Trying to project Lancaster's season is a daunting task because their ballpark doesn't play like any other ballpark in the Astros system, but I'm foolish enough to try.
In looking at the 2011 offensive output of those on the Lancaster opening day roster as a group, they fall somewhat short of the actual 2011 Lancaster offensive stats, but not by enough to overly concern me. There were some terrific producers who went through Lancaster in 2011 (Altuve, Hinze, Bailey, Wates and Singleton), but if the potential of Springer, Nash and Santana can translate into results, their production could serve to offset the loss of those players.
If we see the improvements from Mier and Hernandez that I expect, and Adamson can come even close to matching his Lexington numbers from 2011, that will certainly shore up the offense. One concern I have is that Valenzuela and Castro are the only two left-handed hitters on the team (with no switch-hitters), but I don't think it's a major concern.
And then there's the pitching. Since Lancaster is known as the place where pitcher's dreams go to die, this is very difficult to project. Mike over at Farmstros tweeted earlier today that the starters at Lancaster are to be Grimmett, Doran and Musick (repeating the Lancaster level) and Martinez and Alaniz who finished the season at Lexington.
Out of those who have pitched at Lancaster previously, I'm looking for the biggest improvement from Doran since he is more of a groundball pitcher. I am concerned about Grimmett and Musick since they are more flyball pitchers. Musick has made it work so far, but Grimmett has been less successful.
However, I can see both of the former Lexington pitchers projected to start succeed in Lancaster. Alaniz and Martinez aren't extreme groundball pitchers, but if they can keep the ball down in Lancaster, it will go a long way toward ensuring some success.
As far as the bullpen, I am very concerned about Gabriel Garcia (10HR over 69 innings, more of a flyball pitcher) making the transition from Lexington to Lancaster. I think Brian Streilein will have an easier time of it as he had the highest groundball rate of all the roster in 2011. Alex Sogard and Jorge de Leon should fare reasonably well, bringing decent control and very good SO/BB rates to the table.
So where does that leave me on projections for 2012? With heartburn, mostly. Even Jake Buchanan, as an extreme groundball pitcher with a great ERA for the league, didn't have a great deal of success in Lancaster when it came to wins and losses. In 2011, the team went 55-85, a .393 win percentage. I'm going to go with a pure guess on this one and say, at a minimum, they will finish with a 60-80 record which would translate to a .428 win percentage. Any results above that will be gravy.
I promise that the projections get better from here. Lancaster is just a very tough park.