Friday, November 9, 2018

Getting to Know Astros RHP J.B. Bukauskas

Astros RHP J.B. Bukauskas, currently ranked the #8 prospect in the Astros system by MLB Pipeline, is definitely on the quiet side. When I talked with him last week by phone, he answered the questions I posed politely, but was not terribly expansive on any given topic. So I reached out to one of his many pitching coaches for the 2018 season to get his take on the Astros 2017 first round pick.

J.B. Bukauskas - September 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

2018 Buies Creek Pitching Coach Drew French agreed that it is a little tough to get Bukauskas to open up, but found him to be very insightful and well-spoken when he did. "J.B. is an incredibly humble individual which I think bodes well for his makeup and mentality especially when it comes to development. He possesses a lot of the intangible things where it’s easy to see his track to the big leagues. Obviously we love his arm and fastball velocity as well as his slider. He has a really good changeup that he is working on utilizing more, which has shown to be a great weapon vs both bat sides. Because of his stint on the DL during the 2018 season we had a lot of ground to make up in a short amount of time and he was a great student/soldier to get him up to speed. Most of the work with him was solidifying his cutter and then working command to hitter weakness more frequently to get him ready for AA/Fall League. It’s not a surprise that he had the success he had in during the 2018 campaign and is showing very well against some of the best prospects in the game right now in Arizona," said French.

As noted by French, Bukauskas spent significant time on the DL in 2018. After making two starts for the Low A Quad Cities team in April, Bukauskas was shelved for two months. Although the Astros front office wasn't forthcoming regarding his status at the time, it eventually came out that Bukauskas was involved in an automobile accident during Spring Training, but was thought to be healthy enough to start the season on time. However, an initially undiscovered disk problem which mimicked an oblique injury derailed him until late June.

After making quick work of a rehab stint and two additional starts for Quad Cities, Bukauskas moved on to High A Buies Creek where he compiled a 1.61 ERA and a 0.929 WHIP over five starts (13 BB:31 K in 28 IP) and was rewarded with a promotion to AA Corpus Christi to close out the season, collecting one final regular season start and one postseason start. Although Bukauskas got a late start to his season, his participation in the Arizona Fall League should ultimately enable him to log over 90 innings (including that postseason start) before he shuts things down for the offseason.

And Bukauskas has had a very successful Arizona Fall League campaign thus far, going 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP in 5 starts (9 BB:20 K in 20.2 IP) with one additional start anticipated before the AFL season ends next Thursday. I spoke with Bukauskas the day after his fourth start of the fall season and he was particularly pleased with his fastball velocity and its swing-and-miss potential during that start. His slider was sharp as well, but he allowed his only run (unearned) of that appearance thanks to an errant cutter "that caught too much of the middle of the plate" and resulted in an RBI triple.

Bukauskas's prospect rankings hinge largely on his mid to high 90's fastball and his excellent slider, but he has been working hard these past few months to incorporate his changeup more effectively and to fine-tune the cutter which is a fairly new pitch for him. Although Bukauskas has had mixed success with the cutter so far, he can see it as a potential weapon. "I do like using it a lot. It's kind of like a new toy. I'm starting to see how it works, when to use it, when not to use it. There's growing pains, but I really like it a lot. I think it's going to end up benefiting me down the road," said Bukauskas. Despite the delayed start to his season, Bukauskas is happy with the progress that he has made with his pitch arsenal and cites that as the biggest accomplishment of his 2018 campaign.

MLB Pipeline calls both his fastball and his slider "plus-plus" pitches, but notes that Bukauskas "sometimes falls in love with the slider too much and loses fastball command." I asked Bukauskas about that characterization and he responded, "It's kind of a day-to-day thing. You have a day where one thing isn't working. You kind of have to lean on something else. You've got to go ahead and do it in order to have a competitive outing. I think that's something that people might not see if they don't see every outing or watch every time. Some days, in order to get through the outing, sometimes you do have to lean more on the slider, sometimes more on the fastball, sometimes more on the changeup. I wouldn't say that I always lean more on the slider. It just depends on the day. The days where you have everything going I think are the ones where you can be really dominant, but sometimes you just don't have certain things. ... I think that the fastball command has definitely improved. I'm still trying to get good pitch usage for all my pitches, a good percentage. It's definitely not like college where I threw 50% sliders; it's probably more proportionate now."

The other concern that some prospect pundits have regarding Bukauskas is what they call his "high effort delivery." Of his delivery, Bukauskas said, "It's always been kind of unique. Growing up, it's always looked like that, where I kind of have a leg swing and a kick, but it's pretty repeatable for me because I've done it for so long and it's one of the things -- I don't know if you'd say that it's deceptive or kind of makes me unique but I think that the only thing that we would really try to adjust is working on the rhythm and the tempo of it, not really changing the actual motion per se, but more of the speed or the rhythm through the delivery." Bukauskas sees that adjusted tempo as helping him, making his delivery more repeatable and improving his command.

Although it might be a bit premature to ask about 2019 goals when Bukauskas hasn't quite finished up his 2018 season yet, he humored me with an answer to the query anyway. "Just developing myself as a player is more important to me [than objective goals] because I know that if I do those things, the rest will take care of itself. Whether it's developing pitches, working on pitch sequencing, things like that I think will benefit me rather than looking at the end goal. It's very cliché, but thinking about the process to get there rather than the end goal is probably more important for me."

One of Bukauskas's intangibles is his ability to focus on the task at hand and shrug off the things that don't go right. "I don't show a lot of emotion. Stick with what you're trying to do and try not to deviate too much from it. That's just always been one of those things. I don't show a ton of emotion in general, but especially not out there," said Bukauskas. Whether he is on the field or off the field, Bukauskas projects an aura of calm and quiet that somewhat masks the focus, thoughtfulness and competitive nature that lie beneath the surface.

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018 Rule 5 Draft Primer and Eligible Players

2018 Rule 5 Draft Primer and Eligible Players

The current Astros 40-man roster (as of 9/24) stands at 40 players plus the 60-day DL stint of Jandel Gustave brings the total to 41. At some point before late November, the Astros are going to have to figure out who to add and who to subtract or risk losing a player or two to the Rule 5 Draft. Let's take a look ...


Garrett Stubbs - June 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Here is a primer based on my understanding of how the Rule 5 draft works, as well as some preliminary information about this year's draft eligible players. The draft will be held during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada from December 9th through 13th.

