Saturday, July 7, 2012

Minor League Recaps

Friday's Results

DSL Astros 6 DSL Mariners 11
The DSL Astros combined for 4 fielding errors, 1 throwing error and 4 wild pitches Friday.  The DSL pitching staff allowed 11 runs (7 earned), but found a way to strike out 8 batters. Brauly Mejia, who leads the DSL Astros in BA (.269), stole 2nd and 3rd in the 2nd inning and went 2 for 5 at the plate with 2 RBI's.  Juan Hernandez is still looking for his first win this season after collecting his 2nd loss in 6 starts.   

GCL Nationals 1 GCL Astros 6
Michael Feliz pitched a solid 8 innings for the Astros Friday and picked up his 3rd win of the year.  The Astros got on the board early, scoring 2 runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings.  The combination was too much for The Nat's.  So far, over 4 games and 23 and a 1/3 innings pitched, Feliz has a 1.16 ERA.  Friday, Feliz allowed 1 run on 4 hits, struck out 4 and walked 1.  Yonathan Mejia and Juan Santana both went 2 for 4 at the plate.  Santana had 3 RBI's.

Johnson City Cardinals 2 Greeneville Astros 4 (7)
The first game Friday for Greeneville was a come from behind win.  After falling behind, 2-0 in the 1st, Greeneville began the rally in the 4th, scoring 4 over the next 3 innings. Jose Monzon went 1 for 2 with a walk and a HR.   Terrell Joyce went 3 for 3 with a double and scored a run. Zachary Dando picked up his 2nd "W" of the year after pitching the final 2.

Johnson City Cardinals 1 Greeneville Astros 0
The second game of the doubleheader Friday wasn't decided until the last inning.  The Astros only had 5 hits in the game.  2 of those hits came on Terrell Joyce singles.  Adrian Houser had a nice start, but is still searching for his 1st win.  Houser allowed 4 hits, walked 2 and struck out 6 over 7 innings. Mike Hauschild picked up the loss after coming on to close out the 8th inning.  Hauschild struck out 2 and walked 1 over 1 and a 1/3 innings.

State College Spikes 3 Tri-City ValleyCats 1
The ValleyCats seem to be falling into a bit of a funk as they completed the series with State College Friday by being swept in 3 games.  This comes on the heels of an 11 game ValleyCats winning streak.  They also committed 3 errors Friday night.  The only run of the game came on a Jesse Wierzbicki solo HR.  Wierzbicki went 2 for 3.  Andrew Aplin also got a couple of hits (2-4) with a double.  Vincent Velasquez gave up all 3 of Spikes' runs in the game by the 3rd inning, walked 3 and struck out 4 over 5 innings. Velasquez also had a wild pitch and a balk.

Lexington Legends 4 Hagerstown Suns 5
Lexington is still having a rough go of it lately.  This is the 3rd time (of 3 games) that the Legends have fallen to a come-from-behind win by Hagerstown.  Not all was glum Friday for the Legends though.  Delino DeShields picked up stolen base number 61 Friday and went 3 for 5 at the plate. Justin Gominsky got on base every trip up, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run.  Matt Duffy also had a notable night at the plate hitting 2 of 4, walking once and jacking a HR. Duffy also scored 2 and had an RBI. Luis Cruz didn't have a bad start for Lexington, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and striking out 5 over 7.   Murilo Gouvea was charged with his 4th blown save of the year but still found a way to strike out 4 batters over 2 innings.

Corpus Christi Hooks 3 NW Arkansas Naturals 0
Ross Seaton stole the show at Avarest Ballpark Friday night.  He struck out 8, walked 2 and allowed 3 hits all night.  That's right, 3 hits.  Jason Stoffel came on to face the final 2 batters of the night and struck out 1, collecting his 14th save in 15 save appearances. Drew Muren went 3 for 3 at the plate, walked once and scored a run.  Jon Singleton drew 3 walks in 4 AB's and scored a run as well.   
Visalia Rawhide 5 Lancaster JetHawks 6
Come-from-behind wins are always fun, especially when they snap a losing streak and avoid the sweep.  Lancaster scored 5 runs starting in the 7th (3 runs in the 9th) to take this one back.  Jonathan Meyer went 2 for 5 at the plate with 2 RBI's Friday night. RBI number 2 being the game winner on a walk off single.  Domingo Santana also went 2 for 5 with his bat and had a couple of RBI's.  Nicholas Tropeano had a rough outing for the JetHawks Friday, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, 2 of which were long balls.  Tropeano also threw 4 wild pitches Friday night.  Jose Trinidad picked up the win after coming on for the final 3.  Trinidad walked 2 and struck out 4, not giving up a single hit.  Trinidad's solid performance allowed Lancaster back in the game.
Game of the Day

Oklahoma City RedHawks 5  New Orleans Zephyrs 4 (11)
The only thing more fun than a come-from-behind win is a you-ain't-coming-back-on-us-tie extra innings game on the road.  That's exactly what Oklahoma City had Friday night.  Carlos Corporan even got in on the fun by going 5 for 5 and batting in the game winning run in the 11th after the game reached a 4-4 stalemate in the 7th.  Angel Sanchez went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI's and J.B. Shuck went 2 for 4 too with a couple of RBI'S and 2 walks. All 4 of New Orleans' runs came on  Armando Galarraga's watch and he left the game in the 7th. Juan Abreu and Mickey Storey combined for 8 strikeouts over the final 5 innings. Storey gave up 2 hits; Abreu gave up none.  Mickey Storey picked up the win moving him to 7-2 on the season.

What went right: Abreu and Storey took over last night and with their strong outings allowed Oklahoma the opportunity to get the win.

What went wrong: It took the RedHawks 4 innings to seize the opportunity.  Oklahoma City left 5 runners on over the 8th, 9th and 10th innings. For example, the RedHawks had 2 on with 1 out in the 10th and failed to score.

