Saturday, December 7, 2013

Astros Roster Moves/Transactions

The moves out of the Astros front office have been coming fast and furious and the Winter Meetings haven't even started yet! In the latest move, the Astros announced that they have signed RHP Chad Qualls to a two-year agreement with a club option for a third year. The 35-year old Qualls most recently pitched for the Miami Marlins in 2013 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.226 WHIP in 66 appearances out of the bullpen. He walked 19 and struck out 49 in 62 innings. A groundball pitcher, Qualls only allowed four home runs in 2013.

Qualls was originally drafted by Houston in the second round in 2000 and played for the Astros from 2004 through 2007 before being included in a trade to the Diamondbacks for Jose Valverde. In 262 games for Houston, he had a 3.39 ERA and a 1.236 WHIP in 284 innings.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Friday, November 8


Zulia 1, Caracas 0 in 11 innings

Former Astros farmhand Freddy Parejo finally put someone on the board after 10.5 innings worth of zeros. An error allowed Zulia to walk off with the victory.

Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez: 0-5, K

Águilas del Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez: 0-4, K

Lara 7, Margarita 2

In the first game of a doubleheader, the club from the island of Margarita couldn't recover from an early 3-0 deficit and never really threatened. Eric Berger dropped his 3rd consecutive decision.

Bravos de Margarita
LHP Eric Berger: L (2-4), 4 IP, 4 H (solo HR), 4 R (3 earned), 3 BB, K


No results since 12/4.


12/6 Games

Melbourne 7, Adelaide 0

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 0-4

12/7 Games

Game 1: Melbourne 3, Adelaide 0

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 0-1, BB

Game 2: Melbourne 5, Adelaide 4 in 11 innings

Adelaide suffered the doubleheader sweep by getting blanked for a 2nd straight game in the first game, and then they walked off with a loss in extras.

Moving over to 2B for game 2, Joe Sclafani was 2-5 with 2 runs scored. He drew a walk and struck out once.

Game 2: Brisbane 3, Perth 0

The ABL's top team settled for a split against the bottom team. The Heat got a run in the top of the 8th to take a 4-3 lead and they would take game 1 by that score. In the 2nd game, though, the Bandits got the shutout for the split.

Perth Heat
LHP Cameron Lamb: IP (8th), 2 H


Los Mochis 3, Guasave 1

Guasave was held to 3 hits in the game. 

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras: 0-4, K
1B Japhet Amador: 1-2, 2 BB, K

Mexicali 11, Culiacán 2

Culiacán was blitzed early and often and as a result, they were in a 10-0 grave after the 5th inning.

Tomateros de Culiacán
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo: 2.1 IP, H (solo HR), ER, K; that homer came off the bat of 2012 OKC Redhawk Brad Snyder.


Toros 1, Gigantes 0

Teoscar Hernandez entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the 8th. He did not appear at the plate for the Bulls of the East.

Licey 3, Estrellas 2

Alex Hassan's (Red Sox) RBI single in the 8th was the decisive hit for Licey.

Tigres del Licey
LF Ruben Sosa: 0-4, 2 K


Mayagüez 14, Carolina 2

Mayagüez completely dominated the middle portions of this game, as their 12-1 run from the 3rd-7th put them firmly in control. 

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Enrique Hernandez: 0-3
1B Carlos Corporan: 0-4, K

RHP Raul Rivera: 1.2 IP, 3 H (2-run HR), 3 R (2 earned), 3 BB, K

Santurce 2, Ponce 1

All the scoring was done in the 9th inning. Santurce's 2 trumped Ponce's 1 in the inning.

Cangrejeros de Santurce
CF Adron Chambers: 2-3, R, BB
1B Jonathan Singleton: 0-3, 2 BB, 2 K
LF Austin Wates: 0-2, 2 BB

Happy Birthday - 12/7

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Frankeny Fernandez (17)
Fernandez signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in July 2013. The story of his signing with a brief quote from Astros Director of International Oz Ocampo can be found here.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

C Hal Smith (83)
Drafted from the Pirates in the 1961 expansion draft, Smith played in 140 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963, hitting .236/.287/.365. His best season was probably 1957 when he hit .303/.328/.483 for the Kansas City Athletics with a 37% caught stealing rate. He got his one World Series title with the Pirates in 1960.

LHP Bo Belinsky (died November 23, 2001 at 64)
A Rule 5 pick from the Phillies in 1966, Belinsky pitched in 27 games (18 starts) for Houston in 1967, going 3-9 with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.439 WHIP.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Roster Moves/Transactions

The Chronicle is reporting that the Astros have signed Free Agent RHP Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million deal. Feldman split his 2013 season between the Cubs and Orioles, compiling a 12-12 record with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP in 30 starts (181+ innings pitched). Feldman will be 31 in February.

