Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter League Recaps - 11/30

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Zulia 2-1
SS Marwin Gonzalez was 1-for-4 with an RBI and was caught stealing for Caracas.

La Guaira over Magallanes 6-1
2B Jose Altuve was 1-for-3 with a walk for Magallanes. He also was charged with a fielding error, his fourth of the season.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Gigantes over Escogido 6-0
DH Jimmy Paredes went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout for the Gigantes. *RHP Erick Abreu came in to the game for the Gigantes in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and induced a quick out to end the threat. His one and a third perfect innings (with one strikeout) earned him the win. *RHP Enerio Rosario also provided a scoreless inning of relief. In eight appearances this winter, he has not allowed a run.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Carolina over Ponce 2-1
Kiké Hernandez got a start at third base and the change of scenery seemed to agree with him as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base for Carolina. 1B Jobduan Morales was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. C Carlos Corporan and SS Carlos Correa were both hitless in four at-bats and each had one strikeout.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/1

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Jim "Sting" Ray (68)
Drafted by Houston from the Orioles in December 1963, Ray pitched for the Astros in 1965, 1966 and 1968 to 1973. He was 42-27 with a 3.53 ERA, a 1.293 WHIP and 23 Saves in 280 games. One of the highlights of Ray's career had to be pitching in the 24-inning affair with the Mets on April 15, 1968, the longest shutout in baseball history. He pitched seven innings of relief, gave up two hits, one walk and struck out 11. This entertaining story about the game put it well:
As the innings wore on, pitchers looked more and more like Walter Johnson, and it became apparent that short of a negotiated truce, the only way this contest would end was through a mistake.
LHP Dan Warthen (60)
A second round pick by the Expos in 1971, Warthen came to Houston in a September 1978 trade with the Phillies and pitched in five games for the Astros that month with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP.

LHP Dan Schatzeder (58)
Originally drafted by Montreal in the third round in 1976, Schatzeder came to Houston as a free agent in January 1989. In 81 games for the Astros in 1989 and 1990, he had a 3.36 ERA and a 1.459 WHIP. Schatzeder spent 15 seasons in the major leagues pitching for nine different teams.

Tweet of the Day

TBUSH
Some of the worst dancers are from Illinois. Stop doing the dougie to every song.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter League Recaps - 11/29

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caribes over Magallanes 16-3
2B Jose Altuve was hitless in four at-bats with one strikeout for Magallanes.

Caracas over La Guaira 4-3
SS Marwin Gonzalez was 0-for-4 for Caracas.

Margarita over Aragua 5-3
2B Jose Martinez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts for Aragua, but he did draw a walk.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE - Off Day

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Santurce over Carolina 4-3 in 8 innings (Game 1)

2B Kiké Hernandez was 1-for-3 with a walk for Carolina. Jobduan Morales went 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout in a start at first base. Carlos Corporan and Rene Garcia split the catching duties and both went hitless. SS Carlos Correa went 1-for-2 with a strikeout before being lifted for a pinch hitter.

Carolina over Santurce 6-2 in 7 innings (Game 2)
2B Kiké Hernandez went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored twice for Carolina. C Rene Garcia was 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Happy Birthday - 11/30

RHP Agapito Barrios (19)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Panama, Barrios pitched for the GCL Astros in 2012 after pitching in the DSL last season. In 11 games (five starts), he was 1-5 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.196 WHIP.

Also, Jamie Garcia, GCL Pitching Coach in 2012 turns 62 today.

Tweet of the Day

Alex Todd

hearing "like my swagga" and not walking up to the plate is tough

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow Interview - In Full


PART 1

The now one-year-old Astros front office is definitely more blogger friendly than the prior administration, but lest you think that getting a one-on-one phone interview with General Manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t take persistence, you would be thoroughly mistaken. I first contacted Luhnow toward the end of July and tried to set something up for shortly after the trade deadline, but that didn’t quite materialize. Fast forward through several email reminders (translation: friendly nagging) to Astros media relations, a couple of in-person nudges to Luhnow himself during various encounters and a very-tongue-in-cheek (I promise) allusion to Glenn Close and bunnies, and the day was finally at hand.

On Tuesday, November 20th, Jeff Luhnow was gracious enough to grant me more than a half-hour of his very valuable time. The results of that interview will be split into four parts and published throughout the week. The first part is fairly long, but there was really no way to break it up. It focuses on what I like to think of as a “State of the Union Address” as it pertains to the Astros farm system.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The first thing that Luhnow talked about was how the Astros farm system had been ranked very lowly by external experts for a number of years, citing in particular Baseball Prospectus’ rankings which had not been higher than 26th (in 2012) out of 30 teams since at least 2007. He emphasized that the Astros “were starting from a fairly low base.” According to Luhnow, “This year, there were really three dynamics that occurred that enabled us to make a significant improvement and this is independent of trying to address any specific need in terms of position because really the system as a whole just needed a big upgrade, a big face lift and needed to start to compete with the better systems in baseball.

“Number one, there were several players that we internally believed were undervalued by the market, by the pundits, players like [2B Delino] DeShields, players like [RHP Vincent] Velasquez, players like [RHP Mike] Foltynewicz, and even to a certain extent some of the recent draft players like [OF George] Springer and so forth. And those players had good years this year and part of that equation was we knew they were good and we knew they would eventually have good years. A lot of these are young players, high school players that underperformed in their first couple of years or first year relative to what our expectations were, but expectations are always very high for top round picks and these are young men that have a long way to go coming out of high school. That dynamic occurs frequently in the industry. Very few first or second round high school players go out and immediately have success and so normally there’s a little bit of a disappointment those first couple of years, and we saw some of that with some of our players. We knew they were better than people were giving them credit for and they proved that this year.

“The other [part of that] dynamic was that we held them back. We didn’t promote them just because they were a year older. We really held firm to the notion that you need to earn the promotion from one level to the next, and the best way to do that is to prove that you have dominated that level and there were several players that hadn’t dominated levels yet that needed to repeat, like DeShields, like Folty, that ended up dominating them this year. So I think there was more inherent talent than people were giving us credit for and it was just a matter of letting that talent show itself, reveal itself, and not pushing it too fast because these are young men that still have a long way to go. So that was … the first dynamic.

“I think the second dynamic that occurred was the draft and the fact that, because we had the benefit of Sig’s [Sig Mejdal, Director of Decision Sciences] group and all the work that they did to help our scouts -- validate the scout’s opinion or challenge the scout’s opinion in some cases -- we ended up with a very robust draft group of proven performers and toolsy prospects. I think that combination was really important for us because the evidence was demonstrated immediately as the proven performers, e.g. the [OF Andrew] Aplins and the [LHP Kenny] Longs and those players came in to the low end of our system and immediately performed the way we expected them to, the way they had their entire careers. That enabled those teams to have more success which just creates more of a mentality that this is a winning organization. So whether it’s Rodgers or [other] pitchers that were in Short Season A, the guys I talked about, guys like Aplin, guys like [OF Preston] Tucker … all those guys came in and did exactly what we expected them to do. But they weren’t the types of players that the Astros had been drafting in prior years. The Astros had focused extensively on tools players with high ceilings and, where we were still able to get some of those guys this year in the form of [3B Rio] Ruiz and [RHP Lance] McCullers and [SS Carlos] Correa, once we got to a certain point in the draft, we focused much more on the players we knew had a proven track record that we thought could advance quickly through our system and help build our depth. So that occurred at the lower end of the system.

