Saturday, April 1, 2017

Astros April Birthday Babies

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to the following Astros April babies ...

Ralph Garza - May 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

4-1: OF Cesar Cortez (18)
4-3: RHP Johsson Arias (23)
4-3: RHP Humberto Castellanos (19)
4-6: RHP Ralph Garza (23)
4-9: C Jamie Ritchie (24)
4-13: RHP Enrique Chavez (21)
4-18: C Jake Rogers (22)
4-21: RHP Justin Ferrell (23)
4-21: LHP Ryan Hartman (23)
4-22: RHP Bryan Abreu (20)
4-24: OF Carlos Beltran (40)
4-25: LHP Carlos Perdomo (19)
4-27: 3B J.D. Davis (24)
4-28: 2B Jonathan Matute (20)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Astros Baseball: Remembering the Dark Ages

As we look forward to a new age of Astros baseball, Friend of the Blog John Burgess (aka @StrosDude9) reminds us of just how far the Astros have come and some of the missteps along the way.

Ah! 2005 was such a great year—I was in my first senior year in college, the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie was released in theaters, and Mariah Carey finally admitted that We Belong Together. In the sports world, the Texas Longhorns won that thrilling National Championship over USC (Hook ‘Em) and…oh yeah, the Houston Astros went to the World Series for the first and only time. Sure they were swept by the Chicago South Siders, but that was still such a magical season. As you remember, the Astros overcame a 15-30 start to take the wild card spot and eventually claim their first pennant. Unfortunately, the Astros organization came tumbling down that mountaintop to settle in a rocky ravine for a decade. But with the arrival of the 2017 Opening Day comes expectations that the Astros haven’t had since that 2005 season. So, being the negative Nancy that I am, I’d like to take a look back at many of the awful Astros-related events that have taken place since 2005.

Prior to the 2007 season, in an effort to stay relevant, Uncle Drayton McClane pushed then GM Tim Pupura to sign and trade for some C-Level players with a name. The Astros were losing Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and decided to replace those guys with 40-year old Woody Williams and followed that by making one of the worst trades in Astros history: trading Willy Tavares, Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh for Jason Jennings. Woody started 21 games that season and ended 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA. Jason Jennings ended the season with a 6.45 ERA and made just 18 starts in his Astros career—one of those starts may have been the worst start in Astros history (11 ER in 2/3 inning and only 39 pitches thrown).

Prior to the 2008 season, the Astros signed Kazuo Matsui to a 3 year, $16.5 million contract. He only played in 96 games in ’08 season thanks to anal fissures…

Also in 2008, Hurricane Ike and Bud Selig ganged up to crush any hopes of an Astros postseason berth. As the hurricane hammered Houston, Selig thought it would be prudent for the Astros (who had won 14 of their prior 15 and were just 2 games out of the NL Wild Card at the time) to play their home series against the first place Cubs in Milwaukee…just 90 miles north of Wrigley. As you may remember, Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros in the first game and then the Astros could muster just one hit the following afternoon. They finished the season winning just 6 of their last 14 and ended up 3.5 games out of the Wild Card.

In 2011, the Astros played an Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park. It was no surprise that the ratio of Red Sox fans to Astros fans was around 4:1 for that series. It was a major (and unpleasant) surprise that Minute Maid Park blared the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline” during the game and tens of thousands of Sox fans, as well as a few thousand oblivious Astros fans chanted, “So Good! So Good! So Good!”

The Houston Astros spent 51 seasons in the National League and had some great rivalries with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Braves in the recent years. Despite that, Bud F$#&ing Selig forced the team to move to the American League in 2013 before finalizing the sale of the team to current owner Jim Crane. Bud wanted to balance the schedule by moving one of the 16 National League teams into the 14-team American League. Sure there were teams that had far less history in the National League like the Diamondbacks, Rockies, or Selig’s beloved Brewers, but how would he have been able to strong-arm them?

