Saturday, February 9, 2013

2013 Consensus Astros Top Prospect List

To get a general consensus regarding the Astros top prospects, I took top prospect lists from the Baseball America 2013 Prospect HandbookJohn Sickels with Minor League Ball at SB Nation, Fan Graphs, Baseball Prospectus and Jonathan Mayo's 2013 Pre-Season Top 20 Prospect List and averaged the rankings. If a prospect was on at least three of the five lists, he qualified (with the following caveat).

I reached out to John Manuel of Baseball America to find out where Brad Peacock and Max Stassi would rank given that the Prospect Handbook had already been released prior to the Jed Lowrie trade; that information is included in these overall rankings. John Sickels and Jonathan Mayo had already revised their lists to include Peacock and Stassi. Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus did not revise their lists to include those two prospects.

Jon Singleton - Corpus Christi June 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

1. 1B Jonathan Singleton
2. SS Carlos Correa
3. OF George Springer
4. 2B Delino DeShields
5. RHP Jarred Cosart
6. RHP Lance McCullers
7. RHP Michael Foltynewciz
8. 3B Rio Ruiz
9. RHP Nick Tropeano
10T. OF Domingo Santana
10T. SS Jonathan Villar
12. RHP Brad Peacock
13. SS Nolan Fontana
14. RHP Asher Wojciechowski
15. RHP Vincent Velasquez
16. OF Robbie Grossman
17. RHP Adrian Houser
18. C Max Stassi
19. C Carlos Perez

Two additional prospects were ranked by two of the five: RHP Brady Rodgers and RHP Aaron West.

There were several more who were ranked by one of the five: OF Marc Krauss, OF Ariel Ovando, RHP Jose Cisnero, OF Brett Phillips, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Ross Seaton, RHP Chia-Jen Lo, OF Andrew Aplin, RHP Josh Fields, OF Austin Wates, RHP Paul Clemens, C Tyler Heineman, LHP Kevin Chapman, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Kevin Comer, and LHP Colton Cain.

Others who were listed as players to watch by at least one of the five: 1B Nate Freiman, OF Preston Tucker, 3B/OF Bobby Borchering, RHP Alex Gillingham, RHP Matt Heidenreich, LHP Kenny Long, SS Jiovanni Mier, LHP Rudy Owens, RHP Bobby Doran, and OF Teoscar Hernandez.

For reference (and a walk down memory lane), here is the 2012 Consensus List that I put together last year about this time.

Organizational Rankings of the Astros Farm System

Several baseball writers have come out with their organizational rankings of the baseball farm systems as of late. It is gratifying to see that those looking in from the outside are seeing the vast improvement in depth and talent in the Astros system.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball (SB Nation)
2012 Ranking - 25th
2013 Ranking - 10th (revised from 11th after the Jed Lowrie trade)

Baseball America (from the recently released Prospect Handbook)
2012 Ranking - 17th
2013 Ranking - 9th

Keith Law of ESPN (Insider only)
2012 Ranking - 27th
2013 Ranking - 4th

Baseball Prospectus
2012 Ranking - 26th
2013 Ranking - 9th

It is important to note that many of the Astros top prospects came into the system before GM Jeff Luhnow arrived on the scene. Luhnow has done a fantastic job in bringing in new talent and shoring up the depth of the system, but I'm sure that he would be the first to admit that he is also the beneficiary of the growth and maturation of prospects that he inherited. The combination is working.

Luhnow and his team did an incredible job with working the new draft system in 2012, and I expect nothing less from his team in 2013. I would not be surprised to see the Astros become a Top 5 farm system when these rankings come out next year about this time. It is my hope that, once we get there, we stay there for a long time to come.

Happy Birthday - 2/9

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Daniel Minor (22)
Drafted in the ninth round in 2012 out of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Minor was 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.034 WHIP in 11 starts. In his final four starts, he had a 0.35 ERA and a 0.538 WHIP. Minor was recently honored at the South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet as the Texas A&M Corpus Player of the Year.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Ramon Garcia (44)
Drafted from the Brewers in the 1996 Rule 5 draft, Garcia pitched in 42 games (20 starts) for the Astros in 1997 with a 9-8 record, a 3.69 ERA and a 1.305 WHIP.

LHP Hal Gilson (71)
Gilson came to Houston in a trade with the Cardinals in June 1968 and pitched only three and two-thirds innings in two games for the Astros that year with forgettable results.

