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Houston Astros Minor League Recap: 8/6/13

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Lancaster falls one run short of making it a majors-wide sweep.

Scott Halleran

July All-Prospect Team

The first thing I'm going to talk about is the July version of Baseball America's monthly "All-Prospect Team." Three Astros prospects made the list - Max Stassi, Delino DeShields, and George Springer. More on Springer later. Stassi was also awarded the Texas League's Offensive Player of the Week award.

Smilin' Max Stassi

Max Stassi, the TOPPS Texas League Player of the Month, has earned quite a few accolades for his play this season. The least-heralded part of the Jed Lowrie trade, he's making believers of a lot of people. Matt Rogers compares him to Todd Greene and former University of Houston pitcher Jimmie Cherry.

More Tools Than a Home Depot Warehouse

The Baseball America team has made their picks for the best tools at each full-season level of the minors: Low-A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.

In the Midwest League, Lance McCullers Jr. walked away with "Best Breaking Pitch," while Carlos Correa got both "Best Defensive SS" and "Best Infield Arm."

In the California League, no surprise, Nolan Fontana was awarded "Best Strike-Zone Judgement."

In the Texas League, it was all George Springer, all the time. "Best Batting Prospect," "Best Power Prospect," "Best Defensive Outfielder," and "Most Exciting Player." Mike Foltynewicz grabbed "Best Pitching Prospect," "Best Fastball," and "Best Breaking Pitch." David Martinez got "Best Control." And Jonathan Meyer was awarded "Best Defensive 3B" and "Best Infield Arm."

In the Pacific Coast League, Jonathan Villar walked away with "Best Defensive SS" and "Best Infield Arm" (that's becoming a theme.) Che-Hsuan Lin (!) won "Best Outfield Arm." And George Springer won "Most Exciting Player."

Sound familiar? That's right. George Springer is the most exciting prospect in two different minor leagues!

Is it just me, or is this mental countdown to Springer's debut really fun? Within a month, the Astros will unleash this Manbeast on the baseball world. It's been fun to watch Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar make their debuts. Jarred Cosart has given us a glimpse of a future full of competitive ballgames. But the George Springer era, for better or worse, is going to change everything. Right?

Not So Fast, My Friends

It's something I talk about a lot: Taking prospects for granted. As much as we like to dream on Delino DeShields,Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, Carlos Correa, and the rest of our top prospects, history has taught us that we'd be very lucky if three of them became very good major leaguers. The bust rates on prospects - even on top prospects - is higher than a lot of people realize. That's why building the depth that we have in the minors is such a good thing. It creates a lot more options.

One of the first "can't-miss" prospects I remember ever hearing about was a guy named Andy Marte. Marte was a corner infielder in the Braves - and later the Indians - system. And he's one of the focuses of an excellent article that Matthew Kory wrote about "can't-miss" prospects.

In the end, we missed on Marte, but we didn't miss anything particularly massive. It seems to be a bunch of small things that either didn't develop, never improved or even got worse. But that's all in retrospect. It's much harder to look at the 20-year-old Marte and say, that guy won't ever amount to anything. Even if you downgrade the hype, at the time he still looked very good. He still looked like an above-average major leaguer.

The whole article is worth a read for any prospect hound. Matthew is an exceptional writer, and I'm thrilled to link to him in this article.

I don't say this as a way of dampening your Springer Fever. I think you should embrace it. Feel it. Love it. But remember that even the can't-missiest prospect in the world can, in fact, miss.

More Baseball America

Lots of goodies from Baseball America this week. In his Prospect Notebook, Jim Shonerd talked about Josh Hader's Astros-system debut. Hader was part of the return on the Bud Norris trade, along with L.J. Hoes and a draft pick, and his debut was pretty astonishing, as he allowed just one hit over six shutout innings. Shonerd's article is part of a series - also profiled Hader's debut, and the Quad Cities Times got in on the fun, as well.

The Old Maize & Blue

We've talked a little bit through the last week about the coaching staff in Oklahoma City. Tony DeFrancesco and his coaches - as well as the coaches throughout the system, from Morgan Ensberg to Adam Everett to Vince Coleman and beyond - have really done a phenomenal job this year. That's why I was so excited to see this Q&A with Oklahoma City hitting coach Leon Roberts on News OK.

Is George Springer one of the top hitters you've worked with?

