Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Magallanes over Zulia 5-0
*RHP Sergio Perez got his first start and first win of the playoffs as Magallanes leads the round robin 2-1. In six and a third shutout innings, Perez allowed three hits and two walks while striking out five.

Caracas over Lara 6-5 in 10 innings
RHP Rhiner Cruz pitched the eighth inning and allowed one run on one hit with two strikeouts. Unfortunately, it was the tying run and Caracas went on to win the game in the 10th inning. Cruz was charged with a blown save as Lara fell to 1-2 in the round robin playoffs.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Escogido over Aguilas 5-3
*RHP Enerio del Rosario allowed two hits, including a solo home run, in a third of an inning for Aguilas. Jonathan Villar made an appearance as a pinch runner but did not get an at-bat. Aguilas is 4-3 and tied for second place in the round robin playoffs.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Mayaguez over Carolina 6-2
2B Kiké Hernandez went 2-for-5 for Carolina while C Carlos Corporan was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Carolina has now fallen to 0-3 in the playoffs.

Caguas over Santurce 8-1
At 3-0, Caguas is undefeated in the playoffs. C Roberto Peña came in to pinch hit in the seventh, striking out, and stayed in to catch the final inning.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 1/5

Happy birthday to ~

Dan Gulbransen (22)
Originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, Gulbransen was selected in the 16th round in 2012 out of Jacksonville University (FL). In 55 games for Tri-City, he hit .218/.317/.354 with eight doubles, a triple and six home runs.

Only one former Astro with a birthday today ~

OF Milt Thompson (54)
Drafted in the second round in 1979 by Atlanta, Thompson came to Houston in a July 1994 trade with the Phillies. Thompson played for Houston in 101 games over two seasons in 1994 and 1995.  He was unable to duplicate his earlier success for Atlanta (.302 BA over 98 games), Philadelphia (.279 BA over five seasons), and St. Louis (.274 over four seasons) as he batted only .229 for Houston.

Tweet of the Day

Adrian Houser
Favorite Christmas present. 
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Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Minor League Staffs

The biggest change to the Astros minor league staffing for 2013 is the assignment of what the Astros are calling "development specialists" at each of the top four minor league levels. According to the press release, these individuals "will be with their assigned club on homestands, coaching pregame and scouting each contest. When their clubs go on road trips, the development specialists will scout their respective league or serve as a roving instructor in the Astros system on a case-by-case basis."

Mark Bailey, who will be assigned to Corpus Christi and has been designated a Catching Coach, and Tom Lawless, who will be assigned to Oklahoma City as an Infield Coach, have both spent time coaching in the Astros system. Most recently, Bailey was the Hitting Coach for Tri-City in 2012 and Lawless was a Roving Infield Instructor until he took over for Tony DeFrancesco as Manager for Oklahoma City when DeFrancesco became the Astros Interim Manager. As far as I can tell, this is the first coaching experience for Vince Coleman, who will be assigned to Quad Cities as the Outfield/Baserunning Coach. Coleman, of course, was an All-Star leftfielder who stole 100+ bases three times for the Cardinals in the 1980's. And last, but certainly not least, Morgan Ensberg will be another Infield Coach and he will be assigned to Lancaster. Ensberg was drafted by the Astros in 1998 and was an All-Star third baseman for the club in 2005, the same year that he earned the Silver Slugger award.

Another newcomer to coaching is Infield Instructor Adam Everett. According to the release, "He will work with both the Major League team as well as the organization’s minor league players and staff focusing on the development of infielders. He will be attending portions of Major and minor league spring training and will visit affiliates and the Major League club several times throughout the season." Everett played for Houston from 2001 to 2007 and was named the best fielding shortstop in MLB by the Fielding Bible in 2006.

I am excited about these additions to the Astros minor league staff. As many of us were painfully aware in 2012, the Astros didn't always exhibit the soundest of fundamentals. The addition of Everett and the other development specialists could go a long way towards ensuring that the players who make it to Houston have been given all of the help that they need to shore up those fundamentals.

