Welcome to Appy Astros, a blog dedicated to following current & former Greeneville Astros, the Appalachian League affiliate of the Houston Astros. Here you will find reports on current G-Stros, updates on the development of former G-Stros and occasionally an update on what has happened to the guys who have hung up their spikes.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Some Christmas Gifts for Astros Farm Followers

I have been out of pocket for most of the last week and haven't been able to share all the neat things I have come across lately. Let's get right to it with a few cool links.

First ScoutingtheSally.com has a super scouting report of Jose Altuve. Mike does a great job of breaking down the good & the bad of Jose's game. Here is his conclusion:

As you can tell, this scouting report has much more assumption in it than most of what I write. With a prospect like Jose Altuve, it’s needed because there’s simply not another player to compare him to. In all honesty, the easy out is to simply write Altuve off as a AAAA-utility type at the major league level due to his lack of size. However, if Jose Altuve really was his listed Baseball Reference height/weight of 6’1″, 185 lbs., we’d be discussing a surefire top-100 prospect and one of the top-5 position prospects I scouted in 2010. So while I can’t say he will ever be an impact talent, to rule out a scenario where he does not at least become a second division starter and instant fan favorite would be irresponsible of me.
I recommend you follow Mike on Twitter @ScoutingtheSAL. He will be expanding his minors coverage over the next season beyond just the Sally League.

I also found this great quote from Jose Altuve about his height via Google Translator:

"I do not know, because I have long since I measure and I have no idea," he says"No need to pay attention to what people say," he says of his size, and "keep fighting for what you want and in the U.S. and it does not matter,"

Secondly, let's stay at second base. Dave Gershman, over at SPANdemonium, interviewed former G-Stro Albert Cartwright. Dave asked him about his off season preparation and here is Albert's reply.

Preparing my self mental and physically to endure the the long brutal season ahead of me. pushing yourself in the gym and putting time on the field and in the batting cages. putting in time gets me ready for the season
Dave can be followed on Twitter @Dave_Gershman. He is out of NY state and follows minors prospects from every team.

Finally Baseball Prospectus released it's Top 11 Astros prospects. Here are the former Greeneville Astros on the list:

Four Star: Jordan Lyles & Delino Deshields
Three Star: Mike Foltynewicz, J. D. Martinez
Two Star: Jio Mier, Jose Altuve

In the "Nine More" category, other former G-Stros were mentioned. They included: Telvin Nash, Jay Austin, & Ross Seaton.

They have write ups on the first 11 which include the "starred" athletes above.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

G-stros Name Field Staff

The Greeneville Astros announced their field staff yesterday. Leading the 2011 edition of the G-Stros will be Omar Lopez. He will be returning to the Appy League where he had the best season of his pro career with the Bristol White Sox in 1996. He was the Houston Astros Player Development Man of the Year last year in his role as manager for the Gulf Coast League Astros.

Joining Lopez will be Josh Bonifay as hitting coach & Rick Aponte as pitching coach. Bonifay, the son of former Pirates GM Cam Bonifay, was a player/coach the last three years with the Pirates organization. Here is what he had to say about joining the Astros:

"Houston called for an opportunity within their player development department as a hitting coach at a low-level rookie team," Bonifay said. "It was my first opportunity to have a full-time gig as a hitting coach and a longtime goal to continue my career in baseball.

"I am extremely fortunate for the opportunity, and I look forward to a long career as a coach."

Aponte returns to Greeneville where he served as the pitching coach in 2009. He was in Lexington last year.

To update you on the where abouts of other former G-Stros field staff see this list:

Ed Romero - (2010 manager) - Gulf Coast League Astros Manager
Rodney Linares (2007-2009 manager) - Lexington Legends Manager
Tim Bogar - (2004 manager) - MLB Red Sox 3rd base coach (will get his shot as a manager before long).
Stubby Clapp - (2007 & 2009 hitting coach) - Tri Cities Valley Cats Manager
D. J. Boston - (2008 hitting coach) - Danville Braves Hitting Coach
Travis Driskill - (2008 pitching coach) - Lancaster Jethawks Pitching Coach
Dave Borkowski - (2010 pitching coach) - Lexington Legends Pitching Coach

Other Appy League mangers for 2011 include:
Bristol White Sox - Pete Rose Jr.
Danville Braves - Randy Ingle
Pulaski Mariners - Rob Mummua

Polin Trinidad Now A Cub

Polin Trinidad was a free agent this year and Baseball America has announced that he has been signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs. Here is what BA had to say about Trinidad.

Polin Trinidad sits in high 80s with a nice changeup. His funky angles and relatively young age (26) means he's still young enough to embark on a career as a lefty reliever.

Trinidad pitched for Greeneville in 2005 & 2006. He showed tremendous improvement from 05 to 06 and made several Astros top prospect list. He has been a starter for his entire time in the Astros organization, starting 125 of 138 games.

He has had a solid winter ball as a starter. Best of luck to Trinidad in the next phase of his career.

Monday, December 13, 2010

USA Today Likes Four Former Greeneville Astros

USA Today is out with their organization report for the Astros. It is not too bad other than the editor goof of the heading "where the Royals stand at each position". When they list the five prospects to watch, four of them played in Greeneville in the last three years. Just another indication of the recent depth added to the farm system by Ed Wade & company.

Here is what they say about the former G-Stros:

RHP Lyles: Lyles, who stands 6-4, was 7-9 with a 3.12 ERA and a better than 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Class AA Corpus Christi (Texas) last season. He had six starts at Class AAA (0-3, 5.40 ERA), and Wade says he'll have a chance to win the fifth-starter's job in spring training.

2B-OF Delino DeShields Jr.: Taken out of high school with the eighth overall pick in June's draft, DeShields has the speed you'd expect from the son of someone who stole 463 bases in the majors. DeShields, 18, has a bit more power than his father did. The Astros are converting him from outfielder to second baseman.

OF J.D. Martinez: The Astros' minor league player of the year in 2010, Martinez hit a combined .341 with 18 homers and 89 RBI in low-A and AA, mostly as a 22-year-old.

"He has a chance to be a real solid big-leaguer for a long time," Wade says.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz: The Illinois high school star was the Astros' first-round compensation pick in June (19th overall) for losing reliever Jose Valverde to the Detroit Tigers as a free agent.

Foltynewicz, 19, can touch 96 mph with his fastball and also has a good changeup. He started 12 games for an Astros rookie-level team and went 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA, but he has the mechanics and the arm to move quickly through the system.

Meanwhile, Koby Clemens gets Boston love.

Koby Clemens, 1B, Astros farm system — Nobody took him in the Rule 5 draft, but that wasn’t surprising. The 24-year-old Clemens hit 26 homers and knocked in 85 runs while hitting .241 at Double A, but he struck out 143 times in 452 at-bats. Astros manager Brad Mills raved about him, though. “I saw him hit a home run through this incredibly stiff wind during an intrasquad game at spring training last year,’’ Mills said. “He’s got power.’’ Clemens played first base last season for the first time after being used as catcher/third baseman. The Astros still believe he can be a Brandon Inge type of player and he will get to play at Triple A in 2011.

