Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Astros on Vacation: An Editorial by Mike Mitchell

[The following is an editorial opinion from WTHB first-time contributor Mike Mitchell. His opinions and mine may not intersect at every avenue, but I enjoy his thoughtful, eloquent and well-reasoned point of view. I hope that you will enjoy it as well. -- Jayne]

The Astros on Vacation

by Mike Mitchell

In his brilliant psychological thriller The Visible Man, Chuck Klosterman has a great line about the psychology of being rich -- the kind of rich the Astros were from June of 2012 until July of 2015:

"The rich can take vacations, which isn't nearly as essential to day-to-day happiness as the process of looking forward to all the vacations you'll experience later."

This concept -- that laying on a beach never feels as great as the security and self-esteem of sitting in your living room knowing that you can lay on a beach whenever the heck you want -- is a fairly common sense way of explaining how hope and imagination work.

From the moment Jeff Luhnow took over baseball operations and began trading every Major League player of any value for guaranteed short-term losses (specfically, the draft picks and pool money that come with those losses), projectable arms and Dominican teenagers, the Astros have been planning future vacations. The official moment we were rich enough for realistic fantasy came after the 2012 draft, one that produced current Astros rookies Carlos Correa (1st overall pick), Lance McCullers and Preston Tucker. Correa was 17 years old, which is exactly how old we wanted him to be at that moment in time.

Things were progressing well enough, despite the Brady Aiken saga and other pre-vacation missteps. Last summer, Sports Illustrated announced: "Astros Depart for Bahamas in 2017!", and we all ate it up.

Then the 2015 team arrived, and all hell broke loose. Outside of hot starts from Jake Marisnick and Jed Lowrie, the team didn't really *look* much better than the 70-92 2014 squad. With half the lineup hitting under .200 and striking out constantly -- including second-year cornerstone George Springer and big off-season acquisition Evan Gattis, the Astros rode a flawless bullpen and a hyper-efficient, shift-heavy defense to an 18-7 record and a six-game lead in early May in a suddenly declining AL West. Were we already rich? Was this paradise?

Eh, sort of. Since then, the division has not gotten much better, with only a brief Angels surge in early July. The Astros have been a .500 team, going 40-39 in their last 79 games as of August 1st. Regulars Chris Carter and Luis Valbuena are still struggling to get their averages over .200, Marisnick has hit like a pitcher since late April, and the bullpen now comes and goes. The additions of immediate impact stars Correa and McCullers -- as well as solid contributions from Tucker and fellow rookie Vincent Velasquez -- have cancelled out the fact that the Opening Day roster (with the notable exception of Dallas Keuchel) has not been particularly impressive. And so, we have sat in the general proximity of 8-12 games over .500 for several months now.

Luhnow had a choice to make. As he acknowledged in interviews, the team's record to date and the extreme parity in the American League meant the Astros could probably coast into a Wild Card playoff game, with no upgrades via trade. Or, with some very significant upgrades to the top of the rotation, the middle of the lineup and the back of the bullpen (read: ALL OF THE THINGZ!!), the 2015 Astros could sustain their somewhat misleading success, likely win the division, and grab a ticket to MLB's Elite Eight.

The decision would not be without costs: the Astros had a second wave of very promising prospects behind the first one. In my judgment, the most elite of those three were, in order:

1. CF Brett Phillips - 5-tool center fielder. A bit undersized, with only average range for center field, and his plate discipline is unrefined. That's it for holes. He has been extremely productive at every level, hitting for average and power with plus-speed and a cannon arm. Was most recently at Double-A Corpus Christi.

2. 1B A.J. Reed - Leads all of minor-league baseball with 28 HRs and 99 RBIs in 100 games between High-A Lancaster and Corpus Christi. Takes his walks. He's the prototype for an elite first base prospect.

3. C Jacob Nottingham - With 14 HR, 60 RBI and a .325 average in 76 games between Low-A Quad Cities and Lancaster, Nottingham is also a prototypical first base pros-- oh, what's that? What? He's a highly athletic catcher!? He's 20 years old, you say? Scouts say his can stick at the position? Oh, wow. We could use one of those!

There were other guys -- this year's three first rounders, plus Derek Fisher, Mark Appel, Domingo Santana, Colin Moran, Josh Hader, Michael Feliz, Francis Martes, etc. -- who had clear future potential. But with Keuchel, McCullers, Velasquez and Collin McHugh all under team control through at least 2018, those three bats listed above --at the three greatest need positions in the everyday lineup -- were the pieces everyone had in their hypothetical 2017 Astros lineups. The guys who would live in paradise.

Luhnow had a clear choice: tweak the roster by trading lesser, non-essential prospects for useful spare parts (a lefty reliever, a platoon outfielder, etc.), or Go For It. You know, Go For It. The strategy that says: these cars are shiny and drive better than my car, and I can afford one. Why am I not buying one of these cars? It's time to Go For It!

The Angels, Luhnow's immediate rival for the crucial division crown, and the team with fewer good prospects and an older core roster, tweaked.

The Astros, with a young roster that is two years ahead of Luhnow's own projection, decided to Go For It.

I disagree strongly with this decision, particularly in light of the fact other teams agreed with my assessment of the Astros system, demanded their elite prospects, and received two of the three from Luhnow.

First, Phillips and Nottingham are not just elite, they are unblocked among our established young core pieces. Jason Castro's recent heroics aside, he has regressed offensively for two consecutive years and is in line to earn more than $5M in his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2016. Hank Conger is a nice roster piece, but he's also getting expensive and not productive enough for a pricey free agent contract.

Nottingham was the most valuable catcher in this organization by a massive margin.

The same is true of Phillips, who is across-the-board superior to Marisnick and Tony Kemp. There is an argument for George Springer as the long-term center fielder, an option that would give the Astros more flexibility to add offense at the corners, but there is no evidence Houston's front office and field staff have seriously considered that path, especially in light of their trade deadline work.

With Chris Carter's implosion and the team's short leash with post-hype prospect Jon Singleton, first base is wide open, currently being manned by a three-headed monster of Carter, all-or-nothing third baseman Luis Valbuena, and utility infielder Marwin Gonzalez. So Reed, like Nottingham and Phillips, is a core piece by virtue of performance, projection and opportunity. He has it all.

The decision to trade two of the three, Nottingham and Phillips (presumably because the Reds already have Joey Votto and thus had no use for a hypothetical Reed-for-Aroldis Chapman swap, thankfully) was stunning. Nottingham was dealt for a straight rental piece, and Phillips for a relatively short-term piece in Carlos Gomez, who is controlled through 2016.

The Astros have gotten better in 2015 and 2016. I have no interest in disputing that. While there is an argument Phillips could be just as good as Gomez by next summer, I won't make the case. It requires an optimistic view of the prospect's immediate impact, and a pessimistic view of Gomez's age-30 season. Nottingham would not be ready to catch regularly before Opening Day 2017, so Kazmir's value down the stretch this year is all profit until then.

But make no mistake: the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 Astros almost certainly got worse. Even if they acquire free agents or trade for more veteran stop-gaps at catcher and center field, those resources will take away from the flexibility to patch other, unexpected holes that inevitably arise. A.J. Hinch, who has been an excellent addition at manager, has not yet shown a strong embrace of platooning as a creative method of cost-saving in the lineup. Most likely, the 2017-2019 Astros will either carry sub-standard options at catcher and center field, or less cost-efficient veteran players with expensive contracts on the downside of their careers. And then, maybe Daz Cameron?

A standard disclaimer on articles of this type states that if the Astros win a World Series in the 2015-16 window promoted by Luhnow's moves, nothing else matters. Flags Fly Forever. And that's true: I count myself among the fans who would gladly trade Nottingham and Phillips's pre-free agency careers for a championship run, bragging rights, etc. I have season tickets to this year's team. I'll be at every playoff game.

But we did not just buy a ring. We bought a slightly enhanced chance at one. According to Baseball Prospectus, our current World Series win probability is 9.6%, a close third in the American League. Before the Kazmir acquisition, it was around 6%. That's what we bought, folks. That's what Jacob Nottingham's career bought.

The outcome is secondary. We won't win the World Series because of Kazmir, we'll win it because one of the extra 3-4 Astros balls out of 100 in the lottery machine might come up.

It is antithetical to everything Jeff Luhnow has done since taking over that he would sacrifice a dozen years of cost-controlled assets -- and the odds of Phillips and Nottingham becoming at least league-average regulars, and thus extremely valuable to the team, is much higher than 9.6% at this point -- for a marginal upgrade to our short-term potential.

