Saturday, December 20, 2014

Astros Winter League Recaps

Results for Thursday, December 18, and Friday, December 19, 2014

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Friday: Adelaide 6, Sydney 2 in 8 innings

Chan-Jong Moon had a fine night at the plate as he went 4-4 with a double, 2 RBI singles in the 3rd and the 7th, and added 2 stolen bases (5). Tyler Brunnemann got the final 2 outs of the 8th inning, striking out 1.

Saturday: Adelaide 4, Sydney 2

Moon went 0-3 with a run scored and 2 strikeouts. Bruno notched his 5th save of the ABL campaign as he got the final 2 outs of the game for a 2nd straight night. He worked around a hit to do so and struck out 1.

The Bite will look for the sweep at 1:00 Australian Central Time.

PROBEIS PANAMA

Thursday: Caballos 2, Indios 0

All 3 Astros reps on the Indios squad made appearances. Cris Santamaria got the start, and unfortunately, the loss, as he allowed a run on a solo homer, one other hit, walked 1, and struck out 4 in 4 innings. Jose Montero was the first man out; he allowed a run, a hit, walked 2, and struck out 1 in the 5th. Juan Delis walked 1 in a scoreless 8th.

For Caballos, Jack Mayfield went 0-4, and Tyler White went 1-3.

Friday: Indios 7, Caballos 5

Caballos went into the loss column for the first time this season as Indios responded to a 4-run 2nd with a 6-1 run to close out the game.

Telvin Nash finished 1-4 with a walk and 2 strikeouts, and Jack Mayfield went 0-4 with a walk.

These two teams will play again at 6:00 Eastern.

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL

Thursday: Caracas 9, Bravos 1

It was all Caracas as they scored 9 unanswered to close it out. Gregorio Petit finished 2-4 with an RBI single in a 6-run 4th inning and later came around to score.

Friday: Caracas 9, Caribes 3

In the first of 3 straight with Caribes, Caracas took round 1 as they finished the game on an 8-1 run after Caribes scored a pair in the bottom of the 4th to take a 2-1 lead. Gregorio Petit finished 3-4 with a double, 2 RBI singles in the 6th and the 7th, and scored 2 runs.

The 2nd game of this series, if you will, will take place at 7:00 Venezuelan time.

LIDOM

Results from Thursday

Águilas 7, Estrellas 4

Jonathan Villar played a big part in a 4-run 2nd for Águilas as he hit a 2-run single. He did get thrown out at 2nd trying to stretch it into a double, but I think he'll take the 2 RBI.

Licey 3, Toros 2 in 11 innings

Licey walked off with the win as Juan Francisco hit a sac fly in the 11th. Domingo Santana went 0-4 with a strikeout.

Results from Friday

Escogido 5, Águilas 4

All the scoring in this game was done in the first 3 innings. The difference was Escogido's run in the 3rd. Jonathan Villar went 1-3 with a run scored.

Águilas will host Estrellas at 7:30 Atlantic.

Estrellas 1, Licey 0

Licey was held to just 3 hits. Ruben Sosa went 0-4 with a strikeout, and Domingo Santana finished 0-3 with a strikeout.

Licey will head east as they take on Toros tonight at 7:30 Atlantic.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACÍFICO

Thursday: Jalisco 3, Hermosillo 1

Jalisco completed the sweep. Leo Heras went 0-3 with a walk and 2 strikeouts.

Results from Friday

Jalisco 6, Los Mochis 4 in 10 innings

The Horsemen won their 7th straight as they put up a pair in the first extra frame. Leo Heras finished 2-5 with a run scored.

The series continues at 6:00 Mountain.

Obregón 3, Culiacán 1

Culiacán outhit Obregón 12-3... but they lost in the column that counts. Gonzalo Sañudo got the final out of the 7th, but he also allowed the go-ahead hit, which allowed 2 runs to score.

This series continues at 6:00 Mountain.

LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE

Thursday: Mayagüez 4, Carolina 2

Mayagüez broke the tie with 2 in the 9th after both teams scored 2 in the 3rd inning. Carlos Corporán went 0-3 with a walk, and Jobduan Morales was 0-2 with 2 walks and a run scored.

Carolina will be back in action tomorrow when they take on Caguas.

Happy Birthday - 12/20

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

1B/3B/OF Aubrey Huff (38)
A fifth round pick by Tampa, Huff came to Houston in a July 2006 trade for Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist. In 68 games for the Astros in 2006, he hit .250/.341/.478. He went on to play for Baltimore where he earned a Silver Slugger, Detroit and finally San Francisco where he earned World Series rings in 2010 and 2012.

LF Keith Lampard (69)
Drafted by Houston in the second round in 1965, Lampard played in 62 games for the Astros in 1969 and 1970, hitting .238/.289/.393. In nine seasons in the minor leagues, he hit .289/.316/.470.

RHP Marc Valdes (43)
Originally drafted by the Marlins in the first round in 1993, Valdes came to Houston in a May 2000 trade with Tampa. In 53 appearances for the Astros in 2000, he was 5-5 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.659 WHIP. After playing, he became a coach in the Mets organization. In 2014, he was the pitching coach for the Low A Savannah Sand Gnats.