Josh Bonifay, who served as Hitting Coach for the Lexington team in 2012, will get his first opportunity to manage with Greeneville in 2013 and Johan Maya, who spent the last two seasons as the infield coordinator for the DSL Astros will manage that team this year. Edgar Alfonzo, former Hitting Coach for the GCL Astros, will get his first assignment as Manager of the GCL team, but he has managed previously in the Mets organization.

The most noteworthy staff departures are Stubby Clapp, former Manager for Tri-City, who accepted a job in the Blue Jays organization and Oklahoma City Pitching Coach Burt Hooten who was non-renewed. In addition, Ivan de Jesus managed Lexington in 2012, but doesn't appear to be in the organization any longer.

I have made a few additional notes regarding changes to the positions of Manager, Pitching Coach and Hitting Coach below, but just a couple of words about the staffs first. I am particularly happy to see John Bonifay get the opportunity to manage the Greeneville team. As Hitting Coach for Lexington, he had a very good relationship with his players. He earned their respect and the respect of his peers as he was named to the Sally League All-Star coaching staff. I also heartily approve that Linares, Alexander and Robinson stayed in place for Lancaster. Not only did that trio coach a championship team together, they did so in the toughest home park in the Astros system. And finally, I like seeing Hector Mercado with the GCL. From everything that the players there told me, he is the ideal candidate to work with the younger pitchers.

COORDINATORS, ROVERS & MEDICAL STAFF
Field Coordinator - Paul Runge
Pitching Coordinator - Dyar Miller
Hitting Coordinator - Ralph Dickenson
Roving Pitching Instructor - Craig Bjornson
Roving Hitting Instructor - Jeff Albert
Strength & Conditioning - Brendan Verner
Medical Coordinator - Jamey Snodgrass
Rehab Coordinator - Daniel Roberts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AAA)
Manager - Tony DeFrancesco
Pitching Coach - Steve Webber (formerly with the San Diego system)
Hitting Coach - Leon Roberts
Infield Coach - Tom Lawless
Athletic Trainer - Mike Freer
Strength & Conditioning - Alex Pounds

CORPUS CHRISTI (AA)
Manager - Keith Bodie
Pitching Coach - Gary Ruby
Hitting Coach - Tim Garland (formerly with the Oakland system)
Catching Coach - Mark Bailey
Athletic Trainer - Bryan Baca
Strength & Conditioning - Trey Weidman

LANCASTER (HiA)
Manager - Rodney Linares
Pitching Coach - Don Alexander
Hitting Coach - Darryl Robinson
Infield Coach - Morgan Ensberg
Athletic Trainer - Grant Hufford

QUAD CITIES (LoA)
Manager - Omar Lopez (managed Greeneville in 2012)
Pitching Coach - Dave Borkowski (coached for LoA Lexington in 2012)
Hitting Coach - Joel Chimelis (coached for AA Corpus Christi in 2012)
Outfield/Baserunning Coach - Vince Coleman
Athletic Trainer - Steve Miller

TRI-CITY (SSA)
Manager - Ed Romero (managed the GCL Astros in 2012)
Pitching Coach - Doug White (formerly in the St. Louis system)
Hitting Coach - Russ Steinhorn (formerly coached at Delaware State)
Athletic Trainer - Michael Rendon

GREENEVILLE (Rookie)
Manager - Josh Bonifay (Hitting Coach for LoA Lexington in 2012)
Pitching Coach - Josh Miller (first year coach; played in Astros minor leagues)
Hitting Coach - Cesar Cedeno
Athletic Trainer - Corey O’Brien

GULF COAST LEAGUE (Rookie)
Manager - Edgar Alfonzo (Hitting Coach for GCL in 2012)
Pitching Coach - Hector Mercado (coached for Greeneville in 2012)
Hitting Coach - Marty Malloy (first year coach)
Coach - Gordy MacKenzie
Athletic Trainer - Christian Bermudez