Power is not what comes to mind when I think about Brandon Inge. It's the baggy jersey.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jeiller An A

Today was the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. The Rule 5 draft is a way for MLB to try to make sure no organization is stockpiling young talent down on the farm just to keep them from other teams. Each team gets to protect 40 players on their major league roster. Those can't be taken in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft. If you take a player (the Astros took two today) you have the option of keeping them on your 25 man active roster all year and paying $50,000 to the team you drafted them from, or if you don't want to keep them at the major league level, you can work out a trade for them. If you decide you don't want to keep the player, you just ship them back to the team they came from. You get some of your money back but not all.

In the minor league portion, the players are protected by being on the AAA or AA reserved list. The options are the same but the money is less and you don't have to keep the player in the same level they were drafted in.

Today, Jeiler Castillo was taken in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft by the A's. I was surprised by this selection. Castillo first appeared in Greeneville in 2008. That year, he had more walks (21) than Ks (18) in 20 2/3 IP. He returned in 2009 and showed improved control. However, the ball left the yard more frequently. In 2010, he started the season with Tri Cities of the NY Penn League and was sent down to Greeneville after appearing in just 3 games. He was told he was coming down to anchor the bullpen for a team the Astros thought had a chance to win the league. He had his best year yet but was visibly discouraged at the end of the year. Three seasons in the Appy League normally doesn't bode well for your career.

I am hoping that this opportunity will be good for Jeiler. He is having a good winter in Venezuela. He is pitching in the Liga Paralela (LVBP minors) for Caracas. He is 5-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 29 1/3 IP (7 appearances/3 starts).

Jeiler is not the first former G-Stro to leave the organization via the Rule 5 draft. Neil Sellers, Santo Luis & Victor Garate were all selected in the minor league portion of Rule 5 drafts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Villar, Abad & Lyles all in mix for 2010 Houston Rotation

Brian McTaggart updates us today on the Astros pitching plan for 2010. He says that Jordan Lyles will be given a shot to earn the 5th starter role. His competition for that may include former G-Stros Henry Villar & Fernando Abad.

McTaggart on Villar:
Villar's stock has risen so much that he's considered one of the club's top three prospects.
Astros GM Ed Wade on Abad:
Abad, if healthy, and he's healthy right now - I always says that with pitchers - that's a pretty significant left-handed arm in our bullpen. But if he can win 11 games in our starting rotation, we'll figure out the left-handed, right-handed stuff to deal with.

Front Office Honored, Altuve for Rookie of the Year?, Other News

It was reported a while back that David Lane, General Manager of the Greeneville Astros, had been named Appy League Executive of the Year. Houston Astros' Director of Social Media, Alyson Footer gave a nice shout out to David in her most recent blog and had this nice photo of David & Assistant GM Hunter Reed, who are in Orlando for the Winter Meetings.

The G-stros front office does an amazing job. Keep up the good work.

Jose Altuve continues to impress folks in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues (LVBP). With the season wrapping up at the end of the month, some of the media in Venezuela is looking at post season awards. Jose is being mentioned as a candidate for Rookie of the Year. BeisbolVenezolano.net is predicting that Jose will win the award and has a nice write up about him. They refer to him as "una de las gratas sorpresas del 2010" (one of the pleasant surprises of 2010). They also indicate that Jose's playing time might decrease as the season goes along due to players with more experience joining the team. Altuve's performance is at least making that decision tough for the manager. He is currently hitting .318 and has not committed an error in 25 games.

Paul Runge Joins Astros Minors Staff
One of the bits of news to trickle out of the rather uneventful winter meetings was that the Houston Astros have hired former Danville Braves' Manager Paul Runge to be their Minor League Field Coordinator. He had been slated to be the manager of the Rome Braves of the Sally League for 2011. While in Danville for 6 seasons, his teams never finished below .500 and he had a part in the development of some pretty special players. Here are some of the current Major League players who graced his rosters: Elvis Andrus, Yunel Escobar, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlin, Jason Hayward, and Neftali Feliz.

Outside the Organization
Three former G-stros have signed or re-signed with teams in the last week. Jimmy Barthmaier re-signed with the Nationals, Victor Garate signed with the Marlins & Santo Luis re-signed with the Red Sox.

Carlos Quevedo Granted Permission to Play Winter Ball
Carlose Quevedo had been designated on the "fatigue list" by the Houston Astros due to the number of innings he pitched in Tri Cities this year. He was granted permission to start playing winter ball on December 1st by the Astros and has been pitching in the Venezuelan Developmental League. In his first 3 outings, he has given up 4 hits and 1 walk but no earned runs in 3 IP. I expect he will be added to the LVBP roster of Magallanes soon, possible on Monday.

Enyelbert Soto

Soto was released by the Houston organization in 2007. He has continued to play in Venezuela. He is pitching quite well for Magallanes right now. In his first 6 appearances since being called up from the developmental league, he has yet to allow an earned run or walk a batter. He has given up 3 hits in 6 IP and struck out 3 batters. The 28 year old lefty still has something left in that arm. I wonder if he might get a minor league contract from some team if he keeps this performance up?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Barthmaier Re-Signs with Nationals

Baseball America is reporting that Jimmy Barthmaier (2004 G-Stros) has re-signed with the Nationals. Barthmaier spent time last year at AA and high A for the Nationals organization.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Ball Update

Jose Altuve has been told all along that when a few of the big league players joined the team in December, he would have to move to the bench. Apparently, Magalanes manager Luis Blasini felt that the line up without Altuve was missing a "spark" (chispa), so he put him back in at 3rd base to start. He moved over the 2nd later in the game.

His spark at the plate resulted in a 2-4 day with a run scored and a win for Magalanes over the Bravos.

Wlad Sutil has been getting some playing time lately. He played 2nd last night for Aguilas de Zulia, and took part in turning a triple play! With runners at 1st and 2nd, Raul Chavez lined out to 3rd baseman Jose Pirela, who throw to Sutil, who threw to first to complete the triple play. He was 1 for 3 at the plate with a walk. He has raised his average to .273 on the LVBP season.

Also appearing for Zulia in that game was Arcenio Leon. Leon pitched two innings, giving up no runs and one hit while fanning two. His performance was a strong bounce back from his previous outing where he didn't retire a batter after walking two batters and giving up two runs, one of them earned. His ERA for the season is 4.00 in eight outings. Walks are hurting Leon, he has given up 8 in 9 IP. He has only given up 5 hits.

Meanwhile, over in the Liga Biesbol Dominico, Fernando Abad is continuing to put up a solid showing. He gave up just one run in 3 1/3 IP last night for Toro del Este. Back on 11/23, he was given the "Star of the Week Award" for his performance over the prior week.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gervacio Not Tendered A Contract, Drew Saylor Update

Yesterday was the deadline for MLB teams to tender contracts to players for the coming year. Sammy Gervacio was not tendered a contract. Gervacio, who played for Greeenville in 2005, had been injured for much of the 2010 season and that factored into the decision. Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle gives this explanation:
MLB rules state that had he continued to be affected by the injury in spring training and did not make the club, he would have to be placed on the major league disabled list and command a major league salary.

