HOUSTON,TX-JUNE 07: Carlos Correa, the Astros first-overall selection in the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft takes infield practice on June 7, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
So Friday I dragged the family to Greeneville Tennessee to take in a couple Greeneville Astros games.
For the first game we were able to walk up and snag some pretty good seats. From this point of view not only did I have a good view of the on deck circle but I had a good view of the night's starting pitcher Daniel Minor.
Let's start there.
Minor is a pitcher I've noticed but haven't paid much attention to, after Friday I think I may start paying attention a little more. There was no public gun so I couldn't tell how fast he was throwing, but as the night went on I began to like his fastball more. There isn't a lot of movement, but it's hard and makes the catchers mitt pop. He located the fastball well and had good command on the night, as evidence by his zero walks.
What he lacked in movement on his fastball he made up for on his breaking pitch. His breaking stuff has some very good movement and he made several Burlington hitters look silly trying to hit it. He also didn't have much of an issue throwing his breaking stuff for strikes.
One of the more interesting match-ups of the evening was 2011 1st round, fifth overall, selection Bubba Starling who this season is hitting .293/.381/.530 in 189 plate appearances at the ripe age of 19.
In their first meeting Starling hit a single to centerfield.
In their second meeting Minor started Starling off with two breaking pitches for a strike, then began to work outside the zone in hopes that Starling would chase. Minor over threw one into the dirt, followed by a breaking pitch that was up. Starling foul tipped the next pitch, then took a ball, before ground out to Carlos Correa at short. I liked the approach but thought he could be better working around the zone, can't complain with the end result.
In their third and final meeting Minor got Starling to strikeout, to end the top of the sixth inning. A three year old was crawling around in my lap for this meeting so I apologize for not having the pitch sequence. The thing I did notice right before the strikeout, though, is that after a Carlos Correa error that allowed a runner to reach, Minor picked off that base runner to bail Correa out.
I don't know that it's an outstanding pick-off move but it's solid and it got the guy at first by a mile. There is reason to believe that a "balk" played a role, because the runner was out so far off the bag and the other teams manager came out to argue, but that's neither here nor there. Getting a pick-off is impressive enough, but then to get a strikeout of one of the best hitters in the league to end his night is outstanding. I came away impressed with a pitcher that was initially pegged a reliever/starter.
As for position players, Carlos Correa looks like a legit prospect, he also towered over everyone else on the field. He had two hits on the evening and almost beat out a broken bat slow roller to short. He looked safe, but the play probably could have gone either way without much complaint.
He had no such need for a close call in the bottom of eighth inning when he belted his first homerun for the Greeneville Astros to left field. It is 331 feet down the lines at Pioneer Park and 400 dead center. Correa's ball went directly over the left fielder maybe about 350-360 feet.
I didn't really care for the plunking of Michael Martinez after the homerun, but the Astros would get their revenge when he came around to score on a Terrell Joyce double to left.
Correa's defense looked pretty good for a player who is about a month away from turning 18 years old. He had range and he looked smooth playing the position. The error he collected, I wondered how many shortstops at this level actually get to the ball, he was almost directly up the middle maybe even slightly on the right side of the bag and made the error on the transfer to throw the ball. Some more experience and he makes that play. I have the utmost confidence that Correa can stick at short.*
*When the play was made it ruled error after reviewing the box score it appears that error was changed to a hit, which again highlights how far Correa had to go to even get the ball.
Rio Ruiz is solidly built and looks to be a legit hitter he had two clean hits on the evening, one up the middle and the other a line drive through the whole at short. I didn't get to see his defense because he was the designated hitter for the evening. Hoping to see him play third tonight. I was told by Appy Astros that he should stick at third and that Angel Ibanez has been heating up. So we can surmise that along with Ibanez playing well and Ruiz coming off an injury that Ruiz will be DHing a bit this season.
The other two hitters that stuck out to me where Michael Martinez who had a line drive single to rightfield and Jose Monzon who had two hits on the night. Martinez is already at firstbase so I wonder how much upside he has and I was told by Appy Astros that Jose Monzon, who played rightfield, is a defensive specialist. Still both players had good nights at the plate and both handled their positions well.
Ariel Ovando was not in the lineup Friday evening, and I'm not entirely sure why but it could possibly be attitude related. The fans sitting next to us were talking about Ovando and not in a good way. This line of thinking was confirmed when I talked to Appy Astros and his son about Ovando's play which simply put has been both impressive and lackadaisical. On the positive side I'm being told about him gunning down a runner at the plate, on the other I'm hearing he's letting balls go over his head for triples. So at this point we can consider Ovando the Dr Jeykl and Mr. Hyde prospect of the Astros farm system. Or maybe even the box of chocolates prospect: "You never know what you're gonna get."
Defensively, D'Andre Toney made a nice sliding catch in center that he had to go a long way to get. Which was nice to see considering he didn't have a very good day at the plate, leading off for the Astros.
The last player I want to mention is catcher Ricky Gingras who was 0-4 at the plate, but looked good receiving the ball and has a canon for an arm. This was noted in warm ups when he gunned a throw to second base and after a strikeout that needed to be completed via a throw to first. The throw to first was particularly interesting because Martinez jerked his head back as he received the ball.
Overall it was a fun interesting game to watch, and I was very encouraged by the players I saw on the field. I asked Appy Astros at lunch how long it's been since he's seen good players come through Greeneville and that year popped up, 2007. It's been a long time since Greeneville Tennessee saw some good baseball, and it's on its way to Houston.