AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks: 11-1 loss to Iowa (CHC)
-> Jiovanni Mier: 3-for-4
-> Preston Tucker: 2-for-4, 2B
-> Max Stassi: 2-for-4, 2B
-> Ronald Torreyes: 1-for-4
-> Joe Sclafani: 1-for-5
-> Ruben Sosa: 1-for-5
-> Andrew Aplin: 0-for-2, BB, RBI
-> Domingo Santana: 0-for-4, R
SP Alex White: 2.1 IP, 9 R (5 ER), 9 H, 3 BB, 1 K (loss)
RP Ross Seaton: 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 K
RP David Martinez: 2.0 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 3 H, 0 BB, 1 K
There's no getting around the fact that Alex White's tenure with Houston has been a big disappointment; he missed all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery, and while the procedure has a high rate of success, the full recovery time, including returning to your former strength and effectiveness, is a long one. This seemed to be a year of healing for him, as he, at no point, looked consistently good enough to think of as being close to full strength. There was a period from August 5 through August 21 where he posted a 3.51 ERA, 3.16 BB/9 and 8.42 K/9 in four starts, and while not as high as normal, his season GB% was high enough to show that his sinker can still work. He'll look to 2015's Spring Training to re-establish himself as a rotation candidate.
Tucker finishes off a very nice year with a good game. He hit .276/.348/.536 with Corpus Christi, bashing 17 long balls in 65 games and gaining some renown as one of the biggest power hitters in the league. He got off to a slow start after being promoted, but here after all the dust has settled, he ends his run in AAA with a rock-solid .287/.356/.429 line in 73 games. He's the first of Luhnow's draftees to reach the highest level of the minors, and he figures to play significantly into the discussion come March.
Coming in to 2014, Stassi was easily the top catching prospect in the organization, but after a hot start in April, he fell apart for almost the entire remainder of the season, and was easily the most baffling collapse in the entire minor league system. In a true case of "better late than never," Stassi hit .328/.366/.507 with three homers in August, finishing the year with arguably his strongest month.
AA Corpus Christi Hooks: 8-4 win over San Antonio (SDP)
-> Teoscar Hernandez: 2-for-3, BB, SB, RBI, 2 R
-> M.P. Cokinos: 2-for-3, BB, 2B
-> Telvin Nash: 2-for-4, BB, RBI, R
-> Carlos Perdomo: 2-for-4, RBI
-> Colin Moran: 1-for-3, RBI
-> Brandon Meredith: 1-for-4, GRAND SLAM
-> Delino DeShields: 1-for-4, BB, 2 SB, 2 R
-> Tony Kemp: 1-for-5, 2B
-> Tyler Heineman: 0-for-1, BB, R
-> Jonathan Meyer: 0-for-1, BB, R
SP Jordan Jankowski: 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K
RP Matthew Heidenreich: 2.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K
RP Juan Minaya: 0.2 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 K (blown save)
RP Mitchell Lambson: 1.1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K (win)
RP Tyson Perez: 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K
It would be easy to call this season a huge disappointment for DeShields, but even amidst the injuries and struggling to adjust to a higher level of competition for the first time, not to mention transitioning back to the outfield, there were positive signs. He saw only a small spike in strike out rate (exactly 2.0%) compared to his career MiLB strike out rate, and his walk rate (12.0%) was higher than it had been since his big breakout season in Lexington back in 2012. Also of import; he continued to show double-digit home run power, and this time outside of Lancaster, and he saw only a small dip in ISO in moving out of the California League. While the overall numbers don't look pretty, we've seen enough to give us some hope for a turn around next year.
Jankowski finished off his year with a run of four excellent outings, during which he allowed just one earned run in 18 innings of work. On the year, he posted a 3.58 ERA, 2.17 BB/9 and 10.00 K/9, along with a solid ground ball rate of 40%. That combination of control, strike outs and grounders bodes well for his MLB future.
Moran will take a 12-game hitting streak into Opening Day next year (man, there's no way I'm going to remember that. Someone remind me!). All told, Moran hit .304/.350/.411 for the Astros in the 28 games he got to play after arriving on deadline day. Of those 28 games, he failed to reach base via hit or walk in just two. That takes some natural hitting talent, folks.
After breaking out with a .294/.376/.550 line in Lancaster whilst flashing all manner of sexy tools, it would be hard to call Teoscar Hernandez's first month in AA anything less than a rousing success; he batted .284/.299/.474 with four homers, four doubles and a triple. Of course, there were obvious holes showing themselves, but now he's seen the competition and knows first-hand what he needs to work on. Don't be surprised to see him tear up Winter Ball and possibly earn some time in Big League spring camp come March.
