Sunday, January 31, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 1/31

The best lefty tweeter since Kenny Long, looking for a ring Down Under, five Astros minor leaguers make the Top 100 and some sad news, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

1-31: IF Juan Pineda (18)
2-1: RHP Kevin McCanna (22)
2-2: RHP Brad Peacock (28)
2-3: LHP Javier Navas (18)
2-4: RHP Doug Fister (32)
2-4: C Trent Woodward (24)
2-6: 3B/1B Matt Duffy (27)
2-6: RHP David Paulino (22)
2-6: Josue Uribe (21)

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Another lefty pitcher in the mold of former Astros farm hand Kenny Long. What is it about lefties?

FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 30th, 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 Edwar Cabrera - 2.33 ERA/1.034 WHIP in 9 games (38.2IP)
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)

Escogido emerged the Finals victor in the best-of-nine series winning five games to one over Licey. Eury Perez was 3-for-5 and scored two runs in the final game of the series on Tuesday.

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)

The Tigres de Aragua bested the Navegantes del Magallanes 4-2 in a best-of-seven series ending Thursday. No current Astros appeared 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)

The Venados de Mazatlan claimed the Championship on Monday, winning out four games to one against the Aguilas de Mexicali. No current Astros played in the finals.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE - REGULAR SEASON ENDED 1/24
C Jake Bowey - .091/.167/.091 in 17 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)

Marc Wik will be looking for his Championship next weekend. His Adelaide Bite team won the preliminaries two games to one over the Canberra Cavalry and are headed to Brisbane for the Championship finals starting next Friday. In the prelims, Wik went 2-for-11 with one walk, an RBI and four strikeouts.

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)

Roberto Pena's Cangrejeros de Santurce claimed their League Championship on Friday, winning out over the Indios de Mayaguez four games to two. Pena was 3-for-14 with two walks and two runs scored in his final four games last week. Edwin Medina appeared twice for Mayaguez, but only as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.

NEWS AND LINKS

The Caribbean Series is slated to start on Monday and several Astros are on the preliminary rosters. LHP Edwar Cabrera, RHP Cesar Valdez and OF Eury Perez will represent the Dominican Republic. C Roberto Pena is slated to be on the Puerto Rican team.

The MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospect List came out last week with five Astros on the list as well as three former Astros. SS Alex Bregman was the highest ranking Astro at #22, followed by 1B A.J. Reed (40), RHP Francis Martes (41), OF Kyle Tucker (74) and OF Daz Cameron (75). Former Astros OF Brett Phillips (32), LHP Josh Hader (61) and RHP Mark Appel (70) also made the cut. Brian McTaggart has the story here. After naming A.J. Reed the top 1B prospect a couple of weeks ago, MLB Pipeline went on to pronounce Bregman to be the #7 shortstop prospect and Tony Kemp the #8 second base prospect last week.

In addition to making the Wandy Rodriguez free agent signing official, there were a couple of additional signings that the Astros announced last week: 2B Danny Worth and LHP Edwar Cabrera. All three of these players were signed to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. And, of course, the big news from Thursday was the signing of RHP Doug Fister to a one-year deal. There were also three minor league player releases that were announced by Baseball America last week: IF Jared Cruz, RHP Adonis Pena and LHP Edwin Villarroel. The updated Off-season Master Transaction List can be found here.

Friend of the blog, Jarah Wright, posted this piece about Edwar Cabrera and his road back from injury in 2014.

We will be ending today on a somber note. RHP Jose Rosario was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident last Sunday. Although I hadn't ever met Rosario or seen him play, he was on my radar as a player of interest. Here is what I had written about him in my soon-to-be-published farm system handbook ...
I was intrigued by this 6’6” right-hander after last season and I am even more so now. After a great start to his season in the Dominican Summer League, Rosario earned a late June promotion to the Gulf Coast League where he struggled at times.
There are two facts that stick out about Mr. Rosario (aside from his height). After the promotion, he gave up 53 hits in 40 innings, a rate of 11.9 per nine innings. Also for the season, 50 of his 51 strikeouts were swinging strikeouts. What this tells me, in all likelihood, is that Rosario had a few issues with fastball command, leading to a high number of hits when his fastball location went awry. And it also tells me that he must have one heckuva out pitch to get that many swinging strikeouts.
Again, I am intrigued and I will continue to keep an eye on Rosario to see if he can find a little fastball command to go with an out pitch that appears to fool hitters with great regularity.
 It is always a sad occurrence to see someone so young taken before their time. We are all left to wonder what could have been.