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE (Rookie)
Manager - Johan Maya (Infield Instructor for DSL in 2012)
Pitching Coach - Rick Aponte (coached Tri-City in 2012)
Hitting Coach - Luis Mateo
Outfield Instructor - Juan Zapata
Catching Instructor - Sixto Ortega
Athletic Trainer - Ambiorix Reyes
Strength & Conditioning - Geremias Guzman

Winter League Recaps

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caguas over Carolina 4-3
It was not a good night for Carolina as they dropped to 0-2 in the round robin playoffs even though they made it close by battling to put up three runs on only two hits. 2B Kiké Hernandez, C Jobduan Morales and late inning defensive replacement C Rene Garcia all went hitless in the game although Morales did draw one of three walks issued by Caguas pitching.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

Culiacan over Hermosillo 2-1 in 10 innings
Hermosillo also went to 0-2 in the playoffs. *RHP Erick Abreu successfully finished off the ninth inning, but allowed a double and a run scoring single in the 10th and was charged with the loss.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 1/4

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Zach Dando (22)
Originally from Colorado, Zach was drafted by the Astros in the 32nd round in 2011 out of Central Arizona College. In 19 appearances in relief for Greeneville in 2012, he had a 3.18 ERA and a 1.265 WHIP.

Also Jose Martinez, Pitching Coach for the 2012 DSL Astros, turns 42 today.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

CF Jason Bourgeois (31)
Jason was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2nd round in 2000 out of Forest Brook High School in Houston and came to the Astros as a waiver claim in 2010. After putting up rather pedestrian numbers in 69 games for Houston in 2010, Jason found his groove in 2011 as he got more regular playing time. In 93 games for Houston in 2011, he compiled a .294/.323./.357/.680 batting line with 31 stolen bases. He was traded to Kansas City in March 2012 along with Humberto Quintero for Kevin Chapman and D'Andre Toney. Most recently, Bourgeois signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay in December.

RHP Don McMahon (died July 22, 1987 at 57)
McMahon was purchased by Houston from the Milwaukee Braves in May 1962 and pitched in 100 games for the 1962 and 1963 Colt 45's with a ERA of 2.81 and WHIP of 1.245. He was an All-Star for Milwaukee in 1958. He played a total of 18 seasons in the major leagues for seven teams with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.246 WHIP in 874 appearances.

RHP Larry Yellen (70)
Yellen was signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1963 and pitched in 14 games for the 1963 and 1964 Colt .45's with a 6.23 ERA and a 1.731 WHIP.

Bonus Tweet of the Day

Austin Elkins
 I have been thinking of my New Years resolution for the last few days and I got it!!This year I'm going to become a NINJA!!!

Tweet of the Day

Christian García
-10 degrees on a throwin day... 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caribes over Caracas 8-1
RHP Rhiner Cruz pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing one hit and a walk with one strikeout as Caracas lost the first game of the round robin playoffs.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Toros over Aguilas 8-3
*RHP Enerio del Rosario only pitched to one batter for Aguilas but issued a based loaded walk and was charged with a blown save. Aguilas is 3-2 in the round robin playoffs while Toros currently leads the tournament 4-1.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caguas over Carolina 9-0
In the first game of the LBPRC round robin playoffs, C Roberto Peña was 0-for-1 for Caguas after coming in to the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement. 2B Kiké Hernandez was 1-for-4 with two errors for Carolina while C Carlos Corporan was hitless in three at-bats with one strikeout.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

Culiacan over Hermosillo 5-4 in 11 innings
RHP Edgar Gonzalez pitched six and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. The two-run home run he allowed to Marlon Byrd in the first inning put him in an early hole, but he walked away with a no-decision. This was the first game of a seven game playoff series between the two teams.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 1/3

Happy Birthday to Omar Lopez, manager of the 2012 Greeneville Astros, who turns 36 today.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

SS Luis Rivera (49)
Rivera signed as a free agent with Houston in January 1997 and played in only seven games for the Astros that year, hitting .231/.286/.385. He played the bulk of his career prior to that for Montreal and Boston. After his playing days, he went on to manage in the minor leagues for the Cleveland organization before becoming a member of the Indians major league coaching staff. In 2010, he joined the Blue Jays organization and most recently served as third base coach for that organization.