MGR Cecil Cooper (65)
As manager of the Houston Astros for parts of 2007 and 2009 and all of 2008, he compiled a 170-170 record. Of all the things I could remember Cooper for, I actually most remember him for his freakishly large hands.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

2015 Astros Minor League Coaching Staffs

The Astros announced their minor league coaching staffs, including roving instructors and coordinators, today. As was reported by Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle last week, three of last year's Astros minor league Managers are on the move with Rodney Linares going from Lancaster to Corpus Christi, Omar Lopez going from Quad Cities to Lancaster, and Josh Bonifay going from Greeneville to Quad Cities. Bonifay's replacement at Greeneville has not been announced at this time.

Other than numerous moves within the Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning ranks, most remaining staff will stay put with a couple of notable exceptions. Ralph Dickenson, who was the Astros MLB assistant hitting coach in 2014, will rejoin the minor league ranks as the Roving Hitting Instructor. Dan Radison, who was a Special Assistant for Player Development in 2014, will join the Hooks as Hitting Coach, replacing Tim Garland who will be joining the Quad Cities team as an Outfield/Baserunning Coach. Garland replaces Vince Coleman in that capacity. Coleman and 2014 Corpus Christi Manager Keith Bodie, along with Oklahoma City Pitching Coach Steve Webber who announced he was leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season will not be returning. A former Cardinals minor league coach, Arthur "Ace" Adams, will replace Webber as Pitching Coach for the new AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies.

Doug Brocail, interim Pitching Coach for the Hooks in 2014, is now joining the team in that capacity officially as former Hooks Pitching Coach Gary Ruby will be a Pitching Advisor headquartered out of Kissimmee. Tom Lawless was originally intended to be an Infield Coach for Corpus Christi in 2014 when he was pressed into service as the interim Oklahoma City RedHawks Manager as Tony DeFrancesco went on medical leave. He later served as acting Manager of the Astros after Bo Porter was fired. Lawless will now be fulfilling last year's intended assignment and will report to Corpus Christi.

Here is how the rest of the assignments break down:

2015 MINOR LEAGUE COACHING STAFF

Coordinators, Rovers and Medical Staff
Special Assignment Coach - Morgan Ensberg
Pitching Advisor - Gary Ruby
Field Coordinator - Paul Runge
Pitching Coordinator - Dyar Miller
Hitting Coordinator - Jeff Albert
Infield Instructor - Adam Everett
Roving Pitching Instructor - Doug White
Roving Hitting Instructor - Ralph Dickenson
Roving Catching Instructor - Mark Bailey
Strength & Conditioning - Brendan Verner
Medical Coordinator - Jamey Snodgrass
Rehab Coordinator - Daniel Roberts
Rehab Coach - Mike Burns
Athletic Training Advisor - Mike Freer

FRESNO GRIZZLIES (AAA)
Manager - Tony DeFrancesco
Pitching Coach - Arthur "Ace" Adams
Hitting Coach - Leon Roberts
Catching Coach - Jeff Murphy
Athletic Trainer - Bryan Baca
Strength & Conditioning - Trey Wiedman

CORPUS CHRISTI (AA)
Manager - Rodney Linares
Pitching Coach - Doug Brocail
Hitting Coach - Dan Radison
Infield Coach - Tom Lawless
Athletic Trainer - Grant Hufford
Strength & Conditioning - Mark Spadavecchia

LANCASTER (Advanced A)
Manager - Omar Lopez
Pitching Coach - Don Alexander
Hitting Coach - Darryl Robinson
Infield Coach - Ramon Vazquez
Athletic Trainer - Michael Rendon
Strength & Conditioning - Taylor Rhoades

QUAD CITIES (A - Full Season)
Manager - Josh Bonifay
Pitching Coach - Dave Borkowski
Hitting Coach - Joel Chimelis
Outfield/Baserunning Coach - Tim Garland
Athletic Trainer - Corey O'Brien
Strength & Conditioning - Dwayne Peterson

TRI-CITY (A - Short Season)
Manager - Ed Romero
Pitching Coach - Chris Holt
Hitting Coach - Russ Steinhorn
Athletic Trainer - John Gregorich
Strength & Conditioning - James McNichol

GREENEVILLE (Rookie)
Manager - To be announced
Pitching Coach - Josh Miller
Hitting Coach - Cesar Cedeno

GULF COAST LEAGUE (Rookie)
Manager - Marty Malloy
Pitching Coach - Hector Mercado
Hitting Coach - Vinny Lopez
Coach - Wladimir Sutil
Strength & Conditioning - Julio Diaz

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE (Rookie)
Manager - Johan Maya
Manager - Charlie Romero
Development Specialist and Pitching Coordinator - Rick Aponte
Pitching Coach - Erick Abreu
Hitting Coach - Luis Mateo
Hitting Coach - Sixto Ortega
Outfield Coach - Melvi Ortega
Catching Coach - Carlos Lugo
Athletic Trainer - Ambiorix Reyes
Athletic Trainer - Christian Bermudez
Strength & Conditioning - Geremias Guzman
Strength & Conditioning - Miguel Angel Cabrera

Happy Birthday - 12/19

Happy Birthday to ~

OF/1B Brandon Meredith (25)
Drafted out of San Diego State in the sixth round in 2011, Meredith split his 2014 season fairly evenly between Lancaster and Corpus Christi (but missed about six weeks of the season on the DL). In a total of 80 games, he hit .249/.346/.450 with 10 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 44 RBI.

