Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Five-for-Two Trade for RHP Ken Giles

I already weighed in earlier this week on the then-rumored 4-for-1 trade for Giles which today turned into a 5-for-2 trade. The Phillies are sending RHP Ken Giles and 17-year old SS Jonathan Arauz to Houston in exchange for RHP Vince Velasquez, RHP Mark Appel, RHP Thomas Eshelman, RHP Harold Arauz and LHP Brett Oberholtzer. OF Derek Fisher was pulled from the rumored deal and Appel and Arauz were substituted.

I've already said that I think it was a steep price to pay and I still feel that way. I like the addition of Giles, but giving away Velasquez gives me heartburn. Beyond that, I don't have the time or energy to post anything further right now. Talk amongst yourselves.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Astros Rule 5 Draft Results

The Astros didn't lose any players in either the major league phase or the minor league phases of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday nor did they draft anyone in the major league phase of the draft. They did, however, pick up right-hander Octavio Acosta from the Mets in the AAA phase of the draft. Acosta has a 3.21 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP in four minor league seasons. He spent 2015 on loan to the Mexican League where he had a 8.68 ERA and a 1.463 WHIP in 28 innings. He is currently playing the Mexican Pacific Winter League.

Former Astros on the move in the minor league phase of the draft were LHP Mitch Lambson who was drafted by the Brewers from the Braves; RHP Ariel Ovando, a converted OF who was picked up from the Cubs by the Angels; and RHP Enderson Franco who was picked up from the Marlins by the Braves.

As a reminder, these are the players who were in danger of being taken. They all remain Astros for the time being.

AAA Position Players
#C Tyler Heineman
#IF Joe Sclafani

AAA Pitchers
#RHP Travis Ballew
RHP Chris Devenski
#RHP Mike Hauschild
#RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Tyson Perez
#RHP Brady Rodgers
LHP Tommy Shirley

AA Position Players
#OF Teoscar Hernandez
SS Chan Moon
C Roberto Pena
OF Danry Vasquez

AA Pitchers
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Reymin Guduan
#LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo
#RHP Aaron West

Position Players at High A or lower
#C Marlon Avea
#OF Rodrigo Ayarza
#3B Randy Cesar
2B Jose Fernandez
#IF Arturo Michelena
#IF Luis Reynoso
#IF/OF Marc Wik

Pitchers at High A or lower
#RHP Harold Arauz
RHP Agapito Barrios
#RHP Kevin Comer
#RHP Samil de los Santos
#RHP Yeyfry del Rosario
LHP Evan Grills
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Jose Montero
#RHP Christian Powell
#LHP Edwin Villarroel
RHP Andrew Walter

DL
RHP Kyle Smith

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Four-for-One Trade for RHP Ken Giles

UPDATE: Reports now indicate that the fourth player being traded is RHP Thomas Eshelman, the 2015 second round draft pick who signed for $1.1 million. I had already written Eshelman's chapter for my upcoming 2016 Astros Farm System Handbook:
The second round pick didn’t get much playing time after signing, appearing in only four games in August before being shut down for the season. The Astros were likely playing it safe with Eshelman, a workhorse who had pitched 137 innings in his third season at Cal State Fullerton.
Thankfully, one need not rely on his 2015 pro output in order to determine what type of pitcher Eshelman is as there are numerous scouting reports on him. The one thing you will take away from every one of those reports is that Eshelman has command far beyond his age and experience. In his 137 college innings in 2015, he allowed seven walks to 139 strikeouts, a strikeout to walk rate just below 20:1. (How much of his fantastic control/command is attributable to his older brother Sam’s experiments with him as a child is debatable, but having been subjected to a dog shock collar by Sam, Eshelman likely learned quickly what not to do!)
Eshelman doesn’t throw heat, relying on a upper 80’s to low 90’s fastball with movement which sometimes touches 93, but rather on his impeccable ability to control his location, the ability to hide the ball well and a repeatable delivery and arm slot. In addition to the fastball, Eshelman features a solid changeup and a developing curveball which flashes plus.
Eshleman’s advanced control and command make him a good candidate to fast track through the system. He will likely start his 2016 season with the Low A full season Quad Cities team, but he will probably not linger at that level long and could very well earn a couple of promotions, landing him at AA Corpus Christi to end the season.
You can see what I wrote about the others below, but with the addition of Eshelman, that seems a very high price to pay for Giles. Naturally, one can't really judge a trade for years (at least not normally), but suffice it to say that Giles had better be channeling his inner Mariano Rivera for that haul. Luhnow traded from depth, though. There is a lot of pitching and outfield depth in the system. That depth may get a little bit shallower after the Rule 5 draft today, but nonetheless I understand where he was coming from. We'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. In the meantime, I wish only the best for Vince, Brett, Derek and Thomas in their life after Astros.

