Saturday, September 13, 2014

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

California League Championship Series: Lancaster 3, Visalia 0 (Series tied 1-1)

W- Lance McCullers
L- John Omahen
S- Andrew Walter

Lancaster home runs: Tyler White (2-run in 6th)

The JetHawks evened things up with a shutout performance on the mound from Lance McCullers, Dan Minor, and Andrew Walter and got some key runs in a game that was rather stingy in that aspect.

McCullers allowed 7 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1 over 6 shutout innings. He induced 11 groundball outs and 3 flyouts. Minor tagged in for 2 scoreless, allowing a hit and striking out 4, and Walter struck out the side in order in the 9th to finish this one off.

After Rio Ruiz drew a walk to lead off the 6th, Tyler White broke the scoreless tie with a 2-run homer. Jack Mayfield went 2-5 and delivered a big insurance run in the form of an RBI double in the 9th.

The series now shifts to Lancaster for the final games. Vince Velasquez will get the start tonight in game 3, which will take place at 8:00. His opponent on the mound for Visalia will be Brandon Sinnery.

Happy Birthday - 9/13

No future Astros with birthdays today, but several former Astros mark the day ~

RHP Wade Miller (38)
Drafted by Houston in the 20th round in 1996, Miller pitched for the Astros from 1999 to 2004 with a record of 58-39, a 3.87 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP over 127 games (123 starts). Miller pitched in one game of the 2001 NLDS with a 2.57 ERA and 1.000 WHIP and earned a no-decision. He became a free agent in December 2004 and subsequently pitched for the Red Sox and the Cubs. In 2009, he played for the Blue Jays' AAA affiliate but was never able to mount a comeback after his final major league game in April 2007.

SS/2B Mike Fischlin (59)
Originally drafted by the Yankees in the seventh round in 1975, Fischlin came to Houston in a June 1977 trade with New York. In 57 games for the Astros in 1977, 1978 and 1980, he hit a rather inauspicious .127/.168/.137. He was eventually sent packing to Cleveland in April of 1981.

1B Jim Obradovich (died March 3, 2012 at age 62)
Drafted by the Twins in 1967, Obradovich signed as a free agent with Houston in 1977 and eventually played in just 10 games for the Astros in 1978, hitting .176/.222/.294. According to Baseball-Reference, one of the highlights of his brief major league career was hitting a triple and driving in a run off of future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

RHP Billy Smith (60)
A 14th round pick for the Astros in 1977, Smith pitched in 10 games for the Astros in 1981 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.113 WHIP.

RHP Nelson Cruz (42) - (No, not THAT Nelson Cruz)
Cruz came to Houston in a December 2000 trade with the Tigers and subsequently pitched in 109 games for the Astros in 2001 and 2002. He had a 5-9 record with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP. He was traded to the Rockies in December 2002.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Tri-City ValleyCats Season Recap

In my ongoing season reviews of the various Astros minor league teams, today we'll look at the Tri-City ValleyCats.

The team finished with a 48-28 record (.632 win percentage), won their division and advanced to the New York-Penn League Finals where they fell 2-1 to State College. As a team they ranked within the league as follows:

Tri-City Team Batting
.262 BA - 3rd out of 14 teams
.341 OBP - 2nd
.388 SLG - 2nd

They also led the league in walks and placed second in doubles and home runs.

Tri-City Team Pitching
3.42 ERA - 5th
1.225 WHIP - 5th
628 SO - 4th
205 BB - 10th

Below I am indicating the player's current age as well as information as to how many years the player has been playing. Any players who were promoted to Quad Cities or above prior to the end of the season will be addressed in the season recap for that team.

Although this team did lose some excellent bats to promotion (A.J. Reed, J.D. Davis, Ryan Bottger), there were still a number of very good offensive players who remained.

CATCHERS

Jamie Ritchie - 21; 1st season
The 13th round 2014 draft pick only appeared in 27 of his 47 games as catcher as he was often used as the DH. Ritchie put up a .331/.455/.465 batting line and collected 12 doubles, two triples, a home run and 24 RBI, but it was his 29 walks to 26 strikeouts that really stood out. He was somewhat above average defensively, but will need to improve on the 24% caught stealing rate to fit in with some of the best rates in the system.

Alfredo Gonzalez - 22; 5th (in system since 2009, but did not play in 2010)
Gonzalez, on the other hand, had a very good year defensively overall and threw out 45% of would-be base stealers in his 44 games behind the dish. In a total of 46 games, he hit .246/.348/.369, walked 15 times while striking out 24 times, and had five stolen bases (and was caught stealing five times as well). In August, Gonzalez hit .271/.386/.438.

INFIELDERS

3B Nick Tanielu - 22; 1st season
Tanielu, the 14th round draft pick in 2014, had an excellent debut season. In 62 games, he hit .300/.353/.425 with 16 doubles, two triples, three home runs and a team-leading 40 RBI. On paper, his defense skews slightly below average.

SS Mott Hyde - 22; 1st season
The 26th round draft pick from 2014 had a solid freshman season, both defensively and offensively. In 70 games, he hit .254/.331/.389 with 18 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 31 RBI.