Tom Lawless (58)
In his sixth season working in the Astros minor league system, Lawless served as interim manager for the Oklahoma City RedHawks while Manager Tony DeFrancesco was on medical leave, in addition to his job as minor league infield development specialist. On September 1st, he became the 21st Manager in Astros history, guiding the big league club to an 11-13 record in his brief tenure in the interim position. Lawless is still remembered by many for his three-run home run for the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series in 1987 and his subsequent bat flip seen here 48 seconds in.

These former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

OF Walt "No Neck" Williams (71)
Where have all the good nicknames gone? No Neck signed with Houston as an amateur free agent prior to the 1963 season. In 10 games for the Colt .45's in 1964, Williams went hitless in nine at-bats. He went on to play several more seasons with the White Sox, Indians and Yankees with a .270/.310/.365 career batting line.

RHP Joe Slusarski (48)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the second round in 1988, Slusarski came to Houston as a free agent in May 1998. In 65 games pitched for the Astros in 1999, 2000 and 2001, he had a 4.57 ERA and a 1.379 WHIP.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Astros Winter League Recaps

Results for Wednesday, December 17, 2014

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Adelaide 10, Sydney 3

The Bite struck for 6 in the bottom of the 1st to take control of this game. Chan-Jong Moon clubbed a 2-run homer in that 1st inning, his 4th Down Under.

Game 2 of this series will take place at 7:00 Australian Central Time.

PROBEIS PANAMA

Caballos 3, Industriales 0

Caballos has emerged from the first 3 games as the sole undefeated team in the league. Telvin Nash finished 2-3 with a solo homer and scored 2 runs. Jack Mayfield and Tyler White both finished 1-3.

Tonight, Caballos will host Indios at 7:00 Eastern.

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL

Bravos 8, Caracas 1

Gregorio Petit went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts, while Danry Vásquez appeared as a pinch-hitter in the 8th and struck out. He remained in the game as the LF.

Caracas will play one more on the island tonight. First pitch is at 7:30 Venezuelan time.

LIDOM

All 3 games in the Dominican Republic last night were shutouts.

Estrellas 10, Licey 0

Domingo Santana had 2 of Licey's 8 hits.

Licey will host Toros tonight at 7:30 Atlantic.

Águilas 8, Escogido 0

Jonathan Villar opened up the scoring for Águilas with a 2-run double in the 3rd, and he eventually came around to score as Manny Ramirez roped a single to left field. He scored another run in the 5th as he reached on an error to lead off the frame, stole 2nd, and then took 3rd as part of a double steal... then Escogido catcher Charlie Valerio threw the ball away, which allowed Villar to score. He now has 8 steals on the season.

Águilas will host Estrellas at 7:30 Atlantic.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACÍFICO

Jalisco 7, Hermosillo 0

Leo Heras opened up the scoring with a sac fly in the 1st, and then he led off the bottom of the 7th with a solo shot, his 8th of the Mexican campaign.

The series concludes at 7:00.

LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE

Carolina 5, Mayagüez 4

Carlos Corporán went 1-3 with a sac fly in the 1st and an RBI single in the 7th. Jobduan Morales finished 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

Tonight, these two teams will play each other again in Carolina; this game is a makeup from December 3, when it was rained out. First pitch is at 7:30 Atlantic.

Happy Birthday - 12/18

Happy Birthday to ~

DH/1B/LF Chris Carter (28)
Originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 15th round in 2005, Carter came to the Astros, along with Brad Peacock and Max Stassi, in the February 2013 trade that sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland. In 145 games for Houston in 2014, Carter hit .227/.308/.491 with 21 doubles, one triple, 37 home runs (second in the AL) and 88 RBI. He dropped from first to second place in strikeouts in the league in 2014, letting Mike Trout have the honors for the year.

RHP Edison Frias (24)
Frias was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. Frias pitched for the Quad Cities team in 2014, compiling an 8-5 record with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.326 WHIP in 17 games (12 starts).

These former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

LHP Rudy Owens (27)
Originally drafted by the Pirates in the 28th round in 2006, Owens came to Houston in the 2012 trade that sent Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh. Owens made his major league debut for Houston in a spot start on May 23, 2014, but otherwise pitched his entire season with AAA Oklahoma City. In 25 games (21 starts), he was 8-5 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP. He recently signed with Oakland as a free agent.

OF Mike White (76)
Originally drafted from the Angels in the minor league draft in 1961, White played in 100 games for the 1963 and 1964 Colt .45's and the 1965 Astros, hitting .264/.311/.321.

RHP Jim Clancy (59)
A fourth round pick by the Rangers in 1974, Clancy signed with Houston as a free agent in December 1988. In 96 games (36 starts) for Houston from 1989 to 1991, he had a 9-25 record with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.478 WHIP. His best years were for the Toronto Blue Jays for whom he pitched for 12 seasons and won his one All-Star nod in 1982.

RHP Willie Blair (49)
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 11th round in 1986, Blair came to Houston in a December 1991 trade with the Indians. In 29 games (eight starts) pitched for the Astros in 1992, he was 5-7 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.258 WHIP. Most recently, he was the bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres in 2014.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Astros Winter League Recaps

Results for Tuesday, December 16, 2014

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

The ABL All-Star Game took place yesterday (today Down Under), with the natives defeating the imports 11-8. Team Australia took control with 8 in the bottom of the 8th. Tyler Brunnemann was on the World Team and allowed a hit to the only batter he faced in the 7th inning.