It makes me think other factors are in play. Perhaps owner Jim Crane, underwhelmed by the modest jump in attendance -- only 24,000 fans came out for the first game of the crucial Angels series on Tuesday -- felt the need for a headline-generating all-in pennant push. Maybe a member of the senior leadership team is terminally ill. Or maybe Luhnow just got impulsive.

I mentioned on Twitter right before the deadline that I felt Luhnow got caught in a vicious circle: every time he sacrificed a valued prospect to win in 2015, the urgency to win in 2015 increased, and made the team more likely to sacrifice additional prospects to (foolishly) pursue an outcome it had already declared a bias towards. This is the sentiment I felt was driving Luhnow to pursue Craig Kimbrel and Chapman with his remaining prospects up until the very last minute.

Or, perhaps, we simply place too much value on future vacations. Many fans argue this, and while the math says they're wrong, maybe the math isn't enough. The Astros have given up a big chunk of the savings account that was promising them virtually unlimited future vacations.

That future is less certain than it was two weeks ago. But, hey, we're on vacation right now.

We better bleepin' enjoy it.


Mike Mitchell (Twitter: @MMitchTX) is an Astros fan and season-ticket holder living in Bellaire, Texas with his wife Laura.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Friday, July 31, 2015

How did the Astros system fare on the final day of July?

Reno 5, Fresno 4

W- Evan Marshall (3-2)
L- Jordan Jankowski (5-3)
S- Enrique Burgos (2)

Fresno home runs: None.

The Grizzlies took a 4-3 lead in the 7th.... only to see the Aces retake the lead in the bottom of the 7th.

Alex Presley opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st inning. He led off the 4th with a single, advanced to 2nd on a Tony Kemp single, and scored on a Joe Sclafani single. Presley's 3rd single of the game drove in another run in the 7th, and Matt Duffy followed with an RBI single of his own. Jonathan Villar scored 2 runs and for the 2nd consecutive game, he stole 2 bases (19).

Dan Straily had a bare minimum quality start, allowing 7 hits (solo homer), walking 1, and striking out 6. Jordan Jankowski and Tyson Perez both pitched the 7th, and neither of them recorded an out. Jankowski allowed 2 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him), an RBI triple, and walked 1. Perez walked 3. Luis Cruz came on and struck out the 3 batters he faced in the 7th. He then proceeded to throw a scoreless 8th.

The Grizzlies are back home to begin the month. They'll begin a 4-game set with Albuquerque tonight at 7:05 Pacific. Mark Appel will be on the mound to take on a rehabbing Christian Bergman.

Midland 4, Corpus Christi 0

W- Sean Manaea (1-0)
L- Kyle Westwood (7-4)

CC home runs: None.

One night after the Hooks won 4-0, the Rockhounds returned the favor with a 4-0 win of their own.

Danry Vásquez had 2 of the 3 Hooks hits. The other hit was an A.J. Reed single.

Kyle Westwood went 5.1 innings and allowed 4 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him) on 10 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1. Aaron West was the first man out; he allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1 in 1.2 innings. Reymin Guduan struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 8th inning.

Edison Frias will make his Texas League debut tonight. He'll face Chris Jensen at 7:00.

High Desert 7, Lancaster 4

W- David Perez (1-0)
L- Kevin Comer (1-4, 6-5 season)
S- Anyelo Leclerc (3)

Lancaster home runs: J.D. Davis (16, 2-run in 7th)

The JetHawks opened the scoring, but suddenly, they found themselves behind the 8-ball as the Mavericks scored 7 unanswered runs.

Ronnie Mitchell put Lancaster on the board with an RBI double in the 1st inning. They'd have to wait until the 7th to score again. D.J. Fisher ripped an RBI single, and J.D. Davis whacked a 2-run homer. Fisher finished 2-4, scored 2 runs, and stole 3 bases (16, 24 season).

Kevin Comer went 4.1 innings and allowed 7 runs on 8 hits (grand slam), walked 2, and struck out 5. Troy Scribner tagged in for 3.2 innings and all he did was strike out 6.

Austin Chrismon will be on the mound tonight. He'll face off against David Ledbetter at 7:05 Pacific.

Quad Cities 7, Wisconsin 1

W- Elieser Hernandez (1-1, 1-2 season)
L- Angel Ventura (5-5)

QC home runs: Kristian Trompiz (5, 2-run in 2nd)

Elieser Hernandez was electric as he shackled the Rattlers.

He allowed 4 hits, walked 1, and struck out 8 over 6.2 shutout innings. They spoiled the shutout with an unearned run in the 8th off of Jorge Perez, who allowed 2 hits and struck out 1. Zach Davis worked around a walk to finish off the game.

Jose Fernandez kicked things off with an RBI triple in the 2nd inning. He ended up scoring on an error that allowed Trent Woodward to reach, and then Kristian Trompiz went deep to put the Banditos up 4-0. Nick Tanielu ripped an RBI double in the 5th. He finished 3-4 and added a 2-run double to his ledger in the 7th.

In game 2 of this series, Josh James will face David Carver. First pitch is at 6:00.

Mahoning Valley 6, Tri-City 1

W- Brock Hartson (3-0)
L- Junior Garcia (0-1, 3-1 season)

TC home runs: None.

The Scrappers turned the tables with a 4-run 5th inning.

The only Tri-City run came on an RBI single from Aaron Mizell in the 3rd inning.

Junior Garcia allowed 4 unearned runs on 7 hits and struck out 2 in 5 innings. Harold Arauz tagged in for 3 innings and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits (solo homer), walked 2, and struck out 4. David Schmidt worked around a hit and a walk to throw a scoreless 9th.

Zac Person will get the start in game 2 of this series. He'll face Shao-Ching Chiang at 7:00 Eastern.

Greeneville 4, Kingsport 3 in 10 innings

W- Devonte German (3-1)
L- Seth Davis (0-1)

Greeneville home runs: None.

The Appy Astros tied the game in the 8th and walked off with the win in the first extra frame.

They got 2 runs in the 4th thanks to RBI singles from Brauly Mejia and Justin Garcia. Hector Roa delivered the game-tying RBI single in the 8th, and Mejia got the winner with an RBI single in the 10th. He finished 2-5, as did Ford Stainback and Myles Straw. Stainback hit a double and scored 2 runs, while Straw hit a double, scored a run, and stole 3 bases (8).

Erasmo Pinales allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and struck out 5 in 4 innings. Cris Santamaria worked around a walk to throw a scoreless 5th. Devonte German came on and threw 5 scoreless, allowing a hit, walking 1, and striking out 5.

Game 2 of this series has Moreno Polanco making his Appalachian League debut. He'll take on Harol Gonzalez at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Phillies 17, GCL Astros 2

W- Will Stewart (1-0)
L- Carlos Hiraldo (2-1)

GCL home runs: None.

Uh... pass.

Joan Mauricio went 2-3, and one of those hits was a triple.

Carlos Hiraldo allowed 2 runs on 6 hits and struck out 1 in 4 innings. Starlyn Taveras was the only GCL Astros pitcher to not allow a run; he struck out 1 over 1.1 perfect innings.

DSL Indians 9, DSL Astros Blue 2

W- Leomar Pareda (2-1)
L- Jorge Guzman (0-3)
S- Gregori Vasquez (1)

Blue home runs: None.

The Blue team was up against it early because they were down 5-0 after the 1st inning.

Angel Tejeda and Cristopher Luciano hit RBI singles in the 4th and the 5th, respectively. Tejeda finished 3-4 with a triple.

Cristofer Melendez was the 2nd reliever for the Blue team and allowed 2 hits while striking out 1 over 2 scoreless innings. Jorge Alcala struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th inning.

DSL Astros Orange 4, DSL Angels 0


W- Cesar Rosado (3-2)
L- Anderson Montilla (1-3)

Orange home runs: Randy Vasquez (4, solo in 9th)

The Orange team got a combined 3-hitter from Bryan Abreu and Cesar Rosado and blanked the Angels.

Abreu allowed a hit, walked 3, and struck out 6 over 5 shutout innings, and Rosado allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 in the final 4 innings.

Carlos Machado finished 2-4 and broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the 7th, and Nicolas Miranda added a sac fly. Randy Vasquez began the 9th with his 4th homer of the year, and Jose Hernandez drove in the final run of the day with an RBI single.

Getting to Know Astros/Hooks 2B/SS Jack Mayfield

You probably saw this picture taken during the California/Carolina League All-Star Game in June.



And, unless you are a serious fan of the Astros minor league team, you probably recognized the former #2 prospect in the Astros system (per MLB pipeline) OF Brett "Maverick" Phillips and the current #6 prospect in the Astros system 1B A.J. Reed, but you wondered to yourself, "Who is Jack Mayfield?"

