Saturday, October 18, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game Recap: Game 10

Maybe the Arizona Fall League needs to incorporate some kind of sudden death or shootout rules because, as Wallee Wright so aptly described it to me, an 11-inning tie is like kissing your sister.

Salt River Rafters, with a big assist from the Astro contingent, blew their opportunity to improve their Fall League-best record to 8-2 and were forced to settle for a 3-3 tie with the League worst Peoria Javelinas in an excruciating eleven innings at Salt River Field. This was far and away the sloppiest performance by the Rafters, who have been making a habit of just eking out wins of late … the Javelinas had only five hits on the evening but four Rafter errors enabled them to keep scoring rallies alive while the Rafters could score no more than three singletons in spite of punching out eleven hits.

The Astros were spared a leading role in the sloppy defensive play by virtue of only starting a single player, Rio Ruiz batting seventh at DH, though there were three Astros in the game by the tenth inning. Rio had two hits on the evening in four plate appearances, and though his one-out double in the bottom of the ninth led to the tying run, he blew an earlier opportunity when he beat a ball into the dirt in front of home plate with the bases loaded to end a sixth inning rally. But Rio was not the only Astro farmhand to have a good news-bad news game this evening.

Mitch Lambson came on in the fifth inning with the Rafters trailing 2-1, and immediately walked number eight batter Daniel Castro on five pitches … then came back with a solid strike out of League City’s C.J. McElroy. With Francisco Lindor batting, the Rafter’s/Diamondback’s catcher Peter O’Brien attempted a pickoff at first that went through to right field, moving Castro to second where upon Lindor’s ground out moved him on to third and a missed diving catch in left center by Byron Buxton went for a double, scoring Castro. Mitch closed out his inning by striking out the next batter - his final numbers reading one run on one hit, one base-on-balls and two strikeouts.

Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth the Rafters inserted Andrew Aplin as a pinch runner for Rio Ruiz following Rio’s clutch double … and he was almost immediately wild-pitched to third where he was then driven home with the tying run by Aaron Nola’s clutch single. Astro Tyson Perez pitched the ninth and tenth innings for the Rafters in very business-like fashion, working around a hit in the ninth and an error in the tenth to keep the Javelinas off the board … Tyson finished with just the one hit and one strikeout in two scoreless innings – much improved over his last outing. But in the bottom of the tenth an Astro once again had an opportunity to send the Rafters home a winner and failed.

Two walks and a single loaded the bases with two out and brought Andrew Aplin, inserted to pinch run for Rio Ruiz in the ninth, the plate … Andrew took a called strike, then fouled the next pitch off the plate and his body, causing a break in play for an injury timeout. Aplin gamely resumed his position in the batter’s box but his swing and miss on the next pitch reflected the pain he was still feeling … and the opportunity for another fairy tale ending went down with him. He finished his relief role with a run scored and a strikeout.

Midland’s Reid Redman came on to shut down the Peoria squad in the eleventh, throwing to Tyler Heineman who had replaced O’Brien after he was lifted for a pinch runner in the tenth … and the Rafters had one last chance to send the fans home happy. But with runners on first and second and two out in the bottom of the eleventh, the DBacks’ Brandon Drury struck out to end the game … sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.

Enjoy your weekend.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/18

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Andrew Walter (24)
Walter was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2011 after attending Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. He spent the majority of his 2014 season with Quad Cities, getting a call up to Lancaster in mid-August. For the season, he was 4-5 with 12 saves, a 3.46 ERA and a 1.354 WHIP in 40 appearances.

1B/DH/C Ricky Gingras (24)
Drafted in the 18th round in 2012 out of Point Loma Nazarene University in California, Gingras played in 46 games with Tri-City in 2014, hitting .252/.309/.361.

One former Astro celebrates the day as well ~

RHP Terry Clark (54)
Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round in 1979, Clark played for Houston in 1990 and again in 1996. In six games for the Astros, he had a 12.19 ERA and a 2.903 WHIP. In 2014, Clark was the pitching coordinator for the Seattle Mariner minor league system.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Eyewitness Report: Game 9

Much like those of us who have watched Andrew Aplin play in person, Wallee is quickly becoming a fan of the Astros outfielder ~

For the past four or five years there has been a continual debate throughout major league baseball as to just how much a team should rely upon the new, highly technical, measures to evaluate their personnel versus scouting observations and traditional measures and techniques … your Astros being one MLB club that is ‘all in’ for the science.

Just looking at his past performance, Glendale Desert Dog catcher and Baltimore Oriole prospect Mike Ohlman does not appear to be a particularly gifted defender … but for seven innings last night your Salt River Rafters, at least the two Astro members of that crew, made Ohlman look like Yadier Molina reincarnate as he killed potential Rafter rallies with his accurate throwing arm.

But in the eighth inning your Astros were once again front and center as the Rafters overcame a 1-0 deficit by scoring five runs on five hits … and our own Andrew ‘Babe’ Aplin drove in the tying run with a double to right and then scored the go ahead marker on the way to a 5-1 Rafter victory over the visiting Desert Dogs.