The season resumes today as Adelaide welcomes the Sydney Blue Sox to South Australia. Last week, they took 3 of 4 on the road from Sydney. First pitch is at 7:30 Australian Central Time.

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL

Caracas 4, Zulia 3 in 11 innings

In the only game in Venezuela last night, Caracas walked off with an extra-inning win. Gregorio Petit finished 1-5 with a double and a run scored, while Danry Vásquez entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the 8th and remained in the game as the left fielder. He walked to lead off the bottom of the 11th and scored the winning run on a botched double play attempt from Zulia. They were trying to double off Petit, which would've sent the game to the 12th.

The capital club is on the island of Margarita tonight as they take on Bravos. First pitch is at 7:30 Venezuelan time.

PROBEIS PANAMA

Indios 4, Águilas 1

Harold Arauz got the start for Águilas and took the loss as he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and struck out 1 over 3 innings.

Cris Santamaria was the first man out of the Indios bullpen and threw a 1-2-3 6th, while Juan Delis finished it out. Águilas spoiled the shutout when they got an unearned run off of Delis in the 9th; he allowed a hit and struck out 2.

These two teams will play again at 7:00 Eastern.

Caballos 8, Industriales 4

Telvin Nash went 2-3 with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored for Caballos. Jack Mayfield finished 1-4, and Tyler White finished 2-3 with a double, 2 runs scored, and 2 walks.

Blaine Sims got the start for Caballos and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits, walked 1, and struck out 2 over 5 innings.

These two teams will play again; the only difference is a change of venue. First pitch is at 7:00 Eastern.

LIDOM

Gigantes 6, Águilas 5

Jonathan Villar finished 1-4 with a run scored and opened the scoring with an RBI infield single in the 2nd for Águilas.

Tonight, Águilas will host Escogido at 7:30 Atlantic.

Licey 8, Escogido 2

In a battle between the bottom 2 clubs in the Dominican, it was Licey taking this one with 8 unanswered after Escogido put up 2 in the 3rd. Ruben Sosa went 1-3 as the DH, while Domingo Santana was 2-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored.

Licey will host the leaders, Estrellas, tonight at 7:30 Atlantic.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACÍFICO

Jalisco 3, Hermosillo 2

Leo Heras, in his customary #3 spot for Jalisco, went 1-3 with a walk and 2 Ks.

The middle game of this series is tonight at 7:00.

LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE

Both games on the slate last night were rained out. Tonight, Carolina will take on Mayagüez, while San Juan will face Santurce. Both of these games will start at 7:30 Atlantic.

The Astros Third Base Conundrum

When Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweeted out a question Monday regarding how Astros fans felt about the signing of SS Jed Lowrie to a three-year contract, I replied with a one-word response, "Underwhelmed." A friend of mine responded, "he's solid, likely declining, but front loaded contract, and not a markedly better option available than him." I don't disagree with that, but there are other factors involved in molding my opinion.

I will admit that I was somewhat put off by Jed Lowrie's response to the buttshot heard 'round the world last year. Fine, have your say and move on. But the response lingered on for over a week which I found to be a bit excessive. I'll admit that I am not a professional athlete (not even close!), but it seems to me that getting plunked on the heinie is not worthy of a daily press briefing. But I digress. (Don't I always?)

Seriously, I have no lingering issues with the aforementioned unfortunate episode. I actually like Lowrie. I had a very nice conversation with him one day about his trip to Africa. I even gave him a little advice for an upcoming trip that he and his wife were taking to Ecuador. Dang it, I'm digressing yet again.

I also do not have an issue with his play at shortstop. I think he is solid at the position and will bring some needed stability to the position, plus he will provide a solid, albeit unspectacular, bat in the lineup. I'm not wild about signing him for three years, but so long as he doesn't soil the bed linens, and assuming that there isn't a repeat of anything like this incident, the Astros should be able to trade him in a year or two if need be. So even that isn't a particular problem for me.

My problem lies with the idea that, in the event that Carlos Correa is ready for the major leagues in late 2015 (as I think will be highly likely), the Astros have stated that they will just move Lowrie on over to third base until Colin Moran or Rio Ruiz are ready to play at the hot corner on the big stage. Jed Lowrie has played precisely 83 games at third base in his major league career, the majority of those in 2008, none since 2011. Lowrie has a decent bat for a shortstop, but will not provide the offensive output you want to see from a corner outfielder. I'm not a huge fan of shoving guys into positions just to find a place for them if their talents don't dovetail well with the position.

So, let's have a little chat about third base. Matt Dominguez has been a fan favorite when it comes to his defense, but his bat has always been a question mark, and he has not necessarily given the Astros the answer to that question that they wanted. The third base job is his to lose in Spring Training. The problem is that he may very well do that if he doesn't show marked improvement with the lumber. Jeff Luhnow has alluded to Marwin Gonzalez as a possibility at third. Personally, I feel that Marwin's best use is as a utility infielder. Third is not his natural position, and he has shown himself to be a much better middle infielder.

