Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Birthday - 2/15

No future Astros, but several former Astros celebrate birthdays today ~

RHP Brian Williams (45)
A first round pick by the Astros in 1990, Williams pitched in 130 games (36 starts) for Houston in 1991 to 1994 and again in 1999 with a 19-17 record, a 4.66 ERA and a 1.538 WHIP.

LHP Don Arlich (71)
Signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1961, Arlich pitched in eight games for Houston in 1965 and 1966 with an 8.10 ERA and a 2.100 WHIP.

OF Mark Davidson (53)
Originally drafted by Minnesota in the 11th round in 1982, Davidson came to Houston in a May 1989 trade with the Twins. In 175 games for the Astros from 1989 to 1991, he hit .231/.295/.318. He won a World Series with the Twins in 1987.

RHP Larry Yount (64)
A fifth round pick by the Astros in 1968, Yount appeared in only one game for Houston in 1971, but never faced a batter. His brother is Hall of Famer Robin Yount.

Tweet of the Day

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Birthday - 2/14

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Paul Clemens (26)
Originally drafted by Atlanta out of a community college in North Carolina in the seventh round in 2008, this South Carolina native came to Houston in the Michael Bourn trade in 2011. After one start in Oklahoma City in April, Clemens made his major league debut on April 9, 2013. In 35 appearances (five starts) in Houston, he was 4-7 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.473 WHIP.

Bullpen Coach Craig Bjornson (45)
After spending one season as a roving minor league pitching instructor for the Astros in 2013, Bjornson will return to the Astros as Bullpen Coach in 2013, a position he first held in 2012.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

IF Larry Milbourne (63)
Drafted from the Cardinals in the 1973 Rule 5 draft, Milbourne played in 244 games for Houston from 1974 to 1976, hitting .245/.297/.282.

Tweet of the Day

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Shortstops

In an ongoing series on the minor league depth in the Astros system, this week we're looking at the middle infield. On Monday, I posted this piece on the Second Basemen in the system. Today, we look at the Shortstops. Once again, I am separating them into two groups -- those who finished the season at Advanced A or above and those who finished the season at Low A and below. And once again, I am sorting them from high to low in terms of on-base percentage. As a reminder, there are a few players who were used more as utility infielders than shortstops in the past season and I will be addressing them in a later post.


It is no surprise that Nolan Fontana leads this list in that his OBP led the Astros minor league system for all full season teams in 2013. The second round 2012 draft pick got on base at a .415 clip in 2013 which was actually a decline from the .464 rate he put up in 2012, and he translated those on-base skills into a healthy number of runs scored. Fontana did not, however, fare well in the Arizona Fall League, collecting only six hits in 18 games, walking 13 times and striking out 16 times. And, although he has played exclusively at shortstop since coming in to the Astros system, look for him to spend time at second base in 2014. The reason for this is two-fold. He is not the strongest defender at short, and there is a dearth of second basemen at the upper levels.

At the upper levels of the organization, Jiovanni Mier and Ronald Torreyes both excel defensively. Mier, the Astros 2009 first round draft pick, took a big step backwards with his bat, though, as he struggled in his first season in the Texas League. Torreyes, acquired from the Cubs in exchange for two international bonus pool slots, has shown himself to be much more adept with the bat. The 21 year-old Venezuelan (he turned 21 in September) hit well at the AA level both before and after his acquisition, putting up a .269/.329/.368 batting line and striking out only 29 times in 103 games. In his final 10 games, Torreyes was on a tear, hitting .487/.512/.641. [Note: Torreyes was used both at short and at second base by the Astros, but was used in more games at short.]

Ronnie Torreyes - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

At the lower levels (but not for long), Carlos Correa is a standout both defensively and at the plate. What the first overall 2012 draft pick accomplished as an 18-year old against competition averaging three years older than him was outstanding. Correa just turned 19 in September and will likely start the season in Lancaster, but is not likely to stay there for very long.

Carlos Correa - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Aside from Correa, the best overall defense in this group (based on fielding percentage and range factor per game) comes from Thomas Lindauer and Kristian Trompiz. Lindauer, drafted in the 23rd round in 2013, struggled offensively with Tri-City in his first 22 games and was sent to Greeneville where he hit .247/.306/.320 in his final 29 games. Trompiz, who just turned 18 in December, was in his first professional season with the Dominican Summer League Astros team in 2013. He topped this list of players with his 5.25 range factor per game.

Chan Moon spent his fourth professional season with Tri-City despite having spent the prior season in Lexington and Lancaster. Moon had a solid season both offensively and defensively. His otherwise good offensive numbers were brought down by a subpar August. He will be 23 next month.