Oh, and along the way in the eighth Andrew evened the score with Ohlman by successfully stealing third, thus setting up the potential for scoring the winning run on a simple sacrifice fly … it proved unnecessary however as the Colorado Rockies Ryan Casteel singled to left, plating Aplin. The league’s leading hitter finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a single to go with his clutch double, the stolen base, a run scored and an RBI … and while he was also caught stealing and struck out once as well, Andrew is well on his way to a November first ‘Fall Star’ game selection with his lofty .529 batting average.

Rio Ruiz pitched in a single during the eighth inning rally and played his usual solid defense … Rio trapped a runner off third in the first inning to take the steam out of a Glendale rally and keep the game from once again getting out of hand early. Rio finished the evening 1-for-3, with a run scored and a walk in addition to striking out once and getting thrown out attempting to steal second in the seventh inning.

Your Rafters are now 7-2 and lead the Arizona Fall League East by two games over the slumping Scottsdale Scorpions. The Surprise Saguaros have moved back ahead of the Desert Dogs by virtue of their win over Scottsdale and Glendale’s loss. Salt River hosts the 2-6 Peoria Javelinas tonight … this will also be the last game I attend until next Tuesday because of a Taco Tasting Festival, or Hot Air Balloon Festival or Octoberfest – some kind of festival – but have no fear as we will still bring you the latest until Dustin gets back in the saddle early next week.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/17

Happy Birthday to ~

Lancaster Pitching Coach Don Alexander (56)
Alexander is one of the longest tenured coaches in the Astros system and has had the unenviable task for five of the last six seasons of mentoring young pitchers in one of the most hitter-friendly minor league ballparks in the country. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. In 2014, the JetHawks won their second California League Championship in the last three years.

Two former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

C Chris Tremie (45)
Originally drafted by the White Sox in the 39th round in 1992, Tremie signed as a free agent with the Astros in 2000 and toiled for four seasons in the Astros minor league system before getting into one game in September 2004. A late inning defensive replacement, he didn't get an at-bat with the Astros.

IF Edwin Maysonet (33)
Drafted by Houston in the 9th round in 2003, Maysonet played in a total of 46 games for the Astros in 2008 and 2009, hitting .276/.317/.342. He played for the Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League in 2014.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game 8 Recap: Eyewitness Report

Wallee braved crosstown traffic during rush hour to bring you this recap. Ummm, maybe he should have saved the gas.

If I were to guess, Vincent Velasquez’ instruction this evening was to get ahead in the count early … to just throw strikes. At least I hope that was the plan because that is exactly what he did … unfortunately this is not High-A ball, and the Glendale Desert Dog hitters caught on to the plan in the second inning and began to lay some wood on the ball early in the count from then on. Whether it was bad execution, a bad plan, or bad pitch calling, the results were entirely forgettable and our Rafters fell to the Desert Dogs 7-5 on the road last night.

Velasquez finished the evening having given up five earned runs on six hits in his three innings worked … he did not walk a soul and struck out two, including California League nemesis Corey Seager, but he also gave up home runs to a pair of Brewer prospects, Clint Coulter and Hector Gomez, good for all five runs – both coming with two outs in the inning.

The Rafters did come back from a 5-0 deficit to score three in the seventh and two more in the eighth … but a Twins prospect, Jason Adam, continued his own profligate ways giving up his fifth and sixth runs of the fall on a homerun to the Chisox’ number two prospect, Tim Anderson.

The good news about the two Rafter’s runs in the eighth is that they came on a Joe Sclafani dinger to left center field … Joe was batting ninth tonight and playing left field – that will teach him not to get involved in four double plays the next time he gets a shot at second base. Joe was one-for-four with the run scored and two RBIs … a decent nights work for a super utility player.

The Rafters fall to 6-2 with the loss, but by virtue of the Scottsdale Scorpions falling to the Surprise Saguaros by a two-point conversion this evening, Salt River remains in first place in the AFL East. The Rafters will be seeking revenge on the Desert Dogs at Salt River Field this evening.

~Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/16

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

RHP Enerio del Rosario (29)
Acquired from the Reds in 2010 for cash considerations, Rosario pitched for the Astros from 2010 to 2012. In 75 games, he was 0-3 with a 6.01 ERA and a 1.841 WHIP. He last pitched in the Mexican League in 2013.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game 7: Eyewitness Reports

We get the benefit of not just one, but two, eyewitness reports of last night's Salt River Rafters game! Corpus Christi super fan and friend of the blog Dan Nelson is visiting Arizona this week and was treated to a good game from the Astros players last night, including the start from Mark Appel.

Dan reports, "In his four innings of work, he did well. The 20 second clock (under the 'Pace of the Game' rules being which are being tested in the AFL this season) did get Appel twice, but other than that he dominated the Saguaros. He started out somewhat shaky but once he settled down, he only allowed one hit, two bases on balls to go with six strikeouts which were impressive. He used his fastball efficiently which allowed him to use his slider and change up to keep the hitters off balance.

"What really stood out in this game was how well the Houston Astros contigent performed in the game. Ruiz had a defensive gem in the bottom of the 3rd that really set the tone of the game. Ruiz, Aplin and Heineman had six of the 7 hits the Rafters recorded. Aplin's triple in the 8th provided the game's only run. It was a needed win as Scottsdale won a slugfest in Mesa and are only a game behind Salt River."

Dan also provided a few photos of Appel in action, sporting high socks to go with his Rafters cap.