The presumed third basemen in waiting, according to the Astros front office are Colin Moran and Rio Ruiz. Let's take Ruiz first. I think Ruiz is going to be a terrific player, but he is at least a year away, more likely two years. He needs the time, the at-bats, and the continued development at third base. He should not be rushed. He will let us know when he is ready. So, let's put Rio to the side for the time being.

Colin Moran has only played 28 games at AA. He can definitely hit, but he has not developed the power that is expected from a third baseman yet. When I saw him in Corpus at the end of the season, I was left a bit bewildered by what I saw from him. And then I read this EXCELLENT piece in Baseball Prospectus that put my thoughts into words beautifully. I'm not sure that Colin Moran is ultimately even going to be a third baseman, much less the Astros third baseman of the future. I'd love to see him prove me wrong, but in any event, I cannot see him being legitimately considered for the position in 2015.

So, apparently there are no other options at third base for the coming season? Well, yeah, there is another option. And for the life of me I can't figure out why this player gets no love from the front office. Let's take a look at Matt Duffy:

  • Hit .293/.367/.468 in his four years in the organization
  • Hit .302/.340/.455 in 49 games in Corpus in 2014 before his promotion
  • Hit .279/.333/.448 in 87 games in Oklahoma City after his promotion
  • Hit .354/.374/.469 in August (OKC) in 28 games

Matt Duffy can hit. He's always been able to hit. And he always makes the adjustments he needs to make. I have no reason to believe that he can't make the same adjustments in Houston. He can hit to all fields although his power is to the left side. He would love the Crawford Boxes. His lefty/righty splits got a little lopsided for the season (.256/.311/.383 vs. RHP and .382/.410/.649 vs. LHP), but they evened out a bit for Oklahoma City as he hit .267/.322/.419 against righthanders at the higher level. Over his career, he has had reasonably good lefty/righty splits.

Still doubtful? Let's dig a little deeper for our SABR minded friends. (Click on the name for the player's Fangraphs page.)

Matt Duffy in 2014
wOBA at AA: .361
wOBA at AAA: .343
WRC+ at AA: 128
WRC+ at AAA: 100
ISO at AA: .153
ISO at AAA: .168

Colin Moran in 2014
wOBA at A+: .340
wOBA at AA: .341
WRC+ at A+: 110
WRC+ at AA: 114
ISO at A+: .100
ISO at AA: .107

Matt Dominquez in 2014:
wOBA: .260
WRC+: 63
ISO: .115

Jed Lowrie in 2014:
wOBA: .300
WRC+: 93
ISO: .106

Duffy seems to stack up pretty well by those parameters as well. He does fall short in walk rate (4.9% for the season up to 6% at OKC) and strikeout rate (18.7%) when compared with Lowrie and Moran, but he represents an improvement over Dominguez.

So, Duffy's defense must be awful, right? Wrong. He is a solid defensive player. I specifically talked to him (and with his coach and manager) about his defense in this interview from 2013 because I had seen such an improvement from him in that area. In 2014, Duffy had a .961 fielding percentage and a 2.49 per game range factor in his 70 games played at third base (he was moved to first base for a number of games). Not quite as good as Matt Dominguez's 2014 numbers (.972 fielding percentage and a 2.53 per game range factor), but not that far off either. (The last time Lowrie played third base in 2011, he had a .948 fielding percentage and a 2.79 per game range factor.)

Competition is a good thing and I hope that Matt Duffy is given a legitimate opportunity to compete for the Astros third base job. I think he has earned that much. What he does with the opportunity is up to him, but I think he may surprise some people.

Oh, and one more thing to like about Duffy ... having been hit by pitches 41 times in one season (in 2012) shows that he knows how to take a hit by pitch.

Anywho, since one is limited to 140 characters at a time, "underwhelmed" was the best response I could come up with on short notice. With all of that said ... Welcome Back to Houston, Jed Lowrie!*

*provided that you don't block Carlos Correa for a nanosecond and don't take up residence at third base

Happy Birthday - 12/17

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

LHP Fernando Abad (29)
Abad was signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2002. In 88 games for Houston from 2010 to 2012, he compiled a 1-11 record with a 5.10 ERA and a 1.559 WHIP. Abad signed as a free agent with the Nationals in November 2012 and was subsequently traded to Oakland in November 2013. In 69 appearances for Oakland in 2014, he had a 1.57 ERA and a 0.855 WHIP.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Astros Winter League Recaps: An Intro to Panamanian Baseball

The major winter leagues in the Caribbean were largely off on Monday, but another league in Panama, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Panamá, or Probeis, kicked off play on Monday. The Astros have players on all 4 teams in the league, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Here is the official website of the league: http://probeispanama.com/

One note: the entire site is in Spanish.

Indios de Urracá

Urracá was an indigenous freedom fighter, taking on the conquistadors of Spain in the territory that we now consider modern-day Panama. He was captured by the Spanish after falling into a trap and was about to be sent to Spain, but he escaped captivity and continued his resistance for several more years. 

This team represents the province of Veraguas, located in the west-central part of the country. Veraguas borders the Pacific Ocean on its southern coast.

The Astros are represented by 3 pitchers: RHPs Jose Montero and Juan Delis, and LHP Cris Santamaria (I got tired of typing Cristhopher). Carlos Gonzalez, a coach in the Astros organization, is on the coaching staff for Indios. I do not know if he really is an Astros coach because I don't see his name listed under the coaching staffs of the minor league affiliates, or if he is, then he's probably a DSL coach.

