Astros Class-A Report: Quad Cities River Bandits (June 21-26)
The River Bandits closed out the best first half in team history on June 21, with a 3-1 win over Burlington and a first place finish in the Midwest League’s Western Division. In a move that will hopefully give the Bandits even more of an edge for the second half, the Astros signed top amateur draft pick, SS Alex Bregman, and assigned him to Quad Cities.
This week, the Bandits went 3-1, as the second half of the Midwest League season kicked off. The River Bandits’ 45-23 first half record is the best in the Midwest League, and the most wins in team history. This talented team is perfectly positioned to maintain their division lead.
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Bregman (second overall pick) signed a contract for a $5.9 million bonus in Houston on June 25. He had to pass a physical and attend a press conference at which Astros GM Jeff Luhnow introduced him to the media. Bregman worked out at Minute Maid Park with the Astros prior to their game against the Yankees, then boarded another plane to head to his first professional assignment. His new team was on the road in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the midst of a three-game series against the Kernels.
In a move likely precipitated by the addition of Bregman, infielder Thomas Lindauer was released on June 26. The 23-year-old former 23rd round Astros draft pick was batting .200 with no home runs and 15 RBI in 32 games for Quad Cities this season. In three seasons, 175 games with Tri-City, Greenville, and Quad Cities, Lindauer hit.189 with eight home runs and 58 RBI. Ironically, Lindauer got two hits and an RBI in his final game in the June 25 loss to Cedar Rapids.
Lindauer reacted to his release with class and dignity, writing on Twitter in part: “I had my chance, things didn’t work out. That’s how life goes,” and “I will forever be an Illini and forever be an Astro.”
Bregman’s first professional appearance came on June 26, as the designated hitter batting second between All-Stars Jamie Ritchie and Jacob Nottingham. The rookie went 1-5 in his first game, with a line out to shortstop, a swinging strikeout, a lineout to first base, a lineout to third (he made the last out of the inning in three of his at bats), and a single to left in the ninth inning. In his second game on June 27, Bregman also went 1-5, with a double and his first RBI.
It will be interesting to see how Bregman fits in with this team – the $6 million rookie joining a first place team that obviously has an established team chemistry. Although Lindauer wasn’t hitting well, he was a teammate on a winning team, and Bregman is there to replace him. It’s not all hitting, fielding, and running bases that makes a good ballplayer – it’s whether or not he fits in and gets along with the rest of the team that helps to determine his future in the game. The greatest ballplayer on the planet isn’t going to stay around long if he can’t get along with his teammates; being a team player may be a cliché, but it is critical to success.
Three River Bandits regulars made the All-Star team, including starting catcher Jacob Nottingham, starting third baseman Nick Tanielu, and C-1B Jamie Ritchie. The West Division All-Stars lost 5-0 on June 23, with Nottingham stroking two hits. Neither of the other River Bandits players had a hit in the game.
As a team, the River Bandits are hitting .267, good for fourth in the Midwest League. They are second in runs (377), fourth in hits (634), third in doubles (128), fourth in home runs (44), second in RBI (318), third in Total Bases (934), first in walks (307), first in On Base Percentage (.351), second in Slugging Percentage (.393), and second in OPS (.745).
The team is first in ERA (2.77), second in complete games (2), firsts in saves (24), allowed the fewest hits in the league (535), fewest runs (238), fewest earned runs (196), fifth in strikeouts (577), and first in WHIP (1.15).
Nottingham leads the River Bandits in average (.326), hits (75), doubles (18), HR (10), RBI (46), Total Bases (125), Slugging Percentage (.543), and OPS (.931). Ritchie leads the Midwest League in walks (63), On Base Percentage (.436), Nottingham in Slugging Percentage (.543), and OPS (.931). We will likely see Nottingham moving up to High-A at Lancaster before long.
This week, the River Bandits finish the Cedar Rapids series, head home for three games against the Beloit Snappers, and two against the Peoria Chiefs.
- RHP Akeem Bostick was promoted on June 24 to High-A Lancaster JetHawks.
- LHP Michael Freeman, seventh round pick in the MLB draft (199th overall) was assigned to Quad Cities on June 24. The 6’8″ lefty out of Oklahoma State was the Big-12 Pitcher of the Year; 10-3 with a 1.31 ERA, four complete games and 97 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings.
- Bregman signed his first professional contract and was introduced to the Houston media on June 25 by Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.
- One day after Bregman’s media appearance, newly signed draftee Riley Ferrell, RHP, 3rd round pick also met the media. Like Bregman the day before, Ferrell worked out with the Astros prior to the June 26 game against the Yankees, before heading out to join the River Bandits.
- Freeman made his first professional appearance in the same game with Bregman. He entered the game in the sixth inning, pitched 2 frames, giving up one hit, one run, and one walk.
- Modern Woodmen Park was named Class-A’s best ballpark by fans and readers of Ballpark Digest. The Davenport, Iowa stadium was built in 1931, and according to the River Bandits’ web site, “is the oldest stadium used continuously by a current Minor League Baseball team for more than 50 years.”
- RHP David Paulino was promoted on June 27 to Quad Cities from the Tri-City Valley Cats (Class-A short season NY-Penn. League). Paulino was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, two walks, and 10 strikeouts, in two games and 9.1 innings.
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