Baseball America today confirmed the Peter Moylan signing, but there has been no confirmation yet on the reported Adron Chambers signing. Currently, the Astros have not officially announced either although they have been widely reported by other sources.

UPDATE: According to this article, OF Eric Thames has signed with a South Korean team, in which case the 40-man roster is back down to 36. (h/t to @KevinBassStache)

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Thursday, November 8


Caracas 5, Zulia 3 in 11 innings

The capital club scored 2 in the top of the 8th to tie and 2 in the 11th to take the lead. After an 0-fer with 2 whiffs on Wednesday, J.D. Martinez reached base in all 4 of his plate appearances. 

Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez: 2-2, 2 BB

Águilas del Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez: 1-5


11/3 Games

Tampa Bay 6, Magallanes 0

Magallanes was held to 1 hit in this game.

1B Luis Alvarez: 0-3
DH Ernesto Genoves: 0-1, 2 BB

Bravos 5, La Guaira 4

After Bravos scored 3 in the bottom of the 7th to take a 5-2 lead, La Guaira got 2 in the 8th to get within 1. They had 2 runners on base in the 9th, but their comeback bid was thwarted by a game-ending double play.

2B Carlos Perdomo: 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R

No results for Thursday's games yet. 


Obregón 6, Guasave 3

Guasave held a 3-2 lead after the 5th, but it was Obregón that came out on top, thanks to 4 unanswered in the last 4 innings.

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras: 0-3, RBI force out in 3rd
1B Japhet Amador: 1-3, 2B, BB


Toros 4, Estrellas 3

This was a battle between the 2 teams at the foot of the table in the LIDOM. Both of them traded 3-run innings (Toros got theirs in the 3rd, while Estrellas reciprocated in the 5th), but the Bulls of the East walked off with the win as Teoscar Hernandez reached on an error on a force out attempt in the 9th, allowing Alen Hanson (Pirates) to score the winner.

Toros del Este
CF Teoscar Hernandez: 1-3, 2B, R, SB (2), BB

Águilas 3, Gigantes 2 in 10 innings

In the latest installment of the Cibao derby, Águilas got the first 3 batters to reach in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a bases-loaded single from Joaquin Arias (Giants).

Gigantes del Cibao
RHP Rhiner Cruz: Blown save (1), 0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, BB


Santurce 4, Caguas 3

Jonathan Singleton is now on a 5-game hitting streak. 

Cangrejeros de Santurce
CF Adron Chambers: 2-3, 2 R, BB
1B Jonathan Singleton: 1-3, RBI single in 5th, BB, K
LF Austin Wates: 1-4, K, outfield assist

Mayagüez 4, Carolina 3 in 12 innings

A single put Mayagüez ahead in the 12th inning, and Carolina went quietly to end it.

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Enrique Hernandez: 1-5, 2B, BB
C Rene Garcia: 1-4, 2 RBI (single in 2nd, was also credited with an RBI on an error in the 6th)
1B Jobduan Morales: 0-1, K; entered game in the 11th as a defensive replacement. His at-bat came in the 12th.
C Carlos Corporan: 0-1, K; pinch-hit for Rene Garcia in the 11th.

Happy Birthday - 12/6

No future Astros, but two former Astros have birthdays today ~

LHP Jay Dahl (died June 21, 1965 at 19)
Dahl's entire major league career consisted of pitching two and a third innings for the Colt .45's at the ripe old age of 17. The game featured an all rookie line-up, including such notables as Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub. For the story of his all too short life, his tragic death and the aftermath, go here.

C Kevin Cash (36)
Cash signed with Houston as a free agent in January 2010 and played in 20 games for Houston, hitting .204/.271/.333, before being traded to Boston in July of that year for Angel Sanchez.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Astros Winter League Recaps

Wednesday's Games


Magallanes over Caracas 10-0
Magallanes put a beat down on Caracas, punctuated with a six-run ninth inning, and J.D. Martinez did not have his best night for the Leones.

Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez - 0x4 2SO


No results posted since Monday's games


Obregon over Guasave 4-2

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 0x3 BB
DH Japhet Amador - 2x4 R


Licey over Toros 4-1 in 10 innings

Tigres del Licey
PR Ruben Sosa - Sosa entered the game as a pinch runner in the top of the 10th, promptly stole second base and scored the go ahead run on a Emilio Bonifacio (KC) triple.

Toros del Este
LF Teoscar Hernandez - 0x3 BB SO


Santurce over Mayaguez 9-2

Santurce put up five runs in the first, thanks in part to a two-run Jon Singleton home run which drove in Adron Chambers who had a lead-off double and who may or may not be a part of the Astros because the front office has STILL not confirmed his signing which is just annoying me to no end .... um, where was I? Oh, yeah, Singleton had a VERY good game. He definitely looked loose in the clubhouse before the game ...

