Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Brieflys

Let's lead off with the Houston Chronicle's latest Minor League Notebook. I agree with most everything Levine says, and I realize he doesn't have as much time to obsess over the minors like I do, but I have to again bring up the point from yesterday. Drew Locke's power has just disappeared in the past month. Yes, he'd been great before that, but you also have to bring up this latest dip. After all, he's a 26-year old power hitter who somehow got away from an organization like the Dodgers. At any rate, let's get to all the news and notes from the Astros minor leagues:

Our Gold Star Performance for today comes from another Low-A player. Lexington's Kyle Greenwalt put up his best start of the season, and the second-best start on the entire Legends staff to this point, by throwing eight scoreless innings and allowing two hits on Monday. Greenwalt struck out seven while walking none and hitting one batter for a game score of 85. The 20-year old has a BABiP of .282 on the season, which means his 3.30 ERA is pretty much luck-free. His seven strikeouts were his most this season and Greenwalt has a 5.15 K/9 rate and a BB/9 rate of 1.65, which is excellent. He gets a ton of ground balls, but can also give up line drives in droves, which is why he struggled for so long in May and June.

Again, J.R. Towles did not play on Monday. No update on what's going on with him, but I'm a little concerned that he's missed so many games recently. He hasn't played since June 30th, as I mentioned yesterday, but is not on the disabled list nor has he been promoted.

The Express' offense decided to take the night off on Monday, getting shut out and managing only five hits in a 1-0 loss to the Memphis RedBirds. Round Rock starter Bud Norris (3-7) threw six innings and allowed two hits and one earned run while striking out seven and walking three. His game score of 68 is his highest in three starts but, again, a lack of run support doomed his win-loss record. Norris has averaged 3.5 runs of support over his 16 starts, which explains why he's currently got a .300 winning percentage when his expected winning percentage is up to .704. Norris also has had an uptick in his K/9 rate to 9.00 and has lowered his BAA to .209.

First baseman/left fielder John Gall has been good to start July, going 6 for 17 with two walks, three RBIs, one double and three strikeouts. His line of .353/.450/.412 is better than he's done for about two months now. At 32, Gall is not a prospect, but it would be nice if he could get going and spark the Express to some more victories.

Third baseman Chris Johnson still isn't hitting for power, but got on base three times on Monday, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout. Johnson is hitting .333/.429/.389 this month with one double and one RBI. Johnson has been portrayed as a power prospect, but hasn't even hit 15 home runs in any of his four minor league seasons. I think he's a fine prospect, but if the reason he's so highly regarded is the pop in is bat, let's lower our expectations of him a bit.

Former Rice pitcher Kenny Baugh made his debut with Corpus Christi on Monday and got shelled just a little bit. In 4 1/3 innings, Baugh gave up five runs on five hits while striking out three and walking five. If that wasn't bad enough, recently demoted reliever Tyler Lumsden gave up six runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings following Baugh. Suffice it to say it was a rocky night on the mound as Jason Castro tries to spectacularly disprove my theory about his effect on the Hooks' pitching staff.

Castro did have a nice night at the plate, going 2 for 5 with his second home run for Corpus, a run scored, two RBIs and a strikeout. Castro is batting .364/.417/.636 with two runs scored and three RBIs this month, bringing his composite season averages up to .307/.384/.487 and his season line with Corpus up to .300/.333/.400. As you can tell, he benefitted quite a bit in the power department from Lancaster's ballpark, but don't be as worried with his OBP; it took him a while to start taking walks with the JetHawks too.

Outfielder Mitch Einertson had a mixed day at the plate. The 23-year old went 1 for 5 with his seventh home run and second stolen base of the season. Einertson is hitting .188/.188/.375 this month in spotty playing time, but since Josh Flores went down with another injury, Einertson has seen his playing time smooth out.

Former Lancaster starter Shane Wolf moved into the bullpen at the end of last month as the team tried to shake things up and get better results from its' pitchers. Wolf still has an ERA above 5.00, but he pitched an excellent game on Monday. Relieving starter Phillip Rummel in the fourth, Wolf allowed two hits and no runs for the rest of the game to pick up his second victory of the season.

I've talked quite a bit about Jack Shuck to this point, as I think he's got a skill set offensively that can easily transcend the ballpark he's in to play at the higher levels. Shuck is hitting .320/.393/.440 this month with three walks, three runs scored, two RBIs, three doubles and one stolen base. Thinking of Shuck as a prototypical leadoff hitter, I looked up the minor league numbers of Juan Pierre to see how they stacked up against each other. Surprisingly, they're very similar. Shuck shows a little more gap power, but that could be the ballpark he's in, while Pierre stole more bases to that point. Their success rates on steals, though, are almost identical. I will be very interested to see if the comparison holds as Shuck advances through the system.

