Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Look at the Quad Cities River Bandits Opening Day Roster

Earlier this week, I dissected the Opening Day rosters for the Fresno Grizzlies, Corpus Christi Hooks and Lancaster JetHawks. Today let's look at the Quad Cities River Bandits. With very few exceptions, this team is on whole new to the level, including a few young players who are being promoted very aggressively. The Banditos are 0-2 to start the season (on the road against the Twins Low A affiliate Cedar Rapids). They will again face Cedar Rapids in their home opener today.

Kyle Tucker - June 2015
Photo Courtesy of Bryan Green

A good chunk of the River Bandits pitching staff comes from the 2015 draft. Kevin McCanna (13th round), Adam Whitt (16th round), Alex Winkelman (21st round), Matt Bower (23rd round), Chris Murphy (24th round), Ralph Garza (26th round), and Ryan Deemes (36th round) all ended their seasons with Tri-City and are seeing their first Low A competition for Quad Cities. All of these players, with the exception of Adam Whitt, had some experience starting in 2015 so I anticipate some movement between the starting rotation and the bullpen throughout the year as these players get sorted out to get the most out of their abilities.

Jacob Dorris and Andrew Thome were also signed in 2015, but both were non-drafted free agents. Thome started a handful of games in 2015, but Dorris was strictly a reliever. Those two players, along with late 2014 Cuban signee Rogelio Armenteros, are the only players from this group who saw any regular season time with the Banditos last season. Jose Hernandez is yet another recent signing (March 2015 out of Mexico) who will be a part of the pitching staff. He finished the 2015 season in Tri-City.

That leaves us with lefty Sebastian Kessay who last pitched for Tri-City in July 2014 before reportedly undergoing Tommy John surgery at some point, and highly regarded prospect Albert Abreu who spent 2015 pitching in Rookie level Greeneville. There is definitely talent in this pitching staff, but there is not a lot of experience. Some guys will struggle and some will rise to the top. Of course that happens with any team, but I have a feeling that the divide may be more dramatic out of this particular group. In any event, it will be a lively competition.

Two more 2015 signings, Anthony Hermelyn (4th round draft pick) and Christian Correa (NDFA) will be charged with handling the pitching staff. Veteran Astros farmhand Marlon Avea was listed on the preliminary roster, but was since re-assigned.

2015 29th round pick Brooks Marlow and 30th round pick Bobby Wernes, and 2014 18th round pick Antonio Nunez and 31st round pick Dex McCall all spent their 2015 seasons with Tri-City. They will be joined by 20-year old SS Osvaldo Duarte. Duarte is in his third season with the Astros and spent his 2015 season with Greeneville.

Like Duarte, 19-year old co-first round draft picks Kyle Tucker and Daz Cameron will be skipping Tri-City and are being aggressively promoted directly to Quad Cities. 2015 draft picks Johnny Sewald (14th round), Pat Porter (15th round) and Aaron Mizell (32nd round) all played for Tri-City in 2015 and will be rounding out the outfield.

All told, none of the position players on this team have any experience at the level and the three pitchers who have experience combined for a grand total of 28 regular season innings at the level. Between that and game time temperatures in the 40's to start the season, it could be rocky going early on!

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS

RHP Albert Abreu
RHP Rogelio Armenteros
LHP Matt Bower
RHP Ryan Deemes
RHP Jacob Dorris
RHP Ralph Garza
RHP Jose Hernandez
LHP Sebastian Kessay
RHP Kevin McCanna
RHP Chris Murphy
RHP Andrew Thome
RHP Adam Whitt
LHP Alex Winkelman

C Christian Correa
C Anthony Hermelyn

SS Osvaldo Duarte
*2B Brooks Marlow
1B Dex McCall
SS Antonio Nunez
3B Bobby Wernes

OF Daz Cameron
*OF Aaron Mizell
*OF Pat Porter
*OF Johnny Sewald
*Kyle Tucker

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Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Friday, April 8, 2016

Two electric arms made their debuts, and they did not disappoint.

Fresno 15, Las Vegas 10

W- Asher Wojciechowski (1-0)
L- Seth Lugo (0-1)

Fresno home runs: Jon Singleton (1, solo in 6th)

Fun night on offense for the Grizz as they scored in 7 out of 9 innings on offense to get in the win column for the first time in 2016. Their production provided a big pick-me-up for a pitching staff that got roughed up a bit in this game.

Everyone in the starting 9+1 got a hit in this game; with the exception of Leo Heras, every position player who appeared in the game for Fresno got a hit.


Asher Wojciechowski didn't have the greatest night on the mound, but fortunately, he was the beneficiary of some outstanding run support. He allowed 6 runs on 7 hits, walked 2, and struck out 3 in 5 innings. Edwar Cabrera was the first man out of the Fresno bullpen; he went 1.2 innings and allowed a run off an RBI double, walked 2, and struck out 2. Jandel Gustave was next, and he allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, walked 1, and fanned 1 in 1.1 innings. James Hoyt worked around a couple of hits to throw a scoreless 9th, striking out 2.

