Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 14

St. Louis Cardinals 6, Houston Astros 4

2014 Grapefruit League record: 7-7

W- Michael Wacha (2-0)
L- Jarred Cosart (1-1)
S- Kevin Siegrist (1)

The Astros rallied late with 4 runs after stretch time, but they were unable to find the tying runs as they left the bases loaded to end the game.

Starting Pitcher: Jarred Cosart

The Cards dinged him for 3 in the 2nd on a bases-loaded walk, a force out with the bases still loaded, and a single. They also smoked a pair of RBI doubles off of him in the 4th. He did strike out the side in the 1st.


Final line: L (1-1), 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Bullpen

Rhiner Cruz came on for one batter, and he got the out.

Raúl Valdés was great in his inning (last out of the 4th, first 2 outs of the 5th) of work, allowing a hit and striking out 2, although he did allow the run that he and Cruz inherited from Cosart to score.

Mike Foltynewicz got the final out of the 5th, then pitched 2 full innings. The Cardinals got a run off of him in the 7th, but Folty had a solid outing otherwise, striking out 2 in his 2.1 frames.

Jorge De Leon threw a 1-2-3 8th, and Josh Fields struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th.

Offense

All 4 Astros runs came in the 7th, courtesy of a 2-run triple from Jon Singleton...



...a Matt Dominguez RBI infield single...




...and Adron Chambers scored on an error after Tyler Heineman singled.

After the Astros went down to their final out, Dominguez doubled, Heineman was plunked, and Delino DeShields walked to load the bases. Sadly, César Izturis took strike 3 to end the game. Matt Dominguez and Jose Altuve had 2-hit days on offense.

Three Stars

3.


Raúl Valdés. LHP
IP, H, 2 K


2.


Jonathan Singleton, 1B
1-4, 2-R 3B in 7th



1.


Matt Dominguez, 3B
2-4, 2B, RBI single in 7th


Next Up

Lucas Harrell will make start #4 of the spring as the Astros travel to Lakeland to take on the Tigers. They'll have another look at Max Scherzer, who will oppose Harrell on the mound for Detroit. First pitch is at 1:05 Eastern.

Happy Birthday - 3/15

Happy Birthday to ~

C Max Stassi (23)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the fourth round in 2009, Stassi came to Houston as a part of the February 2013 trade that sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the Athletics. After starting the season on the DL, Stassi joined the AA Corpus Christi team on May 2nd and played in 76 games there, hitting .277/.333/.529 with 20 doubles, a triple and 17 home runs, before being called up to make his major league debut on August 20, 2013. After only three games in Houston, this happened to end his season.

IF Jose Solano (22)
A NDFA from the Dominican Republic, Solano played the first 41 games of the season with the GCL Astros, hitting a robust .300/.349/.507 before being called up to Greeneville for his final seven appearances of the season.

IF Brian Blasik (24)
Signed as an amateur free agent out of the University of Dayton in 2012, Blasik played in 67 games for Quad Cities in 2013, hitting .209/.321/.286. In eight games in the post-season, Blasik hit .308 as the DH.

One former Astro celebrates a birthday today as well ~

RHP Wayne Granger (70)
Granger came to Houston as a free agent in February 1975 and appeared in 55 games for the Astros that season, going 2-5 with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP. He led the National League in saves in 1970 for the Reds and was named the NL Reliever of the Year in 1969 and 1970.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 13

Houston Astros 7, Toronto Blue Jays 5

2014 Grapefruit League record: 7-6

W- Dallas Keuchel (2-0)
L- Esmil Rogers (0-1)
S- Chia-Jen Lo (2)

Astros home runs: Carlos Correa (2; 2 spring, solo in 3rd, 2-run in 8th), Jon Singleton (1, solo in 3rd)

4 straight wins. A couple of young guns showed off their arsenal in this one. The Astros fandom, me included, goes bonkers in the process. As Bill Raftery would say, "Onions!"

Starting Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel continued his fine spring with 4 scoreless and got his fill of groundball outs. He has yet to allow a run in Grapefruit League play.

Final line: W (2-0), 4 IP, 6 H, 2 K

Bullpen

Collin McHugh got knocked around in the 5th as he surrendered 3 runs to the Jays. He got 2 quick outs in the 6th, but was unable to get that 3rd out, so he made way for...

...Josh Zeid, who inherited 2 runners, but got out of the inning. Things got a little testy between him and Kevin Pillar in the 7th after he plunked Pillar. He got 2 outs in the 7th.

Kevin Chapman came on and got the last out of the 7th, then pitched a scoreless 8th, and got the first out of the 9th.

Chia-Jen Lo got his 2nd save of the spring by getting the final 2 outs of the game, although he did allow a run.

Offense

César Izturis put the Astros on the board first with a 2-run single in the 2nd.

Carlos Correa and Jon Singleton hit back-to-back solo shots in the 3rd to make it a 4-0 game.



Robbie Grossman added a sac fly in the 6th, and finally...

2012's #1 hit a 2-run homer in the 8th for the Astros' final runs.



Correa played all 9 innings and those 2 home runs constituted his 2 hits on the day. Izturis joined him in the 2-hit club for the day. Singleton drew a pair of walks to complement his homer.

