Monday, August 3, 2015

WTHB July Astros Minor League Players of the Month

With no further ado, I present you with WTHB's July Players of the Month ...

A.J. Reed - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

PLAYER OF THE MONTH

1B A.J. Reed (Lancaster/Corpus Christi)
Reed's batting average fell off 80 points from last month and he still blew almost everyone out of the water. Plus he had one of the highest on-base percentages in the organization for the month. And his slugging percentage DID blow everyone out of the water, eclipsing the next highest mark by over a hundred points. After all was said and done, Reed ended the month of July with a .354/.446/.717 batting line in 27 games. He collected five doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 29 RBI, with 18 walks to 25 strikeouts. Reed was also the WTHB player of the month for June.

There were a number of incredible performances in July that deserve special recognition. Any one of these could have won player of the month had they not been up against Reed.

OF Drew Ferguson, 2015 19th round draft pick, put up a .359/.429/.533 batting line with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 25 games between Tri-City and Quad Cities.

1B/3B Matt Duffy (Fresno) impressed me with his .337/.424/.564 line in 26 games as he collected eight doubles, five triples and 19 RBI. But I was even more impressed with his 14 walks to 11 strikeouts for the month.

OF Ronnie Mitchell (Lancaster) had a terrific month as well, hitting .321/.339/.538 with six doubles, four triples, three home runs and 23 RBI in 26 games.

3B Colin Moran (Corpus Christi) finished the month with a .349/.407/.538 line in 27 games with seven doubles, two triples, three home runs and 22 RBI.

3B Nick Tanielu (Quad Cities) put up a .340/.378/.510 line in 27 games, collecting 11 doubles, two home runs and 24 RBI.

1B/3B Tyler White (Fresno) also collected 11 doubles in July, along with three home runs and 21 RBI in 23 games. He hit .385/.477/.604 with 16 walks to 15 strikeouts.

1B/C Randy Vasquez (DSL) had a .395/.443/.570 batting line with six doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI in 23 games in July.

Other noteworthy performances included Fresno's Andrew Aplin (.333/.437/.367 in 18 games) and Joe Sclafani (.358/.386/.415 in 17 games); Tri-City's Pat Porter (.321/.386/.538 in 22 games) and Bobby Wernes (.341/.430/.365 in 24 games); Greeneville's Ford Stainback (.378/.465/.419 in 20 games); and the DSL's Edgar Lorenzo (.383/.464/.567 in 17 games) and Carlos Machado (.407/.471/.441 in 20 games).

Hector Roa (.574 for Greeneville - just promoted to Tri-City), Derek Fisher (.549 for Lancaster) and Jon Kemmer (.529 for Corpus Christi) had some very healthy slugging percentages. And Antonio Nunez's .453 on-base percentage in 19 games for Tri-City was impressive as well.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

RHP David Paulino (Quad Cities/Lancaster)
Paulino BARELY eked out this win over our second place finisher, but ultimately, he had pitched a couple more innings and held hitters to a slightly better batting line. Paulino ended the month of July with a 3-1 record, 1.21 ERA and 0.843 WHIP in five starts. He issued eight free passes while striking out 32 in 29.2 innings, and held batters to a .167/.234/.206 line.

RHP Elieser Hernandez definitely deserves special recognition for his work for Tri-City and Quad Cities. In six games (four starts), he was 1-1 with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.915 WHIP. He walked five and struck out 34 in 27.1 innings.

Honorable mentions go to RHP Keegan Yuhl (Lancaster); RHP Ryan Deemes (Greeneville - since promoted to Tri-City); LHP Junior Garcia (Greeneville/Tri-City); RHP Erasmo Pinales (Greeneville); RHP Moreno Polanco (GCL/Greeneville); RHP Michel Martinez (DSL); RHP Yoanys Quiala (DSL); and RHP Jose Ramos (DSL).

RELIEF PITCHER OF THE MONTH

RHP Jandel Gustave (Corpus Christi)
This was REALLY difficult this month. I ended up weighting several factors, including innings pitched, appearances, walks and batting average, but honestly, I could have gone with pretty much any of the honorable mentions. Gustave was 1-0 with three saves in July and had a 0.00 ERA and a 0.811 WHIP in seven games (12.1IP). He walked four batters and struck out 13 while holding them to a .146/.222/.171 batting line.

Honorable mention goes to RHP Jorge Alcala (DSL); RHP Jacob Dorris (Greeneville/Tri-City); RHP Angel Heredia (Quad Cities); RHP James Hoyt (Fresno): RHP Lachlan Madden (GCL/Greeneville); RHP Juan Minaya (Corpus Christi); LHP Cristhopher Santamaria (Greeneville); and RHP Ryan Thompson (Quad Cities).

Jandel Gustave - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

CATCHER OF THE MONTH

Jamie Ritchie (Quad Cities/Lancaster)
Ritchie has been getting behind the dish with much more frequency than he did earlier this year and his defensive numbers are starting to reflect that. Offensively, he has always had strong on-base skills and that hasn't changed. In July, he hit .272/.402/.419 in 25 games (20 at catcher) with six doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He drew 18 walks and struck out 14 times and also stole three bags.

Honorable mention goes to Alfredo Gonzalez (Corpus Christi) and Oscar Campos (DSL). (Note: Campos had terrific offensive numbers, but only played 13 of 23 games behind the plate.)

