Saturday, April 7, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Astros Opening Night

Jeff Luhnow

Great crowd last night and good energy. Rally in ninth was exciting. Let's get a win tonight.

Yes, it was a great crowd with good energy.  Thank you for noticing.  I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd surrounding me last night.  You see, my sister and I moved our seats this season to the club level.  I have experienced the club level on several occasions thanks to one of my company's vendors, and I was always struck by how the crowd tended to be more subdued on that level, perhaps too busy talking business in their corporate purchased seats to actually watch the game.  Well, that was not a problem last night.

This crowd was into every pitch of this game.  People in the laidback club level were on their feet in the bottom of the ninth, cheering on the home town team.  If a comeback could be powered by the sheer will and enthusiasm of a crowd, the Astros would have won.  Except for one couple with a 9-month old, no one around us left early (and even the 9-month old lasted until the 7th).  And it wasn't just because of the fireworks.  A lot of people stayed for the game, but left before the fireworks started.  There was an outpouring of passion for this, a team coming off 106 losses, that I haven't seen on opening night for at least five years.

What exactly is different this year?  I think a couple of things are at play.  In listening to some fans around me, people are sick of people pushing Houston around and dismissing the Astros as a joke.  There is some home town pride at stake.  But more than that, there is a feeling that we're no longer being fed a line of bull.  People were getting tired of hearing "Be A Champion" from the owner while losses continued to pile up.

Most people seem to understand that re-building is a necessary evil and that, while the Astros are still going to lose more games than we'd like, they know that watching young, hungry kids playing their hearts out is going to make those losses easier to take.  They understand that there is a plan and that it will get better.  Coming to the ballpark is going to be fun again.

I know the Astros are enamored of their new Root! Root! Root! slogan, which I admit is starting to grow on me, but I think I have one that would have been better for this season.

IT AIN'T GONNA BE PRETTY, BUT IT'S GONNA BE FUN.

Minor League Schedule and Results

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Game 1: Lexington at Greensboro at 4:00 CST
Probable Pitchers: RHP Tanner Bushue and TBD

Game 2: Lexington at Greensboro at time TBD
Probable Pitchers: RHP Carlos Quevedo and TBD

Northwest Arkansas at Corpus Christi 7:05 CST
Probable Pitchers: RHP Noel Arguelles and RHP Jose Cisnero
Available on MiLB tv

Memphis at Oklahoma City at 7:05 CST
RHP Joe Kelley and LHP Dallas Keuchel
Available on MiLB tv

Lancaster at High Desert at 9:05 CST
RHP Zachary Grimmett and LHP James Gillheeney

FRIDAY'S RESULTS

Greensboro over Lexington 7-0
Noteworthy: Not a lot of note offensively as Lexington only managed 4 hits in the opener. Foltynewicz gave up 6 runs, but only 2 of them were earned.  LHP Evan Grills did a great job in 3.1 innings of long relief, giving up 3 hits, no runs and 2 walks with two strikeouts.

High Desert over Lancaster 9-5
Noteworthy:  George Springer and Ben Heath had solid nights at the plate.  Ruben Alaniz had a decent, if unremarkable, first start.  Lancaster led a couple of times, but Jorge de Leon's late implosion on the pitcher's mound sealed the deal.

Northwest Arkansas over Corpus Christi 5-3
Noteworthy:  Brandon Barnes and Kody Hinze (with a 2-run home run) were the offensive standouts of the evening.  Ross Seaton had a decent debut, except for those two pesky home runs he gave up.  Jonathan Singleton and J.C. (Jose) Thompson are still looking for their first hits.

GAME OF THE DAY
Oklahoma City over Memphis 12-3

What went right:  Offense and pitching.  The offensive output was impressive with several players having good nights.  Add a solid start by Aneury Rodriguez and four scoreless innings of relief, and I think you can say it was a good night all around.

Justin Ruggiano - 3x4  2B  2RBI  BB  3R  SB
Angel Sanchez - 2x4  BB  R
Fernando Martinez 1x4  HR  3RBI  SO  R
Mike Hessman 2x3  2B  RBI  SO  R
Brett Wallace 2x4  2B  2RBI  BB  SO  R

Aneury Rodriguez - 5.0IP  7H  3R  1BB  9SO  HR
Adalberto Flores - 1.2IP  3H  0R  1BB  1SO
Jose Valdez - 0.1IP  0H  0R  0BB  1SO
Sergio Perez - 2.0IP  1H  0R  2BB  2SO

What went wrong:  Not a lot.  I'll have to go with the 8 LOB.

PITCHER OF THE DAY
Lexington's Evan Grills gets the nod.  Long relief isn't glamorous, but he handled it very well.

PLAYER OF THE DAY
I have to go with Fernando Martinez for his 3-run shot in the first to set the tone for the OKC offensive barrage.

