Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Astros Farm Report: 8/14

Let's catch up on all the latest happenings in the Astros system...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ...

Alex De Goti - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

8/14: C Jonarkys López (17)
8/16: RHP Peter Solomon (22)
8/18: C Evan Gattis (32)
8/19: SS Alex De Goti (24)

ROSTER MOVES/TRANSACTIONS

8/11: OF Kyle Tucker (Fresno) recalled to Houston
8/11: 1B Luis Encarnacion assigned to Corpus Christi from Tri-City
8/11: RHP Alfredi Jimenez assigned to the GCL from the DSL
8/11: RHP Alex Blano (DSL) released (signed July 2017 out of the Dominican Republic for $10,000)
8/10: 3B/1B J.D. Davis optioned to Fresno
8/10: 2B Alfredo Angarita assigned to Fresno from Quad Cities
8/10: LHP Tim Hardy assigned to Tri-City from Quad Cities
8/9: RHP Carlos Sierra activated from the Corpus Christi DL (on DL since 7/11)
8/9: LHP Tim Hardy assigned to Quad Cities from Tri-City
8/8: LHP Framber Valdez assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
8/8: C Cesar Salazar assigned to Quad Cities from Tri-City
8/8: C Nathan Perry assigned to Tri-City from the GCL
8/7: LHP Buddy Boshers (Fresno) claimed off waivers by the Pirates
8/7: RHP Brandon Bailey assigned to Corpus Christi from Buies Creek
8/6: OF Derek Fisher (Fresno) recalled to Houston
8/6: RHP Ralph Garza assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
8/6: RHP Layne Henderson assigned to Tri-City from the GCL
8/4: SS Alex De Goti assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
8/3: LHP Cionel Perez (Fresno) recalled to Houston

ASTROS MILB DISABLED LIST

8/9: RHP Jairo Solis (Quad Cities) placed on the 7-day DL
7/11: RHP Forrest Whitley (Corpus Christi) placed on the 7-day DL (expected to be activated 8/14)
6/19: OF Drew Ferguson (Fresno) placed on the 7-day DL (hand)
6/1: LHP Yeremi Ceballos (DSL) placed on the 60-day DL
6/1: RHP Carlos Quintero (DSL) placed on the 60-day DL
5/4: RHP Francis Martes (Fresno) placed on the 7-day DL (on rehab assignment)
5/3+/-: RHP Gerardo Bojorquez had TJ surgery per Instagram post
4/5: RHP Ryan Thompson assigned to Fresno (starting the season on the 7-day DL); according to Instagram Ryan has had surgery, but I don't know whether or not it was TJ (later confirmed that it was TJ surgery)
4/5: RHP Matt Ruppenthal assigned to Quad Cities (starting the season on the 7-day DL; according to Instagram, Ruppenthal had elbow surgery to transpose the ulnar nerve in early April and started to throw mid-June)
4/5: RHP Ángel Heredia (Corpus Christi) placed on the 7-day DL (Instagram post in early August showed him as having had surgery)
4/5: RHP Nick Hernandez (Corpus Christi) placed on the 7-day DL (Tommy John)

ASTROS MILB RESTRICTED LIST

6/22: RHP Yoanys Quiala placed on the restricted list (80 game suspension for performance-enhancing substance); Quiala won't be eligible to play again until approximately mid-April of 2019.

MISSING IN ACTION

Now that all of the short season teams have started playing, I've gone through my records and the following players all show as "active" on MiLB, but they haven't played yet this season. If anyone has any info on the following players, please let me know.

RHP Hunter Martin
LHP Javier Navas - made his first appearance of the season for the GCL team 7/16, released 7/17
RHP Kyle Serrano - made his first appearance of the season for the GCL team 7/6

I will be keeping track of all the releases, retirements, trades and signings for the 2018 season here.

ASTROS MILB STANDINGS
Up and down arrows represent increase/decrease in win percentage since the prior post.

FRESNO (Pacific Coast League)
🠉1st 69-55 .575 -.-GB W2

The Grizzlies currently lead Reno by seven games in the PCL Pacific Northern division. Fresno has 19 games remaining in the season, none of those against Reno.

CORPUS CHRISTI (Texas League)
🠋1st 73-46 .613 -.-GB W2 (overall)
1st 30-20 .600 -.-GB W2 (second half)
1st 43-26 .623 -.-GB W5 (first half division winner)

The Hooks have made the playoffs as the first half winners of the Texas League South Division. They currently have a two-game lead over Frisco in the second half with 20 games left to play in the regular season.

BUIES CREEK (Carolina League)
🠉2nd 66-51 .564 5.5GB L1 (overall)
2nd 29-19 .604 2.0GB L1 (second half)
2nd 37-32 .536 3.5GB L1 (first half)

Buies Creek trails the 1st place Winston-Salem team by 2 games with 19 games left to play. The Astros will host Winston-Salem for six of those games.

QUAD CITIES (Midwest League)
🠉2nd 68-52 .567 2.0GB W2 (overall)
4th 28-22 .560 3.0GB W2 (second half)
1st 40-30 .571 -.-GB W6 (first half division winner)

The River Bandits have made the playoffs as the first half winners of the Midwest League Western Division. They currently trail Peoria and Cedar Rapids by three games and Beloit by a half game in the second half with 20 games left to play.

TRI-CITY (New York-Penn League)
🠉1st 32-23 .582 -.-GB W2

Tri-City leads Lowell by two-and-a-half games in the New York-Penn League Stedler division with 20 games left to play. The ValleyCats will face Lowell on the road in six of those games.

GCL ASTROS (Gulf Coast League)
🠉2nd 25-22 .532 6.5GB L1

With nine games remaining in the season, the Astros trail the Cardinals. Their elimination number is currently 4.

DSL ASTROS (Dominican Summer League Northwest)
🠋6th 26-35 .426 17.0GB L3

With 11 games remaining in their season, the DSL team has been eliminated from the postseason.

NEWS AND LINKS

OF Ronnie Dawson is getting off to a hot start in his time with Corpus Christi, earning Texas League Player of the Week honors for last week.

A nice profile from Quad-City Times writer Steve Batterson on RHP Bryan Abreu.

MiLB.com has this piece on Astros 2018 4th round pick Alex McKenna (see my interview with him below as well).

McKenna and two other Astros 2018 draft picks will appear in the New York-Penn League All-Star team tonight in State College, Pennsylvania.

From The Athletic ($), is domestic violence the new market inefficiency?

And in case you missed any of these, here are my interviews from this season:

OF Alex McKenna (Tri-City)
RHP Peter Solomon (Quad Cities, since promoted to Buies Creek)
OF Seth Beer (Quad Cities, since promoted to Buies Creek)
RHP Jairo Solis and C Ruben Castro (Quad Cities)
RHP Corbin Martin (Corpus Christi)
3B Abraham Toro (Corpus Christi)
RHP Trent Thornton (Fresno)
OF Chas McCormick (Buies Creek, since promoted to Corpus Christi)
OF J.J. Matijevic (Buies Creek)
RHP Brandon Bielak (Buies Creek, since promoted to Corpus Christi)
LHP Brett Adcock (Buies Creek, since promoted to Corpus Christi)
SS Alex De Goti (Corpus Christi)
1B Taylor Jones (Corpus Christi, since promoted to Fresno)
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (Corpus Christi, since promoted to Fresno)

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Monday, August 13, 2018

Quiet start to the work week....