Tweet of the Day

Marc Krauss
Friday afternoon and finished up w workouts. Not mad about being in FL. Don't worry using all kinds of sunscreen 
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Podcast Interview Link with Astros LHP Kenny Long

This podcast at CornbeltBaseball.com with Astros Lefty Reliever Kenny Long discusses how his sidearm delivery developed. He is joined by his college pitching coach Bill Mohl from Illinois State University. As a side note, I wonder if the producer of the podcast knew about Long's nickname which he acquired in the 2012 season, Boogie, as he used "Boogie Wonderland" as the fade out music at the end of the interview.

Happy Birthday - 2/8

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Krishawn Holley (21)
Holley was drafted in the 39th round in 2010 out of high school in South Carolina. In seven games (one start) with the GCL Astros in 2012, he was 1-1 with a 0.68 ERA and a 0.675 WHIP. He did not pitch until the end of July, leading me to believe that he may have been coming off an injury.

Tweet of the Day

Kenny Long
Frosty the baseball playing snowman 
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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Catcher

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position.  Today, we look at the catchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012.

Carlos Perez and Roberto Pena
Lancaster - August 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The embedded chart shows catchers in the organization ranked from high to low in terms of OBP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played.



One thing strikes me immediately when looking at this list -- youth. Except for Ben Heath and Chris Wallace who are each 24 years old, the rest of these players range from 20 to 22.

Tyler Heineman leads the list in his first year with the organization. The 2012 eighth round draft pick also leads this list in batting average and OPS. He was the New York-Penn League batting champion for 2012 as well. But Heineman isn't just a good hitter. He's also a great defensive catcher and had one of the top caught stealing percentages in the Astros minor league system at 41%. M. P. Cokinos would certainly have gotten much more attention for his offensive output had he not been playing alongside Heineman.

Another catcher who has everyone excited since he came into the system as a part of the 10-player Houston-Toronto trade in July is Carlos Perez. Much like Heineman, he looks to be the complete package offensively and defensively and boasted a 47% caught stealing rate at Lancaster (34% overall).

Also relatively new to the organization is Jobduan Morales who came to the Astros organization in the Justin Ruggiano trade with Miami. Morales' bat was valuable enough that he frequently appeared as a DH when he wasn't used behind the dish. That was true of his winter season in Puerto Rico as well.

Max Stassi just came in to the Astros organization this week as a part of the Jed Lowrie/Fernando Rodriguez trade with Oakland. He ranks in the middle of the pack with his on-base skills. It is his power potential that sets him apart from the rest of the group as he hit 18 doubles and 15 home runs on the way to a .468 slugging percentage. In 2012, he had a 24% caught stealing rate.

There are a couple players on this list whose playing time was very limited and many might question their inclusion. Luis Alvarez didn't see a great deal of playing time during the season, but put up some very good numbers. He followed up with an outstanding winter season with the Liga Paralela in Venezuela. That is enough to keep me interested in Alvarez. Pedro Coa was one of the few offensive bright spots on the DSL team in 2012. That, coupled with a 60% caught stealing rate, has me looking forward to seeing what he will do in 2013.

Heath and Rene Garcia were both having good years when injuries shortened their seasons. Roberto Pena was promoted to Lancaster largely due to injuries putting a strain on the catching staff throughout the system. Pena is widely regarded as a premium defensive catcher, but he struggled offensively after the promotion. I think the 20-year old will start to catch up with the more advanced pitching in the coming season if he is given regular playing time.

Chris Wallace had an uneven season offensively, but overall hit extremely well in the second half of the season. What he needs to focus on most, though, are base runners. He only managed a 12% caught stealing rate in 2012.

Ernesto Genoves' offensive output fell off from the prior season, but reports (from Appy Astros) are that he became much more solid defensively. I'm still intrigued by Genoves' potential, but he is going to have to show me that he is capable of getting to the next level developmentally in the coming season.

