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Thoughts On Astros Minor League System Assignments

Mike over at Farmstros and the Chronicle has been all over the minor league assignment news. That finally broke Sunday evening here by Brian McTaggart, though Farmstros had almost all the spots nailed. That's why he's the go-to resource for minor league news, I guess.

What I wanted to do was hit a couple of bullet points with some notes about the assignments and maybe what the starting lineups will look like.

  • No real surprises in Oklahoma City, though I did expect Brian Esposito to be catching there instead of Robinson Cancel. Both of those guys are minor league depth, though, so it's probably a matter of organizational taste and getting the more experienced Esposito to teach the newbies like Ross Seaton about the Texas League.
  • I am continually amazed by Sergio Perez' ascent up the system. The right-hander hasn't been good since a 27 inning stint in Corpus Christi in 2008. The real reason I have a problem with him, though, is his strikeout rate is simply abysmal. It did nudge back up to 5.4 in his time at Triple-A last summer, but his walk rate was also up to 4.4. Generally speaking, guys who don't strike people out at a good clip and walk almost as many as they strike out will not succeed. I really hope Perez is at Triple-A because he was a second-round pick, because if he makes the major leagues, it might just drive me crazy.
  • No surprises on the infield at OKC. I'm intrigued to see if Jose Vallejo can do much this season after finally recovering from that nasty hand injury last season. The way that infield is set up, I imagine guys will be rotated through plenty, with Anderson Hernandez and Tommy Manzella getting the bulk of the time, while Koby Clemens and Brian Dopirak split time at first and Ozzie Navarro and Vallejo split time at third.
  • Another somewhat surprising move: J.B. Shuck should be your starting center fielder for OKC. Both Collin DeLome and Brian Bogusevic have experience playing out there, but I think the Astros will try to look at Shuck's viability there sooner rather than later.
  • In Corpus, the Astros rotation features a couple of former Colorado Rockies prospects in Jonathan Aristil and Xavier Cedeno. Aristil has more prospect cred, as Cedeno appears to have the same problem as Perez: no strikeouts. He will be moving into the rotation, though, after spending 2010 in the bullpen at High-A's Modesto and Double-A's Tulsa.
  • While OKC's bullpen is full of guys who can be serviceable but aren't really exciting, the Hooks have what could be a dominant back end. With David Carpenter, David Berner, Arcenio Leon, Mat Nevarez and Patrick Urckfitz, Corpus will feature some power arms with at least three of those guys who could be big-league closers someday. I probably like Berner more than most, but he's an underrated bullpen arm who thrived in the tough Cal League last season. I'm not as big a fan of Nevarez, but he definitely has shown flashes of greatness in the past.
  • Also key? Five pitchers at Double- and Triple-A who Ed Wade picked up in trades. This system is slowly gaining depth. Slowly.
  • Jimmy Van Ostrand will continue to do his thing for the Hooks at first base. At least, until Kody Hinze or Tyler Burnett pops up from High-A or Low-A. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Brandon Barnes or super-utility guy Andrew Simunic getting some looks at first.
  • It also looks like the Astros are sticking with Jimmy Paredes at second base with Wladimir Sutil at short and David Flores at third. Flores is a very average guy there, so I wouldn't be surprised to see former fifth-round pick Brandon Wikoff stealing some time there if he starts hitting again.
  • That outfield in Corpus will also be very good defensively, with Jon Gaston in right, T.J. Steele in center and J.D. Martinez in left. Martinez is a pretty good outfielder, if limited in range and he's probably the weakest of the group.
  • Really excited by the offensive potential in Lancaster this season. Jay Austin, Ben Heath, Austin Wates, Jose Altuve, the aforementioned Hinze and Jonathan Villar could really make a potent lineup, both with speed and power. Even guys like Jonathan Meyer, who figures to slot into third base with a fully-recovered Erik Castro, have good offensive upside. Expect Miguel Arrendell to get starts at third till Castro proves he's all the way back from the injury that ended his 2010 season.
  • He's been mentioned in passing before, but a guy who could really break out with a big year in that thin desert air is Jake Goebbert. The former Northwestern star is polished and really impressed some people in the Astros organization over the winter and in spring ball.
  • Don't look for high-profile guys in this rotation, but it's still an intriguing bunch. I've liked Jose Cisnero for a while now, but I'm not sure how his stuff will hold up to the Cal League. Same with Bobby Doran, Robby Donovan, James Robinson and James Buchanan. Could be some very pedestrian numbers put up by this group, though.
  • If I told you that three starters would make it to High-A after being drafted last summer, would you have guessed Doran, Robinson and Buchanan?
  • On the flip side, Lexington's rotation will feature a pair of guys who have stalled a bit. Tanner Bushue's fastball just lacks a bit of velocity, so I can understand the decision to hold him back for another season in the Sally. No good would come of throwing him to the wolves of the Cal League and he's still young enough not to be out of place in Lexington. Brad Dydalewicz looks like he may be running out of chances, though, after he falls back to Lexington. He wasn't particularly good in 2010 at either Lexington or Lancaster, so this may be an important season in his development.
  • I'm impressed with the Astros catching depth at this point. The team obviously has some confidence in Roberto Pena's skills, since they assigned him and Chris Wallace to Lexington. Both should provide a good defensive presence for that rotation.
  • Looks like Telvin Nash has made the full-on transition to first base. There are only three outfielders listed on Lexington's roster, so I wouldn't rule out him getting the occasional start in left field (maybe with Kike Hernandez or Tyler Burnett moving out there too). It's really interesting, because I really like both Burnett's and Nash's power potential, but it'll be hard to get them both at-bats. I guess one could always DH, which may be where Nash gets a bulk of his time.
  • The other parts of that infield look like Delino DeShields, Jr. and Kike Hernandez splitting time at second, Mike Kvasnicka at third and Jiovanni Mier at short, repeating the Sally in the hopes that he can show a bit more on offense with his more chiseled frame.
  • All three of the outfielders in Lexington are below-the-radar guys who could have good years. Bryce Lane was very good in limited playing time after the draft, as was Dan Adamson. I'm sure they'll mix and match a bit here, too, and this might be a spot where a college draft pick gets a chance to shine towards the end of the season.