Saturday, January 25, 2014

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Friday, January 24

Neither of these leagues are in the playoffs yet.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Perth 5, Adelaide 4

The Heat's 5 runs were unanswered, and their rally culminated with a 3-run bottom of the 8th. They've already clinched a spot in the ABL Championship, but it doesn't seem like they're going to be taking the final series off.

Perth Heat
RHP Cameron Lamb: Save (3), IP, 2 H, BB, K

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 3-4, 2B, R, BB

Also, here's a result from Wednesday in Panama that I overlooked:

LIGA PROFESIONAL DE BEISBOL DE PANAMA

Indios 8, Industriales 7

Industriales put up a touchdown in the 3rd... yet they were unable to hold that lead and wound up walking off with a loss.

Industriales de Herrera
RHP Agapito Barrios: IP (final out of the 7th, first 2 outs of the 8th), H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K

The Panamanian season ended on Thursday, but the box scores from those games are not yet available.

Happy Birthday - 1/25

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

RHP Vern Ruhle (died January 20, 2007 at 55)
A 17th round pick by the Tigers in 1972, Ruhle signed with Houston as a free agent in March 1978. In 186 games (93 starts) for the Astros from 1978 to 1984, he had a record of 39-46 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP. His best season with Houston was 1980 when he was 12-4 with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.111 WHIP in 28 games (22 starts).

2B Ernie Fazio (72)
Signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1962, Fazio played in 114 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963, hitting .179/.270/.271.

LHP Philip Barzilla (35)
Drafted by the Astros in the fourth round in 2001, Barzilla faced two batters in one-third of an inning on June 11, 2006 and gave up a hit, leading to his major league career 0.00 ERA and 3.000 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Friday, January 24, 2014

Astros Minor League Player Releases

I received confirmation of a few more player releases from January. All of these last played in the Dominican Summer League. Castillo and Santana last played in 2012.

Astros Minor League Depth - Third Base

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Ryan Dineen and Darwin Rivera are no longer in the organization.]

Earlier this week, we looked at the Astros minor league depth at the first base position. Today, let's move to the hot corner. There were a number of players who played third base in the Astros system in 2013, but those players listed below were the only players who spent a majority of their time at the position. For the sake of this exercise, I'm going to consider players such as Joe Sclafani and Angel Ibanez (who spent extensive time at two or more positions) as utility players. The players have been sorted high to low by OPS.

 


Matt Duffy - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jonathan Meyer is known as a plus defender at the position and his bat is a work in progress, but he definitely has more than a little power. My interview with Meyer, posted on Wednesday, will give you much more insight into the type of player he is. Matt Duffy started his season with Lancaster and was promoted to the Hooks in August. Duffy has been known more for his bat than for his defense in the past, but that has changed and he is now considered a solid defender by most. Duffy's offensive numbers fell off in the 24 games after the promotion, but he ended the season on a high note, hitting .289/.325/.500 over his last 10 games. Duffy's overall OPS for the season was the highest in the Astros minor league system in 2013 for any player not named George Springer. Both Meyer and Duffy were named post-season All-Stars, Meyer for the Texas League and Duffy for the California League.

Rio Ruiz - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

At the lower levels of the organization, Tyler White (the Astros 33rd round 2013 draft pick), went on a rampage in his first professional season. His bat earned him two promotions over a very short time frame. He breezed through 18 games with the Gulf Coast League Astros and 18 games with the Greeneville Astros before landing in Tri-City for his final 28 games. His bat cooled off a bit in the New York-Penn League, but he still managed a more than respectable .286/.362/.384 batting line there. White walked 27 times while striking out only 24 times in 64 games. Adam Nelubowich, another 2013 draftee (18th round) started off slowly with the bat, but started hitting better toward the end of the season. He hit .278/.391/.333 over his last 10 games.

Rio Ruiz' batting line for the season does not do justice to the season he had. After a slow start, he got progressively better each month. By the end of the season, the fourth round 2012 draft pick was putting up some monster numbers. In his final 10 games of the season, Ruiz hit .395/.452/.711. He hit .370 with three home runs and seven RBI in the post-season.

Darwin Rivera is in his fourth season with the Astros system. A post-season All-Star for the GCL in 2012, he wasn't able to duplicate that success with Greeneville in 2013. He turned 22 in October. 25th round 2012 draft pick Ryan Dineen has struggled with the bat in his two seasons with the organization although he has shown some decent on-base skills.

