Here is your Gold Star Performance of the weekend: Jay Austin, centerfielder, Lexington Legends. The 18-year old is a jaw-dropping 12 for 22 this month with his first professional home run, two triples, a double, five RBIs, five runs scored and his 16th stolen base this season. Austin has pulled his batting average up to .271/.326/.371 with this recent surge. Austin is currently leading all minor leaguers this month in hits and OPS.
As Farmstros noted last week, former first-round pick out of Rice Univesity Kenny Baugh was signed by the Astros and assigned to Corpus Christi over the weekend. The move coincided with the signing of Charlie Weatherby, the demotion of Casey Hudspeth and Evan Englebrook being placed on the 7-day DL. Hooks reliever Chris Salamida was also demoted to Lancaster over the weekend when Tyler Lumsden was demoted from Round Rock. The Express have added Wesley Wright and Geoff Geary to their bullpen recently, causing an exodus of other arms to Corpus.
More interesting to note is that J.R. Towles may be injured. The 25-year old catcher hasn't been placed on the 7-day DL yet, but hasn't appeared in a game since leading off on June 30. Also, Jonathan Fixler has been promoted from High A Lancaster and started on Sunday. Towles has been excellent offensively since returning to Round Rock in May, but he may have issues handling a pitching staff or other defensive liabilities. I'm just not sure what to make of this.
Infielder Edwin Maysonet has struggled a bit after being demoted to Round Rock late last month. The 27-year old is 3 for 15 with a run scored, two RBIs and three strikeouts in four games. Maysonet hit his first home run this season with Round Rock on Sunday and has started at second and third base since being sent down.
Outfielder Brian Bogusevic has had a hot start to July, going 5 for 14 with four walks, two runs scored, one RBI, a double and his tenth stolen base of the season. Bogusevic is batting .357/.500/.429 after struggling with his average in June. The 25-year old hasn't shown much power this season, totaling just 22 XBH in 333 plate appearances, but his speed and defense have both been above-average.
Shortstop Tommy Manzella leads the team in hits this month with six, bringing his season average up to .280/.335/.382. Manzella has hit a home run, a double, drive in one and scored three runs while stealing a base in July to lead the team in Runs Created with 4.5. Other team leaders are Reggie Abercrombie in strikeouts (7), Mark Saccomanno in RBIs (4) and Lou Santangelo in GIDP (2).
Starter Polin Trinidad made his Triple-A debut on Sunday, pitching 6 2/3 innings while allowing seven hits and two earned runs for a no-decision. The 23-year old struck out two while walking three and threw 98 pitches. The strikeout total was not surprising, since Trinidad has only 7 strikeouts in his last 23 innings, but the walks were a bit out of the ordinary, as his BB/9 rate is at 1.31 for the season. Overall, it was a quiet introduction but still had some promise.
Another Round Rock starter, Jeremy Johnson, dazzled on July 4th, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing five hits. The 26-year old struck out five and walked three while posting his second straight game score in the 60's. This comes on the heels of three straight game scores under 50, so it's fair to say Johnson has been inconsistent this season. Johnson has appeared in 19 games and started 12, doubling the number of games he'd started in Triple-A in his previous nine minor league seasons.
The Corpus Christi offense is really struggling right now, as the Hooks have averaged 3.25 runs in their last seven games. Mitch Einertson, Drew Meyer, Mark Ori, Jhon Florentino and Nick Moresi are all have batting averages at or under .200 while only three players (Wladimir Sutil, Drew Locke, Jason Castro) have an OBP over .350. Outfielder Collin DeLome hit his 15th home run on Friday, which was the only game Corpus has won this month. DeLome leads the Hooks in RBIs with four, but no player on the team has scored more than two runs. Locke is leading the team in batting average with a line of .400/.471/.400 and hits with six, but his early season power has completely evaporated. The 26-year old has 26 XBH this season but has only six in his last 132 plate appearances.
Starter Brad James saw his successful run come to a crashing halt on Sunday. James gave up seven hits and seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings while striking out three and walking three. James also gave up a rare home run, as he is an extreme ground ball pitcher; he has not been able to induce a double play ball in only two of his 15 starts.
Catcher Jason Castro only ended up missing two games with that leg injury which sidelined him last Thursday. In two games this month, Castro is 2 for 6 with a walk, a run scored, an RBI and a strikeout. The pitching staff gave up 14 runs in nine innings on Sunday with Castro behind the plate, so my theory about his effect on the staff may be overblown.
First baseman Matt Weston came within a single of hitting for the cycle last Thursday. The 24-year old was 3 for 3 with a double, a triple, a home run, a walk, three runs scored and two RBIs and was hit by a pitch. Weston is batting .288/.364/.654 this season since signing with Lancaster last month and has a .474/.545/1.053 line this month. In July, Weston is 9 for 19 with two walks, seven runs scored, nine RBIs, three doubles, one triple, two home runs and seven strikeouts.
Outfielder Jack Shuck has also been very this month, going 6 for 20 with three walks, three runs scored, one RBI, two doubles and a stolen base out of the leadoff spot. Shuck has walked 41 times this season and struck out just 29 times. He's also been very efficient on the basepaths, stealing 16 of 21 bases successfully and collecting six triples. Shuck doesn't have a home run yet, but he does look like the prototypical 80's leadoff hitter.
Starter Chris Hicks had an excellent start and benefitted from 11 runs in support to pick up his seventh victory of the season. Hicks threw seven innings, giving up seven hits and three runs (one earned) while striking out two and walking three. Hicks also gave up just two line drives while getting 10 ground ball outs. A closer at Georgia Tech in his college career, Hicks has taken well to starting in Lancaster and has overcome that park's hitting-friendly environs to show some success. I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros promote him to Corpus Christi at some point soon.
Another Lancaster starter who twirled a gem this weekend was Leandro Cespedes. The 22-year old almost picked up a complete game on Sunday, pitching 8 2/3 innings while allowing eight hits and three earned runs. Cespedes also struck out two and walked three while giving up a home run. In 57 1/3 innings this season, Cespedes has struck out 51, which is a good rate, but a little down from his 2008 rate.
I'm still working on getting the low minors sorted out, but I did want to mention the job that B.J. Hyatt has done with Greeneville. As you may remember, I didn't like the Hyatt pick too much when he was drafted, but he's been very solid since his pro debut. In 4 2/3 scoreless innings over two games, the 19-year old has struck out five and walked three. It's no sample size worth anything, but I may have been a little harsh at first blush about the pick.
Well, that's it for today...we'll be back tomorrow with more Astros prospectus.