The closest person I've come across in all my years is Andruw Jones. Springer is still just a puppy. He's had a good career up until now. He's just now starting to tap into his potential. He's a five-tool guy with a lot of talent. The best thing I like about him is his mentality, how he goes about things. He doesn't ever get too frustrated. He understands what he needs to do. What little, simple suggestions I give him he looks at me like, ‘Don't worry coach, I've got it.' He picks up on things pretty easy. He has an impressive overall package, a really bright future.

I wish I could just paste the whole thing here, but you really do need to go over there and read it. It's a fantastic piece of work by Michael Baldwin.

What Happened Was...

Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA) - The RedHawks were cruising along against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (COL) on a strong start by Paul Clemens, who allowed just two hits and no walks through five shutout innings before handing the ball off to Philip Humber, who did what he's done so often this year. After pitching a clean frame with no baserunners, Humber took the mound for the seventh inning and promptly gave up a home run to Reid Brignac. He struck out Ryan Wheeler, and then proceeded to allow two more runs on a walk, a double, and a single before Alex Sogard came in to finish the inning - but the RedHawks offense had collected six runs of their own in the third inning off of starter Collin McHugh, and the rest of the bullpen hung on to win, 6-3. The RedHawks now own a club-record 12-game winning streak - one in every single game of their homestand. They have a day off before they hit the road to face jsams' hometown Las Vegas 51s (NYM).

Oklahoma City: 68-50, 1st - Pacific Coast League American Southern

  • LF Trevor Crowe - 2/4, 2B, R
  • DH Jimmy Paredes - 1/4, 2B, R, RBI, K
  • CF George Springer - 0/3, R, RBI, K
  • 3B Brandon Laird - 1/4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, 2 K
  • SS Marwin Gonzalez - 1/4, 2B, K
  • 1B Jonathan Singleton - 0/2, R, 2 BB
  • 2B Jose Martinez - 3/4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI
  • RHP Paul Clemens - 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Philip Humber - 1.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) - Let's cut to the chase and congratulate David Martinez on setting the Hooks' single-season record with 14 wins. He had a healthy dose of run support for this one, with the Hooks scoring in each of the first two innings (including a Max Stassi home run), as well as the fifth (on a Preston Tucker home run), to take a 4-2 lead over Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' top prospect per Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Corpus Christi exploded for three more runs. With the 7-2 lead, Martinez took the mound in the ninth - but after getting the first batter of the inning out, he was replaced by Andrew Robinson, who allowed a home run before shutting the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KCR) down for a 7-3 win. All three Naturals' runs came on home runs.

Corpus Christi: 27-18, t-1st - Texas League South
  • SS Ronald Torreyes - 1/5, 2B, 3 RBI, K (!)
  • RF/LF Preston Tucker - 1/5, HR, R, RBI, 3 K
  • C Max Stassi - 1/4, HR, R, RBI, K
  • CF/RF Domingo Santana - 1/2, 2B, R, BB, HBP, SB
  • 3B Jonathan Meyer - 2/3, 2 R, BB, K
  • DH Matt Duffy - 2/4, R, RBI, K
  • RHP David Martinez - 8.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) - For those of you who are used to the heavy offensive environments of the Cal League South, it might surprise you to learn that many of the North Division parks - Modesto, in particular - are known to suppress runs. Such was the setting for a pitching duel between Luis Cruz and the Modesto Nuts' (COL) Ben Alsup. Cruz pitched well, but was hampered in the first inning by errors: One by the newest Jethawk, Dan Gulbransen, and another by Tyler Heineman. Two runs came across to score. From there, the Jethawks offense set to work against Alsup, but he was equal to the challenge. After he was chased in the 7th inning, Lancaster's offense battled back, but ultimately fell, 2-1. This promises to be an exciting three-game series between last year's California League Championship participants, with the real fun coming on Thursday, when Jonathan Gray will take the mound against Lancaster. If my math is correct, he will be facing Kyle Smith in his second start since being traded for Justin Maxwell.

Lancaster: 28-17, 1st - California League North
  • 2B Delino DeShields - 0/4, RBI
  • SS Nolan Fontana - 0/4, 0 BB (!), 2 K
  • CF Andrew Aplin - 0/3, BB, SB
  • 1B Jesse Wierzbicki - 2/4
  • LF Dan Gulbransen - 2/4, 2B, 2 K, E
  • 3B Joe Sclafani - 1/4, 2B
  • RF Chris Epps - 0/3, 2 K
  • LHP Luis Cruz - 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HBP
  • RHP Jordan Jankowski - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Quad Cities River Bandits (A) - In true Steve Young fashion, Mark Appel tore the monkey from his back by getting his first professional win. There is an extremely good chance that it won't be his last. Despite a lack of strikeouts, Appel was generating weak contact from moment one, getting 12 groundouts to 2 flyouts, allowing just two hits, one walk, and zero earned runs over five innings. Patrick Christensen made up for the strikeout differential, tallying five of them over three innings. Mitchell Lambson allowed a leadoff double in the ninth, but then struck out the side to preserve the 7-2 victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN).

