Houston Astros Minor League Recap: 5/28/13

USA TODAY Sports

It's Jonathan Singleton Day, and everybody's celebrating, as the Astros minor leagues sweep.

Only God Can Stop Jonathan Singleton

Historically, deities have not favored the Chicago Cubs:

So it came as something of a surprise that when the Kane County Cougars proved completely incapable of stopping the offensive force that was MLB's top first base prospect, Jonathan Singleton, in his first game back since serving a fifty-game suspension for violating MiLB's drug policy, God lent a helping hand. With Singleton staring at a 2-for-2 day with a walk, a home run, and 2 RBI, the Kane County Cougars looked up to the sky as it opened up and rain poured forth, ending their misery.

Singleton, meanwhile, currently leads the Midwest League in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Strikeout Rate, Slugging Percentage, and OPS. Actually, he leads all of minor league baseball in all of those categories. Actually, he leads the entire universe in all of those categories, though no doubt some are ties.

I Would Walk Four Point Three Miles And I Would Walk Four Point Three More

I'm sure I'm not the only one who misses Nolan Fontana, so in spite of his being on the DL, here's a Fontana highlight: Over the course of his college and pro careers, he's walked 252 times. At ninety feet a pop, that's 4.3 miles.

The Old Man and the Four

When I began paying attention to the minor leagues - I mean serious attention - one Astros farmhand always stuck out to me: Andy Van Hekken. I don't know why, exactly. Drafted by the Mariners in the third round out of Holland (Mich.) High School and traded to the Tigers as the PTBNL for Brian Hunter, Van Hekken made his debut with the Tigers in 2002, as a 22-year-old. He started five games for Detroit, going 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA, and even had a shutout. He bounced around organizations for a while, with stops in the Reds, Braves, and Royals systems, but never again pitched in the big leagues.

By the time I came to know him, he was in his late twenties and pitching in the Texas League for Corpus Christi. And though I knew nothing about league-appropriate ages and non-prospects, it always struck me as a little odd that a man who'd only briefly tasted the majors was pitching in the minors until he was into his thirties. I nicknamed him "Old Man Van Hekken." He became something of a personal mascot of mine, and I was irrationally disappointed when the Astros released him prior to the 2012 season.

So it was that I decided to try and discover what Old Man Van Hekken was up to, and I was delighted to learn that he's still pitching professionally. He's currently in his second full season with the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). At 33 years old, he's tied for second in the KBO in wins with six; over 53.1 innings, he's struck out 39 and walked 19. Google Translate doesn't do the KBO site any justice (his main page is headlined by something that says "2013 Sexual,") so it's difficult to tell about many of his peripherals. For instance, what does it mean to have 3 Poktu? Is that good or bad? I imagine "Bock" means "balk." "Piantayul" seems to be Batting Average Against. I won't even guess at "Huita," "Huibi," or "And the four." Maybe our much-beloved SeoulStro can shed some light. What I do know is that it makes me happy to see Old Man Van Hekken alive and well and pitching in Korea.

There's An Ap For That

Jethawks center fielder Andrew Aplin was named the California League Offensive Player of the Week. After getting a home run, two doubles, and four RBI against Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, he followed it up with four more RBI, a home run, and two singles against Inland Empire on Friday. Coming into this week, he leads the California League with 43 RBI, was third in runs scored, and fourth in walks (though just second on his own team), while striking out only 18 times in 47 games.

Oklahoma City is Mighty Pretty

While the Oklahoma City RedHawks were on their mammoth 13-game road trip, a lot has happened, between a tornado hitting Oklahoma and the Big 12 Tournament occupying Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Ironically, their first home series after the tornado is against the Omaha Storm Chasers (KCR).

What in Tarnation...

Tyler Heineman is out of control. Over his last ten games, he's hit his first career triple and his first career home run. He added to that last night with an inside-the-park home run. You know how sometimes, in MLB: The Show, you hit the ball into a corner and the outfielder just sort of keeps running in circles around the ball, rather than field it? It was something like that; Heineman hit a ball down the left field line that got into the bullpen. The left fielder, Bobby Coyle, injured himself making the play, which allowed Heineman to make it around the bases and score the home run. Weird things happen in the California League, man. Weird, weird things.

Coyle stayed in the game and even had a double after that play, so I'm not sure what, exactly, the injury was, but it doesn't seem as if it was too serious.

Wee Willy T

An old friend came to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark yesterday: Willy Taveras. Taveras, a speedster who was traded from the Astros to the Colorado Rockies as part of a deal that I refuse to mention any more, played in the Indians, Reds, Athletics, Nationals, Phillies, Braves, and Rangers systems - in various capacities - before exiting baseball at the age of 28. His agency fell apart, and as a result, he missed the 2012 season entirely, but playing winter ball helped get him signed by the Royals heading into this season, thus marking the return of the king of something.