A NOTE ON MINOR LEAGUE RECAPS - I don't plan on doing full-blown recaps of the games this season as that would keep me from writing other things that you may find of interest as it pertains to the Astros minor league system.  For more information (and different perspectives), you should check out Astros County and The Crawfish Boxes for their minor league recaps.

Roster Moves - 4/6

OF Jake Goebbert was assigned from OKC to CC
OF Adam Bailey was assigned from CC to LAN

In addition, the Astros placed SS Jed Lowrie on the DL retroactively and purchased the contract of IF Brian Bixler prior to the opening game.

There were a couple of transactions from 4/5 that I failed to post yesterday:

OF Justin Ruggiano was assigned to OKC
C Ryan McCurdy was assigned from LAN to TCV

Happy Birthday - 4/7

RHP Chia-Jen Lo (26)
A native of Taiwan, Lo was signed by the Astros before the 2009 season.  He split his first season between Lancaster and Corpus Christi with terrific results as he compiled a 2.10 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP in 64.1 innings pitched over 42 appearances.  Unfortunately, due to injury issues and subsequent surgery, he only pitched in 9 games between 2010 and 2011 and, according to this article by Zachary Levine, is expected to miss most of the 2012 season as well.

Tweet of the Day

Wesley Wright

It's opening day, takes me back to being a kid and laying my entire uniform out the night before opening day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Minor League Schedule and Results

FRIDAY'S GAMES

Lexington at Greensboro at 6:00 CST
Probable Pitchers: TBD

Northwest Arkansas at Corpus Christi 7:05 CST
Probable Pitchers: RHP Jake Ordorizzi and RHP Ross Seaton
Available on MiLB tv

Memphis at Oklahoma City at 7:05 CST
RHP Brian Broderick and RHP Aneury Rodriguez
Available on MiLB tv

Lancaster at High Desert at 9:05 CST
RHP Ruben Alaniz and RHP Chris Sorce

THURSDAY'S RESULTS

Lexington at Greensboro - Rain Out
Will play a double-header on Saturday to make up

High Desert over Lancaster 9-7
Noteworthy:  Telvin Nash and George Springer hit their first home runs for Lancaster.  Springer's happened to be of the grand slam variety.  Kike Hernandez and Jonathan Meyer both had nice nights at the plate as well with two hits each, one double each.  Rene Garcia recorded two pick-offs behind the dish.

Memphis over Oklahoma City 4-3
Noteworthy:  The Redhawks rallied in the bottom of the 9th on a bases loaded 2-RBI double by Angel Sanchez, but Brett Wallace's GIDP ended the rally.

GAME OF THE DAY
Corpus Christi over Northwest Arkansas 9-0

What went right:  Pitching!  Jarred Cosart struggled some to find his spots (and got squeezed a bit by the home plate umpire) but he pitched out of trouble more than once.  Erick Abreu bailed out Cosart as he left the game with a runner on third and only one out, and he and Chris Hicks went on to provide effective, scoreless relief.

Jarred Cosart - 4.1IP  4H  0R  3BB  5SO
Erick Abreu - 2.2IP  1H  0R  1BB  5SO
Chris Hicks - 2.0IP  0H  0R  0BB  1SO

In addition, there were several great offensive performances, none more so than Austin Wates' very impressive 3 for 5 with a double, a triple and three RBI's.  Brandon Barnes, T.J. Steele and Jonathan Villar also had very good nights at the plate.

Austin Wates - 3x5, 2B, 3B, 3RBI, R
Brandon Barnes - 2x4, 2RBI, R
T.J. Steele - 2x4, 3B, RBI, SO, 2R
Jonathan Villar - 2x5, 2B, RBI, SO

What went wrong:  Baserunning.  Jonathan Villar made two outs and Kody Hinze made one out on the bases with overly aggressive baserunning.

PITCHER OF THE DAY
Despite fine performances in the Corpus game, I'm going to go with Mickey Storey on this one.  In his two innings pitched for Oklahoma City in relief, he effectively shut down Memphis and gave the Redhawks a chance to come back.

PLAYER OF THE DAY
Sorry, I'm not going with Springer for his grand slam.  I'm going with Austin Wates who is already working to prove that he should have been promoted to AA last season.

Happy Birthday - 4/6

RHP Euris Quezada (23)
OK, here's the deal.  Quezada didn't have very good numbers last year and then he got popped with a 25-game suspension under the drug policy in August, so my heart really isn't in this.  If he comes back from the suspension, plays well and keeps out of trouble, I promise I'll do a better birthday write-up for him next year.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Tommy Greene (45)
A first round pick by Atlanta in 1985, Greene pitched in 2 games for Houston in 1997 at the end of his major league career.  His best season, by far, was his 1993 season in which he went 16-4 in 30 starts for the Phillies with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.185 WHIP.  In May of 1991, he threw a no-hitter for the Phillies against the Expos.

OF Barry Wesson (35)
Drafted by the Astros in the 14th round in 1995, Wesson played in 15 games for Houston in 2002 before being claimed by Anaheim off waivers prior to the 2003 season.  He played in another 10 games for Anaheim in 2003 but never got back on a major league roster.  In 2011 he was still playing independent ball for the Rockland Boulders in Pomona, New York.

