With the first series out of the way, minor league baseball is in full swing. The first series saw the Astros system get off to a slow start, sound familiar to anyone. The Oklahoma City RedHawks went 1-3, as did the Corpus Christi Hooks, and both the Lancaster JetHawks and the Lexington Legends split their series 2-2. I was going to do a brief recap on each of series, and talk about who got off to a quick start.
Oklahoma City RedHawks (Triple-AAA), Record: 1-3
The Oklahoma City RedHawks roster is comprised of a mixture of older prospects (AAAA) players like Brian Bogusevic, Tommy Manzella, Oswaldo Navarro, Brian Dopirak, Carlos Corporan, Fernando Nieve, and new edition Ryan Rowland-Smith (The Hyphen), with a couple of young and promising prospects like Jordan Lyles, Henry Villar, Koby Clemens, and J.B. Shuck. Even though the record is not where what you would like to see, there have been several individual performances worth noting.
On the offensive front, Brian Bogusevic, Koby Clemens, and J.B. Shuck have all gotten off to fast starts. Bogusevic went 4-13 in the series with Memphis hitting 1 home run, 2 RBI’s, 2 stolen bases, and a .308 batting average. Koby Clemens only had 8 at-bats splitting time at first with Brian Dopirak, and went 3-8 in the first series. He also has 1 double, 1 RBI, and a .375 batting average. Koby has a track record of hitting with power in the minors, but also has an extremely high strikeout rate. The key to his success will be figuring out how to limit his strikeouts, so far he has 2 in 8 at-bats. The singles machine J.B. Shuck has also gotten off to a nice start going 5-17 for a .286 average. One concerning aspect of Shuck’s game is his inability to pick up the stolen bases. As a hitter that provides little to no power he relies on his speed, and so far has been caught stealing twice in 2 attempts. This has been a problem throughout his minor league career, and the Astros sent Shucker’s to winter ball to try and work on his baserunning to no avail.
Pitching wise, this first series left a lot to be desired. Jordan Lyles reminded us that he is still young and that patience is required by lasting only 4 innings and giving up 3 earned runs for a 6.75 ERA. Lyles did pitch better than his stat line reads, seeing that he was able to induce a decent amount of groundballs, but it still took him 80 pitches to get through 4 innings. Sergio Perez had an okay outing going 5 innings an allowing 2 earned runs with 6 strikeouts. The same can be said about Douglas Arguello giving up only 2 earned runs as well, but he was not able to get out of the 5th inning, only going 4.2 innings. The blast from the past Fernando Nieve struggled in his first outing of the year giving up 5 earned runs in 4.1 innings, but was able to strikeout 6. Other notable performances include Casey Fien going 3 innings without allowing an earned run, and The Hyphen, Ryan Rowland-Smith, who went 2.2 innings with 4 strikeouts while also not allowing an earned run.
The first series with Memphis saw the RedHawks struggle both offensively and on the mound as a team. Players to watch going forward include Jordan Lyles, Henry Villar, Koby Clemens, and Brian Bogusevic. Henry Villar was scheduled to make his first start of the season on Monday, but the game was rained out. He will instead start in a double-header to be played on Tuesday.
Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-AA) Record: 1-3
The Hooks are started the season with just 1 win over the Naturals, but all 3 loses were only by 1 run. The Hooks offense has gotten off to a slow start with only J.D. Martinez (.333), and Wladimir Sutil (.500) the only two players on the team with an average over .300. J.D. Martinez has gotten off to a fast start with 6 RBI’s in his first 4 games. Another player worth mentioning here is Jimmy Paredes who is hitting .250 with 3 stolen bases, 1 double, and 3 RBI’s. Paredes who came over from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade is highly regarded as a raw player with outstanding tools, but has yet to put it all together. Him starting at Corpus ahead of Jose Altuve this year surprised many, and should be a good test to see how the youngster stacks up against the higher level of competition.
On the pitching front, the only starter’s performance that bears mentioning is Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel went 6 innings while only allowing 1 earned run and striking out 3. What was more impressive with Keuchel’s performance is the fact that 11 of the 18 outs Keuchel recorded were groundouts. Having a good ground ball to fly ball ratio is key to a pitcher like Keuchel’s success, as he does not over power hitters, but instead relies on location and pitches to contact. Bullpen performances that are worth mentioning include Pat Urckfitz who has only allowed 1 run in 5 innings, and David Carpenter who has not allowed a run in 1.2 innings and also picking up 1 save.
Lancaster JetHawks (High-A) Record: 2-2
The JetHawks split the series with the Mavericks 2-2. Offensively, Jose Altuve, Johnathan Meyer, and Johnathan Villar have all gotten off to fast starts. Altuve, the 5ft. 5” second baseman is hitting .467 with a double, 2 triples, and a stolen base to start the season. Many people were surprised that Altuve did not start the season in Corpus with Paredes starting in Lancaster as Altuve is the more advanced hitter at this point in his career. Meyer is looking to bounce back from a down year offensively and has started the season hot with a .385 average with 2 doubles. Johnathan Villar the prospect the Astros received in the Roy Oswalt trade is viewed similarly to Paredes in that he has advanced tools, but has yet to put it all together. Offensively Villar started the season hot as well hitting .353 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 6 RBI’s, 2 stolen bases in this first series.
On the mound the JetHawks received an outstanding performance by Jose Cisnero going 5 innings, but striking out 9 batters in those 5 innings. What was also a good sign to see from Cisnero is that he only walked 1 batter. Cisnero has an outstanding strikeout ratio in his minor league career, but also has a high walk ratio. The key to his success will be being able to find the strike zone more often and limiting his walks. This first start was a step in the right direction. Jake Buchanan also had a good first start going 7 innings and only allowing 1 earned run while striking out 5. Buchanan has quietly performed well thus far in his professional career and has flown under the radar. The only outstanding performance out of the bullpen in this first series is Wes Musick, who went 4 innings while striking out 5 and not allowing an earned run.
Lexington Legends (Low-A) Record: 2-2
Out of all the Astros affiliates so far the Legends have performed the best offensively. Michael Kvasnicka (.471), Chris Wallace (.400), Daniel Adamson (.389), Adam Bailey (.313), Jiovanni Mier (.286), and Bryce Lane (.273) have all gotten off to fast starts. Top hitting prospect Delino DeShields Jr. has struggled so far to the line of a .143 average with 4 strikeouts. Pitching wise, there has been no outstanding performances with only Brad Dydalewicz finding a decent amount of success his first go-round. He pitched 5 innings and only allowed 1 earned run, but also issued 5 walks.
All in all the Astros farm system has performed okay even if their record doesn’t reflect that. The biggest surprise in this first series was the fact that the starting pitching did not perform better as a group. Going into the season it appeared that the Astros farm system had a strong core of young pitching that would carry a week offense, but so far this has not been the case.