Fresno 4, Las Vegas 0

W- Kent Emanuel (5-2)
L- P.J. Conlon (3-8)

Fresno home runs: None.

The Grizzlies started off a new series on the right foot by posting a shutout. Rodney Linares, unfortunately, had his night end early when he got tossed in the 5th for arguing over whether Christian Colon got hit by a pitch.

Kent Emanuel has gotten himself back in the saddle since rejoining the rotation. He allowed three hits, walked two, and struck out eight over six shutout innings. Dean Deetz was the first man out of the Fresno bullpen and allowed a hit, walked one, and struck out four in two scoreless. Riley Ferrell completed the shutout by striking Colon out to end the game. He also issued a walk.

Taylor Jones opened the scoring with an RBI infield single in the 4th. One batter later, Alex De Goti hit an RBI... infield double. Patrick Kivlehan, who was at third for Vegas, fielded the ball, so I'm assuming that it did not make it to the outfield. Myles Straw led off the 5th with a double and Yordan Alvarez brought him in with a double. Jamie Ritchie singled and Jones walked to start the 6th and they both advanced on a wild pitch. De Goti walked to load the bases for Alfredo Angarita, who hit a sac fly. Ritchie finished 2-4 with a double and scored twice; he was the only man on either side to finish with a multi-hit game.

Fresno and Las Vegas will continue this series at 7:05 Pacific. Since it's Tuesday, the Grizzlies will be doing business as the Fresno Tacos.

Corpus Christi was off

Forrest Whitley will make his first appearance since coming off the disabled list in the first game of a three-game set in Tulsa at 7:05. He will be opposed by Justin DeFratus.

Buies Creek was off

The Carolina Stros will start a three-game series with Winston-Salem at 6:00. Peter Solomon is listed as the starter for this game, but I don't know if that's correct since he pitched on Sunday in a game that ended up getting canceled.

Quad Cities 3, Cedar Rapids 0

W- Chad Donato (3-0, 6-0 season)
L- Edwar Colina (6-4)
S- Tanner Duncan (5, 6 season)

QC home runs: César Salazar (1, solo in 6th)

The Banditos kept the Kernels off the board for the second straight night.

After both teams combined to put up ten zeroes on the scoreboard, César Salazar launched the first home run of his pro career in the 6th inning to open up the scoring. Quad Cities got a couple of crucial insurance runs in the final inning as Salazar singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Marty Costes brought him in with a base hit and Jonathan Lacroix capped off the evening with a triple that scored Costes. Salazar finished 2-4 on the evening.

This time, Chad Donato and Tanner Duncan put up nine zeroes on the board. Donato allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out five over seven shutout frames and on the day after his birthday, Duncan completed the shutout by allowing two hits, walking one, and striking out four in the final two innings.

The Banditos and Kernels will wrap up this series at 6:35.

Tri-City was off

The New York-Penn League All-Star game will take place on Tuesday in State College, Pennsylvania. Tri-City will be represented by Jeremy Peña, Alex McKenna, and Austin Hansen.

The ValleyCats will return to action on Wednesday when they start a quick two-game series with Connecticut.

GCL Cardinals 4, GCL Astros 1

W- Chris Hunt (4-0)
L- Elián Rodriguez (1-2)
S- Edgar Escobar (7)

GCL home runs: None.

Four pitchers threw two innings apiece. Two of them allowed runs and the other two did not.

Elián Rodriguez allowed two runs on two hits, one of which was a solo homer, and struck out three. Bryan Solano allowed a hit and struck out two. Jose Alberto Rivera allowed a two-run home run in the 6th, one other hit, and struck out two. Ernesto Jaquez allowed two hits and fanned one.

Nerio Rodriguez scored the Palm Beach Stros' only run of the day on a Yorbin Ceuta groundout in the 7th inning. Carlos Diaz finished 2-4.

DSL Athletics 1, DSL Astros 0

W- César Diaz (2-0)
L- Jherson Pereira (0-2)
S- Manuel Manzanillo (2)

DSL home runs: None.

The Academy got held to a pair of singles and were kept off the board. Jose Mendoza and Carlos Hurtado had the two hits.

Jojanse Torres allowed three hits, walked two, and struck out four over five shutout innings and Jherson Pereira allowed the one run, which was unearned, on three hits, walked one, and struck out four.

Monday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

Jojanse Torres, RHP, DSL Astros: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K

Quad Cities River Bandits pitchers: W 3-0 @ Cedar Rapids
9 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Chad Donato: W (3-0, 6-0 season), 7 IP, 2 H, BB, 5 K
Tanner Duncan: Save (5, 6 season), 2 IP, 2 H, BB, 3 K

César Salazar, C, Quad Cities
2-4, solo HR (1), 2 R; first career home run

Jamie Ritchie, C, Fresno
2-4, 2B, 2 R

Fresno Grizzlies pitchers: W 4-0 vs. Las Vegas
9 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 13 K
Kent Emanuel: W (5-2), 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Dean Deetz: 2 IP, H, BB, 4 K
Riley Ferrell: IP, BB, K

Monday, August 13, 2018

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fresno 9, Albuquerque 4

W- Josh James (6-4)
L- Peter Lambert (2-4)

Fresno home runs: Yordan Alvarez (7, 19 season; solo in 2nd), J.D. Davis (9, 2-run in 5th)

The Grizzlies earned the split by scoring in five straight innings.

Josh James went 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on four hits (two-run homer), walked two, and struck out six. Matt Ramsey allowed a hit and struck out two over 2.1 scoreless, and Brendan McCurry allowed a run on two hits and struck out one in the 9th.

Yordan Alvarez opened the scoring when he smacked a homer in the 2nd inning. Garrett Stubbs ripped a two-run double in the 3rd and came around to score on A.J. Reed's single. Alvarez walked to lead off the 4th and scored on a double from Taylor Jones. J.D. Davis launched a two-run homer in the 5th, and finally in the 6th, Alex De Goti ripped an RBI double and stole home. Alvarez, Jones, and De Goti all finished with two hits; Alvarez and De Goti both scored two runs. Myles Straw stole two bases, giving him 23 with Fresno and 58 on the year.

Fresno will begin a three-game series with Las Vegas at 7:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi 6, Springfield 1

W- Akeem Bostick (2-4)
L- Anthony Shew (6-7)

CC home runs: Abraham Toro (2, 16 season; 2-run in 1st)

The Hooks got out to a quick start and kept the Cardinals in check to take the finale and the series.

Abraham Toro opened the scoring when he launched a two-run homer in the opening frame. He then added an RBI single to his ledger in the 3rd inning. Corpus struck for three more runs in the 5th when Carmen Benedetti hit an RBI single and Josh Rojas drove in two with a base hit. Toro and Stephen Wrenn both finished 2-4; Benedetti and Ronnie Dawson scored two runs apiece.

