Kemp has cooled off some but is still a solid leadoff hitter. The 20-year old is hitting .290/.394/.323 this month and .301/.415/.345 on the season with 16 walks, 19 strikeouts and 21 runs scored in 119 at-bats. Kemp has also been successful on five of eight stolen base attempts.

Second baseman Jose Altuve has one hit in his last four games, but has actually hurt his batting average over that stretch. In those four games, the 19-year old is 4 for 15 with two runs scored, three walks, three strikeouts and three stolen bases. Altuve is batting .330/.431/.536 this month and .328/.413/.493 on the season. Some have said his ability to walk stems from his height being listed as 5-foot-5 (when we know the official height it always a bit taller than reality). Still, Altuve is proving to have some pop to go with good baserunning instincts, as he's stolen 17 of 19 bases this season.

Shortstop Jiovanni Mier likes to pick up hits in bunches. In his last five games, he has multi-hit games in three of them and been o-fer in the rest. During that stretch, Mier is 8 for 19 with a home run, two doubles, four runs scored, four RBIs, five walks, two strikeouts and four steals. His averages in July have been blistering at .333/.443/.517 with nine extra base hits in 87 at-bats. His scouting report coming out of the draft focused more on his defense than his bat, but if he can continue to show good plate discipline with some pop, he will be a very valuable player.

Third baseman Jonathan Meyer continues to scuffle a bit, going 2 for his last 14 with a double, two RBIs, one walk, two runs scored and four strikeouts. Meyer hasn't gotten his bat going like right side running mate Mier, but he has at least kept taking the occasional walk. In 117 at-bats this season, Meyer has walked 19 times and struck out 32 times. He's just 18 years old, so hopefully he can continue to grow at the plate.

Center fielder Grant Hogue started late this season because of an injury, but he's shown surprising production for a player drafted in the 35th round. This month, Hogue is 23 for 71 with five doubles, a triple, seven walks, 13 strikeouts and has stolen 10 of 11 bases. He's only scored 12 runs in 21 games, but that's largely because the top two lineup positions are usually filled by Altuve and Mier. Still, Hogue gives the Astros another young, athletic outfielder to stock their system.

Right-hander Tanner Bushue has not been done enough justice in this space, which I'll rectify with a profile of him sometime soon. In the meantime, let's look at his last two starts. On the 17th, Bushue lasted five innings, giving up five hits and two earned runs while striking out four and walking two. The 18-year old went another five innings in his most recent start, giving up three hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking one. His K/9 rate over that span is 9.00 and is now 7.66 over all five of his starts. His BB/9 rate ticked up a bit to 2.01 but the most startling thing about his line thus far is he doesn't give up line drives. In three of his starts, he's given up zero line drives and has given up four total. Of course, the prevailing theory is that a pitcher can't really control how many line drives they give up, but it still means batters are not making solid contact, which means his raw stuff must be pretty good.

Right fielder Emilio King is one of the few GCL Astros hitting well this month, as he's gone 7 for 15 on his current five-game hitting streak. The 19-year old has three doubles, one triple, two RBIs, seven runs scored, two walks, one strikeout and two stolen bases over that stretch, raising his overall averages up to .293/.433/.476.

Shortstop Luis Bryan was named to the Farmstros Five this week and deserved it roundly. Over his last six games, Bryan is 10 for 26 with three doubles, one triple, eight runs scored, four RBIs and three strikeouts. Bryan has also played well in the field and has raised his season averages to .321/.330/.464. The 18-year old doesn't walk much...scratch that, AT ALL, as he doesn't have one walk in 84 at-bats this season. Still, a power-hitting middle infielder is welcome anytime in this system.

Second baseman Enrique Hernandez is also struggling to walk, and it's lowering his OBP significantly. The 19-year old has a respectable average at .281 but his OBP is at .309 this month since he's walked three times in 89 at-bats. Maybe I make too much of this, but for a player to be successfull at the higher levels (especially in the pros), he needs to walk. Just ask Jeff Francouer how well he's done by not walking. I think Hernandez is athletic enough to make an impact in the system, as his defense has been good and he's shown a little pop with five double and one triple this season. He just has to learn to take a pitch or two.

That's it for today, we'll be back tomorrow with more fun and exciting tidbits.

Wednesday's Rundown

The InterWeb has been abuzz in the past 12 hours since the news of Bud Norris' callup hit. A couple months ago, I did a short profile on Norris here. In charting each of his starts, I really like what Norris brings in terms of potential to the rotation. In 19 starts for Round Rock, Norris struck out 112 batters in 120 innings, averaging 8.40 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9. He struck out ten batters once and allowed two or fewer runs in 11 starts. Norris has a positive G/F ratio at 129/109 and a HR/9 rate of 0.45.

His record at Round Rock is pretty terrible at 4-9, but his expected winning percentage sits at .687, meaning his record should be more like 13-6. His Pitching Runs Created is at 51.12, which means he has created the most runs for the Express of any player this season. His average game score is a 57 and he's induced 16 double plays.

I am concerned, however, about his control. In Zachary Levine's Q&A with Tal Smith yesterday, Smith suggested that Norris' lack of control was similar to Wandy Rodriguez, so I went back and looked at Wandy's track record to begin his career. Rodriguez is pitching in his fifth season in the majors and here are his BB/9 rates over that time span: 3.7, 4.2, 3.1, 2.9, 3.0. In the minors, Wandy had a career BB/9 rate of 3.1 and his progression went like this: 2.4, 2.5, 3.3, 3.6, 3.3, 4.5 (though that last season consisted of only five starts at Round Rock).

Obviously, as the levels got harder, Wandy got more inaccurate. Norris has a career minor league rate of 3.7 and a progression of 3.1, 3.7, 3.5 and now 3.98. So, to this point, Norris has had worse rates for most of his time in the minors and for his college career. In three season with Cal Poly, Norris had a BB/9 rate of 5.47, but that number is skewed by his sophomore season when he walked 30 batters in 34 innings. In his only season as a full-time starter in college, Norris walked 57 in 110 2/3 innings, giving him a BB/9 rate of 4.64.

While Norris does give up free passes more than you'd like, he differs with Wandy in another, very key area. Only once in his minor league career has Norris given up more hits than innings pitched and that came in 2008 when he hurt his arm. That's only been true for Wandy about half the time, as he had 3 of 6 minor league seasons with more hits than innings pitched and his first two pro seasons continued that trend. Of course, this shows the big difference between the two: Norris is a power pitcher, who misses bats while Wandy is not overpowering, but uses location to make up for lack of speed.

What does this mean for Houston? I haven't the foggiest. No one seems sure how they'll use Norris, as the 8th inning role has recently been vacated with LaTroy Hawkins shingles-related trip to the DL. Norris has proven, though, that he does deserve a shot at the big league rotation.

So, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the links of the day and then all the news and notes you can handle from the Astros minor league system:

Links for today:

More discussion of curveballs and our youth

Even more about curveballs

Not specifically about the topic, but a good read on pitching mechanics

Now the notes:

Polin Trinidad and T.J. Burton got absolutely 70's era Led Zepplin-rocked on Tuesday against Memphis. Trinidad lasted five innings, giving up 10 hits and nine earned runs while striking out three and walking one. The 23-year old also gave up six home runs. What's worse? Trinidad gave up two home runs each to three different players, including two to former Padres shortstop Khalil Greene. Burton got off no lighter, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings while walking three and striking out no one. Not a pretty night on the mound for the Express, as even catcher Brian Esposito got into the fun, pitching a scoreless eighth while allowing two hits and one walk. That's after he caught the first seven innings of the game.

