The Houston Astros High-A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks are once again atop the California League standings. The team managed by Rodney Linares won the south division crown for the first half of the season and is off to a 2-0 start in the second half. They have won 19 of their last 23 games overall.
All-Stars Tony Kemp and Teoscar Hernandez continue to lead the way offensively for the JetHawks. Kemp, a fifth round pick out of Vanderbilt last year, has set the tone from the leadoff spot. The 5′ 6″, 165 pound second-baseman currently leads the league with a robust .441 on-base percentage. Hernandez, 21, has hit 13 homers and driven in a team high 58 runs while slashing .290/.370/.557. He also has 21 stolen bases.
Meanwhile, Carlos Correa is slashing .325/.417/.504 with 56 RBIs, and 20 steals. Of Correa’s 80 hits, 27 have gone for extra bases. Jeff Luhnow recently stated that the top overall pick in the 2012 draft is not far from a promotion to AA and should spend the bulk of the second half playing for Corpus Christi. By the way, Carlos is still a few months shy of his 20th birthday.
Rio Ruiz, who just recently turned 20, is hitting .299/.395/.437 in his first season at the High-A level. Conrad Gregor, who was teammates with Kemp at Vandy, has been on fire since his recent promotion to the JetHawks. The first-baseman has responded with 28 hits and 11 walks in his first 19 games in the Cal. League.
On the mound, 20-year old lefty Josh Hader has a 7-0 record following last night’s win against Lake Elsinore. Hader sports a 2.27 ERA and has 78 strikeouts in 71 & 1/3 innings pitched. Those numbers, in addition to his 0.995 WHIP, are even more impressive considering the high-scoring nature of the league and the JetHawks home ballpark.
Another 20-year old, Lance McCullers Jr., has also been impressive. Lance has racked up 66 strikeouts in 57 innings of work. Unfortunately, McCullers is dealing with some back pain and the word out of SoCal is that he has been placed on the disabled list. The issue is believed to be minor and the JetHawks are hoping that McCullers will be back soon.
The team hasn’t missed a beat despite being without one of its top pitchers since early May. Vincent Velasquez (4-1, 2.89 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) has been sidelined by a groin injury. A timetable has yet to be established for his return.
Chris Devenski, a winner in each of his last three starts, takes the mound tonight in Lake Elsinore as the JetHawks look to continue their dominance.
For more on the JetHawks and their quest for a second California League title in three years, be sure to follow Antelope Valley Press writer Eric Smith on Twitter. Big thanks go out to Eric for providing source material for this article.