The rookie level Greeneville Astros! I really like this level and I'm sure you all are pretty aware of it since a lot of our top prospects start out here. Guys like Jordan Lyles, Ross Seaton (even if he has struggled), Jiovanni Mier, have all spent time here. We even have a friendly blog now that follows the team called Appy Astros. There is a lot of talent that goes this affiliate, especially talent with upside. This is where the Astros send their top high school draft picks. That's why guys like Mike Foltynewicz, Delino DeShields Jr., and Vincent Velasquez ended up here. It's a great level for raw upside players. Tri-City is just too polished with all the college draft picks and guys who are in their second and third year of short-season professional baseball. The Gulf Coast League is really just raw players in general so that is just too low.
Unfortunately, because this is a level with a lot of raw ability, stats have to be taken lightly. Pitchers leave a lot of balls right over the plate and the parks are hitter friendly for the most part. That's why guys like Mier can hit seven home runs last season and then only hit a few the following season. But, at the same time, hitters can get great reads on a pitchers curveball that is so inconsistent and be ready to drive it, and it suddenly flashes that plus potential for a swinging strikeout. So, even a hitters strikeout numbers can be deceiving. For pitchers, numbers can be deceiving because some ball will drop for hits because of terrible defenses behind them and terrible plate discipline too.
But, enough about the issues at the level and why it's a special level. Who are the guys that deserve attention?
The Astros are in the West division and finished second to last in the dvision but third to last overall with a 31-35 record. Part of the reason for that is the terrible team pitching. The ranked dead last with a team ERA of 4.54 and WHIP of 1.44. They struck out the fewest in the league but were fourth in walks. A full season of V-Dub could have helped a little bit. The defense probably wasn't the greatest in the league either.
Offensively, they ranked close to the middle in just about every stat. They were sixth in OBP, fifth in SLG, and sixth in OPS, out of ten teams. They were actually third in home runs and triples, but eighth in doubles. They were also fourth in stolen bases. Overall, just an average offense.
Telvin Nash, outfielder-Last years third round pick turned his bad first season into a great second season. He may not have had the best stats on the team, third in OPS (.863, eighth in Appy League), and first in home runs (12, fourth in league), but he played more games in Greeneville than Marcus Nidiffer and Chris Wallace who moved up to Tri-City. Plus, he was actually named the MVP of the Greeneville. For him to put up those kind of numbers at age 19 is also more impressive than the other two who are 22 and 23 respectively. Look for him to be a middle of the order hitter in Lexington next season.
Team Cy Young
Ruben Alaniz, right hander-This was difficult to give out with guys like Mike Foltynewicz and Vincent Velasquez performing well in their pro debuts, but I had to give the award to Alaniz. He posted a 4.21 ERA and 3.60 FIP which is just marginally higher than Folty in both categories. He also struck out 6.6 batters per nine innings and limited his walk to just 1.6 per nine innings. That comes out to a great 4.2 SO/BB. He also pitched the second most innings on the team with 57 2/3 IP. Four pitchers pitched twelve starts, Folty, Alaniz, Quezada, and Ricardo Batista, and Vincy only pitched eight games (six starts) which hurt his chances. Ultimately, Alaniz's better strikeout to walk ratio and ability to pitch deeper into games is what sold me to give him the award. Unfortunately, due to the large number of starting pitchers who are more advanced and have higher upside, he may not get a spot in Lexington next season and be in Tri-City.
Players To Watch
Vincent Velasquez, right hander-V-Dub actually put up better numbers than any other Greeneville Starter. He barely missed having a K/9 of 9 and walked just four in 29 1/3 innings. His ERA was a great 3.07. He didn't induce a ton of groundballs which could be a concern going forward, but like I keep reminding of everyone, he's very raw. Part of inducing groundballs in learning how to with what pitch to throw where and when, which is part of pitchability. He'll learn it. Injuries could also be a concern though with V-Dub. He'll be exciting to watch next season.
Delino DeShields Jr., second base-Sixteen games is a very small sample size and you can't draw any conclusions at all with that. So, I'm going to ignore his plate discipline, which wasn't great. But, I will emphasize his six doubles and a triple. Thats a lot in a short amount of time and shows he is able to find the gaps and drive the ball. I'm already excited to see what he'll do next season in Lexington.
Rodney Quintero, right hander-Q-Jr has a great fastball but his secondary stuff has a lot of developing to do. We are talking mid 90's fastball. He signed late so only pitched three and two-thirds innings but was able to strike out six in that time. But, he also walked five so control is going to be an issue. The question though is, where do the Astros see him going forward, bullpen or rotation? At this point I'd rather see him in the rotation because if his command gets polished and secondary develops, he could be great. But, his delivery is high effort and could be a warning flag that puts him in the pen where he could be a great closer.
Gabriel Garcia, left hander-Fresh off a suspension, Garcia came out late but pitched well with a 3.86 ERA. He was in the Greeneville rotation last season as well, but didn't pitch nearly as well. He's really small as well, so we'll see what happens with the little lefty. He could turn into a Luis Cruz though.
Chris Wallace, catcher-He could be discussed in the Tri-City one as well, but he did most of his work here where he was old for his level. But, you have to take notice a .910 OPS, eight home runs, three triples, and six doubles.
Marcus Nidiffer, first-base-A great UFA signing for Bobby Heck. His .981 OPS deserves even more attention. He also blasted eleven home runs, two triples, and ten doubles. Like Wallace, he was too old for this level and was promoted with Wallace to Tri-City where they are both more age appropriate.
Players Who Disappointed
Euris Quezada, right hander-This guy is BIG. He stands at six feet and six inches and weighs 210 lbs. He's a little old for this level but after a few good games sprinkled in there, I thought he was going to do something. But a 5.83 ERA isn't what I was expecting. Nor was just 38 strikeouts in 63 1/3 IP. That's just not the result you are looking out of a starter, especially the one who led the team in innings pitched.
Emilio King, outfield-AppyAstros commented the other day that this guy could be the best outfielder defensively in the system and a big part of that is his arm. Scouts have really talked this guy up. But, at the plate, he's disappointing. Bad plate discipline and a terrible average. He did knock a home run and a triple. He also led the team in doubles with 13.
Ryan Humphrey, outfield-He was drafted last year in the 15th round and was repeating this year in Greeneville. I expected much better numbers but he went the opposite direction. His OPS fell to a miserable .518.
Jamaine Cotton, right hander-Dodgeball Championship on ESPN 8 "The Ocho" anyone? The guy's name is Cotton! He has to produce! But, his ERA was a terrible 8.36. He was able to strike out fifteen in fourteen innings but he also walked seven. I think he could be a solid reliever, so we'll see what happens next year.
Best Outlook for 2011
Mike Foltynewicz, right hander-Folty's ceiling has been argued from true "ace" to #3 starter. Either way, he's got terrific upside and is viewed more highly than the likes of Lyles at the same point in their careers. His repatoire is great but his control of it wasn't good at all when he first started off. He cleared it up by the end of the season which allowed for him to post his 4.03 ERA and 3.53 FIP. He has the ability to post some great strikeout numbers as well as an above average groundball rate. Look for Folty to head up the Lexington rotation next season and pull out Lyles-esque numbers.