Randy Cesar, a Dominican prospect who just turned 19 earlier this month, was one of the offensive highlights on a Dominican Summer League team that didn't generate a lot of offense. Cesar hit a very solid .286/.392/.365 in August, the final month of the season.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Results for Thursday, January 23

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE


Adelaide dropped a game behind Sydney, who won 4-3 over Melbourne last night. The Bite got 2 in the top of the 9th to make this a 1-run game, but they stranded runners on 1st and 2nd to end it.

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 1-5, RBI force out in 9th; would have been the tying run.

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO


Escogido finally got themselves off the canvas as led 5-1 after 3 innings and held off a Licey rally in the late stages of the game.

Leones del Escogido
RHP Jorge De Leon: Allowed a double to the only hitter he faced (Rene Rivera) in the 7th. He was charged with that run. 

Top 100 Prospect List

When Jonathan Mayo published his Top 100 Pre-Season Prospect List in 2013, there were four Astros players among them:

27. Jon Singleton
30. Carlos Correa
57. George Springer
89. Jarred Cosart

This year's list includes seven Astros, with three repeating and Cosart graduating to the big leagues.

8. Carlos Correa
17. Mark Appel
21. George Springer
50. Jon Singleton
52. Lance McCullers
54. Mike Foltynewicz
66. Delino DeShields


Only one team, the Red Sox with nine, has more players in the Top 100 than Houston. The Cubs tie Houston with seven in the Top 100. They are followed by the Pirates with six and the Twins with five. And here is how the AL West stacks up:

Astros - 7
Rangers - 5
Mariners - 2
A's - 1
Angels - 0

The Angels are the only team with zero in the Top 100, followed by the Brewers and A's with one each.

Happy Birthday - 1/24

Happy Birthday to ~

C Jake Rodriguez (22)
Drafted by Houston in the 19th round in 2013 out of Oregon State University, Rodriguez spent his first professional season with the Short Season A Tri-City team. In 32 games, he hit .209/.320/.291 and boasted a 47% caught stealing rate.

RHP Juan Hernandez (21)
Signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2012, Hernandez played for the DSL Astros in 2013. In 14 games (7 starts), he was 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.263 WHIP.

Former Astros celebrating birthdays today ~

LF Sandy Valdespino (75)
Valdespino came to Houston in a December 1968 trade with Atlanta and played in 41 games for the Astros in 1969, hitting .244/.326/.277.

LHP Ross Powell (46)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1989, Powell came to Houston from Pittsburgh in July 1995. In 27 games for Houston in 1994 and 1995, he had a 6.61 ERA and a 2.327 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Astros Fall and Winter League Playoff Recaps

Results for Wednesday, January 22

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey 1, Escogido 0 (Licey leads series 3-0)

Lew Ford, a Port Neches native best known for his tenure with the Twins, broke the deadlock with an RBI double in the top of the 9th. Ruben Sosa then came on to pinch-run for him. All the momentum in this series is in Licey's corner as they're just 2 wins away from their first championship since 2009.

That was the only game in which a member of the Astros organization appeared. In Mexico, Navojoa jumped out to a 7-1 lead on Hermosillo after 4 innings and took game 2 by a score of 7-4 to even up the LMP championship series at 1.

Caguas walked off with a 5-4 win in 11 innings to take a 2-1 lead over Mayagüez in Puerto Rico, and Caribes and Magallanes will face off for all the marbles in Venezuela beginning tonight.


Happy Birthday - 1/23

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Carlos Vasquez (19)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in January 2012, Vasquez first appeared professionally for the Dominican Summer League Astros in 2013. In eight appearances, he had a 4.26 ERA and a 1.816 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Don Nottebart (died October 4, 2007 at 71)
Nottebart came to Houston in a December 1962 trade with the Milwaukee Braves and pitched in 88 games (76 starts) for the Colt 45's and Astros from 1963 to 1965 with an ERA of 3.86 and a WHIP of 1.244. Nottebart pitched Houston's first no-hitter on May 17, 1963 against the Phillies.

2B Joey Amalfitano (80)
Amalfitano was drafted by Houston from the Giants in the 1961 expansion draft and played in 117 games for the Colt .45's in 1962, hitting .237/.317/.303.

1B/OF Benny Distefano (52)
A second round pick by the Pirates in 1982, Distefano signed with Houston as a free agent in January 1992. In 52 games for the Astros that season, he hit .233/.303/.300.

RHP Brandon Duckworth (38)
Duckworth came to Houston as a part of the Billy Wagner trade with the Phillies in November 2003. In 26 games (eight starts) for the Astros in 2004 and 2005, he was 1-3 with an 8.08 ERA and a 1.778 WHIP.