“And then, [the third dynamic was] really the trades throughout the season. The trades starting in Spring Training, but all the way through July, enabled us to basically inject -- I think the final number was 17 -- minor league players into our system, everywhere from rookie ball up to AAA, and eventually to big leagues. That was a huge injection of talent, all players that we had determined had already cleared maybe a hurdle or two in the minor leagues. When you’re drafting a player, there [are] a lot of hurdles between where that player is and the big leagues. When you’re trading for a player that’s already been in the minor leagues for a few years, presumably if you’re doing your work properly, [they’ve] already cleared a few of those hurdles and so they’re a little bit of a safer bet. That’s [the case] with players like [LHP Rob] Rasmussen, [3B Matt] Dominguez, [C Carlos] Perez and the rest of the guys that we got from those trades from Pittsburgh and Toronto, etc. Those are all players that had cleared a couple of hurdles and we felt were well-positioned to become prospects or to continue to be prospects.

“Those three dynamics together led to a fairly dramatic improvement in the system and I think evidence of that [is that] we were dead last [in 2011] in terms of win-loss percentage [for the seven domestic minor league affiliates] and this year we’re first. That doesn’t happen by accident. There is a lot of randomness, of course, in win-loss record but to go from worst to first is not an accident. I think it was because of these three dynamics I’m speaking about, and that we did execute against the strategy that George [Astros President George Postolos] and Jim [Owner Jim Crane] have laid out from the beginning. We want to have the best young talent in baseball so we put a lot of resources into that and we’re going to continue to do that and hopefully, whether or not the experts recognize it, we believe we have a system that’s probably close to the top 10, if not in the top 10 now. We have our own metrics of determining that and I think the external validation will be there. We’ll probably at least be in the top half, but that’s not why we do it. The reason we do it is to create major league talent and to shepherd it through our minor league system and create value at the big league level that we can either trade or play and that’s what I think we did a good job of.”

PART 2

Today, we dig a little deeper and look at some specific needs and Jeff Luhnow's thoughts on some specific players.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

In conjunction with Luhnow’s analysis of the improvements to the farm system, I also asked him about which areas were most improved, in terms of depth, and which areas he felt still needed work. Here is what he had to say. “Now specifically, the trades were, as you can tell by the players who came back, were really focused on pitching, left-handed pitching wherever possible, but just pitching. There’s such a high failure rate among pitchers in the minor leagues that we really feel like, if you can grab a bunch of pitchers that have already cleared a couple of hurdles and are in that A-ball, AA range, you’re in pretty good shape at that point. I think the goal of a lot of those trades was to substantially add to our depth of good prospects. I don’t think that we necessarily got any premium, top-end prospects in the trades, but then again, we weren’t necessarily trading any top-end major leaguers. We were trading good major leaguers that were ready to contribute now, and in return we got a high quantity of good prospects. I think that was our objective and we accomplished it. Catching was a priority as well. We still feel like we’re thin on catching. [Carlos] Perez helped. Having [Tyler] Heineman have a great year out of the draft helped, but we still have a ways to go. That’s an area where we’re going to continue to look to improve.”

I also asked Luhnow if there were any prospects who stood out for him for one reason or another as he made his rounds of the minor league ballparks this summer. “Yes, I think so. Just to give you an example, [OF Ariel] Ovando. What I knew about him coming in was that he was a toolsy player that got a lot of money [and] didn’t perform relative to the amount of money he got, his signing bonus as an amateur. And I think I was really impressed. I saw him in the winter and then I saw him this year at Greeneville, and I think I was impressed with how he was handling all of that and how he wasn’t letting it bother him. He was going out there and performing. I thought that was important to see. There were a lot of good performances in our minor league systems though, for me, the first time through was just trying to learn who these guys were more than anything and trying to get a sense for the staff. There were certain players that I came in knowing I was going to take a look at, but there were lots of others that ended up catching my attention so it was definitely worthwhile. I think next year I’d like to spend a little more time out there because this year it was maybe two or three days per spot so I didn’t get to see everybody. You go in; you see maybe two or three of the starters. You don’t get to see everybody. I was impressed with [RHP Adrian] Houser when I saw him in Greeneville. I was impressed with [LHP Brett] Oberholtzer when I saw him but there [were] a lot of pitchers I didn’t get to see when I was out there.”

I wondered if there were any higher level prospects who had answered his questions or concerns this season. In particular, I was thinking of RHP Jarred Cosart who, after having a history of injuries, has remained healthy for the last two seasons (with the exception of some minor blister problems). “Cosart – I happened to be there when he had a dominating performance. When you watch him in one of those starts, you sort of put all those concerns aside because he’s got the arm to be … I still believe that he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter because he’s got enough stuff and he seems to maintain it throughout the game so that was good for me to see. I think [RHP] Paul Clemens is another guy that struggled at times this year mightily in AAA. What I had seen in Spring Training was different than what the results were showing during the season. Getting a chance to see him late was important as well because I believe that he’s everything that we saw in Spring Training. It’s just a matter of him gaining the confidence and really developing an approach that allows him to be consistent because he’s got big league stuff. He’s another one that I heard about and had seen a little bit in Spring Training and was curious as to why the results weren’t matching what I had seen. And that happens. I think there [are] a couple of players that I’m curious to see next year that we didn’t get to see this year like [1B Chase] Davidson and [RHP Jack] Armstrong. Those are guys that … when you have players like that, that have either [been] highly touted or drafted high or have had success and then missed basically entire years due to injury, those are the kind of guys you don’t tend to think about or put on lists, but those are guys that when you think towards next year, in the back of your mind [you] have a little bit of a safety net. [If] those guys pitch or hit to their abilities, all of a sudden we have two more guys we’re going to be talking about next year at this time.”

This led me to ask about a couple of the players that missed all or a large part of the season due to injuries. Luhnow didn’t specify what had kept Chase Davidson from missing most of the season, but had a bit more to say regarding Armstrong and RHP Kyle Weiland. “Armstrong should be [ready for 2013]. Weiland, he’s been rehabbing. We just checked in on him about a week ago and he’s getting stronger. It’s just that when you take that much time off, it takes a while to build up the strength. Armstrong was a little more of a routine situation. Weiland was a little bit more of an unexpected, navigating-into-new-territory situation. I’m hopeful that both of them will be ready to go for Spring Training. [More on Armstrong.] I’ve been watching him since he went to high school there in Jupiter when I was with the Cardinals. I would watch him in high school from basically sophomore year all the way through until senior year and watched him at Vanderbilt so I’ve got some history with him. He’s everything you look for in a pitcher, really."

