Saturday, March 29, 2014

Astros Minor League Roster Moves

Astros LHP Eric Berger tweeted out today that he had been traded to Oakland. According to Evan Drellich of the Chronicle, Houston will get a player to be named later in the transaction. Berger was a solid member of the bullpen in Oklahoma City last season and had a terrific winter league campaign as a starter in Venezuela last year as well.

Also, according to MiLB.com, 3B Darwin Rivera was released earlier this week. Rivera was signed by Houston out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2010 season. He played last season in Greeneville, hitting .211/.275/.303 in 40 games.

Happy Birthday - 3/29

No future Astros with birthdys today, but one former Astro celebrates ~

UT Eric Bruntlett (36)
Drafted by Houston in the ninth round in 2000, Bruntlett spent five seasons, between 2003 and 2007 playing for the Astros, hitting .250/.323/.364 over 320 games. In November of 2007, he was traded along with Brad Lidge to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Mike Costanzo and Geoff Geary. In August 2009, he became only the second player in major league history to end a game with an unassisted triple play.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Roster Questions

SECOND UPDATE: 2B Kike Hernandez tweeted out that he would be returning to Corpus Christi and based on the fact that they are driving, I think it is safe to say that RHP Brady Rodgers, LHP Theron Geith and OF Andrew Aplin are headed for Corpus Christi as well. Add Delino DeShields and Rene Garcia to the Corpus list.

UPDATE: According to tweets that came out this morning, we know a few players are on their way to Iowa (Low A Quad Cities):

C Brian Holberton
IF Jack Mayfield
1B Chase McDonald
3B Tyler White

I've been getting a lot of questions about when the minor league rosters are going to be posted. Unfortunately, they aren't available yet and last year, they didn't post them until about three days before the minor league season started.

It is my understanding that tentative rosters were posted for the team a few days ago, but that information isn't public because there is usually a lot of adjustment to them right up until the last minute. I believe that everyone is flying out to respective teams on Sunday and I would imagine some info will start to trickle out then, but I really don't expect rosters to be posted until probably Monday (guessing).

I promise that I will post them as soon as I have them in my hot little hands. In the meantime, in case you missed it, there was news a few days ago on where three of the Astros top prospects will land. Mark Appel and Carlos Correa were reported to be headed to Lancaster to start the season, and Mike Foltynewicz will be in Oklahoma City.

I wish I could tell you more, but that is all that has been made public at this time.

Foto Friday - Spring Training Edition

I finally got through my Spring Training photos, weeded them out and got most of them tagged. You can find all of them here. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites ~

Chris Lee

Mike Foltynewicz

Joe Musgrove

David Martinez and Lance McCullers

Blaine Sims

Jon Singleton

Rio Ruiz

Photos by Jayne Hansen
 All Rights Reserved*

*The players featured in these photos are hereby granted permission to use these photos for personal use. All other uses require permission and acknowledgment.

Happy Birthday - 3/28

No future Astros with birthdays today, but two former Astros celebrate ~

1B Glenn Davis (53)
Davis, a first round draft pick (fifth overall) for Houston in 1981, played for the Astros from 1984 to 1990, hitting .262/.337/.483 with 150 doubles, 10 triples and 166 home runs over 830 games. Davis was a two-time All-Star and also won the Silver Slugger Award before being traded to the Orioles in January of 1991 for Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and  Steve Finley. After a disappointing tenure with the Orioles, he ended up back in the minor leagues and eventually played for two seasons in Japan. According to Baseball-Reference:
He returned in 1996 [to Japan] and became the 10th player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to hit a sayonara (walk-off) grand slam home run to win a game; he was the first gaijin to accomplish that.
Ironically, he never hit a grand slam in the MLB.

RHP Mark Melancon (29)
Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round in 2006, Melancon came to Houston along with Jimmy Paredes in the Lance Berkman trade in July 2010. Melancon pitched in 91 games for Houston in 2010 and 2011, going 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA, a 1.211 WHIP and 20 saves. Melancon was traded to Boston in December 2011 for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland and was subsequently traded to Pittsburgh in December 2012.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 25

Houston Astros 9, New York Mets 6

2014 Grapefruit League record: 10-15

W- Mark Appel (1-0)
L- Gonzalez Germen (1-2)
S- Anthony Bass (2)

Astros home runs: None.

