Astros announce Minor League season MVPs

The Astros Player Development Department announced the 2009 Most Valuable Players for the team’s minor league affiliates on Thursday. The eight MVPs, selected by the field staff of each team, will be recognized at a pre-game ceremony at Minute Maid Park on Sept. 26, prior to the Astros game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Here are the MVPs for each team:


Infielder Tommy Manzella was named MVP at Triple-A Round Rock Express. He hit .289 in 133 games with nine home runs, 31 doubles and 56 RBI sand finished the Pacific Coast League season ranked second in at-bats (530) and third in hits (153).

Known for his defensive ability, Manzella earned Round Rock’s Defensive Player of the Month honors twice this season and was named by Baseball America as the organization’s best defensive infielder prior to the 2009 season.

This year, he posted a .977 fielding percentage in 130 games as Round Rock’s shortstop. A September addition to the Astros, Manzella is making his first appearance on a Major League roster. He is a native of Chalmette, La., and was drafted in the third round of the June 2005 draft.


Outfielder Drew Locke was named MVP at Double-A Corpus Christi after hitting .338 with 20 home runs, 109 RBIs and a .389 on-base percentage. He was a midseason All-Star and finished first in the Texas League in batting average, hits and RBIs, second in slugging percentage (.531), third in runs scored (81), and fourth in on-base percentage.

Acquired by Houston in the Minor League phase of the 2008 Rule V Draft, Locke finished second among all Astros’ minor leaguers in batting average and RBIs.


Lancaster’s Koby Clemens captured MVP honors for the JetHawks, the Astros’ Advanced A affiliate. Clemens put together a remarkable season, hitting .345 with 22 homers, 45 doubles and a Minor League leading 121s RBI.

The right-handed hitting catcher slugged .636 and posted a .419 on-base percentage for an OPS of 1.055. Clemens was a California League Postseason All-Star and led the league in RBIs and slugging percentage, while ranking tied for first in batting average and doubles. He also had the highest average and RBI totals among all Astros minor leaguers.


Lexington Legends outfielder/first baseman Brian Pellegrini finished with a .291 average with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs en route to claiming team MVP honors. He finished first in the South Atlantic League in home runs, while ranking second in both slugging (.578) and on-base percentage (.396). Among Astros’ prospects, Pellegrini finished the season ranking second in home runs (34) and fourth in RBIs (89) in combined totals between Lexington and Lancaster.


The short-season Tri-City ValleyCats named infielder Barry Butera team MVP after he hit .267 with 16 stolen bases in 61 games. Butera, a 21st-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, finished his first professional season by winning Tri-City’s Offensive Player of the Month in August. In the month, he posted a .358 average with eight RBIs.


With the rookie-league Greeneville Astros, infielder Jose Altuve hit .324 with 20 doubles, 21 steals and a .408 on-base percentage to earn team MVP honors. The 2009 Appalachian League All-Star finished the season ranking third in the league in steals and fourth in batting average and on-base percentage. His performance earned him a late-season promotion to Tri-City, where he played in 21 games for the ValleyCats.


For the Astros Gulf Coast League affiliate, infielder Enrique Hernandez earned team MVP honors by hitting .295 with 27 RBIs and 35 runs scored in 53 games. A sixth-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Hernandez finished the season ranking third in the league in hits and fourth in runs scored.


Infielder Hector Rodriguez was tabbed MVP of the Astros Dominican Summer League team after posting a .269 average in 55 games. The 20-year-old native Dominican was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Astros scouts Julio Linares and Arturo DeFreitas prior to the 2008 season.


The Astros currently have three of the organization’s former minor league MVP honorees on their active roster, including Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and the Express’ 2009 MVP Tommy Manzella. In 1998, Berkman won the award at Double-A Jackson with a .306 average, 24 home runs and 89 RBIs. Pence was named MVP for Class-A Lexington in 2005 after hitting .338 with 25 home runs and 60 RBIs in 80 games.


I wonder if Drew Locke has a shot at starting LF for the Astros after Lee leaves? He’s already pretty old for AA and he will be older still by the time El Caballo’s contract is up, but he did post some monster numbers this year. Here’s hoping his hands heals up well and he comes back with a similar performance at Round Rock next season.Hopefully Koby Clemens gets some time at first base next season. If Drew Locke’s performance was monstrous, his was even better. It’s only A-ball, but one can hope that he will continue things and play his way to the majors.Congrats to all the minor league MVPs. The farm may be a bit thin, but there were some dazzling pockets of talent this year.

Maybe we’ll see Jonathan Gaston in left after Lee. It depends on whether we’re able to trade Lee after the 2010 season, during that small window when he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Did Locke hurt his hand? I missed it. Congrats to all the MVP’s, especially Clemens. Nobody saw those numbers coming.

Doesn’t Lee’s no trade clause expire after next year? Maybe we can move him as a DH or something at that point, freeing up the logjam (and lots of payroll). And yeah, Locke got hit by a pitch and broke his hand.

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