Saturday, February 28, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/28

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

RHP Ricky Stone (40)
Originally drafted in the fourth round by the Dodgers in 1994, Stone came to Houston as a free agent in November 2000. In 165 appearances for Houston from 2001 to 2004, he was 10-8 with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.401 WHIP over 187 innings. Stone was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008 and beat the disease, but later lost his wife to ovarian cancer.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/27

Happy Birthday to ~

1B Connor MacDonald (19)
Signed in 2012 out of Queensland, MacDonald was the first Australian prospect signed by the Astros in over twenty years. He played his first professional season in 2014 in the Dominican Summer League. In 35 games, he hit .328/.442/.461.

1B Conrad Gregor (23)
Drafted by Houston in the fourth round in 2013 out of Vanderbilt, Gregor started the season with Quad Cities, but earned two promotions during the season and ended it with the AA Corpus Christi team. In a combined 124 games, Gregor hit .311/.404/.509 with 31 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs, and 86 RBI.

One former Astro celebrates today as well ~

OF Carl Warwick (78)
Obtained in a trade with the Cardinals for LHP Bobby Shantz, Warwick appeared in 280 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963 with a batting line of .257/.315/.373. He was traded to the Cardinals in February of 1964 for 1B/OF Jim Beauchamp and RHP Chuck Taylor and was used as a pinch hitter in that year's World Series, going 3 for 4 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored as the Cardinals beat the Yankees 4-3 to win the series.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Interview with Astros RHP Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson had a season in 2014 that crept up on me. Following his first month pitching for the Greeneville Astros, he had a 7.20 ERA, but by the time the season ended, Peterson had whittled that number down to a 2.35 ERA after allowing only two earned runs during his final two months pitching out of the Greeneville bullpen. Batters hit only .209 against him for the season and he ended with a 1.087 WHIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

When I talked to Peterson recently by phone, he admitted that he'd rather forget about that first month of the season and focus on what he had accomplished by the end of the season. "Obviously, I struggled in the beginning, (but) I feel like I improved a lot over the course of the season," said Peterson, citing the improved consistency of his breaking ball and better pitch location.

Peterson throws from a low 3/4-arm slot which helps him get some natural run on his pitch offerings which include a high-80's to low 90's 4-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. Peterson considers his curveball to be his best pitch, but one of his fellow Greeneville Astros pitchers praised his changeup as well.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Peterson pitch when I visited Greeneville last summer so I asked him what I will see when I do see him pitch. According to Peterson, "I throw strikes. I'm certainly not going to back down from anyone. I'm really aggressive. Sometimes I can be too aggressive and leave balls over the plate when I'm ahead in the count. I don't walk too many guys." Peterson walked only one batter in his final 12 appearances of the season.

When quizzed about what Peterson felt he needed to do in order to get to the next step in his professional development, he indicated that he thinks he locates his fastball well, but has been working on being more consistent with his curveball and the arm slot he uses with that breaking pitch. During the 2014 season, he was also working on finding the sweet spot in his times to home plate.

Peterson and his fraternal twin brother LHP Patrick Peterson spent the first two and a half years of their collegiate careers at Temple University in Philadelphia, but had to transfer to North Carolina State University for the 2014 college season when Temple suddenly cut their baseball program in December 2013. With two players in the household looking to be drafted, it was a long couple of days for the Petersons as his brother Patrick was drafted in the 23rd round by Seattle and Eric's name was called in the 37th round, leading to sighs of relief all around.

When asked what he would do if he wasn't playing baseball, Peterson said that he would likely go back to  North Carolina State and finish his degree in Sports Management with an eye toward staying attached to the game in some way.

As I always do with pitchers, I asked Peterson who on that 2014 Greeneville squad had a pitch that he would like to steal. "I would probably say (Reymin) Guduan's fastball. You can't really teach mid to high 90's fastball, so that's definitely something I wish I could have."

And what hitter would he least like to face? "I would say Sean McMullen. He always puts up good at-bats. Another guy would be Antonio Nunez because the dude battles up there, every single time. He doesn't strike out." Those two players in particular can make a pitcher throw a lot of extra pitches.