What Happened Was...

Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA) - The Omaha Storm Chasers (KCR) scored two weird ones in this one: First, Willy Freaking Taveras tripled home a run off of Jarred Cosart. Second: Irving Falu scored on consecutive wild pitches by Cosart. Other than that, it was all RedHawks. Fernando Martinez tripled home two runs of his own as the RedHawks put up a three-spot in the first inning, followed by two more runs - including one more off of Martinez's bat - in the second. It would prove enough as Oklahoma City went on to win, 5-2. Also of note: Cody Clark caught Willy Taveras stealing. I'm sure Willy Taveras is no longer Willy Taveras, but still a nice job by Clark.

Oklahoma City: 29-23, 1st - Pacific Coast League American Southern

  • SS Jonathan Villar - 0/3, R, BB, 2 K, E
  • 2B Jake Elmore - 1/3, 2 R, BB, SB
  • 1B RedHawks First Baseman - 2/3, R, RBI, BB
  • RF Fernando Martinez - 1/4, 3B, R, 3 RBI, K
  • CF Che-Hsuan Lin - 1/4, RBI, SB
  • LF Marc Krauss - 2/3, 2B, BB
  • RHP Jarred Cosart - 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 7 BB, 4 K, 2 WP
  • RHP Jason Stoffel - 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Jose Valdez - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Corpus Chrisi Hooks (AA) - David Martinez looked like he was going to be a hard-luck loser, giving up two runs (one earned) over five innings but trailing, 2-0, as he handed the ball over to his piggyback mate, Michael Foltynewicz. All Folty did was strike out six Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KCR) over the remaining four innings while the offense - led by a Michael Burgess home run - pushed across a run in the sixth and five more in the seventh, as Corpus Christi won, 6-3.

Corpus Christi: 31-20, 1st - Texas League South

  • SS Ben Orloff - 3/5, R, 2 RBI
  • C Rene Garcia - 2/5, 2 RBI
  • CF George Springer - 1/4, 2B
  • RF Domingo Santana - 0/4, 2 K
  • 3B Jonathan Meyer - 2/4, 2B, R
  • LF Michael Burgess - 2/4, HR, 2 R, RBI
  • RHP David Martinez - 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Michael Foltynewicz - 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) - In addition to the aforementioned Tyler Heineman inside-the-park home run, Preston Tucker went and had himself a game with three hits, including a home run, and six RBI. Tucker has been hot lately, hitting .488/.542/.780 over his last ten games. Brady Rodgers chipped in with five scoreless innings in his start as the Jethawks beat the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 10-2.

Lancaster: 31-20, 1st - California League South

  • 2B Delino DeShields - 0/4, BB, K
  • SS Joe Sclafani - 0/4, R, SB, HBP
  • CF Andrew Aplin - 2/4, 3B, 3 R, BB, SB
  • LF Brandon Meredith - 1/4, R, RBI, BB, K, SB
  • RF Preston Tucker - 3/5, 2B, HR, R, 6 RBI
  • 1B Telvin Nash - 1/5, 2B, R, 2 K
  • C Tyler Heineman - 1/3, HR, R, 2 RBI, K, HBP
  • 3B Raoul Torrez - 2/4, 2B, R, K
  • DH Chris Epps - 2/4, 2B, R, K
  • RHP Brady Rodgers - 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
  • RHP Chris Devenski - 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Quad Cities River Bandits - Dillon Maples is a good pitcher. The Cubs' #6 prospect entering the season, he's struggled a bit in the Midwest League this year, and it sure couldn't have helped that he had to stand in against one of the most feared hitters in the minors today in Jonathan Singleton. This is a fun lineup to look at: Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa, Rio Ruiz, and Singleton. A taste of things to come, perhaps? In a weather-shortened game, the River Bandits took out the Kane County Cougars (CHC), 7-5. Not only did God decide to put an end to Jonathan Singleton's reign of terror, He also decided to grant McCullers his first professional win - so congrats, Lance! Here's to many more.

Quad Cities: 28-23, 3rd - Midwest League Western (3.5 GB)

  • CF Teoscar Hernandez - 1/2, 2 R, BB, K, SB
  • SS Carlos Correa - 2/3, 2B, 3 RBI, K
  • DH Jonathan Singleton - 2/2, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB
  • 3B Rio Ruiz - 0/3, K
  • RF Ariel Ovando - 0/3, K
  • LF Jordan Scott - 0/0, 2 R, 2 BB
  • RHP Daniel Minor - 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Richard Rodriguez - 1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Lance McCullers - 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
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