PART 3


In Part 3 of my interview with Jeff Luhnow, the topics were more wide-ranging. We talked about some of the problems that come with greater depth, protecting players in the Rule 5 draft, and winter league player control.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I asked Luhnow about whether he’d been to the Dominican Republic yet to look at the players in the instructional league in hopes I could hear about a player or two who had caught his eye. Alas, he won’t be going until after the winter baseball meetings, but told me that he would be going with Assistant GM David Stearns and Director of Latin American Scouting Oz Campo to “watch a couple games, do a couple tryouts.”

I mentioned something that Lancaster Manager Rodney Linares said to me in talking about the increasing depth in the farm system, calling it “a good mess.” Luhnow agreed that there are challenges, “Once you start to have depth, you put pressure on your 40-man, you have to worry about playing time. That decision [is something] that Quinton [new Director of Player Development Quinton McCracken] and the rest of us will have to make next year as far as who gets what spots, what level, what playing time. [It] becomes a much more important decision when you have a number of prospects and your system is starting to become more robust like ours is, so those decisions will be carefully weighed. It’s always a challenge not to over weigh what you see in Spring Training in two weeks of at-bats or in two weeks of innings pitched because, as we all know, Spring Training is an OK predictor of what’s going to happen during the season, but it’s not perfect and sometimes looking at [the player’s] track record may be just as important.”

I spoke with Luhnow on the 20th shortly before the 40-man roster had been set in advance of the Rule 5 draft. In speaking of the process of protecting players, he said, “I wouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is for a team to keep a player on their 25-man roster all year. It is a challenge. We were able to do it last year in large part because Marwin [Gonzalez] was so important to our team and he really became a regular player, and we have enough bullpen depth where we could pitch [Rhiner] Cruz in certain spots and not necessarily overexpose him so we were fortunate in that way. I think it would be a lot more challenging going forward to protect two more guys this year. We’re certainly going to take players but whether or not we are able to keep them? [It’s] going to be difficult to repeat that.”

I was curious about the level of control that the team has over players who play winter league ball in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among other places. In particular, I was thinking of how Jimmy Paredes was being used extensively in the outfield in his time in the Dominican Republic. I assumed that this was something that the Astros front office would want as Paredes continues in his transition from second base to the outfield. According to Luhnow, “It’s a negotiation. What we do is whenever we can possibly legally prevent the team from using the player, we usually trigger that using the extreme fatigue clauses so that we can have a little more control over how they’re used. A lot of those players, we were able to say you can’t use them, but then we do allow them to play but under certain conditions. We do that whenever we can and that allows us, especially with pitchers, to dictate the number of innings, how they’re used, how often they can go back-to-back, all those types of things. And then with respect to Paredes, I think it’s a combination of he wanted to play outfield, we talked to the team and we asked them to make sure that he gets extensive playing time out there and it’s also just a good fit for them as well so … it’s a negotiation. There are ongoing relationships that we have with all the winter club teams and they know we’re all in this together for many years. They know if they do something against our wishes this year, it might come back to haunt them next year because we might not let them have the player they want so it’s definitely one of those things where we work collaboratively with a team.

PART 4


In Part 4 of my interview with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, we talked about rebuilding and his first year in Houston.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I asked Luhnow what he thought was the biggest misconception about rebuilding a team. “First of all, I don’t think people understand [that] rebuilding comes in a lot of different forms. There’s rebuilding the major league team -- you could have a bunch of veteran players and you promote the prospects -- that’s technically considered rebuilding, but that’s just getting younger and going with your prospects as opposed to your veterans. That’s one form of rebuilding. And actually there’s also the idea of rebuilding while you’re good at the major league level. That’s something that we did in St. Louis. The team was having a lot of success – ’04, ’05, ’06, back in the playoffs in ’09, so the team really never went through a significant down cycle, but at the same time, there was a tremendous amount of effort going into injecting talent into the minor league system through the international program and the draft and some of the other things that were going on.

But, really, how long it takes to rebuild [is a big misconception]. In order to really understand how long it’s going to take, you need to have a pretty thorough understanding of what the system looks like in the minor leagues compared to other systems. And that can give you a hint as to whether it’s going to be a couple of years or five-plus years. We’ve seen teams like Pittsburgh and Washington and Kansas City (and Tampa Bay did it a while back) pick high in the draft for sometimes five years or more. And then even after that point, it takes a few years for those high-end players to come through the system and reach the big leagues. I think we’re looking at a much shorter time frame, hopefully. There’s a lot that needs to go right for that to happen, but because we were able to do some of the things we did this year with the trades, because we felt like we had a better system than we were being given credit for and because we’re just going to make sure that from now on, we utilize our draft pool and international pool to maximize the impact, [I think we are poised to make that happen]. I think every situation is unique and I think that’s probably the one thing that fans don’t necessarily understand. It seems like sometimes in other sports [when] you rebuild, you’re bad for a year or you’re bad for two years, and then you’re back. In baseball, it’s like turning a battleship around [my emphasis]. It’s not something that you can really do very quickly.”

The final question I had for Luhnow was what he thought about Houston after his first year as the Astros General Manager. “I love the city and I love the team and the fans are great. [Me: And the bloggers are a little insane?] No, the bloggers are great as well (laughter). I really appreciate the passion. It was one thing to have passionate bloggers and people following the minor leagues in St. Louis where the team was in the World Series and all that, but to have it here in Houston... There’s just such a core group of really passionate fans and followers, it’s great.

"I think we have our challenges ahead, but I like the team that we’re building here. We’ve basically replaced the entire front office. We’ve replaced a lot of the scouting, player development, the field staff, and I really believe that we have a staff in place now that can match up against any staff in baseball. And that’s a starting point because it’s a people business and people are the ones that make the decisions. We need to have the right people making the right decisions with the right information. I know it’s been frustrating for our fans to go through two seasons like we just went through and the only thing I can continue to promise (I won’t give a timeline because if I do, I’ll be wrong), but I promise that we are working as hard and as smart as we can to win as many games as quickly as possible at the big league level and, once we get there, [to] sustain that so it’s not a situation where … we made a run at it and now we have to go back and start over again. That’s the goal and I think we’re well on our way. The first year, while on paper at the big league level, may not appear to have been successful, the number of things that we were able to accomplish, setting up the infrastructure and the underlying fundamentals that are going to help us in the future -- it was a huge success. So the key for this next year is to continue to build on that and to allow some of that work to begin to show its fruits."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I sincerely thank Jeff Luhnow for taking the time to talk with me. Astros fans have been through some very trying times the last few seasons. Personally, I take comfort in knowing that the Astros system is being rebuilt the right way and that a smart, focused and highly motivated individual like Luhnow is in charge. I think he has this battleship turned around. Now it’s just a matter of getting it up to speed. That may take a while, but once we get there, I think we’ll be cruising along smoothly for a long time to come.