I am including something new this year as I branch out and start looking at players from other organizations. At the end of this post regarding Astros Rule 5 eligible players, I will include those eligible players from other clubs who are currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as top 30 players.

RULE 5

The Rule 5 draft (no, it's not the Rule V draft; please stop calling it that!) was updated somewhat prior to 2016's draft in two ways: it eliminated the lower of two minor league phases of the draft and it increased the compensation payment to teams for players who are lost through the draft. Here is the text of Rule 5 with the Eligibility Rules highlighted in Blue.
Rule 5
ANNUAL SELECTION OF PLAYERS
(a) MEETINGS. A selection meeting shall be held each year at such time and place as the Commissioner shall designate and shall be known as the Rule 5 Selection Meeting. At the Rule 5 Selection Meeting, Major League Clubs may claim the contracts of players who are on Minor League Reserve Lists (filed pursuant to Rule 2) and who are subject to selection as set forth in this Rule 5. If any Major League or Minor League Club shall fail to file Minor League Reserve Lists in accordance with Major League Rule 2, its players on Minor League Reserve Lists shall be subject to selection under this Rule 5 without any restrictions. The Commissioner shall decide all procedural questions that may arise during the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(b) METHOD AND PRIORITY OF SELECTIONS. Selections under this Rule 5 shall be made in two separate phases: the Major League phase and the Class AAA phase. A player selected in one of these phases must be placed on the Major League Club’s Reserve List in the same classification of the phase in which the player was selected. Within each phase, only players from a Reserve List of a lower classification Club are eligible for selection. Within each phase, selections shall be made according to the following order and conditions:
(1) Major League Clubs shall select in reverse order of their winning percentages at the close of the preceding championship season, without regard to standings within any Division or League and without regard to post-season results. If two or more Clubs had an identical percentage of games won at the close of the preceding championship season, the selection order of those Clubs shall be determined by the percentage of games won in the next prior championship season, with any remaining ties resolved by continuing to examine the tied Clubs’ respective championship season winning percentages in each preceding prior year, until the tie is broken.
(2) As called in the above order of priority in a phase, each Major League Club shall have a right to select one player subject to selection under this Rule 5. If a Club does not exercise its right of selection when called, or if its right of selection in that phase has ceased because its Reserve List(s) for the classification covered by the phase has reached the allowable limit under Rule 2, the next Club in order shall be called. When a round has been completed, the process of selection shall be repeated until all Major League Clubs have no further right of selection in that phase. A Club
having announced its selection in proper order cannot later cancel the selection.
(3) In any year in which one or more new members have been admitted to a Major League for operations in the next championship season, each such new member may select player contracts under this Rule 5. The procedures and regulations governing such selections shall be as agreed upon by the Major League Clubs.
(4) Any Major League Club may authorize (in writing or by electronic communication) any employee, the Commissioner, or an employee of the Commissioner’s Office to announce its selection or selections at the meeting. Such authorized selections shall be as binding and effective as if announced by a Major League Club official.
(c) PLAYERS SUBJECT TO SELECTION. All players on the Minor League Reserve Lists of Major League and Minor League Clubs, except players on the Voluntarily Retired, Disqualified or Ineligible Lists, shall be subject to selection by other Major League Clubs at the Rule 5 Selection Meeting in accordance with the following:
(1) A player without previous Major or Minor League service who signs with a Major League or independent Minor League Club shall be subject to selection based on the following:
(A) if 18 years of age or under on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s signing, the player shall be subject to selection at the fifth Rule 5 Selection Meeting that follows the signing date of the player’s first Major or Minor League contract, unless Rule 5(c)(1)(C) applies;
(B) if 19 years of age or over on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s signing, the player shall be subject to selection at the fourth Selection Meeting that follows the signing date of the player’s first Major or Minor League contract, unless Rule 5(c)(1)(C) applies;
(C) if the signing date of a player’s first Major or Minor League contract is between
(i) the conclusion of the championship season for the Major or Minor League Club to which the player is assigned on such contract and
(ii) the next Rule 5 Selection Meeting,
then the player shall be deemed to have signed after the next Rule 5 Selection Meeting, for purposes of this Rule 5(c)(1).
(2) A player who is re-signed by a Club within one year from the date the Club released the player shall be subject to draft at the Rule 5 Selection Meeting following the date of the latest contract with that Club.
(3) A player who has been subject to draft at a Rule 5 Selection Meeting shall be subject to draft at any subsequent Rule 5 Selection Meeting if the player is on a Minor League Reserve List (filed pursuant to Rule 2 (Player Limits and Reserve Lists)) at the time of the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(4) A player
(A) whose contract has been assigned outright by a Major League Club to a Minor League Club,
(B) who has been signed as a free agent to a Minor League Uniform Player Contract for services in the following year and is otherwise subject to selection pursuant to Rule 5(c)(1) or Rule 5(c)(2), or
(C) who has been released unconditionally from a Minor League roster and is otherwise subject to selection pursuant to Rule 5(c)(1) or Rule 5(c)(2), shall be subject to selection at any subsequent Rule 5 Selection Meeting if the player is on a Minor League Reserve List (filed pursuant to Rule 2 (Player Limits and Reserve Lists)) at the time of the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(5) A Major League or independent Minor League Club may designate any player on one of its Minor League Reserve Lists to be subject to selection who otherwise would not be selectable under this Rule 5.
(d) CONSIDERATION, PAYMENT, AND RESPONSIBILITY. The consideration for a selection under this Rule 5 shall be as follows:
(1) $100,000, if the selected player is placed on a Major League Reserve List;
(2) $24,000, if the selected player is placed on a Class AAA Reserve List;
In addition to the compensation set forth in this paragraph, an independent Minor League Club shall be reimbursed by a selecting Major League Club for all compensation (including salary, bonuses and benefits) that it has paid to a selected player if the player is selected at the first selection meeting following the first year of the player’s initial Minor League Uniform Player Contract. Payment of the consideration due the selectee Club shall be made in the same manner as provided in Rule 12 Transfer Agreements) regarding other assignments of player contracts. The selector Major League Club must assume all responsibility for the player’s physical condition and for the player’s reporting.
(e) PLAYER-MANAGERS. A Player-Manager shall be subject to selection if the player would otherwise be selectable under Rule 5(c) (Players Subject to Selection). However, a player-manager shall be subject to selection as a player only and the player-manager selected may reject such selection by giving written or electronic notification of such rejection to the Commissioner within 30 days from the date that the player-manager receives notification of such selection from the Commissioner. A player-manager contract that has been executed within 30 days before the close of the season shall not be changed to a player contract during the season following execution of such player-manager contract unless the Commissioner approves such a change in writing.
(f) COVERING UP. No agreement shall be made for the purpose or with the effect of covering up a player from selection. If the Commissioner shall be of opinion that any such agreement has been made, the Commissioner may impose a fine upon each party to such an agreement.
RULE 5 ELIGIBILITY

