Tri-City is an Astros short season minor league affiliate, what that means to fans is that it represents a chance to see some of our more advanced prospects right out of the draft. That also means, the draft is a very big deal for the Tri-City organization, as most of the prospects drafted from college will end up on the Valley Cats roster. This season, the Valley Cats saw a couple of intriguing arms enter the scene which gave their fans a glimpse of possibly something special to come. The offense also had its share of potential, highlighted by club MVP Jesse Wierzbicki who along with some standout arms, helped the gang advance the New York Penn League Championship Round.
While the Valley Cats fell in three games to Hudson Valley, the season was a fantastic ride for fans of both the Tri-City ball club and the Astros. Coaches and front office personnel often say that winning at the minor league level is important for success, if that’s true then the Valley Cats roster should have gained invaluable experience in 2012. The team set the club record for victories and reached the championship level for the 4th time in club history. That made Astros GM Jeff Luhnow a happy camper, including visiting the club during their playoff run. I’m not as big a believer in that philosophy, rather looking for individual development, but a happy medium is just fine by me and that was achieved this season.
The pitching staff was led by 2012 draftees Brady Rodgers, Aaron West and Brian Holmes along with Vincent Velasquez, returning from a devastating injury in 2011. All of those gentlemen were reason alone for optimism but throw in Juri Perez and his 1.81 era and this could be a group to follow up the minor league ladder. Blake Ford would do his job well as the Tri-City closer, recording 14 saves and a 2.28 ERA while striking out 24 in just over 27 innings. The pitching had an unquestioned great year and provided fans with some faces to look at for the future.
Jesse Wierzbicki was the offensive hero and MVP of the Valley Cats season. The 2011 draftee posted fantastic numbers including five homeruns and a .376 OBP while preforming at a high level defensively at first base. Preston Tucker would also have an outstanding season coming in as the ‘Stros 7th round draft pick in 2012. His 8 homeruns and .509 slugging percentage are reasons to be excited about the outfielder coming out of the University of Florida. Given the fact that he came out of college, Tucker could move up quite quickly. An interesting name to follow off this squad is Jobduan Morales, a catching prospect who was traded to the ‘Stros for breakout Marlins’ OF Justin Ruggiano. He put up nice numbers for a young prospect and could help add good depth to a suddenly intriguing position within the Astros system.
For Tri-City, it was an incredible season and while momentum doesn’t usually carry over in minor league baseball, the stage is set for another productive year given the talent that should be up from Greeneville and the upcoming draft. One thing to keep in mind for Tri-City fans, the Astros could be in line to draft Mark Appel with the #1 pick in this seasons’ upcoming draft. If that happens, he will start the season with the Valley Cats, more than likely. Whatever happens, Tri-City can only hope for another season as productive as 2012, except with that one last victory so they can delivery a title to their fans.