With the Astros struggling to bring joy to the fans, it’s up to the Astros affiliates to help out the fan base. This month we saw a lot of promise from a top prospect, as well as strong pitching performances throughout the system. Here is a look at my “Minor League Players of the Month” for each Astros affiliate!
Oklahoma City Redhawks (15-10) First in the division
Batter: Marc Krauss
The 25-year old Krauss has been OKC’s best hitter in April. That is saying a lot since Jimmy Paredes, and Jake Elmore had a great month as well. Krauss hit .333 on his way to six homeruns and a 1.096 OPS. He has shown the ability to be patient with a 14/13 – K/BB ratio. The 2009 2nd rounder, Krauss is a legitimate contender to play DH for the Astros for the next few years with his power bat. Krauss will likely be called up sometime this year when the Astros decide they have had enough with Rick Ankiel, or if other spots open via trade or injury.
Pitcher: Jarred Cosart
This year was an important year for Cosart, and he didn’t disappoint in April. In 27.1 IP, Cosart registered a 2.63 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Cosart struck out 29 batters, and kept the ball in the ballpark all but once. Cosart walked a team high 11 batters this month, and that is something he will have to continue working on over the next month. Cosart is a likely call-up sometime by mid-June, as the Astros will likely try and avoid the Super-2 cut off date.
Reliever: Jose Valdez
Valdez has been OKC’s best relief pitcher so far this year. Though Josh Zeid and Kevin Chapman have also had a great month, Valdez outdid them. In 10 games, has a 1.42 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP in 12.2 IP. His seven saves led the team, and we should see Valdez in Houston (as well as other relievers from OKC), when the Astros decide to let go of most of their subpar bullpen pieces.
Corpus Christi Hooks (14-11) Tied for first in the division
Batter: George Springer
The best hitter in the Astros system up-to-date, Springer has hit 8 home runs and 8 doubles on his way to a triple slash line of (AVG/OBP/SLG) .292/.407/.648. Springer led the team in walks with 15, but also led the team in strikeouts with an alarming 32 strikeouts in 91 at-bats. If Springer can continue hitting the ball well, and cut down on his strikeouts, he can be a legitimate top 30 prospect in all of baseball next year.
Pitcher: [table id=4 /]
It was hard to single out any one pitcher this month, so I chose all six of these pitchers as the “Co-Pitchers of the Month” at CC. David Martinez led all pitchers at CC with a 1.19 ERA. Jake Buchanan led the team with a 0.72 WHIP. The 23-year old Buchanan had a 1.52 WHIP at CC last year, and has dramatically improved everywhere this year. Nick Tropeano led the team in strikeouts with 29. Asher Wojciechowski had a 20 inning scoreless streak to start the season, before giving up a few runs. His ERA is now at 2.08 because of a grand slam given up, otherwise he has been extremely dominant. We may see a few of these guys in OKC this year if the Redhawks continue to have injury problems, or the Astros make a few call-ups.
Alex Sogard has been lights out for CC with a 0.00 ERA on the year. Sogard has given up 8 hits and 3 walks along with 8 strikeouts in his 8.1 IP. With 5 saves, Stoffel has also excelled out of the bullpen with a 1.23 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 7.1 IP. It seems like Stoffel is on his way to OKC today, with a few roster moves being announced. Stoffel leaves CC with a “Co-Reliever of the Month” award in his carry-on bag!
Lancaster Jethawks (14-10) First in the division
Batter: Nolan Fontana
If Drew Muren hadn’t been called up, there may have been a fight for the award, but Fontana now wins this one easily. His .365 AVG and 1.078 OPS are both first on the team for everyday players. Fontana’s ability to walk has separated him from many players. His 18/26 – K/BB ratio is outstanding, and is one of the reasons we may see Fontana in Houston as early as this year.
Starting Pitcher: Chris Devenski
It’s tough to succeed when pitching in Lancaster, but Devenski did a good job in April. Devenski led starting pitchers in Lancaster with a 3.96 ERA while pitching four of his six games at home. He has a very solid 21/7 – K/BB ratio, and the 22 year old has moved up a level every year in his career. A 25th rounder in the 2011 draft, Devenski was the PTBNL in the Brett Myers deal, and has put together a solid career up to this point. If he continues his success, he can be a top 30 prospect for the Astros next year.
Reliever: Travis Ballew
A 23rd rounder from the 2012 draft, Ballew has been impressive in his first month at Lancaster. In 7 games, Ballew has thrown 7.2 IP, with a 3.52 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 3 saves. What separates Ballew from other relievers is his outstanding 17/3 – K/BB ratio. That’s no typo there as Ballew was blowing away hitters at a crazy rate in April. Ballew has a long way to go, but had an excellent start to the year.
Quad Cities River Bandits (15-8) Second in the division
Batter: Teoscar Hernandez
With most of the better prospects at QC struggling, Hernandez was the winner of the “Batter of the Month” for QC. In 91 at-bats, Hernanez hit .297 with a .776 OPS. Hernandez’s 7 doubles and 3 triples led the team this month. Hernandez has also been a great baserunner, going 8-8 on stolen base attempts. The 20-year old is having his best season in his short career so far, and it will be fun tracking him throughout the year.
Pitcher: Vincent Velasquez
If there was one pitching prospect I was hoping to have a big year, it was Velasquez. After being sidelined with TJ surgery , Velasquez had success at the end of last season. This season was about building up stamina, and proving he can be a frontline starter. So far on the year Velasquez has thrown 25.2 IP with a 2.45 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP. Velasquez has struck out 31 batters, and is on his way to having a breakout season. If the 20-year old can keep up his numbers, we may see Velasquez approach the top 100-prospect list next spring.
Both Neely and Lambson have pitched 10.1 IP this April, and both have an identical 1.74 ERA. However, Lambson, the 19th rounder in the 2011 draft from ASU, has done a better job keeping guys off base with a 1.16 WHIP while striking out 9. Neely has a 1.84 WHIP, allowing 14 hits and 6 walks this April. Neely does have 3 saves, though he needs to keep men off base, as his luck will eventually run out.