2B Alex Hernandez - 22; 1st season
Hernandez may not have had the most impressive batting line out of the group of 2014 draftees who played on the Tri-City team with his .210/.337/.278 line over 56 games, but the 40th round pick showed very good plate discipline (27 walks to 33 strikeouts) and plus defensive abilities.

1B/C Ricky Gingras - 23; 3rd season
Gingras was drafted by Houston in the 18th round in 2012 as a catcher, but in his third season, he spent more of his time at first base than behind the plate, and he excelled defensively in his new role. The lefty hit .252/.309/.361 with seven doubles and three home runs in 46 games.

IF Kristian Trompiz - 18; 2nd season (1st in U.S.)
Trompiz played in 19 games with the Gulf Coast League, 30 with Greeneville and ended up at Tri-City for the final three regular season games. Over those three venues, the young Venezuelan hit .285/.360/.400 with 16 doubles, a home run and 22 RBI. His defense shows some promise, but is currently a work in progress.

IF Juan Santana - 20; 4th season
The Dominican-born Santana split his season between Greeneville (21 games) and Tri-City (27 games), hitting .302/.330/.402 with 12 doubles and two home runs. In being converted from playing solely at second base, he has had some defensive struggles at the other positions. Santana last played on August 24th and it is my understanding that off-field issues ended his season early.

OUTFIELDERS

Derek Fisher - 21; 1st season
The first round 2014 draft pick had a very nice season at the plate, as the lefty hit .303/.378/.408 with four doubles, three triples, two home runs and 18 RBI in 42 games. He also had very good success on the base paths as he stole 17 bases while getting caught only four times. His defensive numbers skew above average. In the post-season, Fisher hit .375/.474/.625 in five games.

Jason Martin - 19; 2nd season
Martin, the 8th round 2013 draft pick, also had success in the post-season as the lefty hit .353/.421/.412 in five games. He split his regular season between Greeneville and Tri-City, hitting .274/.363/.414 in his 42 games at Greeneville prior to his promotion. For the season, Martin hit .257/.338/.384 with 14 doubles, seven triples, a home run and 23 RBI in 63 games. He walked 31 times while striking out 43 times and stole 13 bases and was caught stealing nine times. Martin has shown plus defensive abilities.

Terrell Joyce - 22; 3nd season
After a sub-par season at the plate in 2013, Joyce rebounded and put up some excellent power numbers in 2014. The 12th round 2012 draft pick hit .231/.309/.495 with 13 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 32 RBI in 53 games. In August, he hit .256/.365/.610. Defensively, he is difficult to characterize as his defensive numbers are a bit of a mixed bag.

LEFTY PITCHERS

Bryan Radziewski - 22; 1st season
The Astros ninth round pick in 2014, Radziewski had a 2-0 record with one save, a 3.04 ERA and a 1.162 WHIP in 15 appearances (one start). He walked 13 batters and struck out 29 in 26.2 innings. He did not allow a run in his final six appearances.

Zach Davis - 22; 1st season
Davis, the 25th round 2014 draft pick, did not fare nearly so well after his promotion to Tri-City as he did prior to the move. In 13 bullpen appearances in Greeneville, he had a 2-0 record with four saves, a 2.04 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP. He finished the season with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.377 WHIP in 20.1 innings. He walked only six batters and struck out 26.

Junior Garcia - 18; 2nd season (1st in U.S.)
Garcia spent the majority of his season with the Gulf Coast League Astros and only appeared with Tri-City at the end of the season, pitching two almost perfect innings. In a total of 13 games (eight starts), Garcia had a 2.89 ERA and a 1.534 WHIP. That WHIP is admittedly on the high side, but since Garcia will only be turning 19 on October 1st, he may be an interesting player to watch if he can start missing a few more bats. In 43.2 innings, he walked 19 batters and struck out 28. He is from the Dominican Republic.

RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Joe Musgrove - 21; 4th season
Musgrove, a Blue Jays first round pick who came to the Astros system in the July 2012 mega-trade with that team, had a breakout season this year showing what he can do when completely healthy. In 15 games (13 starts), he was 7-1 with a 2.81 ERA and a 0.961 WHIP. In 77 innings of work, he walked 10 batters while striking out 67. In the post-season, he was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and a 0.769 WHIP in two starts (nine hits, one walk and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings). Musgrove was just named a Short Season A All-Star by Baseball America today.

Austin Chrismon - 21; 2nd season
The 26th round 2013 draft pick had a solid season at Tri-City. In his 16 games (13 starts), he was 6-3 with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP, walking 15 batters and striking out 49 over 68.1 innings.

Robert Kahana - 21; 1st season
Kahana split his season between Greeneville and Tri-City and ended with a combined 3.58 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP in 14 games (eight starts). He walked 12 batters and struck out 37 in 50.1 innings of work.

Francis Ramirez - 22; 6th season
Ramirez had a solid, if unremarkable season, in 2014 (3.62 ERA and 1.329 WHIP), but ended it on a high note with a 1.74 ERA and a 1.065 WHIP in his final six appearances (three starts) in August.

There were several strong relievers from the 2014 draft class as well. In particular, Derick Velazquez (20; 7th round) had an excellent inaugural season: 2-1 with 4 saves, a 1.57 ERA and a 0.870 WHIP in 18 appearances. He walked two while striking out 24 in 23 innings. Also, Ryan Thompson (22; 23rd round) had a great season, converting 12 saves in 23 appearances and ending with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.274 WHIP. Brandon McNitt (22; 27th round) did have three starts, but was more effective in his nine relief outings, putting up a 1.25 ERA and a 0.877 WHIP.