Brady Rodgers will take the mound tonight for Fresno; he'll take on Gabriel Ynoa at 7:05 Pacific.

Tulsa 2, Corpus Christi 1

W- Ralston Cash (1-0)
L- Kyle Smith (0-1)
S- Logan Bawcom (1)

CC home runs: None.

This series has definitely belonged to the pitchers; both teams have combined for a grand total of 5 runs in the first 2 games.

Alex Bregman drove in the Hooks' only run with an RBI single in the 3rd.

David Paulino went 5 innings in his AA debut and allowed an unearned run on 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 4. Kyle Smith, coming off Tommy John surgery, appeared in a game for the first time since August 29, 2014. He went 3 innings and allowed an unearned run on 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 2. Brendan McCurry, in his organizational debut, struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th.

In the series finale, Francis Martes, the top pitching prospect in the system, takes on Felipe Gonzalez. First pitch is at 7:05.

Lancaster 4, San Jose 1 through 4 innings

This game was suspended due to rain. They'll finish it up on Sunday, and then play a 7-inning game afterwards.

The 1 hit that Andrew Walter allowed in his 3.2 innings was a solo homer from Jose Vizcaino Jr. He also walked 3 and struck out 6. Eric Peterson got the final out of the 4th with a strikeout.

Ramon Laureano opened the scoring with an RBI triple in the 1st, and one batter later, he scored on a Nick Tanielu single. In the 2nd, Kristian Trompiz added a sac fly. Bobby Boyd got caught stealing 2nd, but he got a reprieve because San Jose 2B Brandon Bednar failed to catch the throw down. In the midst of all that chaos, Alejandro Garcia scored.

Tanielu is currently 2-2 with a stolen base, while Jason Martin ripped his 2nd double in as many games.

Weather permitting, Trent Thornton will face D.J. Snelten at 5:00 Pacific.

Cedar Rapids 6, Quad Cities 2

W- Andro Cutura (1-0)
L- Jose Luis Hernandez (0-1)

QC home runs: None.

Quad Cities hurlers got a little wild as they uncorked 6 wild pitches. Not sure if they were all legitimately wild, though.

The River Bandits' 2 runs came in the 5th, thanks to a Daz Cameron sac fly and a Kyle Tucker RBI groundout.

Jose Luis Hernandez allowed 4 runs on 4 hits, walked 3, and struck out 4 in 3 innings. Andrew Thome was the first man out; he walked 1 and struck out 2 over 2 scoreless. Albert Abreu was absolutely filthy in his 2.2 innings, striking out 7. Yes, 7 of the 8 outs he recorded were strikeouts. The downside to his outing was that he threw 4 (yes... 4) wild pitches in a row in the 7th, which resulted in 2 unearned runs. Abreu allowed 1 hit and also plunked a guy. Jacob Dorris issued a walk to the first man he faced, but he got the final out of the 8th with a strikeout.

The series now shifts to the Quad Cities for 2 games. Chris Murphy will get the start in the Bandits' home opener. He'll face Sam Gibbons at 1:15.

Three Stars

Lancaster excluded because their game hasn't been completed.

3.


Albert Abreu, RHP, Quad Cities
2.2 IP, H, 2 unearned runs, BB, 7 K

Even though he went completely wild in that 7th-inning sequence, which resulted in that odd line you see there, Abreu looked as though he was untouchable.

2.


David Paulino, RHP, Corpus Christi
5 IP, 3 H, unearned run, BB, 4 K

1.

The entire Fresno offense
15 R, 18 H

Friday, April 8, 2016

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Thursday, April 7, 2016

Happy Minor League Opening Day!!!

Las Vegas 6, Fresno 4

W - Chasen Bradford (1-0)
L- Jordan Jankowski (0-1)

Fresno home runs: Danny Worth (1, 2-run in 6th)

The Grizzlies walked off with a loss as old friend Marc Krauss whacked a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th for Vegas, as they scored 4 unanswered runs in the final 3 innings.

Both teams scored a run in the 1st and the 4th; A.J. Reed opened up the scoring with an RBI groundout, while Colin Moran added a sac fly. Danny Worth finished 2-4 with 2 runs scored and broke the tie with a 2-run homer in the 6th.

Originally, Chris Devenski was the scheduled starter, but now that he's with the Astros, Brad Peacock got the nod, and he delivered 5 solid innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits (solo homer), walking 2, and striking out 5. César Valdez was first, and he allowed a solo shot to Travis Taijeron in the 7th, one other hit, and struck out 1 in 1.1 innings. After Valdez surrendered the homer to Taijeron, Kevin Chapman came on, and he got the final 2 outs of the 7th via strikeout. Roger Bernadina took him deep to begin the 8th, but he recovered by getting a groundout. Jordan Jankowski came on and got the final 2 outs of the frame.