The highlighted passage above regarding Rule 5 eligibility is somewhat cumbersome. What it means in English is that this year's eligible players basically include: 1) any player who signed prior to the end of the 2014 season; and 2) players who signed after the end of the 2014 season and prior to the end of the 2015 season who were 19 years old or older when they signed. That means most 2015 drafted college players are eligible, but high school players (and some community college players) drafted in 2015 may not be eligible until next year. For the international free agents, one needs to know when the player signed their first professional agreement and their age at signing to make the determination. There is an exception based on players who signed during the off-season, but otherwise, that is the basic gist of it.

MAJOR LEAGUE PHASE OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT

The first phase of the Rule 5 draft is the major league phase. In order to protect an eligible player from being drafted in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, he must be on the major league club's 40-man roster prior to November 20th (if that falls on a business day). Players on the 40-man roster at that deadline are considered "protected."

Obviously not all of a team's best players can be protected on the 40-man roster. That is where the AAA Reserve List helps. If a player from the AAA Reserve List is drafted in the Rule 5 draft, that player must remain on the drafting team's 25-man major league roster for the full season or he will have to be put through waivers. If claimed, the new team will be subject to the same conditions regarding that player. If not claimed, the player will be offered back to the team from which he was drafted.

The cost of drafting a player in the major league phase of the draft is now $100,000. If the player is offered back to the team from which he was drafted, the original team must pay $50,000 back to the drafting team. If the original team declines, the player will be put on waivers.

Last season RHP Dean Deetz and LHP Cionel Perez were added to the 40-man roster by the Astros in advance of the deadline. The front office made the determination that these pitchers were the most likely players to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. (Note: Perez had to be protected because his first contract had been voided.) The front office took a calculated risk by not adding players such as RHP Josh James and others to the 40-man roster, but only included them on the AAA Reserve List. They made a determination as to which players, if drafted, were more likely to "stick" on a major league roster for a full season and were very successful in that the only unprotected player claimed in last year's Rule 5 draft was RHP Elieser Hernandez who was claimed by the Marlins; Hernandez had mixed results for his season with the Marlins and since he was quite far down the pecking order in the Astros system, having not progressed beyond the High A level in his final year with the Astros, it is unlikely that he would have been a factor for the Astros for quite some time (if ever). On the other side of the coin, the Astros drafted LHP (and former OF) Anthony Gose; that experiment lasted about a nanosecond before he was returned to the Rangers.

Since players taken in the Rule 5 draft have to remain on the drafting team's 25-man roster for the full season, pitchers are taken much more frequently than position players simply because it's fairly easy to use a pitcher sparingly out of the bullpen. Position players can't be tucked away quite so neatly if they struggle. It all comes down to another team's ability to find room on their 25-man roster for a full season. It's simply not that easy to do and that's why so very few players are drafted in the Rule 5 draft and stick with a team.

It's also the case that often minor league fans overvalue prospects. We may think much more highly of a player than the other teams' front offices do. When all is said and done, the Astros front office will take some risks in leaving players unprotected, but it will be a highly educated guess based on many factors, including future needs. (In addition, look at the lists below of top prospects that other teams need to protect; it's not that easy to protect all the players that need to be protected and pick up one or two other players in the draft as well.)

MINOR LEAGUE PHASE OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT

There is now only one minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, reduced from two phases in earlier years. The players on the 40-man roster and the AAA reserve list aren't eligible to be taken in the minor league phase of the draft. To my knowledge the AAA reserve list is still set at 38 players so, in essence, you are protecting your top 78 players from the minor league phase. (As far as I know, AAA Reserve Lists are not made public so we are left to guess who the Astros will be shielding from the minor league phase of the draft.)

In the AAA Phase of the draft, a player who is on the AA Reserve List or lower can be drafted for inclusion on the drafting team's AAA Reserve list for a cost of $24,000. The kicker on the minor league phase of the draft is that the drafted player basically becomes that team's property. There is no requirement to offer the player back if he doesn't work out. He can be traded, released, etc. at a team's discretion.

ASTROS 2018 RULE 5 ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

The following are those players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December if they are left unprotected. I have organized them by the level at which they were assigned at the end of the minor league regular season. Players who are first year eligible have been #'d.

AAA Position Players
#OF Drew Ferguson
IF Jack Mayfield
IF Antonio Nunez
C Jamie Ritchie
#C Garrett Stubbs
3B Nick Tanielu

AAA Pitchers
#Rogelio Armenteros
RHP Akeem Bostick
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn
LHP Kent Emanuel
RHP Justin Ferrell
#RHP Riley Ferrell
#RHP Ralph Garza
RHP Brendan McCurry
RHP Cy Sneed
RHP Ryan Thompson (ended the season on the DL; TJ surgery)
#RHP Trent Thornton

AA Position Players
None

AA Pitchers
#LHP Carlos Hiraldo
RHP Erasmo Pinales
#RHP Yoanys Quiala (on the restricted list)
#LHP Alex Winkelman

Position Players at High A or lower
#SS Jonathan Arauz
#C Oscar Campos
#C Ruben Castro
#C Carlos Canelon
#OF Bryan de la Cruz
IF Osvaldo Duarte
1B Luis Encarnacion
#OF Carlos Machado
#C Orlando Marquez
#OF Hector Martinez
#OF Andy Pineda
#IF Juan Pineda
#SS Miguelangel Sierra

Pitchers at High A or lower
#RHP Bryan Abreu
#RHP Jose Luis Hernandez
#RHP Hansel Paulino
#RHP Abdiel Saldana
#RHP Carlos Sanabria
#RHP Edgardo Sandoval
#RHP Gabriel Valdez

#First year eligibility for Rule 5 Draft

In addition to the above, the following players will be minor league free agents at the conclusion of the major league season in which case they are free to explore free agency.