The Astros concluded their time in Florida with a victory on the strength of a 7-run 7th. Mark Appel made his long-awaited debut in an Astros uniform, pitching a scoreless 7th for the victory. It won't be long before he makes his Astros debut for real.

Starting Pitcher: Scott Feldman

Feldman pitched into the 6th in what should be his final tune-up before Opening Day. He was taken deep for a 2-run shot by Anthony Recker in the 5th and gave up 1 more run in the 6th. Feldman did not issue any walks and struck out 6.

Final line: 5.2 IP, 6 H (2-R homer), 3 ER, 6 K

Bullpen

Brad Peacock only faced one batter; he got the out to end the 6th.

Mark Appel pitched the 7th and worked around a leadoff single to retire the side, striking out 2.

Kevin Chapman got 2 outs (1 via strikeout) in the 8th, but also gave up 3 runs (1 inherited) in the process. Anthony Bass got the final out of the inning with a strikeout, and closed it out by striking out the side in the 9th.

Best stat of the night: Zero walks!!!

Offense

Carlos Corporán led the way with 2 hits. He and Chris Carter scored 2 runs apiece. So... there's an unlikely source of runs scored. The Astros had been shut out for 2/3 of the game until stretch time. I guess that's what they needed to get themselves going.

3 walks loaded the bases in the 7th. At that time, Jose Altuve was the lone casualty of the inning, as he was called out on strikes. Carlos Corporan worked a full count, then stroked a 2-run double to put the Astros on the board, down 3-2. They'd take the lead on another 2-run double from L.J. Hoes, and a 3rd consecutive double from Matt Dominguez brought Hoes home. Marwin Gonzalez continued the assault with an RBI single, and Preston Tucker chipped in with an RBI single of his own to finish off the big inning.

In the 8th, Carter scored on a wild pitch, and Hoes added a sac fly for the Astros' final run of the night.

Three Stars

3.


Anthony Bass, RHP
Save (2), 1.1 IP, 2 H, 4 K


2.


Mark Appel, RHP
IP, H, 2 K


1.


Carlos Corporán, C
2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R


Next Up

With the Grapefruit League portion of this preseason complete, the Astros are headed back to Texas to play some exhibition games with the Dallas Rangers in San Antonio. The first game will be Friday at 7:05 in the Alamodome.

Astros Minor League Roster Moves/Transactions

Word came out this morning of a couple more Astros minor league player releases:

RHP Erick Gonzalez, drafted in the 15th round in 2012 out of GateWay Community College in Arizona, was 3-5 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.556 WHIP in 20 bullpen appearances with the Gulf Coast League Astros in 2013.

RHP Alan Abreu, was a non-drafted free agent out of Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina, and the story of his signing was an interesting one. He only pitched in one game for the Greeneville Astros in 2013.

In addition, it was announced that Jack Armstrong, Jr., the Astros third round pick in 2011 is retiring. He recently attempted to make the switch from the mound to first base after multiple injuries derailed his pitching career.

Also, I reached out to the Astros front office to enquire about 1B/DH Chase Davidson. Although he is still showing as active on MiLB.com, he did retire over the off-season. Davidson was first drafted by the Astros in the third round in 2008, but did not sign. He was re-drafted in the 41st round in 2011. Davidson had played in only a handful of games over the last two seasons, presumably due to injuries.

Finally, in case you missed it from yesterday, Peter Moylan and the Astros have parted company. Moylan tweeted this out yesterday evening ~



I have updated my ongoing off-season transaction list with these moves.

UPDATED with a couple of major league roster moves:

OF Alex Presley was claimed off waivers from the Twins and added to the Astros 40-man roster. In order to make room for him, LHP Raul Valdes was designated for assignment.

Happy Birthday - 3/27

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Felix Lucas (17)
Lucas was signed out of the Dominican Republic during the July 2013 international signing period. He has not made his professional debut yet.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Catchers, Part 2

In my ongoing series on Astros minor league depth, earlier this week we looked at those catchers in the system who ended their seasons at Advanced A or higher. Today we review those catchers who ended their seasons at Low A Quad Cities or on one of the short season teams. The players are ranked high to low in terms of their 2013 on-base percentage. As I did with the first part of the series, I am also including some defensive statistics.