Armando Galarraga- 6IP 6H 4R 0BB 6SO 2HR
Juan Abreu- 2IP 0H 0R 1BB 4SO
Mickey Storey (W, 7-2)- 3IP 2H 0R 0BB 4SO

Carlos Corporan- 5X5 R 2B RBI BB
 Mike Hessman- 1X5 R 2B RBI BB SO
Angel Sanchez-  2X4 2RBI
J.B. Shuck- 2x4 R RBI BB
Brett Wallace-  1X4 2BB SO

Player of the Day: If I didn't say Carlos Corporan, how mad would you be?  Of course it Corporan.  He gets the honor for going 5 for 5 last night after not collecting more than 2 hits in any game this season. 

Pitcher of the Day: Ross Seaton takes the cake for his 3 hitter last night.  Seaton came 2 outs from becoming the 1st Hooks' pitcher with a 1 hitter, ever.  That's tasty cake, no matter how you slice it.

Happy Birthday - 7/6

OK, I posted the wrong birthday yesterday. I shouldn't be allowed to post at 4:00 in the morning. So a belated Happy birthday to German Rivera and Happy Birthday for real to Bob Gallagher (see yesterday).

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

3B German Rivera (52)
Rivera came to Houston in July of 1985 as part of the trade with Los Angeles for Enos Cabell. In 13 games for Houston, he hit .194/.275/.306. His career minor league average was .281/.331/.432. Rivera continued to play for the Mexican League for several years after his major league career was over.

Tweet of the Day

Rio Ruiz

May potentially make my professional debut tomorrow. Praying that I do, one step closer with much work to be done. 

Roster Moves - 7/6

Oklahoma City
OF Justin Maxwell was sent to Oklahoma City on a rehab assignment.

Corpus Christi
RHP Jarred Cosart was placed on the 7-day DL (blister).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Minor League Recaps

[Note: I will be on vacation for the next week. Either Buca Morris or I will still be doing recaps, but they may be at odd hours and they may be abbreviated at times. Thanks for reading and thanks for letting me take a little break!]

Thursday's Games

DSL Mariners over DSL Astros 5-2 in 13 innings
Samil de los Santos had an excellent six inning start, giving up only one run on six hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. Rayderson Chevalier also pitching strongly, but he needed to be perfect and he wasn't -- his one run over three innings got him a blown save. Javier Saucedo got the loss in relief. Jarico Reynosa and Brauly Mejia were the only players with multii-hit performances. There were no extra base hits.

GCL Cardinals over GCL Astros 7-4 in 7 innings (Game 1)
Jandel Gustave took over where Reymin Guduan left off after yesterday's suspended game and both pitched effectively through five innings allowing only one run. The same cannot be said of Rodney Quintero and Ambiorix Leon who combined to allow six runs over the final two innings. Two-for-three days from Darwin Rivera, Teoscar Hernandez and Wallace Gonzalez with Gonzalez getting two RBIs and Hernandez with one. Carlos Correa was one-for-four with a double and an RBI.

GCL Cardinals over GCL Astros 9-6 in 7 innings (Game 2)
Enderson Franco (L, 1-1) allowed seven runs (five earned) in only four innings and Ricardo Batista gave up a couple more in his two innings. The Astros led this one early, but nine runs was a bit of an obstacle to overcome. Raul Rivera had a terrific game going three-for-four with a double, RBI and two runs scored. Ydarqui Marte hit a solo home run; Yonathan Mejia was two-for-four with two RBIs; and Teoscar Hernandez hit an RBI triple.

Johnson City at Greeneville postponed

State College over Tri-City 2-1
Brady Rodgers got the hard luck loss after giving up only two runs as Tri-City wasn't able to scrape across more than a single run. Travis Ballew and Kenny Long provided scoreless relief. Tri-City was held to five hits. Austin Elkins had three of them. Jarrod McKinney had the only extra base hit, a double.

Hagerstown over Lexington 10-8
Mike Foltynewicz had a second rocky outing, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits over five innings, including five walks and two home runs but he kept Lancaster in the game. Gabriel Garcia got charged with the loss as he gave up another five runs (also four earned) in his three innings of work. Delino DeShields and Justin Gominsky both had two hits; Zach Johnson added three RBIs to make his total 69 for the season; Nolan Fontana had five walks, an RBI single and a stolen base in his first game for the Legends; Brandon Meredith got his eighth home run; and DeShields stole his 59th and 60th bags.

Corpus Christi over Northwest Arkansas 10-2
Bobby Doran was dealing as he only allowed one run on seven hits over five innings to get his third win in three tries for Corpus. Some great offense, including a solo home run from Jay Fernandez and a three-run home run by Jonathan Villar; a two-for-four outing by Jon Singleton including a double, a triple, and two RBIs; a three-for-four night for Andy Simunic with three runs scored; and a four-for-five night from Drew Lock with two doubles, an RBI and two runs.

New Orleans over Oklahoma City 11-1
Brian Bass (L, 1-4) got beaten up as did Wilton Lopez in his first rehab appearance. Marwin Gonzalez was two-for-four. Mike Hessman hit his 27th home run.

Visalia over Lancaster 8-7
Zach Grimmett got the loss. George Springer was two-for-four with a double and an RBI. The two Bens scored twice each (Orloff and Heath). And I have a flight to catch!

Happy Birthday - 7/7

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

OF Bob Gallagher (64)
A 17th round draft pick by the Dodgers in 1968, Gallagher was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Red Sox in 1971 and then by the Astros in November 1972. In 173 games for Houston in 1973 and 1974, he hit .230/.277/.285 before being traded to the Mets in October 1974.

