Hitter of the Month: Mark Saccomanno, 1B (28, 23rd in 2003): This was Tommy Manzella's spot to lose for most of this month, and the shortstop did nothing to NOT win this award. Saccomanno, however, went nuts in the last week of July to take over the Runs Created lead from Manzella. In seven games last week, Saccomanno went 10 for 26 with three home runs, a triple, seven RBIs, seven runs scored, three walks, four strikeouts and a stolen base. His Runs Created total of 19 combined with his weighted OBA of .328 were boht the highest on the team. Saccomanno also led the Express with 12 walks in July, giving him a line of .320/.418/.547 this month.
Pitcher of the Month: Bud Norris, RHP (24, sixth in 2006): Norris was called up by the Astros a week ago, but had a great month of July leading up to it. In five starts, Norris threw 33 innings, allowing 33 hits and 15 runs (14 earned). The 24-year old struck out 24 and walked 11 in July, giving up one home run and hitting one batter. His record of 1-4 was bad only because his run support in July was 2.2 runs a game. His traditional stats are very solid but his peripherals are even better. His BABiP is at .333, meaning he gave up a few more hits than he should have. His FIP reflects this as it sits at 3.23, about half a run lower than his ERA of 3.82. When his BAA is at .230 for the month AND he was unlucky to get there, you can see why the Astros called him up. I've written about his control in the past here, and it still concerns me. If he keeps throwing shutouts up in Houston, though, it might be a moot point.
Double-A (Corpus Christi Hooks)
Hitter of the Month: Drew Locke, LF (26, 19th, 2005 by LA Dodgers): Locke struggled hitting for power at the beginning of July, but finished with more home runs than teammate Collin DeLome with five. Locke also led the Hooks with 34 hits this month and 23 RBIs. The 26-year old created 21 runs this month, bringing his season total to 71.8. His wOBA is at .313, which is a tick higher than both DeLome and Jason Castro but lower than team leader Mark Ori (.331). Locke's adjusted OPS is at .885, so his numbers haven't been affected much by Whataburger Field. His line of .318/.372/.514 helped raise his season averages to .326/.375/.511. Right now, he's the prohibitive favorite to be the team MVP, though Drew Meyer and DeLome are both in the mix.
Pitcher of the Month: Erick Abreu, RHP (25, signed out of Dominican Republic by NY Yankees): The pitching at Corpus has been awful this season. Any time a pitcher does well here, they're either promoted or injured. Hence, the last three players of the month are not on the team's active roster (T.J. Burton and Polin Trinidad were promoted; Douglas Arguello is injured). Abreu put up the best numbers of any pitcher in Corpus last month and was promptly promoted to Round Rock for last Friday's double-header. In 15 2/3 innings with the Hooks, Abreu had a 1.15 ERA and 15 strikeouts with three walks. His FIP of 2.69 was still excellent, though his BABiP of .114 suggests he's in for a harsh correction eventually. Still, a reliever who has a K/9 rate of 8.62 is always nice to have and helped Abreu beat out fellow relievers Danny Meszaros and Chia-Jen Lo for the POM award.
High-A (Lancaster JetHawks)
Hitter of the Month: Koby Clemens, C/LF (22, eighth in 2005): What can I say about Clemens that I haven't said already this month? I'll just let the stats speak for themselves: .394/.460/.807, 1.195 adjusted OPS, .531 BABiP, .477 wOBA, 42.7 Runs Created, 43 hits, nine walks, 25 runs scored, 37 RBIs, 14 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, hit by a pitch five times, one sacrifice fly, two stolen bases, one sacrifice hit, reached base on an error once, 37 strikeouts in 120 plate appearances, 88 total bases. He has more total bases in July than five of his teammates have for the entire season. His 42 runs created this month are more than all but three Round Rock players and four Corpus Christ players have for the entire season. Did I mention he moved into the outfield this month, and since T.J. Steele reinjured whatever he injured the first time, Clemens has been playing a decent left field. Yeah, I'd say that was a good month.
Pitcher of the Month: Shane Wolf, RHP (22, 26th in 2008): You might not have seen this one coming. Wolf had been in the starting rotation earlier in the season, but was demoted due to ineffectiveness. This month, however, he strung together his best eight appearances of the season, starting two games and finishing the month with an average ERA of 4.82. His FIP, however, was a sterling 2.84 and was the lowest number of any pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched in July. Wofl struck out 25 and walked 9 while going 2-2. His BABiP of .317 means he's been a touch unlucky, but not so much so to adversely affect these numbers. Wolf has given up a few more hits than you'd like with 27 in 28 innings, but his WHIP of 1.29 in the context of Clear Channel Stadium is pretty stellar.
