Prospect Notebook: Astros’ Mike Foltyniewicz Stretches Out

Mike Foltyniewicz, rhp, Astros: There were many notable moments for Foltyniewicz on Wednesday, but the most notable moment may have been when he was sent out to pitch the eighth inning.

Because he's been pitching in a tandem-starter system for most of the year, Foltyniewicz had generally been limited to four or five innings (and 75 or so pitches) when he was starting, and even less when he was relieving. Until this month, Foltyniewicz hadn't pitched into the sixth in a game he started.

Beginning at the end of June, Foltyniewicz was given the chance to focus on starting and his pitch limit was extended. Even with the added freedom of a roughly 100-pitch limit, until Wednesday, Foltyniewicz hadn't gone much deeper into games. He worked six innings with 93 pitches on July 12 and struggled through only four innings in 94 pitches on July 19. But on Wednesday, Foltyniewicz put together one of the best outings of his pro career.

Foltyniewicz needed 109 pitches to hold Double-A San Antonio scoreless for eight innings. He maintained his dominating velocity throughout his start as he largely pitched off of a plus-plus fastball that he was able to work down in the zone early in counts and then elevate out of the zone in two-strike counts. He sat at 99 mph in the seventh and eighth innings. It was only the second time in his career that Foltyniewicz has worked eight innings.

The closest San Antonio came to scoring against Foltyniewicz came in the first inning as Rico Noel and Tommy Medica hit a pair of ground-ball singles. Johan Limonta followed with a line drive to center field that looked to be good for at least one run and maybe more. But Drew Muren dove to snag the sinking liner, then popped up to double off Noel at second base.

When he's struggled, scouts have worried that Foltyniewicz's fastball is a little too straight but when he's getting good angle on his fastball like he was on Wednesday, that's much less of a concern.

Marcus Stroman, rhp, Blue Jays: In his third start for DOuble-A New Hampshire after his return from his 50-game suspension for stimulant use, Stroman was rocked for seven runs in only one inning. It was notable because in the 10 starts since, he's hasn't had a bad outing. Wednesday night was one of his best. Stroman made one significant mistake—a pitch that Brian Goodwin hit out in the fourth—but he struck out 11 while walking only two in 6 2/3 innings. It's the second time this month that he's reached double digits in strikeouts. Stroman now has 79 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 69 2/3 innings.

Tyler Naquin, of, Indians: After a rough month, Naquin is finishing July with a late surge. Until Tuesday, Naquin hadn't homered in 31 games. He ended his home run drought against Wilmington, then followed it up with his second home run in two days on Wednesday.

With Francisco Lindor heading to Double-A Akron after the Futures Game, Naquin is the top prospect remaining on the high Class A Carolina club, but a July slump, which included an 0-for-20 stretch, had dropped his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage by 20-30 points apiece. Power isn't a large part of his game, but he does have plenty of ability to find the gaps with a sweet swing that provides plenty of line drives.

Matt Purke, lhp, Nationals: When the Nationals paid Purke $2.75 million as a third-round pick in 2011, it was seen as a risky gamble with a potentially big payoff. After all, Purke was a first-round pick out of high school and had established himself as one of the best power pitchers in college baseball as a freshman. But Washington was signing him after an injury prone sophomore season where he was limited by a shoulder injury.

Purke can bounce back (see Anthony Ranaudo as an example of a pitcher regaining his once plus stuff), but right now the gamble has not paid off.

After surgery to clean out scar tissue in his shoulder last year, Purke's velocity is down a tick and his stuff lacks the life it had when he was starring at Texas Christian. He still breaks off a good 12-to-6 curveball at times, but too often he is getting behind in counts.

On Wednesday, Purke gave up nine hits and six runs (three earned) in 4 ⅔ innings. Purke has a 10.19 ERA in his last four starts, has walked seven and struck out nine over those 17 ⅔ innings.

Purke actually pitched four scoreless innings on Wednesday, but it all fell apart in a six-run fifth. He's had similar problems in previous starts this month, including a seven-run meltdown in the fourth inning against high Class A Winston-Salem on July 8. Although he isn't walking an excessive number of hitters, his control is still a problem at times, as he has stretches where he misses his spots badly.