All reports are that the Astros will try to sign Gervacio to a non roster contract, but he is now a free agent and eligible to sign with any MLB team. He has not pitched since May. He is on the roster for Licey in the Dominican Winter League but has not pitched in a game.

Drew Saylor Retires
In 2007, Drew Saylor, was signed by the Astros after his release by the Marlins organization and assigned to Greeneville. He only appeared in 6 games was released after the season and had been playing indy ball in the Frontier League. Last season, he won the Citizenship award for his work in the community while playing for the Lake Erie Crushers. I saw in the transactions this week that he had retired and found a story to confirm it. Saylor was also an assistant coach at Cleveland State University last season.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"The Farm" A Short Film Featuring Former G-Stros

Two "minor league" film makers, Alex Jablonski & Michael Totten, set out to make a short film every month for a year. In July, they visited the Lancaster JetHawks because they wanted to do a film about other people who were " in a similar situation, folks blessed and cursed with the onus of potential in a situation where their performance would determine their future."

The result of this visit was episode 10 of the endeavor "The Farm".

Sparrow Songs - Episode 10 - The Farm from Sparrow Songs on Vimeo.

I loved watching this because it gives a pretty true picture of minor league baseball. It also allowed me to see some of the guys who have played in Greeneville and are now on the other side of the country. Some of the Greeneville former players who appear are: Frederico Hernandez (interviewed), Leandro Cespedes (pitching & getting lit up), & Brandon Barnes (swinging a bat in the dugout).

Get a small bag of popcorn (it's only 9 minutes long) and enjoy.

1st Appearances

Two former Greeneville Astros made their winter league debuts over the Thanksgiving weekend. Douglas Arguello made his first start of the year for Aguilas del Zulia in Venezuela. He went three innings, giving up no runs, hits or walks. He struck out one batter.

In Puerto Rico, Rene Garcia got his first at bat as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning of the game on the 26th. He grounded out to the pitcher. He was then removed before he got the chance to play defense.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good News For Some, Bad News For Others

Jordan Parraz, who was placed on waivers when taken off the Royals 40 man roster, was claimed by Boston yesterday. He takes the last spot on the Red Sox 40 man roster. He also made his first starts of the LVBP season yesterday, playing in both halves of a double header. He went a combined 2 for 4 with two strike outs and an RBI.

Brian McTaggart tells us that the recent roster moves by the Astros could be good news for former Greeneville Astro Fernando Abad.
Left-hander Fernando Abad, who had a 2.84 ERA in 22 appearances in his rookie season in 2010, is in the mix to assume the role of lefty specialist, though there are some in the organization that envision him as a possible starter.

Late yesterday afternoon, I saw the latest transactions by Baseball America. I saw the first batch of releases by the Astros this off season. Several former Greeneville Astros were on the list. I want to give a glimpse back at their contributions to Greeneville.

Justin Harper (17th round pick 2009) played on the 2009 & 2010 Greeneville teams. He came out of the bullpen in a combined 16 games between the two years. He showed some improvement in 2010 but not enough.

John "Jack" Frawley (NDFA 2009) started the 2010 season in Greeneville before being promoted to Tri Cities. Didn't put up bad numbers but was about to turn 25 later this month. I will always remember him as a part of the bullpen who had the guts to do the gator chomp while Rocky Top was being played during the 7th inning stretch at Pioneer Park. Since I am not a Univ. of Tenn. fan, I thought it was funny. Most fans didn't.

Daniel Sarisky (40th round pick 2009) spent most of 2009 in Greeneville. He spent 2010 in Lexington and missed a good part of the season with some injuries. Finishes with a career 5-1 record. Daniel is one of the players that sticks in your mind. He always seemed to be enjoying himself at the ball park. Even this year when he was on the DL, we saw him with Lexington once and he talked about what a great experience he was having.

Aaron Bray (27th round pick 2009) spent 2009 in Greeneville. He came out of UNC Charlotte with a reputation as a hitter. He couldn't quiet translate those skills from the college game to the wooden bat pro game. He spent last year in Lexington. I got to talk with Aaron's parents at a few games. They were proud of him and rightly so. Aaron did some first hand accounts of minor league life for Astros County last year. They are worth the read.

Richardo Heradia (NDFA 2006) didn't fair well in his first season in the States. He only hit .155 in 37 games for Greeneville in 2010.

Richardo Garcia (NDFA 2005) spent 2010 with the G-Stros. He was one of the leaders on the team among the young Latin American players. Though his career with the Astros is over, he is playing winter ball in Venezuela in the Liga Paralela (LVBP minors). With Leones, he is hitting .303 through 16 games.

Releases are tough. I talk to these players before and after games. I see them around town and chat with them. I get to know some of them fairly well. I know that every one of them has a dream, even if they deep inside know that their chances aren't very good. So when releases come, I think about the kid. Whether they are a kid from the Dominican Republic, who was hoping for a better life, or a college kid who was having some fun before entering the real world; that phone call has to be tough. Best of luck in the future to these young men.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Random Notes: Altuve, Parraz, Abad & Trinidad

Jose Altuve continues to get good press in Venezuela. He has mastered the art of the baseball cliche' it is even coming across vial Google translator.

I try to learn everything you can to a team as important as this, where there are professional baseball players of this quality and a level playing unbelievable....

I am very young, just 20 years old I have, my career is starting and baseball is a game of details. Every day you see something new. That's it....

A good experience and went to play hard,
This article also addresses the fact that his playing time hasn't dipped despite the arrival of some big leaguers to the roster.

Jordan Parraz was removed from the Royals 40 man roster yesterday. But he is still in the Royals plan as they hope to sign him to a minor league deal.
“Jordan Parraz, you just hope gets back on track to what he did in 2009. We know it’s in there.” said assistant general manager J.J. Picollo

Fernando Abad had an impressive outing in relief Friday. He went 4 2/3, scattering 7 hits but only 1 run. His ERA in the Dominican Winter League is 2.25 in 5 outings (15 1/3 IP).

Polin Trinidad has his strongest outing of the Dominican Winter League tonight. He finally got the start after relieving for 8 appearances. He went 5 innings tonight, giving up 3 hits and 1 run while striking out 2. That dropped his ERA for the winter to 4.11.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AFL Championship Game Report - Greenwalt, & Barnes

Kyle Greenwalt did start the game in Arizona today. MLB turned off the Pitch/FX & speed for game day to day so I don't know what he was throwing or how fast he was throwing it. What we do know are the outcomes of what he threw.

Greenwalt went three innings, giving up two runs (both earned) on four hits and a hit batter. He did strike out three and didn't walk any one. He did commit an error on a throw.

In the first, he set them down in order with two strike outs and a fly out. In the second, staked to a 1-0 lead, he allowed a lead off single. Greenwalt then threw away a come backer that put the runners at 1st & 3rd with no one out. A sac fly and two singles later, it was a 2-1 ball game. In the third, he stranded the batter he hit and the other single to get out of the inning.