Bonus Tweet of the Day

Tweet of the Day

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Angst in Astros Land

And there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments far and wide across Astros land today. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

The Astros did not sign Masahiro Tanaka. The Astros were never going to be able to sign Masahiro Tanaka, not with the free agent market running as wildly as it has this winter. Didn't this signing have New York Yankees written all over it even before the deal was announced?

So, $155 million for 7 years and that doesn't even include the $20 million posting fee. For a pitcher who hasn't thrown an MLB pitch yet. Yes, he has astonishing numbers in Japan. He may very well turn out to be the love child of Walter Johnson and Cy Young, or his arm may have been cloned in a Petri dish from Roger Clemens' DNA. Or his arm may fall off next year. Either way, it is a $175,000,000.00 gamble.

And it is a gamble. Even though Tanaka is young and presumably healthy, that is still a lot of coin. But some Astros fans are livid that Jim Crane didn't put $175,000,000.00 on red and wait for the ball to finish bouncing.

Crane is reported to have offered in excess of $100,000,000.00. Let's say for grins that he offered around $115 to $120 million which I find highly likely from some of the reports I've read. Add into that around $13,000,000+ that Tanaka would have saved in state income tax by playing in Texas and you're looking at around $128 to $133 million. That was a competitive bid. And Crane took The Rocket himself along for the ride to try to sweet talk Tanaka. But when all was said and done, Tanaka wanted to be a Yankee. Like it or not, the Yankees are a storied franchise and many will be seduced by that siren song. Even with a lucrative television deal, Crane would have been hard-pressed to get past that obstacle.

But I'm hearing Astros fans out there accuse Crane of just putting on a show, bidding just enough to get the good publicity with no intention of getting a deal done, perpetuating the "Jim Crane won't spend any money" meme. The problem is, I don't believe that ... at all.

When Crane first purchased the team, he made a number of missteps. He seemed to think that owning a baseball team was just like owning any other business. I don't think that he understood initially that a baseball team is really owned by the city and the fans who support that team. A good team owner is someone who understands that he is first and foremost the custodian of a sacred trust. Sacred. I mean that. A 50+ year old franchise becomes a part of the heart and soul of the community and the fans whose lives and personal histories become intertwined with the team's history. We remember when children were born based on what the Astros did that year. But I digress.

One year ago, I had my doubts about the direction of the team on the business side. A lot of them. But Crane seemed to realize that things weren't going well and he took steps to address the problem. Starting with the hiring of Reid Ryan, the problems started to go away. The fans felt like someone was listening, really listening, to them again. The tone changed completely. There were still issues on the field and off the field, but they started getting addressed. Just recently with the news that the left field eyesore signage is being moved and that the front office is working diligently with MLB to get games back on the air, one can see that things really are changing for the better. And with Jeff Luhnow's direction, the play on the field will be getting better as well and I believe that Jim Crane will pay to make that a reality. I think he has earned that benefit of a doubt with what he has done over this last year.

Call me Pollyanna if you wish, say I'm wearing rose-colored glasses, but I do believe that Crane's bid for Tanaka was a serious bid. If Tanaka wanted, in his heart of hearts, to be a Yankee, there was not much that could be done about that. But there is one thing I don't want to see. I DO NOT WANT CRANE TO SPEND MONEY JUST TO SPEND MONEY. That is how the Astros ended up spending far too much money on rapidly dwindling returns for Carlos Lee's contract. Teams such as the Yankees, Angels, Mariners and others may pay in the long run for their "must win today at any cost" strategy in paying free agents.

I do believe that Crane will spend money, but I don't think that he will ever do so recklessly, thoughtlessly or carelessly, and I'm OK with that.

Besides, five of the Astros Top 10 prospects from the just released Baseball America list are right-handed pitchers. Just think, one of those pitchers could be as good or better than Masahiro Tanaka over an entire career. One of those guys could be turning down $155,000,000 from the Yankees one of these days because, in his heart of hearts, he wants to be an Astro.

My soapbox is now being stored away for the time being. Thanks for hearing me out even if you disagree with me, especially if you disagree with me.

An Interview with Astros Third Baseman Jonathan Meyer

Pitching and defense win championships, right? At least that's what the old saying has taught us. And what is more fun than watching a gravity-defying diving catch, a mind-blowing throw from the knees or just a perfectly turned double play? Although a few big home runs creep in to Web Gems and the SportsCenter Top 10 during the season, it is almost inevitably the big defensive plays that are the most wow-worthy.

