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Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

Today we're stealing a page from the Wednesday playbook and doing the Minor Thoughts as an awards show and stock watch. First up, the minor leaguers of May:

Round Rock Express (Triple-A)

Hitter of the Month: Drew Locke, 1B/OF - After a terribly slow month of April, Locke couldn't have had a different May. I'm talking hitting .179 in April and .337 in May, complete with six home runs and 13 extra-base hits. Locke also picked up his walks to offset his strikeouts. His on-base percentage is still very low on the season, but he posted a .400 OBP in May. Locke is part of an offensive explosion in Round Rock, but he's been the best of the bunch. 

Pitcher of the Month: Josh Banks, RHP - I don't like listing Banks here. It's not that I have anything against the guy; I'm sure he's a decent human being and all. My problem is with his 16 to 11 strikeout to walk ratio in May or his 16 K's coming in 36 1/3 innings. That's why his ERA is 3.68 but his FIP is at 5.43; his success is based mainly on his ground ball rate keeping his BABiP low at .285. The problem is none of Round Rock's starters were very good last month. So, Banks gets the award. Begrudgingly.

Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-A)

Hitter of the Month: Jonathan Gaston, OF -  The power hasn't been there this season for Gaston. Six extra-base hits in May definitely gets things started in the right direction. After struggling early on, his OBP is pretty solid. He's never going to have a low strikeout rate, but if his raw power translates outside of Lancaster, I will be very pleased.

Pitcher of the Month: Douglas Arguello, LHP - The lefty isn't a hard thrower, but he's able to strike out guys at a good clip, while holding down his walk rate. The fact that his ERA stayed under 2 for May also helped. He's also only given up one home run this season, and that came in June. So, it's even more perplexing why Arguello is still toiling by the bay when Sergio Perez got called up to Round Rock. 

Lancaster JetHawks (HIgh A)

Hitter of the Month: Albert Cartwright, 2B - A second straight award for Cartwright continues his stellar season. His walk rate increased in May, but his strikeouts remained pretty set. He's also stealing bases at a good clip, making a very intriguing power/speed combination. Nine steals in 13 attempts combined with 14 extra-base hits? Before too long, Cartwright will be wearing a Hooks hat and we'll be talking about him succeeding Keppinger in a couple years.

Pitcher of the Month: Dallas Keuchel, LHP - 33 strikeouts in 38 innings during May, including a complete game hide his extreme ground ball rate. That probably explains Keuchel's numbers dropping in the second month, and why he's able t succeed in the launching pad of Lancaster. An advanced college pitcher, we'll probably see Keuchel in Corpus before too long.

Lexington Legends (Low A)

Hitter of the Month: J.D. Martinez, 1B/OF - As good as Martinez was in April, he outdid himself in May. He hit more home runs and doubles while raising his batting average and on-base percentage. Martinez is about as complete a hitter as the Astros have in their system. With Kody Hinze also needing playing time, I'm not sure why he hasn't been promoted to Lancaster. 

Pitcher of the Month: Robert Donovan, RHP - Donovan may be Exhibit No. 1 why pitchers need more of a track record than the South Atlantic League before they are considered a legitimate prospect. Donovan's strikeout rate is positively pedestrian at 4.50 per nine innings. You can't say it's because of his control, either, as he's walked over three an inning. Still, Donovan seems to be holding hitters down somehow and will probably need to be tested at a higher level before we know if he's legit.

Minor League Stock Watch

Michael Garciaparra - In eight games with Round Rock in May, Garciaparra hit well. He's a good infielder, but I'm not sure whether he's a prospect or not. What I wanted to point out is that he was a pitcher as recently as 2007. How did I not know this? He's playing at Triple-A as a third baseman and he only switched a couple of years ago? Inconceivable!

Jason Bourgeois - Another guy who's hitting the cover off the ball. He had a .375 batting average in May, but wasn't nearly as successful stealing bases. The reason he didn't get more consideration for HOM is that he only walked four times, but struck out a ton. His April and May months have been remarkably consistent and he looks like an excellent fill-in should one of the big-leaguers go down with an injury.

Jason Castro - Solid on-base percentage the past two months. The big difference is that a few more of Castro's hits have been falling. His power hasn't surfaced, but with his defense, if he hits .280 with a .380 OBP, he's a definite upgrade to the big league roster. Like yesterday.