Jankowski came on for the 9th and worked around a leadoff single to get 2 outs. However, he ended up getting the loss as Krauss ended the game by taking Juan Minaya deep. One of those 2 runs was charged to Jankowski, who allowed just the single and struck out 2 in 1.1 innings. Krauss was the only batter Minaya faced.

Asher Wojciechowski will take on Seth Lugo in game 2 of this series; first pitch is at 7:05 Pacific.

Corpus Christi 2, Tulsa 0

W - Joe Musgrove (1-0)
L - Chase De Jong (0-1)
S- Keegan Yuhl (1)

CC home runs: Mott Hyde (1, solo in 3rd)

Corpus opened up 2016 with a dazzling duet on the mound as Joe Musgrove and Keegan Yuhl joined forces to throw a 2-hit shutout; in the process, they dispatched the Drillers in a mere 116 minutes.

Musgrove started it off, and in 5 innings, he allowed a hit and fanned 4. Yuhl put the finishing touches on this one, allowing a hit and striking out 3 over the final 4 frames. Together, they faced one batter over the minimum.

The first Astros farmhand to hit a home run in 2016 was Mott Hyde, who opened up the scoring with a solo blast in the 3rd inning. Hyde reached in all 3 of his plate appearances (2-2, BB) and also drove in the other Corpus run with an RBI single in the 7th.

Evan Gattis, who's in Corpus on a rehab assignment, served as the DH in this game and in 4 at-bats, he had a pop-fly double. At the top of the order, D.J. Fisher finished 2-4.

David Paulino makes his AA debut in game 2; he'll take on Chris Anderson at 7:05.

San Jose 4, Lancaster 3

W - Martin Agosta (1-0)
L - Kevin Comer (0-1)
S - Rodolfo Martinez (1)

Lancaster home runs: None.

Down 4-2 in the 9th, the JetHawks managed to pull a run back in the final frame, but their comeback bid fell just short as they stranded the tying run on 2nd.

Garrett Stubbs drove in Lancaster's first run of 2016 when he grounded into a force out in the 4th that scored Ramon Laureano. Jason Martin finished 2-4 and smacked an RBI double in the 5th. Jose Fernandez, who also went 2-4, hit a 1-out single in the 9th, stole 2nd, advanced to 3rd on a Kristian Trompiz single, and wound up scoring on a passed ball/Bobby Boyd strikeout.

Akeem Bostick went 3 innings and allowed a run on 6 hits (all singles) and walked 1. Dean Deetz tagged in for 3.1 innings, allowing a run on 3 hits and striking out 3. Kevin Comer pitched the final 1.2 innings and allowed 2 runs (on a triple) on 2 hits, walked 2, and struck out 3.

In game 2 of this 4-game set, Andrew Walter will take the mound for the JetHawks. He'll take on Sam Coonrod at 7:00 Pacific.

Cedar Rapids 12, Quad Cities 4

W - Randy LeBlanc (1-0)
L - Rogelio Armenteros (0-1)

QC home runs: None.

The Banditos stumbled out of the gate to open 2016 as they committed 5 errors and ultimately got buried by a 10-3 run from the Kernels, which included a 6-run 8th, to close out the game.

Johnny Sewald put Quad Cities on the board with an RBI groundout in the 3rd. They did not score again until the 8th, when Kyle Tucker added an RBI groundout of his own. Sewald added a 2-run infield single in the 9th. Anthony Hermelyn reached base in all 4 of his plate appearances; he went 2-2 with a double, drew a couple of walks, and scored twice. Sewald stole 2 bases.

Rogelio Armenteros went 4 innings and allowed 2 unearned runs on 5 hits and struck out 5. Ryan Deemes faced a bases-loaded situation in the 5th thanks to 2 walks and a single, but he was able to avert disaster and got himself out of the jam. The wheels fell off from under Alex Winkelman and Adam Whitt in the 8th inning, unfortunately. Winkelman allowed 6 runs (2 inherited runners charged to him) on 6 hits (2-run homer), walked 3, and struck out 1 over 2.1 innings. Whitt got the final 2 outs of the 8th, but not before allowing 4 runs of his own (in addition to the 2 runners he inherited from Winkelman) on 3 hits and walking 1.

In game 2 of this series, Jose Luis Hernandez will team up with Albert Abreu as they face off against Andro Cutura. First pitch is at 6:35.

Three Stars

It's a Corpus sweep!

3.


Mott Hyde, 2B, Corpus Christi
2-2, solo HR (1), 2 RBI, BB

1 (tie).



