Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/27

Happy Birthday to ~

1B Connor MacDonald (19)
Signed in 2012 out of Queensland, MacDonald was the first Australian prospect signed by the Astros in over twenty years. He played his first professional season in 2014 in the Dominican Summer League. In 35 games, he hit .328/.442/.461.

1B Conrad Gregor (23)
Drafted by Houston in the fourth round in 2013 out of Vanderbilt, Gregor started the season with Quad Cities, but earned two promotions during the season and ended it with the AA Corpus Christi team. In a combined 124 games, Gregor hit .311/.404/.509 with 31 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs, and 86 RBI.

One former Astro celebrates today as well ~

OF Carl Warwick (78)
Obtained in a trade with the Cardinals for LHP Bobby Shantz, Warwick appeared in 280 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963 with a batting line of .257/.315/.373. He was traded to the Cardinals in February of 1964 for 1B/OF Jim Beauchamp and RHP Chuck Taylor and was used as a pinch hitter in that year's World Series, going 3 for 4 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored as the Cardinals beat the Yankees 4-3 to win the series.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Interview with Astros RHP Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson had a season in 2014 that crept up on me. Following his first month pitching for the Greeneville Astros, he had a 7.20 ERA, but by the time the season ended, Peterson had whittled that number down to a 2.35 ERA after allowing only two earned runs during his final two months pitching out of the Greeneville bullpen. Batters hit only .209 against him for the season and he ended with a 1.087 WHIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

When I talked to Peterson recently by phone, he admitted that he'd rather forget about that first month of the season and focus on what he had accomplished by the end of the season. "Obviously, I struggled in the beginning, (but) I feel like I improved a lot over the course of the season," said Peterson, citing the improved consistency of his breaking ball and better pitch location.

Peterson throws from a low 3/4-arm slot which helps him get some natural run on his pitch offerings which include a high-80's to low 90's 4-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. Peterson considers his curveball to be his best pitch, but one of his fellow Greeneville Astros pitchers praised his changeup as well.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Peterson pitch when I visited Greeneville last summer so I asked him what I will see when I do see him pitch. According to Peterson, "I throw strikes. I'm certainly not going to back down from anyone. I'm really aggressive. Sometimes I can be too aggressive and leave balls over the plate when I'm ahead in the count. I don't walk too many guys." Peterson walked only one batter in his final 12 appearances of the season.

When quizzed about what Peterson felt he needed to do in order to get to the next step in his professional development, he indicated that he thinks he locates his fastball well, but has been working on being more consistent with his curveball and the arm slot he uses with that breaking pitch. During the 2014 season, he was also working on finding the sweet spot in his times to home plate.

Peterson and his fraternal twin brother LHP Patrick Peterson spent the first two and a half years of their collegiate careers at Temple University in Philadelphia, but had to transfer to North Carolina State University for the 2014 college season when Temple suddenly cut their baseball program in December 2013. With two players in the household looking to be drafted, it was a long couple of days for the Petersons as his brother Patrick was drafted in the 23rd round by Seattle and Eric's name was called in the 37th round, leading to sighs of relief all around.

When asked what he would do if he wasn't playing baseball, Peterson said that he would likely go back to  North Carolina State and finish his degree in Sports Management with an eye toward staying attached to the game in some way.

As I always do with pitchers, I asked Peterson who on that 2014 Greeneville squad had a pitch that he would like to steal. "I would probably say (Reymin) Guduan's fastball. You can't really teach mid to high 90's fastball, so that's definitely something I wish I could have."

And what hitter would he least like to face? "I would say Sean McMullen. He always puts up good at-bats. Another guy would be Antonio Nunez because the dude battles up there, every single time. He doesn't strike out." Those two players in particular can make a pitcher throw a lot of extra pitches.

Peterson didn't have much to share with me when asked to tell something most people don't know about him, but he did mention that, although he and his brother are fraternal twins, they do look enough alike that they are often mistaken for identical twins.

Thank you for your time, Eric, and best of luck in the upcoming season.


Please consider purchasing my new e-book, the "2015 Houston Farm System Handbook." The book can be read immediately on your kindle, and can also be read on virtually any computer or tablet by downloading the Free Kindle Reading App.

Happy Birthday - 2/26

No future Astros celebrating today, but we have a few former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B Steve Hertz (70)
Signed by the Colt .45's as a free agent in 1964, Hertz appeared in five games (four at-bats) for Houston that season, and those five games constituted his entire major league career. He was unable to get that elusive hit in the majors. However, he went on to have a very successful career coaching for Miami Dade College. As an interesting side note, in 2007 he managed the Tel Aviv Lightning in the Israel Baseball League.

RHP Don Lee (81)
Acquired in a trade with the Angels for OF Al Spangler in June 1965, Lee pitched for the Astros in 1965 and 1966. In 16 games, he was 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP. Lee played in nine major league seasons for five teams.

