Saturday, December 23, 2017

Astros Minor League Player Releases

Quite a few Astros farmhands got coal in their stockings in the form of a pink slip this week. I'd already reported on Ryan Deemes in my last farm report, but here are the others reported by MiLB plus a few notes on some of the players ...

Devon Carr, Lucas Williams, Reggie Johnson, Luis Ramirez - August 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

With the news earlier this offseason that the Astros would no longer be fielding a team in Greeneville, it makes sense that there would be quite a few cuts in the system prior to Spring Training, particularly at the lower levels of the system, since there would be fewer roster spots available.

12-22: C Freddy Chirino (DSL Blue) - signed out of Venezuela in 2016
12-22: RHP Jonger Ochoa (DSL Blue) - signed out of Venezuela in 2016
12-22: 2B Samir Caraballo (DSL Blue/Orange) - signed out of Colombia in 2015
12-22: 1B Michael Garcia (DSL Orange) - signed out of the Dominican Republic, most likely in 2016
12-22: RHP Jesus Bernaez (DSL Orange) - signed out of Venezuela, most likely in 2016
12-21: RHP Devin Raftery (Buies Creek/GCL) - NDFA 2016
12-20: LHP Carlos Perdomo (DSL Orange) - signed out of the Dominican Republic (in 2016?)
12-20: OF Euclides Chavez (DSL Orange) - signed out of Venezuela (in 2016?)
12-20: RHP Nathanael Ventura (DSL Blue) - signed out of the Dominican Republic (in 2017?)
12-20: OF Fildex Perfecto (DSL Orange) - signed out of Venezuela (in 2017?)
12-20: 1B Anthony Rodriguez (DSL Blue) - signed February 2015 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Kilvio Peralta (DSL Blue) - signed out of the Dominican Republic (in 2016?)
12-20: RHP Jean Reyes (DSL Blue)  - signed out of Venezuela (in 2016?)
12-20: RHP Christopher Javier (DSL Blue) - signed June 2016 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Angel Matos (DSL Blue) - signed May 2016 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Mauricio Santana (DSL Orange) - signed July 2015 out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000
12-20: RHP Yulian Frontado (DSL Orange) - signed March 2016 out of Venezuela
12-20: RHP Miguel Matos (DSL Orange) - signed December 2015 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Gustavo Almonte (DSL Orange) - signed June 2017 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Diosward Gonzalez (GCL) - signed in 2015 out of Venezuela
12-20: RHP Carlos Pimentel (GCL) - NDFA 2017; Pimentel was placed on the restricted list 11-17
12-20: RHP Saul Martinez (GCL) - signed May 2014 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: OF Vicente Sanchez (GCL) - signed July 2014 out of the Dominican Republic for $62,500
12-20: LHP Austin Kerns (GCL)- NDFA 2017
12-20: C Ihan Bernal (GCL) - signed July 2014 out of Panama for $155,000
12-20: RHP Johsson Arias (Greeneville) - signed out of the Dominican Republic (in 2016?)
12-20: OF Frankeny Fernandez (Greeneville) - signed July 2013 out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000
12-20: SS Joan Mauricio (Greeneville) - signed July 2013 out of the Dominican Republic for $600,000
12-20: RHP Jheyson Caraballo (Greeneville) - signed November 2015 out of Venezuela
12-20: OF/DH Reid Russell (Greeneville) - 33rd round 2017
12-20: LHP Yhoan Acosta (Greeneville) -signed June 2013 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Reggie Johnson (Quad Cities/Tri-City) - NDFA 2016
12-20: LHP Ben Smith (Tri-City) - 7th round 2014
12-20: C Bernardo Heras (Tri-City/GCL) - signed September 2015 out of Mexico
12-20: LHP Luis Ramirez (Tri-City) - signed July 2014 out of Venezuela
12-20: RHP Diogenes Almengo (Tri-City) - signed June 2014 out of the Dominican Republic
12-20: RHP Ricardo Castro (Tri-City) - signed April 2015 out of Mexico
12-20: LHP Devon Carr (Buies Creek/Quad Cities) - NDFA 2016
12-20: RHP Enrique Chavez (DNP in 2017) - signed June 2014 out of Mexico
12-20: RHP Lucas Williams (Quad Cities) - 40th round 2016

A few of these players, such as Joan Mauricio, Frankeny Fernandez and Ihan Bernal, were international prospects who have been in the system for several years and have never quite lived up to early expectations. Mauricio was the top signing in 2013, but his bat never helped him break out of the lower levels of the system.

Two additional international players who were released were 21-year old Mexican right-handed pitchers who each showed early promise, but missed significant time (presumably on the DL) in 2017: Enrique Chavez and Ricardo Castro. I really had high hopes for both of those players and will look for them to appear on another affiliate's rosters.

There was one other pitcher, Diosward Gonzalez, who I would have liked to see another season's worth of work from. He had a very solid season and exhibited excellent control, but (at 22) he needed to be challenged to higher levels of competition and I had hoped that would be the case in 2018.

Ben Smith was drafted in the 17th round in 2014 and, although 2017 was technically his fourth professional season, it was only his second year of competition due to TJ surgery and a battle with Burkitt lymphoma. Having overcome all that, I would not count the lefty out. Here is my 2016 interview with Smith if you'd like to know more about his experiences.

Reid Russell was a 33rd round pick by the Astros in 2017 out of Lamar University in Beaumont. He struggled mightily in his debut season. Lucas Williams was another late round pick in 2016 who struggled with a dead arm in his first pro season, but was showing some promise and finding more success with a sharper slider in his second year. His season was uneven, but I still had my eye on him and I wish him well.

There is one final category of players that I always pull for, but for whom the deck is always a little stacked. Players who are non-drafted free agents have the toughest time making it up the food chain in the minors. Baseball is a business after all and those NDFA's normally represent a tiny financial investment on the part of the team. Players like Devin Raftery and Reggie Johnson had some success, but aren't necessarily given the opportunities to prove themselves at the higher levels because they are blocked by prospects who represent more of an investment to the team. I will be watching out for Johnson in particular to get more opportunities following his All-Star appearance in 2017 and his phenomenal end to the season in which he compiled a 0.00 ERA and a 0.457 WHIP in his final nine appearances of the season. He walked two while striking out 20 and held batters to a .102 batting average. I think that earned him a look at the higher levels, but the Astros didn't ask me. WTHB wishes him the best of luck going forward.

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