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.

video


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!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Astros Minor League Releases

The Astros released several minor league pitchers effective January 16th:

LHP Zach Davis - 25th round pick in 2014 from University of Central Missouri (Jim Crane's alma mater)
RHP Lachlan Madden - Signed out of Australia in 2014
RHP Jorge Perez - Drafted in the 30th round in 2013 out of Seminole State College (OK)
RHP Joselo Pinales - Signed for $70,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012
LHP Starlyng Sanchez - Signed out of the Dominican Republic in June 2013
LHP Alejandro Solarte - Venezuelan who came to the Houston system in a June 2014 trade with the Blue Jays (along with 2B Will Dupont) for OF Adron Chambers

Per Baseball America's most recent installment of Minor League Transactions, the following players were also released from the organization:

1B Jared Cruz - Australian acquired as the PTBNL in September 2014 with the Braves to complete a trade for RHP Andrew Robinson
RHP Adonis Peña - Dominican who signed sometime during the 2013-14 signing period
LHP Edwin Villarroel - Venezuelan signed in July 2011

The Master Off-Season Transaction List has been updated here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Getting to Know Astros Catcher Trent Woodward

Trent Woodward caught only five games in his first season after being drafted in the 20th round in 2014 out of California State University Fresno, filling in at first base and left field on a Greeneville Astros team with too many catchers, including highly ranked catching prospect Jacob Nottingham. But he was praised by Josh Bonifay, his Manager at the time, for his leadership and his work ethic as he filled in wherever needed.

Trent Woodward - August 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Fast forward one season and Woodward became the Astros go-to guy behind the plate. If they needed a catcher to fill in, they felt very comfortable sending Woodward. Because of that, the second year draft pick started his season with a couple of games at AA Corpus Christi and ended it with AAA Fresno, spending time with Tri-City and Quad Cities in between.

By my unofficial count, Woodward caught 43 pitchers in game situations in 2015 and that doesn't even count the extra pitchers who he warmed up or caught bullpens for! I talked to Woodward recently and asked him how a catcher can possibly prepare to catch that many pitchers. He said, "A lot of it's just a process. I think you just have to enjoy it too. I love going up and talking to people and getting to know them and seeing what they like and what they like throwing in what counts, what their best pitch is, what they want.

But at the same time, all that preparation is good, but you have to be able to make in-game adjustments. Just being confident and instilling confidence in your pitcher and knowing maybe his changeup isn't working today; we have to use something else. Just being able to make in-game adjustments on the fly is extremely important. Simply communicating."

Woodward continued, "If you ask guys, they know what they want, what they want to do in (a given) situation. At the end of the day, I'm putting it down, but they're going to throw what they want, so you just have to be able to trust them and (be) prepared for any situation because you've done your homework."

Woodward felt right at home following his call-up to Fresno in late August. Having gone to college there, he still has many friends in the area and lived with a former Fresno State teammate's family. Friends, familiar faces and homecooked meals made the transition easier.

But going straight from Quad Cities to Fresno was a little overwhelming for Woodward at first. "I was in the bullpen warming up Joe Thatcher who has pitched seven years in the big leagues and, sure enough, the phone rings and they say, 'You're catching next inning.' And my heart started pounding. I started having a little mini heart attack because 24 hours before I was catching a game in Low A and now I'm catching a guy who's pitched seven years and I'm trying to stay composed and get my mind right. Dan Straily pulled me aside and (said), 'Don't get nervous and don't mess up!' And he kind of pushes me out of the dugout. And I'm (thinking), 'Oh, this is awesome, great, not like I'm any more nervous now.'"