Well, you won't be helped out if you search for Jack Mayfield in Baseball-Reference because the only Jack Mayfield listed played for the Amarillo Gold Sox in the West Texas-New Mexico League for one season in 1948 and passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. But upon a little digging, you will find a David Mayfield in the Astros system.

Jack Mayfield - September 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

David "Jack" Mayfield has always gone by Jack, but unless you know that you may have missed him. So it is little wonder that Mayfield continues to fly under the radar despite sitting beside two of the Top 10 Astros prospects in the All-Star dugout and subsequently getting promoted alongside those same two players to Corpus Christi within roughly two weeks of each other.

When I was in Lancaster in May, all three players were still there. I interviewed Reed and Phillips, but didn't get to Mayfield due to time constraints. But when I spoke with Lancaster Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson, I asked him who on the team he felt was flying under the radar. His immediate response? Jack Mayfield. A fan of Mayfield's versatility, Robinson said of him, "I'd go to war with Jack anytime."

In my recent interview with Hooks LHP Chris Cotton, Cotton (knowing that I was set to interview Mayfield) told me to ask Mayfield about the time Cotton got him out in the Super Regionals. He couldn't resist the little dig on Mayfield, but promptly added, "Look how he's doing now. I'm surprised I was able to get the guy out. He's a stud."

So, who is Jack Mayfield? Mayfield was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Oklahoma in 2013. After a solid junior year, the draft questionnaires came, but the call never did. More questionnaires in his senior year, but again no call. Whether or not an injury in high school that left him with a screw in his elbow scared teams off, he'll never know. But when the Astros contacted him with a post-draft offer, he jumped at the chance to start his professional playing career.

From the time he signed, one of his goals was to get to Corpus Christi. A native of the border town of Del Rio, Texas, he was looking forward to a time when his family would be only a 4-hour car ride away. Mayfield fulfilled that goal in early July when he was promoted from High A Lancaster to AA Corpus Christi, after hitting .303/.370/.458 in 66 games and making the All-Star team. Mayfield quickly made a statement at AA by going 4-for-4 in his first game and hitting a home run in his second. (He also sports a very impressive .394/.463/.577 batting line with two outs and runners in scoring position for the season.)

When I talked to Mayfield last week, he told me that he has been very impressed with everything in Corpus so far. "This place is unreal. They really try and and take care of you here. They make you enjoy the game a little bit more and everything is just a little bit better than High A," said Mayfield.

But it wasn't Mayfield's first experience at Whataburger Field. He played there in both his freshman and senior years when the University of Oklahoma played in the Kleburg Bank College Classic. According to Mayfield, "My senior year, I had a really good series here and a late home run in the eighth inning to help us win the game. They ended up giving me MVP for the tournament. I actually played good on this field so I was excited to come back."

Mayfield cites his California League All-Star honor as a big accomplishment for the 2015 season. "I started off the season really slow and I didn't even think about that. I started playing a little better and a little better and the first time I realized (that it might be a possibility was when) we were playing Inland Empire. Their third base coach (and Manager, Denny Hocking) always talks to us when we're on defense. I made a pretty good play and he (said), 'I can't wait until the All-Star ballot comes around. I'm going to vote for you a hundred times.' I looked at him and laughed, but that made me realize, 'Hey, I've got a shot at being on the All-Star team. I've just got to keep playing good and just keep my mind right.' And, eventually, I got picked," said Mayfield.

And, although earning championship rings with the 2013 Tri-City team and the 2014 Lancaster team will always rank as his biggest accomplishments to date, the All-Star nod ranks as his greatest individual accomplishment. "It was awesome whenever (Lancaster Manager) Omar Lopez let me know that I made the team." As far as playing in the All-Star game alongside top prospects Brett Phillips and A.J. Reed, Mayfield said, "It's definitely a great feeling (playing with) those two guys who are unreal at baseball (but are also) great guys first of all."

I asked him what someone who has yet to see him play could expect to see when he takes the field. Mayfield responded, "I just try to bring the same energy every game. A guy like me, throughout my career, I've had to give that little extra effort on and off the field. I'm that guy that hasn't been noticed a lot so I definitely have to make a first impression. On the field, I'd like to say that I'm a grinder that always plays the game the right way and always plays it 110%. My Dad and my brother always said, 'If you're going to play the game, give it your all.' When I make a mistake, I try to keep my head up. I try not to get down on myself when I (have a bad game). I try to stay the same person all the time. If I have a great game or if I have a bad game, I'll always be the same guy. I'm just a guy that enjoys playing the game. I try and have fun out there. I don't try and be too serious."

One of the questions I like to ask position players is what Astros farm system pitcher they would least like to face. Mayfield told me that he wouldn't be too eager to face RHP Jandel Gustave. "This year I'd have to say Gustave. I had never seen him throw like he's throwing here in Corpus. He's showing so much confidence on the mound. He has a good presence up there. He throws 98 to 100 and he throws a slider about 90. He acts like he knows what he is doing now. He looks like a bulldog up there," said Mayfield. It wasn't always that way with Gustave. Mayfield remembers a time earlier in his career when Gustave didn't always know where the ball was going. Now, according to Mayfield, Gustave spots up the ball well and has earned the closer's role in Corpus Christi.

I had originally tried to get in touch with Mayfield in the off-season after he got back from playing winter ball in Panama but that didn't work out. But I still wanted to hear a little about the experience. Mayfield's half Hispanic heritage and his travel to visit family in Mexico prepared him well for the culture in Panama which he found to be somewhat similar. As to the baseball side of it, Mayfield said, "I really enjoyed seeing how much they love the game of baseball over there. That's one of the things the kids live for." No matter what time the team would get to the field, the younger players on a junior team were already there, hitting, throwing and fielding. "Those kids were just out there having fun and that was something I'd look forward to every day," said Mayfield.

Mayfield continued, "It was a great experience. I learned a lot of things about the game. It definitely humbles you, playing over there in different countries. Makes you appreciate the game. Makes you realize how nice we have it over here."

But more importantly, the experience helped Mayfield understand where he was in his career and what he needed to work on. In particular, he felt as though he was able to take things from the experience to help him as a defensive player. "You see all these kids playing in the not so well taken care of fields ... and these kids are good over there. Just seeing that, I knew that I had some improvement that I could do. I definitely learned over there how to be just a little bit more relaxed on defense, try and get a little smoother," said Mayfield. Mayfield built on that experience going in to Spring Training and now feels more confident with his defense no matter what the position he's asked to play. Although second base is his best position, he showed that he was more than capable manning short as he did regularly for the Lancaster team this season.

Mayfield may not be well known by those who only follow the top prospects, but he has earned the respect of his coaches and fellow players as he makes his way up the ladder. He is someone who brings versatility and an even-keeled demeanor to any team. Mayfield has a simple philosophy, "I'm trying to be a guy on a team that helps them win a ballgame. I don't mind where I play. I just like playing the game. I like hitting. I like helping the team win. Any way they need me, I enjoy being on the field." And every team needs someone who can be that guy.

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

Thank you for your time, Jack. And best of luck as you pursue your third championship ring in as many seasons.

Happy Birthday - 8/1

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

RHP Kevin Comer (23)
Comer was born on August 1, 1992 in Shamong, New Jersey. He was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 2011 out of Seneca High School in Tabernacle, New Jersey, and was traded to Houston as the PTBNL in a 10-player trade with Toronto in July 2012. He is currently playing for the High A Lancaster JetHawks.

Tweet of the Day

Friday, July 31, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Wednesday, July 29, and Thursday, July 30, 2015

Better late than never, I always say.

I'm going to do these recaps a little differently. But first, let me start off with a few words.

Looking at the reaction to Jayne's reaction to the trade that saw Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Domingo Santana, and Adrian Houser traded to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez and Michael Fiers last night was incredibly disappointing and also made my blood boil.

As far as the Major League club is concerned, Jayne is not oblivious to the process. She knows that trades happen, and players who are untouchable to her will likely leave, as well.  To see her being patronized and mocked because she actually gives a shit (pardon my language) about the players who were being sent to Milwaukee was completely uncalled for. Why does the fact that she roots for the Minor League players in the Astros system bother you so much? Jayne also roots for the person, in addition to the player. We're all Astros fans. Some of us root for them in different ways. For some reason, this last statement is a source of irritation for a segment of Astros Twitter.