Tweet of the Day

Travis Ballew

Home game at 7. Lookin to 

Roster Moves - 7/5

Houston/Oklahoma City
LHP Dallas Keuchel was optioned from Houston to Oklahoma City.
Enerio del Rosario was assigned from Oklahoma City to Houston.
Wilton Lopez was assigned to Oklahoma City for a rehab assignment.

Nolan Fontana was assigned to Lexington.

C Luis Alvarez was assigned from Lexington to Greeneville.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Futurists - OF Austin Wates on the Art of Baseball

Over at The Futurists, I take a look at Astros OF Prospect Austin Wates and his almost zen-like approach to baseball and hitting.

Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Results

DSL Astros over DSL Athletics 4-1
Johan Arias pitched five strong innings but Yonquelys Martinez earned the win (his first) in relief as the Astros scored late. Martinez only allowed three hits in his three scoreless innings and Victor Mesa nailed down the save, his second of the season. Johan Tomas de la Cruz hit a two-run shot, while Frederick Serrano contributed a solo homer to provide the bulk of the offense. Jarico Reynosa and Arturo Michelina both collected two hits for the day.

GCL Cardinals over GCL Astros 6-1 in 7 innings (Game 1)
Chia-Jen Lo got another couple innings in but was pegged with the loss as he gave up two unearned runs on one hit while recording four strikeouts. Darwin Rivera continues to hit well, going two-for-three to bring his average to .346 over 13 games. Juan Santana doubled and had the Astro's sole RBI.

GCL Cardinals at GCL Astros suspended after 1 inning 0-0 (Game 2)

Johnson City over Greeneville 6-4 in 11 innings
Daniel Minor got the start and allowed three runs on three hits over five innings. Four pitchers later, Euris Quezada got the loss as he gave up two unearned runs in relief. D'Andre Toney was three-for-six with two RBIs and Angel Ibanez was two-for-five with a double and an RBI.

Hagerstown over Lexington 3-2
Lexington is in a serious funk right now. They are 4-10 since the All-Star break and just can't seem to gain traction. Carlos Quevedo got his second start in a row after pitching in relief most of the season and was very effective as he gave up no runs in 4.2 innings. Neither team scored until the seventh inning, and the Hagerstown bullpen gave up one fewer run than Lexington's bullpen. Lexington was held to four hits and scored their two runs on a bases loaded walk by Mike Kvasnicka and a solo home run by Brandon Meredith. Spending Tuesday night on a bus probably didn't help. Look for them to rebound tomorrow.

State College over Tri-City 7-2
Alas, the streak is at an end with 11 wins. Not too shabby. The Tri-City pitchers allowed more home runs (three) than Tri-City actually scored runs of any kind, so there's that. Joe Bircher (L, 0-1) got the start but only lasted 3.2 innings as he was ejected for hitting a batter, but he hadn't been very effective having already given up three runs on ten hits. John Neely and Brad Propst each gave up two runs as well. Other than an Austin Elkins solo home run, there wasn't much excitement from the offense.

Oklahoma City over New Orleans 10-9
The Redhawks pulled this one out, barely, as Hector Ambriz decided to make things interesting by turning a 10-6 lead into a 10-9 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Paul Clemens got the start and gave up four runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings. This is the ninth time out of his last ten starts that Clemens has given up four or more runs. Marwin Gonzlez is ready to be activated from the DL. He was three-for-five with three doubles and three RBIs. Landon Powell was three-for-four with a double, a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. Jimmy Paredes (home run) and Fernando Martinez were both two-for-five.

Visalia over Lancaster 5-2
David Martinez (L, 2-4) allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings, and Pat Urckfitz pitched the final three, giving up one run. Lancaster scored one in the first and one in the second, and although they threatened a couple of times, they weren't able to score again. Chris Epps hit his fifth triple of the season but otherwise the offense was held to six singles.

Game of the Day

Corpus Christi over Tulsa 4-3
Jose Cisnero got his sixth win thanks to a three-run Jay Fernandez home run and steller relief from Josh Zeid and Jason Stoffel (S, 13). Jon Singleton is continuing to show signs of coming out of his slump as he was two-for-four with a double.

What went right: Terrific relief pitching and a good old-fashioned bomb for the 4th.

What went wrong: The Hooks only got four hits. Thankfully they made them count.

Jose Cisnero (W, 6-6) - 6IP 6H 3R 3BB 8SO 1HR
Josh Zeid - 2IP 0H 0R 0BB 2SO
Jason Stoffel (S, 13) - 1IP 2H 0R 0BB 1SO

Jonathan Singleton - 2x4 2B SO
Jay Fernandez - 1x3 HR 3RBI R

Player of the Day: Jay Fernandez' three-run shot was just what the doctor ordered. Marwin Gonzalez and Landon Powell get honorable mentions.

Pitcher of the Day: Not only did Josh Zeid have a great relief outing on Wednesday, he's been having a pretty good stretch (understatement). Over his last nine appearances (since I met him and talked to him in Corpus in early June) he has a 1.50 ERA and a 0.583 WHIP. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Happy Birthday - 7/5

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

OF/1B Curt Blefary (died January 28, 2001 at 57)
Obtained in a trade with Baltimore on December 4, 1968 and traded away to the Yankees exactly one year later, Blefary played in 155 games for Houston in 1969, hitting .253/.347/.393. Blefary was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1965 while playing for Baltimore. He also sported a rather spectacular unibrow.

Tweet of the Day

Bobby Doran

There's nothing better than baseball on July 4th! Thank you to all the veterans that make it possible 

Roster Moves - 7/4

As I'm sure you already know, 1B Carlos Lee was dealt to the Miami Marlins on Wednesday for 3B Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen. Zachary Levine has the story here.