Woodward continued, "So it was kind of fun. They razzed me a little bit, but then right after that first inning, they came up and gave me love and made me feel like a big part of the team. Once that first inning got out of the way, everything was smooth sailing. Hey it's just baseball. Slow the game down. And it was a lot easier to transition after that."

Woodward also credits teammate and fellow catcher Tyler Heineman with helping him. Of Heineman, he said, "He's got one of the biggest hearts. He was always looking out for me. Obviously, the jump from Low A to AAA was huge, and he helped with the transitioning, making sure I stayed calm, helped me communicate with the pitchers. I think he did a really good job of making the transition easier. (We) are similar type players so it was nice to pick his brain and see what he does as far as approach at the plate, how he catches, how the game is called differently between the levels. He helped tremendously. He took me under his wing."

Woodward caught a handful of games in the regular season, but never got into a postseason game as Fresno rode all the way to the National Championship with Heineman behind the plate. But he was still a valuable part of the team, warming up the bullpen pitchers and being ready just in case. Woodward was very grateful for the opportunity. "The fact that they needed a guy [when Max Stassi was recalled to Houston] and they thought about me means a lot. And when the (regular) season ended and they left me there, that they were confident enough that if something happened to Heineman, I'd be able to get the job done meant a lot as well."

During the offseason, Woodward was among a group of eight Astros farm hands invited to spend two weeks in the Dominican Republic, along with Alex Bregman, Jason Martin, Mott Hyde, Jamie Ritchie, Akeem Bostick, Brock Dykxhoorn and Thomas Eshelman (who was subsequently traded). They toured the area and worked out with the young Dominican Summer League Astros at the Astros facility there.

Woodward will carry with him a memory of a toddler he encountered in San Pedro, a young boy under two years old. He said, "It touched my heart because I have a nephew who's a year old and I can't imagine my nephew being in that situation ... dirty, no shoes, walking on rocks. It just kind of hit home because of my family background.

I handed him a piece of bubblegum. We go through a whole bunch of bubblegum during a game and I gave this kid a piece of bubblegum and it was amazing how he lit up. He was so ecstatic. I literally made his day. It's something that we take for granted. It's not something that we completely understand. A piece of bubblegum is no big deal to us, but it made his day. It was super powerful and moving."

Woodward was also moved by the poverty he saw, by seeing children the age of his younger brothers cleaning shoes for the equivalent of five cents. "I was sitting here taking it all in, but I try not to have a heavy heart seeing that side of a country. You understand more about the culture and the opportunity that baseball presents for young boys in the Dominican Republic and why they are so driven and why they have such strong work ethics, just because it's an opportunity for a better life," said Woodward.

At the Astros complex in Santo Domingo, Woodward enjoyed his time spent with the Dominican players, many of whom were only 16 to 18 years old, working out, hanging out, playing baseball and ping pong and just trying to relate and communicate. Woodward and the rest of the group took Spanish classes while they were there which helped them understand what it is like for the Latin players when they come to the States. "We (learned) how it is to be in an unfamiliar place, not speaking the language, But no matter what language you speak ... you were welcomed with warmth and a big smile," said Woodward.

That brought us to the topic of catcher/pitcher communications when the two don't share a native language. Woodward told me, " The Astros do a really good job of preparing the guys by helping them with English, but it's one thing that I do take pride in. I want to make sure that I can communicate because you really can't trust someone if you don't know them. So I have Rosetta Stone. I'm working on my Spanish to get better at it so I can communicate with them (and) build trust."

Woodward continued, "But there's baseball talk and there's off-the-field talk. You don't want to just be able to relate to someone on the field, but you want to relate to them off the field and find out what makes them happy, what makes them tick. The Astros do a great job, but that's something that I want to make sure that I can communicate and relate with them and connect with them on a personal level and not just on a professional level."