Wanting in on this action, Nolan Fontana hit a triple in the 9th, and George Springer was 1-2 and scored twice.

Three Stars

3.


Jon Singleton, 1B
1-3, solo HR (1) in 3rd


2.


Dallas Keuchel, LHP
W (2-0), 4 IP, 6 H, 2 K


1.


Carlos Correa, SS
2-5, 2 HR (2), 3 RBI, 2 R


Next Up

The Astros will host the Cardinals in a game that will be broadcast to the 40% that have CSN Houston. It'll be matchup of Houston-area kids on the mound, as Clear Creek's Jarred Cosart will take on Klein Oak alum and former Aggie Michael Wacha. First pitche will be at 1:05 Eastern.

Happy Birthday - 3/14

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Marwin Gonzalez (25)
Gonzalez was drafted from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in December 2011 by the Red Sox and then quickly traded to the Astros for Rule 5 pick RHP Marco Duarte. He split his time in 2013 between Oklahoma City and Houston. In 72 games for the Astros, Gonzalez hit .221/.252/.319. For the RedHawks, he hit .262/.293/.349 in 44 games.

Two former Astros celebrate birthdays today as well ~

3B/OF Ty (sometimes Tye) Waller (57)
A fourth round pick by the Cardinals in 1977, Waller came to Houston as a free agent in December 1983 and played in 11 games for the Astros in 1987 with uninspiring results. His best season in the majors was for the Chicago Cubs in 1981 when he hit .268/.303/.451 over 30 games. Waller is currently the first base coach for the Oakland A's.

2B Matt Kata (36)
Originally drafted by Arizona in the ninth round in 1999, Kata signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2008. In 40 games for the Astros (52 plate appearances) in 2009, he hit .200/.212/.220.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 12

Houston Astros 10, Washington Nationals 9

2014 Grapefruit League record: 6-6

W- Raúl Valdés (2-0)
L- Xavier Cedeño (0-1)

Astros home runs: Jason Castro (2, 2-run in 3rd)

The Astros found themselves down 9-4 after surrendering 5 in the 5th, but they walked off with a victory by scoring 6 unanswered to close out the game. One big inning can change a game, but a scoring run can do just that, as well.






Starting Pitcher: Jerome Williams

Williams made his first start of the spring and had a couple of innings where he gave up 2 runs. All 4 of those runs were unearned, as they came off of a couple of Jonathan Villar errors. Villar had all the errors. Otherwise, Williams had a decent outing, and he has yet to issue a walk this spring.

Final line: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R (all unearned), 3 K

Bullpen

The first man out was Jose Cisnero, who inherited 2 runners from Williams. None of them scored; Cisnero did his job and got out of the 4th inning with no further damage.

Rhiner Cruz got 2 outs in the 5th, but also got walloped in the process, giving up 4 runs (1 inherited).

Darin Downs got the Astros out of the 5th, but served up a 2-run homer to Nate McLouth before doing that. The homer allowed the runner he inherited from Rhiner to score. Downs had a much quieter 6th, as he erased Jamey Carroll (who singled to lead off the inning) on a double play that was upheld after review and got Tyler Moore to fly out.

Anthony Bass was excellent in his 2 scoreless frames, allowing a hit and striking out 2, and Raúl Valdés struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 9th.

Offense

Jason Castro tore it up at the plate today; he opened the scoring by crushing a double to right-center and sent a 2-run shot out in the 3rd.


Villar chipped in with an RBI single in the 4th. Then, after the big inning for the Nationals, the Astros activated comeback mode.

In the 6th, Japhet Amador reached on an error that allowed 2 runs to score, which made it 9-6. Marwin Gonzalez hit an RBI single in the 7th to cut the lead to 9-7. Then in the 9th...

Rene Garcia kept the game going with a 2-out single, and then Adron Chambers came on to pinch-run. He'd make it a 1-run game by scoring on a Delino DeShields single. Marwin's 3rd hit of the game was a double that tied the game at 9. It could've been, and in all honesty really should've been, the final out of the game, but Steven Souza, the Nationals RF, had uh... second thoughts about catching the ball. He caught a case of alligator arms. One batter later, George Springer completed the comeback by placing a ball smack-dab into left-center, allowing Marwin to come home with the winning run.

Castro, DeShields, and Springer had 2-hit afternoons. Marwin was a perfect 3-3 with 2 runs scored. Dexter Fowler also scored twice.

Three Stars

Interchangeable.

3.


Jason Castro, C
2-3, 2B, 2-R HR (2), 3 RBI, R


2.


George Springer, OF
Huh? Oh, sorry, I was mesmerized for a moment.
2-3, GW RBI single in 9th, R


1.


Marwin Gonzalez, SS/3B
3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R


Many apologies to Anthony Bass and Raúl Valdés.

Next Up

The Astros will travel to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays. On the mound, Dallas Keuchel will take on Esmil Rogers. First pitch will be at 1:05 Eastern.

Astros Minor League Depth - Lefty Relief Pitchers, Part 2

In our ongoing look at the Astros minor league depth, earlier this week we covered those lefty relievers who finished the season at Advanced A or above. Today, we'll find out more about those lefty relievers who finished their seasons at Low A or on one of the short season teams. One exception to this is Reymin Guduan who made a spot appearance with Oklahoma City to end the season, but spent all but one of his regular season games with the Gulf Coast Astros team. The players are sorted low to high by WHIP.