Here is the updated off-season transaction list with these changes.

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The Astros are working on finalizing a trade with the Phillies that will bring 25-year old RHP Ken Giles, a hard-throwing closer (think 100-mph regularly but with better command ... and hopefully less baggage ... than Aroldis Chapman) to the team in exchange for four players, only three of whom have been identified at this point: RHP Vince Velasquez, LHP Brett Oberholtzer and OF Derek Fisher.

It's hard for me to weigh in at this point without knowing the fourth piece to the puzzle, but my initial reaction is that it will be a good move for Brett Oberholtzer who will benefit from a fresh start after becoming persona non grata for not hitting A-Rod with a pitch but coming close (which has always mystified me, but I digress). Oberholtzer grew up a Phillies fan and will now be closer to his family in Delaware. Pennsylvania-born Derek Fisher will also be closer to home, but more importantly, he will likely get a better chance in the Phillies organization than in his current situation with so many outfielders surrounding him on the depth charts.

Velasquez is another story. I see so much potential in him that his being traded is tough for me. But that's the problem. Luhnow is betting Velazquez's potential against the more demonstrable track record of Giles. Velasquez could, conceivably, be that special arm out of the 'pen for the Astros, but frankly, he should be given every opportunity to start first. In any event, if the Astros are going to lose him, which seems certain to be the case, I am very happy that he is going to the National League so the Astros won't have to face him often once he realizes his potential.

With the pieces that we know, I would lean toward saying that this is a fair trade, but I won't go quite that far without knowing the final piece of the puzzle.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Astros Farm Report: 12-6

The Baseball Winter Meetings are upon us, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

12-6: RHP Franklin Perez (18)
12-7: OF/2B Frankeny Fernandez (19)
12-8: C Oscar Campos (19)

TWEET OF THE WEEK
FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 5th, unless otherwise noted):

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE - FALL LEAGUE ENDED 11/21
3B J.D. Davis - .279/.329/.456 in 17 games
OF Derek Fisher - .254/.397/.424 in 17 games
IF Chan-Jong Moon - .093/.241/.116 in 13 games
1B A.J. Reed - .231/.326/.385 in 11 games
LHP Chris Cotton - 1.17 ERA/0.783 WHIP in 8 games (7.2IP)
LHP Brian Holmes - 1.13 ERA/1.250 WHIP in 6 games (16.0IP)
LHP Albert Minnis - 2.31 ERA/1.200 WHIP in 9 games (11.2IP)
RHP Keegan Yuhl - 7.88 ERA/1.625 WHIP in 8 games (8.0IP)

New Astro Brendan McCurry, obtained in the Jed Lowrie trade last week, went 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP in 11 games (13.1 IP) in the Arizona Fall League.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE (stats thru Friday only)
C Tyler Heineman - .190/.288/.224 in 19 games - no longer playing
OF Teoscar Hernandez - .222/.250/.222 in 9 games
1B/DH Tyler White - .306/.434/.524 in 34 games
RHP Jake Buchanan - 2.01 ERA/0.830 WHIP in 7 games (31.1IP) - no longer playing
LHP Reymin Guduan - 4.22 ERA/1.875 WHIP in 13 games (10.2IP)
RHP Jandel Gustave - 2.87 ERA/1.277 WHIP in 14 games (15.2IP)
RHP Angel Heredia - 13.50 ERA/2.500 WHIP in 2 games (2.0IP) - not currently playing
RHP Jordan Jankowski - 16.20 ERA and 2.400 WHIP in 2 games (1.2IP)
RHP Juan Minaya - 12.79 ERA/2.842 WHIP in 6 games (6.1IP) - not currently playing

White has cranked it up a notch this week, going 9-for-20 with five runs, a double, home run, four RBI and five walks; last night's 2-for-4 game gives him a .313 batting average. Hernandez is heating up a little more slowly; his 1-for-2 night last night has his average up to .250. The only pitcher who saw action since last Saturday was Reymin Guduan and his one outing was mostly forgettable.