Woodward saw (and caught) a lot of talented players in 2015. During the course of our conversation, he singled out David Paulino's electric fastball, Chris Devenski's major league changeup and Dean Deetz's incredible slider off the top of his head. But he also noted that there are many pitchers in the organization who may not have plus-plus pitch repertoires. "They don't throw 95. They throw 90-93 and they have good command. They have good offspeed pitches so they can have success because pitching is all about keeping guys off balance. They don't have that filthy slider. They don't have that incredible changeup," said Woodward, citing RHP Keegan Yuhl as an example of a pitcher who has ridden his impeccable command to great success in his first two professional seasons.

I knew in my heart of hearts, though, who Woodward's favorite pitcher to catch in 2015 was and I put him on the spot. Was it OF Andrew Aplin? Woodward laughed and responded, "Without a doubt!" And then he proceeded to tell me the story of Andrew Aplin's pitching debut in late August.

The game wasn't exactly a blow out, but the Grizzlies were losing and were in the midst of playing 16 straight games. Tony DeFrancesco had already used four pitchers in the game, so it fell to outfielder Andrew Aplin to help save his bullpen that night. "Aplin came in and is pitching and sure enough, the first batter he faces is Alex Gordon (of the Kansas City Royals). Alex Gordon was down on a rehab assignment. We weren't allowed to call anything but fastballs. I wanted to get creative and mix in a cutter or a changeup, but there's no way they were going to let that happen. We're pretty much pumping fastballs up there and sure enough, he gets Alex Gordon to fly out to centerfield, pop up to centerfield, and gets out of the inning 1,2,3," said Woodward.

Woodward continued, "But my favorite part is that at the end of the game, we got him (the ball for) his first out as a pitcher and Aplin got Alex Gordon to sign it. I thought that was a real cool thing. First professional out as a pitcher, he's a position player and it just so happened to be against the World Series champion for the season in Alex Gordon. I can't tell you much about his stuff, but he competed like no other. He had a lot of heart out there."

2015 was one big adventure for Woodward. He knows that a repeat of AAA to start the 2016 season probably isn't in the cards for him, but he also knows that sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. He may have been sent to Fresno in late 2015 as a warm body, an emergency backup, but he gave it everything he had. He wants the Astros to think of him again anytime they have a need.

Woodward knows that where he starts the 2016 season is out of his control. "We can't control a lot of things in this game, but I can control how my attitude is and how my effort level is ... being a good teammate and going out there and getting the job done and performing. I've just got to go out there, be ready for Spring Training and, wherever they place me, play my butt off and see where it goes."

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

Thank you for your time, Trent, and best of luck in the new season.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 1/17

Lots O' Links this week, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

1-17: OF Kyle Tucker (19)
1-18: SS Osvaldo Duarte (20)
1-19: IF Ford Stainback (23)
1-20: LHP Ben Smith (23)
1-21: RHP David Schmidt (23)
1-22: RHP Mike Hauschild (26)
1-22: RHP Jose Montero (23)
1-22: OF Angel Tejeda (19)
1-23: RHP Keegan Yuhl (24)

TWEET OF THE WEEK

I usually reserve my tweet of the week for Astros-related fare, but this is just too good not to pass on!

FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 16th, 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)
RHP Cesar Valdez - 2.52 ERA/0.960 WHIP in 5 games (25.0IP)

Teoscar Hernandez is representing the Toros as the only Astros player currently playing in the Dominican League playoffs. He went 7-for-24 with three doubles, two RBI, two walks, 10 strikeouts and scored three runs in 6 games played over the last week and is hitting .311 in the playoffs. The Toros loss last night put them in a tie for second place with Escogido going into the last regularly scheduled day of the Round Robin today. If the Toros win and Escogido loses, the Toros will face Licey in the Championship finals (and vice versa for Escogido). If both teams lose or both win, they will face off one last time to see who will face Licey in the finals. The Toros will play the fourth place Estrellas today while Escogido faces the first place Licey team.

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 are still active in the Venezuelan playoffs, but Astros minor league Manager Omar Lopez is managing the Caribes who are currently tied 2-2 with the Magallanes in the semifinals.