Vince Wheeland (22; 24th round) had a tough start to his season, but finished it off well with a 1.15 ERA and a 0.833 WHIP in his final five appearances in August. Daniel Mengden (21; 4th round) didn't see a lot of action between the GCL and Tri-City, but his one walk to 17 strikeouts over 11 innings was impressive.

Angel Heredia, 22, is in his third season as a pitcher and split his season between Greeneville and Tri-City, with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP in 20 appearances. And last, but not least, Chris Munnelly, 23, in his second season with the organization, went 2-0 with 4 saves, a 3.38 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP in 15 bullpen appearances. He walked 8 batters and struck out 31 in 26.2 innings.

[UPDATE] I'm not sure how I managed to do this, but I inadvertently left off 2014 NDFA Aaron Vaughn, 22, who had a terrific first pro season out of the bullpen. In 22 appearances combined between the GCL (7 games), Quad Cities (1 game) and Tri-City (14 games), Vaughn had a 1.69 ERA and a 0.938 WHIP. He walked six batters and struck out 23 in 26.2 innings of work.

Next up will be the Quad Cities team.

Earlier season reviews ~
Dominican Summer League offensive standouts
Dominican Summer League Pitching Standouts
Gulf Coast League Astros
Rookie League Greeneville Astros

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

California League Championship Series: Visalia 3, Lancaster 2 (Visalia leads 1-0)

The JetHawks began the California League Championship Series in Visalia, where the Rawhide drew first blood by walking off with a 3-2 victory.

W- Enrique Burgos
L- Tyler Brunnemann

Lancaster home runs: None.

Both JetHawks runs were driven in by Tyler White, who opened up the scoring with an RBI double in the 1st and added a sac fly in the 6th. Rio Ruiz went 2-4 and scored the game's first run.

Brian Holmes went 5 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits (solo homer), walked 1, and struck out 9. Zach Morton was the first man out; he allowed a hit and struck out 3 over 2 scoreless innings. Morton pitched to 1 batter in the 8th and did not retire him. Chris Cotton recorded the first out of the 8th. Tyler Brunnemann got the final 2 outs of the inning, and got 1 out in the 9th. He induced a force out from Kevin Medrano, but Breland Almadova just barely beat the throw home, giving Visalia the win.

Game 2 of this series is tonight at 9:00. Lance McCullers will take on John Omahen.

Happy Birthday - 9/12

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Kyle Weiland (28)
Drafted by Boston in the third round in 2008, Weiland came to Houston in a December 2011 trade along with Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon. Weiland only pitched in three games for Houston at the beginning of 2012 before having surgery on his right shoulder, reportedly to clean out an infection. After being banished to Weiland Island (the rumored habitat for broken Astros players) for over two years, Weiland finally resurfaced in a rehab assignment in the minor leagues in late June. In 14 games (two starts), Weiland put up a 4.76 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP before being placed on the DL toward the end of the season. Let's hope that his banishment to Weiland Island doesn't become a recurrence.

SS Pat Listach (47)
Originally drafted by the Brewers in the fifth round in 1988, Listach spent five seasons with Milwaukee, where he won Rookie of the Year in 1992, before signing with the Astros as a free agent in 1997. He played 52 games with the Astros that season, putting up a .182 BA and .247 OBP, before being released July 1, 1997. He did not play another major league game. Listach is currently in his first season as the third base coach for the Astros.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Birthday - 9/11

No future Astros with birthdays today, but two former Astros mark the day ~

1B/3B Brandon Laird (27)
Drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round in 2007, Laird was selected off waivers from the Yankees in September 2012. Laird played in 42 games for Houston in 2012 and 2013, hitting .198/.248/.406 with four doubles, six home runs and 15 RBI. He is currently playing in the National's organization.

LHP Dave Roberts (died January 9, 2009 at age 64)
An absolute workhorse in the four seasons that he pitched for Houston (1972 to 1975), Roberts pitched 843.2 innings for the Astros. He was 47-44 with 34 complete games, 11 shutouts, four saves, a 3.69 ERA and a 1.358 WHIP. In 13 seasons in the majors (from 1969 to 1981), he also played for San Diego, Detroit, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle and the New York Mets.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Unfortunately, a repeat was not to be for the Tri-City ValleyCats, as they fell 11-2 in the decisive game 3 of the New York-Penn League Championship Series against the State College Spikes. They fell behind 6-0 after 1 inning and were unable to recover.

Their 2 runs came in the 7th as Terrell Joyce hit a solo homer and Alex Hernandez added an RBI single. At the bottom of the order, Jason Martin went 2-4.

