Although the Arizona Fall League finished up play this past Saturday, there is still professional-ish baseball going in the world. Take the Caribbean Leagues, for instance. Much like the AFL, the four nations which comprise the CWL (Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico) play host to a myriad of baseball talent- ranging from established major leaguers like Conor Jackson, to familiar faces who are hoping against hope for one more shot. There are no Strasburgs, Ackleys or Castros (Jason or Starlin), but there are stories worth following especially for Astros fans.
While the Astros are hoarding arms on their 40 man roster like some sort of defiant rogue state, young pitchers Wesley Wright, Fernando Abad and Jose Capellan are performing well in the Dominican. Growing pains would be expecting for someone like Wesley Wright who is attempting to morph from just another left handed reliever to a 25 year old starting pitching candidate.
So far, the results have been thought provoking if nothing else. Outside of his last start, Wesley has been good if not great- striking out 10 batters in one relatively short outing. Promising also is his ground ball-fly ball out ratio against right handed hitters: 4.43:1. Sample size probably should be the reoccurring objection to that statistic, and looking at his fellow pitchers the DWL looks to be a pitching heavy league. I think the Astros should be commended for stretching Wesley out and seeing what they have with the youngster. The man threw four different pitches as a reliever- a skill that should not be wasted as a middle reliever. Wright will join Wilton Lopez and Felipe Paulino as candidates for the fifth starter's slot.
Also pitching in the Dominican are Fernando Abad and Jose Capellan. Abad was recently added to the 40 man roster, so I would assume that the Astros think there's potential in his left arm. He has displayed exceptional control as a minor leaguer (92:11 K:BB ratio this past season), and managed to survive the hitter's paradise that is Lancaster to be promoted to Corpus Christi. Projecting minor league talent is always tough, and something I try to avoid, but I do know that 1) being left handed 2) having good control and 3) striking more than one batter out per inning, are all positives. Heading into his first full AA season in 2010, something to look for with Abad is his ability to continue missing bats with his pitches. The leap from A to AA is a big one, moreso than from rookie ball to A. The Texas League is full of studly hitters, and Fernando will need to continue this upward trend if he wants to live to see Dell Diamond.
Jose Capellan was in the running to be our fifth starter just 8 months ago, but Russ Ortiz was kind enough to not only beat him out, but stink up the joint once he donned an Astro uniform. To his credit. Cappy has done well to put a terrible 2009 regular season behind him and has done his best to at least end 2009 on a good note. Unlike Abad and Wright, Cappellan is getting a bit long in the tooth for a minor leaguer and his window is quickly closing as it doesn't look like there will be many open spots on the Astros roster in 2010. His greatest skill may be getting from Round Rock to Houston in less than 2.5 hours, in the event of injury.
A month is left in the season, so Wes, Jose and Fernando should have many more opportunities to impress the team and give us reason to discuss the state of our pitching staff well into the Holiday Season.