Matt Dominguez will report to the big club at least until the All-Star break. Rasmussen will report to the Corpus Christi Hooks team.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Minor League Schedule and Recaps

Wednesday's Games
DSL Athletics
DSL Astros
9:30 CST

GCL Cardinals
GCL Astros
10:00 CST

4:05 CST

State College
5:00 CST

Johnson City
6:00 CST

Oklahoma City
New Orleans
6:00 CST

Corpus Christi
6:05 CST
9:00 CST

GCL Cardinals
GCL Astros
Game 2

Tuesday's Results

DSL Athletics over DSL Astros 4-0
Edwin Villarroel (L, 2-1) allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks over his five innings. The Astros only managed four hits with Randy Cesar and Jarico Reynoso getting two each.

GCL Astros over GCL Marlins 4-0
Edison Frias (W, 2-0), Michael Feliz and Erick Gonzalez combined for a five hit shutout. Darwin Rivera was three-for-five with an RBI; Carlos Correa had the only extra base hit, a double; Yonathan Mejia was two-for-for with an RBI; and Ydarqui Marte had two hits as well.

Greeneville at Kingsport postponed

Asheville over Lexington 2-1
Jonas Dufek got the start but only pitched one inning before the rain came. After the delay, Tommy Shirley (L, 0-1) pitched four as did Mitch Lambson. Lambson was particularly effective, allowing only one hit and no walks with seven strikeouts. But Lexington just never got much of anything going at the plate. Mike Kvasnicka scored the only Lexington run on a wild pitch. Matt Duffy was two-for-four with a double and Justin Gominsky hit a double as well. Delino DeShields got his 58th stolen base.

Tulsa over Corpus Christi over Tulsa 5-1
Jarred Cosart got knocked out of the game after only 4.2 innings in which he gave up four runs on eight hits. He tweeted right after the game about a blister, a problem that sidelined him earlier in the season. Erick Abreu allowed no runs over his 3.1 innings, and Arcenio Leon allowed one in the final frame, but the Hooks never got anything going beyond an RBI single by Jonathan Villar in the third inning. Drew Muren and Jay Fernandez both hit doubles, two of only four hits for the entire Hooks staff for the night.

Oklahoma City over Memphis 11-10 in 10 innings
Starter Aneury Rodriguez allowed seven runs on 10 hits over 4.1 innings. A total of six pitchers were used with Xavier getting charged with a blown save in the ninth and Mickey Storey getting the win in the tenth. Jimmy Paredes (3x5, 2B, 3B), Mike Hessman (1x5, HR, 3RBI), Brett Wallace (3x3, RBI), J.B. Shuck (1x4, 2B, 3RBI), and Carlos Corporan (1x4, 2RBI) all had good nights at the plate, but it was Fernando Martinez' two-run walk off home run that made him the hero of the night.

Modesto over Lancaster 7-6 in 11 innings
Jorge de Leon pitched an effective four innings but a big fifth was his undoing as he allowed five runs on four hits and two walks in six innings. His team bailed him out by tying things up in the ninth. It was Kirk Clark who got charged with the loss in extras. The top of the order did a fine job of hitting with Grant Hogue going two-for-four and scoring three runs; George Springer two-for-four with a double and his 17th home run; Erik Castro three-for-six with two doubles and two RBIs; and Domingo Santana hitting a clutch two out two run single to tie the game in the ninth.

Game of the Day
Tri-City over Lowell 7-2
Juri Perez pitched seven very strong innings and it was a pitcher's duel through the top of the eighth, Lowell scored two runs off reliever Juan Minaya in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Trailing 2-0 going in to the top of the ninth, it looked likely that the 10-game winning streak wouldn't make it to 11. But then the improbable happened. Two hit batsmen to start the inning followed by three singles and another hit batsman, a sac fly that didn't result in an out due to a fielding error, force out, sac fly, stolen base, single, two more stolen bases, and finally a strikeout = seven runs for Tri-City. Jamaine Cotton, who came in to relieve Minaya in the bottom of the eighth, pitched a very effective ninth for the win.

What went right: Frankly, Andrew Aplin, Dan Gulbransen and Emilio King taking it for the team as they all got hit by pitches really helped set up the win.

What went wrong: 11 strikeouts.

Juri Perez - 7IP 5H 0R 2BB 6SO
Juan Minaya - 0IP 2H 2R 1BB 0SO
Jamaine Cotton (W, 1-0) - 2IP 0H 0R 2BB 0SO

Ryan Dineen - 2x4 2RBI SO R

Player of the Day: Fernando Martinez walk-off bomb anyone? Don't mind if I do.

Pitcher of the Day: Juri Perez kept Lowell from scoring for the first seven innings to give Tri-City the chance to get their 11th straight win.

Happy Birthday - 7/4

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B/SS Vinny Castilla (45)
A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Castilla got his start playing in the Mexican League. After playing a couple of seasons for Atlanta, he was picked up by the Rockies in the expansion draft where he earned two All-Star appearances and three Silver Slugger awards. After being released by Tampa Bay in May of 2001, Castilla signed as a free agent with Houston and played in 122 games for the Astros that season, hitting .270/.320/.492 with 28 doubles and 23 home runs.

RHP Dan Larson (58)
A first round pick by the Cardinals in 1972, Larson was traded to Houston in October of 1974 and made his major league debut as an Astro in July of 1976. In 45 games for the Astros in 1976 and 1977, he was 6-15 with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.379 WHIP. He was traded to Philadelphia in September of 1978.

MGR Hal Lanier (70)
Lanier managed the Astros from 1986 to 1988 and compiled a 254-232 record (.523 win percentage). In 1986, he was named the NL Manager of the Year for leading the Astros to a 96-66 record and a first place finish in the NL West.

Tweet of the Day

Travis Ballew

A 3 hour bus ride is so much better after a sweep

Brady Rodgers

 not only after a W but after an 11 game win streak

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Interview with Bobby Heck, Part 2

In case you missed it from yesterday, Part 1 can be found here.