Austin Chrismon only lasted 1 out. He allowed 5 runs (4 earned, 1 inherited runner charged to him) on 3 hits (2-run homer) and walked 1. Robert Kahana got the last 2 outs of the 1st, but not before allowing a run of his own on 2 hits and walking 1. Chris Munnelly pitched the next 3+ innings and allowed a run on 4 hits and fanned 1. Angel Heredia allowed 4 runs (3 earned, 3 inherited runners charged to him) on 3 hits, walked 2, and struck out 1. He pitched 1 inning and did not record an out in the 6th. Dan Mengden technically threw 2 scoreless, allowing 2 hits while striking out 3, but all of the runners he inherited from Heredia scored. Zach Davis was the only ValleyCats pitcher to emerge unscathed as he allowed a hit and fanned 1 over 2 scoreless.

It was a bitter, bitter end for the ValleyCats, and although their quest for uno más fell just short, there is no doubt that they have established themselves as one of the premier clubs in the New York-Penn League. The names change every single year, but no matter who's wearing the Tri-City colors, their contributions put the ValleyCats in a position as a perennial contender in the league.

With the ValleyCats bowing out, the playoff spotlight now shines on the Lancaster JetHawks. They will begin the California League Championship Series tomorrow night against the Visalia Rawhide at 9:00. Visalia topped Bakersfield 7-2 to win the North Division Finals last night.

Greeneville Astros Season Recap

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be looking at some of the standout players from each of the Astros minor league teams. So far, I've looked at the offensive standouts and the pitching standouts on the Astros Dominican Summer League teams and at the Gulf Coast League Astros. Today, let's look at the Rookie League Greeneville Astros.

The team finished with a 32-34 record (.485 win percentage). As a team they ranked within the league as follows:

Greeneville Team Batting
.239 BA - 9th out of 10 teams
.324 OBP - 7th
.343 SLG - 8th

They were also first in walks in the League and ninth in strikeouts.

Greeneville Team Pitching
3.60 ERA - 5th
1.361 WHIP - 5th
595 SO - 2nd
240 BB - 4th

Below I am indicating the player's current age as well as information as to how many years the player has been playing. Any players who were promoted to Tri-City or above prior to the end of the season will be addressed in the season recap for that team.

First of all, as you can see above, this team was not particularly strong offensively. Many of these players were first year drafted players whose offensive contributions are still a work in progress, as well as a few younger international players who lack experience playing at the level.

CATCHERS

Jacob Nottingham - 19; 2nd season
The 6th round 2013 draft pick is still a bit rough around the edges offensively. He hit .230/.307/.385 in 48 games, walking 18 times while striking out 54 times. But Nottingham showed more than a little bit of pop at the plate; he hit 10 doubles, one triple and five home runs. Nottingham is also a plus defender behind the plate and caught 41% of would-be base stealers.

Trent Woodward - 22; 1st season
Woodward only caught in five games and also spent time at first base, left field and DH before being shelved for the season on July 23rd. He started off the season hot, hitting .313/.455/.438 in June, but ended up hitting .234/.364/.394 for his shortened season. Woodward was drafted in the 20th round in 2014 out of Fresno State University. He is a switch-hitter.

Richard Gonzalez, the 29th round 2014 pick out of Alabama State University didn't do much in his first professional season as he hit only .207/.339/.293 in 33 games (29 with the GCL and 4 with Greeneville). He is 20 years old.

INFIELDERS

1B Bryan Muniz - 21; 1st season
An above average defensive player, Muniz' bat was a work in progress as he hit .220/.315/.315 in 36 games over the season, but improved to .291/.385/.382 in his 16 games in August. Muniz was drafted in the 22nd round in 2014 out of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.

1B Yonathan Mejia - 21; 5th season
From the Dominican Republic, Mejia is a plus defender and has more than a little pop in his bat. In 50 games this season, the switch-hitter batted .235/.297/.350 with eight doubles, two triples, three home runs and 18 RBI.

3B Randy Cesar - 19; 3rd season (1st in U.S.)
Cesar played all but three of his 52 games with the GCL before his end-of-season promotion to Greeneville. The young Dominican hit .273/.309/.381 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 15 RBI for the season. In August, he hit .333/.378/.500. His plate discipline (10 walks to 43 strikeouts) and his defense both need a little work.

3B Cesar Carrasco - 20; 3rd season
Obtained from the Diamondbacks in a July trade for lefty Alex Sogard, Carrasco is another work-in-progress defensively. In 35 games for the Appy Astros, he hit .228/.326/.325 with nine doubles and a home run. He is from the Dominican Republic.

SS Jeffry Santos - 21; 4th season
Another mid-season trade acquisition (White Sox for RHP Bobby Doran), Santos hit better before the trade (.295/.483/.386 in 3 games) than he did afterwards (.218/.285/.273 in 34 games). On paper, his defense appears to skew average to slightly below average. He is a switch-hitter.

2B Antonio Nunez - 21; 1st season
Nunez, an 18th round 2014 draft pick, may not have managed to hit over the Mendoza line, but he did have a very healthy .342 OBP as he managed to walk 36 times while striking out only 26 times. A more or less average defender, Nunez hit .190/.342/.241 in 52 games and is headed to the Fall Instructional League.

OUTFIELDERS

Hector Roa - 19; 3rd season
Roa split his time between the outfield and first base, playing slightly more games at the former position. In 26 games with the GCL, he hit .280/.324/.500 before being promoted to Greeneville in late July. In 29 games with the Appy Astros, he hit .236/.281/.406. For the season, Roa had 15 doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 27 RBI. There was, however, the matter of the 13 walks to 75 strikeouts. Roa was a plus defender at first base, but wasn't quite as strong defensively in the outfield.