Which brings us to Jonathan Meyer. When I was in Corpus Christi at the end of May last season, I didn't get a chance to talk with him, but I still heard a lot about him from his teammates and coach. Nick Tropeano and Mike Foltynewicz both singled out Meyer as someone they loved having behind them in the field when they pitched, Trope speaking of Meyer's great play at third and Folty saying, "Johnny Meyer at third base has made some spectacular plays." Fellow infielder Ben Orloff weighed in as well, "And Johnny Meyer at third, it's a Web Gem a night."

Corpus Christi skipper Keith Bodie also had high praise indeed, "One of the best defensive third basemen you'll see no matter where you go. He's just a natural with the glove." Bodie admitted that Meyer's bat is a work in progress, but noted that he was working hard to become the whole package at third, which is traditionally considered an offensive position in the majors. "He's getting better. He's made adjustments here. He's got the ability to drive the ball, get some extra base hits, so coupled with his defensive skills, we're looking at a potential Major League All-Star."

I wanted to talk with Meyer right after the season ended, but he was headed to the Arizona Fall League, where he started as a Taxi Squad player, but found his way into the lineup full time by the end of the season. Although not really known for his offense, he managed to hit .286/.340/.408, trailing only Cory Spangenberg of San Diego and Seattle's Chris Taylor in average for the Peoria Javelinas team.

I finally caught up with Meyer by phone on Saturday and we talked about his season, the AFL, playing in Corpus and the changes he's seen since coming into the Astros system as the third round draft pick in 2009, among other things.

Jonathan Meyer - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The first question I asked Meyer was what he felt like he had accomplished during the 2013 season and what he was still working on. Meyer replied, "One of the things was hitting. This year was a much better year for me, hitting-wise. That's also something I still need to work on. As a player, defense has always been my forte, not so much hitting in the minor leagues, but this year was a lot better and next year, I'll be working a lot more on hitting approach."

When I noted that, ironically, his power numbers actually improved after he moved to Corpus for the 2013 season (punctuated with a career high 15 home runs) from hitter-friendly Lancaster the prior year, he had this to say, "I was just growing into my body a little bit more, getting a little bit more experience, more at bats. That helps me out being at the plate with more confidence knowing the stuff that I should be able to do and not so much doubting myself like when I was younger. I would just say it's more experience."

Meyer is an aggressive hitter who will need to work on his strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers, but there is much to like in the way he approaches an at-bat. I joked with him that it doesn't look so much like he's trying to hit the ball as he's trying to assassinate it. He laughed and agreed, "Yeah, I'm pretty aggressive when I hit."

Of his experience in the Arizona Fall League, Meyer called it a really good experience and said, "A lot of the guys out there are really highly talented guys and playing with those guys was a lot of fun, especially ... seeing how they do things. Talking with other players really helps from a lot of different perspectives." On hitting in the AFL, he noted, "All those guys are good out there, especially pitching-wise. If a guy's not throwing 95 out there, then he's 89 to 90 with a lot of sink, movement. Even guys that are throwing 95 have a lot of movement so it's tough."

But frankly, just getting the invitation to play in the Arizona Fall League was one of the highlights for him, "Definitely, when I got the invite, I was overly excited." In addition, Meyer was one of six players nominated for the Stenson Award, awarded to an AFL player who exemplifies "unselfishness, leadership and hard work." Although Meyer didn't win the award, he noted that "It was a real honor to get nominated for that."

On top of the AFL invite and the Stenson Award nomination, Meyer also earned a Texas League Post-Season All-Star nod and won the Allstate Good Hands Award for the best defender on the Corpus Christi squad at the end of the season. And with the recent news that Meyer has received an invitation to Spring Training, it has been a good year. Meyer said of the Spring Training invite, "I was very excited ... understatement ... very excited. I was really thrilled to hear that."

I asked Meyer what he thought about playing in Corpus in 2013. "Corpus is definitely about the most fun I've ever had playing baseball. The atmosphere was incredible. I could get a little out of it sometimes just staring at all of the stuff. I had to get that out. First exhibition game we played, I had to look around the stadium, make sure I saw everything so I didn't get distracted."

Known for his sterling defense, it was no surprise to me that when I asked Meyer about fellow Corpus players he enjoyed sitting back and watching, he picked out three great defenders, "I really liked three of our guys this year in Corpus. Kike Hernandez, of course, and Jiovanni Mier and Ben Orloff who isn't with us anymore. [Ben's] brother was my best friend since I was five and I got to watch [Ben] growing up so once we got drafted by the same team and I got to play with him, it was a huge, huge advantage for me. I got to learn a lot of things from him and he was one of my favorite guys to watch play."