The highest on-base percentage of these catchers belongs to ninth round 2013 draft pick Brian Holberton. Holberton was behind the dish in 25 of his 37 games for Greeneville. He also leads this group in slugging percentage. Holberton caught 29% of would-be base stealers, had a .991 fielding percentage, a 8.84 range factor and allowed six passed balls.

Holberton shared the catching duties in Greeneville with Alfredo Gonzalez. Gonzalez signed with Houston as an international free agent all the way back in 2008, but he is still only 21. He caught in 30 of his 33 games, sporting a healthy 42% caught stealing rate (30% career), a .989 fielding percentage, 8.87 range factor and allowed six passed balls. He was solid at the plate.

Barely trailing Holberton in on-base percentage, 34th round 2013 draft pick Brett Booth split his season between the Gulf Coast League team (16 games) and Tri-City (26 games). He did not hit quite as well at Tri-City as he had with the GCL, but still held his own. He caught in 26 of his 42 games and excelled defensively with a 44% caught stealing percentage, a .992 fielding percentage, a 10.15 range factor and only two passed balls.

The primary catchers at Tri-City for the season were Jake Rodriguez (30 of 32 games at catcher) and Ernesto Genoves who was released a few days ago. Both players struggled at the plate. Rodriquez was drafted in the 19th round in 2013. He had a 47% caught stealing rate, .986 fielding percentage, 7.20 range factor and allowed two passed balls.

Jake Rodriguez - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The DSL featured an interesting pair of catchers. Marlon Avea, 20, signed as free agent out of Nicaragua has spent the last three seasons with the DSL. He caught in 50 of his 52 games and stopped 49% of base stealers (44% career), had a .985 fielding percentage, 7.78 range factor and allowed 10 passed balls. Avea hit extremely well in 39 games this past winter with the Liga Paralela in Venezuela, putting up a .333/.402/.479 batting line. Brian Pena, who will be 20 in June, was signed out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2012 season. He started off hot at the plate, but cooled off as the season progressed. Pena had a 44% caught stealing rate in 2013 (35% in 2012), a .977 fielding percentage, 8.72 range factor and allowed five passed balls. He caught in 29 of his 31 games.

Marlon Avea - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jacob Nottingham, the Astros 2013 sixth round draft pick, was behind the plate in 30 of his 44 games with the GCL team. Defensively, he caught 25% of would-be base stealers, had a 1.000 fielding percentage, an 8.60 range factor and allowed 12 passed balls. Offensively, he started to really heat up at the end of the season, hitting .306/.350/.472 over his final 10 games. With two triples and four stolen bases to his name, he is hardly your prototypical catcher.

Nottingham shared catching duties at the GCL with Booth (as noted above), Brett Clements (caught in 15 of his 20 games), and Pedro Coa (caught in 18 of his 26 games). Clements was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Nova Southeastern in 2013. He caught 2 of 9 base runners (22%), had a .989 fielding percentage, 6.00 range factor and allowed five passed balls. Pedro Coa signed with the Astros out of Venezuela prior to the 2011 season. Although Coa struggled at the plate in his first season stateside, he showed some promise offensively in his final season with the Dominican Summer League. Coa only caught 23% of runners in 2013, down substantially from prior seasons (41% career). He had a .975 fielding percentage, 6.40 range factor and allowed 13 passed balls.

Jobduan Morales came into the Houston organization in the May 2012 Justin Ruggiano trade with the Marlins. He caught in 52 games out of his 66 total for Quad Cities. Morales had a 29% caught stealing rate (26% career), .990 fielding percentage, 7.87 range factor and allowed two passed balls.

Morales shared catching duties at Quad Cities with Roberto Pena. Pena has been named by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the organization for a couple of years in a row and with good reason. Pena played 84 of his 86 games at the catcher position. In the process, he caught 52% of potential base stealers (41% career), had a .993 fielding percentage, a 8.79 range factor and allowed six passed balls. There is zero question in my mind as to whether or not Pena has what it takes to make it to the big leagues. The only question is whether he will hit well enough to avoid becoming a back-up backstop.

