Astros Minors: Pitcher Jose Hernandez Moves Up
By Larry Manch
Astros Class-A Report: Quad Cities River Bandits (July 17-23)
Astros minor league pitcher Jose Hernandez is headed to the California desert after impressive performances in Iowa. The second-year pro earned promotion to Advanced-A Lancaster after performances marking him as one of the River Bandits’ most effective pitchers, and two nods as 2016 Midwest League Pitcher of the Week.
Hernandez, 21, was signed in 2015 by the Astros as an undrafted free agent out of Mexico. He began his first professional season with Greeneville in the Appalachian League (Rookie), where he compiled a 1-1, 2.11 ERA in six games. He threw 21 .1 innings, gave up four walks and struck out 25 before moving up to Tri-City (Short Season Class-A). With the Valley Cats, Hernandez appeared in five games, pitching 16.1 innings, winning one with no losses, and an unimpressive 4.96 ERA.
In the off-season, looking to refine his form, Hernandez pitched for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. In eight games (seven starts) in the city where he was born, he threw 32.1 innings, ending up with a 2-2 record, and a much improved 1.39 ERA. He walked only four and struck out 23 in Mexico.
The 2016 season saw Hernandez in Quad Cities, and it appeared that his Winter League stint was good preparation for the Midwest League. As mentioned, his pitching twice earned him league honors, in mid-June, and again for the week of July 10-16. In his last ten games with Quad Cities, Hernandez was 3-0, with a 1.49 ERA in 54.1 innings, allowing seven walks and striking out 56. Overall this season, in 17 games, he is 3-2, 2.66 ERA, 15 walks, 84 strikeouts in 81.1 innings.
Now Hernandez heads out to the hitter-friendly California League to see what he can do.
- Randy Cesar, 3B, was promoted on July 21 to Quad Cities from the Tri-City Valley Cats. Cesar, a 2011 non-drafted free agent signee, was hitting a league-leading .389 in 30 games, and an astounding .515 in his last ten games.
- The related move sends INF Osvaldo Duarte to High-A Lancaster. The 20-year-old Duarte was hitting .272 with seven triples, three home runs, and 15 stolen bases in 76 Midwest League games.
- Cesar had three hits and scored three runs in his first Quad Cities game on July 21. Two nights later, he hit his first home run for the Bandits.
- The River Bandits lead the league in triples and caught stealing. They are in the bottom third in hits and runs scored.
- RHP Elieser Hernandez on July 22 had an excellent night on the mound. In 6.1 innings, he allowed only three hits, one walk, while striking out a career-high 14. According to pitching coach Chris Holt in this Michael Leboff/MiLB.com article, Hernandez faced 24 Dayton batters, got 19 of them out, and required four or fewer pitches on 12 of those outs.
- With Jose Hernandez moving up to Lancaster, his spot was taken up by RHP Hector Perez from Tri-City. In seven games and 28.2 innings for the Valley Cats, Perez’ record was 2-0, with a 1.57 ERA.
- Astros #4 prospect Kyle Tucker hit safely in three straight games from July 17-21, however, in his last ten games, he is batting only .206, .279 on the season. He leads the team in hits with 82, RBI (44), and is second in total bases with 110.
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- Newly signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel was assigned on July 16 to the Gulf Coast League Astros. As of this writing, he has yet to play, as he is not yet legally allowed to work in the US.
- Ronnie Dawson, the Astros 2016, Round 2 amateur pick, hit two home runs in the July 17 game, and another on July 18. He hit four home runs in five games between July 14-18.
- #13 prospect Jonathan Arauz has hit .275 in his last then games, an improvement over the previous ten.
- #14 prospect Gilberto Celestino has struck out only four times in his last 36 at-bats for the DSL Astros Orange. On July 17, he went 1 for two as the starting centerfielder in the DSL All-Star game.
- #15 prospect Miguelangel Sierra, Greeneville Astros (Appalachian League – Rookie), is hitting .293 in his last ten games. Although he is hitting .284 in 22 games this season, he has been held hitless in only four of those contests. From July 8-13, he had four consecutive games with two hits in each game.
- #29 prospect Wander Franco was sent on July 16 down to the Gulf Coast League Astros. Franco was hitting .200 in 14 games for Greeneville.
- Astros 2016 #1 amateur pick Forrest Whitley made his first professional appearance on July 22 for the Gulf Coast League Astros. He started the game against the GCL Marlins, threw one inning, allowed one hit, one earned run, one walk, and struck out two.
- Astros 6th round pick Stephen Wrenn leads the NY/Penn League with nine home runs as of July 23.
Next: Houston Astros: Corpus Christi Player Spotlight – Nolan Fontana
Quad Cities went 3-2 this week. Next week, (July 24-30), the River Bandits play two at home against Bowling Green, finish the homestand with three against Peoria, before playing the first game of a road trip in Beloit.
** Statistics provided by MiLB.com. and Baseball-Reference.com**