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Astros Minor League Preview: Buies Creek Astros

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The Astros High-A Club moves east

Houston Astros v New York Mets Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

At long last, the Astros are out of The Hangar! With all respect to the good people of Lancaster, California, the Cal League has never been the best place to get a read on prospects - remember Kody Hinze, Koby Clemens and their 22 homers High-A campaigns in 2011 and 2009, respectively? Fully a product of the conditions of Lancaster, which sits over 2,000 feet above sea level.

So the Astros looked east this offseason, officially establishing their own High-A franchise in the Carolina League as the Buies Creek Astros. The team intends to make this a long-term minor league home with plans to build a stadium in the Fayetteville, NC area. But for now, the team resides at the home of the Campbell University Fighting Camels in Jim Perry Stadium which sits just a few hundred feet above sea level and provides spacious dimensions for hitters and pitchers to be evaluated without the risk of unnecessary dingers.

The Astros currently plan to share the stadium at Campbell for this season and 2018 - this could be an a cautionary tale of ending up like the nomadic Hartford Yard Goats, who endured an entire season of road games as they waited for a new stadium to be built in Hartford for the 2016 season. However, we’ll trust Reid Ryan and the Astros’ business-side of things to take care of a new stadium in North Carolina at some point.

One last bit of minor league expansion housekeeping: The BC Astros have some nice new uniforms that are pretty much the same as their parent club outside of the “BC” initials on the caps. Not exactly original yet, but I’ve always liked minor league clubs that use some variation of a parent club’s logo/uniform scheme. Always let the people know who your team is, even if it’s a bit different.

This year’s High-A squad features a few highly-regarded players in the Astros system among pitchers and hitters, as well as ten players who will be making their High-A debuts.

The Hitters

Kyle Tucker headlines the position players. He’s coming off an abbreviated campaign in High-A last season, where he hit .339/.435/.661. Tucker’s extraordinarily high ceiling will have a chance to take off again this season - though his numbers may not look quite as gaudy out of Lancaster, Jim Perry stadium only runs 325 feet down the right field line. Expect Tucker to take aim that way during home games.

Jason Martin and Myles Straw are other interesting outfielders on the squad. Martin played in the Arizona Fall League in October and is getting some love on prospect lists. He’s always had an advanced approach to plate discipline but showed some (Lancaster) power with 23 bombs last season. He’s still just 21 but entering his fifth pro season. Straw was actually the MILB batting champion in 2016, compiling a .358 average across three levels. He has some of the best speed in the entire system.

The infield talent in Buies Creek isn’t as high-profile as Martin/Tucker, although Ryne Birk and Osvaldo Duarte should form an intriguing double-play combo. Birk is your typical advanced, fast-moving college bat that Luhnow loves. He hit well in Tri-City and Quad Cities after being drafted out of Texas A&M last June. Duarte is the opposite - an infielder who’s in his fourth year in the system and gets high reviews for his speed.

The Pitchers

Franklin Perez highlights the rotation. He’s only 19, so a High-A assignment is quite aggressive. He’s currently working to refine his arsenal as a starter, and his fastball (low/mid 90s) and curve are his top pitches. Yoanys Quiala is a more advanced starter (23 years old) out of Cuba. One could assume he’ll move along in the system quickly, though last season was his first in a stateside league. Elieser Hernandez is another hurler to keep in mind, as he’s turned in some nice strikeout rates in his minor league career.

Framber Valdez will be one of the more recognizable names in the Buies Creek bullpen after a strong stint in Astros spring camp. Valdez got plenty of love as a left-handed reliever who performed well against more advanced hitters. Valdez has started and pitched out of the bullpen in his minor league career, but it sounds like the organization wants to move him along quickly, so expect his appearances to come in relief.

Anyone up for a wild card bet on a player who could make the major league squad this season from the Buies Creek roster? It’s a longshot that would require several emergencies to relief arms, but Riley Ferrell has recovered from shoulder surgery last spring. Though he’s only pitched 23 pro innings after being drafted in 2015, Ferrell was seen as one of the more polished college arms during his time at TCU, and could move quickly through the system if his shoulder is fine and he’s striking guys out.

The Coaching Staff:

Omar Lopez (Manager) - 10th season as a manager in Astros organization

Chris Holt (Pitching Coach)

Troy Snitker (Hitting Coach) - Former minor league catcher

Mickey Storey (Coach) - Former Astros pitcher, 2012

Buies Creek Astros.csv

Name� Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB Highest 2016 Level:
Name� Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB Highest 2016 Level:
Akeem Bostick P R R 6' 6" 215 5/4/1995 High-A
Matt Bower P R L 6' 5" 190 6/16/1994 High-A
Justin Ferrell P R R 6' 7" 205 4/21/1994 A
Riley Ferrell P R R 6' 2" 200 10/18/1993 High-A
Ralph Garza P R R 6' 2" 195 4/6/1994 High-A
Elieser Hernandez P R R 6' 0" 210 5/3/1995 High-A
Nick Hernandez P R R 6' 1" 212 12/30/1994 A
Sebastian Kessay P L L 6' 2" 215 6/19/1993 A
Franklin Perez P R R 6' 3" 197 12/6/1997 A
Yoanys Quiala P R R 6' 3" 235 1/15/1994 A
Andrew Thome P R R 6' 3" 215 1/13/1993 High-A
Framber Valdez P L L 5' 11" 170 11/19/1993 High-A
Alex Winkelman P L L 6' 2" 180 2/8/1994 High-A
Christian Correa C R R 5' 10" 210 5/18/1993 High-A
Eduardo de Oleo C R R 5' 10" 180 1/25/1993 AA (D'Backs)
Anthony Hermelyn C R R 6' 1" 210 11/18/1993 A
Ryne Birk 2B L R 5' 10" 185 11/11/1994 A
Osvaldo Duarte SS R R 5' 9" 160 1/18/1996 High-A
Dexture McCall 1B R R 6' 1" 220 1/29/1994 A
Arturo Michelena 2B R R 5' 11" 165 10/15/1994 A
Stijn van der Meer SS L R 6' 3" 170 5/1/1993 Rookie
Jason Martin CF L R 5' 11" 190 9/5/1995 High-A
Pat Porter RF L L 6' 0" 215 6/10/1993 A
Johnny Sewald LF L R 5' 11" 175 11/11/1993 High-A
Myles Straw LF R R 5' 10" 180 10/17/1994 High-A
Kyle Tucker RF L R 6' 4" 190 1/17/1997 High-A
Buies Creek