Akeem Bostick went five innings and allowed a run on two hits, walked two, and struck out four. Ryan Hartman tagged in to throw three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and fanning four. Carlos Sierra struck out one in a 1-2-3 9th.

Corpus Christi has Monday off. They'll start a three-game set in Tulsa on Tuesday.

Buies Creek and Frederick was cancelled

Due to rain. This game will not be made up as it was the final regular-season meeting between both clubs. Corey Julks had homered and Buies Creek was leading 2-1 in the 3rd inning before play was halted.

The Carolina Stros will have Monday off. They will welcome the Winston-Salem Dash to Campbell University for three beginning Tuesday.

Quad Cities 5, Cedar Rapids 0

W- Edgardo Sandoval (1-1)
L- Jhoan Duran (6-5)
QC home runs: Scott Schreiber (4, solo in 2nd), Colton Shaver (14, 2-run in 5th)

The Banditos got a career night from Edgardo Sandoval as he, Parker Mushinski, and Willy Collado joined forces to hold the Kernels to just three hits on Sunday.

Sandoval allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out a career-high 11 over six shutout innings. Mushinski struck out three over two perfect frames, and Collado completed the shutout by striking out one in a 1-2-3 9th inning.

Scott Schreiber whacked a solo homer to open the scoring in the 2nd inning. He then drew a one-out walk in the 5th inning, stole second, advanced to third on the errant throw down, and scored on a Logan Mattix sac fly. One batter later, Colton Shaver smacked a two-run home run. Rúben Castro singled to start the 8th, advanced to third on a bad pickoff throw, and scored the final run of the evening on a wild pitch. Castro finished 3-4 on the night and was the only man on either side to finish with a multi-hit game.

Bryan Abreu will take on Edwar Colina as the series shifts to Cedar Rapids. First pitch is at 6:35.

Tri-City 7, Vermont 3

W- Cody Deason (1-0)
L- Adam Reuss (3-2)

TC home runs: Enmanuel Valdez (6, solo in 1st), Austin Dennis (1, solo in 8th)

The ValleyCats scored a run in each of the first three innings and then as they held on to a one-run lead, they busted out for three runs in the 7th.

Enmanuel Valdez wasted little time in getting things started as he homered to start the game. Michael Wielansky kept the 2nd inning alive with a base hit; he then stole second and scored on a single from Ramiro Rodriguez, who got thrown out at second to end the inning. Valdez led off the 3rd with a single and scored when Austin Dennis grounded into a double play.

Nathan Perry drew a walk to lead off the 7th and Andy Piñeda joined him on the bases following a single. Wielansky flew out, but Ramiro delivered the big blow with a two-run triple. Alex McKenna brought Rodriguez in with a double. Dennis smacked a solo homer in the 8th, the first of his pro career. He ended up getting a tremendous reception upon his return to the dugout:
R.J. Freure started things off with three scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, walked two, and struck out three. Layne Henderson was the first man out of the Tri-City bullpen and allowed two runs on a wild pitch and a sac fly, a single, walked two, and struck out one in 1.2 innings. Cody Deason was next and he allowed a run on four hits and fanned four in 2.1 innings. J.P. France allowed two hits and struck out four in the last two innings.

The 2018 New York-Penn League All-Star Game will take place on Tuesday at Medlar Field in State College, Pennsylvania, the home of the State College Spikes and Penn State baseball. Austin Hansen, Alex McKenna, and Jeremy Peña will represent the ValleyCats.

GCL Astros 3, GCL Mets 2 in 10 innings

W- Jervic Chavez (1-1)
L- Miguel Ramirez (0-1)

GCL home runs: None.

The Palm Beach Stros walked off with a win on Sunday.

Jayson Schroeder and Manny Ramirez both threw three innings. Schroeder allowed a run on a sac fly, a single, walked two, and struck out five, while Manny allowed an unearned run when he threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt. He allowed one hit, walked three, and struck out five. Miguel Figueroa walked three and struck out two over 2.1 no-hit innings, and Jervic Chavez issued a walk in 1.2 innings of work.

Freudis Nova reached on an error and Wilyer Abreu smacked a ground-rule double to start the 2nd. Yeuris Ramirez brought them both in with a single. Abreu started the 10th in scoring position and Yeuris was given a free pass to first base. They both ended up pulling off a double steal and then Rhandall Sanchez was intentionally walked to load the bases. The Palm Beach Stros were on the verge of squandering this opportunity after Hector Martinez went down on strikes and Nerio Rodriguez grounded into a force out, but Carlos Diaz won the game by drawing a walk.

Sunday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

Jayson Schroeder, RHP, GCL Astros: 3 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Manny Ramirez, RHP, GCL Astros: 3 IP, H, unearned run, 3 BB, 5 K

Enmanuel Valdez, IF, Alex McKenna, OF, and Ramiro Rodriguez, OF, Tri-City
Valdez: 2-5, solo HR (6), 2 R
McKenna: 4-5, 2 2B, RBI
Rodriguez: 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI, R

Quad Cities River Bandits pitchers: W 5-0 vs. Cedar Rapids
9 IP, 3 H, BB, 15 K
Edgardo Sandoval: W (1-1), 6 IP, 3 H, BB, career-high 11 K
Parker Mushinski: 2 IP, 3 K
Willy Collado: IP, K

Abraham Toro, 3B, Corpus Christi
2-4, 2-R HR (2, 16 season), 3 RBI

Corpus Christi Hooks pitchers: W 6-1 vs. Springfield
9 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Akeem Bostick: W (2-4), 5 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Ryan Hartman: 3 IP, 2 H, 4 K
Carlos Sierra: IP, K

Taylor Jones, 1B, Yordan Alvarez, LF/1B, and Alex De Goti, IF, Fresno
Jones: 2-4, 2 2B, RBI, R
Alvarez: 2-3, solo HR (7, 19 season), 2 R
De Goti: 2-4, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R, SB (1, 6 season)

Photo by Bryan Green
Matt Ramsey, RHP, Fresno
2.1 IP, H, 2 K

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sorry, I've been out of pocket these past few days because I got buried by work.

Albuquerque 10, Fresno 0

W- Brooks Pounders (1-3)
L- Trent Thornton (8-8)

Fresno home runs: None.

Yeah, I'd rather not touch this one.

On the bright side, the Grizzlies did not end up getting no-hit as Garrett Stubbs doubled to lead off the bottom of the 9th.

Fresno and Albuquerque will conclude this series at 5:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi 6, Springfield 2

W- Corbin Martin (7-2, 9-2 season)
L- Genesis Cabrera (0-1)
S- Alex Winkelman (4)

CC home runs: Ronnie Dawson (3, 13 season; solo in 1st)

The Hooks got a huge night at the plate from Ronnie Dawson and Corbin Martin continues to truck along with another nice outing.