Greenwalt left the game trailing 2-1 but his teammates tied it up in the top of the 4th, taking him off the hook for the loss. The final score of the game was a 3-2 loss for the Javelinas.

Brandon Barnes started in CF batting 9th. He made the first out of the 3rd inning with a swinging strike out. He grounded out in the 5th and then flew out in the 7th. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 9th. He made two putouts in the field.

Even though this game didn't end the way they wanted it to, both players have to feel good about their performance in the Arizona Fall League.

Greenwalt's AFL Season Not Done Yet

According to the notes put out by MLB this morning, my statement that Greenwalt's AFL season was done appears to be pre-mature. He will be the starting pitcher for the Peoria Javelinas this afternoon. It will be a chance for Kyle to show what he can do on a relatively big stage. Remember the game will be broadcast live on mlb.com/live.

Leon & De Leon Added to 40 Man Roster

In a move announced yesterday, that the Astros had added four players to their 40 man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December. Two of those players have played for the Greeneville Astros.

Arcenio Leon made the big jump from Lexington (Low A) to Corpus Christi (AA) this year. He held his own after the promotion and his inclusion on the 40 man roster is an indication that the Astros hope he will continue to develop.

Jorge DeLeon was a short stop when he played several years ago in Greeneville. Last year, he was a shut down closer for Tri Cities after converting to pitcher. His inclusion is an indication of how impressive this transition has been.

They join these former G-Stros on the 40 man roster: Fernando Abad, Sammy Gervacio, Henry Villar, & J. R. Towles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Former G-Stros in AFL Championship Game

Saturday's Arizona Fall League Championship will be determined on Saturday. The game will be carried live on MLB.com/Live starting at 3:08 Eastern Time. Former Greeneville Astros Koby Clements and Brandon Barnes could be in the starting line up. Former G-Stro Patrick Urckfitz might make an appearance out of the pen. The final game of the season yesterday featured the two teams who will face each other in the Championship Game. The Peoria Javelinas beat the Scottsdale Scorpions 1-0 with the lone run coming in unearned. Clemens & Barnes both went 0 for 2.

Here is a quick breakdown of how the former G-Stros have done in the AFL:

Brandon Barnes - a late addition to the roster, he saw his playing time increase because of injuries. He finished the regular season hitting .250 with with 8 of his 20 hits being for extra bases in 20 games. He didn't make a single error in the field playing mostly center.

Koby Clemens - In 20 games, he hit .288 with 9 of his 20 hits being extra base hits. He made 4 errors in the field at first base.

Jay Austin - Jay had his season cut short due to a hamstring injury. In 12 games, he hit .156with no extra base hits. His on base percentage was over 100 points higher than his batting average due to taking seven walks. This was a point of emphasis for him to improve his game this fall. He was one of the youngest players in the league. He made two errors in the field.

Patrick Urckfitz - One of the solid performers out of the Javelinas' bullpen this season. In 9 games, he pitched 11 2/3 innings. He struck out 8 and walked only 4. His ERA was 3.86. In 6 of his 9 outings, he didn't allow a hit or a run. He also pitched one no hit , no run inning in the AFL Rising Stars game.

Kyle Greenwalt - Kyle had a rough first outing, giving up 2 runs in 2 IP but really settled down after that, giving up just 2 more earned runs in his next 4 starts combined (13 1/3 IP). He fanned 10 and walked 3 over 15 1/3 IP. He hasn't pitched since 11/9 so his season is over.

I expect that all of these guys will be on the AA roster this spring with the exception of Koby Clemens who is likely slated for AAA. Some of them might get some action in spring training with the big club. It appears that all of them have something positive they can carry away from this experience and build off of next year.

D. J. Boston To Retun to Pioneer Park

D. J. Boston was the Greeneville Astros hitting coach in 2008. That team which consisted of prospects such as Jay Austin, Jose Altuve, Albert Cartwright, Freddy Hernandez & Kody Hinze; struggled to a team batting average of .257 (7th out of 10 in the Appy). For the last two seasons, Boston has been the hitting coach in the GCL for the Astros.

It was announced yesterday that he will be the hitting coach for the 2011 Danville Braves. Boston will be a part of the staff of new Danville Manager Randy Ingle, who managed Rome of the Sally League last year. It will be odd not seeing Paul Runge in the Danville dugout this summer, he has been the manager since 2005.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paulino Traded

The third member of the 2004 Appy League Champion Greeneville Astros has been traded. Felipe Paulino was traded to the Rockies today for middle infielder Clint Barmes. The other two members of that staff who have been traded are: Troy Patton (Tajada deal) & Juan Gutierrez (Valverde deal). This was the first member of the staff to be traded straight up for another player.

Paulino has always been see as pitcher with a great deal of potential because of his power arm. However, health has been an issue. He made his major league debut during the 2007 season but then missed all of the 2008 season with a pinched nerve injury. After being given an ultimatum of "high noon" by Ed Wade, he worked his way back to the majors in 2009 and again showed promise but struggled. He did strike out 93 batters in 97 2/3 innings pitched but also gave up 126 hits, of which, 20 left the ball yard. His ERA for that year was 6.27.

In 2010, he came to training camp in better shape than ever. He wanted to show he belonged in the big leagues. He showed improvement in key areas (only 4 home runs), but was unlucky in many outings leading to a 1-9 record and a 5.11 ERA.

Ever since Paulino was in the minors, I have heard people talk about him as a potential late inning reliever or maybe even a closer. Maybe that is in the plans for him with the Rockies. I am not sure I see his success as a starter improving by going to the high altitude of Colorado.

Who Does Altuve Remind You Of?

There has been a great deal of buzz over Jose Altuve's performance in winter ball in Venezuela (LVBP). Someone on twitter the other day (sorry can't find it now) said that he thought Altuve resembled Marcus Giles. It was one of those moments where you slap your forehead and say "Yes, why didn't I think of that."

To refresh your memories, here is a photo of Altuve:

And one of Giles:
Giles is reported to be 5'8" while Altuve is 5'5".

I decided to go back and look at Giles' stats in the minors to see if the resemblance was more than just the square jaw. They both have May birthdays so they were very close to the same age in each of these seasons.

I found the both Giles & Altuve played in the Appy League at 19. For Giles it was his first pro year; for Altuve it was his repeat year in Greeneville.

Giles hit .348/.437/.566 in 55 games.
Altuve hit .324/.408/.508 in 45 games.

Giles was better in all three areas of averages. Altuve had 21 swipes to Giles five. Giles fanned 19% of his plate appearances (PA); while Altuve fanned just 8% of his PA.

Fielding wise, Giles carried a .962 fielding % and Altuve's was at .968.

The next year both players moved the the Sally League. Altuve only stayed there for part of the season but we will keep comparing apples to apples.

Giles hit .329/.433/.566 in 135 games.
Altuve hit .308/.364/.445 in 94 games.