Minor League Free Agents
3B/1B Randy Cesar
C Eduardo de Oleo
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Matt Ramsey

NOTABLE RULE 5 ELIGIBLE PLAYERS FROM OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

As of September 24, 2018, the following players are not currently on their team's 40-man roster and will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft (or minor league free agency if so noted) this year; all of these players are currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as Top 30 prospects in their organization as of the same date. Please note that MLB Pipeline generally only re-shuffles the deck chairs during the season, adding new players and subtracting players who have been traded or graduated from prospect status and will not publish a truly updated Top 30 list until much later in the offseason; therefore, there will likely be other Top 30-caliber players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December who will not appear on this list. I will try to update these closer to the draft as players are protected in the offseason, but no promises. Numbers are from the current ranking on today's MLB Pipeline.

ARIZONA
#7 OF Marcus Wilson
#11 RHP Taylor Clarke
#14 RHP Emilio Vargas
#20 3B/1B Kevin Cron
#22 LHP Alex Young
#23 LHP Cody Reed

ATLANTA
#20 RHP Huascar Ynoa
#21 RHP Patrick Weigel
#22 OF Travis Demeritte
#27 C Alex Jackson
#28 RHP Josh Graham
#29 RHP Jacob Webb

BALTIMORE
#6 RHP Dillon Tate
#23 RHP Branden Kline (MiLB FA)
#29 LHP Luis Gonzalez

BOSTON
#1 3B/1B Michael Chavis
#7 LHP Darwinzon Hernandez
#10 1B Josh Ockimey
#15 RHP Travis Lakins
#21 LHP Jhonathan Diaz
#23 C Roldani Baldwin
#27 RHP Roniel Raudes
#30 RHP Denyi Reyes

CHICAGO CUBS

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

CINCINNATI

CLEVELAND

COLORADO
#27 C Dom Nunez

DETROIT

HOUSTON
#26 3B/1B Randy Cesar (MiLB FA)

KANSAS CITY
#30 RHP Ofreidy Gomez (MiLB FA)

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

MIAMI

MILWAUKEE

MINNESOTA

NEW YORK METS

NEW YORK YANKEES

OAKLAND
#9 RHP James Kaprielian (60-day DL)
#28 RHP Carlos Ramirez (MiLB FA)

PHILADELPHIA

PITTSBURGH

SAN DIEGO
#11 RHP Anderson Espinoza (60-day DL)

SAN FRANCISCO

SEATTLE

ST. LOUIS

TAMPA BAY

TEXAS

TORONTO

WASHINGTON
#25 1B/OF Jose Marmolejos (MiLB FA)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Astros Farm Report: 9/17

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

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

Colton Shaver - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

9/15: RHP Forrest Whitley (21)
9/17: RHP Brady Rodgers (28)
9/18: OF/1B/DH Seth Beer (22)
9/18: 3B/1B Colton Shaver (23)
9/19: OF George Springer (29)
9/20: SS/2B Deury Carrasco (19)
9/21: C Nerio Rodriguez (19)
9/22: SS Carlos Correa (24)
9/22: SS Jeremy Pena (21)
9/23: OF Omar Diaz (17)
9/23: RHP Diosmerky Taveras (19)
9/24: RHP Matt Ramsey (29)
9/26: RHP Fredy Medina (21)
9/27: RHP Flaer Gonzalez (22)
9/28: RHP Enoli Paredes (23)
9/30: IF Jack Mayfield (28)
9/30: Trent Thornton (25)

ROSTER MOVES/TRANSACTIONS

9/16: OF Kyle Tucker (Fresno) recalled to Houston
9/15: OF Myles Straw (Fresno) called up to Houston
9/15: SS Antonio Nunez assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
9/13: C Freddy Guilamo signed by the Astros (17-year old out of the Dominican Republic)
9/11: RHP Bryan Abreu assigned to Buies Creek from Quad Cities
9/10: 1B Taylor Jones assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
9/10: SS Antonio Nunez assigned to Corpus Christi from Fresno
9/9: RHP Carson LaRue assigned to Corpus Christi from Buies Creek
9/7: LHP Carlos Hiraldo assigned to Corpus Christi from Quad Cities
9/5: RHP Justin Ferrell assigned to Fresno from Corpus Christi
9/5: SS Antonio Nunez (Fresno) activated from the DL (had been on the DL since 8/22)
9/5: RHP Forrest Whitley (Corpus Christi) activated from the DL (had been on the DL since 8/25)
9/4: 3B J.D. Davis (Fresno) recalled to Houston
9/4: RHP Dean Deetz (Fresno) called up to Houston

ASTROS MILB DISABLED LIST

8/15: C Ruben Castro (Quad Cities) placed on the 7-day DL
8/9: RHP Jairo Solis (Quad Cities) placed on the 7-day DL
7/28: 3B Joe Perez (GCL) placed on the 60-day DL
6/13: RHP Hunter Martin (Tri-City) placed on the 60-day DL
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; had TJ surgery 8/15
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; sent on rehab assignment to Quad Cities in mid-August but never actually activated from the DL during the season)
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

8/24: OF Carlos Diaz placed on the restricted list (suspended 56 games for testing positive for a PED)
Note that a 56 game suspension in short season ball will effectively wipe out Diaz's 2019 season. I would not be surprised to see the 14th round 2017 pick released by the Astros this offseason.
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.

I will continue to keep track of all the minor league releases, retirements, trades and signings for the 2018 season here until the major league season is over at which time I will start an offseason transaction post.

FINAL ASTROS MILB STANDINGS

FRESNO (Pacific Coast League) - Won the PCL Pacific Northern Division
1st 82-57 .590 -.-GB W1

POSTSEASON
Won the Pacific Conference Championship 3-2 over El Paso
Lost the Pacific Coast League Championship series to Memphis 3-1

CORPUS CHRISTI (Texas League) - Won both 1st and 2nd halves in South Division
1st 82-56 .594 -.-GB W2 (overall)
1st 39-30 .565 -.-GB W2 (second half)
1st 43-26 .623 -.-GB W5 (first half division winner)

POSTSEASON
Lost the South Division Championship Series to San Antonio 3-2
San Antonio went on to lose to Tulsa in the Texas League Championship Series 3-0

BUIES CREEK (Carolina League) - Won the 2nd half in the Southern Division
2nd 80-57 .584 3.5GB W2 (overall)
1st 43-25 .632 -.-GB W2 (second half)
2nd 37-32 .536 3.5GB L1 (first half)

POSTSEASON 🏆
Won the Southern Division Championship 3-0 over Winston-Salem
Won the one-game* League Championship Series 1-0 over Potomac 1-0

*Originally to be a five game series until Hurricane Florence crashed the party.