Tweet of the Day

Josh Zeid

Game 1 in the books! 9-0 victory! Couldn't be a better way to start off the year.. Oh wait. Game 2 is tmrw! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Roster Moves - 4/5

The following players will be starting the season on the DL:

LHP Xavier Cedeno
IF Brandon Wikoff
RHP Danny Meszaros
OF Grant Hogue
CF Jay Austin
RHP Chia-Jen Lo
LHP Brad Dydalewicz

I knew about Jay Austin's broken hand and Lo's lingering issues since his earlier surgery, but I don't know the details on any of the other players.

In addition, as Greg Rajan reported earlier, Jonnathan Aristil has been assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Preview

Based on this opening day roster for Oklahoma City, I feel pretty confident in saying that they will be better than their 2011 counterparts, but how much better may be a little more difficult for me to predict.

If I tell you that the five pitchers representing the most starts at OKC in 2011 were Sergio Perez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Andy Van Hekken, Nelson Figueroa and Jordan Lyles, and I go on to tell you that the 2012 starters are projected to be Paul Clemens, Aneury Rodriguez, Henry Sosa, Dallas Keuchel and Jordan Lyles, would you agree that 2012 is an upgrade?  Yeah, I thought so.

Not only did your starting rotation go from an average age of 28.4 years to 23.8 years, three of those pitchers received significant MLB experience in 2011.  In addition, Keuchel and Clemens got their feet wet in AAA last season which should help them adjust to the level.

If you projected wins and losses for the entire 2012 OKC pitching staff based on their 2011 numbers with zero improvement, they would emerge at the end of the season with roughly the same number of wins and losses.  But I absolutely expect improvement with this group.

In looking at the offense, the 2012 roster projects to be an upgrade in terms of batting average and slugging percentage over the 2011 group.  I think that projection will hold because there are a number of individuals with significant experience at the level on the roster who have a history of success at that level.

In 2011, Oklahoma had a record of 68 wins and 75 losses, a .476 win percentage, and that was with Ryan Rowland-Smith going 2-10.  I know this group can do better than that.  The wild card on this is that the PCL looks to be a stronger league this season than last season with some of the talent that didn't quite make the cut on the big league rosters.  But with that said, I think the worst case scenario for the season is 76 wins and 68 losses, a .527 win percentage.

Corpus Christi Preview

This one will be a whole lot more fun to write than Lancaster.  Let's just start with the fact that nine players (including all 5 starting pitchers) on the Corpus Christi opening day roster  made an appearance on Baseball America's top 31 list in the 2012 prospect handbook.  Two other players who were not included on that list were on the most recent Top 20 prospect list from Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com.  Can we just stop there and imagine the possibilities?  No? OK, just be that way.

Let's start with the pitching, shall we?  If you based a 2012 projection strictly on what these pitchers, as a group, did in 2011, they would win 8 additional games but do so with a higher cumulative ERA and WHIP.  I actually think that 8 additional wins for this staff may be low.

I've already projected an improved season for Seaton due to his second half improvements last season and the fact that, at 21, he was young for the League.  I think Oberholtzer will also benefit from a second year at AA.  Cosart only got a taste of AA last season, but he's the least of my worries (I think he may start a little slow but end strong).  Buchanan and Cisnero (winners of 2011 Survivor: Lancaster edition) should benefit from the more forgiving Corpus Christi confines.  And as most of the 2012 relief staff spent large chunks of 2011 at AA, there is definite potential for improvement among those ranks as well.

The offense has a couple of question marks, but let's start with the positives.  If you based the 2012 offensive projections on what this group of players did in 2011, the 2012 staff would be an upgrade across the board.  Chris Wallace should benefit from more time facing AA pitching. Kody Hinze and Adam Bailey already showed they were up to the task in call-ups last season.  I expect Singleton and Wates to make a smooth transition to AA.  The questions?  Can Thompson and Simunic succeed at AA or were their numbers inflated by the Lancaster effect?  Also, will T.J. Steele be taking AB's away from Barnes, Bailey and Wates?  Entering his third season at AA, Steele has yet to show that he can succeed there.

The Hooks finished with 50 wins and 90 losses in 2011.  That will not happen again in 2012, but I've still got to take into consideration that the Texas League is a tough league in order to rein in my expectations.  I'm hedging my bets by making two predictions.  My head tells me that they will end the season 65-75, but my heart tells me 75-65.  Just knowing some of the individuals on this team makes me think that they will outperform everyone's expectations, except their own.  Adam Bailey told me that they would finish 98-42, and while I appreciate his exuberance, I do think that may be a tad on the high side but at least it makes my prediction look a little more reasonable.

Play Ball!!!!!

The minor league season opens today.