My interview with Bobby Heck continues (again edited for clarity and brevity) ~

On how one becomes a scout: "Usually you're a bad player. [laughter] I played in the minor leagues for a few years. I grew up in south Florida and once I got done playing I had a chance to go on and had some opportunities but I saw the writing [on the wall]. I guess I was a pretty good scout, knowing that I was just going to be spinning my wheels and got back and finished up my degree while I went back and I coached at the junior college I played at in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - Broward Junior College. At that time, I thought I wanted to be on the field and be in player development but I got to create some relationships with some scouts that were in the South Florida area and I was lucky I had a pretty good mentor, a guy name of Steve Souchock, who incidentally was in the Yankees organization for over 30 years as a player, as a coach, and roomed with Joe DiMaggio at one time. He kind of steered me toward the scouting world and once I got a taste of it, it's definitely what I wanted to do. And from there, I was coaching in my junior college, finishing up my degree and had a chance to be an associate scout ... the term [is] bird dog scout where you don't get paid, you help out a full-time scout, try to turn up names and look for players and help that guy out. It can lead to opportunities, which it eventually did. I actually started as an associate scout with the Brewers and did that for two years. Then they put me on part-time. That was still without pay [but] I got reimbursed for my expenses and that led to a full-time area scout position in '95 with the Texas Rangers."

On the new draft rules: "We've had rule changes over the years. We don't get to pick them but we always have to work within the rules that we're given. It took a while to digest and understand how we're going to have to go about this, but I think no one really knew what was going to happen until we got engaged in the draft and the parts were moving at that point. I think philosophically we looked at it a lot of different ways. We just looked at it as a pool of money and weren't married to any of the soft assigned slots and what we tried to do was maximize that top ten pool money and we feel like we did. We feel like we executed the plan that we set out to."

On not having a clear cut number one pick: "I've never picked number one before. You look back through the history of the draft where there's just clear cut number ones. You can't really pass on a talent. In recent drafts with Harper and Strasburg, and you go back over time with Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr., where they're clearly a different grouping than the rest of the players in the draft and they almost, they pick themselves. But that player wasn't in this draft. Fortunate, unfortunate, the plus was we had options, we had a handful of players where we had a collective opinion that we liked them and then Correa, with that signing, it did allow us to see some opportunities beyond the first pick."

On the success of this year's minor league affiliates: "It's fun reading our minor league reports each day because obviously we'd been getting our head beat in know[ing] we had the worst collective record in minor league baseball last year and we had no teams that were. 500. Then we get to the draft and we have four of our long season clubs that get through the first half and all are playing over .500, very competitive, and with the same players because we hadn't added this new draft class [yet]. We had added some guys at AAA that were free agents which you do every year, but obviously we did a better job of that. We had a number of players repeat this year, which a lot of them needed to do, but even those that repeated are still below league average age wise. It doesn't change their prospect status. It's been fun watching and I think as much as Jeff [Luhnow] gets credit for his scouting acumen and resume in St. Louis, he was also heavily involved with the minor league development, and I think his shadow has been cast on that side as well because the [improved] run differential is tied to a lot of things we're doing much better. We're catching the ball better in the minor leagues. Our pitchers are striking out more hitters than they did last year and the difference between earned runs and unearned runs has tightened up as well and that says a lot for how our pitchers are handling situations as well as [how] our defenders are doing."

On working with new GM Jeff Luhnow and new owner Jim Crane: "With Jeff and his background, it was almost like having two scouting directors. He was familiar with a lot of the players, then putting what he did in St. Louis together, combined to what we had done here since my arrival, I think once we sat down and lined our stuff up against one another, we realized we do things much more similar than probably people would have thought from the outside. I do know, over the past five years, we've been in a lot of the same parks as the St. Louis Cardinals. I think there were a lot of assumptions made that we were going to become a Moneyball club, but we never really saw St. Louis as a Moneyball club when Jeff was at the reins. We didn't do a whole lot different or ask our scouts to do a whole lot different than they were doing. I would say the management and application of information is much more advanced than we were doing. I think that was probably the biggest leap we made as a scouting staff in helping us make decisions, but the one common thread [is that] we've got a good group of scouts here. Did we have to change? No, I just think we had some adjustments to make and some adapting to new thoughts and new ideas. I think Jim's very aggressive and Jim has a thorough understanding of having a pipeline of players coming through. It takes a long term commitment, a heavy financial commitment, an aggressive commitment to buy into that, which Jim does and from that standpoint, I think he understands that there's a time for this process. We live in an instant gratification world now, but I think from Jim's playing background he understands as much as we live with clocks, a lot of baseball is still timeless and it takes a time commitment to rebuilding an organization."

My thanks to Bobby Heck for his time and his graciousness. As we wrapped up the phone call, he once more assured me with a good-natured chuckle, "No, we're good, we're good." What the Heck, Bobby? lives on.

Minor League Schedule and Recaps

Tuesday's Games

DSL Astros
DSL Athletics
9:30 CST

GCL Astros
GCL Marlins
11:00 CST

6:00 CST
6:05 CST

6:05 CST
Corpus Christi
7:05 CST
Oklahoma City
7:05 CST
9:05 CST

Monday's Results

DSL Indians over DSL Astros 2-1 (completed early)
Elieser Hernandez (L, 0-2) got the loss despite allowing only two unearned runs on five hits over six innings. Yoel Silfa didn't help Hernandez out much as his two errors led to the runs being unearned; however, Silfa did his best to make up for his questionable defensive play by getting the only Astros hit of the day and scoring on an error himself.