Jack Mayfield started his season at Greeneville, but finished it with Tri-City. Signed by the Astros as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oklahoma, Mayfield spent almost as much time at second base as he did at short and actually had better defensive numbers at second. It would not surprise me to see Mayfield moved to second or used as a utility infielder in the upcoming season.

Luis Reynoso, who just turned 19 in September, was in his first season in the U.S. in 2013, playing all but one game with the GCL Astros before a late promotion to Greeneville for his final game. Reynoso, a right-handed hitter, hit well against righty pitchers in 2013, putting up a .271/.365/.364 batting line, but struggled against lefties. Yoel Silfa, a 20-year old from the Dominican Republic, only appeared in 24 games for the GCL team and ended his season on a high note, hitting .276/.323/.379 in his final 10 games.

Jose Fernandez also spent most of his season with the GCL after starting his season with Tri-City and struggling at the plate. He was one of three Astros minor league players suspended at the end of the season for testing positive for an amphetamine.

Dariel Aquino, who just turned 18 last month, barely got his feet wet for the Dominican Summer League Astros. Aquino spent as much time as a DH as he did in the field, giving way to Trompiz at short.

Happy Birthday - 2/13

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Andrew Robinson (26)
Drafted in the 12th round in 2010 out of Georgia Tech, Robinson put up a 3.28 ERA and a 1.236 WHIP in 38 appearances out of the bullpen for Corpus Christi in 2013, but those numbers are somewhat deceptive. After shaking off a bit of rust following infrequent use to start the season (think tandem rotation), he was 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.991 WHIP from June through August. He walked only six batters in his final 26 games.

Corpus Christi Manager Keith Bodie (58)
Bodie will manage the Hooks for his third season in 2014 after spending three seasons as a hitting coach at Corpus Christi (2009) and Oklahoma City (2010-2011). He has managed a total of 16 seasons for five different organizations; his record as a manager is 1146-1016.

One former Astro celebrates today ~

RF Matt Mieske (46)
Originally drafted by the Padres in the 17th round in 1990, Mieske came to Houston in a June 1999 trade with the Mariners. In 116 games for the Astros in 1999 and 2000, he hit .237/.286/.384 (although he hit substantially better in 1999 than in 2000).

Tweet of the Day

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday - 2/12

No future Astros, but a few former Astros celebrate birthdays today ~

C Chris Snyder (33)
A second round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2002, Snyder signed with Houston as a free agent in January 2012. In 76 games for the Astros in 2012, he hit .176/.295/.308. He has a lifetime caught stealing percentage of 29%. He recently signed as a free agent with the Nationals.

RHP Tim Redding (36)
Drafted by the Astros in the 20th round in 1995, Redding pitched in 91 games (72 starts) for Houston from 2001 to 2004 with a 21-28 record, a 4.75 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP. He was traded to the Padres for Humberto Quintero in March 2005. In 2013, Redding pitched in the Independent Atlantic League and in the Mexican League.

OF Cameron Drew (50)
A first round pick by Houston in 1985, Drew played in only seven games for Houston in 1988, hitting .188/.188/.313.

Tweet of the Day

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy Birthday - 2/11

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Wallace Gonzalez (21)
Drafted in the 29th round in 2011 out of high school in California, Gonzalez struggled in his first season with the Greeneville team, hitting only .172/.252/.280.

Several former Astros celebrate birthdays today ~

RF John Paciorek (69)
Signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1963, Paciorek had the ultimate cup of coffee in the majors.  In one game for the 1963 Colt 45's, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, scored four runs and drove in three, all at the ripe old age of 18! He ended his career with a 1.000/1.000/1.000 batting line.

RHP Matt Lindstrom (34)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the 10th round in 2002, Lindstrom came to Houston in a December 2009 trade with the Marlins. In 58 games for the Astros in late relief in 2010, he was 2-5 with 23 saves, a 4.39 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP. He was traded to Colorado in December 2010 for Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick. He played most recently for the White Sox.

C J.R. Towles (30)
A 20th round pick by the Astros in 2004, Towles played in 155 games for Houston over five seasons from 2007 to 2011. Although he started out with a bang in a September call-up in 2007, hitting .375/.432/.575 and breaking the Astros single game RBI record with eight RBI's in one game, he ultimately ended up with a .187 batting average at the major league level. In eight seasons at the minor league level, he had a .295/.394/.465 batting line. Towles played most recently in the Dodgers organization. He is currently a free agent.

RF Ollie Brown (70)
Purchased from the Angels in March 1974, Brown played in 27 games for Houston that season, hitting .217/.260/.362. Out of 13 major league seasons, his best season was 1970 for the Padres when he hit .292/.331/.489 with 31 doubles, a triple and 23 home runs in 139 games.

