Saturday, April 11, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Friday, April 10, 2015

Fresno 8, Las Vegas 4

W- Dan Straily (1-0)
L- Matt Bowman (0-1)

Fresno home runs: Preston Tucker (1, 2-run in 3rd), Nolan Fontana (1, solo in 5th)

The Grizz busted out for 5 in the 3rd inning, highlighted by Tucker's 2-run blast and a 2-run single from Matt Duffy. The two of them both finished 2-4, and Duffy opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st. Jon Singleton hit an RBI double in that 5-run 3rd inning. Nolan Fontana's homer led off the bottom of the 5th; he reached base in all 4 of his plate appearances, drawing a walk and scoring 3 times. And finally, Matt Dominguez had a sac fly in the 8th. He was the only player in the starting 9+1 to not have a hit, but he did have that sac fly.

Dan Straily allowed 3 runs on 5 hits, walked 3, and struck out 6 over 5 innings to record the win. Darin Downs tossed a 1-2-3 6th inning, and Jason Stoffel followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning of his own, striking out 2 in the 7th. Tommy Shirley allowed a hit and struck out 2 in a scoreless 8th, and Kevin Chapman gave up an unearned run and a hit in the 9th.

Alex White will face Darin Gorski in game 3 of this series. First pitch is at 7:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi 8, Springfield 2

W- Mark Appel (1-0)
L- Mike Mayers (0-1)
S- Kyle Westwood (1)

CC home runs: Teoscar Hernandez (1, solo in 7th)

The Hooks staked Mark Appel to a 5-0 lead after 0.5 innings, and he and Kyle Westwood did the rest as they held the Springfield offense in check.

The only ding on Appel's line was a solo homer hit by Aledmys Diaz in the 4th. He allowed just one other hit, walked 1, and struck out 4 over 5 innings. Westwood finished it off, allowing a run on a groundout hit by Diaz in the bottom of the 9th and 4 hits while striking out 1. He recorded 7 groundball outs against 1 flyball out.

Colin Moran kicked things off with an RBI double, which in turn, kicked off a 5-run top of the 1st. He and Carlos Correa were both sent home on a Telvin Nash single. Nash would score himself as Conrad Gregor added a sac fly, and Jon Kemmer delivered an RBI single in his first at-bat of the season. The Hooks added 1 in the 5th with a Teoscar Hernandez double, 1 in the 6th with a Carlos Correa double, and 1 more in the 7th as Teoscar led off the inning with his 1st homer of the year. Teoscar (2B, HR, 2 RBI), Tyler Heineman, Kemmer, Tony Kemp (2 runs scored), and Correa (2 2B, 2 BB) all turned in 2-hit performances.

Corpus will look to sweep this opening series as Josh Hader and Chris Devenski will face Thomas Lee (not the Motley Crüe drummer) at 6:10.

San Jose 5, Lancaster 0

W- Nick Vander Tuig (1-0)
L- Michael Feliz (0-1)

Lancaster home runs: None.

The JetHawks were held to 5 hits as they were kept off the scoreboard. Chase McDonald went 2-4, and Danry Vásquez had the only extra-base hit: a double. He also walked twice.

Michael Feliz had a tough first go-round; he allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and struck out 4 in 2.2 innings. However, only one of those hits went for extra bases. Chris Cotton stopped the bleeding for a bit as he allowed just 1 hit (a double) and struck out 4 over 2.1 scoreless. Zach Morton pitched the final 4 innings, allowing a run on 2 hits, walking 2, and striking out 3.

In game 3, Evan Grills will face Keury Mella. First pitch is at 6:00 Pacific.

Quad Cities 5, Peoria 2

W- Joe Musgrove (1-0)
L- Austin Gomber (0-1)
S- Jose Montero (1)

QC home runs: None.

M&M. Musgrove and Montero combined to shackle the Peoria offense for the final 5 innings.

Bryan Radziewski allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, walked 2, and struck out 5 in 4 innings of work. Joe Musgrove tagged in and allowed 3 hits while striking out 5 over 4 scoreless, and Jose Montero closed it out, striking out 2 in a 1-2-3 9th.

Everyone in the Quad Cities lineup had a hit except for Kristian Trompiz, who unfortunately had a hat trick. They got things started with a 3-run 3rd inning with a pair of RBI singles from Mott Hyde and Ryan Bottger and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Jamie Ritchie. Alfredo Gonzalez scored on an error in the 4th, and Nick Tanielu ripped an RBI triple in the 5th. Hyde, Tanielu, Bottger, and D.J. Fisher all had 2 hits; Fisher scored twice and stole his 2nd base of the year.