Tweet of the Day

Nick Tropeano
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy Birthday - 1/2

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Luis de la Rosa (21)
Signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2008, de la Rosa spent 2009 and 2010 with the DSL Astros but did not play in 2011. In 2012, he played in 27 games for the GCL Astros, hitting .149/.263/.319.

One former Astro with a birthday today

LHP Greg Swindell (48)
A first round pick by Cleveland in 1986, Swindell signed with Houston as a free agent in December 1992. In  96 games (84 starts) for the Astros from 1993 to 1996, he was 30-34 with a 4.48 ERA and a 1.401 WHIP. He was an All-Star with Cleveland in 1989 and won a World Series with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

I would also like to wish a Very Happy Birthday to Mike Acosta. Mike's actual job description for the Astros is Authentication Manager. He's the guy that authenticates everything from game-used jerseys to the ball from a player's first hit and everything in between. But Mike provides much more to those of us who follow him on twitter. He has a fantastic eye for photography and he zealously protects and shares Astros history. The Astros are very lucky to have him. I can happily authenticate that Mike is truly a one-of-a-kind Astros treasure.

Tweet of the Day

Bud Norris
Congrats to  . Jed and Jason will be dancing in the locker room during season.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year All!

I would like to thank my readers for hanging with me in 2012 as I continued to explore the Astros road back to respectability in the minor leagues. 2013 is probably not going to be a pretty year at the big league level ... again. The move to the American League is going to be difficult and our young players are going to struggle at times.

But once all is said and done and 2013 is over, Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer (among others) will likely have some major league experience under their belts. The likes of George Springer, Delino DeShields, Mike Foltynewicz and Nick Tropeano will all be a year closer ... tantalizingly close. And the excellent draft class of 2012 will be a year older, wiser and more experienced. We can expect to see many of those college players fast-tracked through the system just as we saw with Andrew Aplin, Nolan Fontana and Kenny Long last year -- think Brady Rodgers, Aaron West and Tyler Heineman, among others. Coming up swiftly behind them will be the young guns -- Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa, Rio Ruiz, Adrian Houser and others.

And in between, there will be players who will open our eyes as they develop and meet their potential. Where will Ariel Ovando, Domingo Santana and others be a year from now? Can non-drafted free agents like Lance Day and Brian Blasik continue to impress? What can Vince Velasquez, Kyle Hallock and Jack Armstrong do when healthy? Can Jio Mier stay healthy and continue with the progress we saw in the Arizona Fall League? Will Jonathan Villar and Paul Clemens make that next step? What currently unheralded player will emerge from the shadows and show us star potential?

And of course, we'll have yet another number one draft pick and more players will come in to help strengthen the system. This time next year? I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that the Astros have a top five farm system.

Yes, it may be another painful year in the major leagues. But there will be many more signs of hope, many more bright spots as we finally start to see the light at the end of a long, long tunnel. Don't blink. You don't want to miss it. Happy New Year!

Lance Day
Ever wonder where time goes? Holy shirts  is over. 2012 is over. In a blink and a half it's gonna be this day next year. Don't miss it

Happy Birthday - 1/1

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Dallas Keuchel (25)
Drafted by Houston in the seventh round in 2009 out of the University of Arkansas, this Oklahoma native started the season at AAA Oklahoma City where he had a record of 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.213 WHIP in 16 starts. Keuchel made his major league debut on June 17th. In 16 starts with Houston, he was 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA and a 1.547 WHIP.

