Monday, January 25, 2016

Astros Uniform Evolution

At Fanfest on Saturday, Mike Acosta, Astros Historian, Authenticator and all around font of incredible knowledge, revealed a new Astros jersey…but first, he gave us a little glimpse into the evolution of the Astros jersey, traveling through the Houston Buffs,  Colt .45s and even through the questionable brick-red stage.

Acosta’s knowledge of all things Astros and baseball is apparent when you talk to him but even more so when he started telling the story that Gene Elston actually came up with the block H over the orange star that is still in use today.  Proof, remarked emcee Robert Ford, that broadcasters are brilliant!

With this new jersey, Acosta wanted to bring back the days of the Sunday Jersey. 
“The Astros got their first Sunday jerseys in 1982. The owner, John McMullen, said his dad once gave him a Sunday set of clothes and was doing that here. His wife designed the concept. It was based on the road alternate they began wearing in 1980.
Lots of teams have alternates they use not only for Sunday, but practically any day they designate. Alternates came about in a big way during the 1970s with the expansion of color TV and synthetics like polyester. They were able to do more.” Acosta explains.



This new, exciting jersey will be the first time the Astros will wear navy for games and the first to have “Astros” in orange across the chest.
With the rainbow design on the side,  Acosta says the design is looking ahead to the future while incorporating the past.
When the Astros went back to the orange and navy in 2013, they went back to the DNA of the team, he says.  Navy was used by the Houston Buffs and depending on what story you believe, the color orange was introduced either because it was Roy Hofheinz’s favorite color or Paul Richards, former general manager of the Colt .45s brought orange over from Baltimore. 
I’d like to think it was inspired by Mr. Hofheinz’s favorite color, personally.

The new jersey is designated for Sunday home games and will debut during spring training.
“This will be the first time in a long while we wear actual game jerseys for spring training games.”


Giving a nod to the past but reaching for the future, this is baseball!  These are our Astros!

photos by DeAnna Williamson

Thanks to Mike Acosta for the extra information!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 1/24

The Astros blogging community participated in a great Q&A with Astros amateur scouting guru Mike Elias and Director of Player Personnel (and former Director of Player Development) Quinton McCracken on Saturday (oh, and some guy named Reid Ryan). My takeaway from that session below, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

1-24: C/2B Jose Carrillo (18)
1-24: RHP Carlos Sanabria (19)
1-28: RHP Jorge Guzman (20)
1-29: RHP Junior Garcia (20)
1-29: 1B Dexture McCall (20)
1-30: LHP Brian Holmes (25)
1-30: RHP Dariel Aquino (20)

TWEET OF THE WEEK

The Rookie of the Year presentation may have been scaled way back due to stormy weather, but Carlos Correa made the most of his time in snow-bound New York!
 FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 23rd, 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, 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 - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 12/21
OF Andrew Aplin - .278/.325/.444 in 10 games
C Tyler Heineman - .190/.288/.224 in 19 games
OF Teoscar Hernandez - .275/.295/.375 in 17 games
OF Eury Perez - .236/.250/.273 in 16 games
1B/DH Tyler White - .297/.421/.494 in 44 games
RHP Jake Buchanan - 2.01 ERA/0.830 WHIP in 7 games (31.1IP)
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)
RHP Jordan Jankowski - 16.20 ERA and 2.400 WHIP in 2 games (1.2IP) - moved to LBPRC
RHP Juan Minaya - 12.79 ERA/2.842 WHIP in 6 games (6.1IP)
LHP Wandy Rodriguez - 2.61 ERA/1.354 WHIP in 3 games (10.1IP)
RHP Cesar Valdez - 2.52 ERA/0.960 WHIP in 5 games (25.0IP)

Teoscar Hernandez's Toros fell short in the Round Robin playoffs. He was 1-for-8 with a home run, three RBI, two strikeouts and a run scored in the final two games of his winter. Eury Perez re-emerged to play in two games for Escogido this week, going 2-for-9 with two strikeouts in three games as Escogido has taken the first four games of the 9-game finals from Licey. Old and new Astro Wandy Rodriguez pitched well for Licey in the Championship last week (6.0IP 5H 1R 5SO), but came away with a no decision. Licey has to win this evening or their season is over.