Martin allowed two runs on four hits, walked one, and struck out eight in his six innings of work. Kit Scheetz was the first man out of the Corpus bullpen and he turned in two no-hit innings, walking two and striking out two. Alex Winkelman worked around a hit to close out the game.

Dawson started things off with a homer to lead off the 1st inning. The Hooks got two in the 2nd inning thanks to RBI doubles from Aníbal Sierra and Dawson. Dawson singled with one out in the 4th and moved up on a base hit from Stephen Wrenn. They both advanced on a balk and Carmen Benedetti hit a sac fly to bring Dawson in. Chas McCormick led off the 8th with a walk and scored the final run of the evening when Lorenzo Quintana ripped a double. Dawson finished 4-5 on the night while Sierra and Abraham Toro both had two hits apiece.

Akeem Bostick will start the series finale and he'll take on Anthony Shew at 2:05.

Frederick 2, Buies Creek 1 in 10 innings

W- Tyler Erwin (4-3)
L- Tommy DeJuneas (0-2, 2-4 season)

BC home runs: None.

The Keys pushed their leadoff runner across in the first extra frame and walked off with a win.

Abdiel Saldaña went five innings and allowed an unearned run on four hits while striking out three. Carson LaRue did not allow a hit in four innings; he walked one and struck out three. Tommy DeJuneas got two strikeouts in the 10th but he also allowed the winning run on two hits.

Jake Meyers drove in Buies Creek's only run with a single in the 3rd inning.

Peter Solomon will face Michael Baumann in the final game of this series. First pitch is at 2:00 Eastern.

Cedar Rapids 9, Quad Cities 6

W- Jordan Balazovic (6-3)
L- Leovanny Rodriguez (4-5)
S- Calvin Faucher (3)

QC home runs: Colton Shaver (13, solo in 6th), Mike Papierski (4, solo in 9th)

An 8-0 deficit proved to be too much for the Banditos to overcome.

Quad Cities scored two runs in each of the innings in which they scored. Miguelangel Sierra ripped a two-run double in the 5th to put them on the board. Colton Shaver led off the 6th with a homer. Jonathan Lacroix got thrown out at third trying to turn a double into a triple, but David Hensley kept things going with a base hit. He moved to third on a single from Chandler Taylor and scored on Sierra's sac fly. Mike Papierski launched a home run to start the 9th and Hensley hit an RBI single with two outs in the inning. Papierski, Hensley, Taylor, and Logan Mattix all finished with two hits on the evening.

Leovanny Rodriguez labored through four innings as he allowed five runs on nine hits (solo and two-run homers) and struck out four. Tim Hardy received a rude welcome to the Midwest League as he allowed four runs on six hits (two-run homer) while striking out three in 1.2 innings. Brendan Feldmann restored some semblance of order to this game from the Banditos' standpoint, but the damage was done. Feldmann allowed a hit, walked two, and struck out four over 2.1 scoreless innings and Humberto Castellanos escaped a bases-loaded predicament in the 9th; he allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out one.

Edgardo Sandoval goes up against Jhoan Duran at 5:15.

Tri-City 8, Vermont 5

W- Felipe Tejada (4-3)
L- Jeferson Mejía (1-1)
S- Austin Hansen (2)

TC home runs: Oscar Campos (2, solo in 5th)

After a topsy-turvy start to this game, the ValleyCats were able to seize control.

Juan Pablo Lopez only recorded two outs in the 1st. He allowed three unearned runs on three hits and struck out one. Jacob Billingsley was the first man out of the Tri-City bullpen and went 2.2 innings, allowing two runs, one of which was an inherited runner that was charged to him, on six hits and struck out four. Felipe Tejada struck out six over 4.2 near-perfect innings; he allowed one of Billingsley's runners to score on a sac fly and also plunked another man. Austin Hansen walked one and struck out one in the 9th.

Trey Dawson opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st and he came around to score on a single from Alex Holderbach. Juan Piñeda reached on an error to lead off the 2nd and scored on a Carlos Machado groundout. Oscar Campos hit an RBI single in the 3rd and then whacked a solo homer with two outs in the 5th that tied the game at 5. Piñeda kept the line moving with a base hit and he scored the go-ahead run on a Ramiro Rodriguez double. Holderbach smacked a two-run triple in the 6th and very nearly turned into a three-run inside-the-park homer... but he got thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Holderbach (3B, 3 RBI), Campos (solo HR, 2 RBI), Rodriguez (2 2B, RBI), and Enmanuel Valdez (2B) all had two hits in this game. Austin Dennis scored twice and stole a couple of bases, giving him 14 on the season.

The ValleyCats will conclude this brief two-game set at 5:05 Eastern. After this contest, they'll have a break for the New York-Penn League All-Star game.

GCL Nationals 3, GCL Astros 0

W- Ryan Williamson (1-0)
L- Jose Bravo (2-4)
S- Alfonso Hernandez (2)

GCL home runs: None.

The Palm Beach Stros were blanked by their complex mates.

Ronaldo Urdaneta went 2-4 with a double; Rhandall Sanchez's double was the GCL Astros' only other hit.

Jose Bravo went five innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out three; both of the runs he allowed came in the 1st. Angel Macuare pitched the last three innings and allowed a run on two hits and struck out four.

DSL Rays1 9, DSL Astros 1

W- Daniel Santana (3-1)
L- Fabricio Reina (3-6)
S- Carlos Garcia (5)

DSL home runs: None.

The Rays scored four in the 1st and buried the Astros with five more in the final inning.

Jonarkys Lopez doubled in the 6th and scored the Academy's only run on a sac fly from Javier Bermúdez.

Jeremy Molero walked two and struck out two over 1.2 innings; he allowed a runner that he inherited from Fabricio Reina to score. Franny Cobos allowed three hits and struck out one over five scoreless.

Saturday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

Franny Cobos, RHP, DSL Astros: 5 IP, 3 H, K
Angel Macuare, RHP, GCL Astros: 3 IP, 2 H, ER, 4 K

Ronnie Dawson, OF, Corpus Christi
4-5, 2B, solo HR (3, 13 season), 2 RBI, 2 R

Corpus Christi Hooks pitchers: W 5-2 vs. Springfield
9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
Corbin Martin: W (7-2, 9-2 season), 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 8 K
Kit Scheetz: 2 IP, 2 BB, 2 K
Alex Winkelman: Save (4), IP, H

Abdiel Saldaña, RHP, and Carson LaRue, RHP, Buies Creek
Saldaña: 5 IP, 4 H, unearned run, 3 K
LaRue: 4 IP, BB, 3 K

Tri-City ValleyCats bullpen
5.2 IP, BB, 7 K
Felipe Tejada: W (4-3), 4.2 IP, 6 K
Austin Hansen: Save (2), IP, BB, K

Oscar Campos, C, and Alex Holderbach, C, Tri-City
Campos: 2-4, solo HR (2), 2 RBI
Holderbach: 2-5, 3B, 3 RBI

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Getting to Know Astros/ValleyCats OF Alex McKenna

After being drafted by the Astros in the 4th round this past June out of Cal Poly, OF Alex McKenna quickly got to work with the short season A Tri-City ValleyCats and has been one of their most consistent performers this summer. In his first 30 professional games, he is hitting .315/.409./.519 with five doubles, one triple, five home runs and six stolen bases. I had the opportunity to sit down with McKenna last month at "The Joe" (Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in Troy, New York) in an attempt to get to know him a little better. The impression I came away with was one of an intelligent, inquisitive player, one who is very grounded and even-keeled.