Although three DSL players top this list, we're going to start at the other end of the spectrum ... with the Quad Cities team. Mitch Lambson, drafted by Houston in the 19th round in 2011, has been largely consistent in his three professional seasons. A couple of tough outings in May and June inflated his numbers somewhat. Lambson got stronger as the season progressed, culminating in a 0.82 ERA and 0.773 WHIP in his final 10 games. In four post-season games, he posted a 0.00 ERA and a 0.632 WHIP, striking out nine and walking one in six and a third innings. Lambson was often used in long relief, particularly later in the season. He has historically had better splits against right-handed hitters than against lefties and this year was no exception as southpaws hit .310 off Lambson.

Mitch Lambson - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Drafted by Houston in the 36th round in 2013, J.D. Osborne started the season with Greeneville (8 games) before being promoted first to Tri-City (12 games) and then on to Quad Cities for his final appearance of the regular season. He went on to make three post-season appearances with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.090 WHIP. A groundball pitcher, Osborne held opposing hitters to a .213 average (.212 vs. righties and .217 vs. lefties) and struck out 13.2 of them per nine innings. However, he also walked 5.3 batters per nine. He collected eight saves for the season.

Albert Minnis had a very nice first professional season after being drafted by the Astros in the 25th round in 2013. He spent his entire season in Tri-City before being shut down early. Minnis has the most extreme groundball numbers of this group with a 4.17 ground out/air out ratio. Because he was shut down early, it is a small sample size, but his splits against righties and lefties are virtually the same.

Albert Minnis - July 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Kevin Ferguson, a non-drafted free agent out of Northwestern University, had a much better time of it in his first nine games with the Gulf Coast League (0.82 ERA and 0.818 WHIP) than he did in his final six with Greeneville (12.54 ERA and a 2.143 WHIP). Lefties only hit .179 off of him. Sebastian Kessay missed a good chunk of the short season due to what I presume was an injury and worked exclusively out of the Greeneville bullpen after he returned to the line-up. He will likely get back in a starting rotation in the coming season since he struggled in a relief role. The 22nd round 2013 draft pick had a very hard time against lefties in 2013 as they hit a whopping .462 against him.

As noted above, Reymin Guduan pitched all but his final game with the GCL. The Dominican lefty has played four professional seasons and will turn 22 next week. He is reported to crank it up to 100 on occasion, but is also reported to have some control issues. Lefties only hit .185 against him. He struck out 12.5 batters per nine innings in 2013, but also walked 5.1 per nine.

Three youngsters from the Dominican Summer League lead this list in terms of WHIP and batting average allowed. One, Yhoan Acosta from the Dominican Republic, only pitched 5.1 innings so it's hard to get too excited about him yet, but Panamanian Cristhopher Santamaria and Dominican-born Junior Garcia definitely bear watching. Santamaria doesn't turn 18 until June. Garcia held lefties to a .115 batting average while Santamaria's lefty/righty split was more even.

And this brings me to Blaine Sims, picked up from Atlanta in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December. Sims just turned 25 and hasn't progressed beyond Advanced A, but don't pay any attention to that because he's a knuckleballer in training and all rules go out the window.

Happy Birthday - 3/13

One former Astro celebrates a birthday today ~

LHP Tom Funk (52)
Drafted by Houston in the 28th round in 1983, Funk pitched in eight games for the Astros in 1986 with a 6.48 ERA and a 1.920 WHIP. In six minor league seasons, he was 37-18 with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.280 WHIP.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Astros Roster Moves/Transactions

Well, this pretty much says it all, no real need to editorialize. 51 players remain in major league camp.

Happy Birthday - 3/12

No future Astros, but a couple noteworthy former Astros celebrate birthdays today ~

OF Jim "The Toy Cannon" Wynn (72)
Drafted from the Reds in the 1962 first year draft, Wynn played 11 seasons for the Colt .45's and Houston Astros from 1963 to 1973. Nicknamed The Toy Cannon for his diminutive stature and powerful stroke, Wynn's numbers were skewed by playing in the cavernous confines of the Astrodome. A three-time All-Star, he was second in home runs in 1967 behind Hank Aaron and led the National League in walks in 1969 and 1976. Not only did Wynn hit a home run into the upper deck of the Astrodome, Wynn launched this moonshot out of Crosley Field and on to the freeway in 1967. His number 24 was retired by the Astros in 2005. His autobiography Toy Cannon: The Autobiography of Baseball's Jimmy Wynn came out in October 2010.

CF Steve Finley (49)
A 13th round pick by the Orioles in 1987, Finley came to Houston, along with Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling, in a trade with Baltimore for Glenn Davis in 1991. Finley played four seasons (1991-1994) for the Astros, hitting .281/.331/.406 before departing Houston in this trade:
December 28, 1994: Traded by the Houston Astros with a player to be named later, Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams to the San Diego Padres for Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley. The Houston Astros sent Sean Fesh (minors) (May 1, 1995) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.
In 19 seasons for eight clubs, Finley won five Gold Gloves to go with two All-Star nods and, according to Baseball-Reference, he became only the second player in major league history, behind Willie Mays, to hit 300 home runs, 425 doubles and 100 triples, and to steal 300 bases.