Outfielder Brandon Barnes has enjoyed his call-up from Lexington, going 5 for 20 with a team-leading four doubles in July. Barnes is a player I'm not quite as fond of as, say, Shuck or T.J. Steele, but I think he's making incremental progress. Last season, my introduction to Barnes was a player who struck out one quarter of the time and rarely made solid contact. In 2009, he's been much better, hitting .274/.323/.466 between Lexington and Lancaster in 266 at-bats. Barnes has hit eight home runs, five triples and 17 doubles but has also struck out 74 times. As a former football player turned pro baseballer, I can understand his lack of strike zone judgement; I just don't know that it'll play at the higher levels. Still, I've been pleased with his progress and hope he continues to show improvement.

Jay Austin extended his hitting streak to eight games, going 1 for 4 with a run scored and one strikeout. He's now hitting just .500 this month and is batting .514/.527 /.828 during the hitting streak. Jordan Lyles has been showing for a while why he deserved to be a supplemental first round pick, but Austin hasn't started to put it together until just recently. If he can keep making progress like this, he'll definitely justify the second-round pick used on him in 2008.

Shortstop Ronald Ramirez has also been very good lately. The 23-year old is 6 for 14 this month with one walk, three RBIs, one double and a sacrifice hit. His line of .429/.467/.500 would be the highest on the team if not for Jay Austin going nuts lately. Ramirez is a nice player, solid defensively, but is repeating the South Atlantic League and doesn't look like more than an organizational player.

Omaha's own and Minor Musings new favorite pitcher Max Fearnow made his professional debut with Tri-City on Monday, pitching two scoreless innings, giving up no hits while walking one and striking out one. Fun Omaha Fact: They have the best cheddar popcorn I've ever eaten. It's ridiculously good, made with real cheddar cheese. Ms. Minor Musings has to get some every time we visit.

25th-round pick Nick Stanley out of Florida Southern had a great game on Monday, going 3 for 5 with a double, three runs scored and two RBIs. Stanley has struggled this season, going 5 for 34 before Monday's performance, but raised his average up to .205/.340/.436. Stanley has flashed some power, hitting two home runs, one triple and one double while his 8/11 K/BB has a few too many strikeouts, but is very solid. Everything points to Stanley raising his batting average up more and more as the season wears on.

13th-round pick Jake Goebbert out of Northwestern has also struggled out of the gate with Tri-City. In 10 games, the 21-year old is 5 for 32 with a double, a triple, two walks and eight strikeouts. Goebbert is struggling even more in July, batting .111/.111/.222 in 18 plate appearances. In 30 games with Northwestern, Goebbert hit .280/.403/.486 in 107 at-bats with 10 doubles and four home runs. Goebbert was injured earlier this season, and I'm thinking his timing may not have come all the way back yet. Let's see what he does later in the month.

There are certain kinds of prospects that pop up when you're analyzing minor league prospects. You've got the gaudy stat guys, like the Rangers' Justin Smoak or defensive wizards like Tommy Manzella. Every now and then, though, a guy will pop out that may not impress with the traditional stats, but when you start looking a little deeper, you can get pretty excited. That's where I'm at with Tri-City's Kyle Godfrey. The 6-foot-4, 200 lb. righthander has a 5.54 ERA but a 4.12 FIP and a BABiP of .333, meaning his stats should settle down soon. Godfrey also does a great job at getting ground balls. He's induced six double plays over his three starts this season and has a 23/5 G/F ratio. Even more encouraging is that Godfrey has given up just one line drive in each start, but has pitched just 13 innings thus far. He's still rounding into form stamina-wise, but I think Godfrey could be pretty good.

Another Tri-City pitcher off to a good start is Mike Modica. The 24th-round pick out of George Mason hasn't given up a run yet in six appearances, throwing 7 innings and giving up two hits while striking out six and walking one. Modica has a ridiculously small BABiP of .118 but his FIP of 1.91 is legitimate and a K/9 rate of 7.71 is definitely playable at the next level of the minor leagues. At 22, Modica could be pushed up to Lexington before the end of the season.

That's it for now, but I'll try to come back later tonight with an update on Greeneville and the GCL Astros.


farmstros said...

just a note...RR has posted Towles as being on the DL

farmstros said...

I just got an email from J.R.'s dad. Towles tweaked a hammy last Monday. He is being held out to make sure he is completely ready for the second half.