Lexington at Greensboro at 6:00 CST
Probable Starters - RHP Mike Foltynewicz & TBD

Lancaster at High Desert at 9:05 CST
Probable Starters - RHP David Martinez & LHP Anthony Fernandez

Northwest Arkansas at Corpus Christi at 7:05 CST
Probable Starters - LHP Chris Dwyer & RHP Jarred Cosart
Available on MiLB.tv

Memphis at Oklahoma City at 7:05 CST
RHP Brandon Dickson & RHP Paul Clemens
Available on MiLB.tv

Happy Birthday - 4/5

SS/2B Brandon Wikoff (24)
Drafted by Houston in the 5th round in 2009 out of the University of Illinois, Wikoff spent all but his final four games of the season playing for Corpus Christi.  In 107 games with the Hooks, he hit .308/.398/.353/.751.  Wikoff also showed some patience at the plate, walking 47 times to 33 strikeouts at Corpus.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Brandon Backe (34)
Originally drafted by Tampa Bay in the 18th round in 1998, Backe came to Houston in a December 2003 trade with Tampa for Geoff Blum.  In 108 appearances (79 starts) for Houston from 2004 to 2009, Backe was 30-28 with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.550 WHIP.  But it was his postseason numbers that set Backe apart - in 7 games (6 starts) in 5 postseason series, he was 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA and a 0.982 WHIP.  But most of all, it was this game that will ensure Backe a permanent place in Astros lore.

Bonus Tweet of the Day

Jimmy VanOstrand

As previously reported by  I will be signing with the Excited for the opportunity to go compete!

Tweet of the Day

Rafael Valenzuela

Besides xmas, opening day is the best day of the year

Roster Moves - 4/4

The Astros made their final cuts, and Jeff Luhnow once more managed to surprise me.  I didn't expect for 13 pitchers to make the opening day roster, but that is precisely what is happening with the news that both Fernando Abad and Wesley Wright made the cut. As I had suspected, the Astros wanted to make sure that Henry Sosa cleared waivers before sending him to Oklahoma City.

In addition, it was announced that the Astros purchased Travis Buck's contract and he will be making the roster. Also, Alyson Footer reported that Justin Ruggiano will be assigned to Oklahoma City, but I have not seen that move made official yet.  Since the Astros are only carrying four outfielders, Matt Downs will likely be pressed into service for an occasional outfield appearance.

Here is the final roster.  The only likely change between now and the opener is that Brian Bixler may make the team if Jed Lowrie needs to be placed on the DL.

Oklahoma City Roster

OPENING DAY ROSTER FOR OKLAHOMA CITY REDHAWKS
CURRENT ROSTER (REFLECTING ANY CHANGES AFTER OPENING DAY)
OKLAHOMA CITY SEASON PREVIEW

PITCHERS
RHP Juan Abreu
RHP Jonathan Aristil
LHP Xavier Cedeno - started on DL
RHP Paul Clemens
RHP Enerio del Rosario
RHP Adalberto Flores
LHP Dallas Keuchel
RHP Jordan Lyles
RHP Sergio Perez
RHP Aneury Rodriquez
RHP Henry Sosa
RHP Mickey Storey
RHP Jose Valdez

CATCHERS
Carlos Corporan#
Landon Powell

INFIELDERS
Diory Hernandez
Mike Hessman
Scott Moore
Jimmy Paredes#
Angel Sanchez
Brett Wallace*

OUTFIELDERS
Collin Delome*
Jake Goebbert* - sent to CC 2nd day of season
Fernando Martinez*
Justin Ruggiano
J.B. Shuck*
Brad Snyder*

*Bats left
#Switch-hitter

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lancaster Preview

Trying to project Lancaster's season is a daunting task because their ballpark doesn't play like any other ballpark in the Astros system, but I'm foolish enough to try.

In looking at the 2011 offensive output of those on the Lancaster opening day roster as a group, they fall somewhat short of the actual 2011 Lancaster offensive stats, but not by enough to overly concern me.  There were some terrific producers who went through Lancaster in 2011 (Altuve, Hinze, Bailey, Wates and Singleton), but if the potential of Springer, Nash and Santana can translate into results, their production could serve to offset the loss of those players.

If we see the improvements from Mier and Hernandez that I expect, and Adamson can come even close to matching his Lexington numbers from 2011, that will certainly shore up the offense.  One concern I have is that Valenzuela and Castro are the only two left-handed hitters on the team (with no switch-hitters), but I don't think it's a major concern.

And then there's the pitching.  Since Lancaster is known as the place where pitcher's dreams go to die, this is very difficult to project.  Mike over at Farmstros tweeted earlier today that the starters at Lancaster are to be Grimmett, Doran and Musick (repeating the Lancaster level) and Martinez and Alaniz who finished the season at Lexington.

Out of those who have pitched at Lancaster previously, I'm looking for the biggest improvement from Doran since he is more of a groundball pitcher.  I am concerned about Grimmett and Musick since they are more flyball pitchers.  Musick has made it work so far, but Grimmett has been less successful.