Tuesday: Lefty Starters
Wednesday: Lefty Relievers

Happy Birthday - 2/7

Happy Birthday to ~

C Victor Tavarez (18)
Tavarez was just signed out of the Dominican Republic in July and has not played professionally yet.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Dave Borkowski (36)
Originally drafted by the Tigers in the 11th round in 1995, Borkowski signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2005. In 130 games for Houston from 2006 to 2008, he had a 5.44 ERA and a 1.517 WHIP before retiring to coach for the organization. In 2013, he will continue as pitching coach at the Low A level as the team moves from Lexington to Quad Cities. Aside from baseball, Dave and his wife Jill have a passion for helping animals. They started the photo calendars featuring Astros players with pets to raise money for animal groups and encourage adoptions, and were featured in this USA today article back in October 2011 focusing on their charitable endeavors and hands-on work to help and protect animals.

LHP Juan Pizarro (76)
Pizarro came to Houston from the Cubs in July 1973 and pitched in 15 games for the Astros that season with a 6.56 ERA and a 1.671 WHIP. Pizarro played in 18 major league seasons for eight different teams with a career 3.43 ERA and 1.325 WHIP. He was a two-time All-Star for the White Sox in 1963 and 1964 and he won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.

Tweet of the Day

Jarred Cosart
Last night at home was amazing. Leaving bright and early. So hard leaving people you love most. Ill be back soon guys. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Relief LHP

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Today, we look at the left-handed relief pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012.

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played. I am not including Xavier Cedeno as he spent a significant portion of 2012 at the major league level.



I know that Kenny Long's stats are based on a small sample size, but holding opposing batters to a 0.99 batting average while leading the system in strikeout rate (15.3 SO/9) over 29 appearances was wow-worthy nonetheless. After being drafted in the 22nd round in 2012, Long made 17 appearances at short-season Tri-City before skipping Lexington altogether and landing at Hi-A Lancaster for his final 12 appearances of the season.

Mitch Lambson has intrigued me for a while and I like him even better after his 2012 season in which he showed me that he can be just as effective against right-handed batters as he is against lefties. Jeremiah Meiners has also been someone I find interesting. It is note-worthy, however, that he's only made it as far as short-season A in his third season in the organization. I was hoping to have seen him challenged at a higher level in 2012.

Theron Geith came to the Houston organization (after the minor league season was over) as the PTBNL in the Ben Francisco trade to Tampa. He spent his second season in professional ball with Hi-A Port Charlotte in the Florida State League. He more than held his own vs. right-handed batters with a 0.975 WHIP and .227 batting average against righties.

Thomas Shirley, the 2010 9th round draft pick, put up good numbers after sitting out most of 2011 due to injury. If he can stay healthy again in 2013, he should start moving up through the system.

Javier Saucedo spent his second season in the organization repeating in the Dominican Summer League. He frequently pitched in long relief and had one spot start toward the end of the 2012 season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him stretched out to get additional starts in 2013. I assume that he will make the transition to the Gulf Coast League this season. If he can cut down on his walks, he could be an interesting prospect to watch in the coming year.

Pat Urckfitz has pitched parts of four seasons at Lancaster. He struggled to be effective at the higher levels for portions of the 2011 season and ended up spending the entire 2012 season back at Lancaster. He will need to prove that he can consistently succeed at the higher levels. 2013 could be make or break for him. Another pitcher I will be watching closely in 2013 is Evan Grills. Grills struggled during the second half of his season at Lexington, but at only 20, it is far too early to give up on him.

Kevin Chapman got into a groove in the 2012 season as he thrived in the 8th inning set up role. Chapman teamed up with closer Jason Stoffel to provide a very effective one-two punch out of the bullpen for Corpus Christi.

Alex Sogard's numbers don't look very impressive at first glance, but they are skewed by a rough month after his promotion to Corpus Christi. In 24 appearances from June forward, he had a 2.63 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP. That the Astros front office thought enough of him to send him to play in the Arizona Fall League after last season should tell you something as well.

Tuesday: Lefty Starters
Coming Thursday: Catchers

Happy Birthday - 2/6

Happy Birthday to ~

3B Matt Duffy (24)
Drafted in 2011 in the 20th round out of the University of Tennessee, this Massachusetts native built on his great freshman season by continuing with his consistency at the plate, and then adding in some nice power. In  134 games at Lexington, he hit .280/.387/.447 with 32 doubles, one triple and 16 home runs. He was also hit by pitches a ridiculous 41 times.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Bill Dawley (55)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the seventh round in 1976, Dawley came to Houston in a March 1983 trade with that organization. In 157 appearances for the Astros from 1983 to 1985, he was 22-13 with 21 saves, a 2.71 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP.  He made the All-Star team in 1983 as a rookie.