The Banditos will be looking for the sweep as Daniel Mengden and his glorious 'stache will face Daniel Poncedeleon in a battle of the Daniels. First pitch is at 6:00.

Three Stars: Position Players

3.

Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Corpus Christi
2-5, 2B, solo HR (1), 2 RBI


2.

Preston Tucker, OF, Fresno
2-4, 2-R HR (1)


1.

Nolan Fontana, SS, Fresno
3-3, solo HR (1), BB, 3 R

Three Stars: Pitchers

3.

Mark Appel, RHP, Corpus Christi
W (1-0); 5 IP, 2 H (solo HR), ER, BB, 4 K


Kyle Westwood, RHP, Corpus Christi
Save (1); 4 IP, 4 H, ER, K


2.

Chris Cotton, LHP, Lancaster
2.1 IP, H, 4 K


1.

Joe Musgrove, RHP, Quad Cities
W (1-0); 4 IP, 3 H, 5 K

Jose Montero, RHP, Quad Cities
Save (1); IP, 2 K

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other noteworthy lines from Friday's slate of games:

- Matt Duffy drove in 3 with his 2 singles last night in Fresno.
- Zach Morton allowing just 1 run in his 4 innings as the 2nd tandem starter for Lancaster.
- The 4 Fresno relievers (Downs, Stoffel, Shirley, and Chapman) locking down the Grizzlies' win.

(OK, OK. Kevin Chapman gave up a run in the 9th, but it was unearned and he finished the game without further incident.)

- Carlos Correa has turned into a slugging machine in the early going; all 3 of his hits this season are doubles.
- 2 nights, 2 multi-hit games for Tony Kemp.
- Jon Kemmer also had a nice season debut as he went 2-4 with an RBI for Corpus.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Astros Minor League Links For Your Reading and Viewing Pleasure

A few recent Astros minor league links you may have missed ~

Corpus Christi pitcher Daniel Minor talks about what playing for the Hooks means to him.

Highly touted Astros prospects Joe Musgrove and Derek Fisher on their expectations for the Quad Cities team. (Answer a couple of survey questions to read the whole article)

And Musgrove on his 2014 MVP season for Tri-City.

Quad Cities SS Thomas Lindauer on changes he's made to help his game.

And, last but not least, "The Schwab," an over-the-top hamburger, is introduced by the Fresno Grizzlies.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Minor League Opening Day, everyone! And what a way to open up the season with an organizational....



Fresno 2, Las Vegas 1

W- Jake Buchanan (1-0)
L- John Church (0-1)

Fresno home runs: None.

The reincarnated Tucson Toros came out on top in their first game as an Astros affiliate since 1997.

This game was scoreless until the bottom of the 6th, when Matt Duffy grounded into a force out that allowed Nolan Fontana to score. After the 51s tied the game at 1 in the top of the 7th, Matt Dominguez proceeded to untie it with an RBI double in the bottom half of the inning, and that was the difference. Jon Singleton finished 2-3.

Brad Peacock started things off with 4.2 scoreless. He didn't allow a hit, but he did hit someone and he also issued 5 walks, compared with just 2 strikeouts. Jordan Jankowski came on to finish off the 5th and he did so by striking out Matt Reynolds. Jake Buchanan took over from there, and he allowed a run on 2 hits and struck out 1 over 4 innings of work.

In the 2nd game of this series, Dan Straily will face Matt Bowman at 7:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi 9, Springfield 4

W- Mitch Lambson (1-0)
L- Joey Donofrio (0-1)
S- Angel Báez (1)

CC home runs: Brandon Meredith (1, 3-run in 4th)

The Hooks had a 16-hit assault as they seized control of the game from the Cardinals in the middle stages of the game. All 9 of their runs were scored from the 4th-7th innings.

Brandon Meredith put Corpus on the board and in the lead with a 3-run shot in the 4th, the first home run in the Astros' minor league system for 2015. Conrad Gregor went 3-5 with 2 runs scored, and 1 of those 3 hits was an RBI single in the 5th. In the 6th inning, #1 himself, Carlos Correa, smacked a 2-run double. He'd come around to score on a Telvin Nash double. And finally, Tony Kemp finished 4-5 with a 2-run single in the 7th. He also scored a run, drew a walk, and stole a base. Meredith, Nash, Tyler Heineman, and Teoscar Hernandez all had 2 hits apiece; Heineman scored twice. Meredith didn't have a double, like the other three, but he does have the homer.

