Hunter Pence and Troy Patton
Houston fans are salivating over the spring exploits of prospects Hunter Pence and Troy Patton, and I have received numerous requests recently for my view of this interesting pair. So here goes.
Astros prospect Hunter Pence. Note unusual batting stance
Hunter Pence was drafted in the second round last year from the University of Texas-Arlington. He had won the Southland Conference Player of the Year award after hitting.395 with 8 homers and 10 steals, but most teams did not see him as a second-round pick (projecting him in the 3-6 range). He has a somewhat strange-looking batting stance, widespread for a big guy, but he has a professional hitting approach, has good plate discipline, power to all fields, and has hit at every level. A 6-4, 215 pound right-handed hitter, he runs well for his size and has a good level of athleticism. He is tearing up the Sally League right now: .345/.421/.715 in 61 games, with 23 home runs already, 30 walks, 45 strikeouts in 235 at-bats. There are no holes in his numbers right now, and frankly he is too good for this level of competition.
An experienced college player tearing up the Sally League is not unusual, and I am unsure exactly how good Pence can be. If I were the Astros, I think I would bump him up to Double-A at the end of June. Let's find out if he can maintain this against better pitching. I gave him a Grade B in the book this year, and I will stick with that until we get some Double-A data.
Astros prospect Troy Patton. Note "quiet intensity" look on his face.
The Astros drafted Patton in the ninth round in 2004, out of high school in Magnolia, Texas. He could have gone as high as the third round, were it not for his possession of a University of Texas scholarship, which led to doubts about his signability. The Astros gave him third-round money to sign, and he did, and they now have possibly the best overall LHP in the low minors. Patton is 4-1, 1.57 in 13 starts, with an 84/18 K/BB ratio in 69 innings, 50 hits allowed. K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP are all excellent, and he's given up just 2 homers this year. He has a low-90s fastball, and has made big strides this spring with his changeup and curveball. He also has a deceptive delivery. The main concern for Patton is size and durability, as he is a smallish guy at 6-1, 185 (perhaps shorter in reality). But so far it has not been a problem.
I gave him a Grade C+ in my book (a high grade for a ninth-round high school pick), and based on what he has done this year that should move up to B+. The standard young pitcher health caveat is my only real concern at this stage.
General George S. Patton. Note ivory-handle revolver.
An unquestionably brilliant general, possibly the best combat commander in American history in terms of driving his men to victory, but a first-class SOB. As he would probably admit himself. Patton and Omar Bradley serving under the supreme command of Eisenhower was a great combination, but Patton would not have been as effective an overall commander as Ike was.