While everyone is fixated on how the new crop of draftees and some of the high profile prior year draftees and acquisitions are doing, I decided to see if there were any intriguing under the radar prospects that might bear watching.
Here are some position players I'm keeping an eye on, by position. Let me start off by saying that, yes, I realize that many of my observations are based on very small sample sizes. I am simply identifying a few players that could be fun to watch. All stats are through Monday's games unless otherwise noted.
C Ernesto Genoves - The 21-year old from Venezuela is in his second season at Greeneville. In 2011, he hit .280/.375/.464 with a .981 fielding percentage, a 7.59 RF/G and a 31% caught stealing percentage in 38 games. Through Tuesday's game (his 21st this season) at Greeneville, he is hitting .277/.360/.446 with a .994 fielding percentage, a 8.47 RF/G and a 11% caught stealing percentage (I'm hoping that his caught stealing migrates back to the general direction of his 28% career average). He has definitely improved in the area of passed balls as he has only had one thus far this season as compared to nine for 2011.
1B/DH Erik Castro - A 10th round pick in 2009, Castro is one of the older players on this list, but what a great year he's having, hitting .297/.397/.498 with 19 doubles, a triple and 14 home runs at Lancaster. He is .284 against lefties and .301 vs. righties and appears to only be somewhat affected by the Lancaster effect as he has decent home/road splits. Although he has DH'd more than he has played 1B this season, he does have a .993 fielding percentage and a 9.00 RF/G.
2B Enrique Hernandez - A 6th round pick in 2009, Hernandez at 20 years of age is in his first season at Lancaster. He has bounced back nicely after being hampered by injuries in the 2011 season and is hitting .289/.336/.450 with 22 doubles, seven triples and four home runs. He also has very even splits between lefties (.299) and righties (.285). His home/road splits are more exaggerated than Castro, but since he's more of a line drive hitter, I don't see the Lancaster effect being a major factor. He has a .972 fielding percentage and a 5.26 RF/G at 2B, but he only played 12 games at 2B in 2011 and with him being only 20, I can see some improvement forthcoming in that area. My biggest knock on Hernandez is that his walk rate is way down from last season.
3B Darwin Rivera - A 20 year old from the Dominican, Rivera was overmatched when he played at Greeneville last season after his promotion from the DSL. Playing this season with the GCL Astros, Rivera is simply dominating as he is hitting .385/.425/.552 with seven doubles and three home runs. Yes, it's only 26 games, but he was a good hitter in his limited time in the DSL so I'm hoping he can build on that. The biggest knock on Rivera is his fielding (a 3B that can't field well - sound familiar?). He has a fielding percentage of .855, a RF/G of 2.56 and already has ten errors. This is undoubtedly the iffiest of my prospects, but still worth watching.
SS Alex Todd - A 27th round pick in 2011, the 22-year old Todd is only in his second season in the system. After hitting a combined .207 last season between Greeneville and a 16-game callup to Lancaster, he landed at Lexington to start the season where he hit .306/.388/.412 before being called back to Lancaster. He is currently hitting only .237 for Lancaster, but .289 vs. lefties. He has a .962 fielding percentage and a 5.00 RF/G as a SS for Lancaster, although his playing time at that position has been limited.
LF Chris Epps - What a story it would be if the 23-year old Epps, drafted in the 45th round in 2011, could make a go of it. Between the GCL and Tri-City last season, he hit .274/.422/.457. This season he went to Lexington from Extended Spring Training and then to Lancaster only 23 games later. And he really likes Lancaster where he has hit .305/.391/.632 with three doubles, five triples and six home runs. His slugging percentage at home is .667, but it's only .591 on the road. The craziest split for him is that the left-handed hitting Epps is hitting a ridiculous .522/.593/.826 off of lefty pitchers (only 23 AB but still...). His fielding percentage for all three outfield positions at Lancaster this season is 1.000 but his RF/G is only 1.60. He has two outfield assists in 20 games.
CF Drew Muren - The 23-year old Muren was a 22nd round pick in 2011. After putting up decent, if unremarkable, numbers at Tri-City in 2011, Muren started the year at Lexington where he hit .279/.325/.404 in 48 games before getting the call to Corpus for what everyone, including Muren, assumed was a temporary stint due to injury, promotion, and release. 25 games later, I can imagine Keith Bodie's angry phone call if Fred Nelson threatened to take Muren away as he's managed a .345/.402/.483 batting line (.375/.432/.594 over the last 10 games) in his time at Corpus. As a left-handed bat, he hits better vs. right-handed pitchers, but definitely holds his own with lefties as well. His .987 fielding percentage as a CF at Lexington dropped to .963 at Corpus with a 2.08 RF/G and a total of four outfield assists between the two locations.
RF Teoscar Hernandez - A 19-year old from the Dominican Republic, Hernandez is in his first season with the GCL Astros after excelling with the DSL team in 2011. With the DSL, he hit .274/.360/.487 with 13 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs in 65 games. He also had 16 stolen bases and seven outfield assists. In 22 games for the GCL (through Tuesday), he has hit .247/.299/.420 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, five stolen bases, and six outfield assists. His fielding percentage has been .936 with a 2.44 RF/G for both outfield positions that he has played. He is still very young, but it appears that he has a great deal of talent with which to work.
Future stars? Maybe, maybe not. Fun to watch? Definitely.
For more on the Astros farm system, visit What The Heck, Bobby? or follow me on twitter @whattheheck57.