Minor Leaguers of the year recognized before game
DeShields Jr., Foltynewicz take in scene at Minute Maid Park
HOUSTON -- Second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., the Astros Minor League Player of the Year, and pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year, watched batting practice in suits on Friday before being recognized in a pregame ceremony.
If all goes well the next couple years, DeShields and Foltynewicz will be wearing Astros jerseys the next time they stand on the field at Minute Maid Park.
"These two guys are amazing players," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "They're both 20 years old. They're the future of this organization. It's exciting to have them here to give them a chance to be here and share in a part of this."
DeShields, the No. 5 prospect in the Astros system, stole 101 bases in 135 games between Class A Lexington and Class A Advanced Lancaster, an Astros Minor League record. He was the first player in the modern era to steal over 100 bases and hit 10 homers in a Minor League season.
Between Lexington and Lancaster, DeShields hit .287 with 12 homers and a .389 on-base percentage. Drafted as an outfielder, DeShields said he's starting to feel comfortable at second base, where he moved before last season.
"I gained a lot of experience this year," DeShields said. "Last year was kind of rough. It was my first year playing second base and it was a big learning experience for me. This year, I finally got to put the pieces together and it turned out good."
Former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who worked with DeShields in Spring Training, never doubted that DeShields would continue to hit and steal bases.
"I think the knock on him was his defense," Biggio said. "He's worked really, really hard the last couple years. He finally feels comfortable, and he's at the point now where he's starting to make some huge strides at it."
DeShields, selected by the Astros with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, doesn't have any expectations regarding when he might get a big league call-up. He was just excited to be recognized for his 2012 season.
"Especially after having the kind of year I had last year, it feels really good to be back on top," DeShields said. "It feels good to have this award. I worked really hard for it. All the hard work paid off."
Foltynewicz, the No. 7 prospect in the Astros system, went 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts for Lexington. The Astros selected the 6-foot-4 right-hander with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
He was named the South Atlantic League Most Outstanding Pitcher. He finished tied for first in the league in wins and second in innings pitched.
"I had pretty good success this year and I want to keep it going," Foltynewicz said.
Luhnow said DeShields and Foltynewicz would probably start Spring Training working with the Double-A Corpus Christi team. That's significant for Foltynewicz, because he would skip Lancaster and the hitter-friendly California League.
"Whatever they think [is best]," Foltynewicz said. "I'm just going to go out there and continue to do what I did this year and get better. That's their problem. I'm just going to go out there and pitch the way I know how to pitch."
Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.