However, I can see both of the former Lexington pitchers projected to start succeed in Lancaster. Alaniz and Martinez aren't extreme groundball pitchers, but if they can keep the ball down in Lancaster, it will go a long way toward ensuring some success.

As far as the bullpen, I am very concerned about Gabriel Garcia (10HR over 69 innings, more of a flyball pitcher) making the transition from Lexington to Lancaster.  I think Brian Streilein will have an easier time of it as he had the highest groundball rate of all the roster in 2011.  Alex Sogard and Jorge de Leon should fare reasonably well, bringing decent control and very good SO/BB rates to the table.

So where does that leave me on projections for 2012?  With heartburn, mostly. Even Jake Buchanan, as an extreme groundball pitcher with a great ERA for the league, didn't have a great deal of success in Lancaster when it came to wins and losses.  In 2011, the team went 55-85, a .393 win percentage.  I'm going to go with a pure guess on this one and say, at a minimum, they will finish with a 60-80 record which would translate to a .428 win percentage.  Any results above that will be gravy.

I promise that the projections get better from here.  Lancaster is just a very tough park.

How Old Are They?

More than you ever wanted to know about the average age of your Astros ~ This is based upon the 251 players I currently show as being in the Astros system.  The numbers may vary slightly if I missed any player releases or retirements.  Also, I factored Bixler in to both Houston and OKC since we may not know where he is starting until Friday.

Average age of all players in the system, including MLB, as of April 1, 2012 - 22 years, 316 days

HOU
Average - 27 years, 296 days (add 23 days for Bixler)
*Oldest - 35 years, 285 days (Carlos Lee)
Youngest - 21 years, 331 days (Jose Altuve)

OKC
Average - 26 years, 237 days (add 38 days for Bixler)
Oldest - 34 years, 27 days (Mike Hessman)
Youngest - 21 years, 165 days (Jordan Lyles)

CC
Average - 24 years, 110 days
Oldest - 28 years, 236 days (Erick Abreu)
Youngest - 20 years, 196 days (Jonathan Singleton)

LAN
Average - 23 years, 67 days
Oldest - 25 years, 93 days (Wes Musick)
Youngest - 19 years, 240 days (Domingo Santana)

LEX
Average - 22 years, 105 days
Oldest - 24 years, 167 days (Jason Chowning)
Youngest - 19 years, 229 days (Delino DeShields Jr)

THE REST (Extended Spring Training, DSL Astros, DL & Restricted List)
Average - 20 years, 268 days
Oldest - 27 years, 242 days (Sergio Escalona)
*Youngest - 16 years, 308 days (Harold Arauz)

There are 7 players in the system who are 30 years of age or older as of 4/1/12.  *The oldest Astro, Carlos Lee, was signed by the Chicago White Sox on February 8, 1994, more than 15 months before the youngest Astro, Harold Arauz, was born on May 29, 1995.

Lexington Preview

Now that the Lexington opening day roster has been set, I've looked at the assigned players and their 2011 stats in order to make at least an educated guess as to how that team will do in 2012.  First, the bad news ...

This team, as a whole, doesn't look to create any more offense than the 2011 Lexington team, at least not on paper.  As a group, they have a BA and OBP that is slightly higher than the 2011 team, but a significantly lower slugging percentage.

Several things need to happen in order to see better offensive output.  First of all, Matt Duffy, Emilio King and Jordan Scott (in particular) need to avoid a major fall-off from their 2011 numbers.  Secondly, Roberto Pena, Delino Deshields and Alex Todd need to make at least an incremental improvement in offensive numbers.  Finally, if some of the doubles power shown by Mike Kvasnicka and Matt Duffy could translate into home run power, that would go a long way toward shoring up the Lexington offense.

As far as the pitching goes, that is more of a good news situation.  As a group, the opening day roster pitchers for Lexington had a 4.12 ERA and a 1.380 WHIP for 2011 as compared to the 2011 Lexington staff which compiled a 4.63 ERA and a 1.413 WHIP.  In looking at the projected starters, it is even better as they compiled a 4.06 ERA and a 1.373 WHIP in 2011 (as compared to the five main starters at Lexington for 2011 who had a 4.62 ERA and a 1.387 WHIP).

However, as a group, the projected 2012 Lexington starters only had a .396 win percentage in 2011 as opposed to the Lexington 2011 starters who had a .428 win percentage.  But the entire 2012 Lexington pitching line-up had a .480 win percentage in 2011, higher than the 2011 Lexington staff's .449 win percentage.  Let's move on before your eyes glaze over completely.

What will it take for this pitching staff to succeed?  Kyle Hallock and Nick Tropeano need to build on their very strong freshman seasons.  Mike Foltynewicz and Tanner Bushue need to take that next step in their development as they repeat this level (and Bushue needs to stay healthy).  The bullpen also has to share the load.  None of the projected starters, other than Foltynewicz, pitched more than 85.1 innings in 2011, but that shouldn't be a huge problem with former starters Quevedo and Cruz in the bullpen.  Strong relief performances from Chowning and Diaz will help as well.