RHP Bob Watkins (66)
A 22nd round draft pick by Houston in 1966, Watkins pitched 15.2 innings over five games in 1969 with a 5.17 ERA and a 1.660 WHIP.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Lefty Relievers, Part 1

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Eric Berger, Kenny Long and Blair Walters are no longer in the organization.]

In an ongoing series on the Astros minor league depth, this week we're going to take a look at the lefty relief corps. Today, we'll cover those lefty relievers who finished their seasons at Advanced A or higher. Their 2013 stats are ranked low to high in terms of WHIP.




Eric Berger had one of the more consistent seasons of this group culminating in an excellent August in which he had a 1.59 ERA and a 0.838 WHIP. Hitters managed only a .122 batting average off of him. He went on to have an excellent winter campaign in Venezuela in which he accumulated a 4-4 record, 3.04 ERA and a 1.278 WHIP in 10 starts. Berger has shown relatively even splits between left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters so I'm not seeing him as a lefty specialist. Berger is a six-year minor leaguer who came into the Astros system in an early April 2013 trade with Cleveland for C Chris Wallace and pitched at AAA Oklahoma City.

Pat Urckfitz, signed by Houston as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, has also toiled six seasons in the minor leagues. He spent the bulk of his season with AA Corpus Christi before getting the call to Oklahoma City in August. Urckfitz has the highest groundball rate of this group, but that is a somewhat newer development as he has been working to re-invent himself over the last couple of years. Another thing that has changed for him is his ability to retire lefties; they only hit .181 against him (.463 OPS) in 2013.

T.J. Geith was the PTBNL in the Ben Francisco trade with Tampa Bay. His first 31 appearances of the season for Advanced A Lancaster (2.86 ERA and 1.318 WHIP) went much better than his final 13 appearances in Corpus Christi (7.84 ERA and 1.694 WHIP). Geith had fairly even lefty/righty splits in 2013.

Theron "T.J." Geith - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Kenny Long, a 22nd round 2012 draft pick, had a tough season when it came to pitching at AA. After six games with Lancaster, Long was promoted to Corpus Christi in May. After 22 games in which he put up a 9.00 ERA and a 2.524 WHIP, Long returned to Lancaster for the remainder of the season. In a total of 23 games for Lancaster, he had a 2.89 ERA and a 1.014 WHIP. He walked four batters and struck out 27. Long definite profiles more as a lefty specialist, but he did not have quite the success in 2013 that he did in 2012. In 2012, lefties only hit .023 against him. In 2013, they hit .284 against him (.158 in Lancaster).

Kenny Long - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The Astros 2010 26th round pick, Alex Sogard, had an inconsistent season. In his first 10 games in Corpus Christi, he allowed only one earned run before he was promoted to Oklahoma City. He started out extremely well at the level but started struggling in mid-June and ended up back in Corpus Christi for his final six games of the season. While pitching with the RedHawks for 22 games, he allowed zero earned runs in 14 games, one earned run in three games and three+ runs in five games, which blew up his ERA to 9.39 at AAA. In his two stints for Corpus Christi, he had a 2.88 ERA and a 1.440 WHIP. Lefties only hit .214 against him, but Sogard actually did better against righties in 2011 and 2012. I've never really been able to get a handle on Sogard, but the front office thinks enough of him that they've sent him to the Arizona Fall League for the last two years.

Blair Walters, acquired from the White Sox in the July 2012 Brett Myers trade actually had a much better time of it as a starter than a reliever, but he was not used as a starter beyond mid-June except for a spot start at Oklahoma City to end the regular season. In six starts (five at Lancaster and one at Oklahoma City), he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.364 WHIP. On the other hand, he did do well out of the 'pen in July (4.15 ERA and a 1.154 WHIP in 8 games) before things blew up on him in August (20.45 ERA and 39.09 WHIP in 8 games). Lefties hit .277 off of him.

Blair Walters - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Later this week, we'll look at those lefty relievers who finished their seasons at Low A or on one of the short season teams.

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 11

Houston Astros 7, Washington Nationals 4

2014 Grapefruit League record: 5-6

W- Lucas Harrell (1-1)
L- Gio Gonzalez (0-1)

Astros home runs: Carlos Corporán (1, 2-run HR in 2nd)

As the old adage goes, one big inning can change the complexion of a baseball game. The Astros got a 5-spot in the 6th to blow this game open.

Starting Pitcher: Lucas Harrell

Lucas Harrell threw 4 fine innings as he is trying to stake his claim to a rotation spot. The Nationals' only run off of him came on a Bryce Harper groundout. The only hits they managed off of him were doubles.

Final line: W (1-1), 4 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, K

Bullpen

Mike Foltynewicz was the first man out, and the only run he allowed was a solo homer to Steven Souza to lead off the 6th.

Josh Zeid also allowed a run in the 7th; his outing got a bit hairy, but he escaped a bases-loaded situation without suffering further damage.

Alex Sogard struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 8th, and Josh Fields surrendered the Nationals' final run on a force play in the 9th.