Caballos de Coclé

Coclé, on the central coast, shares a border with Veraguas to its west. The city of Aguadulce, in the southwestern part of the province, is best known as the hometown of El Caballo, Carlos Lee. 

The Astros have 5 players on the roster: RHPs Blaine Sims and Travis Ballew, SS/2B Jack Mayfield, 1B/DH Telvin Nash, and 3B Tyler White. Along with Jose Montero, they are the non-Panamanian contingent representing the Astros on the isthmus.

Industriales de Herrera

Nestled into the south-central coast of Panama, Herrera Province shares borders with Coclé and Veraguas. 

RHP Agapito Barrios is on the active roster, while utilityman Rodrigo Ayarza is on the "active reserve" list. RHP Edgardo Sandoval and SS Ozziel Sanchez, who is a member of the Astros' 2014 international free agent class, are on the "inactive reserve" list. 

Águilas Metropolitanas

Representing Panama City, this is Panama's capital club. RHP Harold Arauz is the Astros' lone representative on the team.

Panama uses Eastern Time. There were supposed to be 2 games, but I believe one of them was rained out because the box score isn't available.

Caballos 12, Industriales 2

The hosts, Caballos, romped as they scored in all but the first 2 innings. Telvin Nash finished 2-4 with a 2-run homer, Jack Mayfield went 1-5 with a run scored, and Tyler White went 0-2 with 2 walks and a run scored. 

Agapito Barrios got the start for Industriales and threw 1.1 scoreless, walking 3 and striking out 2.

These two teams will play again at 7:00 Eastern.

Astros Off-Season Transaction List for 2014-2015

Since there are generally dozens of transactions during the off season, I like to keep a running list to help me remember what all has transpired. I will be posting this on the sidebar on the front page and will do my best to keep it updated through the end of Spring Training.

Here is the Astros 40-man roster which currently stands at 40.

NEW TO THE SYSTEM
RHP Rogelio Armenteros (Cuban defector signed by Astros according to Baseball America)
RHP Akeem Bostick (Obtained from the Rangers in a trade for C Carlos Corporan)
RHP Luis Castro (19-year old [turns 20 on May 11] Dominican signed on February 10)
C Hank Conger (Obtained in trade for RHP Nick Tropeano and C Carlos Perez)
1B Jared Cruz (PTBNL in the July 2014 Andrew Robinson trade with the Braves)
RHP Harlen Florencio (19-year old Dominican signed in early December)
C Luis Flores (Claimed by the Astros in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft)
C Evan Gattis (Obtained from the Braves in a trade for RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz and RHP Andrew Thurman)
RHP Luke Gregerson (signed as a free agent)
RHP Will Harris (claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks)
OF Jose Hernandez (18-year old [turns 19 on March 12] Dominican signed on February 10)
RHP Roberto Hernandez (signed as a free agent; also know as Fausto Carmona)
RHP James Hoyt (obtained along with Evan Gattis in trade with the Braves)
RHP Dylan James (NDFA out of West Texas A&M)
1B Dan Johnson (signed as a free agent)
SS Jed Lowrie (signed as a free agent)
2B Nicolas Miranda (18-year old [turns 19 on June 12] Panamanian signed on February 10)
RHP Pat Neshek (signed as a free agent)
RHP Christian Powell (Minor League free agent, previously with Twins)
OF Colby Rasmus (signed as a free agent)
3B Anthony Rodriguez (18-year old [turns 19 on July 23] Dominican signed on February 10)
LHP Maikel Sepulveda (18-year old Dominican signed on February 11)
RHP Robert Stock (Minor League free agent, previously with Cardinals)
RHP Dan Straily (obtained from the Cubs in trade for OF Dexter Fowler)
LHP Joe Thatcher (signed as a free agent)
RHP Luidin Toribio (19-year old Dominican signed on February 10)
3B Luis Valbuena (obtained from the Cubs in trade for OF Dexter Fowler)
C Randy Vasquez (18-year old Dominican [turns 19 on March 13] signed on February 23)


ADDED TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER
C Hank Conger
RHP Michael Feliz (added in advance of the Rule 5 Draft)
C Evan Gattis (will be used in OF and as DH)
RHP Luke Gregerson
RHP Will Harris
SS Jed Lowrie
RHP Pat Neshek
C Carlos Perez (added in advance of the Rule 5 Draft) - Traded to the Angels
OF Colby Rasmus
RHP Dan Straily
IF Ronald Torreyes (added in advance of the Rule 5 Draft)
3B Luis Valbuena
RHP Vince Velasquez (added in advance of the Rule 5 Draft)

OUTRIGHTED TO FRESNO
RHP Jose Cisnero - Left via free agency
LHP Darin Downs
LHP Rudy Owens - Left via free agency
IF Gregorio Petit
RHP Anthony Bass - Left via free agency

PLACED ON THE RESTRICTED LIST
RHP Andrew Walter (50-game suspension for testing positive for drug of abuse)