Roberto Pena - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen


Happy Birthday - 3/26

No future Astros with birthdays, but two former Astros celebrate today ~

RHP Shane Reynolds (46)
Drafted by the Astros in the third round in 1989, Reynolds pitched for Houston from 1992 to 2002. He had a 103-86 record over 274 appearances (248 starts) with an ERA of 3.95 and a WHIP of 1.292. His best season was 1998 when he went 19-8 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP. In 1999 he led the National League in SO/BB ratio and sacrifice hits, and was finally given an All-Star nod in 2000.

IF Jose Vizcaino (46)
Vizcaino played in 18 seasons for eight different teams, five of those for Houston from 2001 to 2005 where he batted .276/.316/.369 in 559 games. He led the National League in fielding percentage and assists by a shortstop in 1995 for the Mets. In 2000, he had the game-winning hit for the Yankees in Game 1 of the Subway World Series between the Yankees and the Mets. He is currently a Special Assistant for Player Personnel for the Dodgers.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 24

Houston Astros 7, Atlanta Braves 5

2014 Grapefruit League record: 9-15

W- Jason Stoffel (1-0)
L- David Hale (0-3)
S- Ross Seaton (1)

Astros home runs: None.

Down 4-0 after the 1st, the Astros finished the game on a 7-1 run at Disney World. 

Starting Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel served up a pair of home runs in the 1st inning to Chris Johnson (3-run) and Justin Upton (solo). That 4-run 1st wound up becoming the only inning in which he allowed a run. He also drew a walk at the plate! And scored on a wild pitch!!!

Final line: 4 IP, 5 H (2 homers), 4 ER (all on the home runs), 2 BB, 7 K

Bullpen

Jason Stoffel was the first man out for the Astros, and although he gave up a game-tyine homer to Freddie Freeman in the 5th, he still turned in a good outing, striking out 2 in his 1.2 innings. He bowed out with 2 outs in the 6th, and on came Kevin Chapman, who struck out Jason Heyward to end the inning.

That would be the only out that Chapman would record, as he walked B.J. Upton and allowed a single to Ernesto Mejia. 

Andrew Robinson was summoned to escape a runners on the corners with no outs situation. He did just that, punching out Chris Johnson, getting Justin Upton to pop out, and Tyler Pastornicky to ground out. Robinson struck out Steven Lerud to begin the 8th and left after allowing a double to Ramiro Peña. 

Raúl Valdés was next, and he finished the 8th by striking out our old pal Jordan Schafer, and getting Phil Gosselin to ground out. 

Ross Seaton allowed a single to Derrick Mitchell to lead off the 9th, but he wound up shutting the door, striking out Edward Salcedo to end it. 

Offense

The Astros pounded out 13 hits, with Dexter Fowler leading the charge with a 3-4 night. Robbie Grossman, Jose Altuve, and L.J. Hoes had 2 apiece. 

Down 4-0, they put up 3 in the 4th, thanks to an RBI single from Fowler...



Keuchel trotted home on a wild pitch,




and then Grossman hammered an RBI triple to bring the Astros to within 1.





Another wild pitch allowed Altuve to score the tying run in the 5th,



and Chris Carter scored the go-ahead run as Jonathan Villar sacrificed himself. After the Braves tied it at 5 in the bottom of the 5th, Fowler broke the tie by scoring on a Jason Castro force out. Castro made it to 2nd, thanks to an error on the play. And finally, Carter hit a sac fly in the 9th to bring home Andrew Aplin, who entered as a pinch-runner for Castro.

Three Stars

3.


Robbie Grossman, OF
2-5, RBI 3B in 4th




2.


Jose Altuve, 2B
2-5, R, and this web gem:







1.



Dexter Fowler, OF
3-4, RBI, 2 R, BB


Next Up





Astros Minor League Depth - Catchers, Part 1

Next up in my ongoing series on Astros minor league depth, let's look at the catchers in the organization. Today we'll see how the catchers who ended the season at Advanced A or higher did in 2013. Their 2013 stats are sorted from high to low by on-base percentage.

This is the first time in this series that I will include a player who has made his major league debut. Max Stassi was rushed to Houston from AA due to injuries in the system. As well as Stassi played in 2013, it is doubtful that he would have been called up last season if catcher injuries hadn't mounted up and forced the Astros to make the move prematurely.

I am also including some defensive stats in my comments since that is such a major factor in looking at catchers. [A note on caught stealing percentages for 2013: Due to a glitch on Baseball-Reference, this information for 2013 was not available. My thanks to Mike Fast of the Astros for helping me out with that information.]