Jeff Luhnow Interview Part 4

In Part 4 of my interview with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, we talked about rebuilding and his first year in Houston. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the interview are here, here and here.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I asked Luhnow what he thought was the biggest misconception about rebuilding a team. “First of all, I don’t think people understand [that] rebuilding comes in a lot of different forms. There’s rebuilding the major league team -- you could have a bunch of veteran players and you promote the prospects -- that’s technically considered rebuilding, but that’s just getting younger and going with your prospects as opposed to your veterans. That’s one form of rebuilding. And actually there’s also the idea of rebuilding while you’re good at the major league level. That’s something that we did in St. Louis. The team was having a lot of success – ’04, ’05, ’06, back in the playoffs in ’09, so the team really never went through a significant down cycle, but at the same time, there was a tremendous amount of effort going into injecting talent into the minor league system through the international program and the draft and some of the other things that were going on.

But, really, how long it takes to rebuild [is a big misconception]. In order to really understand how long it’s going to take, you need to have a pretty thorough understanding of what the system looks like in the minor leagues compared to other systems. And that can give you a hint as to whether it’s going to be a couple of years or five-plus years. We’ve seen teams like Pittsburgh and Washington and Kansas City (and Tampa Bay did it a while back) pick high in the draft for sometimes five years or more. And then even after that point, it takes a few years for those high-end players to come through the system and reach the big leagues. I think we’re looking at a much shorter time frame, hopefully. There’s a lot that needs to go right for that to happen, but because we were able to do some of the things we did this year with the trades, because we felt like we had a better system than we were being given credit for and because we’re just going to make sure that from now on, we utilize our draft pool and international pool to maximize the impact, [I think we are poised to make that happen]. I think every situation is unique and I think that’s probably the one thing that fans don’t necessarily understand. It seems like sometimes in other sports [when] you rebuild, you’re bad for a year or you’re bad for two years, and then you’re back. In baseball, it’s like turning a battleship around [my emphasis]. It’s not something that you can really do very quickly.”

The final question I had for Luhnow was what he thought about Houston after his first year as the Astros General Manager. “I love the city and I love the team and the fans are great. [Me: And the bloggers are a little insane?] No, the bloggers are great as well (laughter). I really appreciate the passion. It was one thing to have passionate bloggers and people following the minor leagues in St. Louis where the team was in the World Series and all that, but to have it here in Houston... There’s just such a core group of really passionate fans and followers, it’s great.

"I think we have our challenges ahead, but I like the team that we’re building here. We’ve basically replaced the entire front office. We’ve replaced a lot of the scouting, player development, the field staff, and I really believe that we have a staff in place now that can match up against any staff in baseball. And that’s a starting point because it’s a people business and people are the ones that make the decisions. We need to have the right people making the right decisions with the right information. I know it’s been frustrating for our fans to go through two seasons like we just went through and the only thing I can continue to promise (I won’t give a timeline because if I do, I’ll be wrong), but I promise that we are working as hard and as smart as we can to win as many games as quickly as possible at the big league level and, once we get there, [to] sustain that so it’s not a situation where … we made a run at it and now we have to go back and start over again. That’s the goal and I think we’re well on our way. The first year, while on paper at the big league level, may not appear to have been successful, the number of things that we were able to accomplish, setting up the infrastructure and the underlying fundamentals that are going to help us in the future -- it was a huge success. So the key for this next year is to continue to build on that and to allow some of that work to begin to show its fruits."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I sincerely thank Jeff Luhnow for taking the time to talk with me. Astros fans have been through some very trying times the last few seasons. Personally, I take comfort in knowing that the Astros system is being rebuilt the right way and that a smart, focused and highly motivated individual like Luhnow is in charge. I think he has this battleship turned around. Now it’s just a matter of getting it up to speed. That may take a while, but once we get there, I think we’ll be cruising along smoothly for a long time to come.

Winter League Recaps - 11/28

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caribes over Caracas 7-4
Marwin Gonzalez got the start at third for Caracas and went 1-for-5 and scored a run.

Aragua over Magallanes 9-1
2B Jose Martinez was 1-for-4 with a walk and scored a run for Aragua. For Magallanes, 2B Jose Altuve was 1-for-4 with a strikeout and a stolen base.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Aguilas over Escogido 12-9
LF Fernando Martinez went 1-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run home run for Escogido. He also struck out twice and had two fielding errors.

Gigantes over Toros 7-4
DH Jimmy Paredes was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout for the Gigantes, but he also swiped two bags and scored two runs. RHP Rhiner Cruz and *RHP Enerio del Rosario each pitched a perfect frame in relief for the Gigantes, with Cruz striking out two and del Rosario striking out one.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Santurce over Carolina 6-4
Kiké Hernandez started the game at second and moved to third. Hernandez tried to win the game single-handedly as his three-run home run in the third put Carolina in front, but Carolina couldn't hold the lead. Hernandez went 2-for-4. Jobduan Morales got the start at first base and was 1-for-4 with a strikeout before being lifted for pinch runner Carlos Correa who did not get an at-bat. C Rene Garcia was 1-for-3 and Garcia's defensive replacement Carlos Corporan drew a walk in his one plate appearance.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 11/29

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Pedro Martinez (44)
Martinez came to Houston in a December 1994 trade with the Padres and pitched in 25 games for the Astros in 1995 with a 7.40 ERA and a 2.177 WHIP. In two seasons with the Padres he was 6-3 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.301 WHIP in 80 appearances.

LF Mike Easler (62)
A 14th round pick by Houston in 1969, Easler had precisely one hit for the Astros in 29 plate appearances spread over 26 games from 1973 to 1975 before being traded to the Cardinals in June 1975. He went on to have a successful career playing for Pittsburgh, Boston, the Yankees and Philadelphia compiling a career batting line of .293/.349/.454. He was an All-Star for the Pirates in 1981.

SS Jason Alfaro (35)
Originally drafted by Houston in the 22nd round in 1997, Alfaro's entire major league career consisted of 12 plate appearances over seven games for the Astros in 2004, hitting .182. In nine minor league seasons, he hit .273/.318/.407.

Tweet of the Day

Austin Wates

I think Tattoos are cool lookin, but I dont think I'll ever get one though, no 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jeff Luhnow Interview Part 3

In Part 3 of my interview with Jeff Luhnow, the topics were more wide-ranging. We talked about some of the problems that come with greater depth, protecting players in the Rule 5 draft, and winter league player control. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I asked Luhnow about whether he’d been to the Dominican Republic yet to look at the players in the instructional league in hopes I could hear about a player or two who had caught his eye. Alas, he won’t be going until after the winter baseball meetings, but told me that he would be going with Assistant GM David Stearns and Director of Latin American Scouting Oz Campo to “watch a couple games, do a couple tryouts.”