Cangrejeros de Santurce
CF Adron Chambers - 1x4 2B BB SO 2R
1B Jon Singleton - 3x5 2B HR 3RBI 2R

Caguas over Ponce 3-0

Criollos de Caguas
C Roberto Peña - 1x4 RBI

Happy Birthday - 12/5

Happy Birthday to ~

DH/1B Mike Martinez (24)
Martinez was drafted in the 36th round in 2012 out of Florida International University. In 59 games for Tri-City in 2013, Martinez hit .225/.291/.413 with seven doubles and 11 home runs. He is currently on the restricted list.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Steve Shea (71)
Shea signed with Houston as a free agent in August 1965 and pitched in 30 games for the Astros in 1968, going 4-4 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.486 WHIP.

RHP Buddy Harris (65)
A first round pick by the Astros in 1968, Harris pitched in 22 games for the Astros in 1970 and 1971 with a 6.32 ERA and a 1.486 WHIP. In six seasons in the minor leagues, he was 44-40 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.147 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Conversation with Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, Part 2

In Part 1 of my conversation with Jeff Luhnow, we discussed the state of the Astros farm system, some Rule 5 considerations, the "piggyback" rotation and the makeup of the Astros bullpen. Today, we continue by talking about the Astros Venezuelan presence, a few minor league standouts, one pitcher who appears to have escaped from "Weiland Island" and more.

Jeff Luhnow - Fan Fest 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

JH: In making your rounds of the minor league ballparks during the past season, were there any players that stood out? Maybe someone who wasn’t on your radar previously?

JL: As a General Manager, you spend a lot more time with the big league team than you do with the minor leagues. I read the reports every day, but [it’s helpful] when you get a chance to go out there and see these players in person. You have to take into account that they might have played really well for you while you were there, and who knows if that’s the true player -- the coaches know them a lot better, but I’d say a couple of guys, for me, were standouts at least when I was out watching them. [CF Andrew] Aplin. I liked him the year before, but I think this year watching him in the games that I watched him … defensively, I tried to get my mind around the fact that some of the plays he made were the plays that Gold Glove centerfielders make. That’s the caliber of defense that I saw. It was a limited look, but I was pretty excited about that. [RHP Brady] Rodgers. The fact that he was in that league all year and performed as well as he was able to perform was pretty exciting and I think he will get a chance to prove himself next year in AA.

I also have to say just having come back from Venezuela, [RHP Jamaine] Cotton, I saw him a couple of times this year, but watching him just recently last week in Venezuela … if you look at the numbers he put up at the very end of the season last year, combine that with the stuff right now in Venezuela, I think he’s moved himself pretty far up the list.

The catcher at Quad Cities, [Roberto] Peña could be our best defensive catcher of all. Outstanding looking young man. That team was loaded obviously but I think Peña is sort of an unsung hero on that team because a lot of attention went to the third baseman [Rio Ruiz] and shortstop [Carlos Correa] and centerfielder [Teoscar Hernandez] and so forth.

Tri-City … the pitching in Tri-City. Everybody is going to be talking about [RHP Michael] Feliz. Feliz had a great year and deserves whatever accolades are coming his way. He’s a pretty exciting player, but [RHP Kyle] Westwood is a guy that hasn’t received a lot of attention, but did a really nice job when I was there. Lot of confidence. Looks like he’ll be able to succeed at the higher levels. I really like [CF James] Ramsay out of the draft. He played well. These guys really did a heck of a job. There were a lot of good players from this year’s draft that were exciting.

JH: I know that you and [Director of International] Oz Ocampo have been working to increase the Astros’ presence in Venezuela. How is that going?

JL: It’s something that we’re going to continually evaluate. Oz has done a terrific job of spending a lot of time in Venezuela and that’s the first step, just going down there. Everybody has scouts down there, but when I went down there last year, we met with a lot of the trainers, agents that work down there and what they said is, “Everybody scouts down here, but first of all, you’re the first General Manager to come down here in quite some time, and second of all, a lot of the international directors don’t spend a ton of time down here and when they do come down, they come down for a few days and they won’t travel around the country. So, certain areas of the country, we have to bring the players to you and they may have really long travel schedules and be exhausted by the time they get here and you don’t always see them in the best light.”

So we’ve done a concerted effort to get down there more and both Oz and Mark Russo have spent a significant amount of time in Venezuela in the past year and I think that’s a big step. The Astros had terrific results in Venezuela, but we feel like we haven’t been as good as we have in the past and so part of it is having Oz and Mark spend more time down there, both my visits the last two years and working together with whatever partners we have down there. We just established a partnership with one of the minor league teams to be able to do more than [just have them play] there because during the winter, like right now, having a little more control over how our players are getting developed is an important element for succeeding. So we set up a team with La Guaira in the Paralela League and we’re going to continue to explore opportunities from both the player evaluation standpoint as well as the player development standpoint.

