Astros' Martinez Keeps On Hitting In Double-A





Best Player: In his first taste of Double-A at Corpus Christi, J.D. Martinez hit .302/.357/.407 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games, quickly becoming a cornerstone of the offense just a year after he was drafted in the 20th round out of Division II Nova Southeastern (Fla.).

Oh, and in his previous 88 games, Martinez, 23, did enough to wrap up the low Class A South Atlantic League MVP award. Martinez's numbers for Lexington were off the charts, forcing the Astros into a change of plans and a two-level promotion on July 16. He hit .362/.433/.598 there with 15 home runs.

While he was a late selection in the draft, he did not exactly come out of nowhere, as he won the short-season New York-Penn League batting title in his pro debut last summer.

Best Pitcher: After his 18-year-old season, righthander Jordan Lyles was already the top pitching prospect in the organization, and he did nothing to disappoint at 19, excelling in Double-A and advancing to Triple-A two months short of his 20th birthday.

For Lyles simply to hold down a job in the Texas League after skipping over high Class A Lancaster was impressive enough, but he made the postseason all-star team after a fine 21 outings. He struck out 115 and walked just 35 in 127 innings for Corpus Christi. Lyles went a misleading 7-9 with a 3.12 ERA before getting the call to Triple-A Round Rock on Aug. 6.

He hit a bit of a rocky stretch in Triple-A as the competition finally caught up to him, and he went 0-3, 5.40. But Lyles remains well ahead of schedule.

Keep An Eye On: Still just two months removed from his 22nd birthday, undrafted Patrick Urckfitz more than held his own in the Lancaster launching pad.

The lefthander's overall numbers reflected the conditions and his lack of run support as he went 5-9, 4.13 for the JetHawks. But the Astros liked what they saw enough to move him into the rotation after a career spent as a reliever, and he'll get some more innings in the Arizona Fall League.

Urckfitz struck out 103 and walked 32 in 105 innings in a place where it's not always easy to be aggressive.

SPACE SHOTS

• The Astros' two-year stretch without an affiliate making the postseason ended when short-season Tri-City clinched the New York-Penn League playoffs on the season's last day.

• Lancaster second baseman Jose Altuve homered in three straight games in the final week to reach 15. Altuve, 20, had five home runs in his first three years in the organization.