I mentioned something that Lancaster Manager Rodney Linares said to me in talking about the increasing depth in the farm system, calling it “a good mess.” Luhnow agreed that there are challenges, “Once you start to have depth, you put pressure on your 40-man, you have to worry about playing time. That decision [is something] that Quinton [new Director of Player Development Quinton McCracken] and the rest of us will have to make next year as far as who gets what spots, what level, what playing time. [It] becomes a much more important decision when you have a number of prospects and your system is starting to become more robust like ours is, so those decisions will be carefully weighed. It’s always a challenge not to over weigh what you see in Spring Training in two weeks of at-bats or in two weeks of innings pitched because, as we all know, Spring Training is an OK predictor of what’s going to happen during the season, but it’s not perfect and sometimes looking at [the player’s] track record may be just as important.”

I spoke with Luhnow on the 20th shortly before the 40-man roster had been set in advance of the Rule 5 draft. In speaking of the process of protecting players, he said, “I wouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is for a team to keep a player on their 25-man roster all year. It is a challenge. We were able to do it last year in large part because Marwin [Gonzalez] was so important to our team and he really became a regular player, and we have enough bullpen depth where we could pitch [Rhiner] Cruz in certain spots and not necessarily overexpose him so we were fortunate in that way. I think it would be a lot more challenging going forward to protect two more guys this year. We’re certainly going to take players but whether or not we are able to keep them? [It’s] going to be difficult to repeat that.”

I was curious about the level of control that the team has over players who play winter league ball in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among other places. In particular, I was thinking of how Jimmy Paredes was being used extensively in the outfield in his time in the Dominican Republic. I assumed that this was something that the Astros front office would want as Paredes continues in his transition from second base to the outfield. According to Luhnow, “It’s a negotiation. What we do is whenever we can possibly legally prevent the team from using the player, we usually trigger that using the extreme fatigue clauses so that we can have a little more control over how they’re used. A lot of those players, we were able to say you can’t use them, but then we do allow them to play but under certain conditions. We do that whenever we can and that allows us, especially with pitchers, to dictate the number of innings, how they’re used, how often they can go back-to-back, all those types of things. And then with respect to Paredes, I think it’s a combination of he wanted to play outfield, we talked to the team and we asked them to make sure that he gets extensive playing time out there and it’s also just a good fit for them as well so … it’s a negotiation. There are ongoing relationships that we have with all the winter club teams and they know we’re all in this together for many years. They know if they do something against our wishes this year, it might come back to haunt them next year because we might not let them have the player they want so it’s definitely one of those things where we work collaboratively with a team.

On Thursday: Some final thoughts from Jeff Luhnow on rebuilding and his first year in Houston

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Magallanes 9-2
Marwin Gonzalez started at third base for Caracas and went 2-for-5 with a strikeout and scored a run. For Magallanes, Jose Altuve was 2-for-4 with an RBI and stole a base. Altuve is hitting .361/.451/.459 in 15 games. *RHP Sergio Perez (L, 6-3) got the start for Magallanes and allowed five runs on seven hits (including a three-run home run) and no walks. He struck out 10 in four and a third innings.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Escogido over Gigantes 12-2
LF Fernando Martinez was 0-for-5 with an RBI and a strikeout for Escogido. Jimmy Paredes as the DH for the Gigantes was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Manati over Carolina 9-1
2B Kiké Hernandez was 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored for Carolina. C Rene Garcia was 2-for-4 with a strikeout. Jobduan Morales got a start at first base for Carolina and went hitless in three at-bats, but drew one walk. *RHP Adalberto Flores pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts, but RHP Raul Rivera didn't fare quite as well as he allowed three runs on four hits in an inning's work.

Caguas over Mayaguez 5-4 in 14 innings
C Roberto Pena came in as a defensive replacement for Caguas in the sixth inning and still worked nine innings in this 14-inning game. Pena went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a strikeout.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hermosillo over Guasave 12-4
RHP Edgar Gonzalez got the start and the win for Hermosillo as he pitched five innings, allowing no runs on three hits and two walks. He struck out nine and hit two batters.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 11/28

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B/OF Jim Fuller (62)
A second round pick by the Orioles in 1970, Fuller came to Houston as a free agent in November 1976. In 34 games for the Astros in 1977, he hit .160/.243/.280. In nine seasons in the minors, he hit .254/.351/.505.

RHP Pedro Astacio (44)
Astacio came to Houston in a July 2001 trade with the Rockies for Scott Elarton. In four starts for the Astros that season he was 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.186 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

kenny long

Some lady today asked me why I wasn't at my highschool class right now. maybe because Im almost 24 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Roster Moves

In addition to the news from yesterday that RHP Edgar Gonzalez and RHP Jose Valdez were re-signed by the Astros to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training, today it was announced that LHP Sergio Escalona (who spent all of 2012 on the Astros disabled list) and newcomer OF Trevor Crowe have also been signed to minor league agreements with Spring Training invites.

Escalona pitched very effectively for the Astros out of the bullpen in 2011. As to Crowe, you shouldn't be surprised to find out that he was a first round pick by Cleveland back in 2005 since Jeff Luhnow has a penchant for picking up former first rounders as free agents, like Scott Moore, Brad Snyder, Landon Powell and Travis Buck. Here are Crowe's major league stats with Cleveland and his minor league stats.

Jeff Luhnow Interview Part 2

In Part 1 of my interview with Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, he laid out his thoughts on the state of the Astros minor league system and the three dynamics at play in bolstering the system. Today, we dig a little deeper and look at some specific needs and his thoughts on some specific players.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

In conjunction with Luhnow’s analysis of the improvements to the farm system, I also asked him about which areas were most improved, in terms of depth, and which areas he felt still needed work. Here is what he had to say. “Now specifically, the trades were, as you can tell by the players who came back, were really focused on pitching, left-handed pitching wherever possible, but just pitching. There’s such a high failure rate among pitchers in the minor leagues that we really feel like, if you can grab a bunch of pitchers that have already cleared a couple of hurdles and are in that A-ball, AA range, you’re in pretty good shape at that point. I think the goal of a lot of those trades was to substantially add to our depth of good prospects. I don’t think that we necessarily got any premium, top-end prospects in the trades, but then again, we weren’t necessarily trading any top-end major leaguers. We were trading good major leaguers that were ready to contribute now, and in return we got a high quantity of good prospects. I think that was our objective and we accomplished it. Catching was a priority as well. We still feel like we’re thin on catching. [Carlos] Perez helped. Having [Tyler] Heineman have a great year out of the draft helped, but we still have a ways to go. That’s an area where we’re going to continue to look to improve.”