Peterson didn't have much to share with me when asked to tell something most people don't know about him, but he did mention that, although he and his brother are fraternal twins, they do look enough alike that they are often mistaken for identical twins.

Thank you for your time, Eric, and best of luck in the upcoming season.


Please consider purchasing my new e-book, the "2015 Houston Farm System Handbook." The book can be read immediately on your kindle, and can also be read on virtually any computer or tablet by downloading the Free Kindle Reading App.

Happy Birthday - 2/26

No future Astros celebrating today, but we have a few former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B Steve Hertz (70)
Signed by the Colt .45's as a free agent in 1964, Hertz appeared in five games (four at-bats) for Houston that season, and those five games constituted his entire major league career. He was unable to get that elusive hit in the majors. However, he went on to have a very successful career coaching for Miami Dade College. As an interesting side note, in 2007 he managed the Tel Aviv Lightning in the Israel Baseball League.

RHP Don Lee (81)
Acquired in a trade with the Angels for OF Al Spangler in June 1965, Lee pitched for the Astros in 1965 and 1966. In 16 games, he was 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP. Lee played in nine major league seasons for five teams.

RHP Gary Majewski (35)
A Houston native, Majewski signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2009 and only appeared in two games for Houston in the 2010 season. Since it's his birthday, I will be charitable and not post the results of those two appearances. Majewski had his most effective season in 2005 for the Nationals, going 4-4 in 79 appearances with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.360 WHIP. In three seasons for the Independent League Sugar Land Skeeters, Majewski is 18-8 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.205 WHIP in 175 appearances.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sample Entry from the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook

As I hope my readers have discovered by now, I recently published the "2015 Houston Farm System Handbook," containing profiles of 257 players in the Astros minor league system. The book is available from Amazon as an e-book that can be read on virtually any device (desktop, laptop, tablet or phone) even if you don't own a kindle. Simply download the Kindle App, buy the book and enjoy!

Not every profile is as detailed as this one, but the following write-up on Tyler Brunnemann will give you an idea of the kind of information contained in the book.

I hope that you will consider purchasing this book which I have come to think of as an Astros minor league media guide on steroids. Your continued support is very much appreciated.

RHP Tyler Brunnemann

  • B/T: R/R
  • H/W: 6’2” 200#
  • Born: 8/9/91 in Garden Ridge, Texas
  • Age on 4/1/15: 23
  • Acquisition: Drafted in the 40th Round in 2013 out of Hardin-Simmons University (Abilene, Texas)
  • 2014: 2nd Season; Quad Cities (A-) with an early August promotion to Lancaster (A+)

  • Held hitters to a .183/.237/.289 batting line for the season (61.2IP)
  • Held lefties to a .173/.244/.333 line

  • 2014 Quad Cities Midseason All-Star
  • 2014 Championship Series MVP (California League)

2014 Fall/Winter League Stats:
Australian Baseball League: 3.12 ERA and a 1.077 WHIP in 22 games (26.0IP)

From 40th Round draft pick (out of 40 rounds) in 2013 to MVP of the California League Championship series in 2014 is quite the journey. When Brunnemann was at Quad Cities prior to his promotion in August, both Manager Omar Lopez and Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski sang praises to Brunnemann’s work ethic. Lopez called him a “model citizen,” someone who was “on time for everything, on top of everything and applies the information.” Borkowski said of Brunnemann, “He’s going to get every ounce out of himself that he can. He competes. He prepares. He’s ready to go.” Nothing illustrates his work ethic better than knowing he dropped 40 pounds between the end of the 2013 season and the start of Spring Training in 2014.
Those intangibles have given Brunnemann early success. He won’t blow you away with his 88 to 91 mph fastball, but he will challenge you with it and spot it well. He also gets decent movement on his changeup and the curveball that he was working on in the 2014 season. But it is his delivery that sets him apart. He somehow manages to achieve good command despite a violent finish to his delivery in which he falls off the mound to the first base side, sometimes actually having to put down his glove hand to keep from falling over. The delivery provides deception and distraction to the hitter.