Ever since I stumbled across this site years ago, my interest in the Minors has skyrocketed. I know that the ultimate goal is a World Series, and I know that improving the Major League club takes precedent. But, I take great pleasure in tracking the progress of all the Minor Leaguers in the organization. If they win a Midwest League title along the way, that's pretty neat, too. They worked their butts off to win it, and I think that deserves some recognition. We all know the top prospects, but I prefer rooting for the late-round success stories like Tyler White, and I think there are a couple more such stories in the making with Keegan Yuhl and Steve Naemark. I know the vast majority of them will never make it to Houston, but I still follow regardless.

Oh crap, I'll probably be accused of having some type of prospect attachment by said segment of Astros Twitter now....

Although I never got to see 3 of the 4 players involved in yesterday's trade, it was obvious, from Jayne's interviews of all 4 of them, that they were good players and even better men. Better than the moronic haters, for sure. Brett, Domingo, Josh, and Adrian will all be missed, and I wish them nothing but the best for the future.... even if they have to play for Bud Selig's team now. This last paragraph is about 70% sarcastic.

The lesson I learned from last night is that prospect attachment is apparently taboo on Astros Twitter. Hooks fans, don't get too torn up the day A.J. Reed gets promoted to Fresno (or leaves Corpus, in general). You'll be torn apart by a segment of Astros Twitter. 

Alright, now that that's done, I will begin the regularly scheduled recaps. Like I said at the beginning, these will be a little different from the usual multi-day recaps.

Fresno

The Grizzlies split the first 2 games of their series in Reno, losing 10-4 on Wednesday and winning 10-7 on Thursday. 

Domingo Santana, in his final game as a member of the Astros organization, ripped a 2-run double in the 1st inning of Wednesday's game. The Grizz were up 4-1 after the 2nd that night, but the Aces closed that game on a 9-0 run.

It was a tough night on the mound for Mike Hauschild, who allowed 6 runs on 8 hits (solo and 3-run homers), walked 2, and struck out 2 in 4.2 innings.

On Thursday, Fresno pounded out 17 hits and a 5-run 2nd turned out to be huge for them. L.J. Hoes went 3-6 with 2 steals (14) and an RBI single in that 2nd inning. Joe Sclafani also had 3 hits; he had a sac fly in the 2nd and a couple of RBI singles in the 3rd and the 7th. Jonathan Villar finished 2-6 and both of his hits were RBI singles, coming in the 2nd and the 9th. Villar was a terror on the bases as he stole 2, including a theft of home in the 2nd. He now has 17 stolen bases in Fresno. Tyler White ripped an RBI double in the 4th and whacked a solo shot in the 8th, his 3rd with Fresno and 10th of the season.

Asher Wojciechowski went 6 innings and allowed 4 runs on 6 hits (2 solo homers), walked 1, and struck out 4. James Hoyt slammed the door shut for his 5th save of the season, striking out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th inning.

On this, the final day of July, the Grizzlies and Aces will wrap up their series. Dan Straily will take on Aaron Blair at 7:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi

The Hooks wrapped up their series with San Antonio with a 7-6 win on Wednesday, and they blanked Midland 4-0 in the series opener last night. 

Against the Missions, they scored 3 in the bottom of the 8th to take the lead. In what turned out to be his final game in the organization, Brett Phillips went 4-5 with a double and the go-ahead RBI single in the 8th inning. A.J. Reed's 3 hits all drove in runs: he hit 2 RBI singles in the 3rd and the 5th, and drove himself in with a solo shot in the 8th, his 5th in Corpus and 28th of the year. 

Chris Devenski struggled, but Michael Feliz picked him up with 4.1 perfect innings and 3 strikeouts. Feliz's pitching bought time for the Hooks offense to get themselves going, and they came out with a big win.

In Midland, Colin Moran finished 3-5 with RBI singles in the 4th and the 5th. Jon Kemmer clubbed a 2-run double in the 4th. Danry Vásquez, Teoscar Hernandez, and Jack Mayfield had 2 hits apiece. 

Joe Musgrove had a no-hitter through 5.2 innings. Ultimately, he allowed just the 1 hit, walked 1, and struck out 6 over 7 shutout innings. Chris Cotton and Jandel Gustave brought it home. Cotton allowed 2 hits as he got 2 outs in the 8th, 1 via strikeout. Gustave freed him from the burden of that inning and closed it out. allowing just 1 hit. 

Kyle Westwood will start game 2 of this series. First pitch is at 7:00.

Lancaster

The JetHawks finished their series with Rancho Cucamonga with a 4-2 win, but they dropped a 5-3 game in the first of 4 against High Desert.

They got 2 in the 7th and 2 in the 8th against Rancho to take control. The 2 in the 7th came on an inside-the-park home run from Mott Hyde, who hit his first homer in the California League. Ronnie Mitchell and Marc Wik added to the lead in the 8th with an RBI double and a sac fly, respectively.

Keegan Yuhl allowed a run on 7 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 in 6 innings of work. The only hit that Albert Minnis allowed in his 2 innings was a solo homer to Brandon Dixon in the 8th. He struck out 1. Tyler Brunnemann struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th to finish it.

Lancaster scored 2 in the 8th to take a 3-2 lead in High Desert... and then the Mavs scored 3 in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead. Sigh. This game finally got off the ground after a rain delay that lasted over 4 hours.

In his California League debut, David Paulino went 5 innings and allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4. Francis Martes' outing went well enough, but they got to him for 3 in the 8th, which included a 2-run homer from Ronald Guzman. Martes allowed 4 other hits, walked 1, and struck out 3. 

James Ramsay hit an RBI single in the 3rd inning. In the 8th, D.J. Fisher ripped an RBI triple, and J.D. Davis hit an RBI double. 

In game 2 of this series, Kevin Comer will take on Connor Sadzeck. First pitch is at 7:05 Pacific.

Quad Cities

Quad Cities took two 4-3 games over Beloit to sweep the series. The second one took them 12 innings. 

Eric Peterson and Riley Ferrell combined for 5 scoreless innings of relief. Peterson allowed 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 in 3 innings, and Ferrell walked 1 and struck out 2 in 2 innings.

All 4 of their runs on Wednesday came in the 5th inning, and all of them came on home runs. Ryan Bottger (6) and Nick Tanielu (4) hit solo shots, and Jason Martin (8) hit a 2-run homer. 

On Thursday, they got 2 in the 9th to tie and took the lead in the top of the 12th inning. Bryan Muñiz smacked an RBI double in the 6th. The 2 tying runs came courtesy of a double from Luis Reynoso, and Nick Tanielu put the Banditos on top with an RBI single. 

In his Midwest League debut, Agapito Barrios allowed a hit and struck out 3 over 5 shutout innings. Dean Deetz, also making his MWL debut, allowed 3 runs (2 earned, 1 inherited runner charged to him) on 5 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4 in 2.1 innings. Zach Davis allowed a hit in an inning (final out of 6th, 2 in 7th). Angel Heredia allowed a hit and struck out 2 in 2.2 innings, and Ryan Thompson struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 12th for the win.

Elieser Hernandez will start game 1 of the Bandits' weekend series with Wisconsin. First pitch is at 7:00.

Tri-City

The ValleyCats swept West Virginia, winning 5-4 on Wednesday and 5-3 on Thursday.

Cesar Carrasco and Brooks Marlow put Tri-City on the board with an RBI groundout and an RBI single, respectively. In the 5th, Aaron Mizell hit an RBI single and Bobby Wernes added a 2-run single. Wernes and Mizell had 2 hits apiece. 

Trent Thornton allowed a run on 4 hits (solo homer), walked 1, and struck out 4. Scott Weathersby went 3 innings and allowed 2 unearned runs in the 8th on 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 2. Adam Whitt threw a 1-2-3 9th to end it.

On Thursday, the ValleyCats used a 4-run 3rd to propel them to a win. Mizell drew a bases-loaded walk, Wernes hit another 2-run single, and Pat Porter hit a sac fly. Marlow hit his 4th homer of the season in the 7th inning.

Alex Winkelman allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 4 in 5 innings. Juan Carlos Santos allowed a solo homer to Logan Hill and struck out the side in the 6th. Jacob Dorris allowed a hit and struck out 2 over 3 scoreless.

Tonight, the ValleyCats will begin a 3-game series with Mahoning Valley. Junior Garcia will make his first start for Tri-City as he takes on Leandro Linares at 7:00 Eastern.

Greeneville

The Appy Astros dropped their series in Bristol, losing 9-7 and 4-3. 

On Wednesday, they were down 9-2 and couldn't quite recover. Hector Roa hit a 2-run homer (6) in the 2nd inning. In the 4th, Brauly Mejia (3) hit a solo homer. Roa added an RBI single in the 6th, and he and Mejia later scored as Luis Payano reached on an error. Ford Stainback scored on another error in the 7th. 