Giles had a monster year hitting 37 HR and 38 doubles while driving in 108 RBI. Also he walked once every seven PA. He fanned once every 51/2 PA. He scored 111 runs and stole 12 bases. These were the best numbers of his career. He never hit more than 21 HR but his double power remained.

Altuve had a solid year hitting 11 HR and 15 doubles while driving in 45. He walked once every 13 PA and K'd once every nine PA. Altuve stole 39 bases and scored 75 runs.

In the field, Giles carried a .954 fielding percentage and Altuve's was at .973.

Giles continued to put up solid numbers and after another solid year at high A, he made Baseball America's top 100 list (#74). He would make his MLB debut just before his 23rd birthday. He played in 68 games each of his first two big league seasons and then was a regular for five more seasons.

Altuve's future is yet to be determined. Looking at those two years, he appears to be a quicker/better baserunner with a better glove. He makes more contact than Giles but doesn't get on base as much or have the pop Giles showed.

What do you think?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jordan Parraz - Heading to LVBP

Jordan Parraz, a member of the Appy League Championship 2004 Greeneville Astros, is heading to play winter ball in Venezuela, according to beisbolvenezolano.com. Let's take this time to find out what Parraz has been up to since he left Greeneville in 2004.

Parraz spent 2005 & 2006 in Tri Cities. He broke out in 06 and was named a NYPenn League All Star and a Baseball America Short Season League All Star. He spent 2007 in the Sally League with Lexington. He continued to raise eyebrows with his strong throws from right field. His bat wasn't too bad either as he hit 28 doubles and 14 HR that season. The Astros moved him to Salem in 2008, where he had another solid year.

In the off season between 2007 & 2008, with Tal Smith taking over for Tim Purpura as GM/President of the Astros, change was in the air. Parraz was traded that off season to the Royals as the "player to be named later" for reliever Tyler Lumsden. This was seen to some degree as a change of scenery trade. Rumors circulated Parraz and the Minor League people in the Astros' front office had not always gotten along well. This trade has worked in the Royals favor. Parraz had a great 2009 in the Texas League hitting a career high .358 in an injury shortened season. Parraz then went to AAA in 2010 where he had a roller coaster year highlighted by hitting .353 with an OPS of 1.005 in the month of May. Meanwhile, Lumsden was traded to the Padres for "future considerations". I don't think they will be getting a player the quality of Parraz back for him. In fact, they will likely get cash in return.

Parraz is currently on the Royals 40 man roster. If he remains on the roster, he will be attending big league spring training in February. If he is taken off the 40 man, he would be a likely candidate to be snatched up in the Rule 5 draft in December. A good showing in Venezuela won't hurt him either way, that is for sure.

A personal story about Jordan:
In 2007, my son & I went to Asheville To watch the Legends play the Tourists. We got their early and had time to catch up with several of the former Greeneville Astros including Jordan. Later in the game, Jordan knocked a ball over the LF fence. The ball was retrieved by one of the bullpen pitchers, and returned to Jordan. Jordan then flipped the ball to my son. Needless to say, our family is a fan of Jordan Parraz.

Altuve Tearing Up LVBP & Other Updates

Jose Altuve is tearing up the Liga Venezuela Biesbol Profesional. He has hit in nine of the 10 games he has played in with four multi hit games. His average is .361, OPS is .378, and Slugging is .500. Out of his 13 hits, he has three doubles and a triple. He has executed three sacrifices and stolen three bases in four attempts. The only areas that are not strong are his strike outs and hitting into double plays (three). He has struck out six times in 36 at bats. One out of six isn't a bad ratio for most players but it is a big drop from one in almost eight at bats he had during his minor league season. Altuve's play is garnering a great deal of attention in Venezuela. Here is a google translated quote from a recent interview in Diario Ojo Pelao
"My short career has been a constant struggle, as you know, I'm a small player, my height is 1.68 (meters) and when he refused to sign the professional, many scouts did not take into account, they thought it was incapable of hitting, fielding and making what needs to be to be professional. Finally, the organization of the Houston Astros gave me the chance I desired, in time, I have shown it can do the job and it's amazing because I come from playing 125 games in the minors that year, "said the novice player.
For those who are curious, 1.68 meters = 5' 5"

Altuve's make the most of the playing time he will get. In December, many major league players start returning to the LVBP rosters and that will likely move him to the bench.

How cool is it to see that a Jose Altuve base hit drove in former Houston Astro Richard Hildago?

Altuve is also teammates on Navegantes del Magallanes with Frederico Hernandez. Freddy has struggled at the plate this winter, getting only four hits in 31 at bats (.158). But he has taken six walks and has scored six times. So when he gets on base, he is making the most of the opportunity.

Another former Greeneville Astro & current Navigator making a good showing is Gabriel Garcia. Garcia has entered in relief nine times. He carries a 3.60 earned run average in 10 innings pitched. The one area of improvement that jumps out at me is he is keeping the ball in the park. He surrendered two HR in his 16 1/3 innings in Greeneville this year.

Other former G-stros on LVBP rosters aren't getting much playing time but you can check out their stats here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Signings, Free Agents, Another Beau Story & Milt Thompson Coming to G'ville?

Baseball America just released their list of the Minor League Free Agents. Here are the former Greeneville Astros on the list.

Houston Astros: Polin Trinidad (05-06), Jhon Florintino (05)
Baltimore Orioles: Jose Duran (07)
Philadelphia Phillies: Neil Sellers (04)
Washington Nationals: Jimmy Barthmaier (04), Victor Garate (05)

These players are free to sign with any other team. We have already heard some news that Garate has already been to a try out in Japan.

In other transactions released by Baseball America, the following former G-Stros were signed or re-signed by teams:

Atlanta Braves: Beau Torbert (04) (signed)
Houston Astros: Douglas Arguello(04)(re-signed)
Seattle Mariners: Raphie Henriquez (05-06)(re-signed)

signing with the Braves got him some press in the big city Atlanta paper. Dave O'Brien's story has much of the same material others have had with the exception of this quote from the Braves' GM.
“He’s put up good numbers in the independent leagues,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “The numbers have improved each of the past three years. When you look at those kind of players that continue to improve and put up numbers, I think it’s worth taking a look.”

Milt Thompson who patrolled the outfield in Kingsport back in 1979 will return to the Appy this season as the Minor League Outfield/Base Running Coordinator for the Astros.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Urckfitz Earns Some Extra $$$

Patrick Urckfitz earned an extra $500 being a part of the winning side in the AFL Rising Stars Game.

"It definitely was different from other games out here, more fans, different atmosphere," said lefthander Patrick Urckfitz (Astros), who as a non-drafted free agent was one of the more unlikely Rising Stars roster members. "I signed for $15,000, so for me the extra $500 definitely helps."

Thanks to Astros County for the link.