Alex McKenna - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Asked about his draft experience, McKenna told me that he had "no idea" that the Astros were seriously considering him. "I didn't talk to a single Astros scout or person in the office the entire year so it was definitely a surprise when my name was called. It was cool. Not what I was expecting, but when you get drafted by the defending World Champs, there's definitely worse situations. I was excited."

In his brief time as a professional, McKenna said his biggest accomplishment may very well be "just getting adjusted to things as a professional." He said, "It's a little different from college obviously. Just adjusting to pitching. Adjusting to what the everyday schedule's going to be like is the biggest thing I think. Just trying to acclimate myself as much as possible to make sure that I'm getting my stuff done, day in and day out, what I've got to do to prepare for every game, for every practice."

Although McKenna is highly regarded for his offensive abilities, that is still his primary focus right now, "Offensively, I want to work on elevating the baseball more and unlocking my power because I know I have it in my body, but it's about translating it into the game. I can do it in batting practice, I can do it in settings where I'm just working on mechanics, but translating it into the game when there's consistent velocity is the biggest key for me. I've seen a little of it so far, but I'm trying to tap into it more as the season goes on."

The one thing I did not see much written about was McKenna's defense so I asked him to characterize his defensive capabilities. "I think I'm not the prototypical blazing fast centerfielder, but I take a lot of pride in my routes and how efficient they are. And I think that's why I'm able to play a pretty good centerfield, at least at this level right now, and I want to play that as along as I can until they tell me I can't. I've played all three positions. I've played left, right and center and I'm comfortable at all three, but I would love to play centerfield and stay there as long as I can. I'm still working on some things out there as far as getting rid of the ball quicker, I'm trying to get my arm a little bit stronger, just the basic stuff. But going out there right now, I feel very confident in my ability to play defense," said McKenna.

McKenna acknowledges that his hit tool is probably his best tool, but he feels that the rest of his tools are solid. "I try and make sure my game is consistent in everything I do. I don't want to be weak in anything, and I also don't want to be one-dimensional and only be able to do one thing. Working on the other tools, my other qualities I have as a baseball player, and try to get those to eventually become plus tools is my goal and that's what this organization does a good job of is player development. That's what I'm looking forward to, seeing how far I can push the envelope and see where my ability takes me."

As McKenna works to improve in all areas of his game, he embraces the information that he is given. Tri-City Manager Jason Bell has enjoyed coaching McKenna of whom he said, "It's been awesome to work with him because he is always curious to why we do what we do and why the Astros believe in what we believe in. He asks a lot of questions, moreso than most of the players, because he wants to know more and he wants to be able to apply it to his game right away with the facts on why we do things. So if it's outfield, if it's baserunning, if it's offense, hitting, whatever it is, he always is there to ask questions which I like as a coach. It challenges me more, but at the same time, it's because he wants to learn and grow as a player."

McKenna grew up a Dodgers fan so being signed by the Astros was "a little bit weird" for him. "Honestly, I like the Dodgers because they're the closest team to me. But it was a little weird, for sure, hearing everybody (remarking about me) going to the team that beat the Dodgers in the World Series. But there couldn't be a better situation, I think, for myself. My family and everyone is super happy that I ended up where I am and it's a good situation so far."

Even with the Dodgers loss, McKenna enjoyed the back-and-forth drama of the postseason as a fan of baseball, "That just goes to show how talented these guys are. When they're put in the biggest stage, everyone seems to play better than their ability. And that's what it's kind of about when you're playing in those big playoff games and some guys rise to the occasion and it's pretty cool to watch that stuff."

In the offseason, McKenna will be back home enjoying his time with family and friends, "I live in California and I'm going to be living there during the offseason so (you) definitely don't run out of stuff to do out there. This offseason for me is just going to be very baseball heavy, honestly, because I want to work out, get a little bit stronger, get a little bit faster, work on my swing, kind of work on my game. This is a big offseason. They say the first offseason is the biggest one. You can see what happens when you come back and if you can make your game a little better. So I'm really focused on that, but in the offseason, maybe I'll go camping or something with my family during the winter. That's about it. I don't have too many plans right now. I like to hang out with my family and friends."

I often end my conversation with a player by asking him, "What should I ask you that I haven't already?" It's more of a way to let the player add some random parting thought than a real question. I think McKenna was the first player to ever actually answer the question. He told me I should ask him what we could expect of him on a daily basis. He responded to his own question, "I would say that I just hope that people see that I'm a hard worker, I put in time and I don't take for granted the opportunity that I'm given. I'm going to put in 100% in this thing and see where it goes from there."

Thank you for your time, Alex, and best of luck as the season winds toward its conclusion.

Other Recent Interviews:
RHP Peter Solomon
OF Seth Beer

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Getting to Know Astros/Buies Creek RHP Peter Solomon

Drafted in the 4th round by the Astros out of Notre Dame in 2017, RHP Peter Solomon anchored the Low A Quad Cities rotation until his late July promotion to High A Buies Creek. In 19 games (10 starts) for the River Bandits, he was 8-1 with a 2.43 ERA, 1.159 WHIP and 28 walks to 88 strikeouts in 77.2 innings of work. He has not allowed a run, earned or otherwise, in his first two appearances at the higher level.


Peter Solomon - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I caught up with Solomon last month in Quad Cities before his promotion and came away with the impression of a pitcher who very much buys in to the Astros process, and one who is less worried about his own ego than he is in being a good teammate. But the first thing you might notice is that there is a pretty constant flow of chatter coming from his corner of the dugout.

"I'm pretty talkative. Some guys like it more than others. I try to keep the life in the dugout a little bit, just being a more talkative guy, cheer a little bit more than some other dudes. It's tough, especially a long season, you're playing 20 games in a row at some points and you get tired. Everyone does. You don't want to yell even if it's your buddy out there, but I try to keep it pretty positive and keep it light even when things aren't going so well. You've got to have someone cheering," said Solomon.

Solomon continued, "I always give them high fives, fist bumps. If something doesn't go their way, let them know that you've got their back, that I'm here to support (them). I'm pretty big into positive touches, into giving them high fives and what not. I do a pretty good job with that."

We spent a lot of time talking about Solomon's teammates from former Notre Dame teammate and current Astro farmhand RHP Brandon Bielak to a few players he's had fun watching during the 2018 season. Of Bielak, he told me, "He's great. He's one of the best guys to be around. Extremely hard worker. Makes you take your game to the next level. Can't say enough good things about him. He's a guy that you want to have on your team for sure."