Esposito was called up to Round Rock after J.R. Towles went back on the disabled list. I'm not sure why this time, but the 25-year old has had just 18 at-bats this month and 129 total at-bats this season (in the minors). Towles just can't seem to stay healthy the past month or so, but hopefully he can turn it around soon and maybe make a September call-up.

Mark Saccomanno hit another home run on Tuesday, his 11th of the season. The 29-year old has now gone 5 for his last 8 and has three home runs this month. Saccomanno is hitting .313/.407/.522 with an OPS+ of 147 in July.

Reliever Chia-Jen Lo pitched a scoreless inning on Tuesday, giving up a hit and striking out one. Lo also didn't walk anyone, which is noteworthy since the 23-year old has walked four in seven innings this month and has generally struggled with his control since being promoted to Corpus Christi.

Starter Brad James, however, wasn't so lucky, lasting seven innings while giving up eight hits and five earned runs. James walked three but struck out three and suffered his eighth loss of the season....Drew Meyer extended his hitting streak to 11 games by going 2 for 4 with a double and a strikeout.

Collin DeLome hit his 17th home run of the season on Tuesday, going 1 for 4 with three strikeouts and two RBIs. The 22-year old has created 17.5 runs this month and has 61 runs created this season. DeLome has 38 extra base hits in 383 plate appearances, but has also struck out 92 times. His OBP of .340 is good but not great and he'll have to continue walking occasionally to offset his strikeouts.

This post is running long, so we'll break it up into two parts today. Part II coming up soon...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Brieflys

I had a comment on the Lancaster post yesterday that I was about to respond to in kind, but I figured I could just roll it into this post. The question was whether this offensive outburst for Koby Clemens is unusual, and the answer is yes and no. It is unusual in that his career minor league line is .270/.360/.436, but that also includes his skewed Lancaster numbers this season. His best minor league campaign was in 2005, the year he was drafted, when he hit .294/.391/.469 in 169 at-bats split between Rookie League Greeneville and short-season Tri-City. Clemens already has a career high in doubles this season with 32 and is four home runs short of his personal-best of 15, set back in 2007 in Lexington. Clemens did play at Salem last season, which was the most pitcher-friendly parks in the Astros system, so moving from Salem to Lancaster has been a huge boost to his numbers. Still, he's repeating High A ball after repeating Low A the previous two years, so he's not making the progress the Astros hoped when they took him in the fifth round back in '05.

Before we jump into the rundown, here are some interesting links I found today that apply (at least partially) to the minor league system:

Discussion of blogosphere journalism and trade rumors

Q&A with Tal Smith

Curveballs and young arms

With that, let's get to all the news and notes from the Astros minor league system:

First baseman Mark Saccomanno had a big game on Monday, going 3 for 4 with a triple, a home run, five RBIs and two runs scored. The 29-year old is hitting .302/.403/.476 this month with a double, two triples and two home runs. Saccomanno is also 5 for his last 14 and has four multi-hit games this month, including a four hit night in the first week of July.

Right-hander Felipe Paulino struggled again on Monday, giving up five hits, three earned runs and walking five in three innings of work. The 24-year old hasn't made it out of the fifth inning since returning to Round Rock last week. Interestingly enough, his pitch count has been high in all three appearances. He's thrown at least 70 pitches in all three, but has thrown just 54% of his pitches for strikes, which is right in line with how many strikes he threw in his brief stint with Round Rock in April.

In 14 starts with the Astros, Paulino threw strikes 62% of the time, but that percentage plummeted once he went into the bullpen in May. It rose again once he rejoined the starting rotation through the first of July. His walks, however, have also hurt him. In April, Paulino averaged 2.73 walks per 9 innings between both Round Rock and Houston. In May, that number jumped to 5.89 before falling back to 1.89 for the rest of his tenure with the Astros. Since rejoining Round Rock, Paulino has allowed 9.25 walks per 9 innings.

We can even look further into his strike data in the majors. Paulino got 16.4% swinging strikes in his time with the Astros, but had just eight in his final two appearances. I don't have the same type of data for his three Round Rock starts, but I can say that two of his seven strikeouts have been looking. He's obviously still missing bats, so it's hard to say whether his problem is mechanical, mental or due to an injury. His control seems to come and go this season, starting when he was demoted to the bullpen in May. Hopefully, he can get right soon.

Catcher Jason Castro hit another double on Monday, giving him a 7-game hitting streak and raising his averages to .299/.373/.433. The 22-year old now has four doubles this month with one triple and one home run. Castro also has a 7/8 BB/K ratio and has scored 12 runs in July. As I've said before, Castro profiles more as a doubles hitter in the pros, so this is a good sign. I'd like to see a little more power, but his defense is solid, he's hitting for average and he's getting base at a good clip, so I won't be picky.

Corpus Christi has become the home of several long hitting streaks. Drew Locke had his 10-game streak broken on Monday, Jhon Florentino has a five-game streak while Mark Ori has a four-game streak. Monday also saw Drew Meyer extend his streak to 10 games in dramatic fashion, hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning on Monday. Meyer is batting .365 over the streak, pulling his average this month up to .284/.364/.375.

Outfielder Collin DeLome hit a triple while going 1 for 4 on Monday. DeLome now has seven doubles, two triple and two home runs this month with 11 runs scored and 11 RBIs. DeLome is leading the team in Runs Created with 16 and weighted OBA at .330. He also struck out for the 17th and 18th times on Monday, but has walked nine times now. If he keeps that rate up, walking once every 10 at-bats, DeLome can be a successful major leaguer.

Right-hander Tip Fairchild made his return to the Astros system on Monday, starting for Lancaster. The 25-year old gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five while walking none but also giving up three home runs. Fairchild used to be one of the better pitchers in the Astros system, but had Tommy John surgery in May of 2007 and was released just before the season started in 2009. The general timetable for recovery from Tommy John is 18 months, so hopefully, he can get back to being a productive member of the farm system.

The Big Three in Lancaster of Koby Clemens, J.B. Shuck, and Jon Gaston all had good days at the plate on Monday. Clemens was 2 for 4 with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. Shuck went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored. Gaston hit his 28th home run, a solo shot in the seventh and went 1 for 4 with two runs scored. Lancaster still lost 7-6, despite out-hitting High Desert 12-11. Did the Astros know what they were getting into when they signed this deal with Lancaster? It seems a pretty steep price to pay just to have a presence on the West Coast.

Right-hander Ross Seaton got hit hard on Monday, giving up five earned runs in five innings while allowing six hits and two home runs. Seaton did strike out six and walk three, giving him a 16 strikeouts in his last 16 2/3 innings. Still, it was his lowest game score in 10 starts at 38 and his highest FIP of the season at 8.40.

Shortstop Brandon Wikoff made his debut with Lexington, going 1 for 4 at the plate with a run scored and making one error in the field. Wikoff batted .27/.357/.347 in 28 games with Tri-City before his promotion. The fifth-round pick is the first 2009 Astros draft pick to make it onto a full-season team.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend Leftovers from Lexington

Let's take a trip to Lexington for all the news and notes from this weekend:

Kyle Greenwalt had a decent start on Friday, lasting 6 2/3 innings while allowing six hits and four runs (three earned). Greenwalt struck out five while walking two and giving up his first home run in six starts and only his seventh of the season. The 20-year old hasn't gotten much run support this season and especially in his last six starts. Over that period, the Legends have scored 16 runs, giving him an average of 2.67 runs a game, while Greenwalt is getting an average of 3.72 runs a game this season. The league average is currently 4.27.

Shortstop Chris Jackson struggled in Lancaster this season but has done better in Lancaster. Over the weekend, he went 4 for 12 with a triple and an RBI. Jackson is batting .220/.281/.300 in 14 games with Lexington and hit .183/.239/.244 in 58 games with Lancaster. The 22-year old was drafted out of Virginia Commonwealth in the 29th round in 2008.