Edwin Medina - 21; 1st season
A 33rd round draft pick in 2014, Medina also split his time between the GCL (27 games) and Greeneville (23 games), hitting .257/.397/.311 with six doubles, a triple and nine RBI. Medina walked 33 times while striking out 35 times. He had a very good season defensively.

Alexander Melendez - 19; 2nd season (1st in U.S.)
Melendez started the season with the GCL (30 games) and ended it in Greeneville (12 games), with a little side trip to Quad Cities in between (six games). All told, he hit a robust .343/.430/.394 in 48 games, with five doubles, a triple and 16 RBI. He also swiped 20 bags and was caught stealing five times. Add his overall above average defensive abilities to that bat and Melendez could be a player to watch. He is from Puerto Rico.

Ydarqui Marte - 21; 4th season
A more or less average defender, Marte hit .269/.338/.383 with eight doubles and four home runs in 51 games.

Sean McMullen - 22; 1st season
A lefty hitter, McMullen hit .256/.302/.365 with nine doubles, a triple and three home runs in 42 games for the Appy Astros. The 30th round 2014 draft pick's defense skews somewhat above average.

Ramon Laureano - 20; 1st season
Unfortunately, this 16th round draft pick was injured after appearing in only 16 games. Well have to wait until next season to see more from Laureano.

LEFTY PITCHERS

There weren't many lefties who finished their seasons with Greeneville. Reymin Guduan throws really hard, but the 22-year old Dominican is still a work in progress. He had a 4.47 ERA and a 1.805 WHIP in 13 games (9 starts) for the season. He missed part of the season on the DL. Austin Nicely, the Astros 2013 10th round pick, also had a somewhat uneven season, ending it with a 3.88 ERA and a 1.664 WHIP in 12 games (10 starts). Nicely is 19. Ambiorix de Leon, 23, spent all but the last couple of weeks of the season on the DL. He only pitched 7.2 innings at the end of the season (but didn't allow a run).

RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Agapito Barrios - 20; 4th season
Barrios was a standout from the Greeneville pitching staff for the season. The Panamanian-born Barrios was 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA and a 0.893 WHIP in 13 games (six starts). He issued 11 free passes while striking out 46 in 56 innings of work. In five games (three starts) in August, he had a 0.77 ERA and a 0.577 WHIP.

Jorge Perez - 21; 2nd season
Perez started slow and ended slow, but in between he did quite nicely. In his seven appearances in July, he had a 1.54 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. For the season, the 30th round 2013 draft pick had a 2.97 ERA and a 1.619 WHIP in 18 bullpen appearances. He walked 17 batters and struck out 39 in 30.1 innings.

Joshua James - 21; 1st season
James, drafted in the 34th round in 2014, had a very nice start to his professional career as he compiled a 2.72 ERA and a 1.261 WHIP in six games (three starts). He walked 15 batters and struck out 45 in his 39.2 innings.

Eric Peterson - 21; 1st season
The 37th round 2014 draft pick had an excellent season out of the bullpen for Greeneville. In 19 appearances, Peterson was 1-0 with seven saves, a 2.35 ERA and a 1.087 WHIP. Five of those saves came in August as he compiled a 0.00 ERA and a 0.250 WHIP in eight appearances. Peterson walked seven batters and struck out 32 in 23 innings of work.

Jose Montero, 21, missed almost a month on the DL, but otherwise had a nice season with his 3.27 ERA and 1.212 WHIP in nine games (six starts). Likewise, Gerardo Juarez missed almost the entire season, but didn't allow a run in four appearances after coming off the DL. Juarez turned 22 today.

11th round 2013 draft pick Devonte German (19) was 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.646 WHIP in 13 games (nine starts). Brock Dykxhoorn (4.31 ERA & 1.213 WHIP in 12 games/4 starts) got much stronger as the season progressed, ending with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.933 WHIP in his four appearances in August. Dykxhoorn, 20, was the Astros 6th round 2014 draft pick. Aaron Greenwood, the 28th round 2014 draft pick, had a 4.66 ERA and a 1.241 WHIP in 17 games (29 innings). He is 23. [UPDATE] I accidentally on purpose left out Dean Deetz, the Astros 11th round draft pick in 2014. Let's just say that the 20-year old Deetz did not have the best inaugural season. He will be going to the Fall Instructional League shortly.

There was a group of Latin pitchers who started their seasons with the GCL and were promoted to Greeneville during the season with varying degrees of success. Of this group, the standouts are Elieser Hernandez and Harold Arauz. Hernandez, a 19-year old from Venezuela in his first season in the U.S. (third overall), was 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP combined between the two venues. He walked 13 batters and struck out 42 in 45.2 innings. The Panamanian-born Arauz (also only 19) had a 3.76 ERA and a 1.156 WHIP in 11 games (6 starts) in the GCL and a 1.46 ERA and a 0.730 WHIP in three games (one start) at Greeneville. Arauz walked 19 and struck out 68 in 53 innings pitched.

Next up will be the Tri-City ValleyCats team.

Happy Birthday - 9/10

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Gerardo Juarez (22)
Signed by the Astros out of Nicaragua prior to the 2013 season, Juarez spent the majority of his 2014 season on the disabled list following just one outing in June. After coming back in August, Juarez had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP with one save in four innings.

