What Happened Was… (Now With Miscellany!)

Houston Astros (MLB) – I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Boy, remember when we thought Jose Capellan should be the fifth starter for the Astros, and how we were all at least a little upset that Russ Ortiz‘s contract situation had made him the better candidate?  Well thank goodness for Russ Ortiz’s agent, because Capellan has stunk so far this year, and he stunk tonight in the Express’s 7-5 loss to the Iowa Cubs (CHC).  Jose made it 5.1 innings, allowed 8 hits and 3 walks, 6 earned runs, and struck out just two.  The only good news, pitching-wise, was Clay Hensley, who pitched 2.0 innings in relief and allowed just a single hit.  The Chris Johnson watch continues, with Mark Saccomanno manning third base today. Saccy went 3-for-4 with two doubles and 2 RBI, though, so that softens the blow.  He also made it a whole game at 3B without an error, which is an accomplishment.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – Not only did the Hooks beat the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KCR) 12-6, but one of my favorite people, Old Man Van Hekken, got the win.  Starter Sergio Perez went just 4.0 innings, allowing 5 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks, and a solitary strikeout.  Chad Wagler pitched 3.0 innings to earn the save.  Every single Hook had a hit in this one, and all but one – #9 hitter SS Wladimir Sutil – had two hits.  2B Drew Meyer hit his first home run of the year, and RF Andrew Locke hit his second.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – CF Jack Shuck did everything in his power to win this game single-handedly, but Lancaster fell to the Inland Empire 66ers (LAD) 3-1.  Shuck went 3-for-4 with a run, a triple, and a stolen base in the losing effort.  Jason Castro and Koby Clemens each went 0-for-4.  Starter Jose Duran went 6.0 innings, allowing all three runs on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 3, and earning the loss.  Fernando Abad pitched 1.1 innings in relief, but was pulled after giving up a triple with one out in the bottom of the eighth.  Reid Kelly came in and retired the next two batters to keep the Jethawks in the game, though they couldn’t pull it out.

Lexington Legends (A) – The Legends had a pair of seven-inning games today to make up for their postponement yesterday, and won the first one against the West Virginia Power (PIT), 3-0.  Kyle Greenwalt (1-1) looked awfully solid on the mound, pitching 6.0 shutout innings to lower his ERA to 0.82 on the season.  Daniel Meszaros retired the side in order in the seventh, including two strikeouts, to earn his fourth save of the year.  2B Albert Cartwright went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double to lead the offense from the nine hole.  3B Ebert Rosario went 0-for-2 and had his fifth error in ten games.  Which is really impressive, if you ask me.

Lexington Legends (A) – The second game of the Legends-Power doubleheader didn’t go quite as well for the organization, as the Power won 6-3.  Jose Trinidad earned the loss in relief, but no pitcher was really safe in this one.  Not even Brian Wabick, who didn’t allow any runs in his 2.0 relief innings, but he did allow three hits and a walk.  Luckily, he struck out three to keep it from getting too ugly.  All three of the Legends’ runs came on a Federico Hernandez homer in the bottom of the fourth inning, temporarily tying the game before the Power scored three in the following frame. 

You Can Ring My Bell

I was flipping through channels, and passed ESPN just as Karl Ravech was saying, “Lots of talk about the Red Sox and Yankees.  We do other teams, other shows on this network.”

This was in a promo for a Cardinals game, and is undoubtedly a response to Heath Bell’s comments earlier this week.  It reeks of desperation; Ravech insisting beyond all evidence that they do recognize that there are 28 other teams in Major League Baseball.

For Whom The Bell Towles

I’ve been very vocal about my preference for J.R. Towles to be the starting catcher in Houston this year.  Towles had a hot callup in 2007, and began 2008 as the “catcher of the future.”  A horrible 171 major league plate appearances in 2008 got him sent down to Round Rock.  During that stretch, Jason Castro was also drafted.

Many people question how I can think that Towles is “ready” to be a major leaguer.  They say that he was lost at the plate last season, and that they see little or no evidence to support his being a starter at the top level.

In a way, that’s fair.  He showed very little to enthuse anyone at the major league level last year.  But I say his situation has changed drastically, for a few reasons:

1) When he began the season last year as the Astros’ starting catcher, he had just fifty Triple-A plate appearances to his name.  In those 50 PA, at the age of 23, he’d gone .279/.354/.279.  Not good numbers.  At the time he was named the starting major league catcher, he had failed to establish himself against even Triple-A talent.