Tweet of the Day

Jake Elmore
Has anyone ever cleaned a pan with soap and not cleaned the soap off well enough? then cooked eggs directly after? If not, it's not advised.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Starting LHP

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Today, we look at the left-handed starting pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012.

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played. I am not including Dallas Keuchel as he spent a significant portion of 2012 at the major league level.



One thing stands out for me when looking at this list. Only three pitchers (Wes Musick, Brett Oberholtzer and Luis Cruz) pitched for the Houston organization before 2012. Cruz is the only one who played in the system before 2011. Except for Edwin Villarroel, a 17-year old NDFA signed from Venezuela prior to the season, the rest were either drafted in 2012 or traded for in 2012. It's easy to see why GM Jeff Luhnow was aggressively pursuing left-handed starters in deadline trades last year.

Brian Holmes, a 13th round draft pick in 2012, is easily one of my favorites from the 2012 draft. He held hitters to a .165 batting average and flirted with no-hitters a couple of times during the short season. At the other end of the list is Joe Bircher, the Astros 2012 10th round pick. Bircher had an uneven freshman season, but I look for him to be more consistent in 2013.

The Astros super-sized their lefty ranks by trading little lefty Wandy Rodriguez for Rudy Owens (6'3" 230#) and Colton Cain (6'3" 255#) in July. Cain struggled somewhat at Lancaster after the trade, but he only turns 22 today so he has time to work that out. Owens, on the other hand, did well in his time at Oklahoma City after the trade and will be headed to Spring Training to challenge Erik Bedard for a job with the big club.

Another pitcher who will be headed to Spring Training to challenge Bedard is Brett Oberholtzer. I am higher on Oberholtzer than some of the other bloggers. He finished the season at Oklahoma City very strongly; he's a workhorse who pitched the second most innings in the Astros minor league system (37 more innings than Bedard in 2012); and he is highly motivated.

David Rollins (Blue Jays trade) and Blair Walters (Brett Myers trade) were also obtained in 2012 deadline deals. Rollins only made six starts for Lexington after the trade but handled the transition well. Walters struggled after his in-season promotion to High A for the White Sox and then for Houston. Look for him to start the season back at Lancaster.

Luis Cruz, one of the longest tenured Astros farm hands, was drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2008. He just turned 22 in September. Edwin Villarroel caught my eye with what he was able to accomplish at only 17 even before Luhnow mentioned that Villarroel stood out in Luhnow's recent visit to the Dominican Republic. Luhnow was impressed by Villarroel's "stuff" but was equally impressed by the command he showed at such a young age.

Wes Musick started the season at Lancaster, stopped at Corpus Christi briefly and ended up in Oklahoma City where he last pitched June 19th before injury derailed his season. Kyle Hallock, the Astros 10th round pick in 2011, also had his season cut short as he had surgery to remove loose bodies in his elbow. He had an excellent freshman season in 2011. I will be eager to see what he can do in 2013 when he is once again healthy.

Coming Wednesday: LH Relief Pitchers

Happy Birthday - 2/5

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Raul Rivera (22)
Drafted in the 37th round in 2009 out of high school in Puerto Rico, Rivera only pitched in 1.2 innings in 2010 and did not play in 2011 at all. In 2012, however, he pitched 36 innings in 12 games (six starts) with a 2-1 record, a 2.00 ERA and a 1.111 WHIP for the GCL Astros.

RHP Zachary Grimmett (23)
Drafted in the 28th round out of high school in Oklahoma in 2008, Grimmett repeated at Lancaster in 2012. The predominately flyball pitcher had an 8.21 ERA and a 1.776 WHIP in 23 games (10 starts).

RHP Mark Hamburger (26)
Originally signed as an amateur free agent by Minnesota in 2007, Hamburger came to Houston as a waiver claim from San Diego in 2012. In 17 appearances at Oklahoma City in 2012, he was 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.571 WHIP.

LHP Colton Cain (22)
An eighth round draft pick by the Pirates in 2009, Cain came to Houston in the July 2012 Wandy Rodriguez trade. In seven starts for Lancaster, he was 2-2 with a 5.55 ERA and a 1.654 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Norm Miller (67)
Drafted by Houston from the Angels in the 1964 first-year draft, Norm Miller didn't exactly put up Hall of Fame numbers in his nine seasons (1965-1973) for Houston with a .240/.322/.355 batting line, but the converted second baseman (some guy named Joe Morgan had that job) does have some interesting stories to tell about his life in baseball.  His 2009 book To All My Fans From Norm Who? is more of a collection of anecdotes than a real memoir, but for any Astros fan, those anecdotes constitute a nice glimpse of the early days of the Astros organization.