During the time between 2005 and 2017, we’ve seen many of our favorite Astros players come and go. During the necessary, complete tear-down that Ed Wade started, we had to say our goodbyes to a couple of Astros legends in Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. In 2010, Oswalt was traded to the Phillies and Berkman to the Yankees. While that in itself was tough to cope with, the sight of those two in Texas Rangers blue in consecutive seasons (2012 and 2013) was downright nauseating.

The year was 2013. Nolan Ryan’s son, Reid Ryan, was just named the Astros President of Business Operations. And what was his first act as Astros President? Having to fire a snow cone vendor for sitting his tray of snow cones next to him on the restroom floor while he dropped a deuce. But what President of Business Operations hasn’t had to deal with that?

There were so many other events that happened during the Astros Dark Ages, but I’ll spare you the look back at Bo Porter’s illegal pitching change, the Cardinals hacking scandal, and Jarred Cosart’s misguided tweets. It’s time to put all of this behind us and look to the bright future of Astros baseball. The Astros window is just opening and looks to be wide open for the next 5 years or so, so hopefully the worst thing we’ll have to overcome for the next decade is Florida Georgia Line releasing several more of their rubbish albums.

- John Burgess

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Astros MiLB Transactions: 3/29

Several more Astros MiLB releases were announced yesterday. This was in addition to the releases announced last week.

Zac Person - May 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

IF Keach Ballard - 31st round 2015, Oklahoma Baptist University
1B Conrad Gregor - 4th round 2013, Vanderbilt University
C Kevin Martir - 18th round 2015, University of Maryland
RHP Kevin McCanna - 13th round 2015, Rice University
1B Chase McDonald - 12th round 2013, East Carolina University (NC)
OF Brauly Mejia - Signed 2012 out of the Dominican Republic
2B Aaron Mizell - 32nd round 2015, Georgia Southern University
LHP Zac Person - 9th round 2015, LSU
OF/1B Hector Roa - Signed 2012 out of the Dominican Republic
RHP Juan Santos - 39th round 2013, Arlington County Day School (FL)
RHP Josue Uribe - Signed 2014 out of the Dominican Republic
3B Bobby Wernes - 30th round 2015, University of Arkansas

Additionally, RHP Martires Arias was released, but he never played in the Astros system and was likely an offseason pickup by the Astros.

This release was a bit jarring for me because it included Friends of the Blog Chase McDonald and Conrad Gregor who I've enjoyed getting to know just a little bit over the years, as well as Zac Person and Bobby Wernes, two players who I enjoyed watching and was looking forward to talking with a little bit further in the future. I wish them all well and I won't be surprised to see a few of these players show up on another affiliate's roster later this season.

I'll leave my readers with a little entertainment from Juan Santos who always greeted me with a ready smile whenever we met over the years.

The ongoing 2016-2017 Off-Season Transaction post has been updated with these latest releases.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Astros Transaction Update: 3/28

As we last checked in on the Astros transaction front, LHP Kevin Chapman was being claimed off waivers by the Braves. Let's see what has transpired since then.

3-26: C Tyler Heineman traded to the Brewers for a PTBNL or cash (8th round 2012, UCLA)
3-25: LHP C.J. Riefenhauser released (signed as a MiLB free agent in December 2016)
3-22: RHP Fabricio Reina - 17-year old (unknown country of origin)
3-21: C Max Stassi cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Fresno

We at WTHB sincerely wish official Friend of the Blog Tyler Heineman the best of luck as he continues his baseball journey with the Brewers. Tyler has always been the most gracious in offering up his time to talk and has never been anything less than candid, honest and humble. He is an artist, a magician and a very good ballplayer. He will be missed. Here's my favorite picture of Tyler from the years that I've known him.