QUAD CITIES (Midwest League) - Won the 1st half in the Western Division
1st 81-59 .579 -.-GB W5 (overall)
2nd 41-29 .586 4.0GB W5 (second half)
1st 40-30 .571 -.-GB W6 (first half division winner)

POSTSEASON
Lost the Western Division Quarterfinal 2-0 to Peoria
(Peoria went on to win the Western Division Championship series 2-0 over Cedar Rapids and is currently down 2-1 against Bowling Green in the best-of-five League Championship Series.)

TRI-CITY (New York-Penn League) - Won the Stedler Division
1st 42-33 .560 -.-GB L2

POSTSEASON 🏆
Won the Semi-Final Championship Series 2-0 over Mahoning Valley
Won the New York-Penn League Championship Series 2-0 over Hudson Valley

GCL ASTROS (Gulf Coast League)
2nd 27-28 .491 12.5 L2

DSL ASTROS (Dominican Summer League Northwest)
6th 30-41 .423 21.0GB L3

NEWS AND LINKS


In case you missed it, I posted my Astros Full Season and Short Season Players, Starters, Relievers and Catchers of the Year. So much talent!!

MLB has worked very, very hard to keep minor league players from earning a fair wage. Is this the answer?
"The Dodgers run one of baseball’s most extensive minor league systems. They list about 300 organizational players in their media guide, so guaranteeing each one $25,000 this year would have cost less than they guaranteed to infielder Logan Forsythe this season."


via GIPHY

Another former Astros farmhand and Friend of the Blog gets a baseball coaching gig.

Patrick Obley of the Fayetteville Observer looks back at the Buies Creek experience as the team prepares to move to their new Fayetteville digs next season.

Why Brett Maverick Phillips continues to be one of my favorite ballplayers and one of my favorite people.

SAFE!!!


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

OF Alex McKenna (Tri-City, since promoted to Quad Cities)
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, since promoted to Fresno)
1B Taylor Jones (Corpus Christi, since promoted to Fresno)
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (Corpus Christi, since promoted to Fresno)

STATE OF THE BLOG ADDRESS

This concludes my seventh season of traveling to see Astros minor league players in minor league ballparks from Kentucky to California to Tennessee to Oklahoma to Iowa to New York to South Carolina (Buies Creek road trip) and, of course, to Corpus Christi and Austin (Fresno road trips). I am not exactly a spring chicken anymore, but the players I have met along the way keep me much younger than my years. They make me laugh and cry and love baseball even more than I ever imagined was possible. Because, when it comes right down to it, the players are what make this game special.

And those players aren't limited to my favorite team. Players I've talked to and gotten to know are peppered throughout major and minor league baseball. The Astros will always be "my team," but I find myself pulling more and more for those players I care about regardless of the uniform the player wears. Which finally makes me a true fan of baseball after all these years, I suppose.

And that brings me to the future of WTHB?. I have always felt the need to re-invent myself every few years. I get restless with the status quo. But I can't imagine my life without minor league baseball in it. But, then again, why should I limit myself just to the Astros? Why should I deprive myself of the opportunity to get to know great people from 29 other affiliates simply because of the team they're on?

Readership is way down since the team is good again; people aren't hungry to know about the next wave of Astros players like they were when I started, and there are players from other MLB affiliates that I would love to get to know a little better. I have a ton of contacts in the Astros organization, but I've gained many contacts outside the organization as players, managers and coaches move around.

Secondarily, I've gotten away from what got me started on this blog in the first place ... writing about things that interest me personally, talking not only to players, but to people in all walks of baseball life, and going down the occasional rabbit hole. So, after much thought and deliberation about the future of WTHB?, I've come to the conclusion that, although the blog will still be mostly Astros-centric, I won't limit myself to just the Astros. I have been working behind the scenes on some long-read and series work that will look at prospects throughout the minors, the 2018 draft, minor league pay and women in baseball. And that's just for starters! I plan to keep interviewing Astros prospects and then start branching out to other teams next season during my travels. As a result, I may retire some of the content I've provided in years past. The blog may look a little different in 2019, but don't worry, the Astros will always be my first love and will take priority.

In the meantime, other than my annual Rule 5 draft post which will come out this week or next, I plan to take a little time off from posting regularly while I work on some of these larger projects and do some housekeeping on the blog. (And with the postseason rapidly approaching, Astros fans are likely to be too preoccupied to read much of what I'd put out there right now anyway!)

As a final note, I hope that Dustin will continue to contribute to the blog next season. He has really come into his own as a writer and has been an invaluable voice for WTHB?. He has an open invitation to write as much or as little as he wishes, about whatever he wishes, for as long as he wishes. It will be my absolute pleasure to have him continue to be my partner in crime.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your encouragement as I strive to make the minor league life a fun and interesting part of your lives.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

2018 WTHB Players of the Year

Now that the minor league season is in the rearview mirror, the ring chasing is done and the players have scattered to all corners of the United States and Latin America, it's time to take a look at those players who really stepped up to the plate (or toed the mound) in a big way in 2018. System leaders in various categories have been highlighted in blue. Players are considered full season players or short season players based on where they started their seasons. A key to the levels (FNO, CC, BC, etc.) is at the end of this post.

[Note: it is my arbitrary rule that I do not consider players for these awards who have made their major league debuts. There will be one notable exception plus I will include notes on a few more of those players throughout this post in order to give a fuller picture of how some of their performances compare to my winners.]

FULL SEASON STARTERS OF THE YEAR

RHP Corbin Martin - September 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen


LHP Ryan Hartman - September 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

This was an incredibly difficult task because, despite my best efforts, I could not pick just one of these pitchers as the Full Season Starter of the Year. LHP Ryan Hartman and RHP Corbin Martin threw roughly equivalent numbers of innings. All but four of Martin's outings were in AA and all of Hartman's were at AA so they faced the same level of competition. Hartman had the edge on wins, walk rate and strikeout rate. Martin had the edge on ERA, WHIP and hits allowed per nine innings. In the postseason, Martin had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.353 WHIP in 5.2 innings while Hartman had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.391 WHIP in 7.2 innings. If you throw out the worst outing of the season by each pitcher, you have Hartman with a 2.21 ERA and 1.008 WHIP and Martin with a 2.18 ERA and 0.978 WHIP. That is just too close for me to single out one over the other. Both Hartman and Martin had extremely good, extremely consistent seasons and Astros fans should be excited to see these two pitchers make their way closer to Houston.