Jay Austin was 0-for the weekend, going 0-for-11 in three games. His July average dropped to .311/.340/.478 and his season marks dropped to .266/.314/.364. Austin hasn't gotten a hit since July 20 and is 1 for 28 since July 18. He's also struck out eight times over that time frame and stolen just one base.

Jordan Lyles had his second straight poor outing, which may or may not have anything to do with his reduced work load. Lyles lasted five innings on Saturday, giving up eight hits and six earned runs while striking out four and walking three. The 18-year old had a Defense Efficiency Ratio of .529 but don't blame everything on the defense, as his FIP was 5.20. Basically, it was a bad start all around and was his second straight start with a game score in the 20's.

Brad Dydalewicz had a below-average start on Sunday, combining a drop in his strikeout rate with a couple of home run balls. In five innings, Dydalewicz gave up five hits and two solo home runs while striking out three and walking four. The 19-year old lefty had a FIP of 9.60, his highest total since his fourth start and more than twice his season average of 4.34

Weekend Leftovers from Lancaster

I just picked up a hit writing this review of Lancaster's weekend. That's how hitter-friendly it is up there. Anyway, here are all the news and notes from the Jethawks' weekend:

Righthander Leandro Cespedes got a no decision on Sunday, pitching seven innings and allowing eight hits and four runs. The 22-year old struck out eight and walked three while giving up one home run. Cespedes is on a nice little streak recently, recording game scores of at least 50 in his last five starts. His K/9 rate is up to 7.86 while his BB/9 rate is at 3.43, but his PRC is at 32.78 right now. Cespedes has been getting better and better though, and doing it in a tough hitters' park and league.

Catcher Koby Clemens went 6 for 11 over the weekend, with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs. Clemens has his highest monthly average of the season in July with a line of .389/.449/.758. The 22-year old has also driven in 34 runs this month but has struck out 28 times.

Third baseman Ebert Rosario was just 2 for 13 over the weekend with two RBIs. The 22-year old is hitting .143/.143/.190 since his call-up to Lancaster in five games.

Centerfielder J.B. Shuck went 5 for 14 over the weekend with a double, an RBI and a strikeout. Shuck is great at getting on base, with a OBP of .402 for the season and 50 walks, but has been harder to strike out than anyone on the Lancaster roster. Shuck has struck out 11 times this month and only 38 times all season. Combine that with his 17 stolen bases in 95 games and he continues to be one of the best leadoff prospects the Astros have in their system.

Weekend Leftovers from Corpus Christi

Here's the weekend news from Corpus Christi:

Shortstop Wladimir Sutil has had a good month on the basepaths, picking up five of his 14 total steals in July. The 24-year old has also scored 19 runs in 97 plate appearances with a line of .287/.375/.345. Surprisingly, Sutil has also grounded into three double plays though he's also struck out only five times.

First baseman Mark Ori had a good weekend, going 8 for 13 in three games. Ori is batting .310/.355/.414 in 63 plate appearances with six doubles and 15 strikeouts. Ori is older at 25 and hasn't shown much power, so I'm not sure how much value he has in the larger scheme. Still, he can hit at the higher levels of the minors, so Ori has proven useful.

Outfielder Collin DeLome also had a huge weekend, going 7 for 9 on Saturday and Sunday with two doubles. The 22-year old now has a monthly line of .321/.303/.513 with seven doubles, one triple and two home runs. DeLome is also third on the team in hits with 25 in July.

Righthander Sergio Perez bounced back from his disastrous one inning outing on Monday. Perez threw seven innings, giving up four hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out three and walking two. Perez also gave up a home run for the fourth straight game wbut posted his highest game score in that stretch with a 60. Perez got his highest Defense Efficiency Ratio at .850, which helped him give up only four hits.

Weekend Leftovers from Round Rock

We're going to try this (albeit longer) attempt to bring you all the news and notes from around the Astros farm system, but in friendly, team-centered capsules. First up, all the Round Rock news and notes you can handle:

Tommy Manzella went 2 for 11 over the weekend, lowering his monthly averages to .286/.353/.532. Manzella's defense has been solid if not spectacular this season, as he has only 11 errors in 97 games, but has a range factor of just 4.15.

Yorman Bazardo put up a game score of 70 on Saturday, throwing eight innings of five-hit ball, allowing one earned run and striking out three while walking one. Bazardo did hit one batter but also induced three double plays. The 24-year old also induced double-digit ground balls for the fourth consecutive game.

Yordany Ramirez had his eighth multi-hit game on Sunday, going 3 for 4. His monthly batting average is .324 but his OBP is just a tick higher at .333 since he's only walked once and not been hit by any batters. Ramirez has stolen two bases in five attempts and put down three sacrifice hits while striking out nine in 77 plate appearances.

Not a lot else going on, except Bud Norris had a fine but uninspiring start on Friday, lasting six innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out four. Teammate Chris Johnson hit a home run over the weekend, his third of the month and sixth of the season. Reggie Abercrombie also struck out for the 30th time in July over the weekend.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's Trip to Lexington

Stopping by Lexington now:

The two starts I haven't mentioned yet this week were from David Duncan and Robert Bono. Duncan was excellent, picking up the victory by lasting seven innings and allowing one earned run. Still, Duncan is an older guy who failed spectacularly in High A ball, so we'll reserve calling him a prospect just yet. As for Bono, he's been good this season, but has struggled lately to be consistent. In his past six starts, Bono has only two who were above average and he's struck out less than four batters in each of his past six starts. Bono's K/9 rate is still at 5.06 and his BB/9 rate is ridiculously low at 1.18, but over those six starts, Bono's rates are 3.20 on K/9 and 1.33 on BB/9. Not great.

One guy that needs to be discussed is Henry Villar, who has appeared in six games this month. The 22-year old has struck out 16 while walking one over 9 1/3 innings. He's also given up nine hits, six earned runs and two home runs. His G/F rate is an even 6/6 while his FIP of 2.88 is half the size of his ERA of 5.79. Villar has 79 strikeouts and 13 walks this season in 60 2/3 innings over 28 appearances and three starts. I'm not sure what to make of Villar and at 5-foot-11, 150 lbs., he's very slight to be such a power pitcher. I'll be very interested to see how he responds to a callup to Lancaster.

Utility infielder Jeff Hulett was called up from short-season Tri City following Ebert Rosario's promotion. The 21-year old has gone 1 for 5 with a walk, an RBI, a double and one strikeout in two games. Hulett started at third base, designated hitter, first base and second base this season, but with second baseman Albert Cartwright batting .161/.268/.323 in 70 plate appearances and none of the other infielders standing out, Hulett may get some solid playing time.

One of the few Lexington hitters doing well this month is Eric Suttle, who's 6 for 15 in his last four games, raising his July line to .263/.333/.298. Suttle has walked six times, scored seven runs and driven in three in 63 plate appearances this month.

Well, the ride had to end some time for Jay Austin, who is 0 for 7 and now 1 for his last 21, lowering his July averages to .337/.368/.518 and his season average to .272/.320/.372. He is still the only Legends player batting over .300 and has 28 hits this month.

The Astros have a pretty stacked system for catchers, with J.R. Towles, Jason Castro and Koby Clemens behind the plate at the top three levels in the minors. Lexington, though, doesn't really have a strong candidate behind the plate. Catcher Federico Hernandez is purported to be a good defensive backstop, but his offense is atrocious, especially for Low A ball. In 50 plate appearances, Hernandez is batting .184/.200/.286 with a triple and a home run among his nine hits this month. His season averages of .223/.256/.323 aren't much better, so it'll be interesting how they handle the position over the next year or so.