Of this group of six, 18th round 2012 draft pick Ricky Gingras has the least experience at the upper levels. He only appeared in five games at Lancaster at the end of the season (four of those behind the dish) and he didn't get a hit in those five games. He actually only appeared in 21 games all season, 12 as catcher and DH in the rest. He hit .275/.383/.471 with a double, three home runs and 12 RBI in his first 16 games in Greeneville. Defensively, he caught 29% of runners attempting to steal (25% career), had a .990 fielding percentage, a 8.00 range factor and one passed ball.

Ryan McCurdy leads this list in terms of OBP with a healthy .410 mark. McCurdy played all 34 of his games in 2013 at catcher (24 in Lancaster and 10 in Corpus Christi). He has been used primarily as a back-up catcher and while backing up Tyler Heineman in Lancaster in May 2013, caught a combined no-hitter thrown by lefties Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz. McCurdy caught 20% of would-be base stealers in 2013 (23% career), had a .979 fielding percentage, 8.38 range factor and one passed ball. McCurdy was signed by Houston as a non-drafted free agent in 2010.

2008 35th round draft pick Rene Garcia leads this list with the highest batting average, boosted by a .304/.348/.419 batting line in his first 73 games in Corpus Christi prior to his August 1st promotion to Oklahoma City. He caught in 77 of his 91 total games and sported a very impressive 51% caught stealing percentage at Corpus Christi (29% at Oklahoma City; 46% combined for the season; 36% career). For the 2013 season, Garcia had a .994 fielding percentage, 7.01 range factor and one passed ball.

Rene Garcia - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Max Stassi, obtained from Oakland in a February 2013 trade, leads the way in slugging percentage with a robust .529 (minor league stats only). That mark was third in the Astros minors for all players with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. His 17 home runs were sixth in the minor league system. Stassi played 50 of his 76 games at catcher and boasted a 37% caught stealing rate (31% career), .983 fielding percentage, 7.02 range factor and two passed balls. Stassi played all of his 2013 minor league games at AA Corpus Christi.

Carlos Perez leads this group with a very impressive 48% caught stealing rate for 2013. His career mark is 36%, but the 48% for 2013 isn't a fluke since he caught 47% of runners in 2012. Like Garcia, Perez was promoted from AA Corpus Christi to AAA Oklahoma City during the 2013 season, but Perez' promotion came after only 16 games at AA. Catching 83 of his 91 games during the season, he had a .988 fielding percentage, 8.84 range factor and allowed 11 passed balls. Offensively, he had a solid season. Perez came to Houston via the July 2012 10-player trade with Toronto.

Carlos Perez - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Tyler Heineman, drafted in the eighth round in 2012, caught the most games of this group by far, catching in 101 of his 104 games. He ranks second out of the group in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. And he also excelled defensively at Advanced A Lancaster, with a 42% caught stealing rate (41% in his first year in 2012), a .991 fielding percentage, 8.48 range factor and eight passed balls.

Tyler Heineman - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Later this week, we will look at those catchers who ended their seasons at Low A Quad Cities or on one of the short season teams.

Happy Birthday - 3/25

No future Astros with birthdays today, but one former Astro celebrates ~

RHP Mike Nagy (66)
Obtained in a trade from the Cardinals in December 1973, Nagy only pitched in nine games for Houston in 1974 at the end of his major league career with less than desirable results.  His best season was his rookie season in 1969, when he was 12-2 with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.469 WHIP in 33 appearances (28 starts) for Boston.  He was second only to Lou Pinella in AL Rookie of the Year voting that year.  According to Baseball-Reference:
After his stint in the US ended, Nagy starred in the Mexican League from 1976-1979. He led the Liga in ERA in 1978 and his 2.01 career ERA is the lowest in LMB history among hurlers with 500+ innings.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Astros Spring Training Roster Moves

The news came this morning that the Astros were releasing IF Cesar Izturis, optioning RHP Josh Zeid to Oklahoma City and re-assigning OF Adron Chambers and C Rene Garcia to minor league camp. If the Astros start the season with 13 pitchers, as has been much discussed, the following list (minus DL candidates and minus Carlos Perez, who is not expected to break camp with the team) may be your opening day roster.

