Over the next week I’ll be recapping each Astros farm team’s season up to this point in their season. Each team is a bit past the half-way point, so I’ll be recapping some of the CURRENT players on each squad above Low-A. I’ll choose five hitters and five pitchers to discuss with a few honorable mentions if necessary. Today I’ll be recapping the Lancaster JetHawks, and yesterday I recapped the RiverBandits.
The Lancaster offense which was lead by Preston Tucker who was recently promoted to Corpus Christi, leads the California League in runs, hits, doubles, RBI’s, total bases, walks, AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, and the least amount of strikeouts. All these numbers make sense for a park known for its strong offensive numbers. Unsurprisingly, the pitching staff doesn’t lead many categories, but they do have the least amount of walks which is something pitchers can control no matter the park. Here are the top five hitters and pitchers from the JetHawks.
1. Delino DeShields – The 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields is hitting .285 in his first full season at Lancaster. After a .250 April, DeShields batted .312 in May and .280 June to raise his average to a respectable number. DeShields is far off his pace of the 101 stolen bases from last year, but still has 23 stolen bases while being caught 11 times. While his stolen bases are down, he has improved his defense, with just 11 errors this season (24 last year). DeShields will be one of the Astros three representatives in the Futures game, and is still one of the better prospects in the Astros system.
2. Matt Duffy – A 24-year old drafted in the 20th round of the 2011 draft, Duffy has had a great season up to this point. Duffy has hit 11 HR to go along with 53 RBI’s. He bats .307 with a .913 OPS, and has 9 errors on the season. Duffy is likely to get the call up to Corpus Christi soon as he’s a bit old for the California League. Duffy has improved every year in his 2.5-year Astros career, and may see Houston one day.
3. MP Cokinos – One of the fun stories from the twittersphere this year, Cokinos is the player in the hashtag #dailydaseofcoke. Cokinos got early playing time when Heineman went down with an injury, and he made the most of that opportunity. Cokinos now gets regular playing time, and has even seen time in left field this season. At the plate Cokinos has hit .340 with a .962 OPS, and has a ridiculous 17/27 – K/BB ratio. He has hit 6 HR and 46 RBI, but hasn’t been so great behind the plate as he’s allowed 24 stolen bases and caught one. Cokinos has been a pleasant surprise for the Astros this season, and we will see if he can keep it up.
4. Andrew Aplin – The 22-year old Aplin, has been a very reliable outfielder this season. As a middle-of-the-lineup bat, Aplin doesn’t swing for the fences often but he does sport a .288/.380/.440 line with 6 HR and 61 RBI. Aplin also has a great 32/49 – K/BB ratio, and has stolen 12 bases this year. The 5th rounder in last year’s draft, Aplin will likely head to Corpus Christi for the 2014 season.
5. Chris Epps – When a player is taken in the 45th round of a draft, you don’t usually expect such great numbers, but Epps has been outstanding this year. In 212 at-bats with the JetHawks, Epps has hit .297 with a .966 OPS and has 10 HR, 20 2B, and 47 RBI. Epps is also 24-years old so it’s likely he will be called up to Corpus Christi by the beginning of the 2014 season.
Honorable Mentions – Nolan Fontana and Joe Sclafani – Both performing well and would likely be top 5 hitters on other High-A teams. Fontana’s line is .278/.418/.445 with a 49/49 – K/BB ratio. Sclafani’s line is .331/.457/.496 with a 29/32 – K/BB ratio. Both players aren’t huge power hitters (5HR and 4HR respectively), but get on base at a high rate, and are reliable defenders. Look for Fontana to rise through the system quickly, and Sclafani may not be too far behind.
1. Brady Rodgers – Though his ERA (5.30) and WHIP (1.40) are high, I still consider Rodgers the best pitching prospect on the JetHawks. Rodgers has thrown 71.1 IP, with 58 K’s and 15 walks. Rodgers was called up to OKC for a spot start and pitched five innings allowing five hits, one run, and four strikeouts. The 22-year old from Richmond, Texas, will likely be called up to Corpus Christi for the 2014 season.
2. Aaron West – A 17th rounder in 2012 draft, Aaron West also has high numbers but the Lancaster park is responsible for those numbers. West’s ERA is 4.88 and he has a 1.29 WHIP. West does have a nice 63/9 – K/BB ratio and his numbers should normalize once out of the California League. West is one of my sleeper pitching prospects in the Astros farm system, and is another candidate for the Hooks pitching staff next season.
3. Luis Cruz – One of the longest tenured Astros on the Lancaster pitching staff, Cruz was drafted in the 9th round of the 2008 draft. In his 76.1 IP, Cruz has a 4.48 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP with a 91/31 – K/BB ratio. Cruz has one of the more electrifying arms in the Astros system, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Astros keep him in Lancaster for another season or send him south to Corpus Christi.
4. David Rollins - A pitcher from Toronto’s farm system, Rollins was acquired in the J.A. Happ trade almost a year ago, and has been a good pitcher for the Astros this year. His 3.70 ERA and 1.10 WHIP are the best of the JetHawks staff and he has a 62/29 – K/BB ratio in 75.1 IP. As I previously mentioned earlier this year, Rollins has struggled as a starter with a 5.53 ERA but flourished when coming out of the pen with a 1.36 ERA. It’s tough to figure out why there is such a big disparity, but Rollins has pitched better as a starter as of late. With the depth at starting pitcher in the Astros organization, it’s possible the Astros decide to move him to the bullpen in the future.
5. Travis Ballew – The 23-year old Ballew was drafted in the 23rd round in last year’s draft. Ballew has a 3.33 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in his 27 innings pitched this season. Ballew has a ridiculous 48 strikeouts this season, and may be a future late-inning reliever for the Astros in a few seasons.