Since being signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Arias has spent three seasons pitching for the DSL Astros. In 17 appearances (five starts) in 2012, he was 1-2 with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.686 WHIP. As a starter, he was 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.654 WHIP.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

IF Joe Pittman (59)
A fifth round draft pick by Houston out of Southern University and A&M College (Baton Rouge) in 1975, Pittman played in 67 games for the Astros in 1981 and 1982 with a .276/.323/.338 batting line. Pittman was born in Houston and went on to scout for the Astros after his playing days were over.

Tweet of the Day

kenny long
Time for my family's NYE tradition of washing our money and soaking it outside over night 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter League Recaps

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caguas over Carolina 2-1
C Roberto Peña went 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout for Caguas. RHP Raul Rivera got a no-decision for Carolina as he pitched a very strong seven innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts. C Rene Garcia was hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout. Jobduan Morales came in to pinch hit for Yadier Molina and ended up staying in as DH for Carolina. Morales went 2-for-3 with a solo home run for Carolina.

Ponce over Mayaguez 6-4
*RHP Adalberto Flores pitched a scoreless ninth inning with one hit and one walk for Ponce and earned his first save of the winter season.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

Mazatlan over Hermosillo 12-1
*RHP Erick Abreu gave up his first run since joining the Mexican Pacific League. He pitched one inning for Hermosillo, allowing one run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Aguillas over Estrellas 4-3 in 11 innings
Aguillas is now 2-1 in the round robin playoffs while Estrellas has fallen to 0-3. Jonathan Villar came in as a pinch runner in the top of the ninth for Aguilas and scored the tying run. *RHP Enerio del Rosario pitched a scoreless one and two-thirds innings with one strikeout. His perfect ninth inning allowed the Aguilas team to take the game to extra innings where they ultimately prevailed.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/31

No future Astros and only one former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Brian Moehler (41)
Originally drafted by the Tigers in the sixth round in 1993, Moehler came to Houston as a free agent and played for the Astros in 2003 and again from 2007 to 2010. In 125 games (66 starts) for Houston, he was 21-28 with a 4.97 ERA and a 1.482 WHIP. He is currently a scout in the Red Sox organization.

Tweet of the Day

Zach Johnson
Can't wait for baseball everyday

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Zulia 2-1
RHP Rhiner Cruz showed up in Caracas after his Dominican winter league season ended. In his first appearance for Caracas, he only faced one batter and allowed one hit before leaving the game.

Magallanes over Caribes 5-3
*RHP Sergio Perez (W, 9-4) pitched seven innings of one hit ball with two walks and four strikeouts to get the win for Magallanes.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Carolina over Santurce 5-4 in 10 innngs
2B Kiké Hernandez was 2-for-5 with a strikeout for Carolina while Jobduan Morales got a start at third base and went 1-for-3 with a stolen base before being lifted for a pinch hitter. C Carlos Corporan was 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBI in Carolina's win.

Caguas over Ponce 3-1
C Roberto went hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout for Caguas.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Canberra over Perth 8-6
RHP Cameron Lamb pitched one and two-thirds innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and no walks with two strikeouts. He was charged with his first blown save and his first loss of the ABL season.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/30

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Wes Musick (26)
Obtained in the Matt Lindstrom trade with the Rockies in December 2010, Musick was originally drafted by that organization in the ninth round in 2009 out of the University of Houston. (He had been drafted by Houston earlier but did not sign.) Musick started the 2012 season with Lancaster, but due to a chain reaction starting with the Kyle Weiland injury, he was promoted first to Corpus Christi and then to Oklahoma City with good results at each level. In 14 games (12 starts) between the three venues, he was 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP before an injury derailed his season. He last pitched on June 19th.

CF Jose Monzon (21)
Signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela, Monzon spent his second season with the rookie level Greeneville Astros in 2012. In 45 games, he hit .214/.301/.282. He played winter ball in the Liga Paralela in Venezuela this off-season, hitting .213/.315/.340 in 16 games.

Tweet of the Day

Brady Rodgers
Time to hit the gym