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MiLB Recap- July 20th, 2013

Nick Tropeano got back on track with a very strong start on Saturday. Included in today's recap is an in-depth look at his performance yesterday and his stock as a prospect.

It didn't take long for Nick Tropeano to become a popular sleeper in the minds of both Astros fans and leaguewide prospect enthusiasts after he was selected in 2011's fifth round out of SUNY Stony Brook. A polished college arm, he terrorized the NYPL with a 63/21 K/BB ratio in 53.1 IP, allowing just 42 hits, and in the jump to full season ball last year he posted a 3.02 ERA and 166 strikeouts across two levels. Progressing to the high minors this year, Tropeano got off to a phenomenal start before wavering some and watching his ERA drift north of 4.00. His strikeout rate has dipped below 1 per inning, but his walk rates remain strong. He has struggled with being hittable, and home runs have been a bit of an issue as well. Based on the numbers, Tropeano looks like a back-end of the rotation guy, but that's not where most had him pegged coming into the year. So what exactly is NiTro at this point? The future #3 we all saw in 2012 and early this year, or the "just a guy" the numbers have pointed at him being at times in 2013? Last night, I took a good, hard look at Tropeano's July 20th outing, and my takeaway was very positive.

Tropeano has broad shoulders, wide hips and a thick lower half- everything you want to see in a workhorse pitcher, and his fastball velocity holds up really well inning-to-inning. With a frame like his, his steady fastball zip is a trait he should have in his favor for a long time. Fastball command seems to be the biggest thing that Tropeano is working on right now. Though his offspeed stuff looks sharp, he is pitching overwhelmingly off of his heater, with the focus on keeping the ball down. Given his trouble with home runs, it's not surprising that the club is stressing pitching low in the zone. For the most part, on Saturday he was hitting his spots very well. He is comfortable throwing to both sides of the plate. He loves to throw in on the hands of hitters or down and away with his fastball, and when he's able to hit those spots with authority he's very tough to square up. His fastball is pretty flat, which is a bit of an issue, but if he can pitch with the kind of command he had on Saturday with consistency, it won't be something that holds him back.

Tropeano's offspeed stuff is what stood out to me the most last night. His changeup has always been what he has stood out for, and it looks as strong as ever. The pitch runs and bites and he can hit the corners with it. It plays tremendously off of his fastball- he ties up hitters with fastballs on their hands before throwing a change that starts right down the pipe before diving low and away, with hitters often looking silly swinging over the top of it. It's a plus pitch, on par with some of the best changeups in the minors. Though his change has never drawn criticism, his breaking balls have. After experimenting with a curve and slider earlier in his career, NiTro has scrapped the curve and now throws a very solid slider. A fairly vanilla pitch with classic hard, late drop, Trope's slider is more likely to induce weak contact than swings and misses, but it's now a legitimate third pitch to keep hitters off balance and it has fairly consistent shape. Tropeano still doesn't have blow you away stuff, but he's better than the guy who was getting touched up for home runs every start, and when he pitches like he did on Saturday, he looks a hell of a lot like a #3 starter. There are a lot of talented pitchers in the Astros' system, but Tropeano should continue to rank in the system's top 15 even with his at times mediocre performance this season.

Brunnemann's Command, White's Bat Making Waves

Though lacking in high picks or big names, this year's Greeneville team has been a very fun follow given its saturation with intriguing small school prospects who we are getting our first real look at now. Two such prospects are first baseman Tyler White, a 22 year old out of Western Carolina and Tyler "Pillsbury Doughboy" Brunnemann, a right handed hurler who may not have the most athletic build but has been pitching out of his mind since being a 40th round pick. White pounded GCL pitching and has done the same so far in Greeneville, hitting .429 with walks and home runs abound since making the jump to the Appy League. Though old for the league his stats are tough to ignore, and it's entirely possible that he gets some at bats at Quad Cities at the end of this season. Brunneman, on the other hand, has now strung together 11.2 scoreless IP in his last 8 appearances, and he has allowed just 4 hits in that stretch. He has a 21/2 K/BB ratio this year, and chunky as he may look on the mound, the results thus far have been no joke.

Last Night's Notable Lines

GCL Astros (Rk.)

Brett Booth- 2 for 4, 2 B, K

Jacob Nottingham- 1 for 3, BB, 2 K

Luis Reynoso- 0 for 2, 2 K

Jason Martin- 0 for 1, K

Troy Scribner- 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 10 K

Greeneville Astros (Rk.)

Brett Phillips- 1 for 4, 2B, BB

Tyler White- 1 for 3, 2B, 2 BB

Brian Holberton- 1 for 3, HR, 2 BB

Tyler Brunnemann- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

Tri-City ValleyCats (SS)

Tony Kemp- 1 for 5, K

James Ramsay- 2 for 3, BB

Conrad Gregor- 1 for 3, 2B, BB

Jake Rodriguez- 0 for 4, 2 K

Jon Kemmer- 0 for 4, K

D'Andre Toney- 1 for 3, K, CS

Randall Fant- 5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K

Quad Cities River Bandits (A)

Teoscar Hernandez- 1 for 4, HR

Carlos Correa- 0 for 4, K

Rio Ruiz- 2 for 4

Dan Gulbransen- 0 for 4

Chris Devenski- 4 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 2 HRA

Lancaster JetHawks (A+)

Delino DeShields- 3 for 5, 2B, 2 SB

Nolan Fontana- 0 for 4, 3 K

Andrew Aplin- 0 for 5, 2 K

M.P. Cokinos- 1 for 4

Matt Duffy- 2 for 3, HR

Brady Rodgers- 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)

Rene Garcia- 2 for 5, K

Preston Tucker- 1 for 5, 2B

Jonathan Meyer- 2 for 5, K

Domingo Santana- 0 for 2, 2 BB, K

Max Stassi- 1 for 3, HR, K

Jiovanni Mier- 1 for 4

Nick Tropeano- 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA)

Robbie Grossman- 5 for 5, 3B

Jonathan Villar- 0 for 3, 2 BB

George Springer- 0 for 4, K

Marwin Gonzalez- 2 for 5

Jimmy Paredes- 2 for 5

Jonathan Singleton- 1 for 5, 2 K

Carlos Perez- 2 for 4, 2 K

Jake Buchanan- 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 5 K

Rhiner Cruz- 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 1 K