Offense

After George Springer legged out an infield single in the 2nd, he stole 2nd base, then Carlos Corporán put the Astros on the board and gave them the lead with a 2-run homer.

They seized control in the 6th, as Corporán hit a 1-out double to get the assault going. He would score on a single from L.J. Hoes, who was lifted for Adron Chambers. After Gregorio Petit was hit by a pitch, Delino DeShields got on with a bunt single to load the bases. Jonathan Villar was next up, and he promptly cleared them with a double. After stealing 3rd, Villar came home with the Astros' final run of the evening on an RBI infield single from Japhet Amador.

Corporán and Petit both went 2-3. Corporán also had a multi-run game.

Three Stars

3.


Jonathan Villar, SS
1-3, 3-R 2B in 6th, SB (1)


2.


Lucas Harrell, RHP
W (1-1), 4 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, K


1.


Carlos Corporán, C
2-3, 2B, 2-R HR (1), 2 R


Next Up

Next up is the home portion of this matchup against the Nationals. First pitch will be at 1:05 Eastern on Wednesday. Jerome Williams will make his first start of the spring after a couple of bullpen outings. He will be opposed by Jordan Zimmermann.

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Happy Birthday - 3/11

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

2B/OF Chris Burke (34)
A first round draft pick for the Astros in 2001, Burke hit .249/.319/.377 in 359 games for Houston from 2004 to 2007. At AAA in 2004, he hit .315/.396/.507 but was being blocked at 2B by both Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio. In December of 2007, he was included in a trade to Arizona for Jose Valverde. Chris Burke will always be remembered by Astros fans for this moment in the 2005 NLDS Game 4 18-inning marathon. "It's gone! It's gone! It's gone!"

CF Cesar Geronimo (66)
Obtained by the Astros from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft in 1968, Geronimo spent three seasons with Houston from 1969 to 1971, hitting .228/.272/.307 before being included in the Joe Morgan trade to the Reds in November of 1971. He went on to earn four Gold Gloves for Cincinnati. His best year at the plate was 1976 when he hit .307 in the regular season and .308 in the World Series for the Reds.

RF Bobby Abreu (39)
Abreu played in 79 games for Houston at the start of his career before being drafted by Tampa Bay in the expansion draft and quickly flipped to the Phillies. He maintained a .303 batting average for Philadelphia over nine seasons while collecting a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and two All-Star nods. He led the National League in triples in 1999 and in doubles in 2002 before moving to the American League, playing first for the Yankees and then the Angels for several seasons. Abreu came back to the National League in 2012, playing for the Dodgers. After sitting out the 2013 season, he recently signed as a free agent with the Phillies.

RF Larry Ray (56)
A fourth round pick by the Astros in 1979, Ray got one hit and one RBI in his cup of coffee with Houston in 1982.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

And In Other News ...

The story came out over the weekend that Jack Armstrong, the Astros third round pick from 2011, is moving from the mound to first base. Bryan Green, a great photographer that I follow on Flickr, actually broke the story on March 4th when he posted this photo of Armstrong (check out the comment at the bottom left).

Also, Evan Drellich reported in today's Chronicle that the first round of Spring Training cuts have been made with Jake Buchanan, Bobby Doran, Jason Stoffel, Nick Tropeano, Jonathan Meyer, Ronnie Torreyes, Leo Heras and Preston Tucker reassigned to minor league camp and Paul Clemens optioned to Oklahoma City and assigned to minor league camp. That reduces the number of players in major league camp to 56 from the original 65. [UPDATE: According to Brian McTaggart, four additional players were optioned to minor league camp, bring the number in big league camp to 52. They were Luis Cruz, David Martinez, Domingo Santana and Max Stassi.]

And thanks to David Coleman over at TCB for posting the minor league Spring Training game schedule.

Consensus Top 20 Astros Prospect List and Farm Rankings

I've been collecting Prospect Rankings from various baseball pundits, culminating with Jonathan Mayo's pre-season Top 20 which came out late last week (added below). I also added the Fan Graph's ranking that came out in December. I have now taken the liberty of compiling a Consensus Top 20 List from the rankings of the six sources listed below. (A player needed to appear on at least three of the lists to make the top 20.)

CONSENSUS TOP 20 PROSPECT LIST

1. SS Carlos Correa
2. OF George Springer
3. RHP Mark Appel
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
5. 1B Jon Singleton
6. RHP Lance McCullers
7. RHP Vincent Velasquez
8. OF Domingo Santana
9. RHP Michael Feliz
10. 3B Rio Ruiz
11. OF Delino DeShields
12. RHP Asher Wojciechowski
13. C Max Stassi
14. LHP Josh Hader
15. RHP Andrew Thurman
16. OF Teoscar Hernandez
17. RHP Nick Tropeano
18. RHP Kyle Smith
19. SS Nolan Fontana
20. OF Danry Vasquez

RHP Kevin Chapman and OF Andrew Aplin are the only two players who appeared in the top 20 on any of the lists (Baseball America) who did not make the consensus list.

Those who were on the consensus list from last year who dropped off were Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Villar, Brad Peacock, Robbie Grossman, Adrian Houser and Carlos Perez. New to the consensus list are Appel, Feliz, Hader, Thurman, Hernandez, Smith and Vasquez.