Kent Emanuel went 3.2 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, walking 2, and fanning 1. Mitch Lambson came on in relief and got the win as he held the Cardinals to just 1 hit over 2.1 scoreless frames. Angel Báez got the 3-inning save in his organizational debut; he allowed a run on 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 2.

In game 2, the team of Mark Appel and Kyle Westwood will take on Mike Mayers at 7:10.

Lancaster 3, San Jose 2

W- Edison Frias (1-0)
L- Jeff Soptic (0-1)

Lancaster home runs: None.

The JetHawks began their defense of their California League championship by walking off with the win. They had been trailing 2-0, but they scored the final 3 runs of this game. Danry Vásquez was the hero in this one as he blooped a ball over San Jose SS Christian Arroyo's head in the bottom of the 9th, and James Ramsay hustled home with the winning run. Ramsay scored 2 of Lancaster's 3 runs.

Lancaster tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the 7th on a safety squeeze from Chan-Jong Moon and an RBI single from Brett Phillips, who finished 2-5 and also had a triple. Chase McDonald smacked a couple of doubles in his 4 trips to the plate.

Brian Holmes went 3.1 innings and allowed a 2-run homer to Ryder Jones in the 4th inning, which turned out to be the only runs for the Giants. He allowed 5 other hits, walked 1, and struck out 6. Tyler Brunnemann allowed a hit and struck out 1 over 1.2 scoreless, and Edison Frias shackled the San Jose offense, allowing 2 hits and striking out 4 over 4 scoreless.

In game 2 of this season-opening 4-game set, Michael Feliz will face off against Chase Johnson at 6:30 Pacific.

Quad Cities 7, Peoria 3

W- Kevin Comer (1-0)
L- Fernando Báez (0-1)

QC home runs: Sean McMullen (1, 2-run in 8th)

The Chiefs put up 3 in the bottom of the 3rd to take a 3-1 lead, but the Banditos scored the game's final 6 runs as they opened up their 2015 campaign with a victory.

Kristian Trompiz doubled to lead off the 3rd, and one batter later, he scored the first run of the season on a wild pitch. Sean McMullen finished with 3 RBI; his first came on a sac fly in the 4th. QC got a pair in the 5th as Alex Hernandez hit a sac fly and Jake Nottingham was plunked with the bases loaded, which gave the River Bandits a 4-3 lead. McMullen provided some insurance in the top of the 8th as he smacked a 2-run homer. Jamie Ritchie finished 2-4 with a double and drove in the final run of the evening with an RBI single in the 9th. D.J. Fisher* went 1-2 with 3 walks and a stolen base.

Chris Lee got the nod on Opening Day and that 3-run 3rd put a damper on his final line. He allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, walked 3, and struck out 1 in 4 innings of work. Kevin Comer tagged in and got the win as he struck out 2 over 4 near-perfect innings; the only thing that went wrong for him was hitting Peoria DH Nick Thompson with a pitch in the 8th. The Closer, Ryan Thompson, worked around a double to finish it off, striking out 1.

Game 2 of this season-opening series pits Bryan Radziewski against Austin Gomber. First pitch is at 7:00.

*For a big-time Houston Rockets fan like me, the name "Derek Fisher" brings up some incredibly unpleasant memories. So, from here on out, I'll be calling him D.J. (Joseph is his middle name.)

If he's reading this, I hope he'll understand. Plus, as, D.J. Fisher, he'll fit right in with A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis!. 

Three Stars: Position Players

Corpus sweeps the Three Stars for position players on this Opening Night.

3.

Conrad Gregor, 1B
3-5, RBI, 2 R

2. 

Brandon Meredith, RF
2-4, 3-R HR (1)

1. 

Tony Kemp, 2B
4-5, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB (1)

Three Stars: Pitchers

All three of these guys were outstanding on the mound after coming out of the bullpen, so it wouldn't really be fair for me to rank them. So, Mitch Lambson, Kevin Comer, and Edison Frias are all sharing the top spot.