Jamie Ritchie - July 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen


April Players of the Month:
SS Carlos Correa
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Ryan Thompson
C Tyler Heineman

May Players of the Month:
OF Derek Fisher
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Travis Ballew
C Jacob Nottingham

1B A.J. Reed
RHP Francis Martes
RHP Angel Heredia
C Alfredo Gonzales

Happy Birthday - 8/3

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

OF Drew Ferguson (23)
Ferguson was born August 3, 1992 in Knoxville, Tennessee and was drafted by Houston in the 19th round in 2015 out of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is currently playing for the Low A Quad Cities River Bandits.

Tweet of the Day

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mark Appel dazzles in Fresno!

Also going on during this first day of August: Operation Shutdown was in full effect in the Quad Cities.

Fresno 9, Albuquerque 7 in 12 innings

W- Jason Stoffel (5-2)
L- Tim Smalling (0-1); a position player

Fresno home runs: Matt Duffy (14, solo in 12th), Max Stassi (12, walk-off 2-run in 12th)

The Grizzlies squandered a 5-1 lead, which forced them to take it to extra innings. No matter, they finally got the win thanks to a pair of homers in the 12th.

Mark Appel allowed a solo homer to Wilin Rosario in the 3rd, which was the only run he allowed in his 7 fine innings. He allowed 2 other hits and struck out 10. Unfortunately, Rosario played the role of killjoy as he tagged Kevin Chapman for a game-tying grand slam in the 8th inning. Chapman allowed 2 other hits, another run, walked 1, and struck out 1 in the inning. He's a good pitcher. Crap happens. James Hoyt allowed a hit, walked 1, and struck out 3 over 2 scoreless as he has completely dominated after that nightmarish beginning to his season. Jason Stoffel also went 2 innings; he allowed a run on 2 hits and fanned 5.

Fresno got held by a position player for 2 innings. But again, they still won, so all was forgiven. They also had a chance to walk it off in regulation, but they left the bases loaded.

In the 4th, they got a couple of 2-run singles from Nolan Fontana and Max Stassi. Jonathan Villar led off the 7th with a double and scored when Tyler White grounded into a double play.

Andrew Aplin led off the 9th with a walk, and an error following a Villar sac bunt attempt meant that they were both safe. They both advanced on a passed ball, and then L.J. Hoes joined them on the bases as he was given a free pass to 1st base. Tyler White followed by tying the game with a sac fly that advanced everyone. Alex Presley was also allowed to take 1st base, but Fontana and Matt Duffy went down to end the inning.

After the Isotopes took the lead with an RBI double in the top of the 12th, Duffy wasted little time in tying the game once again as he took Tim Smalling deep to begin the bottom of the 12th. Fontana reached on an error and advanced to 2nd on a sac bunt from Tony Kemp. One batter later, Max Stassi ended it,

Duffy (solo homer, 2 BB, 2 R), Villar (2B, R, SB [20]), and Stassi (2-run homer, 4 RBI, R) had 2 hits apiece. Fontana scored 2 runs to go with his 2-run single.

Game 2 of this series will start at 6:05 Pacific. Starters for both sides are TBA.

Midland 9, Corpus Christi 6

W- Omar Duran (2-0)
L- Travis Ballew  (3-5)

CC home runs: None.

The Hooks caught the Hounds in the 7th as they scored 2 to make it a 5-5 game, but Midland ended up having the final say in this one as they finished the game on a 4-1 run.

Jack Mayfield opened up the scoring with a sac fly in the 2nd inning. After Jon Kemmer tripled to lead off the 5th, Mayfield struck again with an RBI single. Chan-Jong Moon later added an RBI single of his own in the inning. Teoscar Hernandez's 2-run single in the 7th tied the game at 5. Unfortunately, Midland responded with 3 in the bottom of the 7th and 1 more in the 8th, and the Hooks' only response was a Colin Moran RBI single in the 9th. Teoscar (SB [23], 2-run single), Moran (RBI, BB), and Mayfield (2 RBI, R) had 2 hits apiece.

In his AA debut, Edison Frias went 4.2 innings and allowed 4 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him) on 8 hits, walked 1, and struck out 6. Chris Cotton was the first man out; he allowed a run on 2 hits (2-run homer; 1 run was charged to Frias), walked 1, and struck out 2 in 1.2 innings. Travis Ballew was roughed up in his 1.2 innings as he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and walked 1.

Brian Holmes will be on the mound today. He'll take on Parker Frazier at 2:00.

High Desert 7, Lancaster 6

W- Jose Valdespina (1-1)
L- Jordan Mills (1-1, 2-3 season)

Lancaster home runs: Ronnie Mitchell 2 (11; 2-run in 4th, grand slam in 5th)

Unfortunately, the JetHawks couldn't seal the deal and they ended up walking off with a loss.

With his 2 homers, Ronnie Mitchell was the Lancaster offense. He finished 3-4. James Ramsay also finished 3-4; he doubled and stole a base (9). J.D. Davis went 0-2, but he drew 2 walks and scored 2 runs.