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 leads Mazatlan 3-2 in the semifinals. Game 6 will be this afternoon with Game 7 on Monday if necessary. The Championship series is scheduled to start on Wednesday. Heras was 3-for-13 with a double, two RBI, two strikeouts and he scored one run in four games last week; he is hitting .250 in the postseason.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE (thru Sunday)
C Jake Bowey - .089/.180./.089 in 14 games
IF Jared Cruz - .091/.091/.091 in 7 games
1B Connor MacDonald - .156/.264/.267 in 19 games
IF/OF Marc Wik - .319/.466/.417 in 51 games
RHP Kevin Comer - 16.88 ERA/4.499 WHIP in 4 games (2.2IP)

Marc Wik had a bit of a slow week for the Bite, going 2-for-13 with an RBI, three walks, three strikeouts, two runs and a caught stealing, but he is still in the top 10 in the Australian Baseball League in multiple categories. Wik is first in walks (43BB:31SO), in the top five in batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, doubles and stolen bases, and he also ranks 10th in the league in OPS. Jake Bowey saw some game action for Perth over the last week, but didn't have much to show for it. He was 0-for-6 in two games with one walk and two strikeouts.

Going into the final regular season of play next weekend, Wik's Adelaide Bite is in third place, trailing the second place team by three games and Bowey's Perth Heat is in fifth place, 10 games behind the leader. The Bite should advance to the first round of playoffs which pits the number two and number three seeds against each other.

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)

The Round Robin playoffs in Puerto Rico end on Wednesday. Edwin Medina has played sparingly for tournament leader Mayaguez, but did score a run in his one pinch running appearance over the week. Jordan Jankowski made two appearances for second place Caguas last week, allowing two runs (inherited runners scored) on no hits and three walks, and striking out one over a total of 2.2 innings. Santurce trails Caguas by only one half a game. Travis Ballew made his final appearance last night for Santurce, pitching one final perfect inning before heading home this morning. Ballew allowed one hit and no walks in his three appearances last week (3.1IP) and did not allow a single run during the playoffs. Roberto Pena is also representing Santurce; he was 1-for-8 with two strikeouts in two games for them over the last week.

NEWS AND LINKS

Joe Musgrove was one of the Astros players attending the Rookie Career Development Program. Here he talks about enjoying the ride he's been on as a professional player.

Jon Kemmer and Chris Devenski, among others, were honored at last week's South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet. They clean up good!

A.J. Reed knows that baseball is a game of adjustments.

J.J. Cooper at Baseball America talks about the Astros minor leaguers winning ways. And Cooper also released his Top 10 Astros prospect list. He answers questions about the Astros top prospects here.

Grizzlies Manager Tony DeFrancesco, C Tyler Heineman and RHP James Hoyt will appear at the Hot Stove Gala in Fresno next month.

And I missed this piece on everyone's favorite utility player Joe Sclafani on his time playing for Team USA in Taiwan this past November.

2016 Greeneville Manager Josh Bonifay shared some good news on Saturday with a little help from his daughter Cora ...


Last but not least (and a hat tip to Astros County), the minor league pay lawsuit is moving along and it's getting bigger! And that brings us full circle back to that Tweet of the Week.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 1-10

A couple of Hooks get honored, a few coaching changes and more, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

1-10: RHP Gonzalo Sanudo (24)
1-10: SS/2B Antonio Nunez (23)
1-11: 3B Randy Cesar (21)
1-12: Ricardo Castro (20)
1-13: RHP Andrew Thome (23)
1-15: OF Daz Cameron (19)
1-15: OF Edgar Lorenzo (19)
1-15: RHP Yoanys Quiala (22)

Also, I missed one birthday from last week. RHP Brendan McCurry, who was obtained in the Jed Lowrie trade with Oakland earlier this offseason, turned 24 on Thursday, January 7th.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

A heavily bearded Travis Ballew and his girlfriend Nicki, and the newlywed Jankowskis got to spend a little quality time together in Puerto Rico last week.
  FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 9th, 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)
RHP Cesar Valdez - 2.52 ERA/0.960 WHIP in 5 games (25.0IP)

Teoscar Hernandez got a little more playing time later in the week for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League playoffs after starting the week with a couple of pinch hit appearances earlier in the week. For the week, he was 6-for-18 with a double, solo home run, two RBI, three runs scored and two strikeouts in six games. Eury Perez appeared in three games for Escogido and was 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and a walk. The Toros and Escogido are tied for second in the playoffs, but Licey has been dominating so far.