ORGANIZATIONAL TOP PROSPECT LISTS

Baseball America's Organizational Top 10 (1/21/14)
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. OF George Springer
3. RHP Mark Appel
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
5. RHP Lance McCullers
6. RHP Vincent Velasquez
7. 1B Jon Singleton
8. OF Domingo Santana
9. RHP Michael Feliz
10. RHP Asher Wojciechowski

UPDATE: I got the BA Prospect Handbook in the mail today so I can now reveal their rankings of #11-31 in the Astros system.

11. 3B Rio Ruiz
12. C Max Stassi
13. OF Delino DeShields
14. LHP Josh Hader
15. RHP Andrew Thurman
16. OF Teoscar Hernandez
17. LHP Kevin Chapman
18. RHP Nick Tropeano
19. OF Andrew Aplin
20. SS Nolan Fontana
21. RHP Jake Buchanan
22. RHP Kyle Smith
23. LHP Kent Emanuel
24. LHP Chris Lee
25. OF Leo Heras
26. RHP Gonzalo Sanudo
27. RHP Jandel Gustave
28. LHP Reymin Guduan
29. OF Danry Vasquez
30. OF Brett Phillips
31. 2B/SS Ronald Torreyes

Baseball Prospectus' Organizational Top 10 (11/4/13)
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. OF George Springer
3. RHP Mark Appel
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
5. 1B Jon Singleton
6. RHP Vincent Velasquez
7. RHP Lance McCullers
8. OF Domingo Santana
9. 3B Rio Ruiz
10. RHP Michael Feliz

Keith Law's ESPN.com Organizational Top 10 (1/30/14) via House of Houston
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. RHP Mark Appel
3. OF George Springer
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
5. 1B Jon Singleton
6. OF Delino DeShields
7. RHP Vincent Velasquez
8. RHP Lance McCullers
9. 3B Rio Ruiz
10. RHP Michael Feliz

John Sickels (minorleagueball.com) Organizational Top 20 (2/18/14)
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. OF George Springer
3. RHP Mark Appel
4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
5. RHP Lance McCullers
6. RHP Vincent Velasquez
7. OF Domingo Santana
8. RHP Michael Feliz
9. 1B Jon Singleton
10. 3B Rio Ruiz
11. OF Delino DeShields
12. RHP Asher Wojciechowski
13. C Max Stassi
14. RHP Nick Tropeano
15. LHP Josh Hader
16. RHP Kyle Smith
17. RHP Andrew Thurman
18. OF Danry Vasquez
19. OF Teoscar Hernandez
20. SS Nolan Fontana

Jonathan Mayo's MLB.com Organizational Top 20 (3/7/14)
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. RHP Mark Appel
3. OF George Springer
4. 1B Jon Singleton
5. RHP Lance McCullers
6. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
7. OF Delino DeShields
8. OF Domingo Santana
9. RHP Vincent Velasquez
10. RHP Michael Feliz
11. 3B Rio Ruiz
12. C Max Stassi
13. OF Teoscar Hernandez
14. RHP Asher Wojciechowski
15. LHP Josh Hader
16. RHP Andrew Thurman
17. RHP Nick Tropeano
18. SS Nolan Fontana
19. RHP Kyle Smith
20. OF Danry Vasquez

Fan Graph's Top 10 + the next five (12/23/13)
1. SS Carlos Correa
2. OF George Springer
3. RHP Mark Appel
4. 1B Jon Singleton
5. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
6. RHP Vince Velasquez
7. RHP Lance McCullers
8. OF Domingo Santana
9. 3B Rio Ruiz
10. LHP Josh Hader
11. RHP Michael Feliz
12. C Max Stassi
13. OF Delino DeShields
14. RHP Andrew Thurman
15. RHP Kyle Smith

OVERALL TOP PROSPECT LISTS

Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 Prospect List (1/27/14)
5. SS Carlos Correa
20. OF George Springer
21. RHP Mark Appel
43. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
57. 1B Jon Singleton

Jonathan Mayo's MLB.com Top 100 (1/23/14)
8. SS Carlos Correa (#3 on SS list)
17. RHP Mark Appel (#6 on RHP list)
21. OF George Springer (#5 on OF list)
50. 1B Jon Singleton (#1 on 1B list)
52. RHP Lance McCullers
54. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
66. OF Delino DeShields

Here's my take on how the 2014 list compared to 2013, as well as how the Astros fared vs. the other AL West teams.