Albert Abreu was the third Greeneville pitcher on Wednesday. He allowed 3 hits, walked 2, and struck out 7.

They scored 2 in the 8th to make Thursday's game a one-run affair, but... no cigar.

Connor Goedert opened the scoring with an RBI double in the 1st, and their 2 runs in the 8th came on a groundout from Stainback and a triple from Roa.

In his Appy League debut, Diogenes Almengo allowed a run on 4 hits, walked 3, and struck out 3 in 3.2 innings. Joselo Pinales allowed a hit and fanned 1 in 2.1 innings. The Pirates got to Alejandro Solarte for 3 runs on 3 hits in the 7th, and Lachlan Madden struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 8th.

Greeneville will welcome Kingsport to Pioneer Park this weekend. In game 1, Erasmo Pinales will take on Nabil Crismatt at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Astros

The Kissimmee Stros dropped 2 games against the Pirates by final scores of 2-0 and 7-5.

DSL Astros

The Blue team split 2 games with the A's, losing 2-1 on Wednesday and rebounding for a 7-3 win on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Orange team lost 5-0 and 5-1 to the Nationals.

Astros Minor League Transactions

In addition to the moves reported earlier this week, these are the latest Astros minor league moves. Check back throughout the day; I will update with any corresponding moves that will take place in conjunction with the players lost to trade.

FRESNO GRIZZLIES
7-31: 1B Jon Singleton optioned to Fresno
7-30: OF Leo Heras placed on the 7-day DL
7-30: RHP Jose Veras released
7-30: OF Domingo Santana traded to the Brewers

CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS
7-30: OF Brett Phillips traded to the Brewers
7-30: RHP Adrian Houser traded to the Brewers
7-30: LHP Josh Hader traded to the Brewers

TRI-CITY VALLEYCATS
8-1: OF Hector Roa assigned from Greeneville to Tri-City
7-31: RHP Ryan Deemes assigned from Greeneville to Tri-City

GREENEVILLE ASTROS
8-1: OF Kyle Tucker assigned from the GCL to Greeneville
8-1: OF Daz Cameron assigned from the GCL to Greeneville

GULF COAST LEAGUE ASTROS
8-1: RHP Juan Robles assigned from the DSL to the GCL

Tweet of the Day

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Weighing in on the Carlos Gomez Trade

I'll be honest. I wasn't very happy when I saw this late this afternoon.

I have nothing against Carlos Gomez. And I'd never even heard of Mike Fiers until a couple of hours ago. I want the Astros to be better and if this trade helps them get better, I'm all for it. But let me tell you a little about the players we're losing.

I love Adrian Houser. He's a competitor. I did my first interview with him when he was only 18. The first time I watched him pitch, he was just a kid about 30 pounds lighter than he is now, but showed great rhythm and athleticism on the mound. He was fun to watch. And then I saw him grow and develop and find his command. Each time I saw him, he had matured as a man and as a pitcher.

Domingo Santana was the opposite, physically at least. He was HUGE the first time I saw him at High A in 2012, the year after the trade, but he was what I called a little "doughy." By the time he got to Corpus Christi the next season, he had transformed himself. He was nothing but muscle and incredibly strong at the plate. And he had also started to transform himself defensively. I'll admit that I occasionally cringed when I saw him in right field. But he worked hard and started to learn what routes to take to balls and how to play smarter in the outfield. In late May in Fresno, there was a constant chatter going in Spanish between he and Carlos Correa on either side of the batting cage. I have no idea what they were talking about, but they were having a whole lot of fun together.

Josh Hader is just a good kid who likes sweet tea and country music ... until he gets on the mound. Then he's as hard-nosed and competitive a pitcher as you will ever see. He once told me that he wanted to "assassinate" the hitter. A little hyperbole, sure, but to see him go from laidback country guy to a ninja assassin with a deceptive delivery was quite entertaining.

I did like and do like all three of those players very much, but I will honestly tell you that I think they will all have a clearer path to the majors with another organization. If you haven't noticed, things are getting a little crowded at the top. There are a lot of moving parts as the Astros are having to get more and more and more creative with the 40-man roster. Houser would likely be lost in the Rule 5 draft this coming year if not protected, and Santana would not make it through waivers if he was removed from the 40-man roster. It makes sense to get something for those players now rather than losing them for nothing later.

However, I had three players in the minor league system that were, to me, untouchables. I won't reveal the other two because I don't want Jeff Luhnow to get any more ideas and further break my heart. But Brett Phillips was at the top of that list of three players.

Brett Phillips is a phenomenal talent. Quick twitch athleticism, speed, a canon arm, the ability to hit for average and for power. I see Phillips as becoming a legit 5-tool player in the major leagues and I think he will make his debut by the end of 2016 if not sooner. And I'm not the only one. MLB Pipeline had Phillips as the number 2 prospect in the Astros system. More than that, though, is Phillips' special ability to connect with everyone and to lead a team. He is going to become a very special player, one that can become the heart and soul of a team. And, yes, I am very sad to see him go. This one is going to hurt. It already does. As one person said, in a trade you have to give up good players, but you should make sure you keep the ones that can be great.

Tweets of the Day

Happy Birthday - 7/30

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

RHP Jorge Perez (22)
Perez was born on July 30, 1993 in Jamaica, New York, and was drafted by the Astros in the 30th round in 2013 out of Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma. He is currently playing for the Low A Quad Cities River Bandits.

Manager Josh Bonifay (37)
Bonifay was born on July 30, 1978 in Macon, Georgia. Originally drafted by the Pirates in 2006 out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bonifay ended his minor league career in the Houston organization. After serving as a Hitting Coach in the Astros system for two seasons, he was the Manager of the Rookie League Greeneville Astros in 2013 and 2014. 2015 is his first season as the Manager for the Low A Quad Cities team.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fresno was off

The Grizzlies will begin a 3-game series in Reno tonight at 7:05 Pacific. Mike Hauschild will take on Jhoulys Chacín.

Corpus Christi 3, San Antonio 2

W- Adrian Houser (1-2, 2-4 season)
L- Brandon Alger (3-4)
S- Juan Minaya (1)

CC home runs: None.

The Hooks were held to 4 hits, but they managed to get even in the series as Adrian Houser had a fine night on the mound.

Houser earned his first Texas League win as he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits (solo homer), walked 1, and struck out 4 in 7 innings of work. Juan Minaya struck out 2 over 2 perfect frames to get his first save of the year.

Brett Phillips put Corpus on the board in the 1st when he scored on an errant pickoff throw. Jon Kemmer scored on a double play in the 2nd to give the Hooks a 2-1 lead. After the Missions tied the game in the 6th, Conrad Gregor promptly un-tied it with an RBI single in the 7th, which proved to be the difference. Kemmer was 1-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.

Chris Devenski will get the start in the series finale. He'll face James Needy at 7:05.

Rancho Cucamonga 9, Lancaster 6

W- Karch Kowalczyk (1-1)
L- Bryan Radziewski (3-4, 4-4 season)

Lancaster home runs: J.D. Davis (15, solo in 7th), D.J. Fisher (13, 19 season; solo in 9th)

The JetHawks led 4-2 after the first third of the game, but the Quakes closed out on a 7-2 run.

James Ramsay put Lancaster on the board with an RBI single in the 2nd inning. Their 3 runs in the 3rd came on 3 RBI doubles hit by J.D. Davis, Marc Wik, and Chase McDonald. Unfortunately, Rancho went on its run afterwards, and all Lancaster could muster up were solo homers from Davis in the 7th and D.J. Fisher in the 9th. Fisher finished 3-5, while Davis and Wik had 2 hits apiece. Alex Bregman, in his first start with the JetHawks, went 0-5. They had a shortage of position players, so Troy Scribner, who normally pitches, served as the DH. He went 0-4. I don't know how long it was since he last swung a bat in an actual game.

Bryan Radziewski went 4.1 innings and allowed 5 runs on 6 hits (solo and 3-run homers), walked 2, and struck out 4. Jordan Mills was the first man out; he allowed 4 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him) on 5 hits (solo homer), walked 1, and struck out 3. Andrew Walter allowed 2 hits and struck out 5 in 2 innings of work.

Keegan Yuhl will take on Chase De Jong in the series finale. First pitch is at 6:30 Pacific.

Quad Cities 11, Beloit 4

W- Christian Powell (3-1)
L- Junior Mendez (3-8)

QC home runs: Bobby Boyd (1, solo in 6th; first pro home run)

The Banditos seized control of this game with a 5-run 5th that broke a 2-2 tie.