RHP Gary Majewski (35)
A Houston native, Majewski signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2009 and only appeared in two games for Houston in the 2010 season. Since it's his birthday, I will be charitable and not post the results of those two appearances. Majewski had his most effective season in 2005 for the Nationals, going 4-4 in 79 appearances with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.360 WHIP. In three seasons for the Independent League Sugar Land Skeeters, Majewski is 18-8 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.205 WHIP in 175 appearances.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sample Entry from the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook

As I hope my readers have discovered by now, I recently published the "2015 Houston Farm System Handbook," containing profiles of 257 players in the Astros minor league system. The book is available from Amazon as an e-book that can be read on virtually any device (desktop, laptop, tablet or phone) even if you don't own a kindle. Simply download the Kindle App, buy the book and enjoy!

Not every profile is as detailed as this one, but the following write-up on Tyler Brunnemann will give you an idea of the kind of information contained in the book.

I hope that you will consider purchasing this book which I have come to think of as an Astros minor league media guide on steroids. Your continued support is very much appreciated.

RHP Tyler Brunnemann

  • B/T: R/R
  • H/W: 6’2” 200#
  • Born: 8/9/91 in Garden Ridge, Texas
  • Age on 4/1/15: 23
  • Acquisition: Drafted in the 40th Round in 2013 out of Hardin-Simmons University (Abilene, Texas)
  • 2014: 2nd Season; Quad Cities (A-) with an early August promotion to Lancaster (A+)

  • Held hitters to a .183/.237/.289 batting line for the season (61.2IP)
  • Held lefties to a .173/.244/.333 line

  • 2014 Quad Cities Midseason All-Star
  • 2014 Championship Series MVP (California League)

2014 Fall/Winter League Stats:
Australian Baseball League: 3.12 ERA and a 1.077 WHIP in 22 games (26.0IP)

From 40th Round draft pick (out of 40 rounds) in 2013 to MVP of the California League Championship series in 2014 is quite the journey. When Brunnemann was at Quad Cities prior to his promotion in August, both Manager Omar Lopez and Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski sang praises to Brunnemann’s work ethic. Lopez called him a “model citizen,” someone who was “on time for everything, on top of everything and applies the information.” Borkowski said of Brunnemann, “He’s going to get every ounce out of himself that he can. He competes. He prepares. He’s ready to go.” Nothing illustrates his work ethic better than knowing he dropped 40 pounds between the end of the 2013 season and the start of Spring Training in 2014.
Those intangibles have given Brunnemann early success. He won’t blow you away with his 88 to 91 mph fastball, but he will challenge you with it and spot it well. He also gets decent movement on his changeup and the curveball that he was working on in the 2014 season. But it is his delivery that sets him apart. He somehow manages to achieve good command despite a violent finish to his delivery in which he falls off the mound to the first base side, sometimes actually having to put down his glove hand to keep from falling over. The delivery provides deception and distraction to the hitter.

Excellent walk rate, excellent strikeout rate, low home run rate, good with runners on, great lefty/righty splits ... there is a lot to like with someone like Brunnemann. On paper, the odds are certainly against a 40th round draft pick without elite “stuff,” but don’t tell Brunnemann that. His intangibles will likely take him further than many pitchers who have more natural ability, but whose drive, desire and work habits don’t match his.

Postseason Stats:
  • 2013 Tri-City (New York-Penn League): 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP in 1.1 innings
  • 2014 Lancaster (California League): 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA and a 0.750 WHIP in 6.2 innings

2014 Fall/Winter Stats:
Australian Baseball League: 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.077 WHIP in 22 games (26.0IP)

  • Twitter handle: @TBruno35
  • A June 2014 interview with Brunnemann (includes the story of a benign brain tumor that he had removed when he was 11 years old)
  • Threw 68.6% of his pitches for strikes in the 5 games for which that information is available
  • More photos of Brunnemann

Happy Birthday - 2/25

No future Astros celebrating, but two former Astros have birthdays today ~

CF Cesar Cedeno (64)
Cedeno signed with Houston as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1967 and played in 1512 games for the Astros from 1970 to 1981 with a batting line of .289/.351/.454. Cedeno won five Gold Gloves and earned four All-Star nods during his tenure with Houston. He also led the National League in doubles in 1971 and 1972, outfield put-outs in 1974 and fielding percentage in 1971 and 1977. He was traded to the Reds in December of 1981 for Ray Knight. Cedeno has served as Hitting for the Greeneville Astros in the Appy League for the past three seasons.

LHP Denny Lemaster (76)
Lemaster pitched for Houston from 1968 to 1971 after being acquired in a trade with the Braves along with IF Dennis Menke.  An All-Star for Atlanta in 1967, Lemaster had a 3.40 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP in 152 games (90 starts) for the Astros.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Birthday - 2/24

No future Astros with birthdays today, but a couple of former Astros are celebrating ~

A first round pick by the Giants in 1971, Riccelli came to Houston in a June 1978 trade with the Cardinals and pitched in 13 games for the Astros in 1978 and 1979 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.640 WHIP.

A fifth round pick by the Red Sox in 2000, Esposito came to Houston as a free agent in November 2008. He played in three games in the major leagues (two for Houston in 2010) with three plate appearances and never found that elusive major league hit. After one year of coaching in the Pirates minor league organization in 2013, Esposito was the Manager of the Pirates Short Season A Jamestown Jammers in 2014.

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