Speaking of Urckfitz, saw this tweet on him by Baseball America's John Manuel during the game:

Sleeper LHP Patrick Urckfitz on the mound, was NDFA signee in 2008. Not the caliber of arms of others here but def. guy for my HOU top 30

His name also got a fair amount of attention as well on twitter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Niddifer Heads Back To Lex, J. D. Gets More Hardware & Devon Torrance Update

Marcus Niddifer went to college in Lexington at the University of Kentucky. Now it looks like he might become the first former UK player to wear the L2 of the Legends. The UK athletics blog published a story on him this week. Here are the highlights:

On the move from catcher to first:
"I tell you what, playing first base is a lot easier on your body," Nidiffer said. "I feel fresh every day. It's not as much wear and tear on your body like catching is. Catching is just a whole different position, a whole different mindset. At first base you may get a groundball every four innings and catching you're in every pitch. It certainly makes hitting a lot easier."

On the pride the UK coaches take in Marcus' success:
"A lot of us get a lot of pride in seeing Marcus be successful," UK assistant coach and offensive coordinator Brian Green said. "Marcus and I had a really special relationship and watching him do what he did in the minor leagues was really enjoyable for me. Marcus deserves to be successful, he is a good person, he was a great Wildcat and he was a leader. He showed up every day, he played hurt, he gave it his all on a daily basis. I wasn't surprised, but at the same time I was. I was fired up to see him do what he did."

His assessment of Niddifer's character was shared by those around the team here in Greeneville as well. He appeared to be a genuinely good teammate and person.

More Hardware for J. D.
In other news from Lexington, the Lexington Herald Leader is reporting that J. D. Martinez has been awarded a George M. Trautman Award as South Atlantic League Player of the Year. This award is given by the Topps baseball card company. If I am not mistaken, he is the first Astros farm hand to win a Trautman since Mitch Einertson did it back in 2004.

Devon Torrence Update
It looks like the move to pause his minor league career and focus on Ohio State football is working out pretty well for Torrence. The Morning Journal had this feature on him recently. The main gist is that he is getting better as a corner back and hoping he can get a shot at the NFL. He indicates the door isn't closed on baseball but it sounds like a fall back in stead of plan A. I am sure struggling for two years in the Appy might have played a role in that line of thinking.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jose Altuve Promoted!

Jose Altuve has been tearing up the Liga Paralela (Development League) in Venezuela. He had appeared in seven games for Magallanes and was hitting .433 (13/30) with six doubles and two round trippers. His OPS was an impressive 1.333. The only concerning area was he did have an uncharacteristic five strike outs in those 30 at bats.

In another update from beisbolvenezolano.net, it was learned that Jose has been called up to the big club. The current 2nd baseman on the roster for the Navs is Luis Rivas, the former MLB player who is hitting just .111 through the first 12 games. Altuve takes the roster spot of LA Angels farm hand, Carlos Colmenares.

Victor Garate To Pitch in Japan?

Victor Garate, who pitched for Greeneville in 2005, just returned from a trip to Japan to assess his chances of playing pro ball in the far east. Garate, who appeared in four games for the Washington Nationals in 2009, but spent this year between AA & AAA, is a free agent. He will be playing winter ball in his native Venezuela for the Caracas Leones. Here is a google translated quote from his interview with beisebolvenezolano.net

"I liked being there (Japan), but is a completely different culture, food, people, streets. Should you work in Japan will have to adapt and adjust to the system of life. But I'm looking at different deals. "

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brandon Barnes Flirts With Cycle in AFL

Yesterday, Brandon Barnes fell a double short of the cycle in Arizona Fall League action. Here is the breakdown of his at bats as taken from Gameday:

Top 1st: Popped out to second to end the inning on the second pitch of the at bat (0-1 count)

Top 4th: With a runner on first, he homered to left on the second pitch of the at bat (1-0 county).

Top 5th: With the bases loaded, he triples on a fly ball to left on the 4th pitch of the at bat (2-1 count).

Top 6th: With a men on 1st & 2nd, he singles to left on the 3rd pitch of the at bat (1-1 count), scoring the man on second. Barnes goes to 3rd on the throw & runner on first scores on a throwing error by the SS.

Top 8th: Grounds out softly to first to end the inning on the 3rd pitch of the at bat (2-0 count).

Barnes line for the day was 3 for 5, 6 RBI and 2 runs scored. For this week, he is 6 for 16 (.375) with 3 extra base hits (Dbl, Trp, HR), 6 RBI, 4 Runs, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 SB. His average for the season is now.314 in 9 total games.

Barnes hit for the cycle in Lancaster on June 10th. How did coming up to bat in the 8th with a chance to go for two cycles in one year impact him? Danny Wild of MLB.com got the answer:

"It's something you can't not think about," Barnes said. "But you try to think about it as least as possible. So, yeah, it was definitely on my mind."

I have heard of negative thinking at the plate but double negative thinking? Wow.

A quick look at other former G'Stros in the AFL:

Jay Austin had a better week going 3 for 11 raising his average to .150 from .100 to start the week.

Koby Clemens went 4 for 13 and hit his 2nd home of the season. But he struck out 5 times including 3 in Thursdays game.

Pat Urckfitz pitched in two games, throwing two no hit innings. He walked one and fanned two. He has not allowed a run or a hit in 4 of his 5 outings.

Kyle Greenwalt had his best start of the AFL on Wednesday, throwing 4 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed 3 hits but didn't walk a batter while striking out 3. He has only walked 1 batter in 10 innings pitched.

Jose Altuve sighting!

Jose is playing in the VWL Liga Paralela (developmental league) for Magallanes. He has played in 4 games thus far and is hitting a robust .417 (8 for 17) with 2 HR, 3 DBL, 4 RBI & 6 Runs Scored. He has 17 total bases in 17 AB.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beau on The Braves, Barnes Plays More & Winter Ball Stats

Beau Torbert was interviewed by the Columbus (Ga) Ledger Enquirer about his recent minor league free agent contract with the Braves.
“This is my last shot,” he said. “Because of my age and not wanting to really go back to indy league, I was thinking I would just move on. But this is one more, one last shot, and I’m going to do everything I can to take full advantage of it.”

He doesn't report any love loss for the Astros org who he says didn't give him a reason for his release. Beau is realistic about his chances to make the Mississippi Braves (AA) or Gwinnett Braves (AAA) rosters.

“It’s always a numbers game,” Torbert said. “It’s hard once you’re an independent league guy. They’ve got their guys they drafted. It’s tough because you’re always on the back burner.”...“I feel like (with the Braves) I’m getting a legitimate shot,” he said. “The outfield is a spot they’re hurting. I’m just going to keep working hard and give this my full concentration and prove I can play.”

Houston Chronicle Baseball writer Zachary Levine confirms what many of us had suspected, Brandon Barnes is off the taxi squad and playing more because Jack Shuck has a bum knee. Brandon is hitting .267 with just one extra base hit in his first 8 games.

I was going to try to find a way to keep you up to date with winter ball stats of the Greeneville Astros Alums. MLB has made it simpler than I ever could have. They have a page devoted to each MLB team that list the stats for any players in their organization playing winter ball. Here is the Astros link. There are a few guys who are with other organizations like Santo Luis or those out of affiliated ball that I will give updates on from time to time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Linares Coaching in Dominican Winter Ball

Former Greeneville Astros Manager and last year's manager in Lexington, Rodney Linares is coaching first base for the Estrellas Oreintales.