Joe Musgrove, RHP, and Keegan Yuhl, RHP, Corpus Christi
Musgrove: W (1-0), 5 IP, H, 4 K
Yuhl: S (1), 4 IP, H, 3 K

A Look at the Lancaster JetHawks Opening Day Roster

There are not a lot of repeat customers on the Opening Day JetHawks line-up as many players were either promoted to Corpus or (sadly) released. The 'Hawks started their season on the road, losing 4-3 to Giant's affiliate San Jose. Lancaster's home opener will be next Thursday, the 14th, when they will face High Desert, the High A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Josh James and Elieser Hernandez - August 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Pitching in Lancaster is always an adventure, but when only four healthy pitchers on your Opening Day roster have experience in the California League, it could get downright scary! With Bryan Radziewski, Evan Grills and Christian Powell starting the season on the DL, Akeem Bostick is the only starter with experience at the level. That would certainly explain why Bostick wasn't promoted to Corpus; the JetHawks need an experienced hand. (There is a bit of a logjam in front of him as well.)

Bostick is joined by Elieser Hernandez, Brock Dykxhoorn, Josh James and hard throwing Dean Deetz, all of whom played at Quad Cities in 2015. Trent Thornton, a 2015 fifth round draft pick out of UNC, appeared in Tri-City last year and is leap-frogging Quad Cities in his assignment to Lancaster. Deetz had one of the highest groundball out rates in the system in 2015 and Elieser Hernandez had one of the highest flyball out rates; it will be interesting to see how those tendencies may translate at The Hangar.

Kevin Comer spent time in Lancaster last season in both the starting rotation and in relief. Riley Ferrell, the 3rd round pick from 2015, was used out of the bullpen (when he wasn't on the DL), but he may very well be given a rotation spot if he's gained consistency in a heretofore seldom used changeup. I wouldn't be surprised to see Comer or Ferrell go back and forth from bullpen to rotation as the need arises, but I remain unconvinced that both aren't better suited for the 'pen.

Andrew Walters, a 2015 JetHawk, will return as will Ryan Thompson who appeared for Lancaster at the end of the 2015 season. Angel Heredia and Eric Peterson, two of the more consistent relief pitchers in the organization in 2015, arrive from Quad Cities and Scott Weathersby, a 2015 10th rounder who started a couple of games in addition to his relief work, arrives from Tri-City. As you may have noticed, there is a complete lack of left-handed pitching on the staff. I wouldn't be surprised to see assistance on that front arrive from the 2016 Quad Cities staff sooner rather than later.

Jamie Ritchie is the experienced hand behind the dish for Lancaster, having played for the JetHawks the latter third of the 2015 season. Garrett Stubbs is another 2015 draft pick (8th round) who merited a promotion to Lancaster in only his second season. Stubbs was the 2015 Johnny Bench winner for outstanding college catcher and is definitely a player to watch. Also catching on the squad will be the less experienced Richard Gonzalez who topped out at Tri-City last season.

Marc Wik returns to the 'Hawks after a terrific winter campaign in Australia. He is a true utility player who can play most infield and outfield positions. Jose Fernandez, a journeyman Astro, is in his seventh season. They will be joined by 2015 Quad Cities farmhands 3B Nick Tanielu, 1B Bryan Muniz and SS Kristian Trompiz.

The entire outfield will be new this year (except for utility player Wik). Arriving from Quad Cities are Jason Martin, Bobby Boyd, Ramon Laureano and Drew Ferguson (19th round 2015). Alejandro Garcia, a 24-year old Cuban signing who spent his 2015 season with the DSL, will start his first domestic season with the Astros in Lancaster. I expected Garcia to be moved very aggressively this season and that is definitely the case.

It could be an interesting season for the JetHawks with the lack of experience at the level. Don't be surprised to see a rough start for a few of these players with things leveling out later in the year.

LANCASTER JETHAWKS

RHP Akeem Bostick
RHP Kevin Comer
RHP Deen Deetz
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn
RHP Riley Ferrell
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Elieser Hernandez
RHP Josh James
RHP Eric Peterson
RHP Ryan Thompson
RHP Trent Thornton
RHP Andrew Walter
RHP Scott Weathersby

C Richard Gonzalez
C Jamie Ritchie
*C Garrett Stubbs

IF Jose Fernandez
1B Bryan Muniz
3B Nick Tanielu
SS Kristian Trompiz
*IF/OF Marc Wik

*OF Bobby Boyd
OF Drew Ferguson
OF Alejandro Garcia
OF Ramon Laureano
*OF Jason Martin

Starting the season on the DL

LHP Evan Grills
RHP Christian Powell
LHP Bryan Radziewski

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Forgotten Farmhands

Raymond Desadier is back with another post and it's a good one!