Hitter of the Month: Jay Austin, CF (18, second in 2008): You might not have seen this one coming. Wait, maybe you did. Is it because Austin has been the lone bright spot in this offense (excluding Brian Pelligrini)? Or is it because I mentioned him every day until his amazing streak earlier this month ended? Or is it because I equally played up his hitless streak at the end of the month? So, what did Austin end up at in July? His line was .290/.333/.430 by the end, going 31 for 107 with seven walks, 13 runs scored, 10 RBIs, four doubles, four triples, one home run, one intentional walk, two sacrifice hits and 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. Austin also struck out 21 times in 116 plate appearances and had 46 total bases. His wOBA of .288 led the team (excluding Brandon Wikoff, who only played with the Legends for four games) as did his 17 runs created. I'm not nearly as disappointed in his season as I was two months ago...I just hope he can maintain some semblance of consistency.
Pitcher of the Month: Jordan Lyles, RHP (19, supplemental first in 2008): Another no-brainer, cinched by Lyles' six shutout innings on Friday night, where he struck out eight, walked two and gave up three hits. Lyles finished the month with 30 strikeouts in 28 innings, allowing 28 hits and 14 walks over five starts. The 18-year old also had a BABiP of .389 and didn't give up any home runs in July. His FIP of 3.09 reflects some of his unluckiness with the BABiP, but his sterling K/9 rate of 9.64 more than makes up for it. His Pitching Runs Created total of 43.9 puts him a notch below the guys at Triple-A (Polin Trinidad, Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo), but he does have the most of anyone outside that trio.
Hitter of the Month: J.D. Martinez, LF/1B (21, 20th in 2009): The 21-year old out of Nova Southeastern University has not stopped hitting since being drafted by the Astros in June. He hit .403/.446/.740 in 19 games with Greeneville and was named POM for June at that level. He was then promoted to Tri-City and played 21 games in July with the ValleyCats, hitting .370/.392/.589 with seven doubles, three home runs, seven runs scored, 17 RBIs and four walks. Martinez posted a wOBA of .377 and had 13 runs created in 73 at-bats.
Pitcher of the Month: Wander Alvino, RHP (22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2007): Alvino did well in July, don't get me wrong. There weren't a ton of great candidates for this, though, just a bunch of good ones. Alvino's numbers looked okay, going 2-1 in five starts with 19 strikeouts and seven walks in 31 1/3 innings. His ERA of 4.02 was also very solid and looked even better as an FIP of 3.17. The only really troubling parts of his stat line are his strikeout total and K/9 rates. At 5.46 K/9, Alvino is really pushing the threshold of success. If he can't strike anyone out in short season ball, how will he do in the upper levels of the minor leagues? Add to that his BABiP of .284 meaning he's been lucky this month, and there are some definite warning signs. Still, Alvino was the most effective pitcher in Tri-City and deserves all the plaudits he can get.
Rookie (Greeneville Astros)
Hitter of the Month: Jose Altuve, 2B (19, signed out of Venezuela in 2006): The Little Engine that Could hit .330/.433/.550 in 26 games this month. Listed at 5-foot-5, 148 lbs., Altuve doesn't seem like the kind of hitter who would ordinarily put up this kind of power (Dustin Pedroia excepted), but a commenter over at the Crawfish Boxes suggested that the Appalachian League may allow the use of composite baseball bats. I've been able to neither confirm or deny this, so until then, it's one of many explanations for Altuve's surprising power. In 119 plate appearances, Altuve had 14 extra-base hits, including nine doubles, two triples and three home runs. His 24 runs created led the team by almost 10 runs and his wOBA was only eclipsed by J.D. Martinez' incredible .492 wOBA.
Pitcher of the Month: Juri Perez, RHP (18, signed out of Venezuela in 2007): Perez is another little guy (5-11, 148 lbs.) but can apparently miss some bats. In six appearances, including two starts this month, Perez struck out 26 and walked 6 over the course of 18 1/3 innings. Perez gave up just 13 hits, though four of those were home runs. His G/F ratio of 1.31 is very solid and suggests he can continue this run of good pitching.
Hitter of the Month: Emilio King, RF (19, 2006 out of Dominican Republic): Again, King wins the GCL POM. With a line of .291/.412/.430, King demonstrates a good eye and a bit of pop. The entire GCL Astros team couldn't hit for much power this month, so I don't hold that against him. He also posted 16.7 runs created, a wOBA of .313 and led the team with nine extra base hits. King still struck out 15 times in 89 at-bats, which would be okay at an upper level of the minors, but here it seems a bit much. We'll see how he continues to progress, though.
Pitcher of the Month: Tanner Bushue, RHP (17, second round in 2009): Last, but certainly not least, we come to the Astros' second round pick this season, Tanner Bushue. In four starts in July, Bushue did not post a game score under 50, striking out 19 in 19 2/3 innings while walking four and giving up 15 hits. He also only allowed three line drives the entire month and had a G/F ratio of 22/18. His FIP of 3.33 was higher than his ERA of 2.42 but his K/9 rate of 7.66 in five starts is excellent. Small, small sample size, but his peripheral stats are as encouraging as Lyles' were at this point last season.