Kevin Comer, RHP, Quad Cities
W (1-0), 4 IP, 2 K


Mitch Lambson, LHP, Corpus Christi
W (1-0), 2.1 IP, H


Edison Frias, RHP, Lancaster
W (1-0), 4 IP, 2 H, 4 K


Honorable Mentions

There were some pretty solid performances from this first night of Minor League Baseball, but alas, I can only choose 3 standout performances for position players and pitchers. Here are a few other noteworthy highlights:

- Angel Báez made a pretty good first impression with his new organization.
- Although the 5 walks are definitely a minus, Brad Peacock still managed to keep Las Vegas off the scoreboard in both the run and the hit columns.
- Brett Phillips got off to a nice start with his triple and RBI single.
- Tyler Brunnemann pretty much picked up where he left off in the California League championship series.
- Jake Buchanan cruised through his 4 innings; he only needed 30 pitches!


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Quad Cities River Bandits Season Preview

The River Bandits ended their 2014 campaign with a 70-69 record, in 5th place in an 8-team division. With many of the Astros top prospects rising up to the higher levels of the organization, Quad Cities won't see any Top 10 prospects this season, but they will see two players ranked in the Top 20: OF Derek Fisher and RHP Joe Musgrove.

Joe Musgrove - July 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

But with that said, I really like this squad. Kevin Comer, Chris Lee, Albert Minnis and Keegan Yuhl all bring Midwest League experience to the table. Comer and Lee, along with Musgrove, will likely anchor this rotation; with a good start to their seasons, any one of those three could merit a promotion to Lancaster long before the end of the season. They will be joined by a 2014 Tri-City trio who all had very good seasons: Austin Chrismon, Bryan Radziewski and Ryan Thompson (my book which is linked below contains some excellent information on these three that I gleaned from Tri-City Pitching Coach Chris Holt).

Several pitchers will be leap-frogging Tri-City. Eric Peterson, Jose Montero and Josh James all had really strong seasons at Greeneville in 2014. Brock Dykxhoorn struggled early with the Greeneville squad, but ended the season with an excellent final month. Daniel Mengden spent limited time with the GCL in 2014 as he was recovering from a stress fracture in his back. Had it not been for the that stress fracture, he likely would have played for Tri-City last season. By all accounts, although Mengden isn't on the current top prospect lists, the former Texas A&M product is expected to breach those lists by season's end. [UPDATE: I totally forgot that Mengden played in 2 games at Tri-City at the end of the season and in the postseason.]

Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski will have three extremely capable catchers on hand to help him get the most out of the pitching staff. Jacob Nottingham, Jamie Ritchie and Alfredo Gonzalez each bring a great deal to the table. I am an unapologetic fan of all three.

Defensively, this infield is going to be very, very solid. I particularly like the middle infield defense of SS Mott Hyde and 2B Alex Hernandez. The offense, however, will be a bit more of a question mark. SS Thomas Lindauer is a solid defender, but he struggled to find consistency with his bat in 2014; he is the only infielder with prior Midwest League experience. Nick Tanielu, who will likely continue his transition to third base, had a great 2014 season at Tri-City and will likely be the offensive star of the infield. Hyde was solid last season as well, but Hernandez struggled. 1B Bryan Muniz was coming on strong at the end of the season for Greeneville, but the start to his career was a little rough. Kristian Trompiz, who has played all over the infield, had an excellent season with the GCL, Greeneville and Tri-City in 2014, but he is only 19. However well he transitions to the level, Trompiz is undoubtedly an exciting player to watch and will likely become a fan favorite.

The outfield, on the other hand, looks to be much stronger offensively. Ryan Bottger and Bobby Boyd both had good overall seasons with the bat and both got their feet wet in the Midwest League. Fisher had a great season in 2014 with Tri-City, although his power has been somewhat slow to develop. Sean McMullen's bat cooled off in 2014 after a very fast start at Greeneville. However, Jorge Martinez looks to offer more from a defensive standpoint than an offensive standpoint at this particular juncture.

The Low A Quad Cities team has the Beloit Snappers (A's), Burlington Bees (Angels), Cedar Rapid Kernels (Twins), Clinton Lumberkings (Mariners), Kane County Cougars (Diamondbacks), Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals), and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers) as division rivals. Kane County changed affiliations from the Cubs in 2014 to Arizona in 2015. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these eight teams as Twins (#4), Diamondbacks (#6), Astros (#14), Cardinals (#16), Brewers (#19), A's (#23), Mariners (#25) and Angels (#28).