JH: I should probably know this, but I don’t. Who is Mark Russo?

JL: He’s our international crosschecker. He’s probably one of the most important people in our organization and no one’s ever heard of him. He’s terrific though. He travels 250 days a year, internationally, and he spends a lot of time evaluating players and [looking at] 15 and 16 year old players in the Dominican and Venezuela and all over Central America, Asia, etc.

JH: Whose idea was it to send American players to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela this winter? I thought it was a terrific idea.

JL: Allen [Assistant Director of Player Development Allen Rowin] and Q [Director of Player Development Quinton McCracken]. I talked to [Jamaine] Cotton last week when I was down there and he’s really benefiting from the experience. Not only is he getting to pitch in a good league, but just the whole cultural experience of living with the other players down there, being in that country and so forth. The other player that really opened eyes was [OF Brett] Phillips. He really opened eyes. For a guy that basically played for a year in the Appalachian League, they were seriously considering, and had he not come back [for personal reasons], I think he would have been on the big league team down there. When we sent him to Quad Cities, he was only supposed to go there for a couple of weeks to kind of fill in. They loved him so much, they didn’t want to let him go. The plan was for him to go to the Appy League all along [since] he was in the Gulf Coast League last year, [but the Quad Cities crew] said, “No, no, leave him here with us. We’ll take care of him.”

JH: Did anyone stand out during your visit to the Dominican Republic this winter? There are some very interesting pitchers down there.

JL: We had about two or three days of games, but we put a lot of trial players into the games so I [only] saw a couple of our guys, but [we are very] excited about what the guys have been able to do down there in terms of both scouting and continuing to develop the pitchers.

I also went to instructional [league in Florida] and I saw guys like [LHP Reymin] Guduan and [RHP Jandel] Gustave and it’s hard not to get pretty excited when you see those guys. [Note: Both Guduan and Gustave routinely flirt with 100 mph fastballs.]

Junior Garcia … I just saw him in the Paralela League a couple of days ago. He’s a pretty exciting left-handed pitcher. There’s a whole bunch of them that we’re excited about for sure.

JH: Now for some random questions. Do you have a philosophy about what you’re looking for in a DH, or is that evolving? In other words, would you prefer to have a true DESIGNATED hitter or do you like to be able to mix and match?

JL: It’s evolving and I think it depends. [Chris] Carter, I think, can be a good DH. He can also be a good first baseman so it depends on where [Brett] Wallace fits in the equation or anybody else we sign. And we were pretty aggressive pursuing a Cuban free agent this year [1B Jose Abreu] and we didn’t land him, but had we landed him, he would have been our first baseman and that would have naturally moved Carter and Wallace more towards DH and outfield, third base, whatever. I think it’s one of those things you kind of evaluate year by year. If you end up signing a DH only on a multi-year deal, you limit yourself somewhat because those at-bats can be useful for rotating players and giving people rest. I think it will evolve. It kind of depends on your roster and how you want to produce runs and where those guys can play defensively.

JH: I know that player injuries and the status of their rehab are delicate subjects, but can you tell us anything about any of the pitchers that missed the 2013 season?

JL: [RHP] Alex White is very much on schedule. You have Tommy John, you have rehab and you come back and I truly believe Alex White is going to be a big part of our team this year at the big league level. His rehab has been progressing very, very well. There’s a reason why we traded for him and unfortunately we lost a year, but I think that he’s going to be a contributor. We may choose to bring him along slowly in terms of having him be in the bullpen instead of rotation, but he made our team last year. I think there’s a good chance he’ll make our team again this year and if not, he’ll certainly spend a large part of the season up here. I’m excited about that.

JH: You know I have to ask about [OF] George Springer. Is Super Two status a factor or the factor in whether or not Springer makes the team out of Spring Training?

JL: There’s a [whole] process about what makes sense for the player and for the team and what’s the right time so there are no fast rules about it, there are no expectations. He’s going to come to Spring Training and we’re going to evaluate him and evaluate the rest of the team and make a decision. But there are no guarantees he’s going to be on the team opening day. There are no guarantees he won’t be on the team. Really, it’s still to be determined.

JH: One final thing. Please tell me that the Astros are NOT going to get the first draft pick in 2015.

JL: We certainly do not want to have the first pick again next year.


I keep going back to something that Luhnow said when I talked with him around this time last year.
It seems like sometimes in other sports [when] you rebuild, you’re bad for a year or you’re bad for two years, and then you’re back. In baseball, it’s like turning a battleship around. It’s not something that you can really do very quickly.
Forgive me a cheesy metaphor, but when Jeff Luhnow took over the helm of the U.S.S. Astros two years ago, she had hit a mine, had holes in the hull and was listing badly. She is now heading out to sea, repaired and painted with a full complement of young able-bodied sailors at the ready. The journey is just starting, but all hands are on deck with the same destination as their common goal, and Captain Luhnow has the map.