Austin Chrismon allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 9 hits and struck out 6 in 7 innings of work. Andrew Walter was the first man out; he allowed 2 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him) on 3 hits and struck out 2 in 1.1 innings. Jordan Mills got 1 out via strikeout in the 9th, but the Mavericks got the win off of him. He allowed a run on 2 hits and walked 2.

The JetHawks will look to avoid the sweep as Akeem Bostick is on the mound. He'll take on Richelson Peña at 5:05 Pacific.

Quad Cities 5, Wisconsin 0

W- Josh James (4-2)
L- David Carver (1-2)

QC home runs: None.

The Bandits got a fine performance on the mound as Josh James and two relievers combined on a 3-hitter.

James allowed 3 hits, walked 3, and struck out 4 over 5.2 shutout innings. Michael Freeman fanned 4 in 2.1 perfect innings, and Riley Ferrell worked around a walk in the 9th to complete the shutout.

Quad Cities got 2 in the 1st on RBI singles from Ryan Bottger and Jose Fernandez. Fernandez scored in the 3rd on an error following a Bryan Muñiz single. Muñiz, who finished 3-3, hit an RBI single in the 8th and scored the final run of the game on an RBI single from Jason Martin. Fernandez, Martin, Kristian Trompiz, and Nick Tanielu all had 2-hit games.

The Banditos will look for the sweep as Brock Dykxhoorn takes the mound. He'll face David Burkhalter at 5:15.

Mahoning Valley 7, Tri-City 4

W- Shao-Ching Chiang (3-1)
L- Zac Person (1-3)
S- Yoiber Marquina (3)

TC home runs: Hector Roa 2 (2, 8 season; 2-run in 2nd, solo in 4th)

A 5-run 1st proved to be too much for the ValleyCats to overcome.

Hector Roa, in his first game back with Tri-City, whacked 2 homers, giving him 8 on the season. In between his homers, Pat Porter hit an RBI single in the 3rd inning. Alex Melendez went 2-4 with a double at the top of the Tri-City lineup.

Zac Person allowed 5 runs on 5 hits and walked 1 as he only got 2 outs in the 1st. Yeyfry Del Rosario was the first man out; he allowed a run on 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1 in 1.1 innings. Kevin McCanna and Ralph Garza Jr. worked 3 innings apiece; McCanna allowed a run on a single, walked 1, and struck out 2, while Garza allowed a hit and fanned 4. Steve Naemark worked around a hit to throw a scoreless 9th, striking out 1.

Chris Murphy will make his New York-Penn League debut as the ValleyCats try to avoid a sweep. He'll face Casey Shane at 5:00 Eastern.

Greeneville 10, Kingsport 6

W- Starlyng Sanchez (1-0, 2-1 season)
L- Harol Gonzalez (1-3)
S- Matt Bower (1)

Greeneville home runs: Osvaldo Duarte (3, solo in 3rd)

The Appy Astros used a 7-run 3rd inning to propel them to a win. It got a bit hairy, but they found 3 more runs in the top of the 9th to pad their lead.

Duarte's homer was the catalyst for that big 3rd inning, and it was only appropriate that his home run led off the inning. Ford Stainback followed with an RBI groundout, and then Connor Goedert, Kyle Tucker, and Kevin Martir hit RBI singles. Myles Straw capped off the scoring in the 3rd with a 2-run single. In a 7-5 game in the 9th, Daz Cameron ripped a 2-run triple and scored on a sac fly from Stainback to rebuild the Greeneville lead.

Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker were playing their first games in the Appalachian League, and they both finished with 3 hits. Cameron also stole 2 bases, which gives him 14 on the season. Stainback was the only player in the lineup without a hit, but he still drove in 2 runs. Straw went 2-5 with 2 runs scored and had a double to go with his 2-run single.

Daz and Kyle weren't the only players on the Greeneville roster making they Appy League debuts... Moreno Polanco allowed 3 runs on 7 hits, walked 1, and fanned 2 in 4 innings. Starlyng Sanchez allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and struck out 1 in the 5th. Lachlan Madden worked around a walk to throw a scoreless 6th, striking out 1, and Matt Bower brought it home. In his 3 innings, the only complication he encountered was a solo homer hit by Dale Burdick in the 9th. Bower, the southpaw from Wazzu (that's Washington State University), allowed one other hit and struck out 6.

Andrew Thome will be on the mound as the Appy Astros look for a sweep on the road. He'll take on Tom McIlraith at 2:00 Eastern.

GCL Astros

Their game with the Phillies was suspended with 1 out in the 3rd, and they were trailing 5-1. Patrick Sandoval, in his pro debut, allowed 5 runs (4 earned, all in the 1st) on 8 hits and struck out 3 in 2 innings. Ihan Bernal hit a sac fly in the 1st.

DSL Astros Blue 6, DSL Indians 2

W- Felipe Tejada (2-3)
L- Dalbert Siri (2-2)

Blue home runs: Reiny Beltre (5, 2-run in 7th)

Both teams scored a run in the 1st, but the Blue team took control of this one.

Cristopher Luciano opened the scoring with an RBI double in the 1st and added an RBI groundout in the 5th. Orlando Marquez finished 2-3 with an RBI double in the 5th. Reiny Beltre smacked a 2-run homer in the 7th, and Ozziel Sanchez-Galan scored on an error in the 8th.

