Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday's Thoughts

It's going to be another short day today, as I've got about five different projects I'm working on right now and I'm going on my seventh consecutive day with less than four hours sleep. Aren't newborns wonderful? At any rate, here's all the news and notes from around the Astros farm system:
The Gold Star Performance of the Day goes to Greeneville second baseman Jose Altuve. The 19-year old was 1 for 3 with a home run, two runs scored, one RBI and two walks on Wednesday. I haven't gotten to mention him yet, but boy, what a season he's having already. Altuve leads Greeneville with 12 Runs Created this month and has gone 12 for 33 with 10 walks, 14 runs scored, 5 RBIs, two doubles, one triple, two home runs and five stolen bases in July. For the season, Altuve is batting .343/.439/.514 with eight stolen bases in 10 attempts. Did I mention that he hasn't struck out this month and has just four strikeouts this season? Suffice it to say, I'm excited about his development now and would rate him in my top 20 prospects in the organization right now.
Round Rock shortstop Tommy Manzella may also be injured, like teammate J.R. Towles. Manzella left Monday's game early and hasn't played since, with recently-demoted Edwin Maysonet starting at shortstop. I wouldn't think anything of this if Manzella hadn't led the team in plate appearances the past two months. Doesn't seem like the manager giving him a good rest as it does that he's hurt in some way. He hasn't been placed on the DL like Towles, but it's definitely a situation to keep an eye on.

In Towles' stead, catcher Lou Santangelo had a monster night on Wednesday. The 26-year old went 3 for 4 with a double, a home run, one run scored and 5 RBIs. Santangelo also walked once and is now leading the team in RBIs this month with six. He's only hitting .191/.245/.335 for the season with three home runs, two triples and 12 doubles in 188 plate appearances.

It was apparently a good night to be a catcher on Wednesday, as Lancaster's Koby Clemens hit his fifth home run of the season in the 6-3 loss to Rancho Cucamongo. Clemens was 1 for 4 with two RBIs and two strikeouts. The 22-year old has only walked once in July but has struck out 11 times and has a line of .276/.300/.517 this month. His adjusted OPS is at .779 and his BABiP of .412 suggest he's also been lucky to be that successful to this point.

The JetHawks only managed three hits as a team, but scored two more runs on a Marco Cabral home run. Lancaster has lost seven of their last 11 but has scored almost six runs a game during that streak. The reason they've struggled this season is the pitching staff, which now sports an ERA of 5.90 and ranks dead last in the California League in ERA, home runs allowed, strikeouts and WHIP. No wonder the Astros don't want to promote Jordan Lyles up here.

Lexington's Brad Dydalewicz had an excellent start on Wednesday, throwing 6 1/3 innings while allowing three hits and two runs (one earned). The 19-year old struck out five while walking two and gave up his fourth home run of the season. Dydalewicz had a game score of 64, which tied for the third-highest total this season. In his 12 starts, Dydalewicz has pitched poorly only twice, giving up six runs each time, but has been above average in seven of the 12. Since returning from the disabled list, Dydalewicz has hit a few bumps in the road, but has seen his K/9 rate tick upwards to 5.86 and has had a pretty constant G/F ratio of 51/24. His Power/Finesse ratio is over 1.00 at 1.05 for the first time this season, after posting PFRs above 1 in five of his last six starts.

Outfielder Steve Brown had a big day for Lexington, going 2 for 4 with a triple, a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. Brown is hitting just .190/.261/.476 this month and .239/.294/.413 on the season but has been effective in the middle of the order for Lexington. I have the feeling that the South Atlantic League is a bit pitcher-heavy this season, with the league's teams averaging just 4.27 runs a game. That's half a run lower than the lowest total in the rest of the Astros minor league teams.

Former Arkansas starter lefty and seventh round draft pick Dallas Keuchel made his professional debut on Wednesday, starting the game and throwing three scoreless innings. Keuchel allowed one hit while striking out two and walking none. I expect the Astros to take it easy with him this summer to prevent his arm from falling off, after throwing 108 innings in college this season.

Omaha's own Max Fearnow made his second straight scoreless appearance on Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out one in an inning of work. Fun Nebraska Fact: Omaha is the state's biggest city, followed by the state capitol in Lincoln. The third biggest? Well, on Nebraska football game days, it's Memorial Stadium, filled with over 100,000 fans.

Centerfielder Brian Kemp continues to impress, as he extended his current mini-streak to four games with a 1 for 4 day at the plate. Kemp is 10 for 32 this month with one walk, two runs scored and one stolen base. Kemp has struck out six times, but his Runs Created total of 3.2 is the highest on the team.

After leaving the June 24th game with an injury, Greeneville centerfielder Grant Hogue has returned the past four games and acquitted himself well. In 22 plate appearances, Hogue is batting .333/.455/.500 with four runs scored, two RBIs, four stolen bases, a double and a triple. Hogue had been batting leadoff but Jiovanni Mier and Jose Altuve have a stranglehold on the top two spots in the order.

Mier has been just as good after struggling a little last month. The 18-year old is 12 for 34 in July with three walks, eight runs scored, seven RBIs, one double, two triples and a home run. Mier has struck out seven times, but I'm more willing to forgive a lack of plate discipline in a shortstop with some pop and a good glove. Those guys don't grow on trees.

Okay, I know this is brief, but that's all we have time for today. I'll be back tomorrow with more!

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