Archive for July 4th, 2008

Now Batting For The Houston Astros…

J.R. Towles is the number one prospect in the Houston Astros organization, following in the footsteps of Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, but for the first 42 games this season, he was awful.

Towles hit .145 for the Astros before being sent down in early June.  He rebounded somewhat in Round Rock (AAA-Pacific Coast), hitting .279 with 5 homeruns and 11 RBI.  The improved performance might not have earned him the callup when Humberto Quintero went on the disabled list with a concussion, but it has to make the Astros feel a lot better about his occasional presence in a major league lineup. And for Towles, a 20th round draft pick in 2004, it’s another chance to prove he belongs in Houston.

And hey, he’s 2-7 with a couple of ribbies in his first two games back.  The average is up to .153.  That’s progress!

Now Batting For The Pittsburgh Pirates

I’m a couple of days late on this (that’s what I get for not checking me email more often), but it must be noted that the Pittsburgh Pirates called up outfielder Steve Pearce, the organization’s third-ranked prospect, to replace pitcher Matt Capps.  Capps is expected to be out for eight weeks or more; it’s not known how long Pearce will occupy his roster spot.  One article that I ran across suggested that he could be back in Indianapolis when Phil Dumatrait and Ian Snell return next week.

In the meantime, however, the 25-year-old Pearce has to be hoping for a chance to prove him self at the major league level.  His ascent to this point started slow, with two full seasons in various levels of A ball, before taking off in 2007.  He started that season with Lynchburg (A+-Carolina), progressed to Altoona (AA-Eastern), then Indianapolis (AAA-International) before landing in Pittsburgh for 23 September games.  Overall, he hit .333 with 31 homeruns and 113 RBI in the minors and .294 with no homers and six RBI for the Pirates.  He is considered the organization’s best hitter for both average and power.

At the time of his callup, Pearce was hitting .259 with 11 homeruns and 50 RBI in 79 games for Indianapolis.  He struck out as a pinch-hitter in his first major league at-bat of the year.

Now Batting For The Tampa Bay Rays…

Prior to the season, I noted at One More Dying Quail that as a Red Sox fan, the Tampa Bay Rays scared me.  This was immediately before I compared them to the 1969 Mets, a historically awful team that rode a bunch of young talent to the World Series.  The common response to the post was something along the lines of, “Oh, silly OMDQ – you know the Rays will never actually be good.” 

Jeez, I’m not looking so crazy now, am I?

The Rays are currently performing what figures to be a multi-year hostile takeover of the American League East, and they’re only getting better.  Following an injury to shortstop Jason Bartlett in Wednesday’s win over the Red Sox (that’ll teach you to stage six-run rallies!  Jerks!), Tampa Bay recalled Reid Brignac from Durham (AAA-International), where he was hitting .265 with 7 homeruns and 38 RBI in 78 games.

Brignac, the team’s fifth-rated prospect according to Baseball America, was a second-round draft pick in 2004 out of Louisiana’s St. Amant High School.  (That was a potentially great draft for the Rays: four of the top five picks – Jeff Niemann, Brignac, Wade Davis and Jake McGee – are still top ten prospects, and 13th rounder Andy Sonnanstine has provided some value in the starting rotation the past two seasons.)  He has progressed steadily through the system, showing some offensive pop and earning a reputation as the best defensive infielder in the organization.

Nobody knows how much he’ll play or how long he’ll be in the majors, except maybe Joe Maddon, but the mere sight of Brignac and Evan Longoria, two 22-year-old representatives of the organization’s exceedingly bright future, together on the left side of the infield is sure to make even the most hardened Rays fans shed tears of joy.

Gosh, it could be REALLY fun to watch the American League East for the next five to ten years.

Candlesticks Make A Nice Gift

We somehow missed the 20th anniversary of Bull Durham’s release here at Bus Leagues (bad minor league baseball bloggers – BAD!) but never fear, for I have spent the past thirty minutes trolling around YouTube in search of a video clip that will make up for the fact that we are almost three weeks late to the party (hey, Costner is in Durham with his band later today; that makes this a relevant topic, no?)

And finally, I found one. 

Be careful with the volume, because the language gets a little salty at times, but it’s well worth it if you’re one of those people who has always wondered what they’re talking about during those little mid-inning get togethers on the mound.

Collin Cowgill Is A Beast

A few days ago, I wrote a brief post about Collin Cowgill, outfielder for Arizona’s Low A affiliate in Yakima, who started his professional career by slugging homeruns at a pretty impressive pace: six in the Bears’ first eleven games.  At the time, I jokingly suggested that Cowgill’s early productivity should earn him a spot on the Diamondback’s major league roster.

This was before I realized that Cowgill is an absolute BEAST with a 33-inch piece of ash in his hands (I don’t know if he uses ash or maple, but I’ve always thought that ash sounds better; I think of maples, I think of the trees with the pretty leaves that changed colors in my back yard when I was a kid.  Ash trees didn’t have time for silly little things like “leaves”).

Wednesday night, Cowgill went 4-6 with four runs scored and five batted in, but that’s not the best part: he also hit three homeruns, bringing his season total to an unbelievable ten in fifteen games.  For a little perspective on that, consider this: three players are currently tied for second place with three homeruns for the entire season.  Cowgill has one more homer than the three guys behind him combined.

Last season’s leader, Ian Gac (GAC!), had 17 roundtrippers in 70 games; in 2005, Freddie Thon and Luis Valbuena tied for the lead with 12.  Twelve!  My man Collin (with two L’s) should top that by Monday.

If the slightly built righty (5’9″, 195 lbs, and he throws lefty, which is just weird) continues jacking longballs at this pace, he also has a chance at the all-time short-season record of 25, set by William Darkis way back in 1980.  That is a lot of homeruns in not a lot of games.  Cowgill is currently on pace for 50 (and I’m not even rounding up – it’s actually 50.667)! 

And after that, he’s goin’ to South Bend (Silver Hawks), and then he’s goin’ to Visalia (Oaks – say hi to Crash Davis), and Mobile (BayBears), and Tucson (Sidewinders – I hate snakes, Jacques, I hate ’em), and Arizona (Diamondbacks), heeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaaah! (/pointless and confusing Howard Dean reference)