Jose Ramos allowed a run on a sac fly, walked 1, and struck out 7 in 4 innings. Felipe Tejada tagged in for 4 innings, allowing a run on 4 hits, walking 1, and striking out 4. Josue Uribe worked around a hit to throw a scoreless 9th, striking out 1.

DSL Astros Orange 3, DSL Angels 2

W- Angelo Serrano (1-0)
L- Cesar Melendez (3-2)
S- Luis Vasquez (2)

Orange home runs: None.

The difference in this game was a 2-run 6th for the Orange team. With this win, they got themselves out of the cellar of their division and put the Angels in the basement in the process.

Alejandro Garcia was a home run shy of the cycle. He scored the first run of the game on a Hector Martinez groundout in the 1st. Juan Fuente scored on a wild pitch in the 6th, and Martinez later scored on a sac fly from Jose Hernandez that turned into a double play. Nicolás Miranda finished 2-3.

Gabriel Valdez allowed 3 hits, walked 2, and struck out 2 in 4 innings of work. Angelo Serrano allowed 2 runs on 2 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4 in 4 innings, and Luis Vasquez worked around a hit to close it out, striking out 2.

Tweet of the Day

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Astros on Vacation: An Editorial by Mike Mitchell

[The following is an editorial opinion from WTHB first-time contributor Mike Mitchell. His opinions and mine may not intersect at every avenue, but I enjoy his thoughtful, eloquent and well-reasoned point of view. I hope that you will enjoy it as well. -- Jayne]

The Astros on Vacation

by Mike Mitchell

In his brilliant psychological thriller The Visible Man, Chuck Klosterman has a great line about the psychology of being rich -- the kind of rich the Astros were from June of 2012 until July of 2015:

"The rich can take vacations, which isn't nearly as essential to day-to-day happiness as the process of looking forward to all the vacations you'll experience later."

This concept -- that laying on a beach never feels as great as the security and self-esteem of sitting in your living room knowing that you can lay on a beach whenever the heck you want -- is a fairly common sense way of explaining how hope and imagination work.

From the moment Jeff Luhnow took over baseball operations and began trading every Major League player of any value for guaranteed short-term losses (specfically, the draft picks and pool money that come with those losses), projectable arms and Dominican teenagers, the Astros have been planning future vacations. The official moment we were rich enough for realistic fantasy came after the 2012 draft, one that produced current Astros rookies Carlos Correa (1st overall pick), Lance McCullers and Preston Tucker. Correa was 17 years old, which is exactly how old we wanted him to be at that moment in time.

Things were progressing well enough, despite the Brady Aiken saga and other pre-vacation missteps. Last summer, Sports Illustrated announced: "Astros Depart for Bahamas in 2017!", and we all ate it up.

Then the 2015 team arrived, and all hell broke loose. Outside of hot starts from Jake Marisnick and Jed Lowrie, the team didn't really *look* much better than the 70-92 2014 squad. With half the lineup hitting under .200 and striking out constantly -- including second-year cornerstone George Springer and big off-season acquisition Evan Gattis, the Astros rode a flawless bullpen and a hyper-efficient, shift-heavy defense to an 18-7 record and a six-game lead in early May in a suddenly declining AL West. Were we already rich? Was this paradise?

Eh, sort of. Since then, the division has not gotten much better, with only a brief Angels surge in early July. The Astros have been a .500 team, going 40-39 in their last 79 games as of August 1st. Regulars Chris Carter and Luis Valbuena are still struggling to get their averages over .200, Marisnick has hit like a pitcher since late April, and the bullpen now comes and goes. The additions of immediate impact stars Correa and McCullers -- as well as solid contributions from Tucker and fellow rookie Vincent Velasquez -- have cancelled out the fact that the Opening Day roster (with the notable exception of Dallas Keuchel) has not been particularly impressive. And so, we have sat in the general proximity of 8-12 games over .500 for several months now.

Luhnow had a choice to make. As he acknowledged in interviews, the team's record to date and the extreme parity in the American League meant the Astros could probably coast into a Wild Card playoff game, with no upgrades via trade. Or, with some very significant upgrades to the top of the rotation, the middle of the lineup and the back of the bullpen (read: ALL OF THE THINGZ!!), the 2015 Astros could sustain their somewhat misleading success, likely win the division, and grab a ticket to MLB's Elite Eight.

The decision would not be without costs: the Astros had a second wave of very promising prospects behind the first one. In my judgment, the most elite of those three were, in order:

1. CF Brett Phillips - 5-tool center fielder. A bit undersized, with only average range for center field, and his plate discipline is unrefined. That's it for holes. He has been extremely productive at every level, hitting for average and power with plus-speed and a cannon arm. Was most recently at Double-A Corpus Christi.

2. 1B A.J. Reed - Leads all of minor-league baseball with 28 HRs and 99 RBIs in 100 games between High-A Lancaster and Corpus Christi. Takes his walks. He's the prototype for an elite first base prospect.

3. C Jacob Nottingham - With 14 HR, 60 RBI and a .325 average in 76 games between Low-A Quad Cities and Lancaster, Nottingham is also a prototypical first base pros-- oh, what's that? What? He's a highly athletic catcher!? He's 20 years old, you say? Scouts say his can stick at the position? Oh, wow. We could use one of those!