2) After getting sent down last year, he put together 192 PA at Round Rock.  In that time – after the most humiliating months of his professional career while he struggled in the Show – he showed his resiliency by bouncing back and going .304/.370/.500 in the Pacific Coast League. 

3) He’s now 25, traditionally a breakthrough year for catchers.  He was thrust into the major league position too early and now he’s been sent down and forgotten, it seems.  Everyone points to how overmatched he had been at the big league level.  And, yes, he had been.  But that was largely because he’d gone pretty much straight from AA to the majors… and he’d actually begun 2007 in High-A ball before his promotion to Corpus Christi.  In less than a season, he went up four divisions.

4) Towles is .357/.379/.571 to this point in the 2009 season.  This is in a very small sample size, but these numbers are absolutely on course with his career minor league numbers, minus the brief 2007 stretch in Round Rock.  Since being sent down in 2008, his combined Major League Equivalency is .258/.307/.406.  Now, I’m the first to admit that that’s not great, but Ivan Rodriguez is currently getting paid more money to hit .227/.261/.341. 

It’s pretty obvious to me that Towles is at least as good an offensive option as Rodriguez, though I won’t go so far as to vouch for his defensive skillset.  And he’s far and away better than Humberto Quintero.  But many think back to the time he spent in the majors in 2008, and are content to keep him down on the farm and forget about him, sure that he can’t compete because he hit so poorly during a meager 146 at-bats after jumping more or less straight from High-A ball into the big leagues.

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10 comments

  1. stonebutch99

    I don’t think he’s ready to be a full time catcher in MLB. I’m all for him coming up if it’s between him and Q. Most definitely. Pudge handles the other facets of the game so well, that it makes me glad that Q has only had 7 at-bats. Pudge will never be the hitter that he was, but by catcher standards, I’ll take his numbers since he brings so much more to the team. He actually reminds me of Ausmus. Great teammate, great defensively, great with handling pitchers.

  2. roundrock15

    So we’re back to “calls a good game.” Defense and game-calling… Q is pretty good at both of those things. We could have gotten Sal Fasano to call a good game. Bahhhh… we’ll have to agree to STRONGLY disagree here.

  3. roundrock15

    And, I have to ask, why don’t you think he’s ready? I’ve never had anyone satisfactorily answer this for me.

  4. stonebutch99

    I hope you don’t think I like to argue, although my wife thinks I do. 😉 Seriously, I want to be respectful of course. There is one more thing I wanted to mention about Q, I don’t think he’s a good teammate.

    On another note, I wanted you to know that I will be attending a Hooks game when they are here to take on the Midland Rockhounds next Thursday, April 30th. I live in Odessa, but the stadium is about 15 miles away in Midland.

  5. roundrock15

    Towles is the rare Astro who got called up too early. And what kills me is that he’s going to get punished for it in the minds of fans, the way that Sutton is getting punished now for being a 25-year-old in Double-A last year.

    It’s not Sutton’s fault the Astros are afraid to promote from within and made him repeat AA-ball. And it’s not Towles’ fault that he was playing High-A ball one day, and less than a year later they’d stuck him in the Majors. I’m not saying call him up right now, but there’s going to be a point in this season where he’s going to have to get strong consideration.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  6. Cockroach

    I just wanted to say, thanks for doing these organizational wrap-ups. I don’t have the time to devote to following all the farm teams myself everyday, but it’s nice to have an idea of what’s going on down on the farm more often than whenever the Chronicle decides to mention it.
    http://ledzeb99.mlblogs.com/

  7. renaudtn

    Yep…Bell is absolutely right; ESPN/ESPN2 also broadcast more games featuring the Yankees and the Red Sox than any other teams.
    I have to say MLN network is slowly following ESPN path: I watched this channel every night, and although they do talk about every team, we hear more about the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers than we do about other teams on average. The other night when the Mets were playing the Brewers, they went live on this game for many different at bats. In the meantime, Wandy was pitching a great game against the Reds, and almost nothing about that. Sure enough when Sabathia struggled so much at the beginning of the season, we heard all about it over and over again. Idea: allow a certain amount of time to talk about each team, just like they do for political debates.
    There are 30 teams in MLB; not 3 or 4.

  8. roundrock15

    It’s as if a memo went out at ESPN that told their personalities they wouldn’t have to actually TALK about the other 28 teams, so long as they occasionally mentioned the fact that there ARE 28 other teams.

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