A+ Lancaster JetHawks: 10-3 loss to Inland Empire (LAA)
-> Brett Phillips: 1-for-2, R, 2 BB
-> Tyler White: 1-for-3, 2B, R
-> Roberto Pena: 1-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI
-> Austin Elkins: 0-for-1, R, 3 BB
-> James Ramsay: 0-for-3, BB
-> Ronnie Mitchell: 0-for-4, RBI
SP Vincent Velasquez: 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 6 K (loss)
RP Evan Grills: 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 3 K
RP Daniel Minor: 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K
RP Tyler Brunnemann: 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K
RP Gonzalo Sanudo: 1.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 K
I'm having a hard time remembering the last prospect who broke out, and out seemingly of nowhere, like Phillips did this year. .302/.362/.521 with 46 extra-base hits in 103 games for QC, and then a mere .339/.421/.560 for Lancaster with another 14 extra-base hits in just 27 games. His walk rate went up and his strike out rate went down against the ostensibly-better competition in A+ ball, and as I pointed out recently, his ISO basically didn't increase; his ISO was a whole .002 higher in Lancaster. That's it. No crazy boost in power, really no boost at all, as that's such a negligible number. Someone slap me if I try to rank him as our #3 prospect over the off-season or something, I'm not sure I can be unbiased on him anymore.
A season plagued with injuries ended with a thud for Velasquez, who coughed up 10 earned runs in his final two starts, which lasted just 4.1 innings total. But despite that and those pesky injuries, he looked flat-out dominant at times. The boy whiffed 72 batters in 55.1 innings (11.71 K/9) and on a recent Astros' podcast, Jason Schwartz said he's probably the first pitcher he's ever called unhittable during a game, on the air. There's little question that VV is legit, and will likely head to AA to start next season. If he can't stay healthy, though, his value could plummet if forced to the bullpen eventually.
The Brunnemann has clearly established himself as the unquestioned closer of the future. Clearly. Woe to you, teams attempting a comeback late in the game. Woe I say! After beating up the hitters in the Midwest League and negotiating 10 years of tribute from them (1.86 ERA), The Brunnemann set his sights on The Great Desert Empire and struck down waves of their finest warriors (12.15 K/9) before retiring to his palace and concubines for the off-season. The scattered tribes of the windswept plains of Texas the southwest are on notice; in 2015, The Brunnemann cometh.
A- Quad Cities River Bandits: 8-5 loss to Burlington (LAA)
-> Ryan Bottger: 3-for-5, SB, R
-> J.D. Davis: 2-for-3, BB, solo HR
-> Marc Wik: 2-for-4, 2B, SB, R, 2 RBI
-> Bobby Boyd: 2-for-5, R
-> Dayne Parker: 1-for-4, solo HR
-> A.J. Reed: 1-for-4, RBI
SP Michael Feliz: 5.0 IP, 5 R (4 ER), 12 H, 0 BB, 6 K (loss)
RP Jandel Gustave: 2.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K
RP Jordan Mills: 1.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K
Davis went on one heck of a run to polish off his professional debut; he socked five homers in his last nine games, giving him a .303/.363/.516 line with eight homers in just 43 games with the River Bandits. Mike Fast recently stopped by our comments section and noted that one reason for promoting these recent draftees is to see if they might be able to handle an assignment straight to Lancaster for their first full season. J.D. Davis appears to have made a strong case for that indeed.
Pre-season, Michael Feliz was looked at as the big breakout sleeper prospect in the system, but his year was one more of incremental growth than a huge show of stats. That's not to say he was bad; in fact, a 3.31 FIP, 3.24 BB/9 and 9.73 K/9, not to mention a solid 40% ground ball rate, is a downright-encouraging result for his first showing against full season competition.
SS Tri-City ValleyCats: 3-2 win over Vermont (OAK)
-> Ricky Gingras: 2-for-4, solo HR
-> Mott Hyde: 2-for-4, 3B, R
-> Jose Solano: 1-for-2, 3B, RBI, R
-> Jamie Ritchie: 0-for-2, BB
-> Alex Hernandez: 0-for-3, BB
-> Jason Martin: 0-for-3, RBI
SP Austin Chrismon: 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K
RP Brandon McNitt: 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K (win)
RP Junior Garcia: 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K (hold)
RP Aaron Vaughn: 0.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K (hold)
RP Bryan Radziewski: 0.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K (hold)
RP Ryan Thompson: 2.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K (save)
Add Brandon McNitt to the list of polished groundball-getters that Luhnow has flooded the system with. 2.78 ERA, 3.06 BB/9, 8.35 K/9 and a 58.6% ground ball rate for Tri-City this year. Sound familiar?
Now the questions begin for Ritchie; was it real? College bat beating up on short-season competition? Only time will tell, but the early returns can't be ignored either; .331/.455/.465 with 12 doubles, 29 walks and 26 strike outs in 47 games.
Radziewski posted a 65.2% ground ball rate, guys. Sixty-five percent. Dallas Keuchel is at 63% right now, by the way. Now throw in a 9.79 K/9. I'm trying not to fall in love with a reliever who has less than 30 innings against short-season hitters. I'm failing.