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 12/30
IF Arturo Michelena - .083/.083/.083 in 8 games (only 12 at-bats)
IF Kristian Trompiz - 2 games as pinch runner; no at-bats
OF Danry Vasquez - .276/.338/.392 in 57 games
RHP Chris Devenski - 5.21 ERA/1.579 in 5 games (19.0IP)
RHP James Hoyt - 1.86 ERA/1.035 WHIP in 19 games (19.1IP)

No Astros playing in the Championship series.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 12/29
OF Leo Heras - .301/.410/.493 in 44 games
RHP Octavio Acosta - 1.98 ERA and 1.463 WHIP in 8 games (13.2IP)
RHP Enrique Chavez - 9.00 ERA/3.000 WHIP in 1 game (1.0IP)
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)
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo - 3.60 ERA/1.200 WHIP in 17 games (15.0IP)

Leo Heras's Obregon team led Mazatlan 3-2 in the semifinals, but ended up losing the final two games to drop the seven game series. Heras went 1-for-8 with a triple, RBI, run scored and three strikeouts in those final two games for Obregon.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 1/24
C Jake Bowey - .091/.167/.091 in 17 games
IF Jared Cruz - .091/.091/.091 in 7 games
1B Connor MacDonald - .156/.264/.267 in 19 games
IF/OF Marc Wik - .324/.468/.459 in 53 games
RHP Kevin Comer - 16.88 ERA/4.499 WHIP in 4 games (2.2IP)

So, this happened ...
[UPDATE: Wik is still down under. He just got a couple of days off after the Bite clinched the playoffs.] It appears that Marc Wik must be headed home as he didn't appear in the final two regular season games for Adelaide, but if so, he left on a high note. In his two games last week, he went 3-for-7 with a double, two home runs, a walk, three strikeouts, two runs, a stolen base and seven RBI. After not hitting a home run all season, Wik's first was a grand slam. Adelaide will advance to the playoffs to play a best-of-three against Canberra. The winner of that match will play Brisbane in the finals.

The only other Astro to appear for the week was Jake Bowey who went 1-for-10 with four strikeouts in three games for Perth. The regular season ended today with Perth out of contention.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 12/30
C Ruben Castro - 1.000/.1.000/.1.000 in 1 game (1AB)
OF Edwin Medina - .281/.342/.313 in 26 games (32AB)
OF Alexander Melendez - .250/.333/.375 in 8 games (8AB)
OF Nestor Muriel - .000/.000/.000 in 1 game (3AB)
C Roberto Pena - .159/.205/.203 in 24 games
C Max Stassi - .280/.333/.520 in 8 games
RHP Travis Ballew - 2.19 ERA/1.338 WHIP in 20 games (24.2IP)
RHP Jordan Jankowski - 1.80 ERA/1.000 WHIP in 6 games (5.0IP)
RHP Juan Santos - 12.00 ERA/4.000 WHIP in 3 games (3.0IP)

Jordan Jankowski made two perfect relief appearances last week for Caguas, but they ultimately fell just short in the Round Robin with Mayaguez and Santurce advancing to the finals. Roberto Pena appeared in six games for Santurce over the week, going 3-for-19 with an RBI, two runs scored and two walks. The only other Astro making an appearance last week was Edwin Medina who struck out in his only plate appearance for Mayaguez. Santurce and Mayaguez are currently tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven Championship series.

NEWS AND LINKS

MLB Pipeline rolled out its Top 10 first basemen last week and, unsurprisingly, A.J. Reed led the way.

Former Astros farm hand Adrian Houser talks about his major league debut and never being satisfied.

MiLB's Kelsie Heneghan posted this excellent article about current Astro Chris Devenski's background and what drives him.

And here's a short video interview with Asher Wojciechowski on his first taste of the majors and his expectations for the upcoming season.

And, if you missed it, Astros C Trent Woodward gave me a really fun and far-ranging interview that was posted last week.

Former long time Astros minor league Pitching Coach Don Alexander has found a home with the Dodgers Rookie league Ogden Raptors.

The Venezuelan Summer League has shut down. Expect a big influx of Venezuelan players in the Cubs, Phillies, Rays and Tigers organizations to appear in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League (Phillies, Rays and Tigers) or Arizona League (Cubs).

In case you missed it, a few Astros minor leaguers were released last week. And Wandy Rodriguez came back into the Astros fold with a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training. The Off-Season Master Transaction List has been updated here.