Kristian Trompiz put Quad Cities on the board with an RBI double in the 3rd inning and put them in the lead when he scored on a Jason Martin sac fly. Nick Tanielu drove in the first of the 5 runs in the 5th with a sac fly, and Drew Ferguson followed with an RBI single. Jose Fernandez walked to re-load the bases, and Ramon Laureano promptly cleared them with a double. In the 6th, Bobby Boyd hit his first home run as a pro. And, for good measure, Tanielu cleared the bases with a double in the 8th inning. He, Trompiz (2B, RBI, 2 R), and Boyd (solo homer, 3 R) had 2 hits apiece.

Christian Powell allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4 in 6 innings of work. Michael Freeman allowed 4 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1 in 2 scoreless, and Jorge Perez allowed a run on a single, walked 3, and struck out 1 in the 9th.

Game 2 of this series will be at 7:00. The Bandits' starter is TBA.

Tri-City 5, West Virginia 1

W- Rogelio Armenteros (1-1)
L- Dario Agrazal (4-2)

TC home runs: None.

The ValleyCats scored 5 unanswered runs to take the first of 3 against the Black Bears.

Tony Nuñez hit a 2-out double in the 5th and scored on an error following a Johnny Sewald single. Sewald, who advanced to 2nd, scored the go-ahead run on an RBI triple from Edwin Medina. Sewald reached on another error in the 7th, which allowed Cesar Carrasco to score. Later in the inning, Aaron Mizell smacked a 2-run double. Medina and Anthony Hermelyn had 2 hits apiece.

Rogelio Armenteros went 5 innings and allowed a run on 4 hits while striking out 2. Austin Nicely tagged in for 3 innings and allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1. Zac Grotz got 2 strikeouts in the 9th, but only recorded 1 out. Steve Naemark got the final 2 outs of the game via strikeout.

In game 2 of this series, Trent Thornton will face Juan Paula. First pitch is at 7:00 Eastern.

Greeneville 12, Bristol 4

W- Jose Hernandez (1-0)
L- Logan Sendelbach (0-2)

Greeneville home runs: Randy Cesar (3, 2-run in 4th), Hector Roa (5, 3-run in 6th)

The Appy Astros pounded out 18 hits as they romped to a win in game 1.

Randy Cesar finished 3-4 and opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st. Arturo Michelena also finished 3-4; he ripped a 2-run double in the 2nd. He struck again in the 4th with an RBI single. Later in the inning, Cesar smacked a 2-run homer. All 3 of Cesar's hits drove in at least 1 run. He hit an RBI single in the 6th. Justin Garcia followed with an RBI single of his own, and then Hector Roa whacked his 5th homer of the year. Michelena drove in Greeneville's final run of the evening with a sac fly in the 9th. Garcia, Roa, Kevin Martir, and Ford Stainback had 2 hits apiece.

Jose Hernandez went 5 innings and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits, walked 2, and struck out 6. Yhoan Acosta allowed a hit, walked 2, and struck out 3 over 2 scoreless, and Starlyng Sanchez allowed 2 runs on 2 hits and struck out 1 in 2 innings.

In game 2 of this series, Salvador Montaño will take on Marek Minarik at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Astros 2, GCL Yankees2 1

This game was suspended with the Kissimmee Stros leading 2-1 heading into the bottom of the 4th. It will be completed on August 12. So far, Daz Cameron has his 12th steal of the season.

DSL Astros Blue 9, DSL Phillies 0

W- Ricardo Castro (1-0)
L- Randy Alcantara (6-2)

Blue home runs: None.

The Blue team held the Phillies off the scoreboard and held them to 5 hits.

Ricardo Castro allowed 3 hits and struck out 4 over 5 innings. Hansel Paulino allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 4 in 3 innings, and Cristofer Melendez struck out the side in order in the 9th inning.

Andy Piñeda went 3-4 with a run scored and a stolen base (24). Cristopher Luciano whacked a 2-run triple in the 1st inning. Later in the inning, Orlando Marquez drove in a run on a groundout, and Angel Tejeda hit an RBI single. Carlos Canelon scored on a passed ball in the 6th, and then Ozziel Sanchez-Galan hit an RBI single. Sanchez-Galan made his way to 3rd on 2 wild pitches and scored on a Marcos Almonte single. Sanchez-Galan scored on a wild pitch in the 8th and Marquez drove in the final run of the day with an RBI double.

DSL Mariners2 11, DSL Astros Orange 1

W- Juan De Paula (3-3)
L- Maikel Sepulveda (2-2)

Orange home runs: None.

Juan Fuente's RBI double in the 3rd was the Orange team's only run.

Luis Vasquez allowed a hit as he got the final 2 outs of the 8th. He was the only Orange team pitcher to not allow a run.

Some Closing Thoughts on HOF Weekend

Due to a variety of travel issues, I haven't been able to weigh in with a few thoughts from HOF induction weekend before now. (In case you missed it, I posted a ton of pictures from the Parade of Legends here, and I'll try to put up the rest on Flickr this weekend.)

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

Travel problems coming and going to Cooperstown over the weekend did not detract from the main event. And the baseball gods answered the prayers of Astros fans everywhere on Sunday, granting us good weather for the induction ceremony. [Note to self: Be careful what you wish for! The sun was blazing hot and your intrepid correspondent thought she might pass out before Randy Johnson finished his speech.]

I don't care what the crowd estimates said. I personally thought that there were more people at the ceremony on Sunday than there were at last year's induction, based solely on my eyeball estimates of how many people were sitting on the hill last year versus this year, but in any event, it was at least a comparable number. But one thing cannot be disputed. Astros fans were well in the majority of those who attended. Everywhere you looked ...

Young fans


And not so young fans


And although there was a lot of orange, there was also a wide variety of Astros plumage in evidence ...




There were some very familiar faces in the crowd as well ...

Bill Brown

Tal Smith

Rex Jones

And one VERY familiar head of hair ...

Alyson Footer

The ceremony itself, honoring Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, was wonderful. The chants of B-G-O were robust. The tears were flowing. And the Astros faithful were ecstatic to see their adopted son of Houston enshrined in the Hall as the first player to sport an Astros cap on his plaque.



  

There was one theme that kept emerging throughout the weekend. Everywhere that my sister and I went we looked for Astros merchandise. Outside of the Hall of Fame gift store, there were very few stores that carried ANY Astros gear other than a few dusty brick red open star hats. Those that did carry Astros gear sold out quickly. You might be able to find a few small size T-shirts here and there, but that was about it.

Everyone seemed to have been surprised by the number of Astros fans who descended upon Cooperstown for the weekend. Everyone ... shopkeepers, organizers and media alike ... seemed to have underestimated the Astros fan base. Similarly, everyone seems to be underestimating the team that is currently playing in Minute Maid Park.

Those shopkeepers haven't been paying attention and they weren't prepared for what was to come. The AL West teams are starting to figure it out, though. Underestimate the 2015 Astros at your own risk. This team may not get as far as fans hope they will this year. But, again, they just might. In any event, the Astros system is poised to remain in contention for a very long time. That should no longer come as a surprise to anyone.

One final note .... with the news that the Hall of Fame has finally culled their voting rolls of those writers who haven't covered baseball in more than a decade, I am suddenly much more optimistic as to Jeff Bagwell's chances to get into the Hall and to do so quickly. Those dinosaurs who hadn't covered a baseball game in years and who relied upon unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo in order to make their decisions will soon give way to writers who are actually engaged in watching baseball every single day during the season and who might actually have some informed insight into these things.

Which brings me to this. Shortly before heading to the airport on Monday, my sister and I had lunch at the Doubleday Cafe on Main Street in Cooperstown. This sign was in the restroom. When I left, I thought sadly that I probably wouldn't be back next year because Bagwell wouldn't be likely to get in for another year or two. Now my hopes have surged that the writing on this chalkboard was a happy omen.


I hope to be back in Cooperstown again next year and I hope to see another adopted son of our City become immortalized. I also hope to see another sea of orange in the crowds and in the shops. Do not ever underestimate the Astros faithful again, Cooperstown. We are a force to be reckoned with. Our team is a force to be reckoned with. It's no longer a secret and it should no longer be a surprise to anyone.

Tweet of the Day

Happy Birthday - 7/29

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

RHP Moreno Polanco (21)
Polano was born July 29, 1994 in La Terrenas, Dominican Republic and his first season in the Astros system was in 2014. He is currently playing for the Gulf Coast League Astros.

Moreno Polanco - June 2015
Photo Courtesy of Bryan Green

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Monday, July 27, 2015

Let's play 2 in Greeneville!

