July Farm Report

added 8/5/2010 by Mike Tauser

I just took my copy of the 2009 Astros media guide to my son's room. It's one of the books he likes to look at while he is going to sleep. It was surreal to look at the cover of that one-year old book and realize that both of the players on the cover (Berkman and Oswalt) are now gone from Houston. I have been an Astro fan since the early 70s, when my mother falsified some documents allowing me to become an underage Astros Buddy. In light of this long-term emotional connection, it saddened me to see two of the greatest players in the club's history move on. I was even moved to write a farewell song to Roy O. which can be found on my blog.

Yet, my disappointment is tempered somewhat as it seems that the club actually appears to be going somewhere (even though it may not end up being the right direction, as Berkman put it, it is encouraging that they are going in a direction).

Getting There is Half the Fun

When Brett Wallace was traded to the Astros on Thursday, he was in Reno with his Las Vegas teammates. By Friday afternoon, his plane was touching down in Oklahoma City, where he would join his new team, the Round Rock Express. He was with Brian Bogusevic and Wladimir Sutil for just one night, before the way was cleared for him to join Houston at Minute Maid Park for his Major League debut Saturday evening. After less than 48 hours in his new hometown, he was on a plane again with his newest new teammates.

This Month's Top Promotions

Minor League baseball is notorious for crazy promotions: Bark in the Park, Green Night, Bobbleheads of the local mayor, Rojo Johnson, the list goes on. Yet, in July the Astros were so busy promoting players that Selena Week at Whataburger Field and Friday Night Fireworks at Dell Diamond had to take a back seat. In case you missed the movement, here’s an update:

LHP Fernando Abad became only the third Corpus Christi Hook to be promoted directly to Houston during the Texas League season. He returned to AAA Round Rock after less than a week in the big leagues. OF J.D. Martinez was freed from Lexington and sent to Corpus Christi. He was followed shortly by RHP Arcenio Leon. LHP Dallas Keuchel, who figured out a way to pitch effectively in California, is a Hook now as well. His Lancaster teammate 2B Albert Cartwright made that leap as well in July. 2B Jose Altuve moved from Lexington to Lancaster to take Cartwright's spot. J.B. Shuck, who was the most consistent of Corpus Christi's outfielders, moved up to Round Rock. He joined another former Hook, Dan Meszaros, in the Round Rock bullpen.

They Might be Pitchers

A spot in Round Rock's outfield opened up for J.B. Shuck when Yordany Ramirez was sent to Lexington, where he will reportedly be converted into a pitcher. I can't wait to see Ramirez, who was a highlight reel defensively in the outfield, make an acrobatic catch on a popped up bunt. Ramirez will be joined in the switch to pitcher by Ebert Rosario, who had moved up through the system as a third baseman. Rosario recently pitched his first game in the Gulf Coast League. A third pitching convert, Jorge DeLeon, has had a stellar season thus far out of Tri-City's bullpen. In his first season as a pitcher, DeLeon has an 0.60 ERA with three saves and 15 strikeouts in 15 IP for the Valley Cats.

I Guess These Guys Want Some Attention

Last month, I wrote here that with Jason Castro in brick red, the Astros' best catching prospects are all in short season ball. Federico Hernandez in Lancaster and Jonathon Fixler in Corpus Christi did their best in July to prove me wrong. Hernandez batted over .300 for the month (24 for 79) with eight doubles, four triples, three home runs, 13 RBI and 16 runs. Fixler, who serves as a back-up in Corpus, was 13 for 41 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and six RBI in July.

(Fixler, and three others in the Houston farm system were handed 50-day suspensions on August 4th after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. That's the sort of attention nobody wants.)

Mier is Passed by Villar

After a slight improvement at the plate in June, Lexington shortstop Jio Mier slumped again in July. He fell below the Mendoza Line going 19-for-97 with seven doubles, one home run and 10 RBIs. Interestingly, the shortstop the Astros picked up from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt trade appeared to move ahead of Mier on the depth chart. Jonathan Villar, who had been playing for Philadelphia's Low A affiliate, was assigned to Lancaster, Houston's High A team.

You'll Get Nothing and You'll Like It…

Three pitchers in the organization pitched a substantial number of innings in July without allowing an earned run. Corpus Christi's Jailen Peguero pitched 20 innings in 11 games. He struck out 25 in the month. Tri-City's Thomas Shirley made five starts and pitched 17 innings. He allowed nine hits and struck out 28. Francisco Xavier Baso made five relief appearances for Houston's Dominican affiliate. He gave up nine hits and did not allow a run, unearned or otherwise in 16-1/3 IP.

…Unless You’re Batting against Lyles or Arguello

For the first time this season, Corpus Christi starters Jordan Lyles and Doug Arguello struggled for an extended period of time. Lyles, who pitched a scoreless inning in July's Futures Game, had a 4.71 ERA over five starts in July. He pitched 28-2/3 innings allowed 39 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 27. Lyles' left-handed counterpart, Arguello, made four starts and posted a 4.12 ERA in 19-2/3 innings.

Two out of Three is Good. Three is even Better.

Two of the Astros' top three draft picks have signed and are playing this summer. Michael Kvasnicka got off to a slow start at Tri-City. He was batting .108 at the end of June. However, his swing woke up in July when he went 28-for-104 with five doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Michael Foltynewicz made six July starts for Greeneville, pitching 22-2/3 innings, allowing 24 hits and 11 earned runs, while striking out 21. It appears the signing of Houston's first overall selection, Delino DeShields Jr., is imminent.

Things to Keep an Eye on in August and early September

  • Will Delino be like the Mikes? Houston has less than two weeks to get their first draft pick into the fold. On the plus side, if they can't sign DeShields, the team will get an extra first round pick in 2011.

  • Who will adjust to their new homes? With all the promotions and trades in July, it will be interesting to see who makes a good first impression with their new team.

  • Who will visit Houston in September? I expect that pitchers Fernando Abad and Mark Melancon (acquired in the Berkman trade) will join the big league club once rosters expand. Also, I think Brian Bogusevic will finally get the call. Wladimir Sutil has an outside chance to make his debut.

  • Who will get the earliest tee time? Once again, no Houston farm teams will be in the playoffs in September, so alternative activities will be needed starting September 7th.

    Will Farmstros make it to 3000? The Quest For 3000 Syllables passed 2000 at Dell Diamond in July and is on track to reach its conclusion on Labor Day.

    (For more news on the Astros' farm system, visit Mike's blog at http://farmstros.blogspot.com/.)