Every year there are prospects who finally “click” – those who finally begin to realize their potential in terms of statistical results and go from afterthought to top prospect. Some guys have already performed well but get lost in the shuffle because there are more heralded prospects casting a shadow over their accomplishments. In light of Tyler White’s rise from obscurity to starting first baseman, it can be fun to predict which names may become more prominent going into the 2017 season. Here are some names to watch over the 2016 season.

Danry Vasquez - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen


POSITION PLAYERS
Danry Vazquez, OF – This 22 year old Venezuela native was once listed among the Tigers’ and Astros’ top prospects (as high as #6 in the Tigers system, #29 in the much deeper Astros organization, per Baseball America), but a lackluster 2015 season dropped him out of BA’s top 30. The good news is he did not have a bad season, and he is still young. The Tigers had him on the fast track to the majors by bringing him to the U.S. at 17 rather than 18, and his new club has not really slowed this progression. Perhaps repeating AA will yield breakout results. His power output would benefit from bulking up his 6’ 3” frame. He finished with a .990 OPS in his final 38 plate appearances at AA Corpus Christi last year so hopefully this is a precursor to a huge year.

James Ramsay, OF – The University of South Florida has not been known for producing major league studs (my apologies to the Tim Hulett fan club), but perhaps Ramsay could change this. Jeff Luhnow nabbed him in the 7th round of the 2013 draft then shipped him to A- Tri-City where he did fair (.258 average, .346 OBP in 69 games). He spent most of the 2014 season at A Quad Cities where he posted rather pedestrian numbers other than the 33 bags he swiped in 40 attempts (83%). With quiet hands and a sweet left-handed stroke, last year at A+ Lancaster he rebounded from a slow April to post an impressive .322/.384/.847 line and an organizational Player of the Month honor in August. However, his base stealing dropped dramatically with only 16 stolen bases in 28 attempts (57%). He is expected to repeat Lancaster at the onset of the season, although not currently listed on the roster. Perhaps this will provide him with the opportunity to regain his base stealing efficiency and continue to grow as a contact hitter to accompany his already strong defensive abilities. [Note from Jayne: I expect Ramsay to start in Corpus Christi if healthy, particularly since the Astros are moving players more aggressively these days.]

Garrett Stubbs, C – The glaring weakness in the Houston organization from top to bottom is at catcher so opportunity knocks for this 22 year old product of USC. After winning the Johnny Bench Award for top collegiate catcher, he was taken in the 8th round of the 2015 draft and produced a .274/.369/.674 slash line across low and mid-A. While his diminutive frame will likely never result in significant power numbers, he has maintained an OBP above .420 at each of his first three minor league stops while keeping the strikeouts at a respectable number (107 in 534 professional at bats). With such a strong ability to reach base, coupled with above-average receiving, throwing, and game calling skills, he has the tools necessary to don the tools of ignorance in Houston sometime in the not too distant future.

Jamie Ritchie, C – Another catcher with the opportunity to make a name for himself, Ritchie led all Astros minor leaguers in 2015 with 95 walks and has been a mid-season All-Star in both of his seasons on the farm. While he has offered little in the power department thus far, there is hope he can increase his slugging output. According to the 2016 Houston Farm System Handbook, “Ritchie’s power is developing slowly (he hit only five home runs for the season and only one of those was with Lancaster), but there should be more coming as he has the strength to go opposite field with much of his power, and he has added muscle since he signed.” Even if he does not, if he continues to maintain a batting average around .300, accumulate walks, and play sound defense, he has a shot at becoming the backstop of the future.

PITCHERS

Brady Rodgers, RHSP– This Rosenberg native has appeared in spring games for the Astros the past two years and the results have been nothing short of atrocious. It would be easy to discount him as nothing more than a minor league roster filler but one must consider all the variables, first of all being a very small sample size. One could argue Rodgers has been rushed through the minor league system in his first two seasons. After a solid initial half season at A- Tri-City in 2012 (2.89 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 7.1 K/9 in 62 1/3 IP), he skipped Class A entirely and went directly to the launching pad known as high-A Lancaster where he was roughed up to the tune of a 5.38 ERA and 1.41 WHIP (despite a sound 1.8 BB/9 and 8.4 K/9). These statistics did not prevent the Astros brass from allowing him to pitch one 5 inning stint each at AA Corpus and AAA Oklahoma City where he allowed only 1 earned run on 10 hits with no walks. He returned to Corpus Christi in 2014 where a poor May and June inflated his otherwise strong performance, including a 1.02 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 in his final 28 1/3 IP (which included one scoreless 6 inning start at AAA). His 2015 campaign was his first full season at AAA and if you remove his first two starts and a brutal 2 inning performance in late July, he had a respectable 3.11 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He has shown flashes of brilliance and is a former third round pick so this could be the year he puts it all together.