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)

Danry Vasquez's season with Caracas came to an end last night as his team lost the first round of the playoffs to the Magallanes, but he went out with a bang, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run in his final game. For the week, Vasquez was 4-for-9 with a home run, three RBI, a run scored and two strikeouts.

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 won the first round four games to two and will advance to the semifinals starting today. Heras was 5-for-16 with two doubles, two runs, a walk and four strikeouts in four games over the week.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE (thru Sunday)
C Jake Bowey - .103/.186./.103 in 12 games
IF Jared Cruz - .091/.091/.091 in 7 games
1B Connor MacDonald - .156/.264/.267 in 19 games
IF/OF Marc Wik - .333/.479/.440 in 47 games
RHP Kevin Comer - 16.88 ERA/4.499 WHIP in 4 games (2.2IP)

Mark Wik continues to shine Down Under. For the week, he went 5-for-13 with three doubles, three RBI, five walks, three strikeouts, four runs scored and a stolen base in four games. His team, the Adelaide Bite, is currently in third place, six games behind Brisbane and three games behind Canberra. The ABL playoffs don't start until the end of the month.

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)

Roberto Pena appeared in two games for Santurce last week. He was 3-for-5 with a solo home run, RBI and two runs scored. Pena's teammate Travis Ballew appeared in three games and allowed no hits and three walks while striking out one in three innings of work.

Jordan Jankowski pitched 2.1 innings (2 games) for Caguas, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out three. Edwin Medina was 1-for-2 with a strikeout in two games for Mayaguez.

Santurce, Caguas and Mayaguez are all tied at 2-2 in the playoffs.

NEWS AND LINKS

It has been a quiet week on the Astros minor league front. The Astros announced a few changes to their minor league coaching and development staffs which I weighed on (very) briefly here. When I get a chance, I'll update the full coaching staff list with what we now know.

RHP Chris Devenski and OF Jon Kemmer will be among those honored at this Thursday's South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet as Corpus Christi Hooks Pitcher and Player of the Year for 2015. Dave Clark, former Hooks Manager and former Astros third base coach, will be a special guest.

Rachel Balkovec, Astros minor league Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, shares her philosophy on coaching. Spoiler alert: That big muscle in a player's head is as (or more) important than the rest of them.

Chris Carter signed with the Brewers last week.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Minor League Staffing Changes

The Astros announced today that they would be making a few minor league staffing changes. I absolutely love that 2015 Quad Cities Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski will be filling the huge hole that Doug Brocail left in Corpus Christi when he went to the Rangers over the offseason. I advocated for the move at that time. And former Tri-City Pitching Coach Chris Holt is a logical replacement for Borkowski at Quad Cities and should be a solid addition for the RiverBandits.

However, I am a bit surprised and puzzled by the Manager moves at Lancaster, Quad Cities and Greeneville, particularly moving 2015 Quad Cities Manager Josh Bonifay back to the rookie league team in Greeneville after having been named Manager of the Year in the Low A Midwest League in 2015. But then the Astros still don't ask me my opinion on these things. More's the pity.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 1/3

Non-roster invitees, a couple of new signings and a little love for a couple of Astros minor leaguers, but first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

1-3: RHP Hansel Paulino (20)
1-4: OF Bobby Boyd (23)
1-8: RHP Samil de los Santos (22)
1-8: OF Danry Vasquez (22)

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Something must be in the air! Not only did Michael Freeman, A.J. Reed, Jordan Jankowski, Aaron West and Lance McCullers tie the knot (not with each other, of course) in the offseason, there were also a few New Years Eve proposals!