Thank you for your time and generosity, Captain.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Tuesday, December 3 


All-Star Tuesday in Venezuela!

LVBP All-Star Game: Fanáticos 4, Periodistas 3

Equipo Periodistas clawed back into the game with a 3-run homer in the 9th, but their comeback bid fell just short.

LF J.D. Martinez: 0-2, K


11/2 Games

Caribes 7, Magallanes 2

Magallanes scored 2 in the bottom of the 7th to make it 4-2, but Caribes quashed the comeback attempt by scoring 3 unanswered in the final 2 innings.

C Luis Alvarez: 0-3 as the 1B

Tiburones 7, Zulia 6

Zulia managed to tie the game by scoring 3 in the top of the 8th. Tiburones had a nice rebuttal, though; they walked off with the victory.

SS Alex Gonzalez: 0-4, 2 R, 2 BB, K
C Marlon Avea: 3-5, 2B, RBI, R, BB, K

RHP Joselo Pinales: IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K
LHP Junior Garcia: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K
RHP Jamaine Cotton: W (1-0), 0.1 IP, K

Game 1: Bravos 8, Seattle 1

In the first game of a twinbill, Bravos busted out for 6 in the 3rd after opening the game with 2 runs to win comfortably.

2B Carlos Perdomo: 2-4, 2 R

Game 2: Bravos 2, Seattle 2

Bravos emerged out of the doubleheader unbeaten, as they got 2 in the 6th to tie.

2B Carlos Perdomo: 0-4, K


Culiacán 8, Los Mochis 2

Los Tomateros got off to a flying start, leading 8-1 after the 4th inning, and outside of a run allowed in the 6th, they cruised for the rest of the night.

Tomateros de Culiacán
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo: IP, 2 H (solo HR), ER, K

Obregón 12, Guasave 9

Former Astro farmhand C.J. Fick bore the brunt of a 6-run 6th inning from los Yaquis, which was a part of a 10-3 run in the middle third of the game.

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras: 2-5, 3B, 3 R
1B Japhet Amador: 2-4, RBI single in 1st, K; Despite the slump that he's been going through, this was Amador's 3rd consecutive game with an RBI.


Toros 6, Licey 5

Pedro Feliz's solo homer in the 8th put Toros on top. 

Toros del Este
LF Teoscar Hernandez: 1-4, K

LHP Raúl Valdés: 5.2 IP, 7 H (solo HR), 5 R (4 earned), 3 K

Tigres del Licey
LF Ruben Sosa: 0-1, sac fly in 3rd


Ponce 9, Santurce 3

After Santurce tied the game at 2 in the top of the 3rd, Ponce ran off 7 unanswered beginning with 2 in the bottom of the 3rd.

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jonathan Singleton: 1-3, R, BB, K
LF Austin Wates: 1-2, BB, K
CF Adron Chambers: 0-2, K; first appearance of the season.

Happy Birthday - 12/4

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Joe Musgrove (21)
A first round pick by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove came to the Astros organization as a part of the July 2012 10-player trade with that team. He spent a good chunk of the season rehabbing in extended Spring Training, followed by 11 rehab appearances with the GCL Astros in July and August. In 11 games (three starts), Musgrove was 1-3 with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.439 WHIP. He walked four and struck out 30 in 32+ innings.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

2B Lee Bales (69)
Obtained in an October 1966 trade with Atlanta, Bales played in 19 games for Houston in 1967, hitting .111/.306/.111.

LHP Gustavo Chacin (33)
Chacin came to the Astros as a free agent in December 2009. In 44 games for Houston in 2010, he had a 4.70 ERA and a 1.852 WHIP. Chacin pitched in the Mexican League in 2013.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Roster Moves/Transactions

The Astros announced today that they have traded OF Brandon Barnes and RHP Jordan Lyles to the Rockies for OF Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later. The Crawfishboxes has the story here. The Astros 40-man roster now stands at 36. I have updated the ongoing offseason transaction list.

A Conversation with Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, Part 1

I wouldn’t really characterize this as an interview with Jeff Luhnow, but rather as a conversation with him. Everyone I know who has met him for the first time is struck by how easy it is to talk with him. He is approachable, self-effacing, good-humored and highly intelligent. And when he talks to you, you never get the feeling that there is someplace he’d rather be.

When we spoke last week, we touched on a wide variety of topics, but we started with the one thing that we discussed last year about this time and which we intend to turn into an annual event.

Jeff Luhnow - Fan Fest 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

JH: First things first. I won’t ask you to give a State of the Union address, but tell me what you think about the State of the Astros Farm System.