Tommy Shirley, LHSP– In contrast to Brady Rodgers, Tommy Shirley has graduated slowly but steadily through the minor league ranks. The 2010 draft pick was outstanding at AA Corpus in 2014 (1.88 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 86 IP), but a mediocre showing at AAA Oklahoma City later that year (4.35 ERA, 1.58 WHIP in 31 IP), a solid but limited-by-injury 2015 performance at AAA Fresno (3.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in only 41 IP), and a 27 year old arm has cast him into obscurity. However, it is hard to overlook his overall quality numbers thus far (2.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 in 305 2/3 minor league IP) and considering he is a southpaw, he always has the role of left-handed specialist to fall back on. However, I fully expect him to be considered among the Astros’ top starter prospects if healthy.

Kyle Smith, RHSP – Since many Astros fans may have repressed their memories of the 2012-13 era, they may not remember a certain outfielder named Justin Maxwell, nor the 20 year old pitching prospect who Luhnow received in exchange for him from the Kansas City Royals. Since the said prospect was blasted at Lancaster in 23 plus innings after the trade, and did not throw a pitch in 2015, he may not have ever entered your radar. However, between the rocky initial stint in the Houston organization and last year’s injury, Mr. Smith posted outstanding numbers at Lancaster (2.60 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, albeit in 27 2/3 IP) which earned a promotion to Corpus Christi where he had a decent 1.23 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 in 95 IP. While he is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery, a fully recovered Smith should open some eyes.

Chris Cotton – Left-handed relievers always have an edge since managers love to play strategy in the late innings. However, Cotton has the potential to be more than merely a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). Despite a strong junior season at LSU in which he logged the second most appearances in the SEC and a 1.59 ERA in 45 1/3 innings, he went undrafted. He improved as a senior with a 1.16 ERA and recorded 16 saves in 46 2/3 innings, with a 47:3 strikeout ratio as the Tigers’ closer, including 13 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. His senior status resulted in a 14th round pick. While he has not been as dominant in MiLB, he still has a respectable 2.95 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 158 2/3 IP. With his pedigree and stuff, expect Cotton to leapfrog Kevin Chapman and Edwar Cabrera as the top candidate to be a lefty in A.J. Hinch’s bullpen, and perhaps even contribute to the 2016 World Champions! [Note from Jayne: Those are lofty aspirations for Cotton! He was recently spotted on Team Rehab. We hope to see him back with the Grizzlies soon so that he can fulfill Raymond's predictions for him.]

Raymond Desadier
April 7, 2016

A Look at the Corpus Christi Hooks Opening Day Roster

The 2016 Corpus Christi squad is a nice mix of experienced AA hands and players new to the level. The Hooks welcome the Dodgers AA affiliate Tulsa Drillers to town as they start their season tonight at home.

Joe Musgrove - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Top prospect Joe Musgrove, his fellow right-hander Edison Frias, and lefty Brian Holmes will be the most experienced returning Hooks rotation pitchers. They will be joined by another couple of highly ranked prospects in Francis Martes and David Paulino. Martes saw limited action with the Hooks last season; it will be the first AA experience for Paulino. Kyle Smith also brings a lot of experience to the team, having spent a good chunk of the 2014 season with the Hooks, but he is coming back from Tommy John surgery this season and will be somewhat of a wild card. Keegan Yuhl and newcomer Cy Sneed both topped out at High A last season.

With that many starting arms, Yuhl will likely appear out of the bullpen to start the season since he has experience in relief. Aaron West will anchor the bullpen, having had great success in that role for the Hooks in 2015. Danny Reynolds and Brendan McCurry are both new to the organization and both bring AA experience to the mix. And the team will feature not one, not two, but THREE lefty relievers in Reymin Guduan, Michael Freeman and Albert Minnis. Guduan has the most experience at the level, but both Freeman and Minnis got their toes wet in Corpus Christi last season. Missing from action is Gonzalo Sanudo who was spotted on Team Rehab during Spring Training by friend of the blog Larry McCoy.

The pitching staff will be handled by highly regarded prospect Alfredo Gonzalez, who spent the final two months of the 2015 season with the Hooks, and Trent Woodward, who caught at four different levels in 2015, including filling in for Max Stassi at AAA when Stassi was recalled to Houston.

Returning to the team to handle infield duties will be 1B Conrad Gregor and middle infielders Jack Mayfield and Chan Moon. They will be joined by SS Alex Bregman, ranked by most pundits as the top prospect in the Astros system; he will be arriving at AA in only his second professional season. 2B/SS Mott Hyde, Bregman's double play partner from Lancaster, will get his first taste of the Texas League as well. Arriving to handle corner outfield duties will be 3B J.D. Davis and 1B Chase McDonald. Both spent the entire 2015 season with Lancaster and both are capable of providing a lot of power.