Andy Van Hekken - The 30-year old was a bit lucky in April and he's been a bit unlucky in May. His FIP jumped two runs, due to a drop in his strikeout rate. Van Hekken was never a good prospect, but his performance suggested he might be a bullpen arm if the Astros kept having injuries. Now, he might just been organizational depth.

T.J. Steele - Boy, Steele's K rate is still sky high, he's not getting on base, but his numbers rebounded in a big way in May. The power isn't there, but it may not ever develop. That .411 BABiP is just asking for regression, but it's nice to see his line drive rate over 20 percent. Steele gets a large heap of my scorn for the shameless way he's been plugged by the team. 

J.B. Shuck - It was really a coin toss between Shuck and Gaston for HOM. The thing I like most about Shuck? He's got a great line drive rate and hardly ever hits fly balls. That means he knows what kind of player he is and plays to his strengths. That and he gets on base a ton. Shuck did have some trouble with steals, getting caught five of six times in May, but that may have just been a bad run (pardon the pun). 

John Curtis - Who is this guy? Glad you asked. John Curtis was drafted in 2007 by the White Sox out of Cal State Fullerton. He was recently signed by the Astros and assigned to Lancaster after Jordan Comadena was demoted to Lexington. He hasn't been impressive, but he's also not really expected to do much. 

Ross Seaton - People can be disappointed with Seaton all they want. He's doing fairly in Lancaster, though his numbers don't reflect that. One of the biggest concerns with Seaton, both last season and this one, has been his strikeout rate. In May, that ticked up to over 6 K/9. I'll take that in that ballpark. Seaton has been prone to be streaky, and he might just need some time to control his mechanics. I'm not sure Seaton will ever be a big strikeout guy, but he's got good control and should move up to Double-A before the season is out.

Kyle Greenwalt - While he was pretty good in April, Greenwalt returned from an injury to bad results. I'm not sure if his mechanics got messed up after the injury or he came back too soon. Lancaster is a notoriously bad place for pitchers, and probably isn't friendly on a guy who's rehabbing. Hopefully, June will see him turn back to succeeding in the Hangar.

Jonathan Meyer - Talk about falling off a cliff in May. Meyer hit .181/.230/.213 after a great month of April. What happened? Well, his ground ball rate ticked up quite a bit, his BABiP fell about 150 points and he hit more infield flies when he did get some loft on the ball. Notice there was no change in his line drive rate. I'm not sure what happened with Meyer, but I suspect pitchers adjusted to his style and he hasn't responded yet. I'm confident he will find a new approach, but I'm a little more bearish on him than a month ago.

Jio Mier - I am officially worried about Mier. The defense is there and his speed showed up a bit last month, as he was successful on all five of his steal attempts. However, his walk rate died and he's not making any more contact than in April. He could be pressing, he could be taking good approaches but not getting results. I'm reminded of that FanGraphs piece about how the successful first-round shortstops all succeeded at Low A ball. We've still got three months left in this season, so we'll hope Mier gets things turned around.

Luis Cruz - He and his electric fastball got called up to Lexington from extended spring training. He hasn't disappointed, even if his ERA is a little high. Due to a ton of strikeouts, his FIP looks great and his BABiP is just way too high right now. We're also talking about a very small sample size, but I'm glad to see Cruz excelling.

Wander Alvino - I like Alvino, and I wonder why he's not starting games for Lexington. He's got a very solid K/BB ratio and his composite numbers have looked solid all year. His main problem in April was giving up too many fly balls, but he seems to have fixed that in May. He's not young at 23, and the Astros are giving him relief appearances of two and three innings, so we'll see whether he steps into the rotation after the draft.

Jose Cisnero - While Cisnero has been a strikeout machine (9.31 K/9 in May), he's also had plenty of control problems. That leads to an FIP over six even though his BABiP is still low at .260. Cisnero has also seen a spike in his home run rate, but since his HR/FB rate has also spiked, this may be more due to luck than a skill issue.

Tanner Bushue - Bushue's strikeout rate remains impressive. The main reason his numbers have jumped in May is that he's given up a ton more home runs. Zach Levine's most recent report on him mentioned his velocity is down. That's probably the reason for the increased home run rate. Still, you have to like his swing-and-miss stuff.