Even when I asked Meyer which Corpus pitcher he would least like to face, the conversation came back around to defense, "I'd say Jake Buchanan. Just because one game he got 15 ground balls [outs] and it did not look fun for any of those hitters hitting. He broke all their bats or he jammed them. He is very tough. [He's] definitely one of the most, not overpowering guys, but effective guys I've seen. He's one of the most fun guys to play behind. He's a groundball machine."

Similarly, when I asked about an Astros player that Meyer felt was flying under the radar, Meyer picked David Martinez, another pitcher that he really enjoyed playing behind. "I felt like he was flying under the radar big time [before he was called up to OKC and then the majors]. This year [at Corpus], I don't know what his ERA was, but it was absurd. [Note: Martinez had a 2.02 ERA and a 0.997 WHIP in 129+ innings at Corpus in 2013.] He was another Jake Buchanan guy, works really quick and he's really fun to play behind. You'd almost miss a pitch. He'd be throwing, you turn around for a second, you look back, and the ball's already being pitched. He's another guy that I enjoy, one of the better pitchers I've played behind. The pace of the game is very important, especially coming out every single night. You're not going to feel great all the time. You're going to be tired. When you have a quicker pace, you just stay in tune with the game. [It] keeps fielders on [their] toes."

What would Meyer do if he couldn't play baseball? "I do not know. I would probably coach, which I do in the offseason at my high school, and I do enjoy it a lot."

I also asked my standard question. Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear? "I'm from California and I love to shoot bows. I'm almost a country boy in California. People tell me that, that I don't belong here because I want to go hunting and stuff like that."

Since Meyer was drafted out of high school into the Astros system in 2009, he's seen a lot of change. "It's huge. You see the minor leagues and the guys that we have stacked up at positions. When I first came into the organization, there wasn't too much competition going on between levels and now you see that we have a lot of outfielders, a lot of infielders, a lot of pitchers, a lot of catchers. We have everybody we need in the minor leagues. Everybody's competing for a job every year. It's just the competition is a lot better."

I had one final question for Meyer. I wanted to know the origin of his twitter handle @TheYeti1123. Where did Yeti come from? "One of my former coaches, Stubby Clapp, told me, "You're not the prettiest looking guy on the field, but you can make the play. I'm going to call you Yeti." Meyer didn't care for the nickname at first, but it grew on him.


Jonathan Meyer - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Pitching and defense. Pitching and defense. Pitching and defense. Jonathan Meyer has you covered at third base and he couldn't be having more fun doing it.

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

Thank you for your time, Jonathan, and the best of luck in the new season!

Astros Fall and Winter League Playoff Recaps

Results for Tuesday, January 21

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Magallanes 8, Caracas 0

A bitter end to the season for Caracas, as they'll see Caribes advance to the championship series against Magallanes.

Leones del Caracas
1B Jesus Guzman: 0-3, 2 K
SS Gregorio Petit: 0-3

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Hermosillo drew first blood against Navojoa with a 4-0 win. Game 2 is tonight.

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey 5, Escogido 1 (Licey leads series 2-0)

Licey's come out of the gate strong as they held Escogido to 1 run for the 2nd straight game.

Tigres del Licey
OF Ruben Sosa: Entered game as a pinch-runner in the 8th. Remained in the game as the DH, but did not appear at the plate.

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Mayagüez 6, Caguas 4 (series tied 1-1)

Mayagüez saw their 5-0 lead after 3 innings whittled down to 1 with a pair of 2-run innings from Caguas (5th and 6th). But, they got that always-crucial insurance run in the 8th inning, and this series is now deadlocked.

Criollos de Caguas
C Roberto Peña: 0-1; entered game as a pinch-hitter in the 8th.


Happy Birthday - 1/22

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Mike Hauschild (24)
A 33rd round pick out of the University of Dayton in 2012, Hauschild split his second professional season between Quad Cities and Lancaster. In 28 appearances (19 starts), he was 9-4 with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.289 WHIP.

RHP Jose Montero (21)
Signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Montero spent the majority of his 2013 season with the Gulf Coast League Astros, earning a late season promotion to Greeneville where Montero made three appearances. In 14 total appearances (six starts), Montero was 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.552 WHIP.

Former Astros celebrating birthdays today ~

OF Leon Roberts (63)
A tenth round draft pick for Detroit in 1972, Roberts came to Houston in a December 1975 trade with the Tigers and played for the Astros the following two seasons. In 106 games for the Astros, he hit .267/.324/.405. For the last two seasons, Roberts has served as the hitting coach for Oklahoma City, the Astros AAA affiliate.

OF Javier Ortiz (51)
Originally drafted by the Rangers in the first round in 1983, Ortiz came to Houston in a July 1989 trade with the Dodgers. In 77 games for the Astros in 1990 and 1991, he hit .275/.374/.394.