Tyler Heineman - April 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Dates unknown:
C Marlon Avea released (signed 2010 out of Nicaragua)
LHP Chris Cotton released (14th round 2013, LSU)
IF Connor Goedert released (15th round 2014, Neosho County CC, Kansas)
RHP Chris Murphy released (24th round 2015, Millersville U of Penn)
OF James Ramsay released (7th round 2014, University of S Florida)
RHP David Schmidt released (NDFA, 2015, Stanford)
RHP Angelo Serrano released (signed 2015 out of the Dominican Republic)
RHP Adam Whitt released (16th round 2015, U of Nevada-Reno)
IF Angel de Leon released (signed 2014 out of the Dominican Republic)
IF Eduardo Guzman released (signed 2016 out of Venezuela)
OF Edgar Lorenzo released (signed 2013 out of the Dominican Republic)
IF Cristopher Luciano released (signed 2014 out of the Dominican Republic)
C Jorge Martinez released (25th round 2015, Carlos Beltran Academy, PR)
OF Chaz Pal released (38th round 2016, U of S Carolina - Aiken)
OF Nestor Tejada released (signed 2013 out of Venezuela)

I had reported a few of these releases previously. The rest were reported by Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle last Friday. Best of luck to all of these players as they continue their journeys in baseball and in life.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Astros Spring Training: Who are the Winners?

Although there are still three games left in the Astros Grapefruit league season, followed by two Exhibition Games back in Houston prior to the official start of the season, we can already declare several Spring Training winners.

Joe Musgrove - June 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

RHP Joe Musgrove
Although Musgrove wasn't a total lock to break camp with the Astros, his chances were still very good. All he had to do was give the Astros a reason to say "yes." He did that in spades with a fine Spring. In six starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.045 WHIP, allowing six walks to 15 strikeouts in 22 innings of work.

RHP Brad Peacock
On the other side of the coin, Peacock was working against long odds to make the Opening Day 25-man roster. The journeyman pitcher was the beneficiary of Collin McHugh's arm troubles (and the fact that he has no options left). His Spring was less than stellar, but his 4.91 ERA and 1.364 WHIP in eight appearances (three starts) was enough to give him a leg up as the long man. He'll have to make an impression quickly, though, since McHugh will likely make it back to Houston sooner rather than later.

RHP Michael Feliz
Nobody is really talking about Feliz right now which is actually a good thing. That means he's doing his job. Because of his strong Spring (2.61 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, .211 AVG in 9 appearances), he was never mentioned as being on the bubble and became an early lock.

RHP Jandel Gustave and RHP James Hoyt
Although one of these pitchers is going to be the odd man out come Opening Day, they have each been able to establish themselves as solid bullpen options. No matter which of these players gets sent to Fresno to start the season, he will know that his name will be the first one called when the need arises. Although Gustave's Spring numbers have been better overall (2.08 ERA, 0.808 WHIP, .107 AVG), Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports that Hoyt (3.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .281 AVG) may have a leg up because of his ability to get lefties out (since there is a dearth of lefties in the Astros bullpen).

J.D. Davis - April 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

3B J.D. Davis and OF Derek Fisher
Although neither Davis nor Fisher will be in Houston on Opening Day, they each impressed the front office enough to be included in the contingent that will participate in the Minute Maid Park Exhibition games later this week. Davis (.341/.404/.463 in 23 games) and Fisher (.294/.405/.471 with 10 stolen bases in 23 games) are officially on A.J. Hinch's radar and that should prove to be a good thing for them moving forward.

3B Colin Moran and 1B A.J. Reed
It was a long shot for either of these players to make the Opening Day roster, but they both established themselves as viable alternatives (and potential trade pieces?) with their strong Springs. Moran hit .389/.439/.611 in 19 games before being re-assigned to minor league camp while Reed compiled a .306/.444/.667 batting line in 21 games.

RHP Mike Hauschild
Since being picked up from the Astros by the Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft this past December, Hauschild has been vying for a rotation spot with that team. In seven appearances (three starts), he has a 3.12 ERA, a 1.154 WHIP and a .234 AVG. He could very well break camp with the Rangers and, even if he doesn't, he has managed to establish that he can hang with the big boys.