Last season culminated in 59 wins and 79 losses, a .428 win percentage.  I believe that they will improve that record due to an upgraded pitching staff, but I still have concerns about their offense.  I think a reasonable projection for this season would be 65 wins and 75 losses, a .464 win percentage, but I hope they prove me spectacularly wrong (in a good way).

Exhibition Schedule & Results

Wednesday's Game:  White Sox at Astros at 1:05 CST
Broadcast: KBME 790 at 1:00 CST
Probable Starters: RHP Phillip Humber & LHP J.A. Happ

Tuesday's Results:  White Sox over Astros 5-1
Winning Pitcher:  Chris Sale
Losing Pitcher:  Bud Norris
HR:  CWS - Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko

Also, according to Franklin Leon (@falketjethawks on twitter), the Lancaster Jethawks won their exhibition game vs. the University of Antelope Valley 5-2.

Happy Birthday - 4/4

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Casey Daigle (31)
A first round draft pick by Arizona, Daigle came to Houston as a free agent.  In 13 games pitched for Houston in 2010, he was 1-1 with a less than desirable ERA and WHIP.  He last pitched for the Giants' AAA team in 2011.  He is married to softball star Jennie Finch.

CF Gary Geiger (died April 24, 1996 at 59)
Originally signed as a pitcher and subsequently converted, Geiger found his stride at the plate in 1960, hitting .302/.369/.490 through 77 games.  Unfortunately, a collapsed lung sidelined him for the remainder of that season and he never found that degree of success again.  Geiger played in 98 games for Houston in 1969 and 1970 at the end of his major league career.

LHP Joe Gibbon (77)
Gibbon pitched in parts of 13 seasons for four teams.  He was a part of the World Series champion Pirates in his rookie season in 1960.  He only pitched 7.1 innings in 9 games for Houston at the end of his career in 1972 and was unable to recreate his earlier effectiveness.  For his career, he had a 3.52 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Josh Zeid

Watching  get a haircut by a student at a hair school in the corpus mall.... Haircut roulette. Please pray for him...

Roster Moves - 4/3

The Astros announced that J.B. Shuck will be sent to AAA in Oklahoma City, leaving Travis Buck and Justin Ruggiano to be the final outfielders.  In addition to the pending assignment of Landon Powell, two pitchers remain to be optioned in order for the roster to be final.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lancaster Roster

OPENING DAY ROSTER FOR LANCASTER JETHAWKS
CURRENT ROSTER (REFLECTING ANY CHANGES AFTER OPENING DAY)
LANCASTER SEASON PREVIEW

PITCHERS
RHP Ruben Alaniz
RHP Kirk Clark
RHP Jorge de Leon
RHP Bobby Doran
LHP Gabriel Garcia
RHP Zach Grimmett
RHP David Martinez
LHP Wes Musick
RHP Andrew Robinson
LHP Alex Sogard
RHP Brian Streilein
RHP Jose Trinidad
LHP Pat Urckfitz

CATCHERS
Rene Garcia
Ben Heath

INFIELDERS
Erik Castro*
Jonathan Meyer
Jiovanni Mier
Telvin Nash
Ben Orloff
Rafael Valenzuela*

OUTFIELDERS
Daniel Adamson
Adam Bailey* - Sent from CC 2nd day of season
Enrique Hernandez
Grant Hogue - Started season on DL
Domingo Santana
George Springer

*Bats left
#Switch-hitter

Corpus Christi Roster

OPENING DAY ROSTER FOR CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS
CURRENT ROSTER (REFLECTING ANY CHANGES AFTER OPENING DAY)
CORPUS CHRISTI SEASON PREVIEW

PITCHERS
RHP Erick Abreu
RHP Jake Buchanan
LHP Kevin Chapman
RHP Jose Cisnero
RHP Jarred Cosart
RHP Chris Hicks
RHP Arcenio Leon
LHP Brett Oberholtzer
RHP Ross Seaton
RHP Jason Stoffel
RHP Henry Villar
RHP Josh Zeid

CATCHERS
Jair Fernandez
Chris Wallace

INFIELDERS
Kody Hinze
Jordan Kreke
Jose Martinez
Andy Simunic
Jonathan Singleton*
J.C. Thompson
Jonathan Villar#

OUTFIELDERS
Adam Bailey* - sent to LAN 2nd day of season
Brandon Barnes
Jacob Goebbert* - assigned to team 2nd day of season
T.J. Steele
Austin Wates

*Bats left
#Switch-hitter

A Note on the Rosters

I have posted below the rosters for Lexington, Lancaster and Corpus Christi.  I am going to wait until the final moves have been made to post the Oklahoma City roster.  I will link the opening day rosters on the front page, along with a link to the current rosters so we will not only have a record of the opening day rosters, but a quick and easy link to current rosters once changes are made.