Solomon also enjoyed watching RHP Cristian Javier ply his craft with the River Bandits prior to his promotion to Buies Creek. "Every time he went out, whether he struggled early or not, he always seemed to get back to even keel. And he just throws strikes with all three pitches, four pitches, whatever he has and every time out there he's extremely impressive. You'd see him dominate teams night in and night out when he went out," said Solomon of Javier. Likewise, he enjoyed watching one of the Astros top prospects, OF J.J. Matijevic, in action when he was with the team earlier this season. "It was a real treat to watch him from BP to how he held himself in a game with composure. (It) was really nice just kind of watching him be a pro in the box with a really good approach."

But Solomon reserved his highest words of praise for OF Jake Meyers of whom he declared, "He plays baseball well." In response to a question regarding who, in particular, he liked having behind him in the field when he was pitching, Solomon said, "Jake Meyers, when he was in centerfield, you had no worries. Nothing bad against anybody else, but with Jake Meyers in the outfield, you had no worries whatsoever. He made, hands down, the most amazing play I've seen in my life at this field, the most amazing catch. And when he's out there, you have no worries. You know he's going to set the other outfielders up right if there's a miscue, tell them where the ball is. He's going to make every play that comes in. He's giving a hundred percent every single play, 110% going to lay out if it's anywhere close."

Once the conversation centered on Solomon himself rather than his talented teammates, he filled me in on his pitch repertoire which includes a 4-seam fastball that sits low 90's and will hit mid-90's "depending on the day" to go with four other pitches. "I throw a changeup which is still a big work in progress. It's been a huge progression for me. In college I didn't throw much of a changeup at all really. Starting here, it's become a pitch that I've become way more comfortable with, throwing for strikes, throwing to righties and lefties. And I throw both a curveball and a slider. Curveball is more of a straight up and down break, more of a 12-6 and the slider's more of a slurvy hybrid that I'm still working on, trying to find the perfect shape that I want for it. And I've incorporated a kind of a cutter this year, a new pitch for me. It's not a huge pitch that I rely on but I want to work on in the games and get the reps with and become more comfortable because I think it's something that will help me down the road, just being able to have that as another option, a weapon to use against hitters. Those are the pitches I'm working with right now. Still all works in progress. You're never really happy with where you're at."

Solomon considers his curveball to be his best offspeed pitch, an assessment with which Quad Cities Pitching Coach Graham Johnson concurs, "He can use it to both bat sides. It plays a little better to lefties with him and with his fastball, the way he uses it, but he can definitely use it to both sides and it's a power breaking ball. Pete's got a really good kind of arsenal to go with. It's really a true 5-pitch mix. It's got power stuff as well as some finesse. The big things that he's working on are fastball location, which you can say that for anybody, changeup development and then really the big thing for him is the slider against righties, when to be in the zone, when to lure them out of the zone. Those are the big things he's working on."

Solomon is also working on creating more deception for the hitters through his delivery. "(The goal) is having every pitch look the same from your wind up and release point. Same leg lift, arm action. The big thing is just making every pitch look out of hand the same." He wants to avoid tipping his pitches by something as simple as how he holds his glove, forcing the hitter to "react when the ball's in mid-air."

Solomon considers his biggest accomplishment in the 2018 season, however, to be upping his mental game. "I think I've got a better mental part of the game. I've become more relaxed on the mound. I (don't) let things affect me as much when I'm on the mound," said Solomon. But he also sees the mental side of the game as an offensive weapon, seeing it as "mental warfare against the hitter in imposing my will on them rather than trying to pitch around them, attacking the zone with my best stuff and just thinking my best is going to beat your best." Solomon continued, "I'm going to go out there and continue to work hard and make sure my best is at its best when I go out there. I think that's the two main things, just being mentally sound and also attacking with my best stuff and not being afraid."

Off field, you can find Solomon relaxing, watching "The Office," playing a little golf when time permits and in search of the best sushi spot wherever he is. Although his home is in Maryland, he will be headed back to Notre Dame this offseason, along with Bielak and a couple of other former Notre Dame teammates, working on his degree in Business IT as well as working on his offseason conditioning. "That will be fun to be back with them, be able to work out with them, do throwing programs and stuff. So it will be good  to have other guys push you, you push them. It's a good environment to get better," said Solomon.

Time will tell whether or not Solomon will have the opportunity to watch the Astros in the postseason again in 2018, but he did enjoy the 2017 postseason, "It was definitely cool. Watching the World Series, you definitely have some pride because you know that the guys on the field, they're getting taught the same things. They did the journey that I was about to go on. That's how you do it and that's what your reward can be if you work hard and make it to that level. It was awesome watching, but also gives you the perspective, 'you know what, I can be there in a couple of years,' so it's really cool to see."

The flip side of that is that the MLB talent and sheer depth of the Astros system could be daunting to some players, but Solomon chooses to focus on what he can learn from the other pitchers in the system and to use the success of others as motivation to better his own game. "Throughout the year, this team has had really good starting pitching. And I think what we've done is build off each other. One guy goes out one night and throws really well and I want to follow up and really pitch well the next night as well. I think everybody knows within the system that everyone is pitching extremely well this year and everyone is having great years. It's not like anyone's jealous of anyone else. You're happy for everybody. They're pitching their best, you're pitching your best. It's really fun, honestly, to watch, every night to go out and see some guy pitch really well and give up no runs, give up one run and have 10 strikeouts. You feed off of it. You get good energy from somebody else. You see them dominate and you (think) I can do the same thing the next night."

Thank you for your time, Peter, and best of luck as the season winds towards its conclusion.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fresno 15, Memphis 14

W- Dean Deetz (1-0)
L- Tommy Layne (2-1)
S- Riley Ferrell (2, 9 season)

Fresno home runs: Nick Tanielu (4, 8 season; 2-run in 2nd), Jack Mayfield (13, solo in 5th), Kyle Tucker (16, 2-run in 7th), A.J. Reed (24, 3-run in 8th)

29 runs, 27 hits, six home runs. Fortunately, when the dust settled, the Grizzlies emerged on top. Just barely.

The four home run hitters for Fresno also accounted for 14 RBI. The one run that was not driven in came in the 7th when Yordan Alvarez scored on an error following a sac bunt from Garrett Stubbs.


The pitchers allowed 14, but the offense scored 15 and that's all that matters. Matt Ramsey allowed a hit and struck out two over two scoreless. Dean Deetz struck out one in a 1-2-3 7th, and Riley Ferrell got Carson Kelly to fly out to end the game.

Fresno has Wednesday off as they make the journey back to the Central Valley. They'll start a four-game series with Albuquerque on Thursday.

Corpus Christi 4, Tulsa 1

W- Ryan Hartman (10-3)
L- Justin DeFratus (4-4)
S- Akeem Bostick (3)

CC home runs: Ronnie Dawson (2, 12 season; solo in 5th)

Ryan Hartman and Akeem Bostick kept the Drillers in check as they played crucial roles in snapping the Hooks' four-game skid.

The one run that Hartman allowed in his five innings came on a home run in the 4th inning. He allowed three other hits and struck out six. Bostick took it home with four no-hit innings; he walked one and struck out six.

