Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday's Trip to the Minors

I'm going to start off this post by referring you to another blog...that's right, go away! Come back when you've caught up on all the transactions and such from around the Astros minor league system. The good people over at Farmstros do a much better job than I do at tracking down the reasons why guys move around and getting explanations on where they've gone.

Here's a link to the main site, where they talk about Eli Iorg being sent to Tri-City, and another link to a monster post listing all the transactions for this season. For instance, did you know that former Aggies Kirkland Rivers and Scott Migl were both on the move this week? Rivers was activated and added to the Lexington roster while Migl heads from Greeneville to Tri-City. See the stuff you can learn there?

At any rate, I'm not sure how much I can get to today with the Astros minor league system, as I've been swamped with work. This has been my first week back at the full-time job and the part-time job has been working me overtime too. So this blog, dear readers, does not get the loving attention it deserves. I promise to make it up to you soon with some more prospect profiles and maybe, just maybe, that every elusive June Players of the Month column. As an added bonus, and to make you feel less cheated today, I'll post all 1,800 words I wrote about Aggie athletics today. That's right, a sneak peek behind the curtain of the Aggieland Primer (a magazine The Eagle apparently publishes). With that, let's get to all the news and notes from around the Astros minor leagues:

Round Rock starter Jeremy Johnson (5-7) got hit around a bit in the 5-3 loss to Nashville, giving up seven hits and four earned runs in five innings. Johnson struck out three and walked two before giving way to Geoff Geary and Casey Daigle. Neither gave up an earned run, but Geary did give up an unearned run. Daigle continued to excel this season, lowering his ERA to 2.52 with a scoreless ninth inning of work.

As mentioned in Zachary Levine's blog, Chris Johnson hit his fourth home run of the season on Thursday, going 1 for 3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. Johnson is hitting .276/.302/.417 this season with 16 XBH in 192 at-bats with Round Rock. As I discussed (in the June POM that you haven't seen yet), maybe it's time we start adjusting our expectations for Johnson. It'd be nice if he shows more power, but isn't that true for everyone? Wouldn't it be nice if Jeff Keppinger showed more power? I still think Johnson is the best third baseman on the Astros 40-man roster, but he's not going to be a superstar.

Outfielder Reggie Abercrombie continues to hit leadoff for the Express, which drives me slightly crazy. I'm not saying the team has better options, but Abercrombie shouldn't be in that lineup spot. In 305 at-bats this season, Abercrombie has struck out a jaw-dropping 95 times while walking 18 times. Projecting those numbers out over the entire season gives him around 178 strikeouts this season. For comparison's sake, the major league record for strikeouts in a season is 208 by Mark Reynolds in 2008. Abercrombie's projected total puts him tied for 23rd with Richie Sexson. Out of the top 25 players on that list, including Rob Deer, Bobby Bonds, Ryan Howard, and Adam Dunn, the only one who comes close to being a leadoff hitter is Jose Hernandez, and that's stretching it a little too. Fact is, Round Rock manager Mark Bombard is supposed to be this great coach, one who's got a shot in the big leagues some day. If I were an owner, I'd ask him right away, "Why are you giving away outs at the top of your order every game??? Is that good baseball sense??" Like I said, it slightly drives me crazy.

In Corpus, Andy Van Hekken (4-2) threw seven innings to pick up the victory on Thursday. The 29-year old lowered his ERA to 4.22 and has been good since moving into the starting rotation. The only reason I haven't talked about him more is that his age and his status as a reliever for most of the season leave him off my list of the 200 best prospects in the system. However, relievers Chia Jen Lo and Danny Meszaros each pitched a scoreless inning in this one, continuing their trend of adapting to the level of competition at AA and making me hopeful that they can contribute to the big league team by 2011.

Jason Castro was 1 for 4 while Collin DeLome was 1 for 5, but the real story is Jhonny Florentino, who was 4 for 5 with one RBI. Florentino is batting .285 this season and has a line of .333/.360/.375 this month. Florentino isn't a prospect I'm overly excited about, simply because he hasn't shown much power. Corpus Christi boasts a park factor of 1.15 on home runs, so it should be easier to hit a few into the Bay and Florentino simply hasn't. He's got the versatility to play at multiple infield spots, and I can see him being valuable in an Eric Bruntlett-type role.

The story on Thursday in Lancaster's game against Rancho Cucamonga was catcher Koby Clemens hitting a three-run home run in the top of the 10th to give the JetHawks the lead. But, the real story should have been the fact that no Lancaster pitcher gave up more than two runs in the game. Of course, this wasn't a home game for Lancaster, so they weren't playing in the launching pad and while the California League does seem to favor hitters, none of the parks are as extreme as Lancaster's.

Outfielder/Designated Hitter T.J. Steele had a nice day at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. Steele is batting .352/.393/.582 this season with five home runs, seven triples and nine doubles, as he apparently likes odd numbers. Steele played in just six games before June due to injuries, but hit .394/.439/.692 last month.

Former Lancaster and Tri-City starter David Duncan pitched his first game for Lexington on Thursday, taking Ross Seaton's spot in the rotation. Duncan was bad, giving up five runs in five innings, and hasn't proven this season that he can pitch well at the lower levels of the minor leagues. However, the skipping of Seaton is interesting. It's not the first time this has happened, and I'm wondering if this is just a way for the Astros to control his total innings pitched (currently at 88 2/3 innings) or if this is an injury/ineffectiveness thing. Seaton's ERA has been solid this season and currently sits at 2.64, but he hasn't missed enough bats for my tastes.

Outfielder Jay Austin didn't cry too much over his nine game hitting streak being broken on Wednesday. He just went 3 for 5 the next night, raising his season average up to .275 and his monthly averages up to .436/.450/.641. Austin also stole two bases and has been successful on three of four attempts this month. It may have took him a year after being drafted, but the 18-year old is finally putting together a string of games you can get excited about.

Finally, Tri-City outfielder Brian Kemp went 2 for 5 on Thursday to bring his average up to .333/.417/.381. Kemp hasn't shown much power yet, but his bat has been very consistent, which is needed on a team that is averaging 6.7 hits a game. Kemp has accounted for 1.2 of those 6.7 hits, roughly 17% of the team's total.

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