Despite the absence of a lot of big name "stars" on this team, I actually have higher hopes for them than I have had since the Astros became affiliated with the River Bandits. The team has a good mix of experience and potential. If pitching and defense really does win games, I think the Quad Cities crew will remain very competitive. If they can catch up to the league offensively sooner rather than later, I think they will be a very solid and well-rounded team. The River Bandits will have a secret weapon this year with new Manager Josh Bonifay. I have watched Bonifay do some incredible things with the Greeneville team the last two seasons, getting the absolute most out of rosters that had a lot of holes in them. I can't wait to see what he can accomplish with this roster.

The River Bandits will start their season on the road against Peoria at 7:00 p.m. tonight. Their home opener will be on Sunday the 12th at 1:15 vs. Clinton.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PRELIMINARY RIVER BANDITS ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

PITCHERS

RHP Austin Chrismon

RHP Kevin Comer
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn
RHP Josh James
LHP Chris Lee
RHP Dan Mengden
LHP Albert Minnis
RHP Jose Montero
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP Eric Peterson
LHP Bryan Radziewski
RHP Ryan Thompson
RHP Keegan Yuhl

CATCHERS

Alfredo Gonzalez
Jake Nottingham
Jamie Ritchie

INFIELDERS

Alex Hernandez

Mott Hyde
Thomas Lindauer
Bryan Muniz
Nick Tanielu
Kristian Trompiz

OUTFIELDERS

#Ryan Bottger
*Bobby Boyd
*Derek Fisher
#Jorge Martinez
*Sean McMullen

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

Previous Posts
AAA Fresno Grizzlies Season Preview
AA Corpus Christi Hooks Preview
High A Lancaster JetHawks Season Preview

Happy Birthday - 4/9

Happy Birthday to C Jamie Ritchie who turns 22 today. Ritchie was drafted by Houston in the 13th round in 2014. He will start the season with Quad Cities.

Jamie Ritchie - July 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lancaster JetHawks Season Preview

The JetHawks won their second California League Championship in three years in 2015, ending the season with a 78-62 record. 14 players on the opening day roster were on that Championship team, including MVP Tyler Brunnemann, Astros Top 10 prospect Brett Phillips and Danry Vasquez, among others. They will be joined by another Top 10 prospect, Michael Feliz, as well as highly touted prospects J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed and Adrian Houser.

Brett Phillips - September 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

In looking at the lefty pitchers, Brian Holmes will likely anchor the rotation until a presumed promotion to Corpus Christi at some point later in the season. He pitched the entire 2014 season at Lancaster with good results. Evan Grills got his feet wet at the level last season and should improve on his mostly solid results. Randall Fant, who struggled somewhat in 2014, and Blaine Sims, who as a knuckleballer is predictably unpredictable, will be making their Lancaster debuts. Chris Cotton struggled out of the bullpen for Lancaster after his promotion at the very end of the season, but did well in the postseason.

Righthanders (and presumed starters) Michael Feliz, Adrian Houser, Troy Scribner and Edison Frias will all be new to the level and and will all likely have to make adjustments to California League conditions. There may be some ugliness for a couple of these players in April, but I think they are all capable of adapting. On paper, Houser should be helped out by his high groundball rate. They will be joining Gonzalo Sanudo and Zach Morton, both of whom spent a good chunk of 2014 at Lancaster, both of whom spent time in both starting and relief roles and both of whom showed vast improvement at the end of the season. Brunnemann, who had a phenomenal 2014 at Quad Cities and Lancaster, will be joined in the bullpen by Frederick Tiburcio who converted to relief in 2014.

As to the position players, 2014 draft picks J.D. Davis and A.J. Reed are being fast-tracked because of their advanced bats and should enjoy the hitter-friendly confines of The Hangar as well as road trips to High Desert. They will be joining Chase McDonald, who was promoted to Lancaster at the end of 2014, in manning the corner outfield positions. That trio looks to provide a lot of fireworks. The middle infield will be held down by returning players Chan Moon and Jack Mayfield who will be joined by Jose Fernandez who is new to the level. Marc Wik is listed on the roster as a third baseman, but he is actually a utility player who can also play the outfield and second base as well.

All four listed outfielders spent time at Lancaster last year. Look for Danry Vasquez to have a breakthrough season. Look for Brett Phillips to get a mid-season (or earlier) promotion to Corpus Christi. Look for Ronnie Mitchell to continue to surprise people. And look for James Ramsay to continue showing off his excellent defense; the only question is whether or not his bat can catch up on a consistent basis.