Mark Appel - October 2014
Photo courtesy of Dan Nelson

And, of course, our own Wallee Wright checked in with us as well ~

Your Astros played leading roles in an absolutely brilliantly played ball game last night as the Salt River Rafters defeated the Surprise Saguaros 1-0 at Salt River Field, completing a two game series sweep of the Saguaros who still lead the AFL West but are no longer the best hitting team in the Arizona Fall League. Astros pitchers struck out ten in six innings work and Astros hitters had six of the seven Rafters hits, including the game winning triple in the bottom of the eighth by none other than the Rafters’ leading hitter, Andrew Aplin.

Mark Appel walked the first batter he faced, but then struck out the next four on his way to a four-inning, one hit, two walk, six strikeout slap-down of the powerful Saguaro lineup … Mark also became the first pitcher to incur a twenty-second clock infraction and automatic called ball in this just the second contest featuring that device. Mitch Lambson worked an inning, struck out the side and was the only Salt River pitcher on the evening who did not give up one hit … and by that I mean four different Rafter hurlers gave up a hit apiece, but not Mitch. And Tyson Perez put the capper on the evening with a shaky ninth inning, earning the Save despite giving up a hit, a walk and a wild pitch … like they say, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Tyler Heineman, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Aplin pushed the action all night and with just a little help from their supporting cast the Rafters’ victory might have been a bit more decisive and less nerve-wracking … Aplin singled with one out in the first but was stranded, Ruiz led of the second with a single and was scrubbed in an inning-ending double play. In the third, Heineman followed a leadoff single with one of his own only to have Byron Buxton ground into a force at second and then get picked off first … and a fly ball ended the inning with a runner on third.

Rio had a two-out single in the fourth, but the Astros’ bats went silent in the fifth and sixth innings though Ruiz did draw a walk in the seventh … but it all came together for our boys in the eighth. Tyler singled to right with one out and was promptly replaced for a pinch-runner … but once again Buxton failed to deliver leaving the runner at first with two out for Andrew Aplin. No problem … on a one ball count Andrew ripped a screamer down the right field line and into the corner of the bullpen and the race was on – the throw back to the infield was too late to challenge the runner at the plate and no play was made on Andrew sliding into third base.

And as they say in big-time radio, “And that’s your ballgame, sports fans” … Rafters win 1-0 and are now 6-1 on the season and still leading the 5-2 Scottsdale Scorpions by one game. As a matter of fact, Salt River and Scottsdale are the only two teams in the six-team AFL with winning records after the first seven days of baseball.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/15

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Teoscar Hernandez (22)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2011 season, Hernandez split his 2014 season between Lancaster (96 games) and Corpus Christi (23 games). In 119 combined games between the two venues, he hit .292/.362/.535 with 37 doubles, nine triples, 21 home runs and 85 RBI.

IF Arturo Michelena (20)
Michelena, an international free agent from Venezuela, got his first taste of the U.S. in 2014, playing for the Gulf Coast League Astros. In 45 games, he hit .235/.320/.301.

Two former Astros mark the day as well ~

LHP Bill Henry (died April 11, 2014 at 86)
In 1969, at the end of his career, he made three appearances for the Astros. In five innings, he had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.800 WHIP. An All-Star for the Reds in 1960, Henry spent a total of 16 seasons in the major leagues, playing for six different teams.

IF Mendy Lopez (41)
Lopez signed as a free agent with Houston in January 2001 and was claimed off waivers by the Pirates in August of 2001. In between, he played in 10 games for the Astros, hitting .267/.389/.467. Lopez continued playing in independent and foreign ball for several years, last having played in the Mexican League in 2013.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An Update on the Astros 2007 Draft Class

After I looked at the current state of affairs as it pertains to the 2012 draft a couple of weeks ago, one of my twitter followers asked me (tongue planted firmly in cheek) for an update on the Astros 2007 draft. If you've been living in a cave for the last few years, you may not know that the Astros 2007 draft is the holy grail of bad draft classes.

The 2007 draft class was a bad thing and a good thing (for me). The negative impact of that class, the repercussions of which are only now starting to fade into the past, is one of the main reasons that I started this blog. I was so desperate for positive news from the farm that I started to really look at the system in-depth and thought that I would share my findings. The rest is, as they say, history.

Well, I was game to look at the 2007 class for the first time in a very long while. I planned to post my findings last week, but about halfway through my research, I found myself curled up in the dark in the fetal position calling for my mommy due to bad farm system flashbacks. (Actually, I just ran out of time, but the other makes for a better story.)

In any event, it was an amazingly poor class and time has not softened the wounds. Here is how it all played out. Keep tissues and antacid on hand (and perhaps a shot of the best whiskey available). I have indicated in parentheses whether the player was drafted out of college (C), junior college (JC) or high school (HS). Those who signed with the Astros are in bold.

[UPDATE: I've been asked by a few people how many players out of a draft can generally be expected to make it to the major leagues. This excellent post from Baseball America's Matt Eddy analyzed 22 drafts from 1987 through 2008 and found that approximately one in six drafted players who sign are expected to make it to the majors. Naturally, some will only make it for a cup of coffee, but it at least gives you an idea of what has happened in the past.]