However, I still firmly believe that Jeff Luhnow and Company are looking under every rock for further options, particularly at first base. One never knows with this group. I certainly didn't expect to see Zeid optioned, but since he has options remaining and Harrell doesn't, I can understand the reasoning.

With that said, these are the players who remain in big league camp.

PITCHERS
RHP Matt Albers
RHP Anthony Bass
LHP Kevin Chapman
RHP Jarred Cosart
RHP Jesse Crain (probable DL stint)
RHP Scott Feldman
RHP Josh Fields
RHP Lucas Harrell
LHP Dallas Keuchel
RHP Peter Moylan (probable DL stint)
LHP Brett Oberholtzer
RHP Brad Peacock
RHP Chad Qualls
LHP Raul Valdes
RHP Alex White (probable DL stint)
RHP Jerome Williams
RHP Asher Wojciechowski (probable DL stint)

CATCHERS
Jason Castro
Carlos Corporan
Carlos Perez

INFIELDERS
Jose Altuve
Chris Carter
Matt Dominguez
Marwin Gonzalez
Jesus Guzman
Marc Kraus (IF/OF)
Jonathan Villar

OUTFIELDERS
Dexter Fowler
Robbie Grossman
L.J. Hoes

Astros Spring Training Video from the Back Fields

OK, so I kinda got a little carried away with taking video at Spring Training. It was probably a good thing that I forgot to recharge my battery the last day and couldn't take as much. But since I went crazy anyway, I decided "What the Heck" (Bobby?) and proceeded to upload virtually all of it on my YouTube channel so you can look at any of the videos that interest you.

There were a few that I found particularly interesting. First of all, I was intrigued by Jack Armstrong (who converted from pitcher to first baseman) and was interested to see how he looked in the batter's box. I have a couple BP videos and two from a simulated game. After striking out his first time against RHP David Martinez, he got a single the second time around:




Lefty Luis Cruz gave up a home run to 1B Chase McDonald in a simulated game on Field 5 before settling down into a very dominant performance:



Other pitchers appearing on Field 5 that day included RHP Lance McCullers:



RHP Vincent Velasquez:



and RHP Michael Feliz, among others. There was a lot of talent on display on Field 5 that day! I also have video of Aaron West and Albert Minnis pitching in simulated games on Field 5 the following day (it was definitely the place to be).



I caught (pun intended) Max Stassi, Ryan McCurdy and Roberto Pena (shown here) participating in catching drills:



There are numerous batting practice videos posted (Andrew Aplin, Matt Duffy, Leo Heras, Jason Martin and others), including this one that shows OF Ydarqui Marte get nailed by Cesar Cedeno as he tosses BP:



I also very belatedly uploaded some video I took in Greeneville in August and Lancaster in September which I admittedly kind of forgot about. There is video of hard throwing RHP Jandel Gustave here and here and here. I also caught RHP Austin Chrismon recording strikeouts here and here. There is also video of LHP Jordan Mills here, LHP Kevin Ferguson here, LHP Chris Lee here, RHP Gonzalo Sanudo here and OF Tanner Mathis here. The Lancaster video shows RHP Travis Ballew recording the final out of Game 1 of the playoffs from last season.

Happy Viewing!

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 23

St. Louis Cardinals 6, Houston Astros 3

2014 Grapefruit League record: 8-15

W- Joe Kelly (2-1)
L- Jerome Williams (0-1)
S- Trevor Rosenthal (2)

Astros home runs: None.

Again, the Cardinals stormed out of the gate and mauled an Astros starter in the process. 

Starting Pitcherr: Jerome Williams

Let's just say that Williams had some difficulty in keeping the ball in the park and leave it at that.

Final line: L (0-1), 4 IP, 9 H (3 home runs), 6 ER, 2 K

Bullpen

Astros relievers were solid once again as they combined for 4 scoreless innings to finish off the game. Anthony Bass allowed a hit and struck out 1 in 1.2 innings, Raúl Valdés allowed a hit and struck out 1 in 0.2 innings (final out of the 6th and first out of the 7th), and Jorge De Leon retired all 5 Cardinals that he faced, striking out 2 in 1.2 innings. 

Offense

The Astros only managed 3 hits, but still put up 3 runs. Alas, the early hole proved to be too deep to dig out.