JL: I think we’re in great shape. Most of the moves that we made over the past two years really have been looking at addressing our future talent and I think a lot of the acquisitions we made, a lot of the trades we made, a lot of the moves we’ve made, have been looking at the pipeline as a whole, trying to plug holes and just trying to increase the quality and the quantity of prospects up and down. And we also had a couple of drafts where we’ve picked at the top and a couple of international signing periods where we’ve been able to deploy some resources, and I think all of that has led to a system that’s in pretty good shape. We’re very healthy right now. Obviously, the proof is in the pudding. Whether or not these players get to the big leagues and perform at a level that helps us accomplish our goals in Houston is ultimately what it’s all about, but as far as all the metrics we have that we can look at, expectations for the players, scouting reports, win-loss records in the minor leagues, prospect rankings, etc., we feel very good about where the system is today.

JH: Two of the areas that you worked to address over the last couple of years were catching and left-handed pitching. Are there any other areas that you feel need to be addressed in terms of depth?

JL: It’s a constant ebb and flow throughout the system and I think we did address the catching depth. We saw that as a potential problem going forward and I think right now, we’re in good shape with three good looking young prospects at the AAA level [Max Stassi, Carlos Perez and Rene Garcia] who project to be major leaguers down the road and behind them, there’s at least one at every level behind them which we like.

Left-handed pitching is always going to be an area we’re going to need to focus on and quite frankly, one of the reasons we added [LHP Luis] Cruz [to the 40-man roster is that] we certainly don’t want to take a chance on losing left-handed starting pitching prospects. So I think we’ve done a nice job of adding depth there. We certainly can use some more left-handed starters throughout the system so that’s something that we’re going to be looking at.

JH: I was a little surprised that Cruz was protected from the Rule 5 Draft because he had spent very little time at AA, but I’ll admit I was pleased with his addition to the 40-man roster.

JL: I think, from our perspective, the way we think about it is we understand the probabilities of different players getting taken and how much time they spent at different levels and all that, but really, the question you have to ask yourself is how are you going to feel on Thursday, December 12th at 10:00 a.m. if that player is taken? Obviously you’ll regret any player getting taken you think has value, but that’s really, at the end of the day, the gut check for us. How are we going to feel if we left that player unprotected and they get taken? Are we going to regret it?

JH: We touched on this last year, but I think it bears repeating. It’s not all that easy to squirrel away a Rule 5 pick on your 25-man roster for a full season. A maximum of only about 8 or 9 players have stuck with the drafting team over the last few years. Realistically, there aren’t that many players who do stick for a full season.

JL: There aren’t, but two of the guys we took two years ago, [SS] Marwin [Gonzalez] and [RHP] Rhiner [Cruz] both stuck and then last year [RHP Josh] Fields and the first baseman [Nate Freiman], although the first baseman went to another team, they both stuck. So we’re responsible for four of those selections which is a pretty big percentage. It’s one of those things that keeping a player on your 25-man roster that another team didn’t seem to think needed to be protected on their 40-man roster, it’s just very difficult to do. And I think that’s part of the issue, but having said that, when you do lose somebody and they’re gone, there’s a reason why these players get selected and so, it’s a low probability event, but it’s a high severity event in that you may lose a pitcher, position player that might end up being a very good player. I mean everybody fears losing a Johan Santana in the Rule 5 draft because it’s happened before.

JH: I talked with [Astros Baseball Analyst] Mike Fast briefly about last year’s Rule 5 Draft and he told me that the Astros were definitely concerned that they might lose Marc Krauss, but ultimately, Fast was told that, although other teams were definitely interested in Krauss, they couldn’t make room on their rosters.

JL: There are certain positions that are easier to carry, but we’re going to cross our fingers. We know eventually someone’s going to get taken from the Astros, whether it’s this year or next year, but we’ll cross our fingers that it’s not somebody who won’t be returned to us or we can’t live without.

JH: Another factor that some people may not think about is how many players are on each team’s 40-man roster already. I looked at the rosters recently and only seven teams had more than one opening at that time.

JL: I think if you don’t have room on your 40-man right now and you try and sign a major league free agent, you’ll have to create room. We look at that also, how many teams are up against their backs, but typically by the time the Rule 5 draft rolls around, over half the teams will have at least one spot. The ones that don’t, obviously, they can’t take anybody.

JH: The piggyback rotation seems to have been a success last season. Is that something that you’re planning on using again in 2014?

