Perusing the Prospects: Bryan De La Cruz is the AAA Brantley

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Astros ended up having the day off, but the Skeeters did not.

While the Houston Astros‘ contest with the Detroit Tigers was postponed due to weather, there was still professional baseball happening for Houstonians. Down in Sugar Land, the Skeeters opened their second game against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

At the big-league level, the Astros will start a double header on Saturday starting at noon and 5 p.m. The hurlers for those seven-inning games will be Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr.

With the roster expanding to 27 players for Saturday’s games, Garrett Stubbs and Andre Scrubb look to be the the two options that could be called up. With Stubbs starting at catcher on Friday, adding another pitcher like Scrubb makes sense for a short-handed bullpen.

Bryan De La Cruz could replace Michael Brantley after 2022

The Astros have Michael Brantley under contract through the ’22 season, but with his aging legs, could the organization look to Bryan De La Cruz to fill his void? The Skeeters’ outfield is averaging 24 to 26-years-old with De La Cruz, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri and Ronnie Dawson rounding out the core.

The team currently doesn’t have any 40-man outfielders in the minor leagues, and with Kyle Tucker, Myles Straw and Chas McCormick under pre-arbitration control, Brantley stands as a free agent come the end of 2022. For all we know, McCormick and Straw might not be in the future plan within the next two seasons, while Pedro Leon is set to be a possible option in the coming year. While taking most of his innings at shortstop, this could lead to more opportunities for De La Cruz with the Astros.

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Entering Friday, the right-hander was slashing .335/.385/.512 with six home runs and 29 RBI through 164 at-bats. On Friday, De La Cruz posted a 2-for-4 line making up a third of the Skeeters’ hits. All though Brantley does his job left-handed, the future of the lineup will look fairly different two seasons from now.

This “professional hitter” look is being stirred in the minor-league career of De La Cruz. While it is against lower-end pitching, he is still hitting the cover off the ball. Nearing his mid-20s, De La Cruz has played his best baseball this year, but no one looks to be on their way out until after the 2022 season.

Fielding wise, he has flashed the leather across all three positions. Most of his innings come in right field with left field about five games behind it.

If it comes down to it, De La Cruz could be a trade piece for a team looking for outfield depth next season. We will most likely not see him in the major leagues in 2021, unless a slew of injuries come through. At the moment, he stands as the best Triple-A outfielder for the Astros.

Next. Korey Lee could be ready sooner than expected. dark

Other hits from around the farm:

Ryan Hartman got the nod for Friday’s action. The left-hander entered the game with a 4.33 ERA, and after surrendering his only run in the second inning, Hartman settled in. Over 5.1 innings, he allowed seven hits and two walks to his six punch outs.

Out of the bullpen, Francis Martes threw two shutout innings with three punch outs and a walk (27 pitches), which is something he needed immensely. The right-hander is looking to get things back on track, but fastball command is still an issue.

In Fayetteville, Josh James tossed one inning in a rehab assignment for the Woodpeckers, allowing one hit to his one walk and one strikeout.

Prior to Friday’s matchup, outfielder Carlos Machado was assigned to the High-A Asheville Tourists and right-handed pitcher Jon Olczak was assigned to the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, as both players were with the Skeeters. Machado was hitting .200 through two games, while Olczak posted a 9.45 ERA through 6.2 innings.

While dropping game two, 2-1, the Skeeters continue their series with the Dodgers on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.