SAL notes: Tropeano off to strong start

Astros prospect applying Cape Cod experience in Lexington

Nick Tropeano is 2-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 41 strikeouts. (Tony Farlow/

By Bill Ballew / Special to | May 10, 2012 7:45 AM

Chances are the South Atlantic League will not rename its Pitcher of the Week award in honor of Nick Tropeano. The Lexington right-hander, however, has received the recognition twice in the four times it has been presented this season, including the one announced earlier this week.

The Houston Astros' fifth-round pick in 2011 tossed seven shutout innings at Asheville on May 5, allowing two hits and striking out eight to garner the most recent award. He also received the same recognition for April 16-22, during which he limited Kannapolis to four hits over eight scoreless frames while fanning nine batters on April 19.

For the season, Tropeano owns a 2-2 record with only 24 hits allowed in 33 2/3 innings. He also ranks fourth in the Sally League with 41 strikeouts and eighth with an ERA of 1.87.

"Everything is really working, and I'm throwing all of my pitches for strikes," Tropeano said. "This past offseason I got into a good workout regimen, which has increased my velocity a little bit. Last year I was 89-91 [mph] with my fastball, and this year I'm 92-94. My fastball command has been good, and all of my other pitches have been effective, even in the later innings."

Tropeano, currently ranked as the No. 17 prospect in the Houston system, impressed scouts prior to last year's Draft with his plus changeup that is considered to be the best in the Houston organization. That offering, combined with his fastball command, gives him two above-average pitches, which has kept SAL hitters off-balance. He's continued to make strides with his slider, a pitch that should solidify his spot as one of the Astros' top starting pitching prospects.

Undrafted out of high school, Tropeano made rapid and impressive progress during his three years at Stony Brook. He was tabbed the top prospect in the Atlantic Collegiate League in 2009 before throwing a complete game against Coastal Carolina in the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Later that summer, he emerged as the ace of the Cotuit pitching staff while leading the team to the Cape Cod League championship. Tropeano then capped his collegiate career by going 12-1 with a 1.84 ERA as a junior while helping establish the Seawolves as a prominent player at the Division I level.

"My freshman year was the start of when everyone decided to make Stony Brook a major program," Tropeano said. "It's grown every year since. They're doing really well this season, and I'm really proud to have been a part of a program that has progressed so much in a short period of time."

Tropeano said growing as a person as well as from a physical standpoint allowed him to make improvements over the course of his three collegiate campaigns. He added that pitching well in the Cape gave him the confidence to know he could compete against players of any ability. During that stretch he played with infielder John Hinson, a Clemson product who has played with the pitcher in their first two stops in the Minor Leagues.

"I was with Cotuit the summer of my sophomore year and I had some great coaching and met some great guys in the Cape," Tropeano said. "I believe that's where I received a lot of exposure to the pro scouts. We also won the championship, which made it that much better."

A two-sport standout in high school, Tropeano has found pro ball to be similar to playing in college, particularly from a camaraderie standpoint with his teammates. Many of this year's Lexington team was together last summer at Class A Short-Season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, where Tropeano debuted in the professional ranks by going 3-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts.

He, like all of the Legends, is focused now on gaining more consistency on a daily basis and continuing his climb along the organizational ladder.

"It's a great atmosphere and a great experience to be able to do this," Tropeano said. "Every day I feel like I'm getting better. I just have to keep working hard. My goal every time I pitch is to give my team an opportunity to win. I definitely feel I made the right choice by leaving school a year early and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

In brief

Greenville driving the ball...: Greenville batters were locked in at the plate on May 6 when seven of the nine starters recorded two-hit games in an 11-3 win over Rome. The two other players were also productive, with Jose Vinicio posting a single and two RBIs and designated hitter Boss Moanaroa walking four times, scoring twice and driving in two runs.

...And pitching it: The Drive posted the first nine-inning no-hitter in franchise history on May 8 when Mickey Pena, Hunter Cervenka and Tyler Lockwood combined to limit 28 Rome batters to a walk in the 1-0 victory. Pena retired all 18 batters he faced over six innings while recording a career-best eight strikeouts. Cervenka, who allowed a walk in the top of the eighth, struck out five of the six R-Braves he retired before Lockwood fanned two of the three batters he saw to earn his second save of the season.

Classy Massey: Asheville outfielder Tyler Massey is toiling for the Tourists for the fourth straight year but is making the most of the opportunity. Massey, who had his second two-homer game of the season when he victimized Lexington on May 6, is hitting .333 with a .392 on-base percentage and a .570 on-base percentage.

Great Grasshoppers! Greensboro opened May by winning seven straight games with home sweeps over Hickory and West Virginia. Winners of 10 of their last 11, the Grasshoppers own a league-best 23-8 record, lead the SAL with a team batting average of .297 and rank second on the circuit with a 3.52 ERA.

Bill Ballew is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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