GREENSBORO, N.C.—While Jordan Lyles is the best pitching prospect with low Class A Lexington (and arguably the best pitching prospect in the Astros’ entire farm system), a handful of other young pitchers threw for the Legends in their recent four-game series at Greensboro as well:
Ross Seaton, rhp: Seaton, 19, had the worst start of his career on Friday, allowing nine runs in 3 1/3 innings. Seaton allowed nine hits and three walks, striking out just two of the 22 batters he faced. Seaton’s ERA is still solid at 3.39 through 24 starts with just 2.6 walks per nine innings, though the 2008 third-round pick is averaging just 5.6 strikeouts per nine.
His fastball sat at 88 mph, ranging from 87-91 mph and touching 92 once. After racking up a high pitch count by the third inning, he was in the 86-89 mph range.
Seaton’s 81-83 mph slider was a solid pitch got a few swings and misses with short break. In the first inning, Seaton was able to get third baseman Jake Smolinski, who normally hits well against breaking pitches, to swing and miss at the pitch twice, including a strikeout on a 1-2 pitch.
“For the first half of the season he was trying to throw a curveball, and we were just trying to stay with one breaking ball,” Lexington pitching coach Travis Driskill said. “He gave it an honest effort and it didn’t turn out to be what we had hoped. So right around the all-star break we started going with that slider and it’s been a big pitch for him.
“Even while he’s been getting that working, his curveball has actually improved also. He’s figuring out the difference between the two pitches, so he doesn’t try to make it a slurve like what his curveball seemed to be early on—now he’s getting that 12-6 rotation with it, and then that slider has that nice little tilt that we look for.”
Kyle Greenwalt, rhp: Greenwalt, a 6-foot, 200-pound 20-year-old, signed with the Astros in 2007 as a 20th-round pick for an above-slot bonus. In six innings on Sunday, Greenwalt allowed two runs, five hits, no walks and struck out one.
Greenwalt’s fastball in the first inning sat at 92-93 mph, though his velocity progressively dripped each inning and ranged from 88-93. He also mixed in a 75-78 mph curveball and a changeup and showed a quick pickoff move.
Greenwalt has been very good this season against righthanded batters, who have hit .217/.271/.356 in 325 plate appearances with a 57-13 K-BB mark. Yet lefties have pounded him to a .327/.366/.429 line in 233 PAs with a 27-14 K-BB mark.
David Duncan, lhp: Duncan, the Astros’ No. 17 prospect entering the season and fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, began the season in high Class A Lancaster, but went down to Lexington after posting an 8.51 ERA in 48 2/3 innings with the JetHawks. Duncan, a lanky 23-year-old listed at 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, has a 4.50 ERA through eight starts with the Legends and a 40-9 K-BB mark in 46 innings.
In five innings on Saturday, Duncan allowed four runs (three earned), eight hits, three walks and struck out five. Throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, Duncan showed an 86-89 mph fastball, an 82-84 mph splitter and a slow, loopy curve at 70-73 mph, with the splitter the better of his two offspeed pitches
“It’s a big pitch for him, and really at this level, there’s not too many guys that really throw a split-finger,” Driskill said. “So it’s a pitch that not too many guys have seen. So when you got a guy that can throw it and get ahead in the count, he’s going to get a lot of strikeouts with it.”
Arcenio Leon, rhp: Of all the pitchers on the Lexington staff, Leon might have the best pure stuff. The problem is that his control is still a major work in progress. Leon threw a 93-95 mph fastball that touched 96 with a wipeout, swing-and-miss slider at 86-88 mph.
“If he can learn to keep the ball in the strike zone, with as hard as he throws, it’s not like he has to hit his spot every time like a guy who doesn’t throw so hard, he’s going to give himself a chance,” Driskill said.
Leon, a 22-year-old from Venezuela, missed his location on Friday, showing why his ERA is up at 6.06 in 65 1/3 innings with a 48-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his next appearance on Monday, Leon dialed his stuff down a few ticks to throw more strikes, though he still ramped it up at times for some extra electricity.