I am working on a team-by-team analysis of these teams now that the rosters have been announced and I will be rolling those out over the next few days. (Unfortunately, the day job keeps me from doing any kind of instant analysis.)  However, I would like to comment on a few of the players who didn't make the full season rosters to start the season.

Some of the conspicuous absences among position players are 2011 draftees Brandon Meredith, John Hinson and Chase Davidson, as well as 2010 draftee Josh Magee.  Also missing are C Ernesto Genoves (Greeneville in 2011) and super utility player Brandon Wikoff (Corpus and OKC in 2011).

The missing among the pitchers aren't as surprising.  At 19, there is no need to push Adrian Houser or Luis Ordosgoitti.  And most of us thought that Jack Armstrong and Vincent Velasquez were most likely to start at extended Spring Training and then go to Tri-City to limit their innings.  There's really only one pitcher that surprised me somewhat as he pitched extremely well at Greeneville last season (well enough to merit a late promotion to Lancaster) and that is LHP Jeremiah Meiners.

I have been told that any DL assignments will not be made official until opening day so I sincerely hope that there are no injured among our missing men.

Lexington Roster

OPENING DAY ROSTER FOR LEXINGTON LEGENDS
CURRENT ROSTER (REFLECTING ANY CHANGES AFTER OPENING DAY)
LEXINGTON SEASON PREVIEW

PITCHERS
RHP Tanner Bushue
RHP Jason Chowning
LHP Luis Cruz
RHP Dayan Diaz
RHP Jonas Dufek
RHP Mike Foltynewicz
RHP Murilo Gouvea
LHP Evan Grills
LHP Kyle Hallock
RHP Carlos Quevedo
RHP Nick Tropeano
LHP Scott Zuloaga

CATCHERS
Miles Hamblin*
Mike Kvasnicka#
Roberto Pena

INFIELDERS
Tyler Burnett*
Delino Deshields
Matt Duffy
Jimmy Howick
Zach Johnson
Alex Todd

OUTFIELDERS
Justin Gominsky
Emilio King
Drew Muren*
Jordan Scott*

*Bats left
#Switch-hitter

Minor League Rosters Set

Hot off the presses, Brian McTaggart has your Minor League rosters right here.

Exhibition Schedule & Results

Tuesday's Game:  White Sox at Astros at 7:05 CST
Broadcast: KBME 790 & FS-H at 7:00; MLB Network at 4:00 a.m. CST on Wednesday
Probable Starters: LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 4.50) & RHP Bud Norris (3-1, 3.60)

Monday's Results:  Astros over Hooks 6-2
Winning Pitcher:  Lucas Harrell
Losing Pitcher:  Jose Cisnero
HR:  HOU - Chris Johnson, Justin Ruggiano; CC - Adam Bailey

All you really need to know about last night's game is that Bullpen Catcher Javiar Bracamonte came in to pinch run in the 7th inning, scored on a Marwin Gonzalez single, stayed in to hit, and drew a 7-pitch walk.  It's time for the real games to begin!

Jayne

 You were a stud out there tonight!!!! Good job.

Happy Birthday - 4/3

No future Astros with birthdays today, but one of our minor league coaches is celebrating ~

Tri-City Pitching Coach Rick Aponte (56)
Aponte spent 6 seasons pitching in Houston's minor league system from 1976 to 1981.  From 1981 to 2006, Aponte stayed with the organization as a coach, scout and manager until he became the bullpen coach for the Washington Nationals in 2006 under Manny Acta (Aponte had coached Acta early in his career).  Aponte returned to the Astros organization in 2009.  In 2011, he was the pitching coach for the Greeneville Astros and will reprise that role for Tri-City in 2012.

Not a Tweet of the Day But ...

... this is twitter related.  I laughed so hard when I saw this set of people that one of our minor league players followed on twitter.  You remember those test questions ... which of these is not like the others?  Well, you tell me if you can spot it.


Roster Moves - 4/2

The Astros announced that Jordan Lyles will start the season at AAA and that Lucas Harrell has made the opening day roster.  In addition, Rhiner Cruz, Kyle Weiland, David Carpenter and Fernando Rodriguez will be making the first opening day roster of their careers.

Four cuts remain to be made, presumably one outfielder (out of Shuck, Buck & Ruggiano), one catcher (Landon Powell), and two pitchers (out of Wright, Abad & Sosa, again presumably).

At the minor league level, the following assignments to Corpus Christi were announced:

RHP Jonnathan Aristil
RHP Henry Villar
SS Jose Martinez
C Jair Fernandez
LHP Kevin Chapman
OF Austin Wates
2B Jordan Kreke
1B Jonathan Singleton
3B Andrew Simunic
RHP Jose Cisnero

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Interview with What the Heck

Since we're about to embark on a new season, I thought an interview for the benefit of new WTHB readers might be in order.  I managed to get this exclusive interview with the elusive What the Heck herself.  (Take that Stephen Goff!)