Two more relievers making waves are Kyle Godfrey and Pat Urkfitz. Godfrey has appeared in six games this month, pitching 9 2/3 innings and allowing seven hits and two earned runs while striking out 13 and walking none. His G/F ratio is also excellent at 13/3, continuing his upward trend since he left extended spring training. Godfrey is older at 23, but could progress quickly. Urkfitz picked up his fourth victory on Wednesday, appearing in seven games this month. The 20-year old has pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and one earned run while striking out eight and walking one. Urkfitz also has two saves and an 8/9 G/F ratio.

Friday's Trip to Lancaster

I wrote a bunch about Lancaster players a couple days ago, but here is what I left out:

The Lancaster pitching staff has been fairly awful lately, but if you look past all the hits and runs allowed, there are a couple of guys doing some good. First, former starter Jose Duran has been as close to untouchable as you can be in Clear Channel Communication Field. In five appearances this month, Duran has given up four runs in 12 1/3 innings, and two of those came in two-thirds of an inning in his most recent appearance. Duran has also struck out 10 and walked six in his five appearances, giving him a K/9 rate of 7.30. His FIP of 3.04 is actually very close to his ERA this month of 2.92. All in all, Duran has been very effective, though he'll probably stay in the bullpen.

The other pitcher doing well is Chris Hicks. He's going to keep getting mentioned here until someone notices, because Hicks has been very good. In his latest start on Thursday, Hicks lasted seven innings while giving up seven hits and three earned runs while striking out seven and walking one. Hicks had a G/F ratio of 8 to 6, continuing a trend of allowing more ground balls than fly balls this season. The seven strikeouts was also his second highest total of the season, bringing his K/9 rate up to 6.84 this season. Hicks has a PRC of 43.77 now, putting him third on the team behind Jon Gaston and Jason Castro.

Speaking of Gaston, since his epic home run exploits over the weekend, the 22-year old went 1 for 6 with two walks, including an intentional walk, and hit his fifth triple of July. Gaston is now batting .293/.398/.756 in 88 plate appearances but has struck out a team-high 32 times. He's currently on pace to shatter the Lancaster record for home runs in a season of 31. Currently, Gaston has 27 home runs.

Lexington third baseman Ebert Rosario was called up to Lancaster and has gone 1 for 8 in two games, scoring one run and driving in two more. Rosario has hit a triple and struck out once, giving him a line of .125/.125/.250. He takes the job of David Flores, who was 7 for 37 in July.

Let's run through the monthly team leaders quickly: hits - Koby Clemens 29; doubles - Clemens 11; triples - Gaston 5; walks - Gaston 14; runs - Gaston 23; home runs - Gaston 9; RBIs - Clemens 26; strikeouts - Gaston 32; stolen bases - T.J. Steele and Craig Corrado 3; singles - Jack Shuck 20; strikeouts - Fernando Abad 20; walks allowed - Leandro Cespedes and Bryan Hallberg 11; wins - Cespedes 3; innings pitched - Cespedes 25 2/3.

Friday's Trip to Corpus Christi

Corpus had it's game on Thursday postponed, but here's the best and worst from the past week with the Hooks:

Jhon Florentino had a nine-game hitting streak broken three days ago, but is still tied for the team lead in hits with 23. The 25-year old's line of .319/.347/.486 is the best on the team in terms of average and slugging percentage. Florentino is one of four players with at least 10 runs created in Corpus. At 25, his potential is a bit limited, but if Chris Johnson ever gets called up to the big league team, he's a shoo-in for getting a shot at the job in Round Rock.

Wladimir Sutil is 6 for 16 in his last three games, raising his July averages up to .288/.366/.342 in 83 plate appearances. Sutil leads the Hooks with 14 runs scored and in stolen bases with four in five attempts. Sutil doesn't have much power, hitting just four doubles this month and 15 doubles this season with only other extra-base hit (a home run). Not a lot of power, but good defense, good speed and he can hit at the top of the order.

Corpus Christi's youngest everyday player, Collin DeLome, is in a bit of a slump after starting out hot for the first two weeks of July. The 22-year old is 1 for his last 12 and has struck out 16 times in 80 plate appeareances this month. DeLome has walked nine times in July, which is 36% of his season total. His 16 home runs are the most in the top two levels of the Astros system, but his 87 strikeouts this season are also second-highest in those same levels.

The pitching is extremely thin at Corpus right now, with 29-year old Andy Van Hekken, 26-year old Wilton Lopez and 30-year old Kenny Baugh all in the starting rotation. Throw in two 23-year olds who are struggling in Brad James and Sergio Perez and there are basically just relievers to look at in positive terms. James has a 9.31 ERA in 19 1/3 innings in July with a K/BB ratio of 7 to 13. James has got a G/F ratio of 34/17, but his FIP is still 6.67. As for Perez, his latest start only lasted 1 inning and in four starts this month, he's got an ERA of 6.62. Perez has struck out more batters than James with 10, but has also walked 13. Each players has given up three home runs and both have WHIPs over 2.00. Corpus does profile as a hitter-friendly park for home runs, but there aren't as many runs scored there, so it could be a bit of a wash.

The two-relievers of note are both 23 in Danny Meszaros and Chia-Jen Lo. Meszaros has been very effective this month with an ERA of 2.92, lowering his season ERA to 4.89. Meszaros has struck out 12 and walked five in 12 1/3 innings with one hold. Lo, hasn't been as good, though he lost some time to the Futures game. In six innings over six appearances, Lo has allowed six hits and four earned runs while striking out nine and walking four. His FIP of 4.87 is higher than Meszaros' 3.77, but not by much. Both still look to have a bright future and should be in Round Rock by next season.

Friday's Trip to Round Rock

We're going to try something different this Friday. Since I've got so much catching up to do, we're breaking down Friday's Trip into the different minor league teams. Let's start with Round Rock's best and worst performances from the past week:

Outfielder Brian Bogusevic has a 12-game hitting streak right now, going 17 for 54 over the course of those games. Bogusevic has seven runs scored and 10 RBIs this month with a line of .303/.361/.382 in 82 plate appearances. Bogusevic also has a double and two home runs during his current streak, which has brought his average up to .279 this month.

Right-hander Polin Trinidad started twice since last Friday and lasted seven innings in each, but they couldn't have been more different. In the first, Trinidad allowed four hits and two earned runs while striking out five and walking two. In the second, he gave up nine hits and five earned runs while striking out five and walking three. His Round Rock records is now at 2-1 after winning the first start and losing the second, but Trinidad only got one run of support last night as the Express were baffled by Charlie Haeger and his magical flutterball. Trinidad's game scores since joining the Express have been 51, 76, 64 and 41 while getting 2, 3, 5 and 1 run in support over that stretch. He's also struck out 17 in 28 2/3 innings, which is right in line with his season K/9 rate.

Shortstop Tommy Manzella was named to the Farmstros Five for this past week, and it was well-deserved. The 26-year old is 21 for 69 with eight walks, nine runs scored, 12 RBIs, five doubles, one triple and four home runs. His line of .304/.377/.580 features his highest OPS of any month so far this season. Manzella leads the Express with 14.7 runs created this month and has a weighted OBA of .322, which is second on the team to Yordany Ramirez.

Bud Norris only made one start and it wasa Phantom of the Opera start. Good, bad, you can't tell which at any given moment. Norris threw eight innings, good. He allowed 10 hits and four earned runs, bad. Norris induced the highest number of ground ball out of his season with 14 and had nine fly ball outs, good. He struck out just one in eight innings, bad. His FIP of 3.33 was the highest in four starts and second-highest in eight, which is good and bad. Norris is sitting at 114 innings pitched this season with 108 strikeouts and 50 walks. His Pitcher Runs Created is at 48.47 and when you compare that to the hitters on the team, puts him in third place behind Bogusevic (50.2) and Manzella (49.5).

