With the Astros off following a tough series with Minnesota and every affiliate on the farm playing later today, it’s a great time to take in some Minor League Baseball and get a glimpse at the future of the game. Here’s a look at the action on tap for Friday and some names to watch in each contest:
6:00 CT: Down East Wood Ducks at Fayetteville Woodpeckers
Noah Bremer (2.91) vs. Parker Mushinski (2.33)
It has been a terrific start to the season for 2017 seventh rounder Parker Mushinski, who has struck out 30 Carolina League hitters in just 19.1 frames against five free passes on his way to a pretty 2.33 ERA. The 6’0” righty has an aggressive arsenal with a strong cutter and blossoming breaking stuff, and is a definite midseason promotion candidate. He had eight strikeouts and no walks in five innings his last time out, and is one of the better prospects in the system to not get any top 30 nods during the offseason. You can read my interview with Parker here.
On the offensive side, Seth Beer is the headlining attraction. The 2018 first rounder is hitting a robust .312/.394/.527 on the year and is coming off of a multi-hit game including a home run, his fifth of the season. With just 20 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances thus far, Beer continues to show the potential to hit for both average and power at the highest level. Another interesting player likely to be in the lineup for Fayetteville is former Houston Cougar Corey Julks- a speed and defense outfielder who is showing a bit of a knack for getting on base in pro ball.
6:05 CT: Quad Cities River Bandits at Fort Wayne TinCaps
TBA vs. Gabe Mosser (3.55)
MiLB.com currently lists Nivaldo Rodriguez as the Quad Cities starter, but he actually pitched yesterday. Regardless, there are several players worth monitoring in the Quad Cities lineup on the offensive side. Toolsy outfielder Alex McKenna returned from injury in yesterday’s double header, reaching four times in nine trips. Now healthy, he immediately becomes one of the best prospects on the roster. Following him in the order, infielder Enmanuel Valdez is showing signs of a breakout in the early-going. The 20-year old has a compact but powerful build and shows some feel for hitting to go along with power potential, and has reached base in seven of his last thirteen plate appearances.
Shortstop Jeremy Pena has also been a fixture in the lineup, and while he’s known primarily for his defense he also brings value with his wheels, and has stolen seven bags in nine attempts on the season. Should he be in the lineup, Ross Adolph is another notable prospect, making it into most organizational top 30s before the year. As noted in this article, it has been a rough start to 2019 for Adolph, and he’s been receiving frequent rest days as he works on adjusting. I remain bullish on Adolph and his combination of power and speed- look for him to break out of his funk at the plate soon.
7:05 CT: Corpus Christi Hooks at Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Bryan Abreu (12.00) vs. Gerson Garabito (3.91)
The Hooks will send uber-talented starter Bryan Abreu to the hill tonight, who has rocketed into organizational top-10 consideration in the past year. The athletic 22-year old is equipped with plus velocity, one of the spinniest breakers in the minors, and has already struck out 30 hitters in 17.2 2019 frames. His last outing was his first at the Double-A level, and while he walked three and allowed four runs in his three innings, he did strike out five. Abreu’s command is inconsistent, but when it is working, he is flat out dominant. His future role is up the in the air, but there should be one in which he can have great success at the highest level.
Providing support for Abreu is a lineup that includes several notable prospects. Top 30 stalwarts Ronnie Dawson and Abraham Toro have had mixed starts to the year- Dawson is getting to a bit more power but hasn’t gotten into a great rhythm making contact, and Toro got off to a pretty brutal start before righting the ship. Both remain players with sizable big league ceilings, though it would be aggressive to project either one as a regular just yet. Dawson has the potential to impact the game in a variety of ways, while Toro’s ability to make loud contact from both sides of the plate is his calling card. Speedy infielder Osvaldo Duarte has had some great moments this year and provides a spark at the bottom of the Hooks lineup. Reclamation project Granden Goetzman is a fun follow- the 6’4” corner outfielder has elite bat speed and exit velocities and hits for significant power, and has also shown a mature approach this season, though that should be expected given that he is 26 years old.
7:05 CT: Round Rock Express at San Antonio Missions
Rogelio Armenteros (4.11) vs. Thomas Jankins (3.60)
A changeup artist hailing from Cuba, Armenteros is a very polished pitcher capable of handling heavy innings. His stuff doesn’t afford him a ton of room for error, but he has the command necessary to succeed more often than not, and has managed to keep PCL offenses in check despite the offensive explosion brought on by the switch to the MLB ball. If the Astros needed to dip into their prospect pool for a big league arm, Armenteros would be the odds-on favorite to get the call at present.
At the dish, all eyes are sure to be on top prospects Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. The 6’5” Alvarez is a big fan of the switch to the new baseball- in the young season he’s hitting an unfair .402/.490/.931. He’s getting to much more power in games this season, to the point where I think his present power grade is a 70 at minimum. He’s running out of things to prove at the minor league level, though it will be interesting to see if his improved contact rate holds up over a larger sample. Tucker had gotten off to a disastrous start at the plate, but has now found his groove. The prodigious talent has three multi-hit efforts in his last seven games, with four homers in that stretch. His stock is holding steady to start the year and he’s likely to get another big league look at some point. After the heavy hitters, Myles Straw is the name that bears most watching. The speedster has spent some time at shortstop this year but has played more at his natural center field post as of late. He doesn’t offer much power, but it’s no exaggeration to say that he can do everything else. Straw’s bat to ball ability, plate discipline, speed, arm and outfield defense are all average or better, with his speed and arm both grading in plus-plus territory.