Q:  Why did you decide to start a blog centered around the worst team in baseball in 2011?  Are you a masochist?

A:  Not at all.  I actually started WTHB out of self-defense because the Astros were so bad in 2011.  I wanted to know that there was help on the way.  And as great as all of the Astros blogs are, none of them really gave me everything that I was looking for, both the big picture and the intricate details of the Astros minor league system, so I decided to start digging for the things that really interested me.  This blog was just a way of sharing the information that I found along the way.

Q:  Where did the name come from?

A:  "What the Heck, Bobby?" is obviously a reference to the Astros Director of Scouting, Bobby Heck, who has made great strides in rebuilding the Astros minor league system which was a shambles when he came on the scene.  Most people don't understand how many years it takes to re-build a system's depth when it has been allowed to go to seed.  I think Heck has done a good job with the system, particularly recognizing that he wasn't given a blank check with which to work.

Q:  But why Bobby Heck?  Why not name it after Fred Nelson [Director of Player Development] since your focus has more to do with the development of the players as they move through the system than it has to do with scouting and the draft?

A:  Um, Bobby Heck's name is catchier than Fred Nelson's?  I suppose I could have called it The Full Nelson, but then I would probably just confuse a lot of wrestling fans.  A catchy name is good because it's easy to remember.  Many people now find my site by googling the name (if they don't have it bookmarked, which they really should, you know).

Q:  With approximately 280+ players in the Astros system during the course of a season, how do you learn about them all?

A:  The birthday write-ups that I do for each player make me really take the time to focus on that player as an individual.  I have identified many players that I have taken particular interest in because of something I saw during that process.  I've also learned more about some of the players through the WTH roster.

Q:  What is the WTH roster?

A:  Each week during the off-season, my readers voted for one Astros minor league player to fill a particular position on a kind of fantasy roster that roughly mirrors what a real 25-man roster would look like.  It was much easier to get to know the best players in the system by looking at them one position at a time.  In the upcoming season, we will track the progress of those players as a group and see how we did in picking some of the future stars of the Astros.

Q:  You also have been doing interviews with some of the minor league players during the off-season.  Can you tell me a little about that?

A:  Well, it started because I saw how accessible some of the players are on twitter.  My first interview was with Kyle Hallock.  I sent him a tweet and he got back with me right away.  I gave him about a week to answer the questions, but I had them back in about two hours!  Since that went so well, I just kept going with it, doing interviews or, in the case of a couple of players, special birthday profiles.

Q:  Has anyone declined to do an interview with you?

A:  Not yet.  At least not directly.  I've contacted a couple of guys via twitter and they haven't responded, but they probably just didn't see the tweets (yes, Mitch Lambson, I'm talking about you!).

Q:  How do you pick the players you want to interview?

A:  I do interviews based on my own personal level of interest in a player.  Sometimes I'm interested in a player because of his stats and sometimes it's because I'm drawn to the player's personality; most often, it's a combination of the two.  (And, so far, it's been a matter of being able to contact them through their twitter accounts as well.)

Q:  Who was your favorite interviewee?

A:  Don't make me pick!  I've loved every one of them.  I felt I made a good connection with Jason Chowning and John Hinson.  And I ended up half in love with Jio Mier and Adrian Houser ... just great, genuine people.  Oh, and I adore Rafy Valenzuela and G (Garen Wright).  And Josh Zeid was super-nice. And Chris Hicks is a character.  Oh, I've really enjoyed all of them!

Q:  Are there any under the radar players that you think we should watch in the coming season?

A:  Do you not even read my blog?!?  I recently did write-ups on what I called "Non-Prospect Prospects" to watch.  These are players that aren't on anyone's top prospect lists, but who I think have a great deal of potential.  In particular, I'm very intrigued by CF Teoscar Hernandez and RHP Luis Ordosgoitti, but there are certainly others.

Q.  Any predictions for the minor league seasons?

A.  The one prediction I'm prepared to make without seeing the final rosters is that Corpus Christi will have the most dramatic improvement of all of the teams.  With what I've heard thus far about the talent being infused into that ballpark, they will not come even close to the 90-loss season they had last year.

Q:  How many people write for your blog?

A:  Well, I'm the only one, except Jordan Comadena did write an occasional guest blog for me before he was released recently.  (Side note:  I REALLY miss having Jordan be a part of this blog.  He is a tremendous person ... someone that everyone is happy to have in their lives.)

Q:  How do you manage that?  What happens if you go on vacation?

A:  Well, it does get a little manic at times.  I talk to myself a lot ... I even thought about interviewing myself at one point.  Can you imagine?  Anyway, as long as I have Wi-Fi access I've been able to post even if I'm on vacation. If I go on a remote trip to the Galapagos Islands or the Pantanal in Brazil, which I've been known to do, I may just have to schedule that for the winter!

Q:  One final question. Are you schizophrenic?

A:  I have never actually been diagnosed as schizophrenic, no.  Why do you ask?