I also asked Luhnow if there were any prospects who stood out for him for one reason or another as he made his rounds of the minor league ballparks this summer. “Yes, I think so. Just to give you an example, [OF Ariel] Ovando. What I knew about him coming in was that he was a toolsy player that got a lot of money [and] didn’t perform relative to the amount of money he got, his signing bonus as an amateur. And I think I was really impressed. I saw him in the winter and then I saw him this year at Greeneville, and I think I was impressed with how he was handling all of that and how he wasn’t letting it bother him. He was going out there and performing. I thought that was important to see. There were a lot of good performances in our minor league systems though, for me, the first time through was just trying to learn who these guys were more than anything and trying to get a sense for the staff. There were certain players that I came in knowing I was going to take a look at, but there were lots of others that ended up catching my attention so it was definitely worthwhile. I think next year I’d like to spend a little more time out there because this year it was maybe two or three days per spot so I didn’t get to see everybody. You go in; you see maybe two or three of the starters. You don’t get to see everybody. I was impressed with [RHP Adrian] Houser when I saw him in Greeneville. I was impressed with [LHP Brett] Oberholtzer when I saw him but there [were] a lot of pitchers I didn’t get to see when I was out there.”

I wondered if there were any higher level prospects who had answered his questions or concerns this season. In particular, I was thinking of RHP Jarred Cosart who, after having a history of injuries, has remained healthy for the last two seasons (with the exception of some minor blister problems). “Cosart – I happened to be there when he had a dominating performance. When you watch him in one of those starts, you sort of put all those concerns aside because he’s got the arm to be … I still believe that he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter because he’s got enough stuff and he seems to maintain it throughout the game so that was good for me to see. I think [RHP] Paul Clemens is another guy that struggled at times this year mightily in AAA. What I had seen in Spring Training was different than what the results were showing during the season. Getting a chance to see him late was important as well because I believe that he’s everything that we saw in Spring Training. It’s just a matter of him gaining the confidence and really developing an approach that allows him to be consistent because he’s got big league stuff. He’s another one that I heard about and had seen a little bit in Spring Training and was curious as to why the results weren’t matching what I had seen. And that happens. I think there [are] a couple of players that I’m curious to see next year that we didn’t get to see this year like [1B Chase] Davidson and [RHP Jack] Armstrong. Those are guys that … when you have players like that, that have either [been] highly touted or drafted high or have had success and then missed basically entire years due to injury, those are the kind of guys you don’t tend to think about or put on lists, but those are guys that when you think towards next year, in the back of your mind [you] have a little bit of a safety net. [If] those guys pitch or hit to their abilities, all of a sudden we have two more guys we’re going to be talking about next year at this time.”

This led me to ask about a couple of the players that missed all or a large part of the season due to injuries. Luhnow didn’t specify what had kept Chase Davidson from missing most of the season, but had a bit more to say regarding Armstrong and RHP Kyle Weiland. “Armstrong should be [ready for 2013]. Weiland, he’s been rehabbing. We just checked in on him about a week ago and he’s getting stronger. It’s just that when you take that much time off, it takes a while to build up the strength. Armstrong was a little more of a routine situation. Weiland was a little bit more of an unexpected, navigating-into-new-territory situation. I’m hopeful that both of them will be ready to go for Spring Training. [More on Armstrong.] I’ve been watching him since he went to high school there in Jupiter when I was with the Cardinals. I would watch him in high school from basically sophomore year all the way through until senior year and watched him at Vanderbilt so I’ve got some history with him. He’s everything you look for in a pitcher, really."

On Wednesday, we hear from Jeff Luhnow regarding issues associated with greater depth in the system, thoughts on the Rule 5 draft and winter league player control.

Winter League Recaps - 11/26

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Escogido over Estrellas 7-5
LF Fernando Martinez went 0-for-3 for Escogido, and *RHP Jorge de Leon pitched a third of an inning, allowing a walk and striking out one.

Licey over Gigantes 8-0
LF Jimmy Paredes was 0-for-4 for the Gigantes team, and *RHP Erick Abreu pitched one and a third innings with no hits, no walks and one strikeout.

All other leagues had the day off.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 11/27

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Dave Giusti (73)
Giusti was signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1961 and pitched for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1964 and for the Astros in 1965 to 1968. In 176 games (118 starts), he had a 47-53 record with a 4.02 ERA and 1.284 WHIP. His best seasons were with the Pirates in the early to mid-70's. He had one All-Star appearance and won one World Series while with Pittsburgh.

C Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez (41)
Rodriguez signed with Houston as a free agent in March 2009. In 93 games for Houston that season, he hit .251/.280/.382 and had a 32% caught stealing rate. In August of 2009, he was traded to the Rangers for Matt Nevarez and Jose Vallejo. Rodriguez was an All-Star 14 times while playing with Texas and Detroit as well as a 13-time Gold Glove winner and a 7-time Silver Slugger. He was the American League MVP in 1999 for Texas. He won his only World Series for the Marlins in 2003.

Tweet of the Day

Travis Ballew

Ready for baseball offseason to be over 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baseball America Astros Top 10 List

Baseball America released their Astros Top 10 Prospect list today and have singled out the following prospects:

1. SS Carlos Correa
2. 1B Jon Singleton
3. OF George Springer
4. RHP Lance McCullers
5. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
6. 2B Delino DeShields
7. RHP Jarred Cosart
8. 3B Rio Ruiz
9. RHP Nick Tropeano
10. SS Nolan Fontana

They have also included Best Tools, a projected line-up for 2016 and additional information if you have a subscription. I will link to the article (as well as the FanGraphs article from last week) on the front page for future reference.

Roster Moves

According to Brian McTaggart, the Astros have re-signed RHP Edgar Gonzalez and RHP Jose Valdez to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. I have updated my master off-season transaction list to reflect these changes.

I really don't have any strong feelings about Gonzalez one way or the other, but I am glad to see Jose Valdez re-signed. His numbers at Oklahoma City really aren't indicative of the season that he had, as a mid-season injury and struggles related to that injury inflated his numbers significantly. Before and after, he had a solid season out of the bullpen in Oklahoma City, and that translated into an effective stint in Houston following a September call-up.

Jeff Luhnow Interview Part 1 - State of the Astros Farm System

The now one-year-old Astros front office is definitely more blogger friendly than the prior administration, but lest you think that getting a one-on-one phone interview with General Manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t take persistence, you would be thoroughly mistaken. I first contacted Luhnow toward the end of July and tried to set something up for shortly after the trade deadline, but that didn’t quite materialize. Fast forward through several email reminders (translation: friendly nagging) to Astros media relations, a couple of in-person nudges to Luhnow himself during various encounters and a very-tongue-in-cheek (I promise) allusion to Glenn Close and bunnies, and the day was finally at hand.

