HOUSTON -- The Astros have one Minor League affiliate in the playoffs after Class A Lancaster won the first-half title of the California League's South Division with a 16-3 win over Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday.
The JetHawks will have a first-round bye in September before facing the winner of the South Division miniseries in the best-of-five South Division finals. The feat marks the sixth time the JetHawks have won a first-half title in franchise history and the first time they've won back-to-back first halves since 2007 and 2008 as a Red Sox affiliate.
General manager Jeff Luhnow said that Lancaster has the most talent he's seen on a Minor League team. The JetHawks feature former No. 1 picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel and other top prospects, such as third baseman Rio Ruiz, who hit a grand slam on Wednesday. Danry Vasquez went 5-for-5 as well.
"In my 12 years of doing this, I have not seen a team that's stacked with talent that plays together as a team like this team does," Luhnow said.
When Luhnow was with the Cardinals, the 2006 team at Class A Quad Cities featured future Major Leaguers Colby Rasmus, Jon Jay, Jaime Garcia, Chris Perez and Jason Motte. The 2009 Memphis team that won the Pacific Coast League had Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Jay, Brett Wallace, Lance Lynn, Garcia and Mitchell Boggs.
Luhnow says the Lancaster club could have more big league impact players than those clubs.
X-rays negative after Altuve hit by pitch
HOUSTON -- The Astros breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after learning that second baseman Jose Altuve won't miss extended time after being struck on the right hand by a pitch in the seventh inning of Houston's 5-4 win over Arizona.
X-rays taken of the hand were negative, and Altuve -- who leads the Majors in hits and the American League in stolen bases -- is listed as day to day, though it's unlikely he'll be in the lineup on Friday, when the Astros host the Rays.
"The good news is the x-rays are negative, which is a sigh of relief for all of us," manager Bo Porter said. "Obviously, he's sore being hit on the hand with the ball."
Altuve, who went 2-for-3 to reach 90 hits for the season, was struck on a pitch thrown by the D-backs' Randall Delgado while trying to put down a bunt. Altuve hit the ground and was in obvious pain as assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones examined him.
"When you get hit by a 90-something-mph fastball, that hurts, especially on the hand," Altuve said. "I didn't know what happened. When I went [for an x-ray] and they said it's not anything, I was really happy."
Altuve set out to play in 162 games this season, but that goal ended when he missed Wednesday's game with a sore left oblique. After returning to the lineup on Thursday, he doubled and singled before being hit.
"I want to be in the lineup every day, but ... I know it's going to be hard to play [on Friday]," he said. "I feel really good right now, and we'll see how I feel [on Friday]."
Draftees Reed, Davis take BP with Astros
HOUSTON -- The Astros' second-round Draft pick, A.J. Reed, and third-round pick, J.D. Davis, both of whom are now officially members of the organization, took batting practice at Minute Maid Park on Thursday as part of the team's pregame hitting groups.
Reed signed officially on Wednesday, and Davis signed on Thursday. Both will begin their pro career at short-season Tri-City -- Reed starting at first base, Davis starting at third base.
"It's a dream come true," said Davis, who was drafted out of Cal State Fullerton. "I had a chance to [sign] in high school and it fell through, and now it's finally inked. It's still unreal. It hasn't soaked in yet. I can't wait to get out there and start playing."
Reed, who hit 22 homers for Kentucky this season to lead the NCAA, took batting practice off manager Bo Porter and hit a few into the seats. Porter challenged him to hit one over Tal's Hill in center, and Reed put it about two feet from the base of the wall.
"It was fun," Reed said. "All the guys were joking around and stuff. It took a round or two to get going. I got used to it and hit a couple of balls hard. That was fun."
Davis admitted that it was nerve-wracking to hit so many Major Leaguers, photographers and members of the front office watching him.
"Once I got a few swings in, I got a little comfortable and starting letting loose," Davis said. "You see some guys you've watched on TV, and you look up and pattern your game after them. It's kind of nice just to sit back and watch and hit with and take ground balls with them."
Davis hit .338 with 16 doubles, six homers and 43 RBIs as a junior at Cal State Fullerton and was the MVP of the 2013 Cape Cod League All-Star Game. Reed is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the college player of the year.
"If there are players that tend to advance quickly, it's usually college hitters, especially those who have had a lot of success," scouting director Mike Elias said. "Everybody moves at their pace. Each of these guys has things they have to work on that might slow them compared to other parts of their games."