Ryne Birk opened the scoring by ripping a two-run double in the 2nd inning. Ronnie Dawson smacked a solo homer in the 5th and Chas McCormick followed with a single. McCormick then stole second and scored the final run of the evening on an error that allowed Randy César to reach. Dawson and Birk had two hits apiece; McCormick's steal gives him 8 with Corpus Christi and 15 on the season.

Brock Dykxhoorn will take on Dustin May in game two of this series. First pitch is at 7:05.

Buies Creek 5, Down East 1 in 11 innings

W- Enoli Paredes (2-1, 4-4 season)
L- Josh Altmann (0-2)

BC home runs: J.J. Matijevic (13, 16 season; 2-run in 11th)

Down to their final out, the Carolina Stros managed to tie the game and then erupted for four runs in the 11th to win the series opener in Kinston. With this victory, Buies Creek has won the first edition of the Lone Star Series in North Carolina; they currently lead the season series 12-8 with two games remaining.

Buies Creek had the bases loaded in the 8th but Seth Beer struck out to end the threat. Jake Adams led off the 9th and advanced to second on a balk. Cody Bohanek drew a walk and they both advanced on a sac bunt from Carlos Canelón. Jonathan Arauz got a free pass to first to set up a double play anywhere and that prompted the Wood Ducks to make a pitching change. Corey Julks popped out in foul territory for the second out and it was all up to J.J. Matijevic. He fell behind 1-2 but took three straight balls to tie the game. The real fun began in the 11th inning.

Bohanek led off the inning in scoring position and advanced to third on another sac bunt from Canelón. Arauz drew another walk. Down 0-2, Julks put Buies Creek in front with a two-run double and Matijevic provided the cherry with a two-run home run. They won this game despite striking out 20 times. Julks finished 2-6 and was the only player on either side to finish with a multi-hit game.

Gabriel Valdez got the start and he allowed the Wood Ducks' one run on five hits and struck out six in five innings. Peter Solomon tagged in to throw four scoreless, allowing two hits and fanning six. Enoli Paredes got the two extra innings and struck out one in a perfect outing (aside from the leadoff runners) to get the win.

Game two of this series will kick off at 7:00 Eastern.

Quad Cities was off

The Banditos will start a four-game series in Beloit at 6:00. The first game is actually a suspended game that originally started on July 3, but was stopped because the lights went out.

Tri-City 5, Connecticut 2

W- Austin Hansen (2-1)
L- Gio Arriera (2-3)
S- J.P. France (2)

TC home runs: Oscar Campos (1, grand slam in 2nd)

The ValleyCats bullpen mowed the Tigers down in the finale and they wound up getting a big series win on the road.

Cody Deason went three innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits, walked one, and struck out three. Austin Hansen allowed a hit in his two innings and all six outs he recorded came via the strikeout. R.J. Freure struck out four over three perfect innings, and J.P. France allowed a hit and struck out the side in the 9th inning to earn the save.

Oscar Campos opened up the scoring by clubbing a grand slam in the 2nd inning. Tri-City's other run came in the 7th when Enmanuel Valdez hit a sac fly. Campos finished 2-4 and was the only man on either side to finish with a multi-hit game.

The ValleyCats will kick off a three-game series with Hudson Valley at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Astros 4, GCL Mets 3

W- Angel Macuare (3-3)
L- César Loaiza (0-1)
S- Jervic Chavez (5)

GCL home runs: Juan Paulino (1, 2-run in 5th)

The Palm Beach Stros got a run in the 9th to break a 3-3 tie.

Ernesto Jaquez continues to post the same mind-boggling numbers he's put up all year as he allowed a hit and struck out seven over five shutout innings. Jaquez has allowed two runs (one earned) on 11 hits in 44 innings this season between the DSL and the Gulf Coast League. Angel Macuare was the first man out of the GCLstros bullpen and allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits, walked two, and struck out four in three innings. Jervic Chavez worked around a walk to close out the game.

Andrés Santana reached on an error to start the 4th and he scored the first run of the day on another error that also allowed Wilyer Abreu to reach. Juan Paulino launched his first career homer, a two-run blast in the 5th. Hector Martinez led off the 9th with a single, advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw, and scored what turned out to be the winning run on a sac fly from Freúdis Nova.

DSL Dodgers Robinson 9, DSL Astros 8

W- Jonathan Vasquez (1-0)
L- Jeremy Molero (0-4)
S- Axel Acevedo (2)

DSL home runs: None.

The Dodgers Robinson scored four runs in the top of the 9th to snatch the victory from the Astros.

Jose Mendoza went 2-3 with a couple of stolen bases (8) and a couple of runs scored. He hit an infield single in the 1st and scored the Academy's first run thanks to three wild pitches. Victor Mascai ripped an RBI double and he also scored on a couple of wild pitches. Mascai drove in another run on a fielder's choice in the 7th inning.

Jojanse Torres went five innings and allowed three runs on five hits, walked one, and struck out six.

Tuesday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

Ernesto Jaquez, RHP, GCL Astros: 5 IP, H, 7 K

Tri-City ValleyCats bullpen: W 5-2 @ Connecticut
6 IP, 2 H, 13 K
Austin Hansen: W (2-1), 2 IP, H, 6 K
R.J. Freure: 3 IP, 4 K
J.P. France: Save (2), IP, H, 3 K

Oscar Campos, C, Tri-City
2-4, grand slam (1)

Ronnie Dawson, OF, and Ryne Birk, 2B, Corpus Christi
Dawson: 2-4, solo HR (2, 12 season)
Birk: 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI

Corpus Christi Hooks pitchers: W 4-1 vs. Tulsa
9 IP, 4 H (solo HR allowed), ER, BB, 12 K
Ryan Hartman: W (10-3), 5 IP, 4 H (solo HR allowed), ER, 6 K
Akeem Bostick: Save (3), 4 IP, BB, 6 K

Enoli Paredes' photo taken by Bryan Green.
Buies Creek Astros pitchers: W 5-1 (11 innings) @ Down East
11 IP, 7 H, ER, 13 K
Gabriel Valdez: 5 IP, 5 H, ER, 6 K
Peter Solomon: 4 IP, 2 H, 6 K
Enoli Paredes: W (2-1, 4-4 season), 2 IP, K

Corey Julks' photo is his mugshot on MiLB.com.
Corey Julks, OF, and J.J. Matijevic, OF, Buies Creek
Julks: 2-6, go-ahead 2-RBI 2B in 11th, R
Matijevic: 1-4, game-tying RBI BB in 9th, 2-R HR (13, 16 season), 2 BB

Kyle Tucker, OF, Nick Tanielu, IF, Jack Mayfield, IF, and A.J. Reed, 1B, Fresno
Tucker: 4-6, 2B, 2-R HR (16), 3 RBI, 4 R
Tanielu: 3-5, 2-R HR (4, 8 season), 2 R
Mayfield: 3-5, 2B, 3B, solo HR (13), 4 RBI, 3 R
Reed: 2-4, 2B, 3-R HR (24), 5 RBI

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Getting to Know Astros/Buies Creek OF/1B Seth Beer

Had I not had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Astros 2018 top draft pick Seth Beer one-on-one last month during his tenure with Quad Cities, I wonder whether or not I would have come away with a slightly different impression of him. Simply observing him on the field and at work leaves one with an overwhelming impression of singular focus and drive with little insight into his off-field personality.

