On July 19, in Frisco, Texas, it was 75 degrees and overcast at first pitch at Dr. Pepper Ballpark. I cannot describe how nice this evening was for taking in a baseball game. By the end of the game, my wife was wearing a light sweater as the temperature was dropping into the upper 60s. Any Astros fans that live near the metroplex should really check out a game here when the Hooks come to town. The ballpark is a great place to catch a game. You can even rent a pool in right center field to use while watching.
Enough about Dr. Pepper ballpark, let's talk about the Hooks. Here are some scatter shooting style observations from the game.
Tony Kemp is a good baseball player.
He led the game off and immediately began working a count. He fouled off pitch after pitch and finally drew an 11-pitch walk. The picture above is one of the foul balls he accumulated during his 1st at bat. His speed worried the pitcher also as he threw over to first a few times before he was sacrificed over to 2nd by Delino DeShields Jr. In his next at bat, he flashed pop that I did not know he had. He drove a 1-0 fastball opposite field that hit the top of the wall about 12 inches away from being a homerun. It would have easily landed in the Crawfish Boxes at Minute Maid Park.
Later in the game, Kemp flashed his defensive ability diving and back handing a hot shot to his right (see the gif below in Chris Devenski's blurb). He was shifted due to the pull nature of the left handed hitter that was up. Off the bat, I didn't think he was going to make the play. The one thing that I saw from Kemp in the field that was questionable was his arm strength. I know some people have been asking about Kemp playing in the outfield due to Altuve. His arm would keep him from being plus in the outfield, but I could see his speed and reaction time being above average in left field.
I really like what Tony Kemp brings to the table overall. He hits the ball, but he is a pitcher's nightmare when it comes to striking him out. Overall, you can tell he is a fierce competitor and a ball of energy.
Delino DeShields Jr. is fast.
The speed was on display. DeShields tracked down a line drive in the right center gap and made an outstanding sliding catch that I doubt many CFers could make (see the gif also below in Devenski's blurb). He also stole 2nd later in the game by such a wide margin he shouldn't have even slid. That was stolen base number 40 on the season, but he also hasn't been on base as much as usual. It's not difficult to see him becoming a plus defensive CFer if his paths and reaction times continue to improve.
At bat, Delino showed a good knack for laying off tough pitches. It appears to me that his bat does not stay in the strike zone for very long and this is why he struggles with a higher strikeout rate than you like.
I am not sure how Delino's career will end, but I do know he has one tool that will be with him for many years to come, and that along with his pedigree will continue to get him on prospect lists.
Chris Devenski knows how to pitch.
I watched Devenski warm up in the bullpen and I was impressed with what I saw. A fastball, curve, and change that were hard to pick up many differences between.
He seemed to be decently utilizing "pitch tunneling" to make his lackluster 4 seam fastball (90-92 mph) play up a little. He got a ton of bad swings early on in this game that resulted in some Ks and a lot of weak contact. He even broke Joey Gallo's bat as he hit a little weak liner back to Devenski.
His build and demeanor reminded me a lot of Lucas Harrell, but he was didn't seem to be an emotional pitcher at all. He pretty much kept the same facial expression through the entire ball game even though he was carrying a no-hitter into the 7th inning.
That's right. Devesnki was throwing a no-hitter through 6. I've never witnessed a no-hitter or a perfect game in person, and I was hoping so hard he was going to pull it off. I thought the baseball gods had smiled on him after the 4th inning featured some lights out defense to go 3 up 3 down. Here's the gifs to prove it:
Jonathan Meyer with the barehanded play.
DDJ with the sliding catch.
Kemp's diving grab.
After witnessing these plays, I though the night was going to happen. Sadly, Devenski's fastball velocity dropped ino the 88-90 range and he began to struggle with hanging his curve. Once this began to happen it wasn't long before he was knocked off the mound in the 7th inning. The first curve ball that was squared up all night was an RBI go-ahead double for the RoughRiders.
What I saw from Devenski suggests to me that he could be a solid bullpen piece. Especially if pitching in short instances allows him to gain a MPH or two on his 4 seamer. His curve and change baffled hitters the first time through the lineup, and I think they could do the same in short spurts in the Bigs. There's value there, that's for sure, especially after witnessing the Astros bullpens of late.
Frisco women are something else...
I go to the craft beer stand. There was a nice selection, and they give you 24 ounces and a souvenir cup for $8 (not too bad of a deal). I am quite positive that the woman in front of me had already patronized this place a couple of times. She struck up conversation with me while we waited and it was very, umm, interesting. She made fun of her friend for "thinking craft beer was gross" and that she "had sent her husband to get her friend a Bud Light Lime." I told her I was a bit of a beer snob myself, so I understand. Well, she finally gets to the server and now she can't decide what she wants (she had had a dunkel previously). She asks to sample the St. Arnold's Summer Pils. She doesn't like it. She then asks to sample another. Then another. Finally, she just gets the same Dunkel that she had before. After taking a couple of steps to leave, she doubles back and quickly asks, "can I get another cup to stack this one inside?" The server looks at her a little puzzled, so she explains, "you know, like a koozie." Just flat defeated at this woman, the server relinquishes a cup to her and she walks off happy as a lark.
In addition to craft beer snob lady, we had a sound bite machine sitting behind us. There were several great quotes discussing being allergic to popcorn, being excited to watch the movie "Sex Tape, and she giggled almost as much as she breathed.
However, there were two real doozies that she dropped on us. Early in the game, a liner was fouled into the bleachers. People were ducking and diving out of the way. She says, "I don't understand why ballparks don't have, like, a foul ball cam, you know, that, like, tracks the ball everywhere it goes, so you can, like, watch it and know if a foul ball is headed your way." I can't makes this stuff up people. She's a genius.
A few innings later, she complained about having to put lotion on constantly for her "azeema." The guy sitting next to her asked, "do you mean eczema?" She replies, "azeema, egzema, I have to say it a few times to get it right."
She probably wondered what my wife and I thought was so funny throughout the game.
Final thought, the Astros farm system has come a long way...
Watching Jonathan Meyer brought me back to when I first got into following the minor leagues. He was drafted in the same class as Jiovanni Mier. This was the first real draft that I paid attention towards. This was a guy that regularly made top prospect lists for the Astros after he was drafted. Our farm system was one of the worst in the league back then. He's now struggling to keep his job at AA. This system has made leaps and bounds since 2009. Let's hope that this club continues to build through the farm and we never get back to a situation like we had just 5 years ago.