1. The Astros lost the first round pick for signing Carlos Lee to a 6-year $100 million contract. Lee was an All-Star in 2007 and gave the team three 100+ RBI seasons before the descent in his skills (and his hustle) bottomed out in 2012. He was traded to Miami that season for current Astros 3B Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen in July of that year. Rasmussen was later traded to the Dodgers for RHP John Ely who never threw a pitch for the Astros and was released in November 2013. So, just think of Matty D as your 2007 first round pick if it will make you feel any better.

2. The Astros also lost their second round pick for signing RHP Woody Williams to a 2-year $12.5 million contract. For the first six million, Astros fans got eight wins (to 15 losses) and a league-leader in allowing home runs in 2007. When Williams was released in March 2008, he received a 6.5 million parting gift and the fans got bupkes.

3. 3B Derek Dietrich (HS) - Did not sign

Dietrich went on to be drafted by Tampa Bay in 2010 and was traded to Miami for Yunel Escobar. Dietrich made his MLB debut for Miami in 2013. Now primarily a second baseman, he hit .316/.396/.622 in 26 games in the minors in 2014 and .228/.326/.386 in 49 games for the big league club.

4. RHP Brett Eibner (HS) - Did not sign

Eibner was drafted (as an outfielder) by the Royals out of the University of Arkansas in the second round in 2010. In 2014, he played between their High A and AAA clubs, hitting a combined .238/.325/.378.

5. OF Collin DeLome (C) - Released in 2012

DeLome played in the organization from 2007 until his release after playing in 10 games in 2012. He went on to play in the Braves organization and in independent ball in 2012 and 2013 and has a lifetime batting line of .256/.321/.467.

6. RHP David Dinelli (JC) - Released in 2008

Dinelli played in the system for two seasons and then spent four seasons in independent ball. He has a career ERA of 5.12 and WHIP of 1.708.

7. 2B Russell Dixon (C) - Released in 2010

Dixon played in the Astros system from 2007 through 2009 as an outfielder and was released prior to the 2010 season. His batting line was .238/.308/.329.

8. RHP Chad Bettis (HS) - Did not sign

Bettis was drafted by the Rockies in the second round in 2010 out of Texas Tech and made his major league debut August 1, 2013. In 2014, he was 0-2 with a 9.12 ERA and 2.108 WHIP in 21 games at the major league level. In AAA, he had a 3.09 ERA and a 1.193 WHIP in 20 games (5 starts).

9. RHP Luis Pardo (C) - Released in 2008

Pardo played two seasons with the Astros, was briefly signed and then released by the Reds in early 2009, and then played in independent ball in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He has a lifetime ERA of 5.98 and WHIP of 1.723.

10. 2B/3B Matt Cusick (C) - Traded in 2008

Cusick was traded to the Yankees in July of 2008 for LaTroy Hawkins and played with the Yankees and Angels organizations through 2011 and in independent ball in 2012. He has a lifetime batting line of .280/.366/.411. Hawkins was with the Astros for the remainder of 2008 and 2009 and had a 1.71 ERA and 1.091 WHIP in 89 games.

11. C/RHP Roberto Bono (HS) - Traded in 2009

Bono played in the Astros system from 2007 through 2009 before being included in a trade to the Marlins for RHP Matt Lindstrom in December 2009. He then played in the Marlins organization in 2010 and in independent ball in 2011, and ended his career with a 5.04 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP. Lindstrom pitched in 58 games for Houston in 2010 with a 4.39 ERA, 1.650 WHIP and 23 saves.

12. 1B Brian Pellegrini (C) - Released in 2011

Pellegrini played in the Astros system 2007 through 2010 and started the 2011 season on the DL before being released in May of that year. He had a .254/.358/.377 batting line.

13. LHP Chad Jones (HS) - Did not sign

This is one of the more remarkable stories associated with the players from the 2007 draft class. Jones was drafted again in the 50th round in 2010 by the Brewers and did not sign. Fast-forward to the 2013 draft and Jones was drafted by and signed with the Reds. What happened in between is a helluva story. He pitched in 16 games in 2013 (8.76 ERA and 2.757 WHIP) but did not pitch in 2014, although he is still shown on MiLB.com as being active in the Reds organization.

14. 3B Craig Corrado (C) - Released in 2010

Corrado played from 2007 to 2009, transitioning to a second baseman, before being released in March 2010. He had a .260/.292/.333 batting line.

15. RHP Matt Fitts (C) - Did not sign.

Fitts was drafted by Oakland in the 16th round in 2008 and played for them for two seasons, putting up a 4.92 ERA and a 1.580 WHIP.

[Are you still with me? Grab another shot of your best whiskey because, overall, it gets worse from here.]

16. OF Devon Torrence (HS) - Released in 2012

Torrence only played in the Houston system in 2007 and 2008, but did not receive his technical release until 2012. In the interim, he pursued a football career. In 2014, he played in one game in the Royals organization before being released and also played in two games in independent ball. His lifetime batting line is .152/.294/.171.

17. RHP Mason Roberts (JC) - Released in 2008

Roberts had a 10.50 ERA and a 2.611 WHIP in 12 games in 2007.

18. RHP Brian Espersen (C) - Released in 2008

Esperson had a 9.00 ERA and a 2.409 WHIP in 12 games in 2007.

19. C John Fixler (C) - Voluntary retirement in 2011

In five seasons in the Astros system, from 2007 through 2011, Fixler had a .229/.308/.402 batting line and a 26% caught stealing rate.

