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Astros MiLB Outfielder Notes

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Some interesting nuggets from the MiLB early going among the Astros’ outfield group

Quad Cities River Bandits
The talented Quad Cities River Bandits are poised for another great season in 2016
Flickr user “pioneer98”

The Astros have a deep and varied group of outfield prospects across levels. Here’s a look at a couple of the more noticeable early season lines.

Ross Adolph, Quad Cities River Bandits

One of my favorite sleeper prospects in the Astros system, Adolph is an athletic player out of Ohio who was acquired in the J.D. Davis deal. A 12th round pick with a scary injury history, Adolph gave his stock a shot in the arm in 2018 by slashing .276/.348/.509 with 14 steals in 17 attempts in the New York-Penn League. While his 19.7% K rate wasn’t exactly sterling, the impressive tools he showed off made it easy to stomach. I had Adolph ahead of mpre proven players coming into the season on the back of that performance and his underrated tools.

In 2019’s early going, Adolph has struggled to get the bat on the ball. In the River Bandits’ first twenty contests, Adolph has struck out multiple times in nine, translating to an alarming 37.5% K rate. While this spike has been accompanied with a healthy rise in walk rate- 13 thus far in 80 PAs, or 16.3%- he’s also seen his ample power disappear from game action. Adolph has just one homer thus far after smacking seven round-trippers in 61 NYPL games last year, and it came in the River Bandits’ first game of the season.

Personally, I’m steadfast in my belief in Adolph’s abilities. With how different his numbers look in the early going, my read on the situation is that the Astros have him working on an approach adjustment that has affected his game performance in the early-going. This is very common for players changing organizations, and while it’s certainly concerning to see Adolph struggling mightily as a 22 year old in the Midwest League, the season remains very young and I expect to see him right the ship in short order.

Chas McCormick, Corpus Christi Hooks

A player that I’ve had in the corner of my eye since the Astros made him a 21st round selection in 2017, McCormick is an older prospect who makes up for middling tools with some serious skills. The 6’0”, 190 lb. McCormick is a dynamite outfielder capable of handling all three spots thanks to his crisp actions. On offense, McCormick doesn’t bring much in the way of power or speed, consistently posting .ISOs south of .150, but shows plus bat-to-ball skills.

McCormick is a singles hitter, which means his path to the big leagues as an outfielder is uphill. That said, there’s an interesting wrinkle to his early season performance that could give him better odds to crack a 25-man roster some day. While he’s been a middling on-base man in the past, posting walk rates in the 8-9% range, in the early-going with CC he’s posted an eye-popping 9/21 K/BB mark in just 88 PAs, giving him a Texas League-leading 23.9% BB rate. With his newfound penchant for free passes, McCormick is currently reaching base at a .466 clip. If he’s able to maintain an elite walk rate, that could give him the extra bit of offensive juice he needs to profile favorably as a bench outfielder, as his glove is certainly up to the job. McCormick might be in line for the first promotion to Triple-A when the Astros make a move on Yordan Alvarez or Kyle Tucker- though he does have some competition.

Alex McKenna, Quad Cities River Bandits

A 2018 fourth-rounder, McKenna had a strong debut in the NYPL last season, slashing .328/.423/.534, and held his own in a 12 game full-season ball trial. Like teammate Ross Adolph, McKenna has above average power and speed, and has enough talent to garner significant playing time in MLB if he can make enough contact. McKenna has been unable to play thus far in 2019 while dealing with injury, but was activated over the weekend and will be worth monitoring closely whenever he’s in the lineup.