Toolsy outfielders Teoscar Hernandez and Danry Vasquez return to roam the outfield for the Hooks; both will be trying to find the consistency that will propel them to the next level. 2015 Lancaster teammates Derek Fisher and Ronnie Mitchell will get their first chance at AA. Fisher is yet another top prospect in the system. Notably missing is James Ramsay. Since he wasn't on any roster, I'm assuming that he may also be on Team Rehab back in extended Spring Training. If healthy, he will certainly join the Hooks at some point.

With a really good mix of talent, experience and potential, this Hooks team is going to be a ton of fun to watch!

CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS

LHP Michael Freeman
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Reymin Guduan
LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Francis Martes
RHP Brendan McCurry
LHP Albert Minnis
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP David Paulino
RHP Danny Reynolds
RHP Kyle Smith
RHP Cy Sneed
RHP Aaron West
RHP Keegan Yuhl

C Alfredo Gonzalez
#C Trent Woodward

SS Alex Bregman
3B J.D. Davis
*1B Conrad Gregor
2B/SS Mott Hyde
IF Jack Mayfield
1B Chase McDonald
#IF Chan Moon

*OF Derek Fisher
OF Teoscar Hernandez
*OF Ronnie Mitchell
*OF Danry Vasquez

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Look at the Fresno Grizzlies Opening Day Roster

The vast majority of the 2015 AAA National Championship Fresno Grizzlies team returns to action largely intact as they start their season on Thursday in Las Vegas, playing the Mets AAA affiliate. Their home opener will be on Friday, April 15th.

Tyler Heineman - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Chris Devenski, the MVP of that 2015 Championship game, returns, along with rotation stalwarts Mike Hauschild, Brady Rodgers and Asher Wojciechowski. Lefty Tommy Shirley, who was having a tremendous season prior to a season-ending injury last year, is slated to return as well. Shirley has moved back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen very capably so he offers flexibility. Brad Peacock will take the place of the recently traded Dan Straily.

Several bullpen members will be returning as well. James Hoyt, the 2015 closer for most of the season, will likely be used in a set-up role with flame-thrower Jandel Gustave handling the closing duties. Hoyt is also likely to be the first bullpen pitcher called into service in Houston as he was the last cut coming out of camp, losing out to Michael Feliz. Edwar Cabrera and Cesar Valdez will be new to the mix. Chris Cotton is currently missing from the roster and I don't know his status.

Tyler Heineman will be back to handle the pitching staff with top defensive catcher Roberto Pena at his side. It will be Pena's first season with AAA.

Nolan Fontana, Tony Kemp and Jon Singleton will once again anchor the infield and will be joined by Colin Moran at third (Moran appeared with AAA briefly at the end of 2015) and A.J. Reed at first. It will be interesting to see how the playing time breaks down between Reed and Singleton at first base. I would guess that Reed will get the bulk of the first base duties while Singleton will get more time at DH. The bats of Tyler White and Matt Duffy will be missed, but Reed and Moran are certainly capable of big production as well. Journeyman infielder Danny Worth is new to the system.

The biggest changes to the team are in the outfield with Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes and Alex Presley no longer with the team. Andrew Aplin is the only regular returning. He is joined by Jon Kemmer, Leo Heras (who got a taste of AAA last season) and Eury Perez in his first season in the system. Kemmer brings a big bat to the line-up in his first season with AAA.

The opening day roster will likely bear little resemblance to the one at the end of the season as many of these players will either be promoted, traded or released by season's end to make room for the next wave.

AAA FRESNO GRIZZLIES

LHP Edwar Cabrera
LHP Kevin Chapman
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Jandel Gustave
RHP Mike Hauschild
RHP James Hoyt
RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Juan Minaya
RHP Brad Peacock
RHP Brady Rodgers
LHP Tommy Shirley
RHP Cesar Valdez
RHP Asher Wojciechowski

#C Tyler Heineman
C Roberto Pena

*IF Nolan Fontana
*IF/OF Tony Kemp
*3B Colin Moran
*1B A.J. Reed
*1B Jon Singleton
IF Danny Worth

*OF Andrew Aplin
*OF Leo Heras
*OF Jon Kemmer
OF Eury Perez

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Astros 2016 Full Season Team Rosters

I'll weigh in on the rosters as time allows, but wanted to post them and also note a few players who finished the season at a given level, but do not appear on any of these rosters. Some of these are likely a numbers issue as players cannot be activated yet due to roster limits. These rosters are, of course, subject to change before opening day

AAA FRESNO GRIZZLIES

LHP Edwar Cabrera
LHP Kevin Chapman
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Jandel Gustave
RHP Mike Hauschild
RHP James Hoyt
RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Juan Minaya
RHP Brad Peacock
RHP Brady Rodgers
LHP Tommy Shirley
RHP Cesar Valdez
RHP Asher Wojciechowski

#C Tyler Heineman
C Roberto Pena

*IF Nolan Fontana
*IF/OF Tony Kemp
*3B Colin Moran
*1B A.J. Reed
*1B Jon Singleton
IF Danny Worth

*OF Andrew Aplin
*OF Leo Heras
*OF Jon Kemmer
OF Eury Perez

Who's missing?

