Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

It's good to be back after spending the past week grieving for my grandpa. Although he is no longer with me, I take great solace in the fact that he is now at peace.

Now, without further ado...

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Salt River 4, Peoria 2

W- Mark Appel (1-0)
L- Jaime Schultz (0-3)

Salt River home runs by Astros players: None.

The Rafters doubled up the Javelinas in the afternoon, but it was Mark Appel's fine start that got the headlines.

Appel tossed 5 shutout innings and allowed just 2 hits while striking out 4. Rio Ruiz went 0-3 with a walk, a strikeout, and a run scored, and Andrew Aplin went 0-4 with 2 Ks.

Both of these teams will play again today at Salt River Fields at 12:35 Mountain.

LIDOM

Águilas 7, Gigantes 1

W- Frank Batista (1-0)
L- Fabio Castro (0-1)

Águilas home runs by Astros players: None.

This game between the two teams representing the Cibao region of the DR was originally scheduled for the 17th but was postponed. Águilas busted out for 5 in the final 3rd of the game (2 in the 7th, 3 in the 9th) to blow open a 2-0 game. Jonathan Villar went 0-5 with a strikeout, but he also scored twice.

Águilas will travel east to take on los Estrellas del Oriente, or the Eastern Stars. Gigantes will have Tuesday off.

Happy Birthday - 10/21

No future Astros with birthdays today, but three former Astros mark the day ~

1B/OF Franklin Stubbs (54)
A first round pick by the Dodgers in 1982, Stubbs came to Houston in an April 1990 trade with Los Angeles. In 146 games for the Astros that season, he hit .261/.334/.475 with 23 doubles, two triples and 23 home runs. He earned his World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1988. He was most recently the hitting coach for the Dodgers AAA affiliate in 2014.

OF Ron Davis (died September 5, 1992 at age 50)
Davis signed as an amateur free agent with Houston prior to the 1962 season and played for the Colt .45's that season and for the Astros in 1966 to 1968. In a total of 200 games for Houston, he hit .239/.293/.345.

2B Keith Drumright (died August 7, 2010 at age 55)
Originally drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round in 1976, Drumright came to Houston in a October 1977 trade with Chicago. In 17 games for the Astros in 1978, he hit .164/.207/.164. His only other major league experience was in 31 games for Oakland in 1981.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Astros on Fall and Winter League Rosters

This is what I have compiled, from combing the rosters of all the winter ball teams. Please note that occasionally a player's name will appear on a roster, but he will end up either not playing or only playing later in the season. 

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE - Play began October 8

The Astros contingent is playing on the Salt River Rafters, alongside prospects from the D-Backs, Marlins, Twins, and Rockies.

LHP Mitch Lambson
RHP Mark Appel
RHP Tyson Perez
RHP Vince Velasquez
C Tyler Heineman
3B Rio Ruiz
UT Joe Sclafani (taxi squad player)
OF Andrew Aplin

LIGA VENEZOLANA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL (LVBP) - Play began October 9

Bravos de Margarita
IF Carlos Perdomo

Leones del Caracas
C Carlos Perez
OF Danry Vásquez

Navegantes del Magallanes
RHP David Martinez

Jose Altuve is listed on the Magallanes roster, but I'm fairly sure that he won't be playing.

LIGA PARALELA (Venezuelan minor league) - Play began October 9

Caracas
OF Nestor Tejada
SS Jonathan Matute

Caribes
RHP Edwin Villarroel

LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL DE LA REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA (LIDOM) - Play began October 16

Águilas Cibaeñas
C René Garcia
SS Jonathan Villar

Gigantes del Cibao
RHP Jandel Gustave

Tigres del Licey
RHP Asher Wojciechowski
OF Domingo Santana
OF Ruben Sosa

Toros del Este
OF Teoscar Hernandez

LIGA DE BÉISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (Puerto Rico) - Play begins October 30

To be announced!