Keith Law's ESPN.com Top 100 Prospect List (1/29/14) via Astros County
4. SS Carlos Correa
11. RHP Mark Appel
19. OF George Springer
70. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
78. 1B Jon Singleton
80. OF Delino DeShields
82. RHP Vincent Velasquez

Fan Graphs Top 100 Prospect List (2/11/14)
9. SS Carlos Correa (#4 on SS list)
14. OF George Springer (#3 on OF list)
26. RHP Mark Appel (#14 on Pitcher list)
55. 1B Jon Singleton (#1 on 1B list)
57. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (#27 on Pitcher list)
67. RHP Vincent Velasquez (#30 on Pitcher list)

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospect List (2/19/14)
7. SS Carlos Correa
18. OF George Springer
39. Mark Appel
59. Mike Foltynewicz
77. Lance McCullers
82. Jon Singleton

FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS

Keith Law's ESPN.com Farm System Rankings (1/28/14) via Astros County
2014 - Ranked 1st
2013 - Ranked 4th
2012 - Ranked 27th

Baseball America's Farm System Rankings (coming out in the Prospect Handbook)
However, they had this take in October that ranked the Astros system #2.
2014 - Ranked 5th in the new Prospect Handbook
2013 - Ranked 9th
2012 - Ranked 17th

John Sickels (minorleagueball.com) Farm System Rankings (coming ?)
2014 -
2013 - Ranked 10th
2012 - Ranked 25th

Baseball Prospectus' Farm System Rankings (2/26/14)
2014 - Ranked 5th
2013 - Ranked 9th
2012 - Ranked 26th

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 10

Houston Astros 4, Toronto Blue Jays 3

2014 Grapefruit League record: 4-6

W- Raúl Valdés (1-0)
L- Jeremy Jeffress (0-1)
S- Peter Moylan (1)

Astros home runs: Jason Castro (1, 2-run HR in 6th)

It took a while for both teams' offenses to get into gear, as this game was scoreless for 5 innings. Both teams put up a pair in the 6th, and after a lull in the 7th, the Blue Jays went ahead with 1 in the top of the 8th. The Astros responded with another pair in the bottom of the 8th to take the lead, and Peter Moylan shut the door for an Astros victory, which snapped a 5-game losing streak.

Starting Pitcher: Rudy Owens

Owens was shelled against the Mets in his first spring start, but this start was a complete 180 from that rough first outing. He did labor a little through the 1st with a 23-pitch inning, but settled down after that and finished with 3 strong, scoreless frames.

Final line: 3 IP, H, BB, 2 K

Bullpen

Matt Albers gave up 2 hits and struck out 1 in a scoreless 4th.

Kevin Chapman allowed a single to Kevin Pillar in the 5th, but nothing came of it. He struck out Ryan Goins for the first out of the inning.

The Blue Jays broke the scoreless tie on Anthony Bass in the 6th with an RBI double from Moises Sierra and an RBI single by Erik Kratz. Bass struck out 2 in the inning.

Jorge De Leon allowed a hit in a scoreless 7th.

Kratz hit an RBI double off Raúl Valdés in the 8th, which was upheld after a challenge from Bo Porter. Carlos Perez appeared to have tagged Steve Tolleson at the plate, but Tolleson's foot made it to home plate before Perez made contact with him.


After the Astros took the lead, Peter Moylan threw a 1-2-3 9th, getting 3 flyballs to end it.

Offense

Jason Castro immediately restored the tie with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 6th. He and Chris Carter had 2 hits apiece.



Adron Chambers got on board with a 2-out single in the 8th and came all the way around to score off Marwin Gonzalez's double to tie the game at 3.


Marwin would score the eventual winning run on a single from Carlos Perez.

Three Stars

3.


Peter Moylan, RHP
Save (1), IP


2.


Carlos Perez, C
1-1, GW RBI single in 8th


1.



Jason Castro, C
2-3, 2-R HR (1) in 6th


Next Up

Up next for the Astros is a home-and-away with the Nationals. The away portion is up first, as they'll travel to Viera. Lucas Harrell will make his 3rd start of the spring, and he'll be taking on Gio Gonzalez. First pitch for this game will be at 6:05 Eastern.

Happy Birthday - 3/10

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Blaine Sims (25)
Sims was drafted from Atlanta in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December 2013. In four seasons of minor league pitching for the Braves system, Sims has a 4-23 record with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

A few former Astros celebrate birthdays today as well ~

A fourth round pick by the White Sox in 1982, Cangelosi signed as a free agent with Houston in March 1995 after playing a total of eight seasons for the White Sox, Pirates, Rangers and Mets. In 198 games for Houston in 1995 and 1996, Cangelosi hit .287/.413/.367 before heading to the Marlins in 1997 where he hit .333 in World Series play. He also pitched a total of 4 innings for three different teams (including Houston) and finished his pitching career with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP.

After coming to Houston from the White Sox in a trade in December 1965, Heath hit .301/.353/.350/.703 over 55 games in the 1966 season. He only played in a handful of games for the Astros in 1967 before being picked up by Detroit. Heath earned his MBA from the University of Houston in 1981 and became a very successful financial advisor after retiring from baseball.

A native of Canada and a Yale graduate, MacKenzie pitched in 21 games for Houston after being purchased from the Giants in October 1964 and went 0-3 with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.405 WHIP.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recaps, Games 8 & 9

*I embedded some highlights from MLB.com, which may take time to fill the wide swaths of empty space in this post.

New York Yankees 9, Houston Astros 6

2014 Grapefruit League record, after this game: 3-5

W- Chase Whitley (1-2)
L- Jose Cisnero (0-1)
S- Chris Leroux (1)

Astros home runs: Chris Carter (1)

After the Astros took a 6-4 lead courtesy of a 3-run homer from Chris Carter in the 5th, the Yankees responded with 5 unanswered (3 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th) to seize control of the game.