NO LONGER IN THE SYSTEM
RHP Matt Albers - Left via free agency
1B Japhet Amador (According to Baseball America, the Astros sold their rights to Amador back to Mexico City of the Mexican League)
RHP Anthony Bass - Left via free agency
IF Bobby Borchering - Released
RHP Patrick Christensen - Released
RHP Jose Cisnero - Left via free agency
RHP Paul Clemens - Left via free agency
C Brett Clements - Released
C Carlos Corporan - Traded to the Rangers
RHP Jesse Crain - Left via free agency
RHP Jorge de Leon - Claimed off waivers by Oakland
Delino DeSheilds - Drafted by the Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft
IF Will Dupont - Released
IF Jean Estrella - Released
LHP Kevin Ferguson - Released
RHP Mike Foltynewicz - Traded to Atlanta
OF Dexter Fowler - Traded to the Cubs
C Rene Garcia - Left via free agency
LHP Kyle Gehrs - Released
RHP Jandel Gustave - Drafted by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft and flipped to Kansas City
1B Jesus Guzman - Left via free agency
RHP Matt Heidenreich - Released
OF Terrell Joyce - Released
1B/OF Marc Krauss - Claimed off waivers by the Angels
RHP David Martinez - Left via free agency
C Ryan McCurdy - Retired
1B Yonathan Mejia - Released
RHP Luis Ordosgoitti - Released
LHP J.D. Osborne - Released
OF Ariel Ovando - Drafted by the Cubs in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft; being converted to a pitcher
LHP Rudy Owens - Signed as Free Agent with Oakland
C Carlos Perez - Traded to the Angels
RHP Raul Rivera - Released
LHP David Rollins - Drafted by Seattle in the Rule 5 Draft
3B Rio Ruiz - Traded to Atlanta
IF Juan Santana - Released
RHP Andrew Thurman - Traded to the Braves
RHP Nick Tropeano - Traded to the Angels
LHP Patrick Urckfitz - Left via free agency
RHP Aaron Vaughn - Released
RHP Jose Veras - Left via free agency
RHP Josh Zeid - Claimed off waivers

FREE AGENTS
RHP Matt Albers - Signed with the White Sox
RHP Anthony Bass - Signed with the Rangers
RHP Jose Cisnero - Signed with the Reds
RHP Paul Clemens - Signed with the Phillies
RHP Jesse Crain - Signed with the White Sox
C Rene Garcia - Signed with the Phillies
RHP Murilo Gouvea - Re-signed with the Astros
1B Jesus Guzman - Signed with the Hiroshima Carp
RHP David Martinez - Signed with the Rangers
LHP Rudy Owens - Signed with the A's
IF Carlos Perdomo
RHP Ross Seaton
LHP Patrick Urckfitz - Signed with the Marlins
RHP Jose Veras - Signed with the Braves

Have you purchased your copy of my new book "2015 Houston Farm System Handbook" yet? The Handbook contains information on 257 players in the Astros minor league system and should prove to be a valuable resource throughout the season.

Happy Birthday - 12/16

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Bryan de la Cruz (18)
Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, De la Cruz spent his first professional season in the DSL, hitting .262/.387/.317 in 59 games.

RHP Aaron Vaughn (23)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2014, Vaughn started his season with the GCL and ended it with Tri-City with a very brief stop at Quad Cities in between. In a total of 22 bullpen appearances, Vaughn was 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.938 WHIP. He walked six batters and struck out 23 in 26.2 innings of work.

LHP Zach Davis (23)
Drafted by Houston in the 25th round in 2014, Davis spent most of his season with the Greeneville Astros (2.04 ERA and 1.132 WHIP), earning a late season promotion to Tri-City for his final two appearances. He ended the season with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.377 WHIP.

OF Jose Benjamin (19)
An international signing out of the Dominican Republic, Benjamin played his first season for the Dominican Summer League Astros. In 42 games, he hit .235/.349/.309.

Three former Astros celebrate today as well ~

A second round pick by the Astros in 1987, Hennis only got a cup of coffee in the major leagues, but he did it up right. He pitched in three games (nine and two-thirds innings) in 1990, but he managed to keep his ERA perfect at 0.00 with a WHIP of 0.414. Nice. Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle talked to Hennis a while back about his short but stellar career.

Originally drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1984, Jones came to Houston as a free agent in December 1991 and played in 54 games for the Astros in 1992, hitting .190/.271/.302.

OF Charles Gipson (42)
Drafted by Seattle in the 63rd round (no, that's not a typo) in 1991, Gipson signed with Houston as a free agent in January 2005. In 11 at-bats in 19 games, he hit .182/.250/.273. Frequently used as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, Gipson is one of only a handful of non-pitchers with fewer career plate appearances (366) than games played (373).

Tweet of the Day

Monday, December 15, 2014

Astros Winter League Recaps

Results for the weekend of December 12-14, 2014

Let's play 2 Down Under!

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Results from Saturday

Game 1: Adelaide 3, Sydney 0

Chan-Jong Moon finished 1-3.

Game 2: Adelaide 6, Sydney 0

Moon went 0-4 with a run scored.

Sunday: Sydney 6, Adelaide 5

Moon finished 0-5 with a walk and a strikeout. Tyler Brunnemann technically threw 2 scoreless innings, but he was charged with a blown save because he allowed the tying run to score in the bottom of the 8th. Brunnemann allowed 2 hits, working around a single to throw a scoreless 9th.

The ABL All-Star Game will take place on Wednesday, December 17. Then, on Thursday, Adelaide will welcome Sydney to South Australia for the weekend.