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACÍFICO (LMP) - Play began October 10

Charros de Jalisco
RHP Carlos Vasquez
OF Leo Heras

*Vasquez was a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick from the Mets in 2013, but he was outrighted to the Mexico City Red Devils this past season. Apparently the Astros retained the rights to him.

Tomateros de Culiacán
RHP Gonzalo Sañudo

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE (ABL) - Play begins October 30

Adelaide Bite
RHP Tyler Brunnemann
IF Chan-Jong Moon

Also, I would like to tip my hat to Mr. Ian Madden, who is the father of RHP Lachlan Madden for this roster announcement: In a recent e-mail that he sent to me, Mr. Madden informed me that Lachlan was named to the Australian team that will be playing at the inaugural Under-21 Baseball World Cup, which will take place in Taichung, Taiwan, from November 7-16. In addition to Lachlan, 1B Connor MacDonald and 2B Jared Cruz were named to Team Australia. Cruz, 19, was acquired by the Astros on September 4 as the PTBNL from the Braves to complete the Andrew Robinson trade that occurred on July 3.

Arizona Fall League Observations from Wallee Wright

Wallee Wright weighs in with his observations on the three Top-100 players on the Salt River Rafters team in the AFL and how their brief AFL seasons have unfolded thus far. SSS (small sample size) Warning.

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Much was made by MLB.com about the composition of the Rafters given the number of Top-100 players (3) and individual team Top-20 players (12) ... but the three Top-100 players (Byron Buxton, Archie Bradley, and Mark Appel) have each come to the AFL with serious questions about either their health or their skills. To date only Mark Appel has demonstrated he is the player the MLB rating service believes him to be ... both Buxton, MLB-100 overall numero uno, and Bradley, Top-100 number nine, have been substantially below average relative to their current AFL company.

Buxton has demonstrated 385-foot power when he lifts one to the outfield, but this is an infrequent occurrence to date ... and since everything he hits is in line with the 6-4 hole these fly balls are just exciting outs to the deepest part of the yard. Byron has been given as much opportunity as anyone on the squad, playing in eight of the eleven games to date ... but his .229/.289/.257 slash and two errors in the field do not bode well for the young man (20) retaining his lofty ranking - and that may lift the load off Byron's back and free him to perform to his potential. As I've mentioned before, he could use a few more pounds ... he makes Dexter Fowler look like one of those SNL characters wanting to 'pump, pump you up' - and he steals bags with about the same frequency as Dexter, just one to date, though Byron has only been on base eleven times in his eight outings.

Bradley was a very late cut by the D-backs, having made the MLB marketing trip to Australia to play the Dodgers to start the season ... some have suggested the late cut got into his head as he struggled in AAA, was sent to the Rookie Arizona League for rehab, then only moved back to AA to finish the season. Archie has had control difficulties at all levels after A-ball, but a lively fast ball and decent breaking stuff has given him a high strikeout rate to offset this issue ... until now. In three starts and seven innings work Bradley has compiled a 10.29 ERA and 2.57 WHIP to go with six walks and six strikeouts ... each start has been the same with first inning control issues resulting in Archie making a hitter's pitch in a hitter's count - then compensating for that problem by grooving a pitch earlier in the count in the second and third innings. If the issues are with his head and not his arm or mechanics, this experience in the AFL is not doing anything to cure the problem.

Meanwhile Appel has been lights out ... .000 ERA and 0.71 WHIP to go with eight strikeouts and three walks in three starts and seven innings - hard to improve upon that. Maybe now we can put that awful California League experience behind us ... and Mark can move up in the MLB Top-100 from number 41.

~Wallee Wright ~

Astros Arizona Fall League Stats: Week 2-ish

Since the Arizona Fall League had an off day on Sunday, there is no recap. Instead, Wallee Wright weighs in with his observations on the offense, defense and relief pitching on the Salt River Rafters crew after almost two weeks of play (and casually name drops Tony LaRussa). He will have another post coming out later today looking at Mark Appel and the other Top-100 prospects on the team.

