With all of the traveling I've been doing this season, I haven't had much of a chance recently to take a long look at each of the minor league affiliates to see how they are doing. I will start with the DSL Astros because we haven't spent much time looking at them and the team represents a HUGE improvement over last year's.
I'll be honest. Last year's team was painful to cover. They ended the season 22-47. Coming in to today, they are 21-18. What constitutes the big turnaround? The offense has improved somewhat (which frankly didn't take much as it ranked at or close to the bottom in most offensive categories in 2012), but the pitching has improved exponentially over last season.
Here is how the DSL team currently ranks in several offensive categories (out of 35 teams):
22nd - Batting Average
30th - OBP
19th - SLG
26th - Doubles
T17th - Triples
T6th - Home Runs
27th - Walks (only 7 teams had fewer strikeouts, though)
34th - Stolen bases
As you can see, not great offense but at least not dead last. OF Hector Roa ranks 11th in the league in slugging percentage with .455 and fifth in the league in home runs (five). SS Jean Estrella leads the DSL Astros in average (.294) and OBP (.381). He has only struck out ten times in 34 games. OF Jarico Reynoso leads the team in stolen bases with nine in 38 games. OF Luis Payano leads the team in runs scored (25), doubles (8) and walks (25) in 38 games. Unfortunately, he also leads the team in strikeouts, with 39. And finally, 2B Arturo Michelena leads the team in hits (35), triples (4) and RBI (19) over his 37 games.
The pitching, which had a few bright spots here and there last season, is full of bright spots this season. The team ranked generally around two-thirds of the way down the list in most pitching categories last season. This season they are second in ERA with a cumulative 2.05 mark and second in WHIP at 1.089. In addition, they are tied for fifth in strikeouts and are tied for 27th in walks allowed.
Of the players who have pitched enough innings to qualify, two are in the top 20 in the league in ERA - RHP Elieser Hernandez at 0.84 is third and RHP Rayderson Chevalier at 1.72 is 20th. Chevalier is also in the top 20 in WHIP at 0.957. RHP Angel Heredia, with his 1.66 ERA, is seventh in the league in saves with six.
Others with an outstanding ERA and WHIP include RHP Joselo Pinales (0.63/0.837 in eight appearances), RHP Gerardo Juarez (1.26/0.736 in eight appearances) and LHP Junior Garcia (2.03/0.975 in nine appearances). LHP Cristhopher Santamaria has only pitched 10.1 innings (seven appearances), but he has not yet allowed a run, earned or otherwise, and has a 0.375 WHIP. In all, there are 11 pitchers on the team with a WHIP of 1.171 or less. Only one pitcher has an ERA higher than 4.01 (but that pitcher has only pitched two-thirds of an inning this season).
As a side note, the two main catchers on the team, Brian Pena and Marlon Avea, have caught stealing percentages of 50% and 53% respectively.
The DSL Astros are currently ranked in third place (out of eight teams) in their division, six games back. But that is far and away better than their 2012 counterparts who were in last place in the division for the biggest chunk of the season.