Monday, May 8, 2017

Getting to Know Astros/Hooks RHP Akeem Bostick

Akeem Bostick's 6'6" frame and his smooth baritone voice immediately set him apart. But it was his presence on the mound last Saturday in his first AA appearance that had fans and scouts alike taking note. Despite allowing a lead off home run to Frisco's Scott Heineman, Bostick also impressed Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski, "I thought it was a great first impression. He gives up that first home run to lead off the game. You like how he reacted after that. He continued to pound the zone, continued to be efficient, used all his pitches. It was nice to see."

Akeem Bostick - April 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Bostick has a very robust pitch repertoire, featuring a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, cutter, slider and curveball. He even mixes in the occasional changeup and splitter. But it is his mid 90's fastball and his cutter that he likes best. And he definitely throws them all for strikes. In his first five appearances this season, Bostick threw almost 65% of his pitches for strikes.

Bostick, a barely 22-year old righty who came into the Astros system from the Rangers in the January 2015 Carlos Corporan trade, was finally able to break through the High A ceiling after spending parts of the prior two seasons with High A Lancaster. This season Bostick made a statement in his first four appearances with the Astros current High A affiliate in Buies Creek by going 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA and a 0.828 WHIP.

Lancaster, located in California's High Desert, is not the most conducive of environments for a young pitcher, but Bostick took it in stride. "Out there in Lancaster, I felt like I played pretty solid for the most part. I had a couple of rough games in the two seasons that I played there, but for the most part I think I played well. The way the ball carries out there is ridiculous. Numbers look kind of off, but mentally I know I pitched pretty well," said Bostick.

And, although the environment at Buies Creek is much more welcoming for pitchers than Lancaster, the atmosphere is still a little different, particularly since the Astros will only reside at the Campbell University stadium for two seasons while the new Fayetteville, NC venue is being constructed. I asked Bostick about the atmosphere there, "Out there, we don't have many fans. It's right there on the college campus so college students will come. You'll have others that work around there .. they'll come out there. But for the most part, it's not too big of a fan base, but the guys that actually do come, you can hear them in the stands."

So Bostick's AA debut was a long time in coming. He made the most of it, and not just by collecting the win. "Last night, it was a little overwhelming just being promoted to AA for the first time and having a packed house like it was last night. But really, I was more happy that I got to beat my former teammates, guys that I played with when I was over with the Rangers. That was pretty fun," said Bostick.

When quizzed about his season thus far, Bostick told me, "It just goes back to executing pitches. I think I've been able to command my pitches very well, make the pitches necessary to get quick outs." As far as what he'll need to improve upon, he said, "Really just focusing right now on all my pitches coming out of the same tunnel, out of the hand so that hitters can't recognize it as early. Sometimes I get open and I want to throw my curveball from behind me and it's just a big loopy one, and other times I get out in front, same tunnel and it's got good bite to it."

I had one final question for Bostick. What would 2017 Bostick tell 2013 Bostick, freshly drafted out of West Florence High School in Florence, SC in the second round. "Just keep working, man. Right now I feel like I'm pretty close. Just keep the same mentality. Just keep on focusing on executing my pitches. I think I'll get there in no time."

Unfortunately, Bostick was pulled from his next appearance for the Hooks this past Friday with an injury (after throwing only 17 pitches), possibly a "hand issue," that landed him on the 7-day DL. I'm hoping for his swift return to the rotation and his chance to beat many more of his former Rangers teammates in the coming months and years to follow.

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