Behind the dish, Jobduan Morales will provide solid defense with an emerging bat and Brian Holberton will provide a solid bat with emerging defense.

The Advanced A Lancaster team has the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels), Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, (Dodgers) and High Desert Mavericks (Rangers) as division rivals. High Desert changed affiliations from Seattle in 2014 to Texas in 2015. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these five teams as Dodgers (#3), Rangers (#11), Astros (#14), Padres (#24), and Angels (#28).

I honestly don't know what to expect from this team. I think the offense will be strong, but not quite as strong as last year's ridiculously talented team. But, for me, the pitching is a huge question mark at this point. It will be a matter of how quickly the pitchers who are new to the level will adjust to the level and to the conditions. The team will need someone to step up like Kyle Westwood did in 2014 and provide a steady nucleus to the rotation. Omar Lopez, Quad Cities Manager last season, will be taking the reins at Lancaster and will have the luxury of having already worked with most of these players. Lopez inherits a solid coaching staff and, together, they will undoubtedly field a very competitive team.

The JetHawks will host the San Jose Giants on Thursday, the 9th at 8:30 p.m. CST to open the season. If you are a new JetHawks fan, I guarantee that you will enjoy listening to Jason Schwartz bringing you the action! He is an excellent broadcaster and has become a fan favorite.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PRELIMINARY JETHAWKS ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

PITCHERS

RHP Tyler Brunnemann
LHP Chris Cotton
LHP Randall Fant
RHP Michael Feliz
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Evan Grills
LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Adrian Houser
RHP Zach Morton
RHP Gonzalo Sañudo
RHP Troy Scribner
LHP Blaine Sims
RHP Frederick Tiburcio
RHP Andrew Walter (Restricted list)

CATCHERS

*Brian Holberton
#Jobduan Morales

INFIELDERS

J.D. Davis
Jose Fernandez
Jack Mayfield
Chase McDonald
#Chan-Jong Moon
*A.J. Reed
*Marc Wik

OUTFIELDERS

*Ronnie Mitchell
*Brett Phillips
*James Ramsay
*Danry Vásquez

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch-hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

Previous Post
AAA Fresno Grizzlies Season Preview
AA Corpus Christi Hooks Preview

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Corpus Christi Hooks Season Preview

2014 was a very disappointing season for the Hooks. After making it to the first round of playoffs in 2012 (81-59 record) and 2013 (83-57 record), the Hooks stumbled badly, ending the season with a 67-73 record, far short of a playoff berth.

Look for a huge rebound from that 67-73 record as the Hooks will start the season with six of the Astros Top 10 prospects (SS Carlos Correa, RHP Mark Appel, 3B Colin Moran, OF Teoscar Hernandez, LHP Josh Hader, and RHP Lance McCullers) on their roster. Of those six, four (Appel, Hernandez, Moran and Hader) already have some AA experience under their belt. Correa and McCullers will be making their AA debuts. In addition, Top 10 prospect Vince Velasquez is slated to join the Corpus roster after his return from rehabbing a lat strain suffered in the Arizona Fall League.

Carlos Correa - May 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The pitching on the opening day roster will feature a good amount of AA experience with Mike Hauschild and Chris Devenski in the rotation and lights-out relievers Tyson Perez and Mitch Lambson in the bullpen. Pitching Coach Doug Brocail will also be looking for a comeback season from the once-dominant Travis Ballew in the late innings and will be hoping for Aaron West to show what he can do when healthy. Add in AA rookies Kyle Westwood, Kent Emanuel and Daniel Minor who all had very good seasons in Lancaster last year and top that all off with top prospects Appel, Hader, McCullers (and eventually Velasquez) and you are looking at a very strong staff. Baez is a newcomer to the system (obtained in a trade from Kansas City), but has experience at AA, having pitched in the Texas League last season. Jandel Gustave was recently reported as an addition to the Hooks roster. He may not be ready for the level, but since he was lost and returned via the Rule 5 draft this offseason, I would agree that it is probably the right time to start pushing him more rapidly. I would not be surprised if he starts transitioning towards late-inning relief at some point.