RHP Jose Valdez (30)
Originally signed as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees in 2000, Valdez came to Houston via free agency in 2009. In 24 appearances out of the bullpen for the Astros in 2011 and 2012, Valdez had a 5.88 ERA and a 1.692 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Baseball America Top 10 Astros Prospects

Baseball America unveiled their Top 10 Astros Prospects today and they are ... drumroll please ...

1. SS Carlos Correa (1)
2. OF George Springer (3)
3. RHP Mark Appel (N/A)
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (5)
5. RHP Lance McCullers (4)
6. RHP Vincent Velasquez (13)
7. 1B Jon Singleton (2)
8. OF Domingo Santana (11)
9. RHP Michael Feliz (Not ranked)
10. RHP Asher Wojciechowski (14)

In parentheses after the name, I have indicated the player's rank in last year's BA Prospect Handbook. Those who fell off the Top 10 list from last year are Delino DeShields (6), Rio Ruiz (8), Nick Tropeano (9) and Nolan Fontana (10). (Also, Jarred Cosart who was 7th on last year's list graduated by virtue of his time in the majors.)

Most of those who fell off the Top Ten did so due to the increased depth in the system, along with having several near major-league ready prospects climbing the list. They will likely still be in BA's Top 30 when the Handbook is released (which should be very soon).

The most notable inclusion in this year's Top Ten is Michael Feliz who garnered much attention for his excellent work in Tri-City in 2013. His addition to the list is not a big surprise for those who have followed him closely.

I recommend reading the entire article which includes a Best Tools list featuring a few players who didn't make the Top 10 (and who definitely bear watching).

Once the BA Handbook is released and Jonathan Mayo publishes his Astros Top 20 sometime over the next few weeks, I will once again pull together a consensus Top 10 list pulled from various sources. Here is the list from last year.

Astros Fall and Winter League Playoff Recaps

Results for Monday, January 20

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Caracas 14, La Guaira 13

Wow. Caracas found themselves down 6-2 after 3 innings, erased that deficit with a 6-run 4th, then promptly relinquished the lead by surrendering 6 runs in the 5th. They ended up storming back from a 13-9 deficit entering the bottom of the 9th, and Bobby Abreu, who is still very much alive and kicking, completed the comeback with the game-winning 2-run single. Now, let's rewind to the beginning of the inning. After Alex Gonzalez (not the one in the Astros system) led off with a walk, Jesus Guzman sparked the rally with a 2-run homer. Guzman also added 2 doubles, the first of which put Caracas on the board in the 2nd, down 5-1. 

This was a huge victory for Caracas, as they're still tied with Caribes for 2nd in the round-robin. In the final game of round-robin play tonight, Caracas will face Magallanes on the road, while Caribes will host Zulia.

Leones del Caracas
1B Jesus Guzman: 3-5, 2 2B, 2-R HR (3) in 9th, 3 RBI, 2 R
SS Gregorio Petit: 1-5, RBI single in 4th, 2 R, K

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey 2, Escogido 1 (Licey leads 1-0)

Licey got on the board first in this best-of-9 series, as an Anderson Hernandez sac fly in the 4th proved to be the difference.

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

Leones del Escogido
RHP Jorge De Leon: IP (9th), H
C

Happy Birthday - 1/21

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Dave Smith (died December 17, 2008 at 53)
An eighth round pick by the Astros in 1976, Smith pitched in 563 games for Houston from 1980 to 1990 with an ERA of 2.53, a WHIP of 1.189, and 199 saves. He was an All-Star for the Astros in 1986 and 1990.

SS Jose Uribe (died December 8, 2006 at 47)
Uribe came to Houston as a free agent in January 1993 and played in 45 games for the Astros that season with a .245/.355/.264 batting line. His best season was 1987 when he hit .291 for the Giants in 95 games.

RHP Jeff McCurry (44)
Originally drafted by the Pirates in the 14th round in 1990, McCurry came to Houston as a free agent in January 1999. The Houston native only pitched in 5 games for the Astros that year with forgettable results.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - First Base

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Jesse Wierzbicki, Chase Davidson and Victor Tavarez are no longer in the organization. Brandon Meredith has been converted to first base; his 2013 stats can be found in the left field post.]

It's time to take a look at the Astros minor league depth, position by position, as we approach Spring Training. Today, we will look at first base.

I have split the players into two camps, those who finished the season at Advanced A Lancaster or higher and those who finished the season at Quad Cities A or lower. The embedded charts show first basemen in the organization ranked from high to low in terms of OPS. I am not including players who spent time at the major league level in 2013. The age shown is the player's current age.