“Just having him for the last two seasons, when he gets ahead with that fastball and then he throws that slider, it can be devastating,” Driskill said. “It truly is a true out pitch. Again, it’s all based on his fastball. When he throws his fastball for strikes, they’ll swing at that slider.”
Matt Nevarez, rhp: Naverez became the Legends’ newest hard-throwing righthander out of the bullpen after coming over from the Rangers in the trade for Ivan Rodriguez. The trade kept Nevarez in the South Atlantic League, where between Lexington and the Rangers’ affiliate in Hickory he’s sporting a 2.65 ERA in 37 1/3 innings with 54 strikeouts and 15 walks.
Nevarez, 22, is a massive 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with a 93-95 mph fastball and an 82-83 mph slider. Nevarez’s fastball was a swing-and-miss pitch in his one inning of work on Saturday; he struck out Ben Lasater looking at a 95 mph fastball on the outside corner in a 2-2 count, then struck out Thomas Hickman swinging at a 94 mph fastball in a 2-2 count.
“He fell behind 2-0 (to Lasater) and then he muscled his way back in there with some fastballs and then was even able to strike the guy out looking with one,” Driskill said. “So that guy was waiting for that slider. When you sense that kind of thing and he paints the fastball, it’s kind of rewarding.”
• With only 12 games left, Carlos Santana probably won’t reach 100 walks on the season, but the Indians’ Double-A catcher is getting close. Santana homered and drew two more walks yesterday, bringing him to 84 on the season, including seven intentional walks. The home run is No. 21 for Santana, who has done nothing to lose his position as Cleveland’s top prospect. Santana, 23, is now batting .286/.414/.528 through 119 games with Akron.
• It’s hard for scouts around the short-season New York-Penn League to find faults in Ryan Westmoreland‘s game. Westmoreland, who signed with the Red Sox for $2 million last year as a fifth-round pick, doubled yesterday to extend his hitting streak to eight games and bring his slash stats with Lowell to .298/.398/.491 with 35 walks and 48 strikeouts in 58 games. Westmoreland, 19, has begun to play left field in the last two weeks after serving exclusively as the Spinners’ DH to start the year, but his plus-plus speed should allow him to play center field in the future.
• The 128 games that Athletics center fielder Grant Desme has played in this year is itself significant progress. Desme, a second-round pick out of Cal Poly two years ago, played in just 12 games the year he signed and only two games last year due to wrist and shoulder injuries. With another home run and stolen base yesterday for high Class A Stockton, he’s on the verge of a 30-30 season with 40 stolen bases and 29 home runs. Injuries have put the 23-year-old Desme behind the typical development path, but his .287/.362/.558 batting line between Stockton and low Class A Kane County this year shows that there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic.
• After missing a month with shoulder fatigue, Jason Knapp is back with his new organization after the Phillies dealt him to the Indians as part of the Cliff Lee package. Knapp made his fourth start yesterday for low Class A Lake County, though the results weren’t ideal: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO. So far with the Captains, Knapp has a 5.40 ERA in 11 2/3 innings with a 12-to-8 K-to-BB ratio.
• A’s first baseman Chris Carter made his Triple-A debut yesterday for Sacramento, with results similar to the pasting he put on Double-A Texas League foes. Carter went 3-for-5 with a double at home against Fresno, continuing one of the best minor league seasons by any hitter. Carter, 22, left the TL with a .337/.435/.576 line with 24 home runs and 82 walks in 125 games.
• Your full-season minor league leader in OBP? That would be a 19-year-old in the Midwest League—Padres left fielder Jaff Decker. Through 94 games with low Class A Fort Wayne, Decker has mashed (and walked) his way to a .300/.444/.517 batting line with 78 walks and 83 strikeouts. Yesterday Decker showed off more power than patience, going 2-for-5 and clocking his 16th home run of the season. With top prospect Kyle Blanks running out of prospect eligibility, Decker’s padding his resume to usurp him as the top hitter in the Padres system.
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