Excellent walk rate, excellent strikeout rate, low home run rate, good with runners on, great lefty/righty splits ... there is a lot to like with someone like Brunnemann. On paper, the odds are certainly against a 40th round draft pick without elite “stuff,” but don’t tell Brunnemann that. His intangibles will likely take him further than many pitchers who have more natural ability, but whose drive, desire and work habits don’t match his.

Postseason Stats:
  • 2013 Tri-City (New York-Penn League): 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP in 1.1 innings
  • 2014 Lancaster (California League): 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP in 6.2 innings

2014 Fall/Winter Stats:
Australian Baseball League: 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.077 WHIP in 22 games (26.0IP)

  • Twitter handle: @TBruno35
  • A June 2014 interview with Brunnemann (includes the story of a benign brain tumor that he had removed when he was 11 years old)
  • Threw 68.6% of his pitches for strikes in the 5 games for which that information is available
  • More photos of Brunnemann

Happy Birthday - 2/25

No future Astros celebrating, but two former Astros have birthdays today ~

CF Cesar Cedeno (64)
Cedeno signed with Houston as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1967 and played in 1512 games for the Astros from 1970 to 1981 with a batting line of .289/.351/.454. Cedeno won five Gold Gloves and earned four All-Star nods during his tenure with Houston. He also led the National League in doubles in 1971 and 1972, outfield put-outs in 1974 and fielding percentage in 1971 and 1977. He was traded to the Reds in December of 1981 for Ray Knight. Cedeno has served as Hitting for the Greeneville Astros in the Appy League for the past three seasons.

LHP Denny Lemaster (76)
Lemaster pitched for Houston from 1968 to 1971 after being acquired in a trade with the Braves along with IF Dennis Menke.  An All-Star for Atlanta in 1967, Lemaster had a 3.40 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP in 152 games (90 starts) for the Astros.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/24

No future Astros with birthdays today, but a couple of former Astros are celebrating ~

A first round pick by the Giants in 1971, Riccelli came to Houston in a June 1978 trade with the Cardinals and pitched in 13 games for the Astros in 1978 and 1979 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.640 WHIP.

A fifth round pick by the Red Sox in 2000, Esposito came to Houston as a free agent in November 2008. He played in three games in the major leagues (two for Houston in 2010) with three plate appearances and never found that elusive major league hit. After one year of coaching in the Pirates minor league organization in 2013, Esposito was the Manager of the Pirates Short Season A Jamestown Jammers in 2014.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Astros Off-Season Transaction List for 2014-2015

This will be my final update on the transactions (4/5/15).

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

RHP Rogelio Armenteros (Cuban defector signed by Astros according to Baseball America)
RHP Angel Baez (Obtained from the Royals for cash considerations)
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) - traded to the Reds for a PTBNL
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 (signed as a minor league free agent
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 (signed as a minor league free agent)
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 (19-year old Dominican [as of 3-13] signed on February 11)

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
RHP Roberto Hernandez
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
LHP Joe Thatcher
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)

RHP Jose Cisnero - Left via free agency
LHP Darin Downs
LHP Rudy Owens - Left via free agency
IF Gregorio Petit - Traded to the Yankees
RHP Anthony Bass - Left via free agency

OF Alex Presley
RHP Alex White

RHP Andrew Walter (50-game suspension for testing positive for drug of abuse)

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
LHP Colton Cain - 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 Austin Elkins - Retired
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; claimed off waivers by the Padres; returned to the Astros
1B Jesus Guzman - Left via free agency
RHP Matt Heidenreich - Released
1B Dan Johnson - Traded to the Reds
OF Terrell Joyce - Released
1B/OF Marc Krauss - Claimed off waivers by the Angels
Ydarqui Marte - Released
RHP David Martinez - Left via free agency
OF Tanner Mathis - Released
C Ryan McCurdy - Retired
1B Yonathan Mejia - Released
RHP Chris Munnelly - 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
SS Gregorio Petit- Traded to the Yankees for a PTBNL or cash
RHP Francis Ramirez - Released
RHP Raul Rivera - Released
C Jake Rodriguez - Retired
LHP David Rollins - Drafted by Seattle in the Rule 5 Draft
3B Rio Ruiz - Traded to Atlanta
IF Juan Santana - Released
OF Jose Solano - 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 Vince Wheeland - Released
RHP Kyle Weiland - Rumored to have retired; no club confirmation at this time
RHP Josh Zeid - Claimed off waivers by the Tigers