GCL Marlins over GCL Astros 6-3
Brandon Culbreth (L, 0-2) got mugged early and often as he allowed all six runs over only three innings. Ricardo Batista and Agapito Barrios did a fantastic job out of the bullpen allowing no further runs and only four hits the rest of the way. Brett Phillips has already hit his fifth triple in only 12 games; this is a kid to watch. Darwin Rivera was three-for-four with an RBI, and Teoscar Hernandez was two-for-four.

Kingsport over Greeneville 5-4
Frederick Tiburcio (L, 0-1) had a rough start allowing four runs over only three innings and the Astros were able to match those first four, but not the final run allowed by Michael Dimock in relief. No hitter managed more than one hit and only Ariel Ovando had an extra base hit, a double.

Lexington over Asheville 6-5
Lexington needed this win badly and that's how they ended up getting it, badly. Luis Ordosgoitti pitched a great game through seven, but struggled in the eighth and left the game with a run in, bases juiced and two outs. Enter Dayan Diaz who allowed all three of Ordosgoitti's runners to score and what had been a comfortable 6-1 lead rapidly became a very uncomfortable one run lead. Mercifully Diaz regrouped in the ninth to get three quick outs to ensure the win. Delino DeShields showed off the power with his sixth home run, a two-run shot. Zach Johnson is definitely heating up at the plate as of late and went two-for-four with two doubles and his 66th RBI of the season. Jose Fernandez had a two-run double.

Corpus Christi over Tulsa 5-4
Jake Buchanan wasn't really fooling the hitters last night as he allowed three runs on nine hits in only 4.1 innings of work. Alex Sogard allowed one additional run in his 2.1 innings before Henry Villar and Jason Stoffel (W, 1-1) shut down Tulsa. Tulsa led 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth but a two-run walk off home run by Jonathan Villar (his eighth home run of the season) put a nice exclamation point on the night. The other hero of the night was Jon Singleton. After a rather prolonged slump, his bat woke up with a vengeance last night as he banged out two doubles and a two-run home run.

Oklahoma City over Memphis 7-1
Brett Oberholtzer (W, 2-1) decided to show off for the boss last night as Jeff Luhnow was in attendance. Oberholtzer allowed only one run on six hits over 6.1 innings before handing things over to Mickey Storey and Enerio del Rosario. Oberholtzer also helped himself out at the plate as he got an RBI on a bases loaded walk. Marwin Gonzalez continues to do well in his rehab assignment as he went two-for-two with two RBIs; Mike Hessman had two hits, including his 25th home run, a solo shot; and Brandon Barnes (who is hitting .325 by the way) provided a two RBI single.

Lancaster over Modesto 8-7
Lancaster scored all of their runs by the third inning and led the Nuts 8-2 by the end of the third. After that it was just a matter of hanging on which turned out to be easier said than done. Tyson Perez (W, 6-2) allowed three runs, Brian Streilein allowed another two, and Jose Trinidad allowed yet another two runs and Modesto pulled within one run in the bottom of the seventh. Thankfully Trinidad pitched an effective eighth and Pat Urckfitz (S, 5) pitched an uneventful ninth to seal the deal. The JetHawks jumped all over Nuts starter Juan Gonzalez and forced him out of the game in the second inning. George Springer was four-for-five with a double and two RBIs. Erik Castro and Domingo Santana each contributed two hits and two RBIs. And Chris Epps added an RBI triple to the mix. Grant Hogue was only one-for-four with a walk (but he did manage to steal a base and score three runs) and his batting average plummeted all the way down to .523.

Game of the Day
Tri-City over Lowell 2-0
Brian Holmes, Travis Ballew and Blake Ford combined for a four hit shutout against Lowell. Tri-City only managed five hits, but made them count. Jesse Wierzbicki's lead-off double in the second and Joe Sclafani's lead-off triple in the fifth set the table for Jobduan Morales and Neiko Johnson to drive them in. Tri-City has now won ten games in a row.

What went right: Fantastic pitching and good situational hitting.

What went wrong: Not enough to mention.

Brian Holmes (W, 1-0) - 6IP 2H 0R 2BB 3SO
Travis Ballew - 2IP 1H 0R 1BB 2SO
Blake Ford (S, 6) - 1IP 1H 0R 0BB 0SO

Joe Sclafani - 1x4 3B BB SO R
Neiko Johnson - 1x3 RBI BB
Jesse Wierzbicki - 1x4 2B SO R
Jobduan Morales - 1x3 RBI 2SO

Player of the Day: Four-for-five with two RBIs? Yeah, I think I'll send a little love to George Springer today.

Pitchers of the Day: I have to go with Brian Holmes, Travis Ballew and Blake Ford for the combined four hit shutout. Nicely done, gentlemen!

Happy Birthday - 7/3

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Moises Alou (46)
Originally drafted by the Pirates as the second overall pick in 1986, Alou came to Houston in a November 1997 trade with the Marlins. In 421 games for the Astros in 1998, 2000 and 2001, he hit .331/.403/.585 with 93 doubles, eight triples and 95 home runs. Alou was a six-time All-Star including his 2001 season with Houston. He also won the Silver Slugger award (for the second time) for Houston in 1998.

OF/1B Danny Heep (55)
A second round pick by the Astros in 1978, Heep played in 165 games for Houston from 1979 to 1982, hitting .246/.314/.344 before being traded to the Mets for Mike Scott. Heep was used mostly as a bench player and pinch hitter throughout his career which netted him World Series rings with the 1986 Mets and the 1988 Dodgers.

RHP Matt Keough (57)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the seventh round in 1973, Keough came to Houston at the end of his career, signing as a free agent in June 1986. In 10 games for Houston (5 starts), he was 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.143 WHIP. Keough was a one-time All-Star for Oakland in 1978.

LF/1B Jack Daugherty (52)
Daugherty came to Houston as a free agent in January of 1993 and was traded to the Reds in July of that year. He only played in four games for Houston, getting three at-bats and one hit for a .333 batting average. His best season was his 1990 season with the Rangers when he hit .300/.347/.435 in 125 games.