As a side note, this could easily have been a 3-way tie with Tyler Ivey as the third wheel, but ultimately since Ivey threw fewer innings for the season and was not quite as dominant in the postseason, I went with Martin and Hartman.

RHP Corbin Martin (BC/CC): 9-2 with 1 save in 25 G/21 GS, 2.51 ERA, 1.008 WHIP, 35 BB:122 K in 122 IP

LHP Ryan Hartman (CC): 11-4 in 25 G/18 GS, 2.69 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 26 BB:143 K in 120.2 IP

Honorable Mention (sorted by WHIP)

RHP Enoli Paredes (QC/BC): 6-4 with 2 saves in 24 G/5 GS, 1.43 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, 29 BB:90 K in 69 IP

RHP Tyler Ivey (QC/BC): 4-6 with 3 saves in 24 G/18 GS, 2.97 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, 29 BB:135 K in 112 IP

RHP Peter Solomon (QC/BC): 9-1 in 24 G/13 GS, 2.32 ERA, 1.093 WHIP, 32 BB:114 K in 100.2 IP

RHP Cristian Javier (QC/BC): 7-6 with 1 save in 25 G/18 GS, 2.70 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, 50 BB:146 K in 110 IP

RHP J.B. Bukauskas (QC/GCL/TC/QC/BC/CC): 4-2 in 14 GS, 2.14 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 24 BB:71 K in 59 IP

RHP Brandon Bielak (BC/CC): 7-8 with 2 saves in 25 G/17 GS, 2.23 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 39 BB:131 K in 117 IP

RHP Brandon Bailey (BC/CC): 6-8 with 1 save in 25 G/17 GS, 2.80 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 52 BB:136 K in 122.1 IP

RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (CC/FNO/CC/FNO): 9-4 in 25 G/21 GS, 3.97 ERA, 1.165 WHIP, 39 BB:125 K in 127 IP

LHP Brett Adcock (BC/CC): 9-5 with 1 save in 25 G/14 GS, 2.89 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, 58 BB:95 K in 106 IP

LHP Parker Mushinski (QC): 4-2 with 2 saves in 27 G/12 GS, 2.33 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 45 BB:114 K in 89 IP

RHP Luis Garcia (QC/TC/QC): 7-2 in 24 G/13 GS, 2.00 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, 41 BB:98 K in 85.1 IP

RHP Cy Sneed (3.83 ERA/1.362 WHIP) was tied with Brock Dykxhoorn for the most innings pitched in the Astros minors in the regular season with 127 innings. RHP Josh James (3.23 ERA/1.120 WHIP) led the Astros minors with 171 strikeouts in 114.1 innings prior to being called up to Houston.

FULL SEASON RELIEVER OF THE YEAR

Justin Ferrell - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Relievers aren't as clear cut as starters and I considered everything from total saves to converted save opportunities to inherited runners stranded to batting line allowed to innings pitched and number of appearances to postseason success to consistency. I strongly considered saves leader Brendan McCurry and Willy Collado (who had an excellent season but pitched fewer innings), but in the end I felt that Justin Ferrell had the best overall season. Had Ferrell not had a simply awful final game of the regular season (6 runs in 1.1 innings), I would have found this decision much easier. Backing out that appearance, Ferrell had a dominant 2.13 ERA, a 1.010 WHIP and allowed a .179/.264/.278 batting line. He converted 4 of 5 save opportunities and stranded 77% of inherited runners. Ferrell was promoted to Fresno for the postseason and pitched 3.2 scoreless innings in two games with a 0.818 WHIP.

RHP Justin Ferrell (BC/CC): 7-3 with 4 saves in 34 G, 2.92 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 25 BB:82 K in 64.2 IP, .193/.276/.313 line allowed

Honorable Mention (sorted by WHIP)

RHP Willy Collado (QC): 1-4 with 6 saves in 23 G, 2.23 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 10 BB:55 K in 40.1 IP

RHP Tanner Duncan (QC/BC/QC): 4-3 with 6 saves in 31 G, 2.82 ERA, 1.049 WHIP, 30 BB:67 K in 54.1 IP

RHP Matt Ramsey (FNO): 3-2 in 38 G, 2.04 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 16 BB:63 K in 53 IP

RHP Humberto Castellanos (QC/TC/QC): 3-2 with 5 saves in 23 G, 2.00 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, 11 BB:50 K in 45 IP

LHP Kit Scheetz (BC/CC): 2-1 with 7 saves in 38 G, 2.24 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 17 BB:87 K in 38 IP

RHP Ronel Blanco (BC/CC): 7-1 with 5 saves in 32 games, 3.65 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 29 BB:71 K in 56.2

Blanco inherited the most runners during the season. Of the 37 runners he inherited, he stranded all but eight, including stranding inherited bases loaded on three separate occasions.

RHP Brendan McCurry (FNO): 6-7 with 14 saves in 46 G, 3.69 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 17 BB:73 K in 63.1 IP

RHP Brendan Feldmann (FNO/CC/QC/BC): 2-2 with 8 saves in 33 G, 2.91 ERA, 1.338 WHIP, 20 BB:57 K in 46.1 IP

RHP Dean Deetz had a 0.89 ERA and a 1.230 WHIP in his 27 bullpen appearances with Fresno prior to being called up to Houston.

FULL SEASON POSITION PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Myles Straw - June 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

J.J. Matijevic - May 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Once again, my arbitrary rule that MLB debuts cancel out eligibility* for WTHB awards leaves 3B Tyler White (70 G, .333/.444/.569/.1.013),  OF Kyle Tucker (100 G, .332/.400/.590/.989),  3B J.D. Davis (85 G, .342/.406/.583/.988) and 1B A.J. Reed (123 G, .255/.344/.506/.851) out in the cold, but they all had excellent seasons. Reed led the Astros minor league affiliates with 28 home runs and 108 RBI. [*Since I had already written the following prior to Myles Straw's MLB debut last night, and since he has yet to collect his first MLB at-bat, I'm making an exception to my own rule. I don't think Matijevic will mind too much!]

