added 7/8/2010 by Mike Tauser
(Mike Tauser of Farmstros updates us on what's been happening in the Astros' minor league system since his last report. For more frequent reports, visit his website at http://farmstros.blogspot.com).
As I sit in front of my computer on the morning of July 7, it has been one month since Bobby Heck and his crew were making their final preparations to add a new draft class to the Astros minor league roster. As of today, the team has signed 31 of their 52 draft picks. They have signed 17 of their top 22 picks as well. Due to the fact that the traditional signing deadline of August 15 falls on a Sunday, Houston has until August 16 to sign top pick Delino DeShields, Jr. and the other 20.
Looking for a Keuchel Sequel
Two pitchers drafted by the Astros celebrated by going to Omaha to participate in last month's College World Series. Paul Gerrish pitched for TCU and Jason Chowning threw for Oklahoma. It will be a plus if either of these College World Series hurlers repeats the path taken thus far by Dallas Keuchel, a 2009 draftee by the Astros. Keuchel joined Tri-City last June after pitching for Arkansas in Omaha. He struggled out of the gate for Lancaster this spring. However, he seems to have found his rhythm and has become the JetHawks' most consistent arm. In June, the lefthander made four starts and had a 1.98 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 27-1/3rd innings.
Catchers Not Named Castro
Now that Jason Castro is in the major leagues, catching prospects high in the minors are non-existent. However, a few recent draftees on short season squads are trying to get a leg up on the next spot in line. Bubby Williams was drafted in 2009. He has four home runs and a .400 batting average for Greeneville. 2010 draft pick Chris Wallace, out of the University of Houston, joins Williams in Greeneville. He has three home runs and a .333 average in eight games. Another catcher picked in 2010, Ben Heath, is batting .276 with two home runs in nine games for Tri-City.
Michael Bourn isn't the team's only all-star
While the Astros only representative in Anaheim next Tuesday will be their speedy centerfielder, 13 players on the club's AAA, AA, and A affiliates are all-stars this summer. One is being honored twice. Jordan Lyles was named to the Texas League All-Star team. He pitched and earned the victory in that league's all-star game on June 30 in Midland. Lyles will also don an all-star jersey during this Sunday's Futures Game, which opens the All-Star Game festivities in California.
While Lyles got the most all-star awards, his teammate outfielder J.B. Shuck had the most impact of any Farmstro on an all-star game. He made two run-saving defensive plays to lead the South squad to a one-run victory in the Texas League’s game. He threw out the final runner of the game at the plate to seal the win. Shuck was joined in Midland by teammates Doug Arguello, Koby Clemens and Lou Santangelo. Wladimir Sutil and German Duran were also named to the team but Sutil had been called up to Round Rock and Duran was injured.
Brian Bogusevic of Round Rock will participate in next Wednesday's Triple AAA All-Star Game. Jay Austin (Lancaster), Kody Hinze, J.D. Martinez, Kirk Clark, and Jose Altuve (all with Lexington) represented the Astros in their league's all-star contests.
It's difficult to get too excited about a 27-year-old outfielder playing in High A. However, Lee Cruz' performance since joining Lancaster in June forces me to give him a mention. Cruz started the year struggling for AA Birmingham (White Sox). The Astros picked him up when he became available, and the JetHawks are the beneficiaries.
For the month, Cruz batted .410 with 12 doubles, four home runs and 23 RBIs. He even had time to get a double in one at bat for AAA Round Rock during the California League's All-Star Break. He put an exclamation point on his JetHawk experience to date by hitting two home runs during last night's game while I was making the final preparations for this report.
Pitchers of the Caribbean
The Astros' short season teams are in full swing, which means draft picks are signing and heading to Florida, New York and Tennessee. In addition to the draft picks, a few pitchers from outside the U.S. are showing some promise stateside. Through June, Tri-City's Carlos Quevedo has 16 strikeouts and no walks in 16-1/3rd innings pitched. His ERA is 2.20.
In his second start for Greeneville, Angel Gonzalez threw six no-hit innings before being lifted due to pitch count issues. Lefty Dieudone Paul is off to a good start in the Gulf Coast League. Paul, from Haiti, has allowed no runs over eight innings in his first two outings.
Mier on Fire?
I doubt that the Lexington Fire Department is on alert, but 2009 top draft pick, shortstop Jio Mier, has shown some signs of heating up. After sporting a batting average around .200 throughout the first two months of the season, Mier batted .257 with seven doubles and nine RBIs in June. He did strike out 17 times in 74 at bats, however for the moment, the Mendoza Line is not a major threat.
Things to Look for in July