Even the coaches were getting into the act ...
 FALL/WINTER LEAGUE STATS

Here is how the Astros players participating in fall and winter leagues have fared to date (through Saturday, the 2nd, 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)
RHP Cesar Valdez - 2.52 ERA/0.960 WHIP in 5 games (25.0IP)

New additions to the Astros system, OF Eury Perez and RHP Cesar Valdez, both played in the Dominican Winter League this season and I've added their regular season stats above. The only players currently playing in the round robin playoffs are Teoscar Hernandez and Perez, who up until Saturday's games have been mostly used as defensive replacements, and Valdez, who got a win for Licey in his start earlier this week. Valdez pitched six innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out four. For the regular season, Valdez walked only four batters while striking out 33 in his 25 innings of work. Perez did see some action in Saturday's game, entering a 13-inning game as a defensive replacement in the 7th inning. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a strikeout in Escogido's 4-3 loss. Hernandez came in to pinch hit on Saturday and stayed to play center field, going 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored in the Toros loss. Licey leads the playoffs at this point.

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)

The Venezuelan Winter League regular season ended on Wednesday and Danry Vasquez went 1-for-7 with three walks in his final games. The first round of the playoffs started on Saturday and Vasquez went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game for Caracas in their loss to the Magallanes in the best of 7 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)

The Mexican Pacific regular season ended on Tuesday. Leo Heras was 3-for-8 with a double, walk, stolen base and two runs scored in his last three regular season games for Obregon. In the playoffs which started on Friday, Heras has gone 1-for-7 with two walks, two strikeouts, a run scored and a caught stealing in the first two games. Obregon is tied with Los Mochis 1-1 in a best of seven series.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE (thru Sunday)
C Jake Bowey - .103/.186./.103 in 12 games
IF Jared Cruz - .091/.091/.091 in 7 games - not currently playing
1B Connor MacDonald - .156/.264/.267 in 19 games - last played 11/29
IF/OF Marc Wik - .328/.471/.423 in 43 games
RHP Kevin Comer - 16.88 ERA/4.499 WHIP in 4 games (2.2IP) - not currently playing

Mark Wik has been a busy boy this week, playing in seven games over the last eight days. In those seven games, he has gone 8-for-22 with six walks, two doubles, a triple, an RBI, three stolen bases and scored eight runs!

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)

The LBPRC actually ended their regular season on the 30th and started their playoffs on Saturday. A couple of additional Astros players showed up at the end of the season. Ruben Castro got a hit in his only at-bat and Nestor Muriel collected three strikeouts in his only three at-bats. And Juan Santos somehow managed to allow three hits and nine walks in his three innings of work. Medina continued to get a little playing time and was 3-for-10 with two RBI and a run scored in his final three regular season games while Travis Ballew pitched two scoreless innings and Jordan Jankowski allowed his only run in the final of his six outings with Caguas. Alexander Melendez got the start in left field in the final game of the season and went 2-for-4 with a double.

The only Astros player who has seen action in the playoffs so far is Edwin Medina who came in as a defensive replacement for Mayaguez and struck out in his one at-bat. Mayaguez is currently 0-1 in the round robin playoffs.

NEWS AND LINKS

The biggest news of the week was the announcement of the Astros non-roster invites to Spring Training. In addition to new minor league signings OF Eury Perez and RHP Cesar Valdez, the following players are receiving invites:

SS Alex Bregman
RHP Jake Buchanan
3B J.D. Davis
RHP Chris Devenski
OF Derek Fisher
C Tyler Heineman
RHP James Hoyt
RHP Jordan Jankowski
OF Jon Kemmer
2B Tony Kemp
RHP Brendan McCurry
3B Colin Moran
C Roberto Pena
1B A.J. Reed
RHP Brady Rodgers
IF Joe Sclafani
3B/1B Tyler White (White is getting attention from Baseball America now)

For more on all of these players, including Perez and Valdez, go here. The master offseason transaction list has been updated here with Perez and Valdez signings and Kazmir's free agent signing with the Dodgers.

Jim Callis has a MLB post with players to watch in 2016, including the Astros RHP Francis Martes and former Astro LHP Josh Hader.

And last, but certainly not least, the always wonderful Alyson Footer has this terrific piece about women who are making big strides on the baseball front.