20. RHP Kyle Greenwalt (HS) - Released in 2012

Greenwalt pitched in the Astros system from 2007 through 2011 and then in independent ball in 2012 and 2013 and ended with a career 5.07 ERA and 1.478 WHIP.

21. C Kyle Miller (JC) - Released in 2009

Miller played from 2007 through 2009 as a corner infielder and put up a .234/.289/.376 batting line.

22. OF Drew Anderson (C) - Released in 2008

Anderson played in 2007 at second base with a .222/.294/.380 batting line.

23. 3B Charlie Gamble (C) - Released in 2008

Gamble had a .237/.305/.347 batting line in 2007.

24. SS Philip Stringer (C) - Released in 2008

Stringer played at second base and third base in 2007, hitting .166/.246/.205.

25. C Kevin Carkeek (C) - Released in 2008

Carkeek played in the Astros system for two seasons, hitting .215/.299/.296 with a 41% caught stealing percentage.

26. C Sal Iacono (C) - Released in 2008

Iacono played for two seasons, hitting .190/.312/.250 with a 34% caught stealing percentage.

27. RHP Brett Robinson (C) - Released in 2009

Robinson pitched in 61 games in 2007 and 2008 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.548 WHIP.

28. OF Jared Pitts (C) - Released in 2008

Pitts had a .181/.278/.262 batting line in his one season in 2007.

29. 2B Travis Sweet (C) - Released in 2008

Sweet played the outfield for the Astros in 2007 and 2008, hitting .210/.289/.359.

30. RHP Danny Gil (C) - Released in 2008

Gil played one season in the Astros system and had a 10.94 ERA and a 1.975 WHIP in 15 games. After his release, he was signed by the Nationals in 2008 and had a 2.12 ERA and 1.118 WHIP in 12 games before being released in 2009.

31. RHP Jason Dominguez (C) - Released in 2009

Dominguez pitched in the Astros system from 2007 through the early part of 2009 and had a 3.70 ERA and a 1.131 WHIP.

32. RHP David Miller (C) - Released in 2008

Miller pitched in the Astros system in 2007 and 2008, the Blue Jays and Marlins in 2009 and in independent ball in 2010 and 2011, compiling a career 5.17 ERA and 1.702 WHIP.

33. OF Cody Phipps (HS) - Released in 2008

Phipps hit .200/.273/.200 in his one season in 2007.

34. RHP Brian Wabick (JC) - Released in 2011

Wabick had a 4.50 ERA and 1.401 WHIP in 128 games from 2007 through 2010.

35. RHP Jordan Powell (C) - Released in 2010

Powell pitched in the Astros system from 2007 through 2009 and had a 4.33 ERA and a 1.565 WHIP in 108 games.

36. OF Albert Cartwright (JC) - Traded in 2011

Cartwright played in the Astros system in 2007 through 2010 before being traded to the Phillies in January of 2011 for LHP Sergio Escalona. Escalona appeared in 49 games for Houston that year with a 2.93 ERA and 1.265 WHIP and looked to be a lock for the 2012 bullpen until a fluke injury derailed his career. Cartwright sat out 2011 with an injury, but has played in the Phillies system from 2012 through 2014. He has a career batting line of .260/.329/.380. He will be 27 at the end of this month and has yet to make his major league debut.

37. RHP Jake Leonhardt (C) - Released 2008

Leonhardt pitched for two seasons for the Astros and two more seasons in independent ball and had a lifetime 4.38 ERA and 1.502 WHIP.

38. RHP Robbie Weinhardt (C) - Did not sign

Weinhardt was drafted by the Tigers in the 10th round in 2008 and played in their minor league system from 2008 through 2013 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.270 WHIP. He made his major league debut in July 2010 and pitched in 30 games in 2010 and 2011 with a 6.39 ERA and 1.677 WHIP. He was released by the Tigers in October 2013.

39. 3B/OF Brian Fletcher (HS) - Did not sign

Fletcher was drafted by the Royals in the 18th round in 2010 and has currently played outfield in that system from 2010 through 2014 with a .291/.347/.477 batting line. He has not made his major league debut and will be 26 later this month.

40. LHP Kyle Erdman (JC) - Did not sign

It does not appear that Erdman ever played professionally.

41. LHP Colton Pitkin (HS) - Released in 2012

Pitkin pitched in the Astros system from 2007 through 2011 and had a lifetime ERA of 4.82 and WHIP of 1.565.

42. OF Chris Turner (HS) - Released in 2009

Turner played for two seasons, 2007 and 2008, and hit .147/.211/.169.

43. OF Marques Williams (JC) - Released in 2009

Williams played from 2007 through 2009 with a .228/.285/.293 batting line.

44. SS Cat Everett (C) - Released in 2009

Everett toiled for the Astros from 2007 to 2008 and managed a .214/.320/.239 batting line during that time.