First, let's look at the players who ended the season at the higher levels. Japhet Amador obviously leads the list with a very healthy OPS, but most of his 2013 play occurred in the Mexican League. He only played in a handful of games at Oklahoma City at the end of the season following his signing. He (arguably) did well in the Arizona Fall League, but his one walk to 17 strikeouts in 18 games is of some concern. After the AFL, Amador played in the Mexican Pacific winter league and all of his numbers were down, but he did at least draw a few more walks.

Jon Singleton's numbers for 2013 did not live up to Jon Singleton's standards, but I see zero cause for alarm. In this video interview from the Rookie Career Development Program, Singleton notes that due to the suspension and jumping up to AAA from AA, he spent most of his season making adjustments and never really felt comfortable at the plate. Fast forward to winter ball in Puerto Rico ... Singleton put up a .933 OPS. Last week, Jonathan Mayo anointed him the top first base prospect in all of baseball.

Jon Singleton - June 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Erik Castro showed that his power at Lancaster was not a fluke with his 28 doubles and 18 home runs at Corpus Christi. Telvin Nash's season was abbreviated due to injury, and he still struggled with strikeouts (although he didn't strike out at quite the rate he did in 2012). Nash will only be 23 in February so he still has time to mature as a hitter. Jesse Wierzbicki spent the final 25 games of the season at Lancaster and his numbers dropped off slightly over those games.

That leaves us with unsung hero M.P. Cokinos. Cokinos was, up until this season, a catcher, and he still caught on occasion in his time at Lancaster in 2013. But Rodney Linares wanted Cokinos' bat in the lineup on a regular basis so he split his season, for the most part, between first base and DH (with a few outfield appearances as well). He boasts a very healthy OBP and a very low strikeout rate, only whiffing 41 times in 109 games.



Yonathan Mejia leads the list in OPS from the lower levels, thanks in large part to excellent numbers in the Gulf Coast League which led to his promotion to Tri-City for the final three games of the regular season. He only turned 21 in September.

Conrad Gregor (fourth round pick out of Vanderbilt) and Chase McDonald (12th round pick out of East Carolina University in North Carolina) are next on the list, each putting up solid numbers in their first seasons as professionals. They have each established a good foundation on which to build.

Chase McDonald - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Hector Roa had a .423 slugging percentage with the Dominican Summer League team, leading to his promotion to the Gulf Coast League for the final six games of the season where, coincidentally, he played in the outfield rather than at first base. He turns 19 in March. Victor Tavarez barely got his feet wet and spent more time as DH (16 games) than he did at first base. He is also currently 18.

Chase Davidson only played in 10 games, all at DH, before disappearing for the rest of the year after the game on April 23rd, presumably due to an injury of some kind. He just turned 24 last week. Bobby Borchering had been at AA in 2012, but did not make it out of Quad Cities in 2013. Considering his age and what he should have done in Low A ball, it's hard to be very encouraged about the former first round pick.

Next Up: Third Base

Astros Fall and Winter League Playoff Recaps

Results for Sunday, January 19

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Zulia 11, Caracas 1

An extremely costly loss for Caracas, as it results in them dropping back into a tie for 2nd with Caribes. The end came when Zulia put up 8 runs in the 7th to blow this game wide open. They were leading 2-1 at the time of the outburst. Gregorio Petit was responsible for Caracas' lone run, as he hit an RBI infield single in the 4th.

Leones del Caracas
1B Jesus Guzman: 1-3, BB
SS Gregorio Petit: 1-4, RBI infield single in 4th

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Adelaide 7, Sydney 2

With the split, the Bite and the Blue Sox will enter the final weekend of the regular season tied for 2nd, at 21-21. Canberra and Melbourne are still right behind them with 20-22 records. Next weekend, Adelaide will travel to the west coast of Australia to take on Perth, while Sydney will host Melbourne, and Canberra will be in Brisbane.

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 0-5

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Hermosillo 4, Los Mochis 2 (Hermosillo wins series 4-3)

Hermosillo will advance to the LMP championship series against Navojoa. They countered Los Mochis' 2 runs (1 each in the 2nd and 3rd) with a pair of 2-run (4th and 5th) innings.

Naranjeros de Hermosillo
RHP Edgar Gonzalez: 3.2 IP, 6 H (solo HR allowed), 2 ER, BB

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey and Escogido will face off in the championship series beginning tonight. 

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Caguas drew first blood in the LBPRC championship as they topped Mayagüez 5-1 in game 1.

