We’re reviewing two players per day through the 2022-23 offseason.
Matt Ruppenthal is a six-foot-four, 225 lb. right-handed relief pitcher from Bloomfield Hills, MI. Born on October 21, 1995, he was a 17th round choice of the Astros in the 2017 draft. Taken 511th overall out of Vanderbilt, he shares the distinction with seven then-later major leaguers, including Ryne Sandberg, Russell Martin, and Bo Jackson.
From 2017 through 2021, Ruppenthal moved his way up the string of Houston’s minor league affiliates, with stops for the Tri-City ValleyCats, the Gulf Coast Astros, the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Asheville Tourists, and the Corpus Christi Hooks. He opened the 2022 season with the Double-A Hooks.
Through the midpoint of the season, Ruppenthal totaled 52 whiffs in 35 1⁄3 innings, a 13.25 K/9. He was 3-0 with a save, a 4.33 ERA, a 1.443 WHIP, and a .202/.369/.274 opposing slash line. He had his best stuff on April 23, in a 7-6 win against the Arkansas Travelers, striking out five over three hitless and walkless innings. On June 29, he made his first appearance at the Triple-A level with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
It didn’t go well for Ruppenthal at the higher level. In 2 2⁄3 innings over two appearances, he gave up seven earned runs on seven hits and two walks. Then moved back to Double-A, Ruppenthal cruised for most of the rest of the season, striking out 31 in 25 1⁄3 innings, going 3-2, racking up a 1.066 WHIP, a 2.49 ERA, and a .133/.291/.244 opposing slash line. On July 14, he earned a win by striking out five over three perfect innings in a 16-3 romp over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Unfortunately, he closed the season on September 17 by giving up four runs in a third of an inning against the Travelers.
For some reason, Ruppenthal is far and away better pitching at home. This is reflected clearly in his ERA (8.31 road to 2.63) and his WHIP (1.923 road to 1.115). Whatever the case, the Astros are clearly interested in keeping him on. He’s currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he has struck out three over two hitless innings so far. Look for him in major league Spring Training, but he’ll probably begin the regular season with the Cowboys.
Wilmy Sanchez is a five-foot-nine, 193 lb. right-handed pitcher from Santiago, DR. Born on December 17, 2003, he signed his first professional deal on May 20 of this year to play international ball for the Astros.
Sanchez was initially assigned to the DSL Astros Blue squad, and was later moved to the Orange squad. He pitched in 12 games, all for the Blue team, starting four times and finishing six times. On June 17, Sanchez struck out seven over 2 2⁄3 scoreless innings in an 11-5 loss to the DSL CLE Red team.
On July 8, Sanchez earned a 12-out save, striking out a pair over four hitless innings of work in a 7-4 win against Cleveland Red. On August 16, he earned a win and a season-high 62 GameScore, striking out seven and giving up five hits over five scoreless innings in his final start of the year.
Sanchez’ age-18 year was a resounding success. He was 3-0 with three saves and a 2.12 ERA. He had 49 strikeouts in 34 innings, with a 1.235 WHIP and a .213/.310/.276 opposing slash line. Houston will probably keep Sanchez with the rookie club for another year, but he’s clearly ready for action at the Low-A level with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.