Tweets of the Day

Aaron West

 Beats by Bircher available for purchase for $300. If not sold they will be returned to the owner on the bus tomorrow.

Joe Bircher
 I realized I left them halfway back to my shot I'm making the 1/2 mile journey back to yours to pick them up!

Aaron West
 I don't want you to walk a half hour just to get them back. See you at 3 for the exchange. paper bag third seat on left.

Roster Moves - 7/2

OF Jay Austin was placed on the 7-day DL retroactive to 6/30.

Also, no longer an Astro but this may be of interest to you. Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller Times tweeted a link to an article last night that said T.J. Steele was retiring from baseball (he had been playing for the San Antonio Missions) and is considering playing college football.

Monday, July 2, 2012

An Interview with Bobby Heck, Part 1

Well, I finally got up the nerve to arrange a phone interview with the person whose name I blatantly (mis)appropriated when it came time to give my blog a catchy moniker. I was frankly terrified as I picked up the phone to dial, wondering if I might be greeted with the threat of a cease and desist order at the other end. I couldn't have been more wrong.

When Bobby Heck, Astros Assistant GM, Scouting, answered the phone, I immediately did two things. I congratulated him on last month's terrific draft, and then I addressed the elephant in the room, "I'm sorry I co-opted your name. I didn't realize this thing would take off the way it did." The laughter came, and it was sincere. "We're fine. No, we're good. As long as they don't start throwing darts at it, I'm good." Phew!

I started by talking with him about how the Scouting Department is set up and just generally the big picture of how it all works. Let's start with the last first. Heck sent me this detail on the breakdown after the interview:

·         15 full-time Area Scouts, 5 per region (East, Midwest, & West)
·         4 part-time scouts (PR, NYC, San Diego, & the Bay area of Northern CA)
·         3 Regional Supervisors (JD Alleva/East, Ralph Bratton/Midwest, & Mark Ross/West)
·         1 National Crosschecker (David Post), this role is solely evaluating prospects and he becomes my other set of eyes and ears.

New this year was Mike Elias, Special Asst to GM /Scouting who Jeff brought in with him from STL. Mike is highly involved in a number of areas of scouting (international, professional, & our system). He served this Spring as another National Scout seeing the same caliber of players as myself  & David Post.

The Regional Supervisors crosscheck players that have been turned in for the first 5-7 rounds of the Draft; these players are typically players that are deemed to be Average Major Leaguers or better within our profiling system. The focus for Elias, Post, & myself is the top 2-3 rounds & more of my focus is on the top 50 players.

He went on to emphasize that the entire structure is very much a group effort that feeds off opinions from the bottom up.

On to the interview (edited for clarity and brevity)  ~

On a general overview of the Scouting Department: "Most importantly, we start with 15 area scouts, so called ground troops, and they're divided up into three regions. We have five in the east, five in the central and five in the west. The larger concentration of that group of fifteen is in the southern part of the United States. Looking at my map here, 10 of our 15 really are in the southern end of the country, the southern third. I go out actually and see a number of players. I'm almost like another National Crosschecker. Every Scouting Director does it different. I think some go out and try to see 50 or 75 or 100 players deep and each one is different to that. I try to get out as much as I can and to be involved more with the evaluation process as well as the administrative responsibilities that go along with this position."

On the concentration of scouts in the Southern U.S.: "There are probably some clubs that are closer to this model. If you go back over time and you look where the players have come from, and continue to come from, what's amazing is the percentages that come out of the draft and then the percentages that wind up on the 40-man roster [from certain areas of the country]. The numbers, the parallels are truly remarkably close. We've tried to concentrate our scouts to where most of the players are and still keep a handle on the northern part of the country. If you go to the northwest, our guy has six states. Our upper midwest guy has nine states. Our Ohio Valley guy has five states. But then we have two guys in Florida, two guys that cover Texas, three guys that cover California. We have a guy that does Georgia (and South Carolina as well) and those are the top four states there."

On where they concentrate scouting efforts: "When this last draft ended, the next one started. There's a national event that is the Perfect Game national event that is two weeks after the draft each year. This year it was in Minneapolis for four days. Perfect Game gathers up what they think at that time [are] the top 100 to 125 high school players in the country and we'll send four or five scouts to that. For the most part, this is the kick off [of what Heck refers to as the summer third of the scouting program] and then it ends with the Under Armour Game and the Perfect Game All-American Game late in August. But between those two, there's big tournaments that we cover in depth. There's a Tournament of Stars that just went on in Cary, North Carolina. We had five scouts at that event. And that's really become tryouts for the Junior National team. We really saturate a lot of these high school events during the summer and, for the most part, the best players from college go to the Cape Cod League which we collectively see 50 to 60 games as a staff as well as the U.S.A. National team. So we'll see these players in the summer. Every time we go to an event, our scouts turn in a preferential list of the players they saw there and they rank them and then put them in different categories as per how we profile players and these lists continue to evolve. The summer ... becomes where we identify players and work on seeing them in different venues against good competition and just really take those repetitions and develop history with them in the short periods of time from all the places they play.

And then the second third is the fall season where we go out to the colleges. Most of the major college programs have scout days. They play a lot of scrimmages and intersquad games and most of them have a World Series to cap off their falls. Then we have an opportunity to go back on to these campuses and see these players and see how they progress, whether it's [from] their freshman year or sophomore year or from the summer, and we continue to see the player evolve. Then there's a couple of bigger events for the high school players that we can see where they're progressing at that point in time. The first list the scouts turn in [after the fall] has the players that are on your radar for 2013 and that list will grow and be curtailed as they see the players more, and by the time we get to December first, that list is more ... how we're going to prioritize and scout the players come to the final third of the [scouting] year as we go into the spring."