RHP Kyle Smith (22)
Obtained in the July 2013 Justin Maxwell trade with Kansas City, Smith was originally drafted by that team in the fourth round in 2011. Smith spent the first month of the season with Lancaster, compiling a 4-0 record with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.084 WHIP in seven games (three starts) before his promotion to AA Corpus Christi in early May. In 21 games (13 starts) for the Hooks, Smith was 5.5 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP. In a total of 123 innings pitched, Smith walked 37 batters and struck out 127.

LHP Luis Cruz (24)
Drafted in the 9th round in 2008 out of high school in Puerto Rico, Cruz split the 2013 season between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Between the two venues, he was 8-8 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.243 WHIP. In 124.2 innings, he walked 38 batters while striking out 118.

Three former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

LHP Randy "Big Unit" Johnson (51)
Randy is well-remembered by Houston fans for his dominance during the 1998 playoff run. Obtained at the trade deadline, he went 10-1 in 11 starts with a 1.28 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP. He helped to get the Astros to the post season, but even with an impressive 1.93 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP, he went 0-2 and Houston lost the NLDS to San Diego 3-1. Johnson appeared in 22 major league seasons for six teams, with the vast majority of his time spent in the Mariners and Diamondbacks organizations. Among many other accomplishments, Johnson was a 10-time All-Star, MVP for the 2001 World Series and a five-time Cy Young Award Winner.

1B Craig Cacek (60)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the ninth round in 1972, Cacek came to Houston in a December 1975 trade with the Mets. His sole major league experience consisted of seven games played for Houston during the 1977 season. He did manage to get his one hit in the bigs, but that's about it.

RHP Lance Pendleton (31)
A first round pick by the Yankees in 2005, Pendleton was picked up in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees in 2010, returned prior to the 2011 season and ultimately claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September 2011. In four appearances he had a 17.36 ERA and a 2.357 WHIP.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Monday, September 8, 2014

Uno más.

California League South Division Finals: Lancaster 4, Inland Empire 2 (Lancaster wins series 3-0)

W- Zach Morton
L- Austin Wood
S- Tyler Brunnemann

Lancaster home runs: Ronnie Mitchell (solo in 8th)


The JetHawks earned the sweep as they put up a run in each of the first 3 innings and got an excellent performance from their bullpen in support of Kyle Westwood.

Westwood pitched 4.1 innings and allowed 2 runs (both in the 5th) on 9 hits, walked 2, and struck out 3. Zach Morton was the first man out; he allowed a hit, walked 1, and struck out 1 over 1.1 scoreless. Dan Minor tagged in and allowed a hit and struck out 1 over 2 scoreless. Jamaine Cotton got the first 2 outs of the 9th; he walked 1 and struck out 1. Tyler Brunnemann came on and put the tying run on base with a walk, but he sent the JetHawks to the California League Championship Series by striking out Angel Rosa to finish the game.

It was a huge night for Ronnie Mitchell, who went 3-4 and drove in 3 of the 4 Lancaster runs. He opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st. Chan-Jong Moon added an RBI groundout in the 2nd, and then Mitchell was back at it with an RBI double in the 3rd. He provided some much-needed insurance with a solo homer in the top of the 8th that pushed the Lancaster lead to 4-2. Tyler White went 2-4 with a double and a run scored.

The JetHawks now await their opponent. The North Division Final is being contested by the Visalia Rawhide and the Bakersfield Blaze, with Visalia leading the series 2-1. Game 4 is tonight in Visalia.

New York-Penn League Championship Series: Tri-City 3, State College 0 (Series tied 1-1)

W- Joe Musgrove
L- Austin Gomber
S- Derick Velazquez

TC home runs: None.

After getting blanked in game 1, the ValleyCats got even by shutting out the Spikes in game 2, setting up a winner-take-all game 3 at Joe Bruno Stadium.

Their 3 runs came in the 3rd, as Jamie Ritchie drew a bases-loaded walk, Kristian Trompiz scored on a wild pitch, and D.J. Fisher scored on a passed ball. They got 3 singles in that inning, but none of those 3 runs were driven in via hit. Fisher and Alex Hernandez went 3-4 apiece.

Joe Musgrove was absolutely dominant as he allowed just 2 hits and struck out 8 over 7 shutout innings. The Closer, Ryan Thompson, threw a 1-2-3 8th, and Derick Velazquez worked around a hit and a walk to finish it off, striking out 1 in the 9th.

Game 3 will take place at 6:00.

Happy Birthday - 9/9

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Jerry Mumphrey (62)
Born in Tyler, Texas, Mumphrey spent several years in the Cardinals organization, as well as the Padres and Yankees, before making it to Houston in 1983. Received in a trade from the Yankees in August of 1983, the switch-hitter compiled a .291/.354/.401 batting line in 325 games over three seasons with the Astros and was named to the All-Star game in 1984. Mumphrey was traded to the Cubs in December of 1985 for Billy Hatcher.

RHP Jim Corsi (53)
After two seasons with Oakland, Corsi was signed as a free agent by Houston in 1991. In one season with the Astros, Corsi was 0-5 in 47 games with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. After being released at the end of the 1991 season, he went on to play for Oakland, Florida, Boston and Baltimore.