They didn't have a hit until the 6th, when Jonathan Villar led off with a triple. They didn't have to wait very long for their 2nd hit (and first run, for that matter), when Robbie Grossman legged out an infield single to bring Villar home. Grossman would later score on a wild pitch from Jorge Rondon/Matt Dominguez walk. 

Adron Chambers walked to lead off the 7th and would score on a double from Jesús Guzmán. 

Three Stars

3.


Jesús Guzmán, 1B/OF
1-2, RBI 2B in 7th


2.


Jonathan Villar, SS
1-3, 3B, R, and a really good defensive play


1.



Bullpen: Anthony Bass (1.2 IP, H, K), Raúl Valdés (0.2 IP, H, K), Jorge De Leon (1.2 IP, 2 K)
Combined: 4 IP, 2 H, 4 K


Next Up

The Astros head to the Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World to take on the Braves at 6:05 Eastern. Dallas Keuchel will match up against David Hale. 

Happy Birthday - 3/24

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Josh Zeid (27)
Drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round in 2009 from Tulane, Zeid came to Houston as part of the Hunter Pence trade in July 2011. Zeid spent the first 43 games of the 2013 season with the Oklahoma City AAA team before being called up to Houston to make his major league debut on July 30th. In 25 appearances in Houston, he had a 3.90 ERA and a 1.373 WHIP. In his final 11 appearances in September, Zeid had a 1.23 ERA, a 0.955 WHIP and held batters to a .196 batting average.

Former Astros celebrating today ~

OF Jesus Alou (72)
Alou originally came to Houston as a part of the Rusty Staub trade with the Expos in January of 1969 and spent 1969 through part of the 1973 season with Houston and returned to the team for the 1978 and 1979 seasons as well. In 553 games for Houston, he hit .282/.313/.366. He spent all or parts of 15 seasons in the major leagues playing for four different teams, including the 1973 and 1974 World Series champion Oakland teams. He is the brother of Felipe and Matty Alou and uncle to Moises Alou.

RHP Jose Cabrera (42)
Acquired in a trade with Cleveland in May 1997, Cabrera pitched in 93 games over four seasons for Houston with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.302 WHIP before being claimed off waivers by Atlanta in April of 2001. He had his most successful season in the majors for Atlanta that year, going 7-4 in 55 games with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.298 WHIP. After one final season in the majors with Milwaukee in 2002, he kept playing in the minors, in independent ball and in Mexico. He last played for Tobasco in the Mexican League in 2012 where, at age 40, he went 1-0 with 23 saves, a 1.14 ERA and a 0.663 WHIP in 30 games.

RHP Jose "Papa Grande" Valverde (36)
Acquired in a trade with Arizona for Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls in December 2007, Valverde pitched for Houston for two seasons, going 10-5 with 69 saves, a 2.93 ERA and a 1.159 WHIP. A three-time All-Star for Arizona and Detroit, he was the league leader in saves three times as well. After four seasons with Detroit, he signed with the Mets in February of this year.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

AAA Oklahoma City Skipper to Miss Start of the Season

According to a very brief post from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle this afternoon, the Astros have announced that Tony DeFrancesco, Manager of the AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks has been diagnosed with cancer and will miss the beginning of the season. No further information has been released at this time.

UPDATE: It is now being reported that Tom Lawless will be interim manager of the OKC team while DeFrancesco undergoes treatment at M.D. Anderson Center Center in Houston. Treatment is expected to take five to six weeks. DeFrancesco is expected to make a full recovery and to be able to resume his duties as Manager of the RedHawks in mid-May. Good news indeed!

2014 Grapefruit League Recap, Game 22

St. Louis Cardinals 5, Houston Astros 2

2014 Grapefruit League record: 8-14

W- Michael Wacha (3-0)
L- Brett Oberholtzer (0-2)
S- Seth Maness (1)

Astros home runs: Jose Altuve (1, solo in 7th)

The Cards jumped all over Brett Oberholtzer in the first third of the game, but the Astros held the Cards scoreless for the final 6 innings.

Starting Pitcher: Brett Oberholtzer

The Cardinals jumped all over him out of the gate as they got 4 in the 1st. But Obie picked himself up and allowed 1 run over his final 4 frames. Yes, his ERA is 11, but it's only Spring Training. It's only Spring Training.