JL: We’re going to talk about it, but I really like the results of the piggyback this year. One of the reasons we did it last year was because we had a lot of starting pitcher candidates to evaluate and when you limit yourself to five spots in each level, you really end up putting a lot of potential starters in the bullpen. We have the same issue again this year. I’ve already started the exercise of putting together the rosters for the minor leagues for next year and there are way more than five starters at every level basically, so I think it’s going to be something that we start with out of the gate again. [Minor League Pitching Coordinator] Dyar [Miller] did a terrific job of managing it last year. We’re not beholden to any particular date. If we feel like the AAA staff pares itself down so that it’s five or six guys after a month, we’ll switch after a month. If we feel like all eight guys need to continue to get those innings for the first two months or longer, we’ll continue it. There was sort of a natural transition for the teams when they transitioned off of it last year and we’ll probably do the same thing this year. You don’t want to support an eight-man rotation just to do it. If it makes sense and you have enough starting pitcher candidates you want to evaluate, then do it.

JH: Everyone I spoke with last year during my travels to the various minor league venues really seemed to like the piggyback. The only drawback seems to have been that a few relief pitchers didn’t get much work in the early part of the season.

JL: True, but that’s a double-edged sword. That can go both ways. I’ve seen times when the guys in the piggyback are not making it through their innings and the relievers are having to be used more than they would in a traditional system so it’s both ways. But that’s why we do it. We want the eight most valuable pitchers to get the innings they need to develop, and then you have obviously to prioritize your relievers after that. You may have a potential closer or set up candidate and you make sure they get innings, but really, it’s a good way to make sure the innings go to the right pitchers.

JH: It was helpful that you were able to get a trio of relief pitchers [RHP Andrew Robinson, RHP Jonas Dufek and LHP Alex Sogard] some extra work in the Arizona Fall League, as well as showcasing them. Dufek had a particularly good fall campaign.

JL: It’s great. It really is great. And I think he [Dufek] raised his stock by going out there. They faced a lot of good hitting out there. That’s for sure.

JH: I really want the focus of our conversation to be the minor leagues, but I did want to ask about your plans for the major league bullpen for 2014. I know that it’s tough putting together a major league bullpen when relief pitchers can be so volatile from year to year.

JL: It’s the biggest issue when it comes to relievers that the number of innings that they get is much lower than the number of innings a starter gets. As a part of that, you’re not going to have as good a feel from one year to the next and there is going to be just more variability. And then what they’re asked to do in a number of different circumstances, coming in [for a] short stint with no rest one day to the next and so forth … there are just so many variables involved and it does seem to be an inherent increase of variability from one year to the next relative to both starters and position players so it’s difficult. It’s part art, part science.

Our minor league system was able to produce guys like [LHP Kevin] Chapman and [RHP Chia-Jen] Lo and [RHP Josh] Zeid and [RHP David] Martinez and [RHP Jorge] de Leon, and those guys all have the potential to be really good relievers at the big league level. The ones at the end of the year [who] were the furthest along were Fields and Chapman and Zeid and so you can imagine a major league bullpen with all three of those guys in it next year. And you look down the road, guys like [RHP Jason] Stoffel … he’s got a major league slider … Robinson, Sogard, Dufek, there are other guys. [RHP Jose] Cisnero had a really good beginning of the year up here. There are a lot of guys that could fit in to the mix. [LHP] Rudy Owens, if he’s not a starter could be a reliever. [RHP] Jake Buchanan, same thing. There are a lot of possibilities, but one thing we’re not going to do during the next year, [is having them] exposed and having to rely strictly on these young guys. We can mix and match it and I’m sure Bo [Astros Manager Bo Porter] will do a tremendous job of figuring out which guys to use, but at the end of the day, we do feel like we need a couple of arms that are a little bit more secure and have a little bit more of an established track record to provide some stability in the bullpen.


In Part 2 of our conversation (which I will post tomorrow), Luhnow and I talk about topics ranging from the Astros Venezuelan presence to minor league standouts to the DH to Alex White. And, of course, I had to ask him about George Springer.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Monday, December 2


Caracas and Lara was postponed... again. This game was originally scheduled for November 9. The box score lists "Power" as the cause of the postponement, so I'm guessing the lights went out.


Licey 2, Gigantes 0

Rudy Owens gave up those 2 Licey runs in the 2nd. Although Owens was saddled with the loss, he still put up a solid pitching line.

Tigres del Licey
LF Ruben Sosa: 0-3, 2 K

Gigantes del Cibao
LHP Rudy Owens: L (2-2), 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 8 K


Santurce 7, Carolina 3

Jonathan Singleton's 8th-inning solo homer off Daichi Hoshino broke a 3-3 tie for Santurce, and they went on to add 3 more in the 9th to get the victory.

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jonathan Singleton: 2-5, solo HR (6) in 8th
LF Austin Wates: 1-3, R

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Enrique Hernandez: 1-5, 3 K
C Carlos Corporan: 0-4, K; he started at 1B.
C Rene Garcia: 1-4, RBI single in 6th

Happy Birthday - 12/3

No future Astros, but two former Astros celebrate today ~

RHP Dave Eilers (77)
Drafted by Houston from the Mets in the 1966 minor league draft, Eilers pitched for the Astros in 1967 going 6-4 with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.433 WHIP in 35 appearances.