LHP Mike Hampton (42)
Originally drafted by the Mariners in the sixth round in 1990, Hampton pitched for the Astros from 1994 to 1999 and again in 2009, with the prior stint being decidedly more successful than the latter. In his seven seasons with the Astros, he was 76-50 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.370 WHIP. In 1999, as an Astro, he was named to the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger award and placed second in Cy Young voting to Randy Johnson. He went on to win four additional Silver Sluggers, another All-Star nod and a Golden Glove while playing for the Mets, the Rockies and the Braves. After a few appearances with the Diamondbacks in 2010, he officially retired in March of 2011. He served as one of the pitching coaches for the Angels rookie league club in the Arizona League in 2014.

RHP Dan Miceli (44)
In 97 appearances out of the bullpen for the Astros in 2003 and 2004, Miceli was 7-7 with two saves, a 3.18 ERA and a 1.207 WHIP. A very well-traveled player, Miceli spent 14 seasons in the majors playing for 10 teams.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Sunday, September 7, 2014

California League South Division Finals: Lancaster 5, Inland Empire 2 (Lancaster leads 2-0)

W- Kent Emanuel
L- Jake Boyd
S- Andrew Walter

Lancaster home runs: Danry Vásquez (solo in 2nd)

The JetHawks are one win away from the California League Championship Series as they finished the game on a 4-1 run.

After the 66ers scored first in the 1st, Danry tied the game with a solo shot in the 2nd. IE went back in front with a run in the top of the 5th, but Brett Phillips re-tied it with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame. Lancaster got a pair in the 6th thanks to an RBI groundout from Danry and an RBI single from Roberto Peña, and Tyler White added a sac fly in the 7th. The bottom 3 in the order of Danry, Peña, and Jack Mayfield all went 2-4.

Kent Emanuel went 6 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits (solo homer), walked 2, and fanned 1. Evan Grills got 1 out in the 7th and gave up a couple of singles. Tyler Brunnemann picked him up as he finished out the inning. He came out for the 8th, but walked the only batter he faced. Jamaine Cotton was next, and he retired all 3 66ers he faced, striking out 2. Andrew Walter worked around a walk to finish it off, striking out 1.

The series now shifts to Inland Empire, where the JetHawks will have their first shot to close it out. Kyle Westwood will take on Austin Wood at 9:05.

New York-Penn League Championship Series: State College 2, Tri-City 0 (State College leads 1-0)


W- Trey Nielsen
L- Brandon McNitt
S- Kyle Grana

TC home runs: None.

The ValleyCats were blanked to open up the NYPL Championship. They were held to 2 singles: one from Alfredo Gonzalez. and the other from Jason Martin. Martin also had a stolen base.

Brandon McNitt was excellent in his 5 innings, but the absence of offense from TC meant that he had to take the loss. He allowed a run on 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1. Bryan Radziewski pitched the next 2.2 innings and allowed a run on an RBI double in the 6th and walked 2. Dan Mengden came on with 2 outs in the 8th and struck out the 1 batter he faced to finish the inning.

The series returns to Troy, where Joe Musgrove will take on Austin Gomber. First pitch is at 6:00.

Happy Birthday - 9/8

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

RHP Ken Forsch (68)
Drafted by the Astros in the 18th round in 1968, Forsch pitched for Houston from 1970 to 1980. In 421 appearances, he was 78-81 with 50 saves, a 3.18 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP. Even more impressive in this day and age of bullpen specialists, Forsch threw 36 complete games for Houston. He was an All-Star in 1976 for Houston and in 1981 for the California Angels to whom he was traded in April of 1981 for Dickie Thon.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another Astros Outrage Du Jour

Ah, let's look at the latest Astros outrage du jour. Apparently, people who have never heard of Keith Bodie are simply outraged ... OUTRAGED, I TELL YOU ... by his non-renewal as an Astros minor league coach. I do not mean to make light of that fact. One should never cheer for another to lose his/her job. It's not only tacky; it's really bad karma.

But people have a tendency to overlook facts that do not fit with their preconceived narrative, that narrative on this occasion being that Jeff Luhnow and the entire front office are evil personified. But I like facts. I think facts are good, even when they aren't the facts that I want to hear.

The first fact is that all minor league coaches (as far as I've ever heard or known) are on year-to-year contracts. This is the case not just with the Astros, but with all the teams. The second fact is that non-renewals are just not that uncommon. Not only are minor league coaches and managers often non-renewed, they are also re-assigned with little or no input as to where they will be coaching/managing.

Sometimes it's a matter of the performance of the ballclub. Sometimes, it's a matter of trying to create the right staff chemistry. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of putting the right coach/manager at the level where he will be most effective. For example, when Hector Mercado was moved from Greeneville "down to" the Gulf Coast League as the Pitching Coach for that team, I didn't see it as a demotion. I saw it as a perfect fit because he was so effective with the youngest and rawest of pitchers. The pitchers on that 2012 Greeneville team raved about Mercado to me, about how simple, accessible and effective his approach was for those who were new to professional baseball. But I digress. As usual.