Tweet of the Day

Monday, February 10, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Second Basemen

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Parker Hipp is no longer in the organization.]

In an ongoing look at the minor league depth in the Astros system, next up are the middle infielders. There is definitely some overlap and there are a few players that profile more as utility players rather than having a fixed position (such as Carlos Perdomo, Raoul Torrez, Joe Sclafani and others) and I will address them later. With that said, let's look at the second basemen first, sorted from high to low by on-base percentage.

As you can see, there is really only one pure second baseman right now who ended the season at the higher levels. Jose Martinez and Jake Elmore were both lost to free agency; and Delino DeShields was moved to the outfield. We may see some of the utility players take over at the position or there is always the possibility that a shortstop in the system may be moved over to second.

 '

Kiké Hernandez, the sixth round 2009 draft pick, did not adjust to the Texas League quickly, but he appeared to be turning the corner with a hot bat in August, hitting .298/.352/.488 in that month. In winter ball in Puerto Rico, he hit .260/.321/.393 over 37 games. Kiké has solid defense and doubles+ power and only turned 22 in August.

Kiké Hernandez - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Austin Elkins, a 19th round draft pick from 2012, may have a somewhat lackluster batting average, but he leads this group in on-base percentage thanks to a fairly prolific walk rate. Elkins was coming on strong at the end of the season, putting up a .299/.382/.519 batting average over 23 games in August. He's got a little speed, a little pop and he's a solid defender.

Austin "Catfish" Elkins - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Tony Kemp, the 2013 fifth round draft pick out of Vanderbilt, put up good numbers (.282/.355/.362) in his 48 games with Tri-City, earning him a late season promotion to Quad Cities where he showed some regression at the plate. However, the lefty hitter continued his season-long trend of hitting well against lefty pitchers, hitting .344/.475/.438 against them at Quad Cities (.312/.420/.398 for the season).

Tony Kemp - July 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jean Estrella is definitely a player who should be fun to watch. A Latin free agent from the Dominican Republic, Estrella had an excellent first pro season for the Dominican Summer League Astros, hitting .306/.380/.341 in 50 games and leading to his promotion to the Gulf Coast League Astros for the final eight games of the season. Estrella, who won't turn 18 until April, is another lefty who hits well against lefty pitchers. He managed a .338/.419/.369 batting line against southpaws.

Juan Santana signed with the Astros out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 and only turned 19 in August. He leads this group of players in fielding percentage and range factor per game with Hernandez coming in a close second. Santana's Greeneville teammate Parker Hipp, a product of New Mexico State, signed with the Astros as a free agent in 2013. He did not see a great deal of playing time and spent a portion of his time at third base as well.

Juan Santana - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Later this week, we'll look at the shortstops in the system.

Happy Birthday - 2/10

No future Astros, but a few former Astros celebrate birthdays today ~

OF/1B/DH Lance Berkman (38)
Berkman, also known as the Big Puma or Fat Elvis, was the Astros first round draft pick in 1997.  In 15 seasons, he had a .293/.406/.537 batting line with 422 doubles, 30 triples and 366 home runs. Berkman played for Houston from 1999 to 2010, when he was traded to the Yankees for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes. A 6-time All-Star, Berkman was named the 2011 Comeback Player of the Year. In January 2014, he announced that he would be retiring.

RHP Ryan Bowen (46)
A first round pick by the Astros in 1986, Bowen pitched in 25 games (22 starts) for Houston in 1991 and 1992, going 6-11 with a 7.01 ERA and a 1.775 WHIP.

SS Eddie Zosky (46)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 1989, Zosky came to Houston via Pittsburgh in August of 2000. Zosky had a total of four at-bats for Houston and went hitless.

Tweet of the Day

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happy Birthday - 2/9

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Daniel Minor (23)
Drafted in the ninth round in 2012 out of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Minor was 8-3 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.419 WHIP in 31 appearances (12 starts) for Quad Cities. Minor started the season as a part of the tandem rotation, but actually fared better in relief, going 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.333 WHIP.

Two former Astros celebrate birthdays today as well ~

RHP Ramon Garcia (45)
Drafted from the Brewers in the 1996 Rule 5 draft, Garcia pitched in 42 games (20 starts) for the Astros in 1997 with a 9-8 record, a 3.69 ERA and a 1.305 WHIP.

LHP Hal Gilson (72)
Gilson came to Houston in a trade with the Cardinals in June 1968 and pitched only three and two-thirds innings in two games for the Astros that year with forgettable results.

Tweet of the Day