The Runner Sports

Rise Of The Phenom: Astros’ Akeem Bostick Can’t Be Stopped

Houston Astros fans will remember “El Caballo” (Carlos Lee) and “The Big Puma” (Lance Berkman) as being productive and fun to watch. “The Phenom,” though, is around the corner, and if starting pitcher Akeem Bostick has his way, he’ll be Houston-bound by September.

Doubt that timeline? Consider that the right-handed Bostick has hurdled three organizational levels in two years, and tackles a fourth with his end-of-April promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, after less than a month at Advanced-A Buies Creek.

Triple-A Fresno could be next as soon as July if Bostick’s progress continues apace. And, with the Astros’ propensity for having pitchers skip AAA, and go right to Houston (as Lance McCullers, Jr. and Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez did in 2015), a September MLB call-up doesn’t sound so far-fetched. If he’s deemed ready, of course.

Bostick, who turns 22 any minute, was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft by the Texas Rangers, who must have chuckled when they packed Akeem off to Houston in order to acquire then-needed catcher Carlos Corporán in January 2015.

Corporán has been bouncing from disabled list to rehab stints, and minor league contracts, since. Just missing their World Championship run, Corporán signed a minor league pact with the Cubs in January, and is currently on the DL. Advantage, ‘Stros.

Scouts like Bostick’s fastball, which sits at 89-91 mph, with a curve in the 75-77 mph range, probably his best pitch. A plus slider could stand to be more consistent in finding its intended target.

Video: Watch local ABC-TV affiliate report on Bostick from spring ’13, just prior to being drafted. See highlights of Bostick pitching, hitting a home run, catching passes in football, and an interview.

Feeling a Draft

A lanky, but athletic 6’6″ and 215 pounds, Bostick was deemed “raw, but projectable” coming out of West Florence High School in Florence, SC, where he played three sports for the Knights. Bostick actually committed to Georgia Southern to play wide receiver on their football team, before accepting the Rangers’ $520,620 signing bonus.

“I was just sitting in the kitchen, eating, and then looking at the draft somewhat,” Bostick told the Dallas Morning News about his draft experience (according to wbtw.com). “Then I heard my name, and I was like, ‘Hold up.’ I was watching on the laptop because it was running 15 seconds faster than the television. Then I looked back at the television and I was like, ‘Did they just say my name?'”

Akeem’s cousin, Brandon, attended West Florence a few years earlier, and currently mans the tight end position for the New York Jets.

In a recent interview with AstrosFuture.com’s Jimmy Price, Bostick revealed his offseason focus: “My main goal was developing my slider, splitter and cutter that recently were added to my arsenal towards the end of the season last year (2016). Basically maintaining velocity with those pitches and getting that good late movement and bite to them.”

Bostick added, “The thing I feel that has led to my success is basically trusting the pitches I have in my arsenal and being on the same page as my catchers at all times throughout the game.”

They Call The Wind Pariah

Akeem is essentially the poster boy for why the Astros bolted Advanced-A Lancaster (California League) for the greener pastures (and less blustery) Buies Creek, Carolina in the Carolina League. To say Lancaster’s Hangar (the stadium) is “wind-aided” is like saying Joy Behar is opinionated (yet no less wind-aided).

Related: Kyle Tucker Leads New Buies Creek Astros

Bostick spent parts of 2015 and last season in Lancaster, and I get the feeling Houston scouts and top brass simply threw up their respective hands in disgust. Not in anything Akeem, himself, did, but at the ridiculously bloated numbers that did nothing but muddle stat disaggregation, and player evaluation.

To that end, I’ll leave out his Lancaster output (hey, Houston did, to Bostick’s undying appreciation), only to say his two-year combined ERA was a yearning-for-Corporán-again 5.43.

Six starts, in 2015, for Houston’s full season Class A Quad Cities yielded 42 innings, and a much more reliable 1.50 ERA, and a 3-1 record. Eleven innings in 2016 for short-season New York-Penn League’s Tri-City Valley Cats reflected a 3.27 ERA.

Shootin’ the Breeze

Bostick’s walk and strikeout totals are interesting, though, gale-influenced stadiums notwithstanding. The bulk of his 2016 (68.2 IP) was spent at Lancaster, and he walked nearly as many (42) as he struck out (48). Could the Hangar’s dreaded vortex have nudged Bostick’s pitches outside the strike zone to that extent?

Lifting that aberration of stats, here’s a look at Bostick’s walk and strikeout total for 2015 and ’16: 21 walks, 88 Ks (106.1 IP). That’s a 1.8 BB/9, and a 7.4 K/9.

In his 19.1 just-finished Buies Creek innings, Bostick takes a 1.86 ERA, a 2-1 record, a .154 BAA with him to Corpus Christi. An incredibly consistent 7.4 K/9 follows him (6 walks against 16 Ks).

Again, props to the Houston brass for not only realizing Bostick’s innate talent (and starting his 2017 at Buies Creek, with the quick ascent to Corpus), but for eschewing the stat aggravation for all in moving the team from Lancaster to N. Carolina.

Saturday, April 29, marked Bostick’s debut with AA Corpus, at home, against the Frisco RoughRiders, Double-A affiliate of Houston’s AL West arch-rivals, Texas Rangers.

The first batter he faced promptly hit a home run. Wind at game time? Out of the southeast at 25 mph! But, he picked up the win, after giving up another solo shot among 3 hits, walking no one, and striking out 3 in five innings. Corpus outscored Frisco, 8-2.

Astro side note: Jake Marisnick, rehabbing a slight concussion after a meeting with a wall last week, contributed a double and single, with a run scored in 5 ABs. He struck out twice as the Hooks’ DH.

UPDATE: On May 6, Bostick was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Arise By Any Other Name

Akeem Bostick, whose self-imposed “The Phenom” nickname is far from misplaced, might have to consider a change to a more Houston-centric “The Dream.” Hall-of-Fame hoopster Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, after all, held court for many years with the Rockets, including two consecutive World Champ years in the mid-’90s (in fact, Bostick was born a scant 6 weeks before the second one in ’95)!

Olajuwon was actually known as “Akeem” early in his pro career, and indeed, in his “Phi Slama Jama” years with the University of Houston Cougars, before adding the “H” in March, 1991, “because it’s the correct spelling in the original Arabic,” Olajuwon has said.

As far as the Astros’ World Championship hunt is concerned, “The Dream” has to start somewhere.

Follow Akeem via Twitter @AB10ThePhenom.

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Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Here I am, meeting with Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX. One of us is trying to convince the other to take his 90 mph fastball, and get back into the game.

Needless to say, I've decided to spend my golden years, instead, crooning Sinatra at nursing homes, while reflecting on a life well-lived in the classroom, spinning rock'n'roll in '70s radio stations, and peddling wax in the record biz.

I'm a Houston native, having attended 'Stro games in Colt Stadium, the beloved Astrodome, and Minute Maid.

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Brad Kyle