OF Lee Thomas (77)
Thomas came to Houston in a February 1968 trade and played in 90 games for the Astros toward the end of his career, hitting .194/.249/.229. His best season was his All-Star year in 1962 when he played for the Angels. Thomas was the GM of the Phillies from 1988 to 1997 and was followed by some guy named Ed Wade.

Also, Happy Birthday to the naming inspiration for my blog, former Astros Scouting Director Bobby Heck.

Tweet of the Day

Kenny Long
Can't wait to see my bros in about a month at spring training

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jed Lowrie and Francisco Rodriguez Traded

The Astros announced the trade of SS Jed Lowrie and RHP Francisco Rodriguez to the Oakland A's on Monday for 1B Chris Carter, RHP Brad Peacock and C Max Stassi.

Carter, 26, has played a total of 106 games over three seasons in the majors with Oakland, 67 in 2012 in which he hit .239/.350/.514 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs.

According to the Astros press release, Carter's minor league resume has been impressive:
Carter (6-4, 244), who has played parts of the last three seasons (2010-12) with the A’s big club, has had an outstanding minor league career, twice winning Oakland’s Organizational Player of the Year Award (2008-09). In 2008 at Single A Stockton, he tallied 39 HR, 32 doubles, 104 RBI and 101 runs scored while posting a .569 slugging pct. In 2009, he hit a combined .329 at Midland (AA) and Sacramento (AAA) with 28 HR and 115 RBI with a .422 on-base-pct. and a .570 slugging pct. en route to earning Texas League Player of the Year honors. In 826 career minor league games, Carter has a .535 slugging pct. and a .913 OPS.
Peacock, 25, has only pitched in three games at the major league level (for Washington in 2011) with excellent results. In 28 appearances (25 starts) at AAA in 2012, he went 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA, 1.584 WHIP and 9.3 SO/9. In 2011, prior to his trade to Oakland, he was Washington’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year and also won Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors. He was listed by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in the A's organization going into the 2013 season.

The 21-year-old Stassi, hit .268/.331/.468 with 15 HR and 45 RBI in 84 games at Single A Stockton in 2012 . He has seen limited playing time the last two seasons due to injury, but is said to be a good defensive catcher that profiles to have a respectable amount of pop in his bat.

Both Carter and Peacock have been placed on the 40-man roster. Stassi will be a non-roster invitee.

GM Jeff Luhnow will have to have some tricks up his sleeve in order to figure out where he's going to put his extra ration of first basemen. Between Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace, Nate Freiman and now Chris Carter, something is going to have to give somewhere even after factoring in the DH. The same thing can be said of right-handed pitchers who are competing for spots in the starting rotation. In addition to Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles, you'll have John Ely, Phil Humber, Alex White and now Brad Peacock. And that doesn't even include up-and-comer Jarred Cosart and NRI Edgar Gonzalez. I do not envy Bo Porter and company in trying to find enough innings for everyone.

Proper Preparation Produces Peak Performers

This will be new Astros Manager Bo Porter's mantra for his players from Day One. Proper Preparation Produces Peak Performers. This is what we heard from Porter as various members of the blogging community talked with him at last Saturday's Fan Fest. I wanted to include some of the actual audio from that Q&A because I was struck by how the recorder picked up Porter's punctuation of his words, fingers firmly tapping the table for emphasis.


Proper Preparation Produces Peak Performers.

This response came in connection with a question posed by Terri from the Tales from the Juice Box blog about fundamentals, about doing the little things right. According to Porter, the little things aren't necessarily so little, "I'm a firm believer that anything that can cause you to lose a baseball game is major."

He went on to elaborate on the importance of mental as well as physical preparation by the players:



And you get the feeling that Porter has prepared himself well for this opportunity. Every answer he gives comes quickly and emphatically. He is a man who knows what he wants and has thought long and hard about the best way to get there.