LIGA PROFESIONAL DE BEISBOL DE PANAMA

Caballos 6, Industriales 4

Caballos scored 3 in the 7th to take the lead, and scored a vital insurance run in the 9th as they emerged on top. The pitching matchup featured a pair of Astros farmhands in Tyson Perez and Agapito Barrios.

Caballos de Coclé
RHP Tyson Perez: 5 IP, 5 H (HR allowed), 3 ER, BB

Industriales de Herrera
RHP Agapito Barrios: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K

Happy Birthday - 1/20

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Matt Albers (31)
A draft-and-follow pick in the 23rd round by the Astros in 2001, Albers pitched in 35 games (20 starts) for Houston in 2006 and 2007 with a 4-13 record, a 5.87 ERA and a 1.599 WHIP before being traded to Baltimore in December 2007 as a part of the Miguel Tejada trade. After spending time with Baltimore and Boston, he was traded to the Diamondbacks in July 2012. The Diamondbacks subsequently traded him to Cleveland in this dizzying transaction (per Baseball-Reference):
December 11, 2012: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Arizona Diamondbacks with Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians. The Cincinnati Reds sent Didi Gregorius to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cincinnati Reds sent Drew Stubbsto the Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cleveland Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and cash to the Cincinnati Reds.
Matt came full circle back to Houston, signing as a free agent in December 2013.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Astros Fall and Winter League Playoff Recaps

Results for Saturday, January 18

In Venezuela, Caracas had a day off. In their absence, Magallanes was able to regain their lead in the round-robin with an 11-6 win over Zulia. Also winning last night was Caribes, who improved their record to 8-6 with a 6-5 win over La Guaira. They're the top 3 teams in the round-robin stage, and here is where they stand with 2 (Caracas has 3) games left to play:

Magallanes 9-5
Caracas 8-5
Caribes 8-6

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Sydney 4, Adelaide 0

The Bite only mustered up 4 hits (Joe Sclafani with half of them) as the Blue Sox pulled ahead. At this point yesterday, Adelaide was in a 3-way tie at 20-21. 

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani: 2-4, BB

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey 9, Gigantes 8

With this one in the books, the LIDOM championship is set: Licey will take on Escogido in the first game of a best-of-9 this afternoon at 4:15 Atlantic (2:15 here).

Gigantes scored 5 in the 6th to turn a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead, but Licey got 1 in the 8th to tie and 1 more in the 9th to take the lead.

Gigantes del Cibao
RHP Rhiner Cruz: IP, BB, 2 K; entered game with a runner on and no outs in the 8th.


Happy Birthday - 1/19

Happy Birthday to ~

1B/DH Japhet Amador (27)
Amador toiled in the Mexican League from 2007 until he was signed in August of 2013 by the Astros. In 104 games for the Diablos Rojos in 2013, he hit .368/.419/.693 with 22 doubles and 36 home runs. In 10 games with Oklahoma City after the signing, Amador hit .302/.302/.302.

Several former Astros are celebrating birthdays today ~

OF Orlando Palmiero (45)
Originally drafted by the Angels in the 33rd round in 1991, Palmiero came to Houston as a free agent in January 2004. In 420 games played for the Astros from 2004 to 2007, he hit .258/.332/.356. He won a World Series with the Angels in 2002.

LHP Ramon de los Santos (65)
Signed by the Astros as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1972, de los Santos pitched in 12 games in 1974 for Houston with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.622 WHIP.

RHP Jeff Juden (43)
A first round pick by the Astros in 1989, Juden pitched in only six games (three starts) for Houston in 1991 and 1993 with a 5.87 ERA and a 1.478 WHIP before being traded to the Phillies, along with Doug Jones, for Mitch Williams in December 1993.

3B/1B Phil Nevin (43)
The first overall pick of the draft in 1992, Nevin only played in 18 games for the Astros in 1995 before he was traded to the Tigers in August 1995. Nevin went on to play 12 major league seasons for seven different teams, hitting a cumulative .270/.343/.472 and was an All-Star for the Padres in 2001, a year in which he hit 41 home runs. He is slated to manage the Reno Aces in the Pacific Coast League for the Diamondbacks organization in 2014.

RHP Anthony Young (48)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the 38th round in 1987, this Houston native signed with the Astros as a free agent in January 1996. In 28 games for Houston that season, he had a 4.59 ERA and a 1.740 WHIP.

Manager Brad Mills (57)
Mills managed the Astros from 2010 until his firing in August 2012 with a record of 171-274. Mills was dealt a bad hand with the teams he was given, but he is now a part of the Astros history for better or worse. He was recently moved from third base coach to bench coach for the Cleveland Indians.

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