Beau Torbert Status Update

Literally here is his most recent Facebook status update:
Beau Torbert Is an Atlanta Brave! Got a great woman, family, friends and now playing for the team grew up loving...life is good!

He will head to spring training hoping the make the AA or AAA rosters. The AAA affiliate is about 2 1/2 hours from his home town of Phenix City, Alabama.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Appy League World Series Ties

The Rangers vs. The Giants: 2010 World Series. What could possibly be the tie between the Appy League and two teams that don't have affiliates in the league? Well, there are six players on the post season rosters who spent time in the Appy. All of them on the Rangers.

You see before the Pulaski, Virginia hosted the Mariners... before they didn't host a team for one year and caused a 9 team schedule that caused a horrible fuss people are still complaining abut...before they hosted the Blue Jays...they were the Pulaski Rangers from 1997 to 2002. During that time, C. J. Wilson (2001) & Colby Lewis (1999) played home games in Calfee Park.

Lewis went 7-3 with a 1.95 ERA as a 19 year old starter. He rode the buses to games with Kevin Mench & Aaron Harang, as the P-Rangers won the Eastern Division crown.

Wilson dominated Appy batters striking out 49 in 24 innings in just 8 starts before being promoted. Riding the bus with Mr. Wilson as 2010 Houston Astro Jason Bourgeois.

That is only 2 of the 6 players. So where did the rest of them play? One famous one played in Princeton; home of the Devil Rays affiliate. Josh Hamilton was a young but very rich 18 year old, who hit .347 and knocked 10 HR in his year in Princeton, West Virginia. He shared fast food meals with Carl Crawford and had his mom following him doing his laundry. (Don't think so? There is evidence in this story It is a lengthy read but worth the time.)

The other 3 players all played for the Danville Braves. Two of them came to the Rangers in the trade with Atlanta for Mark Teixeira. Those two are Elvis Andrus (2005) and Neftali Feliz (2007). The last guy took a long route coming through Atlanta, and New York before he landed in Texas this season. Jeff Francour was a Danville Brave in 2002.

Francour hit .327 in 38 games as a just drafted 18 year old. He rode the bus with Kyle Davies and was managed by Ralph Henriquez, father of former Astro farm hand Ralphie.

Andrus made a short stop (pun fully intended)for just 6 games in 2005. He wasn't the only shortstop making cameo appearances in Danville that season, Yunell Escobar also showed up for 8 games.

Feliz made 8 appearances in 2007; seven of them were starts. He finished with a 1.98 as a 19 year old. He shared road time with Jason Hayward for 4 games during the season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Winter Ball Update

The first week of the Winter/Fall Seasons are wrapped up for the stateside AFL & the Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP). Here is an update on how some former Greeneville Astros are doing:


Frederico Hernandez has played in two games, hitting .286 with a double and two RBI.

Gabriel Garcia has pitched in two games and has yet to give up an earned run in two innings pitched.

Wlad Sutil has appeared in one game but has not gotten a hit yet.

Antonio Noguera has appeared in three games, giving up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched.


Brandon Barnes played in one game and went 1 for 4 (.250)

Koby Clemens has played in four games. He has four hits, four strike outs and four RBI.

Jay Austin has played in four games. He is batting just .154 with two RBI. The good news is he has more BB than K (3/2). The bad news is he has been caught stealing three out of four times.

Kyle Greenwalt made his first start and went two innings giving up two runs.

Patrick Urckfitz has appeared in two games. He has given up two runs in three innings

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jose Altuve Scouting Report

Mike over at ScoutingtheSally.com recently rated the best second basemen in the Sally League. Here is his scouting report on former Greeneville Astro Jose Altuve:
3. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

One of the best baseball players I’ve seen at the level, Altuve’s small stature had to weigh into my rankings or he would have had a legitimate shot at the top spot. Listed at 5’5″, there’s simply very little precedent for a player of his size becoming a successful pro. However, a .301/.357/.448 line including 42 stolen bases from any 20-year old prospect deserves respect. Especially when he also stands out from a scouting perspective.

Not much precedent? Ha! there have been at least 71 players out of the 10,000 or so major league ball players over time. That is a whopping 1% if you round up.

Beau Torbert Honored By Baseball America

Beau Torbert (Greeneville Astro 2004), won his second American Association MVP title this season. His near miss at hitting .400 for the season earned him the Baseball America's Independent League Player of the Year Honors.

In the article, Beau says he has relaxed more since he was released from the Astros organization in 2007.
"Before I was let go by Houston I put a lot of stress on myself to perform," Torbert said. "When I got to independent ball, I took a mindset that I'm in indy ball now, I can get back to basic baseball and having fun. Ever since I took that approach I try to not let too much good stuff or bad stuff go to my head."

His manager in Sioux Falls had this to say about Beau:
"The thing with Beau that has to be maddening for the opposition is that he'll hit anything," Shirley said. "He's a very difficult guy to pitch to.

"He understands his role is to drive in runs. He'll expand his strike zone because he knows he's up there to drive in a run. I know there are times in the other dugout where they had to wonder how he hit that, because we're wondering it. And he didn't just hit it but rocketed it off the scoreboard."

As for next seasons plans, as the article points out
After all, if .394-24-100 won't get him a contract with an affiliated team, it's hard to see what he can do to change scouts' minds next year.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2005 Greeneville Astros - Who is still around?

Last week, we looked at the 2004 Greeneville Astros and what has happened to their baseball careers. Today, we will pull up the roster from the 2005 season.

The 2005 season was a season of hope. A bunch of high draft picks were sent to Greeneville: Eli Iorg (1st round Supplemental), Ralphie Henriquez (2nd round), Josh Flores (4th round), Brandon Barnes (6th round), Timmy Johnson (7th round), Koby Clemens (8th round) and Allen Langdon (10th round). Iorg was the son & nephew of major league players and had played college ball at nearby Tennessee. Koby's dad spent a great deal of time at the park and kept the buzz going all year long. One night, you had Eli's dad, Koby's dad & Frank Viola, whose son was on the Bristol White Sox, all in the park on one night.

Add to those guys two pitchers who made some noise, Ryan Mitchell who made the BA top 20 that season and Matt Hirsh whose older brother was a top prospect in the system at the time. It was an exciting year. Let's see what has happened in the five years since then. Was the buzz warranted?

First of all there were 35 players on the roster in 2005. Four of those players were repeats from 2004. Those repeaters were Brad James, Antonio Garcia, David Katy, & Ryan Reed. Of the 35 players who were on the roster at some point in 2005, eight of them are still current. That comes to 23% still active in affiliated ball. That is a lower percentage of players in affiliated ball than the 2004 team (28%) and the 2004 team has played one more year of ball.

Here is a list of the eight players and the level & system with which they finished 2010. Those in bold have seen MLB time.