When I asked Porter if he had any prior relationships with any of the Astros minor league coaching staffs, he brushed the question aside as unimportant. What matters to him are the relationships and cohesion going forward, "When minor league camp opens, I will address the entire minor league camp, the players, coaches, staff, the support staff." He will make it his business to establish a relationship because he contends, "One of the problems than can exist is ... a disconnect from the major leagues to the minor leagues. We're not going to have that here. It will be completely one family. We're all in this thing together. And from the minor leagues to the major leagues, it will be the Houston Astros way."

Aside from preparation by the players, Porter will want to see their competitive natures emerge at Spring Training as well, "One of the best things when you talk about our organization, where we're at right now, is the fact that there's a lot of opportunity. And with opportunity comes competition. And I think competition is one of the best things for competitive athletes. If you can't compete against each other, how can you compete against another team?"

Porter asserts that he will do everything in his power to prepare these players for success, including his embrace of data produced by the Astros Analytics Department, "We would be foolish not to take advantage of all of the material that's made readily available to us that can help the outcome of games." But he is also a realist, "At the end of the day, it may turn out that the player's not good enough. And if the player's not good enough, we need to find another player and that's the reality of the business that we're in."

When all is said and done, I think it will become evident that Porter's mantra is meant for him as much as it is meant for the players. And I think he is just fine with that because he's been preparing for this opportunity for a very long time. Proper Preparation Produces Peak Performers.

Bo Porter - Fan Fest 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Checking In With Mike Foltynewicz

Astros Minor League Player of the Year Delino DeShields and Pitcher of the Year Mike Foltynewicz have agreed to participate in a series of mini-interviews throughout the season. I caught up with DeShields a couple of weeks ago. Now it's Folty's turn.

WTH: 2012 was a great breakthrough season for you culminating in being named as the Astros minor league Pitcher of the Year. What are some of the special memories you'll have of this season when you look back on it years from now?

MF: Going down [to Houston] to get the Pitcher of the Year award meant a lot to me. It will be in my memories forever because there were a lot of great players in the organization that had great years. Just to be a part of that meant my hard work and my dedication is paying off. There are a lot of good players in the organization so I'm really proud of that.

[Another great memory] is going down to Charleston for the All-Star game, just going down there with all the guys. I got pretty close to them going down there and having a good time, and just playing in that All-Star game meant a lot to me. It was a lot of fun, and getting to know the other players on the other teams was pretty cool.

It was awesome getting close with teammates during the year ... [Matt] Duffy, [Nick] Tropeano, [Nate] Pettus, [Brandon] Meredith, [Zach] Johnson and all those guys ... they kind of took me under their wings. It was fun hanging out with those guys.

I had a ton of confidence and it's a ton of fun when you are winning and having a good year. I guess you can say it was just a special year.

WTH: What have you been doing in the off-season to prepare for the upcoming season?

MF: The off-season has been going well. I've been working out 4-5 times a week and I have been throwing the past three weeks or so. I'm just working hard like I always do, hitting the gym, running and throwing to prepare myself for the upcoming year. And trust me, I'm working hard.

WTH: What have you been doing in the off-season for fun?

MF: For fun in the off-season? Well, I love to golf, so I tried to get as much in when I got home from the season. I golfed for a good month or two when I got home in September, and actually got to hit the links once in January! But other than that, I'm just trying to spend time with my friends and family before I have to take off for spring training.

WTH: What do you hope to accomplish in Spring Training?

MF: I hope to accomplish a lot during spring training ... try to clean up my mechanics and focus on commanding my fastball, get more confidence in my change up and tighten up my curveball. I just want to continue where I left off last year in spring training and hopefully I prove some people wrong on where I deserve to be this year.

Happy Birthday - 2/4

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Al Javier (59)
Signed by the Astros as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1971, Javier played in only eight games for Houston in 1976, hitting .208/.269/.208.

C/1B Chris Coste (40)
Selected off waivers from the Phillies in July 2009, Coste played in 43 games for the Astros that season, hitting .204/.259/.252. Coste won a World Series with the Phillies in 2008.

Tweet of the Day

Jarred Cosart
And now it's finally time for baseball. Gonna be a big year

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Birthday - 2/3

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

LHP Rich Scheid (48)
A second round pick by the Yankees in 1986, Scheid came to Houston in a July 1992 trade with the White Sox for Eric Yelding. In seven games (one start) for the Astros in 1992, he had a 6.00 ERA and a 1.667 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Kevin Chapman
Whoever thought of the idea to make people run 26.2 miles and have them pay for it is a genius