There were other guys -- this year's three first rounders, plus Derek Fisher, Mark Appel, Domingo Santana, Colin Moran, Josh Hader, Michael Feliz, Francis Martes, etc. -- who had clear future potential. But with Keuchel, McCullers, Velasquez and Collin McHugh all under team control through at least 2018, those three bats listed above --at the three greatest need positions in the everyday lineup -- were the pieces everyone had in their hypothetical 2017 Astros lineups. The guys who would live in paradise.

Luhnow had a clear choice: tweak the roster by trading lesser, non-essential prospects for useful spare parts (a lefty reliever, a platoon outfielder, etc.), or Go For It. You know, Go For It. The strategy that says: these cars are shiny and drive better than my car, and I can afford one. Why am I not buying one of these cars? It's time to Go For It!

The Angels, Luhnow's immediate rival for the crucial division crown, and the team with fewer good prospects and an older core roster, tweaked.

The Astros, with a young roster that is two years ahead of Luhnow's own projection, decided to Go For It.

I disagree strongly with this decision, particularly in light of the fact other teams agreed with my assessment of the Astros system, demanded their elite prospects, and received two of the three from Luhnow.

First, Phillips and Nottingham are not just elite, they are unblocked among our established young core pieces. Jason Castro's recent heroics aside, he has regressed offensively for two consecutive years and is in line to earn more than $5M in his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2016. Hank Conger is a nice roster piece, but he's also getting expensive and not productive enough for a pricey free agent contract.

Nottingham was the most valuable catcher in this organization by a massive margin.

The same is true of Phillips, who is across-the-board superior to Marisnick and Tony Kemp. There is an argument for George Springer as the long-term center fielder, an option that would give the Astros more flexibility to add offense at the corners, but there is no evidence Houston's front office and field staff have seriously considered that path, especially in light of their trade deadline work.

With Chris Carter's implosion and the team's short leash with post-hype prospect Jon Singleton, first base is wide open, currently being manned by a three-headed monster of Carter, all-or-nothing third baseman Luis Valbuena, and utility infielder Marwin Gonzalez. So Reed, like Nottingham and Phillips, is a core piece by virtue of performance, projection and opportunity. He has it all.

The decision to trade two of the three, Nottingham and Phillips (presumably because the Reds already have Joey Votto and thus had no use for a hypothetical Reed-for-Aroldis Chapman swap, thankfully) was stunning. Nottingham was dealt for a straight rental piece, and Phillips for a relatively short-term piece in Carlos Gomez, who is controlled through 2016.

The Astros have gotten better in 2015 and 2016. I have no interest in disputing that. While there is an argument Phillips could be just as good as Gomez by next summer, I won't make the case. It requires an optimistic view of the prospect's immediate impact, and a pessimistic view of Gomez's age-30 season. Nottingham would not be ready to catch regularly before Opening Day 2017, so Kazmir's value down the stretch this year is all profit until then.

But make no mistake: the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 Astros almost certainly got worse. Even if they acquire free agents or trade for more veteran stop-gaps at catcher and center field, those resources will take away from the flexibility to patch other, unexpected holes that inevitably arise. A.J. Hinch, who has been an excellent addition at manager, has not yet shown a strong embrace of platooning as a creative method of cost-saving in the lineup. Most likely, the 2017-2019 Astros will either carry sub-standard options at catcher and center field, or less cost-efficient veteran players with expensive contracts on the downside of their careers. And then, maybe Daz Cameron?

A standard disclaimer on articles of this type states that if the Astros win a World Series in the 2015-16 window promoted by Luhnow's moves, nothing else matters. Flags Fly Forever. And that's true: I count myself among the fans who would gladly trade Nottingham and Phillips's pre-free agency careers for a championship run, bragging rights, etc. I have season tickets to this year's team. I'll be at every playoff game.

But we did not just buy a ring. We bought a slightly enhanced chance at one. According to Baseball Prospectus, our current World Series win probability is 9.6%, a close third in the American League. Before the Kazmir acquisition, it was around 6%. That's what we bought, folks. That's what Jacob Nottingham's career bought.

The outcome is secondary. We won't win the World Series because of Kazmir, we'll win it because one of the extra 3-4 Astros balls out of 100 in the lottery machine might come up.

It is antithetical to everything Jeff Luhnow has done since taking over that he would sacrifice a dozen years of cost-controlled assets -- and the odds of Phillips and Nottingham becoming at least league-average regulars, and thus extremely valuable to the team, is much higher than 9.6% at this point -- for a marginal upgrade to our short-term potential.

It makes me think other factors are in play. Perhaps owner Jim Crane, underwhelmed by the modest jump in attendance -- only 24,000 fans came out for the first game of the crucial Angels series on Tuesday -- felt the need for a headline-generating all-in pennant push. Maybe a member of the senior leadership team is terminally ill. Or maybe Luhnow just got impulsive.

I mentioned on Twitter right before the deadline that I felt Luhnow got caught in a vicious circle: every time he sacrificed a valued prospect to win in 2015, the urgency to win in 2015 increased, and made the team more likely to sacrifice additional prospects to (foolishly) pursue an outcome it had already declared a bias towards. This is the sentiment I felt was driving Luhnow to pursue Craig Kimbrel and Chapman with his remaining prospects up until the very last minute.