Quad Cities: 27-16, 1st - Midwest League Western
  • 2B Tony Kemp - 0/4, 2 K, E
  • SS Carlos Correa - 2/4, 2 2B, R, RBI, CS
  • 1B Bobby Borchering - 1/4, HR, R, 2 RBI, K
  • C Roberto Pena - 2/4, 2 2B, 2 R
  • DH Brian Blasik - 2/3, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
  • RHP Mark Appel - 5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Patrick Christensen - 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
  • LHP Mitchell Lambson - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) - Kevin Comer, Randall Fant, Evan Grills, and Tyler Brunnemann teamed up to strike out twelve Williamsport Crosscutters (PHI) batters while walking just one. In fact, the ValleyCats pitchers hit more batters (two) they walked. Meanwhile, the offense exploded for fourteen hits, with D'Andre Toney getting his second home run of the season. Things were going so well that Ed Romero even let Adam Nelubowich make an appearance - his first since July 31st. Unfortunately, he struck out in it. Nelubowich is now hitting .149/.180/.149 as a professional, and no doubt has a ticket to Greeneville in his near future. Tri-City wins this one running away, 10-2.

Tri-City: 28-21, t-1st - New York-Penn League Stedler
  • LF D'Andre Toney - 1/4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB
  • CF James Ramsay - 2/5, 2B
  • 1B Conrad Gregor - 3/4, 2B, 2 R, K
  • DH Michael Martinez - 3/4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, HBP
  • RF Ronnie Mitchell - 2/3, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, E
  • RHP Kevin Comer - 3.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
  • LHP Randall Fant - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Evan Grills - 4.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
  • RHP Tyler Brunnemann - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Greeneville Astros (Rk) - It's easy to look at Brian Holberton's .222 batting average and wonder what the Astros saw in him. Then you remember his college career - when he was moved off of catcher to keep his bat in the Tarheels lineup. When he helped lead his team deep into the postseason. So you look a little closer, and you realize that he still has an OPS of .800, despite the batting average. He's drawn nine walks over his last ten games, striking out just six times, and has five extra base hits over that timeframe - including three home runs, one of which came in this game - a solo shot in the top of the sixth to tie the game. Then he doubled home another run in the eighth, which would prove to be the game-winner. Astros win, 2-1, behind a strong pitching performance by Edison Frias.

Greeneville: 29-15, 1st - Appalachian League West
  • CF Marc Wik - 1/3, BB
  • 1B Chase McDonald - 1/4, 2 K
  • C Brian Holberton - 2/3, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB
  • RHP Edison Frias - 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, WP
  • RHP Chris Munnelly - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
  • RHP Raul Rivera - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Gonzalo Sanudo - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
GCL Astros (Rk) - Joe Musgrove picked up his first win with a nice outing, as well as some strong hitting behind him. Despite just one extra-base hit, the Astros strung together a total of 11 hits, beating the GCL Yankees1 (NYY) 6-2. Jason Martin's nine-game hitting streak came to an end, but he walked, to extend his on-base streak to ten. Did I mention he's still just 17?

GCL Astros: 20-19, 3rd (3.5 GB) - Gulf Coast League Northeast
  • DH Jean Batista - 2/4, RBI, BB, K
  • 1B Yonathan Mejia - 2/5, K
  • 3B Jose Solano - 3/4, 2 R, SB
  • RF Ydarqui Marte - 2/3, 2 RBI, BB, CS, E
  • RHP Luis Ordosgoitti (I've nailed Wojciechowski and Foltynewicz... this one I may never get) - 3.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Joe Musgrove - 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, WP
DSL Astros (Rk) - DSL Astros 6, DSL Athletics (OAK) 2.

DSL Astros: 30-25, 3rd (6.0 GB) - Dominican Summer League Boca Chica Northwest
  • DH Randy Cesar - 3/4, R, RBI
  • 1B Hector Roa - 1/4, HR, R, RBI
  • RHP Harold Arauz - 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K