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL

Friday: Aragua 8, Caracas 5

In their first game since Monday, the capital club was doomed on the road as the hosts, Aragua, scored a touchdown and tacked on the extra point in the 5th inning to erase a 4-0 Caracas lead. Gregorio Petit finished 3-4 with an RBI single in the 4th and scored 2 runs for los Leones.

Saturday: Caracas 9, Magallanes 6

Magallanes scored 3 apiece in the 1st and the 9th, but in between, Caracas put up 9. Petit was 0-2 before he was lifted for a pinch-runner in the 3rd. Danry Vásquez appeared as a pinch-hitter in the 8th and grounded into a force out.

Sunday: Caribes 9, Caracas 3

Gregorio got the start at shortstop and finished 1-4 with a double and a run scored.

Only 9 games left in the regular season for Caracas, and 7 of them will be on the road. In their penultimate home game, Caracas will host Zulia tomorrow night.


LIDOM

Friday: Gigantes 8, Licey 7 in 12 innings

Domingo Santana finished 1-4 with 3 strikeouts, and he exited the game in the 8th when Ruben Sosa was called upon to pinch-run for him.

Saturday: Escogido 6, Licey 3

Domingo tripled in 4 at-bats. In his other 3 at-bats, he struck out.

Sunday: Águilas 7, Licey 5

Domingo Santana went 1-4 with a walk, 2 strikeouts, and 2 runs scored.

Monday is a league-wide off day.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACÍFICO

Charros del Jalisco

Friday: Jalisco 2, Navojoa 1

Leo Heras finished 0-2 with a walk and 2 strikeouts.

Saturday: Jalisco 5, Navojoa 1

Heras went 0-2 with 3 walks and a run scored.

Sunday: Jalisco 5, Navojoa 2

Jalisco completed the sweep with 3 in the top of the 9th to break a 2-2 tie. Heras went 1-3 with a strikeout.

Jalisco returns to action on Tuesday when they begin a 3-game series with Hermosillo.

Tomateros de Culiacán

Saturday: Culiacán 3, Los Mochis 1

Gonzalo Sañudo was the first man out of the Culiacán bullpen and was credited with a hold after throwing 2 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 2.


LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE

Criollos de Caguas

Friday: Caguas 5, San Juan 4

Roberto Peña got the start behind the plate and went 0-4 with a strikeout.

Saturday: San Juan 7, Caguas 6

Peña finished 0-4 with a strikeout. Luis Cruz got roughed up in his 3 innings as he allowed 6 runs on 6 hits (3-run homer), walked 1, and struck out 4.

Caguas returns to action on Tuesday when they host Carolina.

Gigantes de Carolina

Saturday: Santurce 1, Carolina 0

Carlos Corporán started behind the plate and went 0-4.

Sunday: Carolina 5, Mayagüez 1

Jobduan Morales served as the DH and went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts.

Happy Birthday - 12/15

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

IF Art Howe (68)
Howe came to Houston in a January 1976 trade and played for the Astros from 1976 to 1982. In 706 games, he played all of the infield positions (even a little shortstop) and compiled a .269/.337/.394 batting line. As Manager of the team from 1989 to 1993, he had a 392-418 record.

SS Jimmy Sexton (63)
Traded to Houston from Seattle in December 1977, Sexton played in 140 games for the Astros in 1978 and 1979, hitting .207/.284/.277.

Tweet of the Day

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Birthday - 12/14

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Wilson Amador (18)
Amador signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in July 2013. In his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League in 2014, he hit .245/.349/.302.

C Carlos Canelon (20)
An international free agent out of Venezuela, Canelon also played his first season in the DSL, hitting .181/.300/.202 in 32 games. He caught 38% of would-be base stealers.

3B Connor Goedert (21)
Drafted in the 15th round in 2014, Goedert split his time between Greeneville and the GCL, hitting .157/.245/.201 in 38 games.

RHP John Gatlin (24)
Gatlin was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2014. At Ole Miss, Gatlin was an infielder by trade, but was converted to pitcher (something he hadn't done since junior college). In 13 games for the Gulf Coast League Astros, Gatlin had a 1.29 ERA and a 1.663 WHIP.

Two former Astros celebrate the day as well ~

2B Craig Biggio (49)
A first round pick by Houston in 1987, Biggio played his entire career for the Astros from 1988 to 2007. He played in 2850 games and had 3060 hits, 668 doubles, 55 triples, 291 home runs, 1175 RBI, 414 stolen bases, and 285 HBP. His lifetime batting line was .281/.363/.433. He won five Silver Slugger awards, four Gold Glove awards and appeared in seven All-Star games. He is in his third year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, having missed induction by only TWO VOTES the last go around. If he doesn't make the cut in 2015, there may very well be a few torches and pitchforks outside some BBWAA voters' homes.

RHP Rodrigo Rosario (37)
Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1996, Rosario pitched in two starts in 2003 with an ERA of 1.13 and a WHIP of 1.000. He suffered a major injury in his second major league start and never pitched again professionally.

Also, a Happy Birthday to friend of the blog, Lee Street, the one attorney I know who would defend me pro bono (or at least provide me with an alibi) if I ever happened to be accused (unjustly, of course) of leaving a flaming bag of dog poo on the doorstep of a certain baseball commissioner.

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