As to the position players, Tyler Heineman, who spent 2014 with Corpus, will be the anchor behind the plate while Roberto Pena and Brett Booth get acquainted with the Texas League. Jon Kemmer will get the chance to prove that his 2014 numbers were not a fluke as he joins Leo Heras, Brandon Meredith and Teoscar Hernandez in the outfield. Hernandez had a solid debut in 23 games in Corpus last season and Meredith was heating up toward the end of the season, putting up a .571 slugging percentage at the end of August.

Tony Kemp may be used in the outfield some this season to add to his versatility, but with the news that Nolan Fontana is being moved to Fresno, Kemp will likely get his share of time at second base, back playing with his early 2014 double-play partner, SS Carlos Correa. Kemp and 3B Colin Moran are proven AA bats and 1B Conrad Gregor was starting to catch up to the league at the end of the season as well. 1B/DH Telvin Nash, repeating the level, will help provide the power, aided by AA newcomer 3B/1B/DH Tyler White while Jio Mier provides seasoned defense at second, short and third base. SS Carlos Correa will bring the excitement.

Although this lineup is loaded, keep in mind that it is very doubtful that Carlos Correa and Mark Appel will tarry long at the level. Don't count on those two (and perhaps a few others on this list) to guide the Hooks to a championship. But the good news is that there are other players waiting in the wings, such as top prospects OF Brett Phillips and RHP Michael Feliz who will be starting the season at Lancaster.

The AA Corpus Christi team has the Frisco Roughriders (Rangers), the Midland Rockhounds (A's) and the San Antonio Missions (Padres) as division rivals. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these four teams as Rangers (#11), Astros (#14), A's (#23) and Padres (#24).

It's hard not to be excited about this team. In addition to the loaded roster, the Hooks also have a new skipper in Manager Rodney Linares. Linares guided the Lancaster team to the playoffs for three straight years from 2012 through 2014, winning it all in 2012 and 2014. He has managed the vast majority of these Hooks players in the past. I know that Rodney hates it when I make bold predictions so I'll just say that I think he'll be challenging for a third ring in four years and leave it at that.

The Hooks will start their season on the road at Springfield on Thursday the 9th at 7:10 p.m. CST and will have their home opener on Thursday the 16th at 7:05 p.m., once again playing the Springfield Cardinals.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PRELIMINARY HOOKS ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

PITCHERS

RHP R.J. Alaniz (Restricted List)
RHP Mark Appel
RHP Angel Baez
RHP Travis Ballew
RHP Chris Devenski
LHP Kent Emanuel
RHP Jandel Gustave
LHP Josh Hader
RHP Mike Hauschild
LHP Mitch Lambson
RHP Lance McCullers
RHP Dan Minor
RHP Tyson Perez
RHP Vince Velasquez (Will likely start the season on the DL)
RHP Aaron West
RHP Kyle Westwood

CATCHERS

Brett Booth
#Tyler Heineman
Roberto Peña

INFIELDERS

Carlos Correa
*Conrad Gregor
*Tony Kemp
Jio Mier
*Colin Moran
Telvin Nash
Tyler White

OUTFIELDERS

*Leo Heras
Teoscar Hernandez
*Jon Kemmer
Brandon Meredith

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch-hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

Previous Post
AAA Fresno Grizzlies Season Preview

Happy Birthday - 4/7

Happy Birthday to LHP Josh Hader who turns 21 today. Hader was drafted by the Orioles in the 19th round in 2012 and came to Houston in a July 2013 trade that sent RHP Bud Norris to Baltimore. He will start the season with the Corpus Christi Hooks.

Josh Hader - May 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Tweet of the Day

After watching Dallas Keuchel getting an early start toward a second Gold Glove on Opening Day, I think this tweet is appropriate for the Tweet of the Day!


Monday, April 6, 2015

Fresno Grizzlies Season Preview

After playing in Oklahoma City for the past four seasons, the Astros AAA affiliate moves to Fresno, California. The OKC RedHawks ended the 2014 season with a 74-70 record, tied for second place in their division while Fresno, a Giants affiliate in 2014, was in last place in their division with a 68-76 record.

As the Fresno Grizzlies, the AAA Astros will now have the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), the Sacramento River Cats (new Giants affiliate) and the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) as their division rivals. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these four teams as Diamondbacks (#6), Astros (#14), Mariners (#25) and Giants (#27).