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Minnesota Twin tenth-ranked prospect Eddie Rosario, one of three team-ranked centerfielders along with Byron Buxton and nineteenth-ranked Max Kepler, has passed Andrew Aplin for the Salt River Rafter and Arizona Fall League lead in batting … Rosario is slashing .417/.421/.444 to Aplin’s .409/.435/.682 after Saturday night’s four appearance ohfer – I suspect Andrew was still hurting from Friday night’s errant foul ball. Rosario does not exhibit any power, and has struck out seven times and walked only once in thirty-seven appearances … but Eddie has been very effective once on base, stealing six of seven bags. Kepler has been a non-factor, slashing only .211/.375/.211.

After a very slow start Rio Ruiz is beginning to assert himself in the Salt River Rafter lineup … Rio is now slashing .267/.353/.333 after thirty-four appearances with two doubles, three RBI, four walks and seven strikeouts. Tyler Heineman has made the most of his token appearances to date, slashing .400/.571/.400 … in seven plate appearances Tyler has two doubles, and two walks against a single strikeout – Tyler is playing second fiddle to the D-Backs attempt to find a position for seventh-ranked ‘Zona prospect C/1B Peter O’Brien, plus playing time for Miami’s Chad Wallach and Colorado’s taxi squad member Chris O’Dowd.

Peter O’Brien has not hit often, only six hits in forty appearances, but five of the six are for extra bases, including three dingers that may not have reached earth at this writing … unfortunately the National League game also includes a fielding aspect, and Peter has four fielding and throwing errors to date – though as a catcher he has far more opportunities to commit an error than most others. I asked Diamondback Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa how they intended to use O’Brien, considering they owe catcher Miguel Montero $39MM over the next four years and have All-Star Paul Goldschmidt of The Woodlands installed at first base … he replied that with O’Brien’s bat they ‘would find a place’ – I’m guessing that place is with an American League team unless they eat a bunch of salary with Montero.

After going hitless in his first game, a game in which he played a superb second base, Joe Sclafani has picked up a hit apiece in each of his last two games … Joe is another ‘Taxi Squad’ member, meaning he only gets to suit up on Wednesdays and Saturdays – it is worthy of note that his two hits are a double as a third baseman and a homerun as a left fielder, giving him the oddest of slash lines at .200/.273/.600 and two RBI. Joe also has a walk, a strikeout and one stolen base … the Rafters have nine double plays as a team thus far, and in his only appearance at second base Joe started three of them and was in the middle of a fourth. By way of contrast, consider this: Trevor Story, Colorado’s eleventh-ranked prospect, has played six games at short and two at second and has committed four errors; the Rox’ Taylor Featherston has played two games at short and three at second and has committed two errors; Miami’s Austin Nola has played three games at second and one at short … combined these three have participated in only five double plays in eight games while at second base.

Mitch Lambson has appeared in four games in relief to date, and has pitched better than his numbers … Mitch has given up three hits, one of which was a dinger, leading to two earned runs in five innings over four appearances. He has struck out seven in those five innings and walked three … Mitch has a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, while all three hits off him have come with two out in the inning. Our other Astro reliever, Tyson Perez, has proven more hittable giving up five hits in six innings over his four appearances … but unlike Lambson, Tyson has not given up a run and has struck out six while walking only one – a 0.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Note to Mr. Luhnow: To these unsophisticated eyes the most impressive reliever on the Rafters thus far has not been an Astros farmhand, though he is a Texan. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012 in the 23rd round out of Texas Tech as a 2B/3B, six-foot, 180-pound Reid Redman was released or traded to Miami after his one season of rookie ball … in five innings over four games he has very quickly and quietly accumulated a Win and two Holds, giving up one hit, and no walks while striking out four – that’s a 0.00 ERA and 0.20 WHIP, and to these untrained eyes it’s no fluke, I believe he’s going to be special.

~ Wallee Wright ~

Happy Birthday - 10/20

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Jose Veras (34)
Originally signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, Veras signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2012. He pitched in 42 games in 2013 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 19 saves before being traded to Detroit in July of that year for for OF Danry Vasquez and RHP David Paulino. After ending up in a Cubs uniform in the early part of 2014, he re-signed with Houston and went 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.255 WHIP in 34 appearances.