LHP Chris Cotton

CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS

LHP Michael Freeman
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Reymin Guduan
LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Francis Martes
RHP Brendan McCurry
LHP Albert Minnis
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP David Paulino
RHP Danny Reynolds
RHP Kyle Smith
RHP Cy Sneed
RHP Aaron West
RHP Keegan Yuhl

C Alfredo Gonzalez
#C Trent Woodward

SS Alex Bregman
3B J.D. Davis
*1B Conrad Gregor
2B/SS Mott Hyde
IF Jack Mayfield
1B Chase McDonald
#IF Chan Moon

*OF Derek Fisher
OF Teoscar Hernandez
*OF Ronnie Mitchell
*OF Danry Vasquez

Who's missing?

RHP Gonzalo Sanudo

LANCASTER JETHAWKS

RHP Akeem Bostick
RHP Kevin Comer
RHP Deen Deetz
RHP Brock Dykxhoorn
RHP Riley Ferrell
LHP Evan Grills
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Elieser Hernandez
RHP Josh James
RHP Eric Peterson
RHP Ryan Thompson
RHP Trent Thornton
RHP Andrew Walter
RHP Scott Weathersby

C Richard Gonzalez
C Jamie Ritchie
*C Garrett Stubbs

IF Jose Fernandez
1B Bryan Muniz
3B Nick Tanielu
SS Kristian Trompiz
*IF/OF Marc Wik

*OF Bobby Boyd
OF Drew Ferguson
OF Alejandro Garcia
OF Ramon Laureano
*OF Jason Martin

Who's missing?

RHP Christian Powell
OF James Ramsay

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS

RHP Albert Abreu
RHP Rogelio Armenteros
LHP Matt Bower
RHP Ryan Deemes
RHP Jacob Dorris
RHP Ralph Garza
RHP Jose Hernandez
LHP Sebastian Kessay
RHP Kevin McCanna
RHP Chris Murphy
RHP Andrew Thome
RHP Adam Whitt
LHP Alex Winkelman

C Marlon Avea
C Christian Correa
C Anthony Hermelyn

SS Osvaldo Duarte
*2B Brooks Marlow
1B Dex McCall
SS Antonio Nunez
3B Bobby Wernes

OF Daz Cameron
*OF Aaron Mizell
*OF Pat Porter
*OF Johnny Sewald
*Kyle Tucker

Who's missing?

RHP Agapito Barrios
RHP Justin Ferrell
IF Luis Reynoso

DISABLED LIST (THOSE THAT I KNOW OF)

LHP Kent Emanuel
RHP Robert Kahana
RHP Tyson Perez
LHP Bryan Radziewski
LHP Ben Smith
RHP Derick Velazquez

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch-hitter

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 4/4

Happy Astros Opening Day!!!! (No rainouts, please!)

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

4-6: RHP Ralph Garza (22)
4-9: C Jamie Ritchie (23)

TWEETS OF THE WEEK



TRANSACTIONS

There were a few more releases last week after my Tuesday post. We now have to say goodbye to RHP Travis Ballew, IF Joe Sclafani, RHP Jake Buchanan, RHP Zac Grotz and RHP Michel Martinez. I wish them all the best in the next chapter of their lives.

Here is the final 2015-2016 Master Off-Season Transaction List.

The Opening Day rosters for the Fresno Grizzlies, Corpus Christi Hooks, Lancaster JetHawks and Quad Cities RiverBandits have not been released at this point. All four teams start their seasons on Thursday the 7th.

NEWS AND LINKS

The biggest news of the week from an Astros prospect viewpoint is the addition of Tyler White to the 40-man roster and the inclusion of White, Michael Feliz and Matt Duffy on the Astros Opening Day 25-man roster. With the addition of Carlos Correa, Preston Tucker and Lance McCullers to the Astros line-up in 2015, and White, Feliz and Duffy in the mix to start the 2016 season, I think it is safe to say that the Astros youth movement is now in full force. A.J. Reed, Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran will be among those in the next wave. Take my word for it. Things are looking good for the Astros for a long, long time. Happy Astros Opening Day (if it doesn't rain)!

Other news from the week ....

Baseball America released their International Review for the Astros July 2015 signings (insider only).

New Astros beat writer Jake Kaplan tells us how Matt Duffy found out he made the cut.

And I'll just put this one out there without comment. Sigh.

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