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.

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