C Ihan Bernal (18)
An international free agent out of Panama, Bernal spent his first professional season with the Dominican Summer League Astros. In 52 games (40 behind the dish), he hit .200/.411/.284 and had a 39% caught stealing rate. Of particular note, Bernal walked 51 times while striking out 47 times.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Recap: Game 11

Despite an 8-4 loss to Mesa on Saturday, the Salt River Rafters remain atop the leaderboard in the AFL with their 7-3-1 record. They are currently two games in front of Mesa as the AFL goes into an off-day on Sunday.

The Diamondbacks Archie Bradley got the start for the Rafters and wasn't exactly sharp as he gave up three hits and walked four batters in two innings and left the bases loaded in the third. And Jason Adam of the Twins did Bradley no favors as he allowed all three of Bradley's runners to score. Bradley ended up getting charged with seven runs (four earned) and Adam was charged with one unearned run of his own. None of your Astros saw any pitching action.

The Rafters defense was not exactly sterling either as they committed four errors in the game, none of those coming from Astros players, however.

At the plate, the Rafters were held to eight hits, but four of those were for extra bases, including a home run from the Rockies Chris O'Dowd. Andrew Aplin (0-for-4 with a strikeout) and Joe Sclafani, playing at third base, were the only Astros players to make an appearance. Sclafani had a nice game, going 1-for-3 with a double, walk, run and stolen base.

Happy Birthday - 10/19

No future Astros with birthdays today, but numerous former Astros mark the day ~

RHP Jordan Lyles (24)
A 2008 supplemental first round draft pick by the Astros out of high school in South Carolina, Lyles pitched in 72 games (65 starts) for Houston from 2011 through 2013, compiling a 14-29 record with a 5.35 ERA and a 1.454 WHIP. Lyles was traded to Colorado (along with Brandon Barnes) for Dexter Fowler prior to the 2014 season. In his first season for the Rockies, he was 7-4 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.366 WHIP in 22 starts.

LHP J.A. Happ (32)
Originally drafted by the Phillies in the 3rd round in 2004, Happ came to the Astros in July 2010 in the Oswalt trade and he departed Houston in a huge July 2012 10-player trade with the Blue Jays. In between, he was 18-28 with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.461 WHIP in 59 starts. For Toronto this season, he went 11-11 in 30 games (26 starts) with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP.

OF/1B Walt Bond (died September 14, 1967 at age 29)
A member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, Bond played for the Colt 45's in 1964 and the Astros in 1965.  I was not aware of Bond's history until I read this entry from the TBHOF site.
"Standing at 6' 7" tall and weighing between 235–250 lbs, Big Walt Bond had his best year as a Houston Colt .45 in 1964 when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 85 runs—the first true power hitting ballplayer in team history."
But that was only part of the story.  He was one of many silent heroes who helped to integrate baseball.  He was active in the community, working to support local school sports programs.  And he showed enormous courage and strength in his fight against leukemia which he sadly lost at the age of 29.  I encourage reading the entire entry.

OF Brock Davis (71)
Originally signed as a NDFA by Houston in 1963, Davis played for the Colt 45's in 1963 and 1964 and for the Astros in 1966. In 45 games for Houston, he hit .176/.263/.247. Davis made his major league debut at 19. He went on to have a couple of modestly successful seasons with the Cubs and the Brewers in 1971 and 1972 respectively before a knee injury ended his career.

RHP Dave Veres (48)
A fourth round draft pick by Oakland in 1986, Veres signed with Houston as a free agent in May 1992 and eventually pitched in 104 games for Houston in 1994 and 1995. In those games he was 8-4 with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.143 WHIP. He was traded to the Expos in December of 1995 for Sean Berry.

OF/2B Joe McEwing (42)
Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 28th round in 1992, McEwing was purchased from Kansas City in March of 2006. McEwing appeared in only seven games for the Astros in 2006 and never got a hit. In 2013, McEwing was the third base coach for the White Sox.