Yorman Bazardo started twice, lasting six innings in the first and seven innings in the second. His game scores of 48 and 63 were both fairly good. In the first start, Bazardo struck out one and walked one, which lowered his game score for an otherwise Quality Start. In the second, Bazarod upped the strikeouts to four, but also walked four, so it was a wash... Felipe Paulino has started twice since being demoted from the Astros. Paulino wasn't in the starting rotation regularly at the end of his tenure with the big league team, so his first two starts have been short. Paulino has lasted 4 and 4 2/3 innings in the two starts while allowing two earned runs, seven hits, while striking out five and walking seven. ... T.J. Burton has appeared in two games since being called up from Corpus Christi. In those two games, Burton has pitched 1 2/3 innings while allowing one hit and striking out one while walking none. The 25-year old has a 1/2 G/F ratio and has thrown only 20 total pitches.

J.R. Towles broke his nose after falling off a tractor over the All-Star Game, meaning the Express called up Brian Esposito for a couple games. Towles returned on Wednesday and has gone 3 for 7 in the past two games, bringing his monthly line up to .286/.375/.429. ... Chris Johnson hit another home run this past week. Johnson is 15 for 57 with nine walks, six runs scored, four RBIs, two doubles and two home runs this month.... Yordany Ramirez has a line of .333/.344/.476 in 65 plate appearances. He surprisingly walked for the first time this month in Thursday's game, giving him six walks this season.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

Let's start off our week together with some links I've found from the past five days. This article discusses the use of DNA testing with players from the Dominican Republic. There really are some scary implications by this DNA testing, and it's even more worrisome that some teams have been doing this for years now. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, it's definitely an understandable circumstance for these poor families to fake a birth certificate to, basically, win the lottery.

That's not to say it's justified, it's just understandable. Still, what's to stop a team from testing for susceptibility for injuries along with identities? Is it fair to penalize a player by not signing him because he's prone to knee injuries when a similar State-born player with the same exact propensity would be taken in the first round? There are some definite ethical questions here and if history has taught us anything, it's that large corporations and baseball owners aren't the most ethical. Remember all those collusion cases back in the 1980's?

The second thought-provoking article was this one on how to promote a prospect. The article itself raises more questions than answers, but occasionally it is good to ask them. Are the Astros hurting Jordan Lyles and Jason Castro by leaving them in the minors for another year or two? Are they good enough right now to compete in the majors better than some of the players they have now? The new regime is certainly more aggressive with the younger guys than Purpurra and Hunsicker were. The really telling sign will be where they start out the young guys next season. Will the high school guys have to apprentice in High A ball or will they be challenged with a jump to Double-A? These are questions worth asking, so start discussing amongst yourself. Meanwhile, here's a short look at the news and notes from the Astros minor league system:

Without question, the Gold Star Performer of the Last Five Days is Jon Gaston. He's been mentioned in the Farmstros Weekly Five, by Zachary Levine on, by Baseball America and I'm sure by his family and friends. Gaston has been great, both this month and this season, and while some of the commenters have tried to put his power in the context of his park and his league. Gaston's OPS+ this month is at 205 but since his adjusted OPS is 1.095, his adjusted OPS+ is 184.

For the season, those numbers are 179 and 1.007 with his adjusted OPS+ at 163. Both of those numbers are excellent, and Gaston is undoubtedly having an enormous season, leading all the minors in home runs with 27 at the tender age of 22. The adjustment to his OPS directly hurts only his slugging percentage. His OBP drops a point from .397 to .396 for the season but his SLG drops from .676 to .611. As I mentioned on Friday, the park factor for Lancaster's games is pretty ridiculous, sitting at 1.04 on doubles and 1.17 on home runs. Gaston will have to prove himself at a higher level before being considered one of the organization's top 10 prospects.

Equally impressive this month have been Matt Weston and Koby Clemens. Both Clemens and Weston are still batting over .330 while Clemens has an OPS of 1.130 and an adjusted OPS of 1.068. It's a dead heat to see which of the three is having the better month, as Clemens has the edge in weighted OBA at .434, compared to Gaston at .391 and Weston at .383. Gaston leads the team in Runs Created with 25.6 to Clemens' 23.3 and Weston's 20.8. (Sidenote: Gaston leads the Astros system in Runs Created with 103 this season, by far the most I've seen at this point in the process). Clemens also lead the pack in BABiP at a comically high .512, followed by Weston's .489 and Gaston's .350. So, expect Clemens and Weston's batting averages to fall back to earth, while Gaston should maintain his pace right around .300.

Ross Seaton's (7-8) start on Friday was below average overall but got him a victory as the Legends scored eight runs in support of the righthander. It was the most runs the team had scored in a game Seaton started since his fifth start back in April. Seaton struck out four and walked two in 5 2/3 innings, giving up eight hits and three runs (one earned).

Of course Jordan Lyles got blown up in his start on Sunday (after I'd written the profile update on him but before it went live on the site). In four innings, Lyes gave up six hits and five runs, striking out three and walking a season-high six batters. Lyles had a game score of 27, his lowest of the season and had his highest FIP since his fourth start of the season. Not good times.

Brad Dydalewicz, on the other hand, posted his best start in two months on Monday. The lefty lasted 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking three. Dydalewicz gave up four hits and two earned runs while hitting one batter. His game score of 66 was the best he's had since his fourth start back in April. That April start was the last one before he pulled his oblique and missed about a month of time. Dydalewicz continues to give up hardly any line drives and has surrendered just one in each of his past four starts. His G/F ratio has also trended pretty strongly to the ground ball side for his last eight starts.

Jay Austin's wild ride finally came to a halt over the weekend, when he went 1 for 14. His batting average dropped to .368/.400/.566 this month, though his adjusted OPS is a bit higher than that at 1.000. His BABiP is still at .443, so he may drop some more. Austin did steal another base over the weekend, though, giving him seven this month and 19 this season.
I wish I had time for more today, but that should whet your appetites. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jordan Lyles Pitching Profile Update

I'm setting out ot do a proper profile on Jordan Lyles, who now has 17 starts under his belt and, until Thursday, was leading the minors in strikeouts. Looking at all of his innings, batter-by batter, I came up with four main points that have defined his season. Before we close out, I'll also discuss how Astros GM Ed Wade historically has handled high-school pitchers.

First off, here's a refresher on Lyles' bio.
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.
Here is his stat line through his latest start: 5-7, 2.92 ERA in 95 2/3 innings, 118 strikeouts, 21 walks, .238 BAA. All very impressive, but we can delve deeper.

The first point I'd make is about his strikeouts. Lyles has a K/9 inning rate of 11.10 and has struck out 10 or more four times. Two of those games came against the Greenville Drive, who took the first-half Southern Division title. In my first profile, I commented on how Lyles struck out most of the hitters on swings and misses. I went back through all his starts and split out hte called strikeouts and the swinging strikeouts. Out of the 118 K's, 25 were called and 93 were swinging. That suggests Lyles has not only outstanding raw stuff, but also good command. I also said in the first look that Lyles appeared to be more of a thrower than pitcher, but he has disproven that theory. His season BB/9 rate is at 1.98 and he went 10 straight games earlier this season wihtout hitting a batter. Clearly, his command is pretty solid.