I looked long and hard at the remaining candidates and, once again, I felt compelled to declare a tie because the two players who stood out most for me are such different types of players. J.J. Matijevic displayed elite power. His 52 extra base hits lagged behind only Reed (56) and Tucker (54) in the Astros system. And his OPS trailed only Tucker for players who had played in a minimum of 100 games for the season. On the other hand, although he collected 13 stolen bases, he was also caught stealing 13 times and he ranked in the top 10 in the system in strikeouts. Myles Straw's game was of a different variety. He led the system in runs scored, stolen bases and walks, and had the third highest average and second highest on base percentage for players appearing in 100 or more games in the system (with Tucker leading in both of those categories). Straw doesn't provide the power of someone like Matijevic, but he is a defensive web gem waiting to happen, collecting a system-leading 17 outfield assists for the season. Both of these players have bright futures ahead of them.

OF Myles Straw (CC/FNO): 131 G, .291/.381/.353/.734, 17 2B, 6 3B, HR, 31 RBI, 95 R, 70 SB:9 CS, 73 BB:102 K, 17 outfield assists

OF J.J. Matijevic (QC/BC): 101 G, .277/.350/.538/.887, 26 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 62 RBI, 66 R, 13 SB:13 CS, 44 BB:113 K

Honorable Mention (sorted by OPS)

OF Yordan Alvarez (CC/FNO): 88 G, .293/.369/.534/.904, 21 2B, 20 HR, 74 RBI, 6 SB:2 CS, 42 BB:92 K (spent 6 weeks +/- on DL; had he remained healthy all season, he would likely have been a top candidate for POTY)

OF Drew Ferguson (FNO): 71 G, .304/.432/.443/.874, 14 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 6 SB:6CS, 49 BB:68 K

1B Taylor Jones (CC/FNO/CC): 123 G, .281/.374/.480/.854, 32 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 80 RBI, 2 SB:0 CS, 61 BB:124 K

OF Carmen Benedetti (CC): 80 G, .277/.365/.443/.808, 17 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 11 SB:5 CS, 39 BB:82 K

OF Jake Meyers (QC/BC): 121 G, .278/.363/.423/.786, 31 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 16 SB:14 CS, 51 BB:83 K

IF Jack Mayfield (FNO): 113 G, .270/.324/.457/.782, 31 2B, 3B, 16 HR, 66 RBI, 5 SB:4 CS, 33 BB:92 K

3B Abraham Toro (BC/CC): 133 G, .247/.345/.435/.779, 35 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 78 RBI, 8 SB:4 CS, 62 BB:108 K

3B Randy Cesar (CC): 116 G, .296/.348/.428/.777, 25 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 3 SB:4 CS, 36 BB:112 K (put together a 42-game hitting streak from May 5th to June 28th in which he hit .391/.428/.627/1.055)

SS Alex De Goti (CC/FNO): 125 G, .283/.335/.440/.775, 29 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 8 SB:7 CS, 28 BB:80 K

3B Nick Tanielu (CC/FNO): 105 G, .288/.336/.418/.755, 22 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB:2 CS, 28 BB:50 K

OF Bryan de la Cruz (QC/BC): 119 G, .289/.367/.375/.742, 22 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 62 RBI, 10 SB:7 CS, 51 BB:97 K

I had to cut this off somewhere, but shout out to a few guys whose speed on the bases really helped out their respective teams: IF/OF Josh Rojas (130 G, 84 R, 34 2B, 6 3B, 38 SB), OF Corey Julks (125 G, 79 R, 30 2B, 4 3B, 30 SB), OF Stephen Wrenn (121 G, 79 R, 23 2B, 4 3B, 44 SB) and OF Ronnie Dawson (119 G, 69 R, 24 2B, 2 3B, 35 RBI). IF/OF Osvaldo Duarte (BC) and SS Jonathan Arauz (QC/BC) led the Astros affiliates with nine triples each.

FULL SEASON CATCHER OF THE YEAR

Garrett Stubbs - June 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Finally, an easy one!! I like to single out a catcher who shines both offensively and defensively in a season and this one was a no-brainer. Stubbs struggled with injury issues in 2017; subsequently, although he was still solid defensively, his season at the plate was somewhat lackluster. And, although Stubbs was shelved for 12 days in May on the DL this year, he appears to have put the injury and durability questions behind him by season's end as he caught up to the AAA level in a big way both offensively and defensively.

C Garrett Stubbs (FNO): 84 G, .310/.382/.455/.836, 19 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB:0 CS, 35 BB:53 K, 45% CS rate (19 of 42)

Honorable Mention (sorted by OPS)

C Lorenzo Quintana (CC): 70 G, .254/.316/.484/.799, 19 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 7 SB:4 CS, 15 BB:47 K, 30% CS rate (17 of 56)

C Jamie Ritchie (CC/FNO): 70 G, .293/.390/.405/.795, 16 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 3 SB:1 CS, 31 BB:57 K, 32% CS rate (20 of 62)

C Ruben Castro (QC): 38 G, .299/.395/.381/.776, 7 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBI, 1 SB:4 CS, 19 BB:27 K, 43% CS rate (17 of 40)

SHORT SEASON STARTER OF THE YEAR

There were so many great performances among those who started their seasons with short season clubs, but no one was quite so dominant as Ernesto Jaquez ... well, at least until he got to Tri-City! Jaquez started his season with the Dominican Summer League (4-0 in 9 G/4 GS, 0.25 ERA, 0.528 WHIP), then was promoted to the Gulf Coast League on August 1st (0-0 in 5G/1 GS, 1.06 ERA, 0.824 WHIP), and ended his season with two games for Tri-City (the second of which he would likely try to take back - 8 ER in 0.1 IP). Take out that final appearance and Jaquez had an astonishing 0.48 ERA and a 0.621 WHIP in 15 of his 16 games. The 19-year old Jaquez signed in July 2017 out of the Dominican Republic for $95,000. Serious consideration was also given to Chad Donato (see below). He was certainly equally deserving, but I was trying to avoid another tie.