On Tuesday, November 20th, Jeff Luhnow was gracious enough to grant me more than a half-hour of his very valuable time. The results of that interview will be split into four parts and published throughout the week. The first part is fairly long, but there was really no way to break it up. It focuses on what I like to think of as a “State of the Union Address” as it pertains to the Astros farm system.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The first thing that Luhnow talked about was how the Astros farm system had been ranked very lowly by external experts for a number of years, citing in particular Baseball Prospectus’ rankings which had not been higher than 26th (in 2012) out of 30 teams since at least 2007. He emphasized that the Astros “were starting from a fairly low base.” According to Luhnow, “This year, there were really three dynamics that occurred that enabled us to make a significant improvement and this is independent of trying to address any specific need in terms of position because really the system as a whole just needed a big upgrade, a big face lift and needed to start to compete with the better systems in baseball.

“Number one, there were several players that we internally believed were undervalued by the market, by the pundits, players like [2B Delino] DeShields, players like [RHP Vincent] Velasquez, players like [RHP Mike] Foltynewicz, and even to a certain extent some of the recent draft players like [OF George] Springer and so forth. And those players had good years this year and part of that equation was we knew they were good and we knew they would eventually have good years. A lot of these are young players, high school players that underperformed in their first couple of years or first year relative to what our expectations were, but expectations are always very high for top round picks and these are young men that have a long way to go coming out of high school. That dynamic occurs frequently in the industry. Very few first or second round high school players go out and immediately have success and so normally there’s a little bit of a disappointment those first couple of years, and we saw some of that with some of our players. We knew they were better than people were giving them credit for and they proved that this year.

“The other [part of that] dynamic was that we held them back. We didn’t promote them just because they were a year older. We really held firm to the notion that you need to earn the promotion from one level to the next, and the best way to do that is to prove that you have dominated that level and there were several players that hadn’t dominated levels yet that needed to repeat, like DeShields, like Folty, that ended up dominating them this year. So I think there was more inherent talent than people were giving us credit for and it was just a matter of letting that talent show itself, reveal itself, and not pushing it too fast because these are young men that still have a long way to go. So that was … the first dynamic.

“I think the second dynamic that occurred was the draft and the fact that, because we had the benefit of Sig’s [Sig Mejdal, Director of Decision Sciences] group and all the work that they did to help our scouts -- validate the scout’s opinion or challenge the scout’s opinion in some cases -- we ended up with a very robust draft group of proven performers and toolsy prospects. I think that combination was really important for us because the evidence was demonstrated immediately as the proven performers, e.g. the [OF Andrew] Aplins and the [LHP Kenny] Longs and those players came in to the low end of our system and immediately performed the way we expected them to, the way they had their entire careers. That enabled those teams to have more success which just creates more of a mentality that this is a winning organization. So whether it’s Rodgers or [other] pitchers that were in Short Season A, the guys I talked about, guys like Aplin, guys like [OF Preston] Tucker … all those guys came in and did exactly what we expected them to do. But they weren’t the types of players that the Astros had been drafting in prior years. The Astros had focused extensively on tools players with high ceilings and, where we were still able to get some of those guys this year in the form of [3B Rio] Ruiz and [RHP Lance] McCullers and [SS Carlos] Correa, once we got to a certain point in the draft, we focused much more on the players we knew had a proven track record that we thought could advance quickly through our system and help build our depth. So that occurred at the lower end of the system.

“And then, [the third dynamic was] really the trades throughout the season. The trades starting in Spring Training, but all the way through July, enabled us to basically inject -- I think the final number was 17 -- minor league players into our system, everywhere from rookie ball up to AAA, and eventually to big leagues. That was a huge injection of talent, all players that we had determined had already cleared maybe a hurdle or two in the minor leagues. When you’re drafting a player, there [are] a lot of hurdles between where that player is and the big leagues. When you’re trading for a player that’s already been in the minor leagues for a few years, presumably if you’re doing your work properly, [they’ve] already cleared a few of those hurdles and so they’re a little bit of a safer bet. That’s [the case] with players like [LHP Rob] Rasmussen, [3B Matt] Dominguez, [C Carlos] Perez and the rest of the guys that we got from those trades from Pittsburgh and Toronto, etc. Those are all players that had cleared a couple of hurdles and we felt were well-positioned to become prospects or to continue to be prospects.

“Those three dynamics together led to a fairly dramatic improvement in the system and I think evidence of that [is that] we were dead last [in 2011] in terms of win-loss percentage [for the seven domestic minor league affiliates] and this year we’re first. That doesn’t happen by accident. There is a lot of randomness, of course, in win-loss record but to go from worst to first is not an accident. I think it was because of these three dynamics I’m speaking about, and that we did execute against the strategy that George [Astros President George Postolos] and Jim [Owner Jim Crane] have laid out from the beginning. We want to have the best young talent in baseball so we put a lot of resources into that and we’re going to continue to do that and hopefully, whether or not the experts recognize it, we believe we have a system that’s probably close to the top 10, if not in the top 10 now. We have our own metrics of determining that and I think the external validation will be there. We’ll probably at least be in the top half, but that’s not why we do it. The reason we do it is to create major league talent and to shepherd it through our minor league system and create value at the big league level that we can either trade or play and that’s what I think we did a good job of.”

On Tuesday: Luhnow talks about system depth at certain positions and gives us his thoughts on some specific players.

Winter League Recap and Player Stats

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Margarita 4-2
SS Marwin Gonzalez was 1-for-3 with a walk and committed an error for Caracas.

Magallanes over Aragua 12-4
2B Jose Altuve's hand must have felt better since he went 2-for-4 for Magallanes with an RBI single, RBI double, bases loaded walk and a strikeout in yesterday's game. He also stole a base for good measure.

LVBP Player Stats to Date:

Jose Altuve - .351/.448/.456 4-2B 3B 13RBI 4SB in 14 games
Brandon Barnes - .292/.353/.491 3-2B 3-3B 4HR 20RBI 2SB in 28 games
Jake Goebbert - .217/.266/.300 5-2B 6RBI 1SB in 17 games
Marwin Gonzalez - .207/.368/.310 3-2B 2RBI 3SB in 10 games
Jose Martinez - .300/.365/.433 4-2B 4HR 21RBI in 32 games

*Sergio Perez - 6-2 4.31 ERA 1.19 WHIP 11BB/25SO in 8 starts

Liga Paralela Player Stats to Date:

Luis Alvarez - .281/.352/.359 2-2B 1HR 11RBI in 18 games
Ernesto Genoves - .277/.392/.477 4-2B 3HR 12RBI in 20 games
Jose Monzon - .213/.315/.340 2B 3B HR 4RBI in 16 games
Carlos Perez - .303/.365/.470 8-2B HR 12RBI in 20 games
Alfredo Gonzalez - .262/.311/.405 3-2B 1HR 6RBI in 15 games

Carlos Quevedo - 3-1 1.69 ERA 0.94 WHIP 4BB/22SO in 6 games (3 starts)
Enderson Franco - 0-2 3.68 ERA 1.13 WHIP 10BB/23SO in 8 games (6 starts)

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Aguilas over Gigantes 6-4
Jonathan Villar came in to the game as a pinch runner for Aguilas and was caught stealing. For the Gigantes, Jimmy Paredes was 0-for-3 with a sac fly RBI and *RHP Erick Abreu pitched a third of an inning and allowed one run on one hit and two walks.