Now on to the main event! The Astros invited the blogging community to attend a Q&A with Astros Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Elias, Director of Player Personnel Quinton McCracken and President Reid Ryan during Fan Fest on Saturday. I will leave it to some of the other bloggers to elaborate on Ryan's comments; however, I will tell you that upgraded WiFi is coming to Minute Maid Park (and not a moment too soon)!!!

McCracken and Elias take questions
while Media Relations Manager Steve Grande looks on

For me, the most interesting comments came from McCracken and Elias as we discussed draft philosophy, the trading of prospects, international scouting and more. I led off the questions by inquiring about the status of several members of Team Rehab. McCracken filled me in on the following players:

RHP Kyle Smith (Tommy John): "Last reports he's progressing very nicely. He's probably 80 to 90 percent; he's throwing well. So we're looking for him to come to Spring Training and bounce back and have a good spring."

LHP Tommy Shirley (undisclosed injury, but not arm-related): "Same prognosis (as Smith). He's coming along very well. I think we're looking for him probably around the first week of May or so, but he's coming along ... Tommy had a remarkable year prior to getting himself injured. Hopefully he'll be an added piece for us to work with sometime in mid-summer once he gets his legs back under him."

LHP Kent Emanuel (Tommy John): "I think mid-season with Kent. Big lefty from UNC. Another lefty we're going to be counting on for years to come. He showed so much promise in his first year and a half pitching for us. Unfortunately, he went down with Tommy John, but he's progressing well also."

RHP Derick Velazquez (Tommy John): "He's had some hiccups in his recovery, but (he's) very young (with a) promising arm. Hopefully, he'll keep working hard doing his rehab and maybe by the end of the season, we'll see where he is."

Elias spoke to how the philosophy of the draft will evolve somewhat now that the Astros are picking lower in each round. The scouting department plans to place additional focus on Rounds 5 through 10 and will be looking for hidden talent that may fall to the lower rounds. Elias cited Tyler White as a lower round player (33rd round) who the Astros were able to identify through a combination of analytics and feedback from area scouts.

McCracken expanded on this, "As Mike alluded to, (the Astros focus on) taking quality individuals in the later rounds as opposed to just drafting guys just to fill rosters. It's about eyeing true talent, maybe obscure talent that may have one or two tools that are extraordinary and giving those guys a chance and turning it over to Player Development so we can help polish that gem up as best we can. I guess the ultimate result is the player putting in the work to get the best out of his skill set and abilities."

Elias indicated that the Astros international efforts are in the capable hands of Oz Ocampo, Director of International, and that the Astros intend to retain a robust presence in Venezuela despite the upheaval in that country, calling Venezuela "very fertile soil" for finding talent. In response to a question about the Astros Asian presence, Elias said, "We certainly monitor what's going on in the Pacific Rim and have scouts that makes visits there a couple of times a year, but it's not something that you're going to consistently do every year, sign a player out of there. It's got to be the right fit at the right time, the right opportunity, so it's more of an opportunistic market for us."

As the former Director of Player Development, McCracken spoke about trading prospects and his personal feelings for those players. "You want to develop major league players and it comes time where those guys, if they achieve that status, hopefully it's for the Houston Astros, but that's a decision that Jeff (General Manager Jeff Luhnow) and the front office have to make. We're all about developing the talent to a point where it's either utilized here on our 25-man roster or it's utilized as a trade piece to help us get another asset that will help us in the immediate or near future," said McCracken.

He continued, "From a farm director's perspective, it's like losing a son. You've spent so many years, you personally know all these kids. (To) have them traded to another organization is gratifying (in) that, first and foremost, the player you player you helped achieve a certain status is wanted by another organization and you're happy for them (in) the sense where hopefully it's a promotion for them. Maybe some of those players are blocked (with the Astros); that's something that's also factored in. It's mixed emotions. Most of the kids that we've traded, it's a bond, and we tell them, 'You're Houston Astros, first and foremost, and you always will be.'"

Asked about who he might consider to be "hidden gems" in the system, McCracken declared Tyler White to be the poster boy for being under the radar, but then he segued to talk about three pitchers who he thinks might be able to help out the Astros in the coming season: starter/reliever LHP Tommy Shirley, right-handed relief pitcher Jordan Jankowski, and Chris Devenski, a right-handed starter who made his mark in 2015.

All in all, it was a really excellent and informative session and I am grateful to the Astros for the opportunity to pick the brains of McCracken and Elias.

Chris Perry at TCB has Reid Ryan's remarks covered!