Tacoma 11, Fresno 10

W- Tyler Olson (2-3)
L- Jason Stoffel (3-2)
S- Tony Zych (1)

Fresno home runs: Domingo Santana (16, solo in 1st)

The Grizzlies trailed 8-3 after 2 innings and entered the 7th down 9-3. They proceeded to scored 7 runs in the inning to take the lead.... and then the Rainiers scored 2 in the 8th to re-take the lead. There was an apparent protest, but Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco never formally filed the protest. Turns out that Tony Zych, who pitched the 9th for Tacoma, was not on the lineup card, but on the active roster. Clerical error, I guess.

Everyone in the Fresno lineup had a hit, led by Andrew Aplin, who finished 4-4 with a 2-run single in the 7th. He hit a single in the 2nd that scored Tony Kemp, but Kemp scored because an error occurred. Domingo Santana (solo HR, 2 R) and Kemp (2-run 3B, 2 R) both went 3-4. Robbie Grossman went 2-5 with a double and an RBI infield single in that big 7th inning. In fact, everyone in the Fresno lineup scored a run except for Tyler White, who hit an RBI single in the 1st to open the scoring.

Brady Rodgers went 2 innings and allowed 8 runs on 8 hits (3-run homer), walked 1, and struck out 2. Luis Cruz was the first man out; he allowed a run on a solo homer to Jabari Blash in the 5th. Cruz allowed 2 other hits, walked 3, and fanned 2 in 3.1 innings. Jason Stoffel had 2 inherited runners charged to him in 2 innings and struck out 1. Those 2 runs scored in the 8th because of 2 wild pitches from James Hoyt, and one of those wild pitches came on an intentional walk situation. Hoyt got the final 2 outs of the 8th, but the damage was done. He allowed a hit, walked 1, and fanned 1.

The Grizzlies will continue their roadtrip tomorrow in Reno.

San Antonio 13, Corpus Christi 7

W- Bryce Morrow (2-2)
L- Brian Holmes (4-5, 6-6 season)

CC home runs: A.J. Reed (4, 27 season; solo in 4th)

This game started out well enough for the Hooks as they led 4-0 after 3 innings, but the Missions turned everything upside down with an 8-run 4th inning.

Every position player who appeared in the game for the Hooks reached base, including Jed Lowrie, who went 1-5 with a run scored. Brett Phillips and Jon Kemmer had 2 hits apiece. A.J. Reed homered for the 2nd consecutive night; this one was a solo shot in the 4th, giving him 27 on the year.

The pitching staff struggled, and I'd like to leave it at that.

Adrian Houser will be on the mound for Corpus Christi tonight. He'll take on Casey Kelly at 7:05.

Lancaster 6, Rancho Cucamonga 5

W- Akeem Bostick (2-3, 5-4 season)
L- Brock Stewart (2-3)
S- Tyler Brunnemann (3)

Lancaster home runs: Sean McMullen (1, 6 season; solo in 2nd), J.D. Davis (14, 3-run in 3rd)

The JetHawks built a 6-1 lead after 3 innings, then saw it whittle away. However, the bullpen kept the Quakes at bay.

J.D. Davis and Sean McMullen were responsible for driving in all 6 JetHawks runs. Well, Davis shouldered the load. He opened the scoring with a 2-run double in the 1st and then whacked a 3-run homer in the 3rd inning. In between those hits, Sean McMullen hit his first homer in the California League in his first at-bat at the level in the 2nd inning. Davis, Jamie Ritchie (2B, 2 R), and James Ramsay (SB [8], R) had 2 hits apiece. Alex Bregman came on as a defensive replacement and went 0-1.

Akeem Bostick allowed 4 runs on 7 hits, walked 1, and struck out 3 in 5 innings. This was his first start in The Hangar. Troy Scribner went 2 innings and allowed a run, a double, walked 4, and struck out 2. Tyler Brunnemann threw 2 scoreless, allowing a hit, walking 1, and striking out 3.

In game 2 of this series, Bryan Radziewski will take on Jeff Brigham. First pitch is at 6:30 Pacific.

Quad Cities was off

The River Bandits are in Beloit tonight to begin a series. Christian Powell will take on Junior Mendez at 7:00.

Tri-City was off

The ValleyCats will welcome the West Virginia Black Bears (formerly known as the Jamestown Jammers) to Joe Bruno Stadium for 3 beginning tonight at 7:00 Eastern. In game 1, Rogelio Armenteros will face Dario Agrazal.

Game 1: Greeneville 4, Kingsport 1

W- Chris Murphy (1-0)
L- Harol Gonzalez (1-2)

Greeneville home runs: Arturo Michelena (1, solo in 6th), Justin Garcia (1, 2-run in 6th)

The Appy Astros took game 1 behind fine pitching performances from Makay Nelson and Chris Murphy.

It hasn't been a great start to Makay Nelson's career, but he delivered his best outing yet as he threw 3 perfect innings and struck out 1 on his 21st birthday. Here's hoping that it's a sign of better things to come for him. Chris Murphy allowed a run on 6 hits and struck out 1 over the final 4 innings.

Luis Payano broke a scoreless tie with a sac fly in the 5th. Michelena and Garcia tacked on 3 more runs with their home runs in the 6th inning. Ford Stainback finished 2-3.

Game 2: Kingsport 2, Greeneville 1

W- Witt Haggard (2-1)
L- Cris Santamaria (2-1)

Greeneville home runs: None.

The Appy Astros had to settle for a split in the twinbill as the K-Mets got 1 in the 7th to break a 1-1 tie.

Ford Stainback grounded into a force out that allowed Luis Payano to score in the 3rd inning. Payano finished 2-2, and he's gotten himself going at the plate as of late.

Andrew Thome allowed a run on 4 hits and fanned 3 in 3 innings. Matt Bower was the first man out and he struck out 2 over 2 perfect innings. Cris Santamaria allowed the go-ahead run on a single with 2 outs in the 7th. He walked 1 and struck out 2 in 2 innings.

Jose Hernandez will start the first game of a 3-game set in Bristol. First pitch is at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Astros 4, GCL Yankees2 0 in 6 innings

W- Moreno Polanco (1-1)
L- Daris Vargas (2-2)

GCL home runs: None.

Moreno Polanco and Carlos Hiraldo combined to throw a rain-shortened no-hitter in Kissimmee.

Polanco walked 3 and struck out 3 over 5 shutout innings, and Hiraldo struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 6th.

Their 4 runs came in the 4th. Vicente Sanchez hit a sac fly, Miguelangel Sierra scored on an error, and then Kyle Tucker hit an RBI single. To top it all off, Connor MacDonald ripped an RBI double. Tucker finished 2-3. Daz Cameron stole 2 bases (11).

DSL Phillies 6, DSL Astros Blue 3

W- Oscar Marcelino (1-1)
L- Felipe Tejada (1-3)
S- Steiner Carmona (4)

Blue home runs: None.

The Phillies mounted a late uprising to take control of this game.

Cristopher Luciano went 3-5 with a double and a run scored. Angel Tejeda went 2-3. Wilson Amador scored the first run of the day on an error in the 1st inning. Oscar Campos had an RBI single in the 3rd, and Ozziel Sanchez-Galan hit a sac fly in the 8th.

Jose Ramos allowed a hit, walked 2, and struck out 3 over 5 shutout innings.

DSL Astros Orange 12, DSL Mariners2 11


W- Harlen Florencio (1-0)
L- Raul Pedie (6-1)
S- Yan De La Cruz (2)

Orange home runs: Juan Fuente (2, 2-run in 1st), Felix Lucas (3, 3-run in 8th)

The Orange team trailed 10-6 heading into the bottom of the 8th, but they put up 6 in the inning to take the lead again. That's the DSL for you...

Alejandro Garcia finished 4-5, a home run shy of the cycle. His triple cleared the bases in the 8th inning. Hector Martinez and Brandon Benavente had 2 hits apiece.

Angelo Serrano was the first reliever to appear; he allowed a hit, walked 2, and struck out 3 in 2.2 innings. Yan De La Cruz got the final 2 outs of the game.

Happy Birthday - 7/28

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

RHP Jorge Alcala (20)
Alcala was born July 28, 1995 in Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic and was signed by the Astros prior to the 2015 season. He is currently playing for the Astros Blue team in the Dominican Summer League.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tacoma 12, Fresno 5

W- Jordan Pries (5-3)
L- Brett Oberholtzer (3-3)

Fresno home runs: None.

This game started out well enough for the Grizzlies as they had a 3-0 lead after 3 innings, but the Rainiers finished the night on a 12-2 run.

Domingo Santana opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st inning. On the throw to 2nd, which got him, Tyler White also scored. Domingo, who went 2-5, struck again in the 3rd when he smacked an RBI double. Tyler Heineman hit a sac fly in the 6th, and Robbie Grossman stole 2nd (8). Grossman wound up scoring on the errant throw.