IN REVIEW ~
  • The Astros signed 34 players: 8 out of the top 15, and 26 out of the bottom 29. The highest pick to sign was at #5.
  • Of the 34 signed players, 30 were released, 3 were traded and 1 chose voluntary retirement.
  • Of the 30 released, 19 did not play in the Astros system beyond 2008 and 6 did not play beyond 2009. The final player to be released out of the final 5 was released on April 18, 2012. Only 1 out of the 30 players who were released appears to still be active in independent ball.
  • Of the 8 players who did not sign, 7 were re-drafted, 5 appear to still be active in organized baseball and 2 have made MLB debuts.
  • Of the 3 players who were traded, only 1 is still active in organized baseball.
  • GM Tim Purpura was fired approximately two months after the 2007 draft.
Some may be questioning why this is worth looking at after all these years. To you I would say, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Now, go back and read about the 2012 draft class (link at the top) to restore your faith in humanity.

Astros Arizona Fall League Recap with a Look Forward

Dustin is still out of commission. Wallee's piece below was intended to be a companion piece to the recap. Since my time is at a premium, here is a VERY brief recap of Monday's game. Salt River was down 4-1 going into the 7th inning, but the Rafters had a surprise for the Surprise relief corps, putting up six runs in the frame, capped by a Rio Ruiz RBI double for the final run of the inning. That was the only hit of the game for Ruiz to go with a strikeout and he was the only Astro to see action in the game. The win, with a final score of 7-4, gives the Rafters a 5-1 record and puts them in first place in the East Division, one game in front of Scottsdale.

Now let's hear from Wallee ~

It’s not D-Day all over again, or War of the Worlds, nor is it Horns vs Aggies football … but these next two nights will lend an insight into who might be crowned the Arizona Fall League champions. The best hitting team thus far, with an astounding team .819 OPS and averaging eight runs per game versus the AFL’s best pitching, your Salt River Rafters with a 2.60 team ERA and 1.22 WHIP … does good pitching really beat good hitting?

Well, it did Monday afternoon as the Rafters came back from three runs down, on the road, to top the Surprise Saguaros 7-4. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story of this game … it is clear that not only do the Rafters have a target on their back, but that they also have the chops to beat the best the competition can throw at them.

How badly did the Surprise team want this game? Well, for starters let’s look at their starter … Taijuan Walker, he of eight appearances and five starts for the Seattle Mariners, with a complete game and a 2.61 ERA with a 1.289 WHIP this past season. The norm in the Arizona Fall League is for pitchers to do two or three innings per game as every team in baseball has contributed four or more hurlers to the team rosters … Taijuan started and went five for Surprise today.

But it’s offense that makes the Saguaros tick, so how’s this for a lineup? Leading off and playing center field is this twenty-seven year old Cuban fella … Boston’s $70 million investment in international good will, Rusney Castillo. Rusney didn’t sign until August 23rd, but he did manage to squeeze in ten games and forty plate appearances for the Bosox … did okay, a .333/.400/.528 slash with 3 BB, a double and two home runs.

Jace Peterson of the Padres was at second, batting second … didn’t do too hot in his twenty-seven games and fifty-eight plate appearances with San Diego this year but this isn’t the Major Leagues – or is it?

Patrick Kivlahen, the number seven-ranked Mariners product was at first base, batting third … Nick Williams, the #84 prospect in MLB Top-100, and number four Rangers prospect was in left field and batted clean-up. In right field batting fifth was Hunter Renfroe, the #71 prospect in MLB Top-100 and fourth-ranked San Diego prospect who offered protection for the Mariners D.J. Peterson, the #49 prospect in MLB Top-100, playing third base and batting sixth.

Catching Walker was John Hicks, the Mariners 20th ranked prospect, and today’s designated hitter was Boston’s tenth-ranked prospect Deven Marrero … the Rangers’ seventeen-year-old sensation at shortstop, Michael De Leon, batted ninth. Just your average Arizona Fall League lineup!

The Rafters starter, Archie Bradley, number nine in the MLB Top-100 and Arizona’s number one prospect, had another ineffectual appearance … though he is not walking an inordinate number of batters Bradley’s control has been shaky and has led to his delivering too many hitters pitches in hitters counts – he threw 36 strikes and 26 balls while giving up three runs on five hits, all but one hit in the third inning. His relief, Miami’s Edgar Olmos, was no breath of fresh air. After walking the lead-off batter in the fourth then sending him to third on a bad pick-off attempt Olmos then plated him one out later on a wild pitch.

But the next five innings saw four Rafter relievers shut down the Saguaros on just three hits and no walks while striking out five … good pitching, emphasis on good, does top good hitting, sports fans – at least it did Monday afternoon. We’ll see about tonight.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/14

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Devonte German (20)
Drafted in the 11th round in 2013 out of high school in Reno, Nevada, German spent his 2014 season with the Greeneville Astros. In 13 games (nine starts), he was 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.646 WHIP.

OF Ronny Rafael (17)
Signed by Houston out of the Dominican Republic during the July international signing period in 2014, Rafael has not yet started his professional career. He was listed by Baseball America as the number 25 international prospect prior to his signing.

Several former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

RHP Alberto Arias (31)
From the Dominican Republic, Arias was originally signed as a NDFA by Colorado and was picked up by Houston in 2008 as a waiver claim. In 45 appearances for Houston in 2008 and 2009, Arias had a 3.86 ERA and a 1.584 WHIP.

SS/2B Kiko Garcia (61)
Originally drafted by the Orioles in the third round in 1971, Garcia came to Houston in an April 1981 trade with Baltimore. In 82 games for the Astros in 1981 and 1982, Garcia hit .250/.295/.325.

