What's that? Is it...is it...IT IS! It's the TCB Players of the Week! A day late, but still chock-full of nutty goodness...
Hitter of the Week: Humberto Quintero - He went 4 for 16 with two doubles and a home run with two runs scored, two RBIs and four strikeouts. Q also has caught a pretty good number of would-be base stealers and is singlehandedly keeping Jason Castro in the minors right now (more on that later).
Pitcher of the Week:Roy Oswalt - YAWN. I'm tired of talking about how good Roy's been. He's great. We know he's great. Let's move on.
Defender of the Week: Tommy Manzella - In addition to providing a pretty good batting average (though his wOBA was a bit pedestrian), Manzella made some highlight-reel plays. I talked about the one last weekend where he threw out a baserunner on a ball he had no business getting to. Yes, he makes errors, but he's also got the third-highest Defensive Runs Saved total on the team. All in all, Manzella is the best shortstop the Astros have, either on the big league roster or at Triple-A.
Astros Stock Watch
Hunter Pence, rising slowly - He almost nudged out Q for HOW. He walked five times in 25 plate appearances and posted the second-highest wOBA of Astros batters with at least 10 plate appearances. I'd like to see a little more power and a few less strikeouts, but overall, Pence his hitting like we thought he would back in Spring Training.
The rest of the Astros lineup, going off a freakin' cliff - Michael Bourn, Jeff Keppinger, Lance Berkman, Pedro Feliz. The list goes on and on. This entire offense is struggling again. If not for guys like Manzella and Quintero, they might not have scored any runs against the Yankees.
Wandy Rodriguez, down to a penny stock - See Stephen's story. Shake head sadly.
Jason Castro, primed to pay dividends - The catcher hit two of his three home runs this season in the past week. His batting average is up to .277 on the season and his monthly totals have risen steadily. I'd still like to see him sustain this performance, but I have no problem with the Astros calling him up now. Since the beginning of May, he's shown he can make the adjustments necessary to hit Triple-A pitching. Given a little time, he should be able to do the same thing in the big leagues.
Jack Shuck, rising rapidly - If you accept who Shuck is as a player, he looks like a much better prospect. He's not a power hitter, but he can play all three outfield positions. He's also got good plate discipline and he's hitting the cover off the ball this month. Shuck could be a valuable addition as a fourth outfielder next season, but he could also develop into a decent starter given time.
Jordan Lyles, blue-chip status - Just look at his line from Tuesday night: seven innings, 11 strikeouts. As a teenager in a hitter's league. I would have been happy if Lyles simply held his own in the Texas League this season, but he's excelled as much as he did at Lexington in 2009. If he's not the best Astros prospect at this point, he's damned close to it.
Danny Meszaros, stop order - Out with an injury since May 24th, Meszaros got absolutely shelled in his relief appearance Tuesday night. He's still probably hurt and may need to have surgery (though that's pure speculation on my part). At any rate, it's not good times for one of my favorite prospects.
Henry Villar, rising rapidly - Lots to like this season with Villar. He has taken well to his aggressive promotion to Double-A, skipping High A ball entirely. In June, he's struck out 13 batters in eight innings over four appearances. His BB/9 rate is a bit high at 4.50, but he's only given up 25 hits in 38 innings this season. He has tremendous stuff that's finally translating to the field and may be one of the next prospects to debut with the Astros.
Jon Gaston, finding a lower plateau - While his approach to the game may be encouraging for the Astros, Gaston's power has not approached 2009 levels. He has doubled his home run total in the last 10 games, but isn't hitting for average and doesn't walk much. His K/9 rate is still alarmingly high, but if he's able to hit for more power, it'll even out.
Jay Austin, rising slowly - He was recently named to the California League All-Star team. Later, I'll have a more in-depth look at his season to this point.
Kyle Greenwalt, indicators pointing up - Though his ERA in May was bad, Greenwalt is doing very well this month. In three starts, he's thrown 16 1/3 innings while striking out 11 and walking three. In fact, his BB/9 rate all season has been excellent. Greenwalt is also getting a ton of ground ball outs, which is both a blessing and a curse in Lancaster. For instance, the defense behind him led to six unearned runs already this month and 10 this season. Now, good pitchers need to work around errors, but it's much harder to do in great hitting environments. I can definitely see Greenwalt gutting out this season with the JetHawks and taking off in 2011 at Corpus Christi.
David Berner, turning into a blue-chip - The lefty may have a very good shot at making it in the big leagues as a reliever soon. His strikeout rate is excellent, he doesn't walk many batters and is actually pretty good at preventing hits. At Lancaster, that's impressive, which is why his FIP is at 2.79. He has a pretty pronounced lefty/righty split on hits allowed, but also has a much higher BABiP to righthanders. His FIP is almost identical in both cases, and while his strikeout rate is higher to lefties, it's still almost at 9 per nine innings to righthanders. Throw in a 50+ percent ground ball rate and Berner profiles as a late-inning reliever instead of just a LOOGY.
Dallas Keuchel, slowly gaining - The former Razorback has been gaining steam all season. His monthly stats have been getting steadily better, with Keuchel posting his best strikeout rate of the season in June. Keuchel survives by getting ground balls and not giving up many fly balls. His BABiP and line drive rates are relatively normal, which explains why his FIP is reasonable on the season. More importantly, his stats away from Clear Channel Field are impressive.
Ebert Rosario, surprising upswing - The third baseman had a strong 2009 campaign with Lexington, but struggled in his transition to the California League. His batting average hovered around .200 for most of the first two months, but he's posted a slash line of .294/.385/.412 in 43 at-bats in June. He doesn't have much power, but his strikeout rate seems to have leveled off in the past two months. I'm not sure this latest hot streak is real, but since the Astros are thin on advanced third base prospects, it's worth keeping an eye on.
The 2009 fifth round pick played in just 39 games at Lexington last season before being assigned to High A. It's may have been too aggressive of an assignment, though, as Wikoff's strikeouts have gone up and his walk rate (one of his best skills) hasn't translated well. The Astros don't have a lot of talent at shortstop in the minors, so this assignment was probably to give him time without delaying Jio Mier, but they both may have benefitted by starting a level lower this season.
Albert Cartwright, leveling off - Though his average and on-base percentage are both down, Cartwright is still hitting for plenty of power. He's got seven extra-base hits in June with seven home runs this season. He's definitely benefiting from Lancaster, but it's manifesting mainly in his number of singles, as the power numbers and walk rates are pretty consistent. Let's see what he does in July and August.
Brad Dydalewicz, dropping fast - He posted a ERA of 11 at Lancaster and was recently demoted back to Low A Lexington. Of the Big 3 high school starters from the 2008 draft, he's the one about whom I've been the most bearish. He was hurt for a good stretch last season and doesn't throw very hard. Now, Ricky Bennett told Zach Levine that Dydalewicz is having trouble repeating his delivery. He's still go time to develop, but I think he drops out of my Top 30 prospect list for now.
Jiovanni MIer, starting to worry - While Castro improved each month this season, MIer is hitting worse now than he has all season. He's 1 for his last 13 and hitting .167 in June. The best thing I can say is that he's walked five times in the last four games, so he's at least doing something right. His plate discipline has actually been pretty good, though his strikeouts are a bit on the high side. Still, this has been a disappointing first-half for MIer.
Luis Cruz, rising slightly - Moved into the starting rotation recently, Cruz hasn't shown the strikeout numbers that his electric fastball suggests he should have. However, he's pitching well and keeping many runs from scoring. He's only pitched into the sixth inning once, so he'll need to gain some more stamina. Still, it's a good start to his Low A career.