Jon Singleton - March 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The preliminary opening day Fresno roster below (subject to change) only has one of the Astros Top 10 prospects (Domingo Santana), but that situation will probably change by mid-season with the likely promotions of SS Carlos Correa and RHP Mark Appel. Depending on their seasons, these other Top 10 prospects currently on the Corpus Christi roster ... 3B Colin Moran, LHP Josh Hader, RHP Lance McCullers and OF Teoscar Hernandez ... may also make appearances in Fresno at some point during the season. Another Top 10 prospect, RHP Vince Velasquez, is slated for Corpus Christi after he finishes his rehab for a lat strain. Depending on when he gets started, he could also be looking at Fresno by the end of the season.

Depending on how well the Astros bullpen performs, I think it is likely that Jake Buchanan and Kevin Chapman, who are both on the 40-man roster and who both have MLB experience, will be among the first pitchers called upon for help in Houston (RHP Josh Fields will be first, if healthy). Buchanan can either start or relieve as needed, but starters (such as LHP Luis Cruz and RHP Brady Rodgers) will have a harder time finding a spot anytime soon, particularly considering LHP Brett Oberholtzer and RHP Brad Peacock will be the first options considered once they get off the DL. Oberholtzer, Peacock and Fields may appear in Fresno on rehab assignments, but could as easily rehab in Corpus Christi (or other venues) depending on schedules.

The Grizzlies position players who are on the 40-man roster are Stassi, Singleton, Torreyes, Dominguez, Hoes and Santana, with Torreyes being the only one without MLB experience. I would predict that, barring injuries, the first of these to be recalled to Houston would be Singleton. He started out doing quite well in Spring Training before cooling off; once his bat gets hot again, I can't see him biding his time in Fresno.

Of those players who are not currently on the 40-man roster, there are several that may challenge for a roster spot prior to the end of the 2015 season. RHP Jordan Jankowski and LHP Tommy Shirley can start or relieve and, when they are on, they can be devastating. RHP Jason Stoffel really has nothing left to prove at AAA; he was a solid late inning guy at the level last season. 1B/3B Matt Duffy is a sleeper with a consistent bat and solid defense who will be available if Luis Valbuena stumbles. IF/OF Joe Sclafani is a very smart, very versatile, very solid utility player with great instincts. OF Ruben Sosa also has a great deal of versatility in a possible utility role. Both Sclafani and Sosa are switch-hitters which should also help their cause. And, although OF Preston Tucker's big bat and OF Andrew Aplin's spectacular defense will put them on a short list to fill any outfield needs, they will likely have a tougher time because of the VERY crowded Houston outfield.

I'm not going to make any bold predictions this year, but I feel that this will be a very strong team with a good blend of talent and experience. I will predict that there will be A LOT of roster movement throughout the year, but the talent level should actually increase as the season progresses and the top prospects start working their way closer to Houston, and I think their final record will reflect that.

The Grizzlies first game will be at 9:05 CST on Thursday, April 9th. They will host the Las Vegas 51s, the AAA affiliate for the New York Mets.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PITCHERS

RHP Jake Buchanan
LHP Kevin Chapman
LHP Luis Cruz
LHP Darin Downs
RHP James Hoyt
RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Brady Rodgers
RHP Richard Rodriguez
LHP Tommy Shirley
RHP Jason Stoffel
RHP Dan Straily
RHP Alex White

CATCHERS

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch-hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

Happy Opening Day ... Kind Of

Yes, it's Opening Day for the Astros and I will be at Minute Maid Park as always. But in my world, Opening Day is actually on Thursday as the Grizzlies, Hooks, JetHawks and River Bandits take the field. I have been working on Season Previews for those teams which I will be rolling out starting later today.

For my thoughts on the Astros season, you can read this piece I contributed last month to Cardinal Blogger Daniel Shoptaw's fine site. He reaches out to bloggers from every team annually to gather their thoughts on the upcoming season. He always gets some interesting takes from the blogging community so dive right in!

With that said .... PLAY BALL!!!!

Tweet of the Day

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Astros Minor League Roster Moves

The Chronicle reported today that, with the trade of SS Gregorio Petit to the Yankees, SS/2B Nolan Fontana will be reporting to Fresno.

In addition, although not yet reported by the Astros, rumor has it that RHP Kyle Weiland has retired. I find this to be a credible report, but again it is unconfirmed. Although Kyle Weiland may be gone, I trust that his legacy will live on as Astros fans continue to declare the mythical Weiland Island to be the likely residence of players who have disappeared from sight.

UPDATE: I am going to take this as confirmation.

The final update to my Off-Season Transaction List can be found here.

Tweet of the Day