RHP Ernesto Jaquez (DSL/GCL/TC): 5-1 in 16 G/6 GS, 1.75 ERA, 0.741 WHIP, 17 BB:74 K in 56.2 IP, .129 BA

Honorable Mention (sorted by WHIP)

RHP Heitor Tokar (DSL): 0-1 in 13 G/8 GS, 1.66 ERA, 0.762 WHIP, 6 BB:35 K in 43.1 IP

RHP Franny Cobos (DSL): 1-2 with 1 save in 14 G/5 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.800 WHIP, 7 BB:39 K in 45 IP

RHP Brett Daniels (TC): 3-0 in 11 G/2 GS, 1.62 ERA, 0.840 WHIP, 7 BB:36 K in 33.1 IP

RHP Alfredi Jimenez (DSL/GCL): 1-3 with 2 saves in 14 G/5 GS, 1.63 ERA, 0.867 WHIP, 13 BB:63 K in 55.1 IP

RHP Valente Bellozo (DSL): 2-1 with 1 save in 14 G/8 GS, 1.74 ERA, 0.871 WHIP, 16 BB:42 K in 51.2 IP

RHP Chad Donato (TC/QC): 9-0 with 2 saves in 15 G/12 GS, 1.62 ERA, 0.876 WHIP, 22 BB:98 K in 77.2 IP

RHP Austin Hansen (TC): 2-3 with 2 saves in 14 G/2 GS, 1.76 ERA, 0.880 WHIP, 13 BB:45 K in 30.2 IP

RHP Bryan Abreu (TC/QC): 6-1 with 3 saves in 14 G/7 GS, 1.49 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, 23 BB:90 K in 54.1 IP

RHP Nivaldo Rodriguez (TC): 4-1 with 1 save in 14 G/7 GS, 2.91 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, 13 BB:50 K in 55.2 IP

RHP Jojanse Torres (DSL): 1-2 with 1 save in 13 G/8 GS, 2.20 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 8 BB:48 K in 41 IP

RHP Brett Conine (TC): 1-1 in 11 G/3 GS, 1.99 ERA, 1.074 WHIP, 11 BB:37 K in 31.2 IP

RHP R.J. Freure (TC): 3-0 in 11 G/3 GS, 0.98 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 13 BB:29 K in 27.2 IP

RHP Fredy Medina (GCL): 1-1 in 9 G/3 GS, 2.25 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 14 BB:34 K in 28 IP

RHP Wender Oberto (DSL): 4-3 with 1 save in 15 G/6 GS, 1.91 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 18 BB:39 K in 56.2 IP

RHP Jose Luis Herndandez (TC/BC): 2-2 in 13 G/11 GS, 2.35 ERA, 1.134 WHIP, 10 BB:48 K in 57.1 IP

RHP Jose Antonio Hernandez (DSL): 4-4 in 15 G/7 GS, 1.90 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 18 BB:41 K in 47.1 IP

SHORT SEASON RELIEVER OF THE YEAR

Tim Hardy - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I originally had Joey Gonzalez in the top spot in large part due to his very impressive batting line allowed (see below), but ultimately, Tim Hardy was more effective in a couple of areas, converting all of his save opportunities and allowing only one inherited runner to score on his watch. And he appeared in three more games and 11 more innings than Gonzalez, also finishing the season at a higher level. The one qualm I had with Hardy was his somewhat high walk rate, but when I dug down and saw that four of those free passes came in just one outing (in which he presumably had a case of the yips), I decided to give him his own free pass. He appeared in just one game in the postseason, allowing only one hit and striking out two in his 1.1 innings.

LHP Tim Hardy (TC/QC): 2-2 with 4 saves in 18 G, 2.05 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 15 BB:49 K in 30.2 IP

Honorable Mention (sorted by WHIP)

RHP Joey Gonzalez (GCL/TC): 4-2 with 3 saves in 15 G, 1.37 ERA, 0.864 WHIP, 4 BB:25 K in 19.2 IP, .176/.222/.230 batting line allowed

RHP J. P. France (TC/QC): 2-0 with 2 saves in 10 G, 0.50 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, 6 BB:28 K in 18 IP

RHP Hansel Paulino (TC/QC): 2-2 with 2 saves in 18 G, 3.57 ERA/1.041 WHIP, 11 BB:45 K in 40.1 IP

SHORT SEASON POSITION PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Seth Beer - July 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The first round draft pick came as advertised, shooting up through three levels of the system in his first professional season. And, although his numbers at the highest level weren't quite as gaudy as they were at the two lower levels, he was still very productive. Beer isn't known for his defensive prowess, but he certainly didn't embarrass himself in that regard as he got some great experience under his belt at both first base and the corner outfield positions. But it is Beer's bat that got him drafted and he truly excelled in hitting for average and getting on base. And I think we'll only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his developing power. Seth Beer would have been my pick for this award even if I hadn't had the chance to see him in person, but I really enjoyed seeing what a consummate professional he is and how dedicated he is to becoming the best player he is capable of being. Alex McKenna was also extremely impressive, but since he played in 23 fewer games than Beer, it made my decision easier.

OF/1B/DH Seth Beer (TC/QC/BC): 67 G, .304/.389/.496/.885, 14 2B, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB:1 CS, 25 BB:49 K

Honorable Mention (sorted by OPS)

OF Alex McKenna (TC/QC): 44 G, .311/.394/.512/.906, 8 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 6 SB:5 CS, 14 BB:40 K

SS Freudis Nova (GCL): 41 G, .308/.331/.466/.797, 3 2B, 3B, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 9 SB:5 CS, 6 BB:21 K

OF Andy Pineda (TC/CC/TC): 46 G, .288/.362/.423/.785, 6 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 12 SB:6 CS, 14 BB:43 K

OF Carlos Machado (TC): 52 G, .304/.346/.412/.758, 10 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 5 SB:2 CS, 14 BB:26 K

SHORT SEASON CATCHER OF THE YEAR

Another catcher no-brainer! Jose Alvarez, who signed with the Astros in July 2016 out of Venezuela for $195,000 played his second season in the DSL in 2018. Alvarez repeated the 50% caught stealing rate from his first season while substantially lowering the number of passed balls he allowed. But it was his offense that the 18-year old improved on most. In 2017, Alvarez started out strong but faded badly down the stretch, but in 2018, he was able to sustain his success throughout the season. Look for Alvarez to make his U.S. debut in 2019. He will be 19 years old next June.

C Jose Alvarez (DSL): 44 G, .359/.434/.420/.854, 8 2B, 15 RBI, 5 SB:2 CS, 17 BB:27 K, 50% CS rate (26 of 52)

Honorable Mention

Although there are several other extremely good defensive catchers in the lower levels of the system, no one really stood out when looking at defense and offense combined. Many of these younger catchers have shown flashes of offensive potential, but most are works in progress.

FNO = Fresno (AAA)
CC = Corpus Christi (AA)
BC = Buies Creek (High A)
QC = Quad Cities (Low A)
TC = Tri-City (Short Season A)
GCL = Gulf Coast League (Domestic Rookie League)
DSL = Dominican Summer League (Dominican Rookie League)