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 - Signed with the Tigers
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 - 2/23

No future Astros with birthdays today, but several former Astros are celebrating ~

RHP Edgar Gonzalez (32)
Gonzalez signed with Houston as a free agent in August 2012 and pitched in 11 games (six starts) for Houston over two seasons. He went 3-2 with a 5.66 ERA and a 1.457 WHIP. Gonzalez played in the Reds organization in 2014.

LHP Juan Agosto (57)
Agosto signed with Houston as a free agent in May 1993 and pitched in 261 games for the Astros from 1987 to 1990 and in 1993. His best season was in 1988 when he appeared in 75 games and went 10-2 with a 2.26 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP. In 1990, he led the National League in appearances with 82.

RHP Scott Elarton (39)
A first round pick by the Astros in 1994, Elarton pitched for Houston from 1998 to 2001, going 32-21 in 120 appearances (67 starts) with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.388 WHIP before being traded to the Rockies at the trade deadline in 2001 for Pedro Astacio. In 2000, he was 17-7 in 30 starts for Houston. Elarton started his coaching career in 2014, acting as Pitching Coach for the Pirates Gulf Coast League team.

2B/3B Ken Boswell (69)
A native of Austin, Boswell came to Houston in an October 1974 trade with the Mets and played in 275 games for the Astros from 1975 to 1977 after spending eight seasons with New York. His best season offensively was with the Mets in 1969 when he hit .279/.347/.381 and got his World Series ring. In 1970, he led the National League in fielding percentage as a second baseman with a .996 percentage.

C Frank Charles ( 46)
I love this story.  Charles toiled in the minor leagues and independent ball for 10 years. At the end of the 10th year, after having been picked up by Houston in the off-season, he got a September call-up, a rookie at 31.  In seven plate appearances over four games, Charles got three hits with a double and two RBI. His cup of coffee netted him a .429/.429/.571 career batting line. He spent four more seasons in the minors and independent league ball before hanging up his cleats at the end of the 2004 season when he was 35 years old.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/22

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

RHP Tom Griffin (67)
A first round pick by Houston in 1966, Griffin pitched for Houston from 1970 to 1976, going 45-60 in 199 appearances (123 starts) with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.470 WHIP. In his rookie season in 1969, he led the National League in SO/9 at 9.6 in 31 starts. Griffin's best season for Houston (arguably) was in 1974 when he was 14-10 in 34 starts. Ironically, he was also fifth in the National League in wild pitches that year. In 1980 and again in 1981, he led the National League in hit batters while pitching for the Giants.

SS/CF Eric "Cool Breeze" Yelding (50)
Yelding played for Houston from 1989 to 1992, batting .249 over that stretch. In 1990, he stole 64 bases (behind only Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson), but also led the MLB in caught stealing. In 1992, he was sent to the White Sox for LHP Rich Scheid. Yelding was a first round draft pick for the Blue Jays in 1984.

3B/2B Russ Johnson (42)
Yet another first round draft pick with a birthday today, Johnson was drafted by Houston in 1994 and played for the Astros from 1997 to 2000 before being traded to Tampa Bay for RHP Marc Valdes. His best season for Houston was 1999 when he hit .282/.358/.442 and was 1-for-1 with a walk and a double in the NLDS.

LHP John Halama (43)
Halama wasn't a first round pick like all the other birthday boys, but rather was drafted in the 23rd round by Houston in 1994.  He started 6 games  for the Astros in 1998 and went to Seattle at the end of the 1998 season as the player to be named in the Randy Johnson trade. According to Baseball-Reference, on July 7, 2001, Halama pitched the first nine-inning perfect game in Pacific Coast League history for the Tacoma Rainiers, a performance which led to his being recalled to the majors.

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