Astros calling up catcher prospect Max Stassi

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Catcher has been one of the Astros’ few strengths this season, as Jason Castro has hit .270 with 14 homers and an .802 OPS to rank among baseball’s best, but with backup Carlos Corporan sidelined by a concussion Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that Houston is calling up catcher prospect Max Stassi.

Stassi has hit .277 with 17 homers and an .863 OPS in 76 games at Double-A as a 22-year-old and the former fourth-round pick has also thrown out 37 percent of steal attempts. He’s one of the better MLB-ready catching prospects in baseball and may have been in line for a September call-up anyway, so the move makes some sense.

Beyond this year, however, it’ll be interesting to see what the Astros do with Stassi. Normally he’d be on a path to take over as the starting catcher at some point next season, but Castro is just 26 years old and coming off his first All-Star campaign. It’s one of those nice problems to have and the Astros need talent wherever they can develop it, but at some point fairly soon trading a catcher will seemingly be in the plans.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.