Seth Beer - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

As a player, it is that drive and work ethic that defines Beer. As Quad Cities Manager Mickey Storey said of Beer, "There's a lot to like about him other than the fact that he can really hit the baseball. He's a kid who's got a vision, wants to be good. His work ethic's phenomenal, knows where he needs to improve. He's got a plan. He kind of resembles the volumes they spoke of Carlos Correa when he was coming up, just knowing what he needed to do and Alex Bregman same thing. Guys who came in to pro ball with a vision, with a plan, knowing areas they need to improve. He kind of resembles the same type work ethic and ideas as far as defense, what do I need to work on, stuff like that, and obviously he's ahead of the game as far as the hitting side. He's been a joy to work with thus far. I expect big things out of him, (as he) continues to work and get better in all aspects of baseball."

Beer really exploded on the national stage during his tremendous first season at Clemson, when he hit .369/.535/.700 in 62 games as a freshman. He followed that up with two seasons in which his OPS flirted with 1.100, showing not only great power but great discipline.

With numbers like that, it was a given that he would be a first day draft pick, but he really had no idea where he would ultimately land. "For the most part, you just really don't know (who will draft you) because some guy might go in this spot and that changes everybody's draft board. I was just waiting for my name to be called and I got the call saying I was going 28th to the Astros and it was a surreal feeling because I've worked extremely hard and my family has (too). Everybody has sacrificed so much for me to have a chance to play in professional baseball so it was pretty cool to be able to celebrate that with my family," said Beer.

The only question I have seen from the various prospect pundits about Beer's hit tool has to do with how the lefty batter will handle his fellow southpaws on a professional level. There's not much of a track record in that regard as Beer has had very limited opportunities to hit against left-handed pitchers so far in his pro career. Beer said, "Thankfully the Bandits have a guy they know that comes up and throws us left-handed BP and that really helps. During the season in college, I saw lefties all the time. I was pretty comfortable hitting with them. It was just one of those things. In pro ball, you see a lot more guys that are right-handed at these levels. But I've always for the most part felt pretty comfortable hitting off lefties."

The real question for Beer is where he will best fit defensively as that is the one aspect of his game where he will need to prove himself. With his defense a work in progress, Beer told me, "Within the month and some change that I've had in professional baseball, being able to play a position every day, whether it's left, right or first base, I'm starting to feel a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable there. For me, I go out there every day and I give everything I have when it comes to the defensive work and taking it as serious as I can because I know that's something that there are some question marks with."

Beer continued, "(I just) buy in to whatever they ask me to do when we're doing early work or we're doing defensive work. They're pointing out things that they think would make me better, (using) video and stuff like that, just to improve myself when it comes to my routes or making sure I'm getting my sprints in with our strength coach. Just the little stuff that, over time, will make you not only a better player but a better athlete are things that I'm working on daily and things I'm really working really really hard on because I know those are some question marks. (I'm) just doing whatever I can and doing whatever they ask me to do, just really listening to what they've got to say and just taking in as much knowledge as I can."

With Beer's third promotion this season coming last week as he headed to High A Buies Creek (after hitting a very healthy .338/.443/.491 at Low A Quad Cities), he has been moved very aggressively by the Astros. He does not shy away from the opportunity. "If they promote me, that means that they trust me that I'm prepared for the next level. You have to put trust within that and believe in what their thoughts are and what they're thinking. And for me, whatever team that is, wherever that is, I'm just going to go out there and compete every day and just play the game like I have my whole life and have fun."

Beer is definitely appreciative of the talent in the Astros system and enjoys being a part of that. "I watched every pitch of all the games that were played in the World Series. So for me, the thought of actually being part of that organization that just won the World Series is just a surreal feeling and I'm just blessed to be a part of this organization," said Beer. Of the talent he's played with in the system, Beer said, "When I'm in the dugout, my head's on a swivel because I know that at any given time any of the guys on the diamond can make an extremely good play or any of the guys at the plate could come up with a huge AB, so for me, I've got to keep my head on a swivel because I know something magical is going to happen."

Some may not know that Beer's competitive nature and dedicated work ethic first surfaced in another sport altogether. In a bit of an understatement, Beer told me, "Growing up, swimming was kind of my thing." Beer was ranked nationally, earning national age-group records in the 50- and 100-meter backstroke as a 12-year old, and was training to some day be an Olympic athlete. But at the same time, Beer loved baseball and was developing into quite the player. Baseball ultimately won out.

Beer finished high school early and started his college career at Clemson early as well, "I remember when I first stepped on that college campus, I wanted to go there. I was extremely blessed of what Coach Lee gave me the opportunity to do there. It's a place I'll always call home." It also helped that his home in Georgia was close enough to the Clemson campus to allow his family to visit. "My Dad would be at all the games, when it came to home games. It was about an hour and a half from where my house was and he's one of my biggest fans, biggest supporters. He's my hero. So for him to be at all those games throughout my college career was just a blessing and it's something I'll treasure for the rest of my life."

In the rare times that Beer isn't on the field or otherwise working in some way to hone his skills, he admits to indulging in the down time staple of ballplayers everywhere ... video games. "Video games is something we all play. It's fun. You got a bunch of professional athletes playing child's games, video games and the competitive nature of all of us is still super high. That's always something we love to do in season," said Beer. "Out of season, I love to fish. I was raised in Georgia and fishing is a big deal down there. That's always something I really enjoy."

As a final question, I asked Beer about ... Beer. I assumed that he had heard every joke, every play on words possible to go with that last name. (I'd heard teammate Miguel Sierra urging on "Bud Light" during BP when referring to Seth earlier that day.) "At the end of the day, if it can make anybody laugh, anybody smile and they enjoy the last name, have fun with it, why not? If it can crack a smile, that's great. I've heard some crazy ones over the years, even at the youngest of ages but for me I just embrace it because at the end of the day, it's my name, it's my family's name and I'm just trying to represent it to the best of my ability."

After the interview, we went on to talk about Beer's reputation for never passing up an autograph request from a kid if at all possible. He said that he remembered being passed up by players when he was young and he didn't want anyone to feel that disappointment because of him. I enjoyed seeing that side of him, the side of him that endures bad jokes on his last name with a good-natured smile, the side of him that told me in a slight and delightful Georgia accent, "At the end of the day, this is the best first job I could ever ask for."

That isn't the side that most people will get to see right away. Your first impression of Beer will be his single-minded focus on the task at hand. "I'm a guy that goes out there and works hard every day. It's something that doesn't really show on the field every day, but when I come to the ballpark, I'm here on a mission and I'm trying to do everything I can to go out there and become better that day. I'm trying to stay focused every second of every opportunity I have out here and just compete every day."

Thank you for your time, Seth, and best of luck as the season continues to unfold.