C Carl Nichols (52)
A fourth round pick by Baltimore in 1980, Nichols came to Houston in a March 1989 trade and played for the Astros for three seasons, from 1989 to 1991. In 60 games, he hit .186/.271/.239. After his retirement, he coached at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California.

IF Dave Hajek (47)
Signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1989, Hajek got a couple of cups of coffee as he played in a total of 13 games for the Astros in 1995 and 1996, hitting .250/.400/.333. In 10 minor league seasons, he hit .301/.344/.408. In 2014, he was the hitting coach for the Rockies AAA team.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Arizona Fall League Leaders: Week One

I believe that Wallee has gotten the writing bug! He brings us a look at where things stand after the first week-ish of Arizona Fall League play. ~

There were no games scheduled in the Arizona Fall League yesterday giving us an opportunity to review the first five days of team, and Astro player, results. The Astro players are part of the roster for the Salt River Rafters, sharing time with prospects from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins. Due to the scheduling of other events at the Rafters home field, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, opening day was the only home field appearance for the team and its only loss … everyone may have been a little distracted by the NBA-style 20-second ‘pitch clocks’ installed behind home plate and on the face of the dugouts.

Nonetheless, after the close of play Saturday the Rafters led the Arizona Fall League East with a 4-1 record and have begun to put some distance between themselves and the team that beat them opening day, the second place Scottsdale Scorpions (3-2). The Mesa Solar Sox are the surprise last place team in the division at 1-3 … but they have had some weather issues in the far eastern Valley of the Sun and that might have affected the highly-touted Chicago Cubs-led Solar Sox.

No surprise is the AFL West leading Surprise Saguaros (3-2) who have also won all their road games but lost both home starts … the Saguaros and Rafters were ‘pre-season’ favorites to capture their respective divisions, and will finally meet tonight and Tuesday. Peoria is in second place at 2-3, and, while they are listed as 1-2 at home the fact of the matter is that they play no home games in Peoria - Surprise and Peoria share the Surprise facilities. The Glendale Desert Dogs (Coyotes) bring up the rear in the west at 1-3.

The Surprise (once again, this is a town not a statement) team leads the AFL in hitting after five games, hitting a robust .287 … Glendale and Peoria, with .283 and .282 respectively, follow the Saguaros. Your Salt River Rafters are fourth overall, but first in the AFL East, at .267 as a team followed by Scottsdale at .243 and Mesa (those poor Cubbies fans – loving it) bringing up the rear at a puny .225 as a team.

As predicted prior to the start of the AFL action, your Salt River Rafters are leading the league in team ERA with a stingy 2.60 followed, unsurprisingly given the major leaguers on their roster, by the Glendale Desert Dogs at 3.34 … Surprise, Scottsdale, Peoria and Mesa bring up the rear with the Mesa team ERA resembling a large hat size more than a pitching stat at 8.23 – what a mess on the far east side.

Some of the individual hitting leaders for the AFL, Rafters and Astros, respectively, are:

Average: C Justin O’Connor, Peoria (TB) .583; OF Andrew Aplin, (HOU) .500; Aplin.

OPS: OF Jesse Winkler, Surprise (CIN) 1.472; OF Andrew Aplin, (HOU) 1.300; Aplin.

HR: Four tied with two apiece including INF Brandon Drury and C/1B Peter O’Brien, both Salt River and (ARI); Drury and O’Brien two each; Aplin one.

BB: C/IB O’Brien, Salt River, (ARI) 6; O’Brien (ARI); C Tyler Heineman, 3B Rio Ruiz with 2 each.

SO: OF Edward Salcedo, (ATL), OF Bubba Starling, (KC) both Peoria, seven apiece; INF Taylor Featherston (COL) and INF Trevor Story (COL), six each; 3B Rio Ruiz, 5.

SB: OF Roman Quinn, Scottsdale (PHI) and Eddie Rosario, Salt River (MIN) three apiece; Rosario (MIN) 3; no Astro has stolen a base.

Here are the individual pitching leaders (at least two appearances or at least three innings) for: the AFL; the Rafters; and, the Astros.

Wins: Fourteen tied with one apiece; four Rafters tied with one apiece; no Astro has a win.

Losses: Fourteen tied with one apiece; RHP Archie Bradley, Salt River (ARI) one; no Astro losers.

ERA: Four tied with .000 with four innings pitched; LHP Jayson Aquino (COL); RHPs Mark Appel and Tyson Perez, .000 with three innings each.

WHIP: RHP Parker Bridwell, Glendale (BAL) and LHP Jayson Aquino, Salt River (COL) 0.25 in four innings pitched; Aquino (COL) 0.25; RHP Mark Appel, 0.67 in three innings pitched.

SO: RHP Chris Bassitt, Glendale (CWS) and LHP Ethan Stewart, Scottsdale (PHI) six apiece; RHP Jake Reed, Scottsdale (MIN), 5; RHP Tyson Perez, 4.

BB: LHP Ethan Stewart, Scottsdale (PHI) 5; Stewart, 5; LHP Mitch Lambson, 2.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/13

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

3B Eddie Mathews (died 2/18/01 at 69)
Mathews came to Houston in a December 1966 trade with the Braves and played in 101 games for the Astros before an August 1967 trade sent him to Detroit. His .238/.333/.381 batting line with the Astros is not indicative of his Hall of Fame career. Mathews spent the greatest part of his career playing for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves for whom he made eight All-Star appearances and hit .273/.379/.517 with 493 home runs in 15 seasons.