Or, perhaps, we simply place too much value on future vacations. Many fans argue this, and while the math says they're wrong, maybe the math isn't enough. The Astros have given up a big chunk of the savings account that was promising them virtually unlimited future vacations.

That future is less certain than it was two weeks ago. But, hey, we're on vacation right now.

We better bleepin' enjoy it.


Mike Mitchell (Twitter: @MMitchTX) is an Astros fan and season-ticket holder living in Bellaire, Texas with his wife Laura.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Results for Friday, July 31, 2015

How did the Astros system fare on the final day of July?

Reno 5, Fresno 4

W- Evan Marshall (3-2)
L- Jordan Jankowski (5-3)
S- Enrique Burgos (2)

Fresno home runs: None.

The Grizzlies took a 4-3 lead in the 7th.... only to see the Aces retake the lead in the bottom of the 7th.

Alex Presley opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 1st inning. He led off the 4th with a single, advanced to 2nd on a Tony Kemp single, and scored on a Joe Sclafani single. Presley's 3rd single of the game drove in another run in the 7th, and Matt Duffy followed with an RBI single of his own. Jonathan Villar scored 2 runs and for the 2nd consecutive game, he stole 2 bases (19).

Dan Straily had a bare minimum quality start, allowing 7 hits (solo homer), walking 1, and striking out 6. Jordan Jankowski and Tyson Perez both pitched the 7th, and neither of them recorded an out. Jankowski allowed 2 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him), an RBI triple, and walked 1. Perez walked 3. Luis Cruz came on and struck out the 3 batters he faced in the 7th. He then proceeded to throw a scoreless 8th.

The Grizzlies are back home to begin the month. They'll begin a 4-game set with Albuquerque tonight at 7:05 Pacific. Mark Appel will be on the mound to take on a rehabbing Christian Bergman.

Midland 4, Corpus Christi 0

W- Sean Manaea (1-0)
L- Kyle Westwood (7-4)

CC home runs: None.

One night after the Hooks won 4-0, the Rockhounds returned the favor with a 4-0 win of their own.

Danry Vásquez had 2 of the 3 Hooks hits. The other hit was an A.J. Reed single.

Kyle Westwood went 5.1 innings and allowed 4 runs (1 inherited runner charged to him) on 10 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1. Aaron West was the first man out; he allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 1 in 1.2 innings. Reymin Guduan struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 8th inning.

Edison Frias will make his Texas League debut tonight. He'll face Chris Jensen at 7:00.

High Desert 7, Lancaster 4

W- David Perez (1-0)
L- Kevin Comer (1-4, 6-5 season)
S- Anyelo Leclerc (3)

Lancaster home runs: J.D. Davis (16, 2-run in 7th)

The JetHawks opened the scoring, but suddenly, they found themselves behind the 8-ball as the Mavericks scored 7 unanswered runs.

Ronnie Mitchell put Lancaster on the board with an RBI double in the 1st inning. They'd have to wait until the 7th to score again. D.J. Fisher ripped an RBI single, and J.D. Davis whacked a 2-run homer. Fisher finished 2-4, scored 2 runs, and stole 3 bases (16, 24 season).

Kevin Comer went 4.1 innings and allowed 7 runs on 8 hits (grand slam), walked 2, and struck out 5. Troy Scribner tagged in for 3.2 innings and all he did was strike out 6.

Austin Chrismon will be on the mound tonight. He'll face off against David Ledbetter at 7:05 Pacific.

Quad Cities 7, Wisconsin 1

W- Elieser Hernandez (1-1, 1-2 season)
L- Angel Ventura (5-5)

QC home runs: Kristian Trompiz (5, 2-run in 2nd)

Elieser Hernandez was electric as he shackled the Rattlers.

He allowed 4 hits, walked 1, and struck out 8 over 6.2 shutout innings. They spoiled the shutout with an unearned run in the 8th off of Jorge Perez, who allowed 2 hits and struck out 1. Zach Davis worked around a walk to finish off the game.

Jose Fernandez kicked things off with an RBI triple in the 2nd inning. He ended up scoring on an error that allowed Trent Woodward to reach, and then Kristian Trompiz went deep to put the Banditos up 4-0. Nick Tanielu ripped an RBI double in the 5th. He finished 3-4 and added a 2-run double to his ledger in the 7th.

In game 2 of this series, Josh James will face David Carver. First pitch is at 6:00.

Mahoning Valley 6, Tri-City 1

W- Brock Hartson (3-0)
L- Junior Garcia (0-1, 3-1 season)

TC home runs: None.

The Scrappers turned the tables with a 4-run 5th inning.

The only Tri-City run came on an RBI single from Aaron Mizell in the 3rd inning.

Junior Garcia allowed 4 unearned runs on 7 hits and struck out 2 in 5 innings. Harold Arauz tagged in for 3 innings and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits (solo homer), walked 2, and struck out 4. David Schmidt worked around a hit and a walk to throw a scoreless 9th.

Zac Person will get the start in game 2 of this series. He'll face Shao-Ching Chiang at 7:00 Eastern.

Greeneville 4, Kingsport 3 in 10 innings

W- Devonte German (3-1)
L- Seth Davis (0-1)

Greeneville home runs: None.

The Appy Astros tied the game in the 8th and walked off with the win in the first extra frame.