Starting Pitcher: Jarred Cosart

Cosart worked around a couple of walks to throw a scoreless 1st inning, striking out 2. In the 2nd, though, he gave up a leadoff single to Dean Anna, and an error on Jose Altuve allowed the Yankees to get on the board. An RBI double from Mason Williams drew the Yankees even in the inning. Cosart left after getting Brett Gardner to ground out for the 2nd out of the inning.

Final line: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 earned), 2 BB, 2 K

Bullpen

Jorge De Leon finished the 2nd by striking out Eduardo Nuñez. 

Darin Downs came on for the next 2 innings and gave up a 2-run homer to Kelly Johnson in the 3rd. He threw a scoreless 4th, and walked 2 in his outing.

Chad Qualls struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 5th.

Jose Cisnero got tagged with the loss, as he gave up the Yankees' 3 runs in the 6th. Only one of those runs were earned. He allowed 3 hits, walked 1, and fanned 1.

Jake Buchanan gave up 2 in the 7th on a pop fly single and a fielder's choice. He also struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 8th.

Nick Tropeano allowed a 1-out single, but nothing came of it as he struck out 2 in a scoreless 9th.

Offense

Jason Castro went the other way with a nice 2-run double to open the scoring for the Astros in the 1st.


In the 2nd, Cesar Izturis dropped an RBI single right in between a couple of Yankee outfielders.

And finally, Chris Carter put the Astros in front at that point with this 3-run shot:


It was nice to see Rio Ruiz and Teoscar Hernandez see some action with the big club. They both went 0-1, with Rio drawing a walk and Teoscar scoring a run. Nolan Fontana came on as a pinch-hitter for Izturis in the 9th and doubled.

Philadelphia Phillies 11, Houston Astros 3

2014 Grapefruit League record, after Saturday: 3-6

W- Jesse Biddle (1-0)
L- Collin McHugh (0-1)

Astros home runs: None.

It was not exactly a banner spring training game day as both Astros squads wound up taking losses. This one got away in the middle portions of the game, as the Phillies went on an 11-2 run from the 5th to the 9th.

Starting Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel was excellent, delivering 3 no-hit innings. The only Phillies to reach on him were Chase Utley (via walk in the 1st) and Carlos Ruiz (via error from Matt Dominguez in the 2nd).

Final line: 3 IP, BB, 2 K

Bullpen

Collin McHugh was the first man out, and after a scoreless 4th, the wheels fell off. I'll leave it at that.

Jason Stoffel got the final 2 outs of the 6th, but allowed both of the runners he inherited from McHugh to score, and gave up one of his own.

Luis Cruz got rocked in the 7th; David Martinez had to clean up that mess.

Chia-Jen Lo allowed an unearned run in the 8th; Bobby Doran allowed that run to score, but was able to avoid further damage.

Offense

Robbie Grossman put the Astros on the board first with this exquisite hit-and-run:


Houston managed to tie the game at 3, as Jesse Biddle uncorked a wild one...



...and Gregorio Petit poked a hole through the left side of the Phillies infield.





These guys were much more patient than the squad in Kissimmee, outwalking them 9-2.

Japhet Amador made his spring debut for the Astros, going 0-2 with a K after replacing Brett Wallace at DH.

Ruben Sosa and Chris Epps made appearances as pinch-hitters in the 9th. They both grounded out.

Three Stars

3.


Chris Carter, 1B/DH
vs. NYY 1-3, 3-R HR (1) in 5th


2.


Cesar Izturis, SS
vs. NYY: 2-3, RBI single in 2nd


1.


 Dallas Keuchel, LHP
@PHI: 3 IP, BB, 2 K


Honorable Mentions: Jose Altuve, Jason Castro

Next Up

The Astros will have a full squad in Kissimmee to welcome the Blue Jays. Rudy Owens will look to rebound from a rough first start as he takes on R.A. Dickey at 1:05 Eastern.

Happy Birthday - 3/9

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

CF Jim Landis (80)
Obtained in a trade with the Indians in January 1967, Landis spent just that one season in an Astros uniform, hitting .252 in 50 games before being traded to Detroit.  A five time Gold Glove winner and one time All-Star, Landis' best season at the plate was 1961 when he hit .283/.362/.470/.832 for the White Sox.

LHP C.J. Nitkowski (41)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the first round in 1994, Nitkowski came to Houston in a December 1996 trade with with Detroit. Nitkowski pitched only one season for the Astros in 1998 before being traded back to Detroit in January of 1999. While with Houston, he was 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.207 WHIP in 43 appearances.

LHP Gary Wayne Franklin (40)
A 36th round pick by the Dodgers in 1996, Franklin came to Houston as a Rule 5 pick from Los Angeles. In two seasons for the Astros in 2000 and 2001, he had a 5.94 ERA and a 1.860 WHIP in 36 games before being traded to Milwaukee for Mark Loretta.

1B/3B Aaron Boone (41)
Drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1994, Boone signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2008 and appeared in only 10 games for the Astros at the end of 2009 after recovery from open heart surgery in March of that year. Boone retired in February 2010 and became a baseball analyst for ESPN. He is probably best remembered for hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS in 2003, thus sending the Yankees to the World Series.

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