Tyler White's 2 hits were doubles. He's now on a 13-game hitting streak. Matt Duffy went 2-5 with a run scored.

Brett Oberholtzer went 5 innings and allowed 7 runs on 7 hits (2-run and 3-run homers), walked 2, and struck out 1. Jake Buchanan allowed 2 unearned runs in the 6th. Jose Veras allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and walked 1 in the 7th, and Jordan Jankowski struck out the side in order in the 8th inning.

In the series finale, Brady Rodgers will face Roenis Elias. First pitch is at 11:35 A.M. Pacific.

Corpus Christi 5, Frisco 2

W- R.J. Alaniz (3-2)
L- Juan Grullon (0-1)
S- Chris Cotton (4, 8 season)

CC home runs: A.J. Reed (3, 26 season; solo in 7th), Jon Kemmer (14, solo in 7th)

The Hooks took a road series in the Metroplex thanks to a pair of 2-run innings.

Josh Hader, in his first appearance since returning to the Hooks from Pan Am Games duty, went 4 innings and allowed a run on a double, walked 1, and struck out 6. He was apparently battling some blister issues. R.J. Alaniz tagged in for 3.2 innings and allowed a run on 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1. Chris Cotton struck out 2 over 1.1 perfect innings to get the save.

A.J. Reed opened up the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st. Jon Kemmer smacked an RBI double in the 5th, and Reed scored another run when Danry Vásquez grounded into a force out. Reed and Kemmer hit back-to-back solo shots in the 7th. They both had 2 hits and drove in 2 runs.

The Hooks are back home for another installment of the I-37 Series with San Antonio. In the first of 3, Brian Holmes will face Justin Hancock at 7:05.

Lancaster 18, Stockton 2

W- Austin Chrismon (4-2, 8-3 season)
L- Kyle Finnegan (6-7)

Lancaster home runs: D.J. Fisher 2 (12, 18 season; 2-run in 1st, grand slam in 7th), Ronnie Mitchell 2 (9; solo in 1st, 2-run in 7th)

The JetHawks got the split in emphatic fashion as they scored 10 in the 7th inning to turn this game into an absolute laugher.


Austin Chrismon allowed 2 runs on 4 hits (solo homer) and struck out 1 in 5 innings of work. Kevin Comer threw 3 scoreless, allowing a hit and fanning 3, and Andrew Walter worked around a hit to throw a scoreless 9th.

Akeem Bostick will be on the mound for Lancaster tonight as they begin a 3-game series with Rancho Cucamonga. He'll face Brock Stewart at 6:30 Pacific.

Quad Cities 5, Burlington 4

W- Josh James (3-2)
L- Jacob Kopra (0-1)
S- Angel Heredia (5)

QC home runs: None. 

The Banditos scored 3 in the 8th to take the lead, and eventually the series.

Nick Tanielu put the Bandits on the board first with an RBI single in the 1st, and Drew Ferguson scored on a double play in the 4th. In the meantime, the Bees scored 4 in the 6th to take a 4-2 lead. 

Alex Bregman led off the 8th by reaching on an error. He made his way around the bases and eventually scored on a sac fly from Sean McMullen. Trent Woodward and Luis Reynoso added RBI singles. Drew Ferguson and Ramon Laureano both finished 2-4 with a run scored.

Brock Dykxhoorn allowed 3 hits and struck out 4 over 5 shutout innings. Josh James went 2 innings and allowed 4 runs on 4 hits while striking out 1. Angel Heredia struck out 3 over 2 perfect frames to get the save.

After a travel day, the Bandits will begin a 3-game series in Beloit tomorrow evening.

Batavia 6, Tri-City 4

W- Jordan Holloway (2-3)
L- Zac Person (1-2)
S- Steven Farnworth (6)

TC home runs: None.

The ValleyCats dropped the series as the Muckdogs turned a 3-2 game into a 6-3 lead in their favor. 

Bryan Muñiz ripped a 2-run double in the 1st to open the scoring. He hit another RBI double in the 3rd. Aaron Mizell grounded into a force out in the 9th and on the ensuing error, Brooks Marlow scored. Mizell (2 R, SB [3, 6 season]), Muñiz (2 2B, 3 RBI), and Marlow (R) had 2 hits apiece. 

Ralph Garza Jr. went 4 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 1, and struck out 7. Zac Person was the first man out; he allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits, walked 1, and fanned 4 in 2 innings. Yeyfry Del Rosario and Kevin McCanna had identical lines. Both allowed a run on 3 hits and struck out 1 in the 7th and 8th innings, respectively.

The ValleyCats have today off. Tomorrow, they'll begin a 3-game series with the West Virginia Black Bears, formerly known as the Jamestown Jammers. Rogelio Armenteros will take on Dario Agrazal.

Greeneville 5, Burlington 4

W- Ryan Deemes (2-0)
L- Matt Ditman (0-3)

Greeneville home runs: None.

The Appy Astros avoided the sweep by walking off with a win in the series finale.

Connor Goedert opened up the scoring when he ripped an RBI double in the 1st. Hector Roa hit a 1-out double in the 2nd, advanced to 3rd on a balk, and scored on a wild pitch. Kevin Martir hit an RBI single in the 5th, and Roa smacked an RBI double in the 7th to tie the game at 4. 2 singles and a walk loaded the bases with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th for Luis Payano, who delivered the winner with an RBI single.

Roa (2 2B, RBI, R) and Payano (2B, walk-off RBI single) both finished 3-5, while Arturo Michelena (R, 2 BB), Goedert (2B, RBI, R), and Brauly Mejia (BB, winning run) all had 2-hit days.

Junior Garcia went 5 innings and allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits (solo homer) and struck out 4. Ryan Deemes was excellent as he threw 4 scoreless. He allowed a hit, walked 1, and struck out 3.

Greeneville will conclude their homestand tonight with 2 games against Kingsport beginning at 5:00 Eastern. Andrew Thome will face Merandy Gonzalez in game 1, while Makay Nelson gets the start in game 2. He'll face Harol Gonzalez.

More Astros Minor League Moves

In addition to these roster moves reported Saturday, there have been a few more of note ...

CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS
7-26: RHP Edison Frias assigned from Lancaster to Corpus Christi
7-22: C Brett Booth released

LANCASTER JETHAWKS
7-29: RHP Christian Powell assigned from Quad Cities to Lancaster
7-29: OF Edwin Medina assigned from Tri-City to Lancaster
7-27: SS Alex Bregman assigned from Quad Cities to Lancaster
7-27: OF Sean McMullen assigned from Quad Cities to Lancaster
7-26: RHP David Paulino assigned from Quad Cities to Lancaster

Obtained as a part of the Jose Veras trade (along with OF Danry Vasquez) with Detroit in July 2013, Paulino sat out the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Since coming off the DL in June, he has rocketed up the Astros system, making two starts in Tri-City and five starts in Quad Cities prior to this promotion. He is 4-2 with a 1.18 ERA and a 0.895 WHIP with nine walks to 42 strikeouts in 38 innings.

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS
7-29: RHP Dean Deetz assigned from Tri-City to Quad Cities
7-28: 2B Alex Hernandez released
7-27: 2B Jose Fernandez assigned from Lancaster to Quad Cities
7-27: 1B Bryan Muniz assigned from Tri-City to Quad Cities
7-26: RHP Agapito Barrios assigned from Tri-City to Quad Cities

TRI-CITY VALLEYCATS
7-29: RHP Chris Murphy assigned from Greeneville to Tri-City
7-27: RHP Junior Garcia assigned from Greeneville to Tri-City

GREENEVILLE ASTROS
7-29: RHP Moreno Polanco assigned from GCL Astros to Greeneville

GULF COAST LEAGUE ASTROS
7-29: RHP Michel Martinez assigned from DSL Astros Blue to GCL Astros
7-27: RHP Dariel Aquino assigned from DSL Astros Blue to GCL Astros
7-27: SS Miguelangel Sierra assigned from DSL Astros Orange to GCL Astros
7-25: LHP Patrick Sandoval assigned to the GCL Astros

Sandoval was drafted by the Astros in the 11th round out of Mission Viejo High School in California.

DSL ASTROS
7-29: SS Fredy Medina assigned to DSL Astros Blue
7-27: IF Reiny Beltre assigned from GCL Astros to DSL Astros Blue
7-27: OF Jose Hernandez assigned to DSL Astros Orange

Hernandez, a Dominican, will turn 20 on December 4. He's from Cotui, Teoscar Hernandez's hometown. Maybe a relative?

Medina, also a Dominican, will turn 18 on September 26.