They got 2 runs in the 4th thanks to RBI singles from Brauly Mejia and Justin Garcia. Hector Roa delivered the game-tying RBI single in the 8th, and Mejia got the winner with an RBI single in the 10th. He finished 2-5, as did Ford Stainback and Myles Straw. Stainback hit a double and scored 2 runs, while Straw hit a double, scored a run, and stole 3 bases (8).

Erasmo Pinales allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and struck out 5 in 4 innings. Cris Santamaria worked around a walk to throw a scoreless 5th. Devonte German came on and threw 5 scoreless, allowing a hit, walking 1, and striking out 5.

Game 2 of this series has Moreno Polanco making his Appalachian League debut. He'll take on Harol Gonzalez at 7:00 Eastern.

GCL Phillies 17, GCL Astros 2

W- Will Stewart (1-0)
L- Carlos Hiraldo (2-1)

GCL home runs: None.

Uh... pass.

Joan Mauricio went 2-3, and one of those hits was a triple.

Carlos Hiraldo allowed 2 runs on 6 hits and struck out 1 in 4 innings. Starlyn Taveras was the only GCL Astros pitcher to not allow a run; he struck out 1 over 1.1 perfect innings.

DSL Indians 9, DSL Astros Blue 2

W- Leomar Pareda (2-1)
L- Jorge Guzman (0-3)
S- Gregori Vasquez (1)

Blue home runs: None.

The Blue team was up against it early because they were down 5-0 after the 1st inning.

Angel Tejeda and Cristopher Luciano hit RBI singles in the 4th and the 5th, respectively. Tejeda finished 3-4 with a triple.

Cristofer Melendez was the 2nd reliever for the Blue team and allowed 2 hits while striking out 1 over 2 scoreless innings. Jorge Alcala struck out 1 in a 1-2-3 9th inning.

DSL Astros Orange 4, DSL Angels 0


W- Cesar Rosado (3-2)
L- Anderson Montilla (1-3)

Orange home runs: Randy Vasquez (4, solo in 9th)

The Orange team got a combined 3-hitter from Bryan Abreu and Cesar Rosado and blanked the Angels.

Abreu allowed a hit, walked 3, and struck out 6 over 5 shutout innings, and Rosado allowed 2 hits, walked 1, and struck out 5 in the final 4 innings.

Carlos Machado finished 2-4 and broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the 7th, and Nicolas Miranda added a sac fly. Randy Vasquez began the 9th with his 4th homer of the year, and Jose Hernandez drove in the final run of the day with an RBI single.

Getting to Know Astros/Hooks 2B/SS Jack Mayfield

You probably saw this picture taken during the California/Carolina League All-Star Game in June.



And, unless you are a serious fan of the Astros minor league team, you probably recognized the former #2 prospect in the Astros system (per MLB pipeline) OF Brett "Maverick" Phillips and the current #6 prospect in the Astros system 1B A.J. Reed, but you wondered to yourself, "Who is Jack Mayfield?"

Well, you won't be helped out if you search for Jack Mayfield in Baseball-Reference because the only Jack Mayfield listed played for the Amarillo Gold Sox in the West Texas-New Mexico League for one season in 1948 and passed away in 2010 at the age of 84. But upon a little digging, you will find a David Mayfield in the Astros system.

Jack Mayfield - September 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

David "Jack" Mayfield has always gone by Jack, but unless you know that you may have missed him. So it is little wonder that Mayfield continues to fly under the radar despite sitting beside two of the Top 10 Astros prospects in the All-Star dugout and subsequently getting promoted alongside those same two players to Corpus Christi within roughly two weeks of each other.

When I was in Lancaster in May, all three players were still there. I interviewed Reed and Phillips, but didn't get to Mayfield due to time constraints. But when I spoke with Lancaster Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson, I asked him who on the team he felt was flying under the radar. His immediate response? Jack Mayfield. A fan of Mayfield's versatility, Robinson said of him, "I'd go to war with Jack anytime."

In my recent interview with Hooks LHP Chris Cotton, Cotton (knowing that I was set to interview Mayfield) told me to ask Mayfield about the time Cotton got him out in the Super Regionals. He couldn't resist the little dig on Mayfield, but promptly added, "Look how he's doing now. I'm surprised I was able to get the guy out. He's a stud."

So, who is Jack Mayfield? Mayfield was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Oklahoma in 2013. After a solid junior year, the draft questionnaires came, but the call never did. More questionnaires in his senior year, but again no call. Whether or not an injury in high school that left him with a screw in his elbow scared teams off, he'll never know. But when the Astros contacted him with a post-draft offer, he jumped at the chance to start his professional playing career.

From the time he signed, one of his goals was to get to Corpus Christi. A native of the border town of Del Rio, Texas, he was looking forward to a time when his family would be only a 4-hour car ride away. Mayfield fulfilled that goal in early July when he was promoted from High A Lancaster to AA Corpus Christi, after hitting .303/.370/.458 in 66 games and making the All-Star team. Mayfield quickly made a statement at AA by going 4-for-4 in his first game and hitting a home run in his second. (He also sports a very impressive .394/.463/.577 batting line with two outs and runners in scoring position for the season.)