Heck went on to explain how players will often come to their attention while they are scouting other players. As an example, he used Tampa Jesuit. Since the scouts had seen Lance McCullers numerous times, they would also have seen other players with Tampa Jesuit. "You're going to wind up seeing a junior that's interesting and probably a sophomore just because the legacy of that program. So the junior is going to go onto a 2013 follow list. The sophomore's going to go on a 2014 follow list. [At] colleges, you'll see a freshman, you'll see a sophomore, and they go onto these lists that are down the road. '13, '14 and '15 - these lists are ongoing and they're updated every time we go out and see players."

On how often they will see a mid rounder before drafting him: For the most part ... an area scout would have seen him multiple times and he could have seen him for over a period of two to three years. When you get that low in the draft, it's much more dependent on the area scout. Our crosscheckers, our focus is really the first five rounds of the draft. We've really concentrated on the first five rounds as far as getting extra eyes on players. [That] really takes us through the first ten rounds and then you're really reliant on your area scouts out there so the players that are taken later in the mid rounds of the draft are players that they've had history with. If it's a high school player, they've probably seen them for a year, year and a half, up to two years ... and, at some point in time a regional supervisor would have seen him at some venue or tournament. Possibly there [are] times where I see twenty, twenty-fifth round [players] on Cape Cod league or at the Florida Diamond Club or Jupiter World Wood Bat Tournament."

In Part 2 to be posted on Tuesday, we talk about how one becomes a scout, the new draft rules, working with Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane, and the improvements in the Astros minor league system.

Minor League Schedule and Recaps

Monday's Games
DSL Astros
DSL Indians
9:30 CST

GCL Marlins
GCL Astros
11:00 CST

6:00 CST
6:05 CST

6:05 CST
Corpus Christi
7:05 CST

Oklahoma City
7:05 CST
9:05 CST
Sunday's Results

Tri-City over Lowell 6-3
Tri-City has now won nine in a row. This one was a bit closer, but they still never trailed. Aaron West allowed two runs over 4.2 innings. Jeremiah Meiners allowed one run in 2.1 innings of relief, but got the win, and Blake Ford got his fifth save of the short season and still has a 0.00 ERA. Jobduan Morales hit his second home run in as many nights; Andrew Aplin had a triple; and Dan Gulbransen, Ryan Dineen, Morales and Joe Sclafani all had multi-hit games.

Asheville over Lexington 10-7
The bad news is that Asheville has won three in a row over Lexington. The worse news is that it's a five game series. Starter Luis Cruz allowed two runs in his five innings of work, and Lexington was up 6-2 through six. Then two of their best relievers had a meltdown. Evan Grills and Murilo Gouvea (L, 2-4) combined to allow seven runs in only three innings. Delino DeShields was three-for-four and is now hitting .275, .333 over his last ten games. Roberto Pena had four RBIs including a three-run home run. Chan Moon was two-for-four with a double.

Oklahoma City over Memphis 6-2
Armando Galarraga (W, 2-1) had a nice start as he allowed only two runs on seven hits over six innings, and Xavier Cedeno and Hector Ambriz provided scoreless relief, which was literally a relief after OKC allowed 20 runs last night. Marwin Gonzalez was two-for-three with a solo home run in his rehab appearance. Jimmy Paredes was two-for-four and Brett Wallace was two-for-three as he waits patiently for a big, fat bloated first baseman contract to get out of his way. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.

Northwest Arkansas over Corpus Christi 2-1
Ross Seaton had a beautiful outing, allowing only two runs on six hits over seven innings but still got pegged with the loss as the Hooks were only able to scrape across four hits and one run on a Chris Wallace home run. Josh Zeid was reportedly dialing it up a notch in his relief outing as he allowed one hit and struck out two. Kevin Chapman also provided a scoreless inning.

Lancaster over Modesto 3-1
Nick Tropeano had a fantastic first start for Lancaster as he allowed only one unearned run on five hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in eight innings of work. Andrew Robinson closed it out in the ninth with no hits and two strikeouts for his fifth save. The JetHawks were held to four hits. Thankfully, two of them were home runs - a two-run shot by Domingo Santana in the first and a solo homer by George Springer (his 16th) to add insurance in the ninth.

Game of the Day
Greeneville over Kingsport 12-0
Starting pitcher Francis Ramirez walked more batters than I would like, but he got away with it as he didn't allow a run over his six innings. As a matter of fact, he only allowed two hits and the bullpen only allowed one hit for a combined three-hit shutout. Greeneville had three big innings as they hit well with runners on base. D'Andre Toney, Ernesto Genoves and Ariel Ovando all hit two run doubles, and Jimmy Howick hit a two run home run.

What went right: Hitting with runners in scoring position and really good pitching.

What went wrong: Quite frankly, one caught stealing and one wild pitch is not worth mentioning, so I won't.

Francis Ramirez (W, 2-0) - 6IP 2H 0R 5BB 7SO
Zachary Hardoin - 1IP 0H 0R 0BB 0SO
Andrew Walter - 1IP 1H 0R 1BB 0SO
Euris Quezada - 1IP 0H 0R 0BB 0SO

D'Andre Toney - 2x4 2B 2RBI BB SO
Ernesto Genoves - 1x3 2B 2RBI BB SO R
Ariel Ovando - 1x4 2B 2RBI BB SO 2R
Jimmy Howick - 1x4 HR 3RBI 2R
Jose Monzon - 2x3 BB SO 2R

Player of the Day: Roberto Pena has always been a good catcher and defensive player. If he really puts it together as a hitter as he appears to be doing, he will indeed be the whole package.

Pitcher of the Day: Nick Tropeano just proved in his first start for Lancaster that his promotion was absolutely justified.