Secondly, there are some very interesting data points in his splits. Against left-handed batters, Lyles is allowign a batting average of .193 in 137 at-bats with 50 strikeouts. Against right-handers, that number jumps to .263 in 226 at-bats. That's usually what a left-handed pitcher looks like stat-wise, but Lyles is right-handed. It's also not necessarily a product of small sample size since he has over 350 at-bats. This mayb e due to many things, but it seems like Lyles has developed a hard breaking pitch he can bust in on a lefty. Baseball America does not metnion whether he has a slider, but I wonder if he added it this season. I know for sure that his changeup is progressing nicely, because you can see it in his ground ball/fly ball ratio. Many of the hits and ground ball out Lyles gives up are pulled by the batter. Rarely, though, do hitters make good contact, usually rolling over and hitting easily playable grounders. Of course, his lefty/righty mystery could simply be a changeup/fastball combo working well, but I think there is more to it. For one thing, Lyles has struck out 36.5 percent of the batters he's faced on the left side and 30.1% on the right. Not a big difference, but even a small one can be significant.

Third, if you can believe this, Lyles has been a bit unlucky this season. His BABiP of .343 suggests he should be allowing fewer hits. Combine that with a Defense Efficiency Ratio of .657 and you get a pitcher who has not been helped by his defense. Basically, Lyles still has a sub-3.00 ERA because of his strikeouts. With a little better defense, Lyles could easily have closer to the 10 victories he's expected to have from his Pitching Runs Created of 37.5. On the other side of the luck coin, Lyles is pitching in an offense-deficient league. The South Atlantic League is averaging a little over four runs a game per team, which is the lowest of the four highest minor league levels. So, it could be worse.

The last point I'd make about Lyles is about his performance with runners on base. In 40 2/3 inings, Lyles has an ERA of 6.42, a batting average allowed of .272, a G/F ratio of .90 with 33 strikeouts and 10 walks. That's about half his inning total, but just a quarter of his strikeouts. Lyles apparently has problems pitching out of the stretch. For some pitchers, it's the other way around, like Corpus Christi's Brad James, who Zachary Levine says has been pitching exclusively out of the stretch to feel more comfortable. I'm not sure Lyles needs to avoiding the stretch just yet, but it is a quirky little problem in an otherwise sterling record.

Now that we've talked about his performance, let's discuss how he will be used the rest of the way. I talked about this earlier this week and over at the Crawfish Boxes and got some interesting feedback. Lexington recently added starter David Duncan to the team and Astros assistant GM Ricky Bennett said the team will be moving to a "modified six-man rotation." I covered this on Thursday, but Lyles is on pace to throw 152 innings. Before, I was thinking about the question from general data and philosophies on young pitchers from the sabermetric community and general managers like the Yankees' Brian Cashman. Instead, we need to look at Wade's track record.

Wade was the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies for seven seasons. I found nine good examples of pitchers drafted out of high school and examined their usage patterns. Out of the nine, the highest innings total was 175 1/3 innings by Brett Myers in 2000, the lowest total was 54 by Zach Segovia in 2003 and the average was 125 innings pitched. I took the totals from their Age 19 seasons, and only looked at players in Low A ball the season after being drafted. The fact I found nine players fitting this bill shows it can be considered a trend by Wade. Here's a rundown of the pitchers I found.
  • Brett Myers - threw 175 innings and started 27 games in 2000. Made similar transition from Rookie ball to Low A.
  • Cole Hamels - threw 101 innings in 2003, lost time with a pulled shoulder muscle and was coming off a broken arm from HS.
  • Zach Segovia - threw 59 innings in 2003
  • Ryan Madsen - started 21 games and threw 135 2/3 innings in Low A in 2000. Threw 141 2/3 total innings in two previous seasons.
  • Gavin Floyd - threw 166 innings and starter 26 games in 2002. Signed late made pro debut in Low A ball.
  • Scott Mathieson - threw 64 2/3 innings in 13 games in 2003.
  • Keith Bucktrot - 135 innings in 24 starts in 2001.
  • Robinson Tejeda - 151 innings in 2001.
  • Kyle Kendrick - 138 innings in 2004.
While I disagree with a young kid throwing 150-170 innings so early in his development, Wade apparently doesn't take my advice, so we'll just have to project out what will happen. Already, one of the young guys, Brad Dydalewicz has hit some injury bugs. Hopefully, Lyles will also stay healthy. I don't think he will be called up to Lancaster this season, but I do bet he adds another 40 innings before the season is done.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Telvin Nash Hitting Profile

Telvin Raynard Nash is an 18-year old left fielder from Griffin High School in Griffin, Georgia who played high school baseball with 2008 first round pick Tim Beckham. He's 6-foot-1, 230 pounds and is every bit that imposing a player in his video on Nash committed to Kennesaw State but signed for .

Nash has a swing that definitely can play to some significant power, and was rated as being the top prep power hitter in his state. His pre-swing stance is very busy, with some extra knee movement that could be eliminated. It works for him now, so I'm not one to advocate changing, but complicated swings can get out of whack easily.

His pro debut hasn't gone as smoothly as he'd hoped. In 50 at-bats, he's hitting .160/.218/.240 with two doubles, a triple and 15 strikeouts. Nash has a BABiP of .222, meaning his average should be higher. One of the main reasons why he's struggling at the plate is he's not hitting line drives. Of his 36 batted balls, only two have been liners and both fell in for singles. His average on ground balls is .125 and on flyballs is .222. For reference, the major league flyball average is ???? and the groundball average is ???. So, he's been a bit unlucky to this point. Still, 50 at-bats is an awful small sample size to be making big comparisons.

Nash hits to all fields, with a 14-11-11 split between right-center-left fields. He's hit for the highest average when hitting it up the middle, picking up four hits, one on a liner, one on a grounder and two on fly balls. In fact, both his extra-base hits came on fly balls to center field. The area he's struggled mostly in is hitting it the opposite way. Nash, a right-handed batter, has a .091 average on balls hit on the right side of the infield. I expect he's still getting used to the fastballs of guys in the Gulf Coast League and this all should even out as he gets comfortable.

In the field, Nash has started five games in left field. In my scouting report during the draft, this is what I had to say about his fielding:

His arm looks like it will play alright, though it's telling that the Astros listed him as a left fielder. He moved pretty well around the bases, so he should be able to stay on the corners and his arm looked like it could be an asset in left.
So far, so good. Nash has definitely started the majority of his games at designated hitter, but in his 45 innings in the field, he's made seven putouts in 30 chances with three errors. Two of the errors came on throws while the third was a fielding error. Nash doesn't have a very good percentage of turning chances into outs, but many of those chances came on line drives that no one could have gotten to, so that number isn't worrisome. His range factor of 1.40 is actually very decent for a left fielder and his arm looks like it will end up being very good as well. He's struggled to hold runners going from second on a single; the runner from second scored all four times that happened in game situations. In all the other situations, though, Nash has done well. All three times he's kept the runner from advancing to third when there's a single and a runner on first. He held the runner at third once out of two times when there was a double and a runner on first. Finally, he held the runner the only time there was a possible sacrifice fly hit to him with a runner on third.

The rest of the analysis I can do from the numbers feels incomplete because we don't have enough data on him yet. Sure, he hits significantly better in the fifth or sixth slot in the order, but he's only had 8 or 9 at-bats in that spot, compared to 26 in the cleanup spot. Sure, when he comes up third in an inning, the team is scoring a high rate of runs, but he's only come up eight times like that and the team has only scored eight runs. It's high compared to the rest of his situations, but still a bit premature for solid conclusions.

