I've always been of the opinion that it isn't that difficult to build a strong bullpen solely through the draft and low profile trades. Relief pitching prospects are all too frequently overlooked, and they are often the fastest to rise and succeed at the major league level. While the value that they provide may be limited, a strong 'pen is a near-necessity for any contending club, and the makings of one are beginning to come together on the Astros' farm.
They are yet to use a high draft pick on a reliever who is able to contribute in the short-to-medium term, like the Dodgers did with Paco Rodriguez or the Red Sox with Austin Maddox, but they did emphasize potential relief arms from the college ranks in the late rounds of the 2013 draft and in the undrafted free agent pool. Chris Cotton, LSU's closer and a four-year star in Baton Rouge, is a great example of this strategy, as are Troy Scribner, Sebastian Kessay and Kevin Ferguson, among others- highly successful small-school starting pitchers who have gotten off to great starts as relievers in their professional debuts.
Combining the promise in the low minors with some Ed Wade era holdovers such as Jason Stoffel and Josh Zeid, who both look near-ready to make their major league debuts, it is easy to envision a time in the not too distant future when Astros fans are free from the wicked choking habits of Hector Ambriz, et al.
Sleeping Giant Ruiz Racks Up Three Hits in QC Loss
Rio Ruiz rightfully got a lot of hype after signing for an overslot bonus in the fourth round last year, but he has had minimal success in Quad Cities in his first professional season. This is to be expected, as Ruiz missed his entire senior season with a blood clot issue and even had he not, Quad Cities would be an aggressive assignment. Lately, though, the 19 year old Ruiz has shown signs of gaining traction. On Friday, the left handed hitting third baseman laced two doubles and added a single, raising his season average to .225. Now 10 for his last 33, the multi-hit game was his third in his last eight contests and though he's not on fire, he's putting the ball in play more and could break out down the stretch to earn a spot on Lancaster's 2014 roster.
Stassi, Tucker Stay Hot as Hooks Triumph
Max Stassi's promotion to Double-A was rocky, but lately he's been a laser show and Friday night was no exception. Coming into the night with seven hits in his last two contests including two home runs, Stassi added another long ball as well as a double in his five plate appearances to raise his season average to .258. Now sporting a respectable .760 OPS, Stassi appears to be getting his footing in AA and is really starting to look like a part of the Astros' future. Preston Tucker, a new Hook, smacked two doubles and walked in his third game with Corpus Christi.
OKC Plays Two, New RedHawks Announce Arrivals
The Astros' Triple-A affiliate recently welcomed two Texas League all stars to its roster in Jake Buchanan and George Springer, and during Friday's double header they both made impressions. Buchanan came away with a win after tossing five two-run frames and striking out two against just four baserunners, and Springer hit his 20th home run of the season and first at AAA, giving him his second consecutive 20/20 season in the minor leagues. Springer also notched a double and two walks between the two contests, and though he's struggled marginally out of the Triple-A gates, yesterday's action could be a sign of things to come. Jason Stoffel recorded five outs without allowing a baserunner to earn a win and lower his season ERA to 1.72.
George Springer's first Class AAA home run.
GCL Astros (Rk.)
Jason Martin- 1 for 4, BB, K, CS
Tyler White- 3 for 4, HR
Brett Booth- 1 for 2, 2 BB, K
Luis Reynoso- 1 for 3, BB, K
Javaris Reynolds- 0 for 4, 3 K
Troy Scribner- 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
Kevin Ferguson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
Greeneville Astros (Rk.)
Tanner Mathis- 2 for 4, 3 BB
Ariel Ovando- 2 for 5, BB, 2 K
Wallace Gonzalez- 2 for 5, HR, 2 K
Frederick Tiburcio- 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HRA
Tyler Brunnemann- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 H
Gerardo Ramirez- 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K
Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
Teoscar Hernandez- 0 for 4, K
Carlos Correa- 0 for 4
Rio Ruiz- 3 for 4, 2 2B
Brett Phillips- 0 for 3, K
Lance McCullers, Jr. - 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K
Lancaster JetHawks (A+)
Nolan Fontana- 1 for 5, K
Andrew Aplin- 0 for 4, BB
MP Cokinos- 1 for 4, BB
Tyler Heineman- 0 for 4, K
Matt Duffy- 2 for 2, 2B, 2 BB
David Rollins- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Travis Ballew- 0.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HRA
Corpus Christi (AA)
Preston Tucker- 2 for 4, 2 2B, BB, K
Jiovanni Mier- 1 for 3, 2B, K
Max Stassi- 2 for 5, 2B, HR
Hatt Heidenreich- 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Kenny Long- 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA)
Jonathan Villar- 4 for 9, 2B, HR, 2 K
Marwin Gonzalez- 1 for 7, BB
Jonathan Singleton- 2 for 9, 5 K
George Springer- 2 for 5, 2B, HR, 2 BB, 2 K
Jake Buchanan- 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K
Josh Zeid- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, SV
Brett Oberholtzer- 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Jason Stoffel- 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K