RHP Jerry Johnson (70)
Johnson first came to Houston in a November 1973 trade with Houston and pitched in 34 games for the Astros in 1974 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His best season was for the Giants in 1971 when he was 12-9 with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in 67 appearances.

Tweet of the Day

Monday, December 2, 2013

Astros Fall and Winter League Cumulative Stats

The cumulative stats for all Astros (minor league and major league) players who either are participating or have participated in fall and winter league ball follow. Free agents are noted with an asterisk. Stats are through Sunday's games.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Sunday, December 1

Includes 11/30 games in the Liga Paralela.


Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez: 1-3, 2B, RBI, R, BB, K

8 runs in the top of the 9th turned an already-comfortable win for Zulia into a laugher.

Águilas del Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez: 0-3, K; Marwin missed out on the fun, as he was the only starter without a hit. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning. 


Tiburones did their scoring in the first 2 innings and got a solid night from their pitching staff.

SS Alex Gonzalez: 1-5, R
C Marlon Avea: 0-3, K

Aragua tagged Enderson Franco for 2 runs in the 1st, and that turned out to be all they needed.

RHP Enderson Franco: L (1-4), 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 K


Guasave walked off with the victory despite blowing a 5-1 lead in the top of the 9th.

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras: 2-5, R
1B Japhet Amador: 0-3, sac fly in 1st, BB, 2 K as the DH


Tigres del Licey
OF Ruben Sosa: Entered game as a pinch-runner in the 9th.


Caguas scored 2 in the 6th to tie the game at 3, then tacked on 2 more in the 7th to take the lead.

Criollos de Caguas
LHP Luis Cruz: 4.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Happy Birthday - 12/2

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Kristian Trompiz (18)
Trompiz was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in July 2012. In his first professional season with the DSL Astros, he hit .202/.291/.288 with seven doubles, four triples and one home run in 60 games.

SS Thomas Lindauer (22)
Drafted in the 23rd round in 2013 out of the University of Illinois, Lindauer split his first pro season between Tri-City and Greeneville. He fared much better at the latter venue, hitting .247/.306/.320 in 29 games in the Appy League.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Darryl Kile (died June 18, 2002 at 33)
A 30th round pick by the Astros in 1987, Kile pitched in 209 games (182 starts) for Houston from 1991 to 1997, going 71-65 with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.408 WHIP. In post-season pitching for Houston, he was 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 0.571 WHIP. Kile was an All-Star for the Astros in 1993 and 1997 and is honored with a memorial plaque on the outfield wall at Minute Maid Park.

Tweet of the Day

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Saturday, November 30


Caracas 11, La Guaira 6

Caracas got it started with 3 in the 1st. When La Guaira responded with 4 unanswered to take the lead, los Leones' rebuttal was a 6-run 5th inning. And finally, they added on 2 insurance runs in the 8th to seal the W.

Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez: 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, R

Margarita 6, Zulia 5 in 10 innings

Zulia scored 3 in the top of the 8th to tie, but the Islanders wound up walking off with the win in the 10th on a single from Manny Pina.

Águilas del Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez: 2-3, RBI single in 4th, R, 2 BB as the DH


Guasave 5, Navojoa 2

Both squads scored a run in the 1st and the 4th innings. Guasave took the lead in the 6th, then added on 2 more in the 8th to pick up the victory.

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras: 0-4
1B Japhet Amador: 1-4, 2B, RBI, 2 K


Licey 12, Gigantes 9

Licey scored their dozen in the first 4 innings, after which they led 12-8. Gigantes got a run in the 9th, but the Licey bullpen was able to close the deal.

Tigres del Licey
LF Ruben Sosa: 1-3, 2B, 3 R, BB, K; Sosa made his first start after 2 pinch-running appearances.


Ponce 1, Santurce 0

This game was suspended in the bottom of the 1st due to wet grounds.

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jonathan Singleton: 1-1
LF Austin Wates: Has not appeared at the plate.

Mayagüez 5, Carolina 4 in 15 innings

Carolina scored a run in the top of the 9th to take a 3-2 lead. But, Mayagüez responded with 1 in the bottom of the inning to tie. They exchanged runs in the 11th to preserve the deadlock, and then Mayagüez walked off with the win in the 15th on a single from Roberto Perez (Indians). Noel Cuevas (Dodgers) doubled to lead off the inning. 

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Enrique Hernandez: 1-6, RBI single in 11th, BB
1B Jobduan Morales: 0-3, BB; Entered game as a defensive replacement in the 8th. 
C Rene Garcia: 1-2, R, BB
C Carlos Corporan: In his first appearance of the season for Carolina, he was hit by a pitch while pinch-hitting for Rene Garcia in the 8th.