Final line: L (0-2), 5 IP, 8 H (solo homer), 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Bullpen

The relievers threw 4 scoreless to close it out; 4 relievers, 1 inning each.

Chad Qualls went 1-2-3 in the 6th, striking out 1; Matt Albers also threw a 1-2-3 7th. Josh Fields allowed a hit and struck out 1 in the 8th, and Ross Seaton struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th.

Offense

Marc Krauss put the Astros on the board in the 4th with a sac fly.



Dexter Fowler, who scored on the play, had 2 of the Astros' 5 hits. In percentage terms, he had 40% of the Astros' hits. Jose Altuve had 20% in the form of this solo home run, which came in the 7th:




Marwin González and Robbie Grossman also had a hit. No one drew a walk. On the other hand, they struck out 9 times. Considering the Astros' propensity to strike out last year, this certainly concerns me, even in spring.

Three Stars

3.


Dexter Fowler, CF
2-4, R


2.


Jose Altuve, 2B
1-3, solo HR (1) in 7th


1.



Bullpen: Ross Seaton, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, and Josh Fields
Combined: 4 IP, H, 3 K


Next Up

The Astros will travel to Jupiter to take on the Cardinals at their place. Jerome Williams will be on the mound, and he will be opposed by Joe Kelly. First pitch is at 1:05 Eastern.



Astros Minor League Player Releases

Another round of Astros minor league players were cut this morning:

LHP Joe Bircher
C Ernesto Genoves
RHP Gera Sanchez
IF Jesse Wierzbicki
IF Brandon Wikoff

I had just updated Bircher's profile for his birthday write-up next week:
Drafted in the 10th round in 2012 out of Bradley University, Bircher started the season with the Quad Cities team and ended it there, but spent a large chunk in between rehabbing in Florida. Over a total of 18 games (14 starts) between Quad Cities and the GCL, he had a 3.81 ERA and a 1.308 WHIP. Bircher thrived in the post-season. In two starts, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and a 1.100 WHIP.
Genoves was one of only three players left in the organization who had played in the Astros Venezuelan Academy before it was closed, the other two being Jose Altuve and David Martinez. Genoves showed early promise at the plate, but definitely struggled in Tri-City in 2013.

Wikoff was the 5th round pick in 2009. Used mostly as a utility infielder, Wikoff missed the 2013 season due to injuries he received in an automobile accident during Spring Training last year. He will be 26 in April.

Wierzbicki was the 24th round pick in 2011. The 25-year old started the season in Quad Cities and ended it in Lancaster, hitting a combined .259/.357/.384 with 25 doubles, two triples and eight home runs.

Sanchez was signed in 2012 as a non-drafted free agent. He also started the season in Quad Cities and ended it in Lancaster where he put up a 1.69 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP in six bullpen appearances. For the season, he was 4-2 with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.401 WHIP.

Happy Birthday - 3/23

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Chan Moon (23)
Signed as a NDFA from South Korea in 2009, Moon spent his 2013 season with Tri-City where he hit .263/.327/.335 in 65 games. In five post-season games, Moon hit .333 with a triple and an RBI.

Two former Astros also celebrate today ~

LHP Danny Coombs (72)
Signed as an amateur free agent by the Colt .45's prior to the 1963 season, Coombs spent parts of seven seasons playing for Houston. In 90 appearances, he was 8-7 with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.551 WHIP. His best season for Houston was 1968 when he went 4-3 in 40 appearances (2 starts) with a 3.28 ERA. In 1970 he was used primarily as a starter for the Padres, compiling a 10-14 record with a 3.30 ERA. 1971 was his final year in the major leagues.

1B Lee "Big Bopper" May (71)
According to Baseball-Reference, here is how May came to Houston and how he left Houston:
  • November 29, 1971: Traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart to the Houston Astros for Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke and Joe Morgan.
  • December 3, 1974: Traded by the Houston Astros with Jay Schlueter to the Baltimore Orioles for Rob Andrews and Enos Cabell.
In between, he played in 448 games for Houston, hitting .274/.317/.471 with 81 doubles, five triples and 81 home runs and one All-Star appearance. All told, May played in 2071 games over 18 seasons for four teams, hitting 354 home runs and making three All-Star appearances.

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