Here's another set of facts. Yes, Keith Bodie had a terrific record with the Hooks in 2012, going 81-59, but the team went 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs. In 2013, they were even better at 83-57, and, although they improved their record in the post-season, they still were defeated 3 games to 2 and did not advance beyond the first round. (Keep in mind that the 2013 team was largely constructed of players from the 2012 JetHawks who had won the California League crown the year before.)

Overall, those were excellent outcomes, but I felt certain going in to the 2014 season that the Astros front office, with their emphasis on winning in the minor leagues, were wanting to see the Hooks finally make it out of the first round. And on paper, they were probably expecting them to do just that. I know that I was.

Starting the 2014 season, Keith Bodie was given a team largely constructed from the 82-58 2013 JetHawks who had won both halves of the season and who dominated the competition all season long. But the 2014 Hooks never got off the ground. They sputtered to a 4th place record (out of 4 teams) and ended up going 67-73. Was that Bodie's fault? No, not specifically, but the fact remains that it happened on his watch and the front office had to be disappointed with that outcome. The point is that Bodie's record this year was likely a large factor in the decision. Frankly, I would have been surprised if Bodie had not been, at a minimum, reassigned. The move, to me, was not unexpected.

Another misconception is that the Astros front office has totally decimated the minor league coaching staff that they inherited and installed their own people. Yes, they've added a number of new coaches, but there is a long list of those who they have retained: Tony DeFrancesco, Rodney Linares, Omar Lopez, Josh Bonifay, Ed Romero, Darryl Robinson, Don Alexander, Tom Lawless, Mark Bailey, Dave Borkowski, Joel Chimelis, Hector Mercado and Rick Aponte immediately spring to mind. The popular (and very successful) Stubby Clapp left on his own terms, after having been renewed by the Astros in 2013, to return to his native Canada to coach in the Blue Jays system. I would venture to say that the Bodie non-renewal is only the second high profile non-renewal since Luhnow and company took over, the first being Burt Hooten prior to the 2013 season.

And one final note. Yes, the Astros exert an immense amount of control over the day-to-day management of the minor league teams, from establishing the starting rotation to the use of the shift. Good, bad or indifferent, most clubs either already operate that way or are starting to do so more and more. They are managing a business and they want to have control over how their assets are being used. I personally hate to think of any player as an "asset," but that's the nature of professional sports. As one minor league coach I know would say, "It's just part of the deal."

This Astros front office has stumbled numerous times along the way and they likely will continue to do so from time to time, but they are trying to create a winning strategy. Some of the things that they do will work. Some ultimately won't. They will rightly be blamed for some of the missteps they make, but I intend to base my judgments on those missteps on the facts, not vague suppositions, anonymous sources and knee jerk reactions. There is almost always another side to the story.

With that said, I wish Keith Bodie nothing but the best. I feel certain that he will land a job easily and will benefit from the fresh start.

[Putting away soapbox and exiting stage left.]

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Tri-City ValleyCats will take on the State College Spikes in a rematch of last year's New York-Penn League Championship Series. Game 1 will be tonight in State College at 5:05, and then the next 2 will be in Troy. Brandon McNitt is listed as the starter for game 1; he'll be taking on Trey Nielsen.

Yesterday, the spotlight shifted to the Lancaster JetHawks as they kicked off their playoff run in the California League's South Division Finals. They were taking on the Inland Empire 66ers, who took out the Lake Elsinore Storm in the South Division mini-series.

Cal League South Division Finals: Lancaster 7, Inland Empire 3 (Lancaster leads 1-0)

W- Vince Velasquez
L- Trevor Foss

Lancaster home runs: Ronnie Mitchell (solo in 2nd), Chase McDonald (3-run in 3rd)

The JetHawks took flight early as they led 6-0 after 3 innings, and although the 66ers got to Vince Velasquez a bit, Dan Minor and Andrew Walter backed him up by holding IE scoreless over the final 3 innings.

Velasquez allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits, walked 4, and struck out 9 over 6 innings. Minor walked 1 and struck out 2 over 2 scoreless, and Walter gave up 2 hits in a scoreless 9th.

Ronnie Mitchell's solo homer with 1 out in the 2nd was the first run of the evening. Later in the frame, Danry Vásquez and Brett Phillips added RBI singles. McDonald delivered a haymaker with his 3-run shot in the 3rd, and in the 4th, Tyler White hit an RBI single. McDonald finished 3-4 (triple shy of the cycle) with a couple of runs scored, while Danry and Phillips both finished 2-4. Mitchell also scored 2 runs.

In game 2 of this series, Kent Emanuel takes the hill against Dan Tobik. First pitch is at 7:00.

Happy Birthday - 9/7

No future Astros, but two former Astros mark the day ~

OF Willie Crawford (died August 27, 2004 at 57)
Crawford came to Houston in a March 1977 trade from San Francisco after playing most of his career with the Dodgers. Crawford played in 42 games for the Astros, posting a .254/.341/.333 batting line before being traded to the Oakland A's for Denny Walling in June 1977.

2B David Newhan (41)
Drafted in the 17th round in 1995 by Oakland, Newhan signed as a free agent with Houston in February 2008. In 64 games for the Astros, he hit .260/.297/.404. Most recently, Newhan was the Manager for the A's Short Season A affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters, in 2014. His father is Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan.

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