Licey over Escogido 6-4
LF Fernando Martinez went 2-for-3 with a double and scored a run for Escogido. He struck out once.

LIDOM Player Stats to Date:

Fernando Martinez - .333/.400/.444 1-2B in 3 games
Jimmy Paredes - .253/.287/.389 4-2B 3HR 18RBI 2SB in 24 games
Domingo Santana - .100/.400/.100 1RBI in 6 games
Jonathan Villar - .200/.250/.200 3SB in 15 games

*Erick Abreu - 2-0 3.93 ERA 0.76 WHIP 4BB/23SO in 13 appearances
Rhiner Cruz - 1-0 2.70 ERA 1.80 WHIP 4BB/9SO in 7 appearances
*Jorge de Leon - 0-1 9.00 ERA 3.00 WHIP 3BB/0SO in 2 appearances
*Enerio del Rosario - 0-0 0.00 ERA 1.25 WHIP 2BB/1SO in 6 appearances
*Aneury Rodriguez - 3-1 3.10 ERA 1.21 WHIP 8BB/26SO in 7 starts

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caguas over Carolina 5-4
C Roberto Pena was 0-for-4 with a strikeout for Caguas. For Carolina, 2B Kiké Hernandez went 1-for-5 with a double while C Jobduan Morales was 1-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout.

LBPRC Player Stats to Date:

Carlos Corporan - .250/.222/.250 1RBI in 4 games
Carlos Correa - .176/.222/.235 1-2B in 6 games
Rene Garcia - .286/.304/.333 1-2B 4RBI in 6 games
Kiké Hernandez - .222/.300/.333 2-2B 1-3B 4RBI in 10 games
Jobduan Morales - .333/.333/.333 3RBI in 4 games
Roberto Pena - .083/.214/.333 1HR 2RBI in 6 games

*Adalberto Flores - 1-0 1.50 ERA 0.67 WHIP 1BB/4SO in 4 games
Raul Rivera - 1-0 5.79 ERA 1.71 WHIP 0BB/2SO in 3 games

LMP (Mexican Pacific League) Player Stats to Date:

*Edgar Gonzalez - 0-1 5.68 ERA 1.34 WHIP 4BB/6SO in 3 starts

LBPN (Nicaragua) Player Stats to Date:

Marlon Avea - .200 AVG/.200 SLG in 4 games (no extra base hits)
Mesac Laguna - .222/.364/.519 2-2B 2HR in 11 games

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 11/26

RHP Victor Mesa (19)
A non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic, Mesa played his second season with the DSL Astros in 2012. In 18 appearances, he had a 4.33 ERA and a 1.557 WHIP in 35 and a third innings. In his final six appearances in August, he had a 2.57 ERA and a 1.286 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today

RHP Jeff Fulchino (33)
An eighth round pick by the Marlins in 2002, Fulchino came to Houston from Kansas City as a waiver claim in December 2008. In 147 games for the Astros from 2009 to 2011, he was 9-9 with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.380 WHIP. Fulchino signed as a free agent with the Nationals in December 2011, but did not pitch in 2012.

RHP Mike Mendoza (57)
A fifth round pick by the Astros in 1973, Mendoza got his cup of coffee in 1979 and it was a perfect brew - one perfect inning pitched in one game.

Tweet of the Day

Jordan Jankowski

Is it bad I'm still tired from Black Friday? 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter League Recaps - 11/24

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

According to a tweet from Jose de Jesus Ortiz (which was a translation of a tweet from Carlos Altuve), Jose Altuve had an injury to his left hand that was determined not to be a fracture, but was a tendon problem. Subsequent tweets indicated that he is scheduled to resume playing for Magallanes on Tuesday after a layoff of several days.

Margarita over Caracas 9-4
Marwin Gonzalez was back at short for Caracas and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Gigantes over Licey 5-2
Jimmy Paredes was 0-for-5 with an RBI (on a force out) and a strikeout as DH for the Gigantes.

Aguilas over Toros 2-0
Jonathan Villar came in as a pinch runner for Aguilas and stole a base but didn't get any at-bats.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Manati over Carolina 5-4
SS Carlos Correa was 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts for Carolina before being lifted for pinch hitter  Jobduan Morales who singled in his one at-bat. Also for Carolina, C Rene Garcia went 0-for-2 with a sac fly RBI. Kiké Hernandez pinch hit for Garcia in the ninth and got an RBI on a force out.

Caguas over Mayaguez 10-1
Roberto Pena entered the game as a pinch hitter, struck out and stayed in to play catcher for Caguas.

Happy Birthday - 11/25

OF/2B Jimmy Paredes (24)
Originally from the Dominican Republic and signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in 2006, Jimmy Paredes came to the Astros organization in the Lance Berkman trade in 2010. A great athlete, Paredes has become a man without a position as he is currently being blocked by Jose Altuve at his natural position of second base. After playing third base for the Astros late in the 2011 season, he was moved back to second base at Oklahoma City in 2012 until a late season switch to the outfield. In 124 games with the Redhawks this season, he hit .318/.348/.477 with 28 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs and 37 stolen bases. After a late season call-up to Houston, he hit .189/.244/.230 in 24 games. In Winter League play in the Dominican Republic this season, he is hitting .261/.299/.402 with four doubles and three home runs through 23 games, and he is playing primarily left field.

Former Astros with birthdays today

1B Rafael Batista (died October 25, 2008 at age 62)
Batista was drafted from Atlanta in the minor league draft in November 1967. In 22 games for Houston in 1973 and 1975, he hit .280/.308/.320. After his time with the Astros, Batista played in the Mexican League for nine seasons.

RHP John Johnstone (44)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the 20th round in 1987, Johnstone signed as a free agent with the Astros in December 1995. In nine appearances for the Astros in 1996, he had a 5.54 ERA and a 1.692 WHIP. His best seasons were for the Giants in 1998 and 1999 when he had a 2.87 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP in 132 appearances.

RHP Octavio Dotel (39)
Dotel came to Houston from the Mets in a December 1999 trade and pitched for the Astros from 2000 to 2004. In 302 appearances, he was 22-24 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.169 WHIP and 42 saves. Dotel went to Oakland in a three-team trade in June 2004 that brought Carlos Beltran to the Astros. Since playing with the Astros, the well-traveled Dotel has played for 11 different teams, including his latest stint for the Tigers.

Tweet of the Day

Jiovanni Mier

I'm really into suits right now. Thinking about switching my style and just wearing them everyday