The take home message then becomes this: Nash is struggling right now because he's not making good contact. His profile shows he's got good discipline as a hitter, can hit it to all fields (just not successfully yet) and probably needs to cut back on the strikeouts. We'll definitely check back with Nash next month to see how he's progressing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Economics of the Astros

I found this blog post earlier today (h/t to Rob Neyer). So, being the intrepid sports reporter that I am, I plugged in some of our Astros players and prospects to see what their relative values were. Here are the results:

Carlos Lee (4 years, 74 million left on contract). Using the spreadsheet and the historical WAR numbers from FanGraphs, I projected Lee out with WARs of 3.0, 3.0, 2.5, 2.5 for the rest of his contract. That puts his value each season at 13.7, 13.9, 11.7, and 11.7 million for the next four seasons. His net worth over the next four years is -19.1 million, meaning it will be spectacularly hard to move Lee in any deal, either by the July 31 deadline or this offseason. That contract was bad from the minute he signed it, but at least Lee's been an offensive force the past couple of seasons. Still, however good he's been, he still can't bring his value up to those contract numbers.

Lance Berkman (3 years, 44 millions left). The final year on Berkman's contract is a club option with a 2 million dollar buyout. Looking at Berkman's WAR value this season and from the past few, I projected him at WARs of 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0 in the next three seasons. That puts his relative value in at 22.7, 20.7 and 18.4 million over that timespan, meaning he's actually a 21.8 million dollar value for the Astros. I think that means the Astros will pick up his option in 2011, unless he decides to retire.

Roy Oswalt (4 years, 61 million left). Oswalt's relative value isn't as high as Berkman's, but he does have his final season as a club option for 16 million and a 2 million buyout. My projections for Oswalt weren't as linear a decline as for the others, since pitchers generally age better than hitters. For the next four seasons, I have Oswalt's WAR at 4.0, 3.7, 3.5 and 3.0, which gives him a net value of 8.3 million. By that fourth season, Oswalt will actually be -2.1 million dollars under his contract. I'm not sure what his mindset will be, but I know he's said he doesn't want to pitch forever. I think it's more likely Oswalt retires before the end of his contract over Berkman, but either way, the Astros are getting good value.

Hunter Pence (1 year, 435,000 left). I go back and forth on Pence, thinking his trade value outweighs his real value to the Astros. Pence has one year left before going to arbitration, when his price tag will skyrocket. Still, his WAR should stay pretty steady through the next four seasons. He'll get to a WAR of 4.0 in 2009, which is around what he did in his rookie season, but fell off to just under 3.0 last season. Since he's 26 this season, he's entering his prime, so I projected his WAR at 4.0, 4.0, 3.5 and 3.5 through arbitration. That means his value will be 42.5 million dollars over what the Astros will pay him. He should get around 7 million next season in arbitration, followed by 9.7 million and 12.9 million in his final season. It'll be interesting to see if the Astros buy out any of those seasons with a long term contract before then.

Now for the prospects: By a different system, smart people came up with a way to value prospects in deals. Jason Castro is the most valuable minor leaguer in the Astros system, carrying a tag of 25.1 million. Jordan Lyles clocks in next at 15.9 million and Bud Norris is at 9.8 million. Ross Seaton clocks in at 7.3 million while Brian Bogusevic has a value of 5.5 million. The rest are all at or around a million. Pitchers like Chia-Jen Lo and Polin Trinidad (1.5 million) and hitters like Collin DeLome (700,000) and Chris Johnson (500,000) are some of the most valuable guys in the system. Those values are based off the Baseball America mid-season list and John Sickel's pre-season ratings. I'd quibble some with those rankings now, but not enough to significantly change the numbers. Still, it's very interesting to see how valuable the prospects are.

Friday's Trip to the Minors

So today will definitely be a two-post day, but the second post will be about the Astros team in general and not confined to the minor league system. I found some really neat stuff this morning on player values that I think you'll be interested in. As for the minor league system, I'm still going live with two special features next Monday and Tuesday and I may add my first ever Astros Prospect Top 25, complete with analysis. Get excited for that. Since we've got a big day ahead, let's get right to all the news and notes from around the minors:

Shortstop Tommy Manzella hit a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday to put the Express on top 5-4. The 26-year old was 2 for 6 with a walk, a run scored, the home run and four RBIs. Manzella is batting .244/.326/.439 this month and his season average is at .272. All in all, not a bad season for Manzella and must give the Astros some trust in him to maybe hold down the starting job after Tejada leaves in free agency.

Manzella's homer put Round Rock up by one run, but reliever Casey Daigle gave up a run in the top of the eighth to tie the score. That's where the game stayed for another six innings, before Oklahoma City scored two in the top of the 14th off of Round Rock's Jeremy Johnson to win the game. Johnson pitched four innings while allowing three hits and two earned runs, striking out three and walking one. Johnson is usually a starter, but with the addition of Felipe Paulino to the Round Rock rotation, Johnson may have gotten bumped back to the bullpen.

No matter which way you slice it, Corpus Christi's Jhonny Florentino is having an excellent month of July. The 25-year old third baseman is batting .375/.388/.521 this month. His ballpark adjusted OPS is at .931, his weighted OBA is at .380 and his BABiP is at .395. All these numbers are remarkable similar to what he's done so far, which suggests this may not be due to luck as much as talent. At 25, Florentino is definitely old to be considered a prospect. Still, he's a good hitter who's got a line of .295/.348/.398 this season. Plus, he's only struck out 34 times in 244 at-bats.

How do I know Lancaster has one of the most outlandish ballparks in the minors? How about this: three different JetHawks players have 20 hits already this month in Koby Clemens, Matt Weston and J.B. Shuck. How many games has Lancaster won in that time? 9-7, just two games above .500 with an absolutely crazy offense. Those three players have combined to create 54 runs this month. The team has scored 99 runs in July and given up 76, which is actually decent, but that's an average of 11.67 runs a game. The league average is 10.1 runs in a game. It gets even worse when you split out the Lancaster home games. Granted, they've only played seven this month, but scored a total of 13.28 runs a game. When you compare that to the away scoring of 10.25 (right in line with the league average), it's astonishing that Lancaster's games have an average of three more runs than the rest of the league. I ran the numbers for the entire season and there have been 574 runs scored at JetHawks Field this season in 45 games while Lancaster has played in 46 games on the road. Those road games have seen 11.09 runs scored. That 1.7 run difference per game is really enormous.

Lancaster's Leandro Cespedes started on Thursday and put together a nice outing. In five innings, Cespedes gave up three hits and two earned runs to pick up his fifth victory of the season. The righty struck out five and walked two for a game score of 56, his third straight above-average start. The problems I see with Cespedes are two-fold. First, he's been very inconsistent this season. When he's good, he strikes out the side. When he's bad, he's horrendous. Cespedes is the only starting pitcher I've followed this season to record a negative game score. His average game score at this point is a 44, but it should be higher. He's actually put together some decent starts and always strikes out a bunch of batters. The two single digit game scores really hurt the average, though. Second, his K/9 rate is the lowest it's been in three years at 7.60 and his BB/9 rate is a career-high 3.42. Naturally, as the talent level gets tougher, a player's stats regress some, but this is not promising. The main thing making Cespedes a good prospect is his ability to strike guys out. If he's starting to slip there AND he continues to have injury problems, he may not be a top prospect for long.

Another day, another two hits for Jay Austin. Wednesday was apparently just a hiccup for the 18-year old, because on Thursday, Austin was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a triple. He's 25 for 58 now this month with three doubles, four triples, one home run and a line of .431/.459/.672. Let's wait a little longer before we name him player of the month, though.

One Legends player who is struggling this month is third baseman Ebert Rosario. The 22-year old is hitting .226/.305/.264 in 57 plate appearances with just two doubles. After hitting .375 in April, Rosario has alternated good and bad months. In May, he hit .220 but followed that up with a .270 average in June, which is right around where his season line is now at .275/.306/.375. At the beginning of the season, there was talk about Rosario being a good third base prospect. He's shown, though, that he has a ways to go.