When I talked to Mayfield last week, he told me that he has been very impressed with everything in Corpus so far. "This place is unreal. They really try and and take care of you here. They make you enjoy the game a little bit more and everything is just a little bit better than High A," said Mayfield.

But it wasn't Mayfield's first experience at Whataburger Field. He played there in both his freshman and senior years when the University of Oklahoma played in the Kleburg Bank College Classic. According to Mayfield, "My senior year, I had a really good series here and a late home run in the eighth inning to help us win the game. They ended up giving me MVP for the tournament. I actually played good on this field so I was excited to come back."

Mayfield cites his California League All-Star honor as a big accomplishment for the 2015 season. "I started off the season really slow and I didn't even think about that. I started playing a little better and a little better and the first time I realized (that it might be a possibility was when) we were playing Inland Empire. Their third base coach (and Manager, Denny Hocking) always talks to us when we're on defense. I made a pretty good play and he (said), 'I can't wait until the All-Star ballot comes around. I'm going to vote for you a hundred times.' I looked at him and laughed, but that made me realize, 'Hey, I've got a shot at being on the All-Star team. I've just got to keep playing good and just keep my mind right.' And, eventually, I got picked," said Mayfield.

And, although earning championship rings with the 2013 Tri-City team and the 2014 Lancaster team will always rank as his biggest accomplishments to date, the All-Star nod ranks as his greatest individual accomplishment. "It was awesome whenever (Lancaster Manager) Omar Lopez let me know that I made the team." As far as playing in the All-Star game alongside top prospects Brett Phillips and A.J. Reed, Mayfield said, "It's definitely a great feeling (playing with) those two guys who are unreal at baseball (but are also) great guys first of all."

I asked him what someone who has yet to see him play could expect to see when he takes the field. Mayfield responded, "I just try to bring the same energy every game. A guy like me, throughout my career, I've had to give that little extra effort on and off the field. I'm that guy that hasn't been noticed a lot so I definitely have to make a first impression. On the field, I'd like to say that I'm a grinder that always plays the game the right way and always plays it 110%. My Dad and my brother always said, 'If you're going to play the game, give it your all.' When I make a mistake, I try to keep my head up. I try not to get down on myself when I (have a bad game). I try to stay the same person all the time. If I have a great game or if I have a bad game, I'll always be the same guy. I'm just a guy that enjoys playing the game. I try and have fun out there. I don't try and be too serious."

One of the questions I like to ask position players is what Astros farm system pitcher they would least like to face. Mayfield told me that he wouldn't be too eager to face RHP Jandel Gustave. "This year I'd have to say Gustave. I had never seen him throw like he's throwing here in Corpus. He's showing so much confidence on the mound. He has a good presence up there. He throws 98 to 100 and he throws a slider about 90. He acts like he knows what he is doing now. He looks like a bulldog up there," said Mayfield. It wasn't always that way with Gustave. Mayfield remembers a time earlier in his career when Gustave didn't always know where the ball was going. Now, according to Mayfield, Gustave spots up the ball well and has earned the closer's role in Corpus Christi.

I had originally tried to get in touch with Mayfield in the off-season after he got back from playing winter ball in Panama but that didn't work out. But I still wanted to hear a little about the experience. Mayfield's half Hispanic heritage and his travel to visit family in Mexico prepared him well for the culture in Panama which he found to be somewhat similar. As to the baseball side of it, Mayfield said, "I really enjoyed seeing how much they love the game of baseball over there. That's one of the things the kids live for." No matter what time the team would get to the field, the younger players on a junior team were already there, hitting, throwing and fielding. "Those kids were just out there having fun and that was something I'd look forward to every day," said Mayfield.

Mayfield continued, "It was a great experience. I learned a lot of things about the game. It definitely humbles you, playing over there in different countries. Makes you appreciate the game. Makes you realize how nice we have it over here."

But more importantly, the experience helped Mayfield understand where he was in his career and what he needed to work on. In particular, he felt as though he was able to take things from the experience to help him as a defensive player. "You see all these kids playing in the not so well taken care of fields ... and these kids are good over there. Just seeing that, I knew that I had some improvement that I could do. I definitely learned over there how to be just a little bit more relaxed on defense, try and get a little smoother," said Mayfield. Mayfield built on that experience going in to Spring Training and now feels more confident with his defense no matter what the position he's asked to play. Although second base is his best position, he showed that he was more than capable manning short as he did regularly for the Lancaster team this season.

Mayfield may not be well known by those who only follow the top prospects, but he has earned the respect of his coaches and fellow players as he makes his way up the ladder. He is someone who brings versatility and an even-keeled demeanor to any team. Mayfield has a simple philosophy, "I'm trying to be a guy on a team that helps them win a ballgame. I don't mind where I play. I just like playing the game. I like hitting. I like helping the team win. Any way they need me, I enjoy being on the field." And every team needs someone who can be that guy.

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

Thank you for your time, Jack. And best of luck as you pursue your third championship ring in as many seasons.

Happy Birthday - 8/1

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to ...

RHP Kevin Comer (23)
Comer was born on August 1, 1992 in Shamong, New Jersey. He was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 2011 out of Seneca High School in Tabernacle, New Jersey, and was traded to Houston as the PTBNL in a 10-player trade with Toronto in July 2012. He is currently playing for the High A Lancaster JetHawks.

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