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE
IF Arturo Michelena - .083/.083/.083 in 8 games (only 12 at-bats; has been playing in the Liga Paralela)
IF Kristian Trompiz - 2 games as pinch runner; no at-bats (has been playing in the Liga Paralela)
OF Danry Vasquez - .288/.333/.423 in 41 games
*RHP Ruben "R.J." Alaniz - 2.49 ERA/1.303 WHIP in 9 games (25.1IP)
RHP Chris Devenski - 5.21 ERA/1.579 in 5 games (19.0IP) - no longer playing
RHP James Hoyt - 1.86 ERA/1.035 WHIP in 19 games (19.1IP) - no longer playing

*Free agent

Danry Vasquez didn't have the best week, but he ended it on a high note, going 3-for-3 with a double, RBI, walk and run scored in last night's game. Hoyt is back home after conducting a very successful winter campaign and it appears that Devenski may be done as well since he hasn't pitched since November 23rd.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
OF Leo Heras - .268/.394/.463 in 26 games - not currently playing
RHP Enrique Chavez - 9.00 ERA/3.000 WHIP in 1 game (1.0IP) - not currently playing
RHP Jose Hernandez - 1.39 ERA/1.021 WHIP in 8 games (32.1IP)
RHP Juan Robles - 4.02 ERA/1.277 WHIP in 10 games (15.2IP) - did not play last week
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo - 4.15 ERA/0.923 WHIP in 9 games (8.2IP)

Sanudo only gave up one hit in his two appearances during the week; unfortunately, that one hit was a solo home run. Hernandez had a great start last Sunday, allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out five in a scoreless five innings, earning the win.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE (thru Sunday)
C Jake Bowey - .094/.171/.094 in 10 games - did not play last week
IF Jared Cruz - .091/.091/.091 in 7 games - not currently playing
1B Connor MacDonald - .156/.264/.267 in 19 games - did not play last week
IF/OF Marc Wik - .319/.441/.407 in 27 games
RHP Kevin Comer - 16.88 ERA/4.499 WHIP in 4 games (2.2IP) - not currently playing

Wik had an absolute monster week, going 8-for-14 with a double, six walks, a stolen base, three RBI and six runs scored over the last five games. He is in the top 10 in the ABL in average and on-base percentage and is tied for first place in walks.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE
OF Edwin Medina - .235/.333/.294 in 15 games (17AB)
OF Alexander Melendez - .000/.000/.000 in 5 games (2AB)
C Roberto Pena - .132/.214/.184 in 14 games
C Max Stassi - .280/.333/.520 in 8 games - no longer playing
RHP Travis Ballew - 3.60 ERA/1.333 WHIP in 12 games (15.0IP)

Ballew made three appearances last week, allowing one hit, one run and three walks in 2.1 innings of work.

NEWS AND LINKS

The biggest news, of course, is the upcoming Rule 5 Draft taking place at this week's Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville. The draft will take place on Thursday the 10th starting at 9:00 CST. The full schedule and other information about the meetings can be found here.

There is always a lot of wheeling and dealing that goes on during the meetings and the Astros cleared out a couple of additional roster spots last week by trading Hank Conger to Tampa Bay for cash and by non-tendering Chris Carter. The ongoing off-season transaction list can be found here.

As a reminder, here are the players who are at risk of being taken in the Rule 5 Draft this year (as they were not protected on the 40-man roster). Those in bold are on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 prospect list for the Astros.

AAA Position Players
#C Tyler Heineman
#IF Joe Sclafani

AAA Pitchers
#RHP Travis Ballew
RHP Chris Devenski
#RHP Mike Hauschild
#RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Tyson Perez
#RHP Brady Rodgers
LHP Tommy Shirley

AA Position Players
#OF Teoscar Hernandez
SS Chan Moon
C Roberto Pena
OF Danry Vasquez

AA Pitchers
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Reymin Guduan
#LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo
#RHP Aaron West

Position Players at High A or lower
#C Marlon Avea
#OF Rodrigo Ayarza
#3B Randy Cesar
2B Jose Fernandez
#IF Arturo Michelena
#IF Luis Reynoso
#IF/OF Marc Wik

Pitchers at High A or lower
#RHP Harold Arauz
RHP Agapito Barrios
#RHP Kevin Comer
#RHP Samil de los Santos
#RHP Yeyfry del Rosario
LHP Evan Grills
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Jose Montero
#RHP Christian Powell
#LHP Edwin Villarroel
RHP Andrew Walter

A reminder of how the Rule 5 draft works can be found here.

In minor league staff news, the Astros are losing 2015 Fresno Pitching Coach Ace Adams to the Detroit organization where he will be joining recently retired MiLB home run king Mike Hessman in coaching the New York-Penn League Connecticut Tigers. Adams had earlier been announced to be moving to the Astros New York-Penn League affiliate Tri-City ValleyCats in 2016 as the Astros minor league Pitching Coordinator Dyar Miller was slated to take over in Fresno. With the loss of Adams and the prior loss of Doug Brocail to the Rangers, the Astros are now down two minor league pitching coaches.

Also, on the minor league staff front, Fresno skipper Tony DeFrancesco was named 2015 Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. The Grizzlies reported the news here.