That's right, Omaha's favorite son Max Fearnow upped his scoreless streak to four appearances and 8 innings on Thursday. Fearnow struck out one while walking none and allowed two hits. The 22-year old has struck out five and walked two this month with a 7/11 G/F ratio. Fun Nebraska fact: Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings, NE by Edward and Kitty Perkins in 1927.

Shortstop Brandon Wikoff is 7 for 15 in the last four games, bringing his average up to .341/.372/.415 this month. The 21-year old has hit one double and one triple with five runs scored and two RBIs. More impressively, he's only struck out three times in 44 plate appearances this month and only seven in 77 plate appearances this season.

Utility infielder Oscar Figueroa was 2 for 3 on Thursday with a home run, three runs scored and two RBIs. The 21-year old is 8 for 21 this month with two walks, six runs scored, three RBIs and one stolen base. Figueroa has a line of .381/.435/.524 in July and has played all over the infield, starting at first base, third base and shortstop. Figueroa was signed as an international free agent out of Caracas, Venezuela in 2003.

Of all the pitchers in Greeneville I mentioned, both Jose Cisnero and Nathan Pettus both got hit around on Thursday. Cisnero lasted four innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs while striking out one and walking one. Pettus was hung with the loss after blowing a save in the bottom of the ninth, pitching one-third of an inning and giving up a home run, two hits and two earned runs while striking out one. The jinx of Minor Musings, I guess.

There are a pair of interesting shortstops (outside of Enrique Hernandez) down with the GCL Astros. The first is Luis Bryan, an 18-year old from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic and the second is Jan Baldee, an 18-year old from Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Baldee made his professional debut last summer, appearing in 13 games with the Venezuelan Summer League Astros. He's only gotten four at-bats in 2009 but is an interesting guy to watch. Bryan is 13 for 35 this month with a double, a triple, six runs scored and three RBIs with five strikeouts. Bryan's line of .371/.389/.457 is one of the highest on the team. Both bear more watching.

Speaking of Hernandez, the 17-year old is 14 for 47 with a double and four stolen bases in July. Hernandez average dropped under .300 this month after going 0 for 2 on Thursday. Hernandez is also leading the team with nine RBIs.

That's all for now, look for more updates later today.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

I'll mention it again on Friday, but I'll be out of town on Monday and Tuesday, so you won't be getting a round-up column on those days. Instead, I'm going to finish up a couple new profiles I've been working on and have them post automatically on those mornings. So, you'll still have something to look forward to. With that, let's get to all the news and notes from around the Houston minor league system:

Bud Norris started the Triple-A All-Star game on and pitched two perfect innings. The 24-year old struck out two and walked none; in fact, the only blemish on his pitching record was a wild pitch in the second inning. However, teammate Yorman Bazardo was not so lucky. In two-thirds of an inning, Bazardo gave up three hits and three runs while striking out none and walking none. The other 24-year old was hung with the loss.

Lancaster's Jose Duran missed a month due to an injury. Before that, he was as ineffective as you can get, so maybe blaming an injury is more constructive than saying he's not good enough to get hitters out in High-A ball. The last few weeks have proved his talent is just fine. On Wednesday, Duran came on in relief of Bryan Hallberg and threw four scoreless innings. Duran allowed one hit and struck out three. Dating back to his return on June 17, five of Duran's seven appearances have been scoreless and his ERA over that period has been 2.87. Duran has been pitching out of the bullpen after being in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season, but the bullpen seems to agree with him.

Center fielder J.B. Shuck was the big hitter for Lancaster on Wednesday. The 21-year old was 2 for 5 with a double, a triple and a run scored. The two hits brought his season average up to .323 and his monthly line up to .370/.452/.593. Shuck also has a K/BB rate of 5/8, which is exactly what you want in a leadoff hitter. Do you hear that, Reggie Abercrombie?

Jordan Lyles hasn't pitched in eight days now, but it doesn't appear to be due to an injury. What I think it may be is the Astros trying to control his innings pitched. Currently, Lyles has started 17 of 89 games that Lexington has played. He's averaging 5 2/3 innings per start and can expect to start about 10 more games, since Lexington has a 140 game schedule. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, though the Legends offense has improved enough to consider a second-half title. Still, if we estimate 10 more starts, that would give him 56 more innings, give or take a few. His season total would finish around 152 innings pitched. Given his young arm and his limited experience before this season, I would not be surprised at all if the Astros shut him down closer to 120-130 innings. He's already proven he can pitch effectively, and I don't think they'll push him up to Lancaster this season. Instead, look for Lyles to become like a college starter, pitching on Friday nights once a week.

Lexington starter David Duncan appears to be the swing man in the rotation now, giving Lyles and Seaton a break thus far. On Wednesday, Duncan struck out seven in six innings but gave up five hits and two runs for a loss. Relievers Henry Villar and Pat Urkfitz each threw one inning with Urkfitz giving up no runs and one hit while striking out no one. Villar did have a strikeout, but also allowed a run.

Well, Jay Austin went hitless in Wednesday's game, but he did walk twice, which dropped his average down to .426 but his OBP up to .456. I'll take those numbers for now.

Tri-City's Wander Alvino looks like the next good Latin American pitcher to come through the Astros farm system. In three starts this month, Alvino has a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings, giving up 14 hits and seven earned runs while striking out 14 and walking four. Alvino's WHIP of 0.86 is very low for an ERA in the 3's, which is why his FIP is down at 2.44. I'd like to see his strikeouts tick upwards a few notches, but right now he's very solid. I'll give Tim Purpura, David Lakey and Paul Ricciarini credit; the Astros have produced a ton of big league pitchers from Latin America this decade. From Wandy Rodriguez to Carlos Hernandez to Felipe Paulino, Juan Gonzalez, Johan Santana and possibly Douglas Arguello and Polin Trinidad someday, the Astros have produced a ton of good pitchers from their international academies.

Brandon Wikoff had a big day at the plate, reaching safely four times after going 3 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored. Wikoff is batting .333/.368/.417 this month but has seen his playing time get cut in the last week or so. Teammate Brian Kemp reached base three times, going 2 for 3 with a walk, three runs scored and an RBI. Kemp is batting .327/.351/.364 in 59 plate appearances.

Of course, Jonathan Meyer hit a double the day after I called him out for not having enough power! Meyer went 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored for Greeneville on Wednesday. Teammate Jose Altuve also made me a liar by striking out for the first time in July on the same day I praised his plate discipline. Hey, Greeneville guys! Stop reading my blog and start playing better! (Actually, you've been playing great. And read my blog all you want. Tell your friends)

I haven't discussed the pitching situation in Greeneville much yet, mainly because there haven't been that many outstanding performances. Two players have stood out this month, though. One is 20-year old Jose Cisnero. The righty has struck out 13 batters in 7 innings over two starts. Unfortunately, he's also given up three hits and four earned runs over that same time frame. His ERA of 5.14 is significantly higher than his FIP of 3.49. Both his BABiP of .182 and his K/9 rate of 15.75 are silly, but in different ways. The only reason he's been as successful as he has (which is reflected in his BABiP) is he doesn't give up many hits. Instead, he strikes guys out. I like that in a pitcher, but his peripherals suggest what little success he is maintaining may be hard to continue.

Another guy I've failed to mention is reliever Nathan Pettus. The 20-year old has appeared in five games this month, throwing five innings and giving up five hits and two earned runs. Pettus has struck out eight and walked two, giving up one home run. His ERA of 3.60 is right in line with his FIP of 3.80 and his BABiP of .330 even suggests this is about his standard level of perfomance. Wiht two saves already and one victory, Pettus looks like he could be a good addition to our minor league reliever depth.

Have to go orient new students now, but I'll try to come back and update this post with info on the Gulf Coast League Astros later today.