added 5/5/2010 by Mike Tauser
(Mike Tauser writes for the Farmstros blog. We hope to receive monthly reports from him this season, updating the progress of our minor leaguers. Visit his site for more current news.)
The good news in April for fans of the Astros of the Future was that Jordan Lyles adjusted quite rapidly to his AA assignment after spending last season in Low A Lexington. The even better news is that Lyles is not the only good news in Houston's farm system.
After a bumpy first start in the Texas League, Lyles, the top pitching prospect in the system, strung together three solid starts posting a 2.45 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 22 innings for the month. The 19-year old, who was drafted in 2008, jumped to AA this season. Any concerns about the effects of his skipping High A Lancaster have apparently been rendered moot.
In addition to the continuing of the Legend of Jordan Lyles, the month of April saw numerous other prospects in a notoriously shallow farm system get off to solid starts, providing evidence of increased depth for the future. Please visit http://www.farmstros.blogspot.com to vote on the player of the month in Houston's minor league system.
A Trio of Legend Hitters
After a 2009 season with almost no hitting, the Low A Lexington club is full of swingers this year. Most notable are outfielder J.D. Martinez, first baseman Kody Hinze and third baseman Jonathan Meyer. Martinez has picked up where he left off in 2009, batting .365 with 19 RBI and a .522 slugging percentage for the Legends in April. Hinze had an organization-leading 25 RBI for the month to go with a .295 average. Meyer struggled in short season ball after being drafted last summer. However, he batted .345 in his first month of full-season baseball this spring.
A Few Middle Infielders of Note
Who is up and coming to fill the shoes of Tommy Manzella and Kazuo Matsui? Here are a few candidates. Corpus Christi's combo of Marcos Cabral (2B) and German Duran (SS) combined to bat .340 with nine RBI and 12 runs scored in the season’s first month. Lancaster's 2B Albert Cartwright got out of the blocks with six doubles, three triples, one home run, five stolen bases and 12 runs scored. Lexington 2B, the diminutive Jose Altuve, batted .293 with 14 runs scored and six stolen bases.
In Lyles' Shadow
In addition to the fast rising Lyles, several other starters made a promising pitch for the Astros' future this month. Lexington’s Tanner Bushue seems to be fully recovered from the back issues that further shortened his 2009 short season. He posted a 2.81 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 25-2/3rd innings. Kyle Greenwalt met the challenge of pitching in the California League for Lancaster, posting a 2.67 ERA in five starts. Doug Arguello (3.07) and Sergio Perez (3.12) were both solid in five starts for Corpus Christi. Gustavo Chacin, who has now made his way to Minute Maid Park, posted a 1.74 ERA in four starts for Round Rock.
The solid pitching continued in middle and late innings as well. Henry Villar, like Jordan Lyles, didn’t skip a beat after jumping from Low A to Corpus Christi. Villar had an 0.71 ERA in 12-2/3rds innings. Villar's bullpen-mates Daniel Meszaros (1.93) and Chia-Jen Lo (1.80) were impressive as well. Down the chain a notch, David Berner (1.20, three saves) and Ashton Mowdy (2.45) led the Lancaster bullpen. Arcenio Leon (1.69) and Kirk Clark (1.23) were at the head of the class in April for Lexington.
What to do with Koby Clemens?
After Koby Clemens tore up the California League in 2009, the Astros have given him a permanent home as Corpus Christi's first baseman. He responded in April with a Texas League-leading seven home runs. He also had 18 RBI, a .263 average and a .575 slugging percentage for the Hooks. On the down side, Clemens did strike out 28 times in 21 games. If the big league club continues to struggle and Clemens continues to hit for power, his potential may make Lance Berkman expendable.
Two Healthy Centerfielders
Top outfield prospects T.J. Steele and Jay Austin both missed a substantial portion of 2009 with injury. Neither of them put up eye-popping numbers in April; however, more importantly, neither of them showed up on the disabled list. Steele played 20 games at Corpus Christi batting .195 with six RBI. Austin played 19 games at Lancaster in April, stealing eight bases and driving in eleven while batting 232.
A Few who have Struggled
Things to Keep an eye on in May
As the season moves towards summer, numerous stories seem set to play out amongst the Astros of the Future. Five merit special attention:
Looking forward to following the Astros of the Future with you this season.