RHP Frank LaCorte (63)
Obtained in a May 1979 trade with Atlanta, LaCorte went on to pitch for the Astros from 1979 to 1983. In 196 appearances, he had a 4.03 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP. 1980 was his best season for Houston as he was  8-5 with 11 saves, a 2.82 ERA and a 1.253 WHIP in 55 appearances.

RHP Randy Moffitt (66)
Originally a first round pick by San Francisco in 1970, Moffitt signed with Houston as a free agent in 1982. In 30 appearances for the Astros that year, he was 2-4 with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.176 WHIP. Tennis legend Billie Jean King is Moffitt's sister.

RHP Mike Capel (53)
A 13th round draft pick by the Cubs in 1983, Capel signed with Houston as a free agent in January 1991. In one season for Houston, he went 1-3 with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.469 WHIP in 25 games. Capel was a teammate of Roger Clemens on the 1983 University of Texas team that won the College World Series.

RHP Taylor Buchholz (33)
A sixth round draft pick by the Phillies in 2000, Buchholz came to Houston in a November 2003 trade with Philadelphia, along with Ezequial Astacio and Brandon Duckworth for Billy Wagner. He appeared in 22 games (19 starts) for the Astros in 2006 with a 6-10 record, a 5.89 ERA and a 1.248 WHIP. He was traded to Colorado in December 2006, along with Jason Hirsch and Willy Taveras for Miguel Asencio and he-who-must-not-be-named.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Dustin is taking the weekend off to deal with an emergency in his family so you are once again stuck with the second-string Astros action writer … but most everything last night was positive so that should relieve some of the sting.

Your Salt River Rafter Astros contingent was in action last night in Glendale, squeaking out a 2-1 victory despite having been outhit by the Desert Dogs 8-4 … and our own Rio Ruiz, once again batting third and hitting third, drove in one of those runs with a sixth inning ground out, but was oh-for four with a K for the evening.

Joe Sclafani, who as a Taxi Squad member was supposed to be active only on Wednesdays, not only played but was most certainly active while batting seventh and playing second base … though he went hitless in three appearances with a strikeout, Joe started three, and participated in four, double plays on the evening. I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of Joe in the next few weeks, particularly given the way the middle of the Salt River infield has scuffled to date … the game tonight was the first errorless contest this week for the Rafters.

Tyson Perez earned his first Hold of the fall with a scoreless, one-hit, eighth inning ... Tyson was the beneficiary of one of the Joe Sclafani-initiated double plays to erase that baserunner. The win on the road was the Rafters fourth in a row and they now lead the AFL East by a full game over the Scottsdale Scorpions.

The loss was the third in a row for the Glendale Desert Dogs (1-3) and dropped them into the cellar in the AFL West. Glendale was determined not to lose last night … they started Wei-Chung Wang, who had fourteen 2014 appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers, and used Chris Bassit, who had five starts for the Chicago White Sox this season, in relief in a futile effort to avoid the loss.

The Rafters (4-1) have tomorrow off before traveling across town to Scottsdale Stadium for a day game with the Scorpions (3-2) on Monday … Dustin hopes to be back for that contest.

Down south, in Caribbean Baseball Winter League action Carlos Perdomo tripled in his only plate appearance for the Bravos de Margarita as they fell to the Tiburones de La Guaira 8-3 … Carlos’ two-out, eighth inning, three-bagger drove in a run – this was his first plate appearance of Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional offseason play.

Triple-A backstop Carlos Perez found Caribes de Anzoategui pitching very much to his liking last night, pounding out a single, double and home run while driving in one and scoring two in the Leones del Caracas 7-6 victory … this was Carlos’ first game of the offseason as well.

Corpus Christi’s Leo Heras went one-for-four for the Charros de Jalisco with a home run, base-on-balls, two RBI and a strikeout in their 4-2 win over the Aguilas de Mexicali in Liga Mexicana del Pacifico action… and a former Astro farmhand and 2013 Arizona Fall League participant, Japhet Amador, who is also on the Jalisco squad and who still weighs over 300 pounds, went oh-for-three with a free pass and strikeout.

That wraps it up for Saturday’s action - enjoy today’s Major League playoff action.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/12

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Jandel Gustave (22)
A non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Gustave spent his 2014 season with the Low A Quad Cities River Bandits. In 23 appearances (14 starts), he was 5-5 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.557 WHIP. He walked 29 batters and struck out 82 in 79 innings of work.

C Brett Booth (24)
Drafted in the 34th round in 2013 out of the University of Alabama, Booth also spent his season with the River Bandits. In 56 games (38 at catcher and 18 at DH), he hit .242/.322/.390 and had a caught stealing rate of 40%.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

LHP Sid "El Sid" Fernandez (52)
The Hawaiian-born pitcher was the third round pick of the Dodgers in 1981. He was best known, however, for the ten years he spent pitching for the Mets from 1984 to 1993. He was an All-Star for New York in 1986 and 1987. He went on to play for Baltimore and Philadelphia, before pitching in one game for the Astros in 1997. His one start for Houston, a win, proved to be his last major league appearance.

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