Brandon Barnes - AAA (Hou)
Koby Clemens - AA (Hou)
Jhon Florintino - AA (Hou)
Ralphie Henriquez - High A (Seattle)
Victor Garate - AAA (Wash)
Sammy Gervacio - AAA (Hou)

Brad James - AA(DL) (Hou)
Polin Trinadad - AA (Hou)

Here are some nuggets on the rest of the guys. Eighteen of the 35 (52%) never made it higher than Lexington (Low A ball). By comparison the 2004 squad had 17 out of 36 (47%) whose careers stalled at Low A.

As you can see above, two guys made it for a cup of coffee in the big leagues, compared to five from 2004. Four others made it as far as AAA (Iorg, Trinidad, Barnes, & Henriquez)as the high point in their career, which is the same number as 2004.

For a class that started out full of hope, there has been some significant disappointments. Significant injuries played a part in some of them (Iorg, Flores & Jose Lopez) not making it further up the ladder. There have also been rumblings of personality issues that lead to some of the lack of success.But you can't take all the blame away from those who scouted and drafted the players. As we look back at this next year, I expect the 2005 class of Greeneville Astros will have fallen even further behind the 2004 class.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Felipe Paulino's Thoughts About Winter Ball

I continue to be impressed with the extensive coverage of Venezuelan baseball by the Spanish language site www.comandantedelbeisbol.net. Today, I was catching up reading his latest reports through goggle translator and found this piece on former Greeneville Astro and current Houston Astro Felipe Paulino. In the piece we learned that Houston has granted permission for Paulino to pitch as a starter:

Henry Tobias Carrero, VP of Bravos de Margarita, "We already have permission the Houston Astros gave us in writing. Felipe will come with a mission to perform in the role of opener "

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2004 Greeneville Astros - Who is still around?

I was looking back over the 2004 G-Stros roster today and started figuring out who was still playing affiliated ball. It is a pretty impressive that 28% (10 out of 36) are still playing. Here are the players and the team they finished the season with.

Douglas Arguello - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA - Hou)
Jimmy Barthmaier - Altoona Curve (AA - Was)
Juan Gutierrez - Arizona Diamonbacks (MLB)
Brad James - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA - Hou - DL)
Jordan Parraz - Omaha Royals (AAA - Royals)
Troy Patton - Baltimore Orioles (MLB)
Felipe Paulino - Houston Astros (MLB)
Neil Sellers - Lehigh Valley Ironpigs (AAA - Phil)
Wlad Sutil - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA - Hou)
J. R. Towles - Corpus Christi Hooks (AA - Hou - DL)

Add those still playing Indy Ball

Ole Shelton - St. Paul Saints
Beau Torbert - Sioux Fall Pheasants

And you get a total of 33% still playing ball. We will be holding this group as the bench mark for other G-Stros teams as we look back at them during the off season.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Geronimo! Future G-Stro?

The Houston Astros continue the aggressive international signing year with adding Geronimo Fransua to the fold. Baseball America is reporting that he signed for a bonus of $250,000. Granted that is not Ariel Ovando money (2.6 Million), but it is similar to the bonus paid the C. J. Lo who prior to injury was quickly moving up the Astros system after his signing in 2008. Lo was a college kid from Korea where as Fransua is a 16 year old from the Dominican Republic.

I have seen both the Fransua & Franzua spelling so I don't know which one is right. I have also seen Geronimo spelled with a J on one site. That will get sorted out. As long as he signed his name right on the contract.

What others have said about Fransua:

MLB Fanhouse writer Frankie Piliere
A thin left-hander, Fransua is already reaching the low-90s with his fastball and has flashed a decent feel for his secondary pitches.
From the Dominican Prospect League website announcement of the signing.

Geronimo Franzua is is 6'1 170lb Lg frame with slim wiry body, he comes from a 3/4 arm angle, clean arm swing and does it easy. He hides the ball well in his delivery making his 88-90 mph FB jump on hitters. On ocassion he has touched 92 mph as well as showing a feel for CB and CH. Franznua was considered one of the top available LH pitchers in the D.P.L.

It looks like the Astros are trying to fill up their new Dominican facility and are using the DPL as a source. Franzua/Fransua is the 4th player signed out of the DPL by the Astros according the the DPL page linked above.

Here is some video of Fransua pitching:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Velasquez Has Tommy John Surgery

I was at the game on 8/24 when he had the scar tissue break loose. Apparently, they decided it was a problem that needed to be fixed on the inside. According to Baseball America, he had surgery on 9/22/10 and is expected to miss all or part of the 2011 season. I wonder if BA will redo their top 20 for the league based on the fact they had him rated as #11 prior to TJ surgery.

Season Recap - The Bullpen

Here is the final installment for the 2010 Season Recap. Let's look at the lovable guys who sit down the right field line at Pioneer Park and try to lure unsuspecting kids into trying to drop a quarter into a cup for a scuffed up game ball. If a single ball is not enough, do it 3 times and you can get a broken bat. If these guys don't have a future in baseball, they might have a future in business or at least on the carnival circuit.

We will list the players by number of game appearances. I think you will notice a much older group of guys than when we looked at the other players.

The guys who were released (B. J. Hagan), promoted (Jack Frawly), demoted (Andrea Lucati) or signed too late in the year (Rodney Quintero) and didn't have more than a handful of appearances are not addressed here.

Ryan Cole appeared in 22 games out of the pen. He had a streak of 8 straight scoreless outings than spanned 12 2/3 IP and had 14 appearances where he didn't give up an earned run. He finished with a season ERA of 2.83 and 2 saves. He had the best WHIP among closers (1.06). His walk totals look high at eight in 35 IP but 4 of those were intentional passes. So 4 in 35 innings is a much truer picture of his control. With his age and his performance, I could see him in the pen in Lexington next season.

Garrett Bullock the lefty NDFA out of Wake Forest repeated at Greeneville this year and showed marked improvement. He lead the bullpen with 41 IP in 21 appearances. He was often the first guy out of the pen, but he did garner two saves. In 16 of his 21 appearances, he didn't allow an earned run. Bullock is able to keep runners close with an excellent pick off move that he refined to reduce the balks called on him. Bullock was too old for the Appy at 24. He was promoted to Tri Cities at the end of the season but didn't get to pitch. With his age, being a lefty with a good pick off move and his ability to keep the ball down (no home runs in a combined 62 1/3 IP for his career, I could see him landing in Lancaster next season but Lexington might be more likely.

Philip Rorabaugh is another NDFA who is in his second pro year. He pitched in the GCL in 09 and at 23 was at the top end of the age for the Appy League. Rorabaugh started the year okay but struggled with a rough stretch in July and 2 bad outings in August that left him with a 4.91 ERA for the year in his 21 appearances. If Rorabaugh is with the organization next season, he will likely be in Tri Cities for some additional depth.

Brian Streilein made his pro debut in Greeneville this year. The big righty appeared in 20 games covering 32 IP and was second on the team with 5 saves. He too had a large number of his walks accounted for with intentional passes (4 out of 8). Streilein was the closer at the end of the season and earned a brief appearance in Tri Cities. At 22 next season, I could see Streilein in Tri Cities working the late innings out of the pen.

Travis Smink returned to Pioneer Park this year and showed improvement. He was the closer to start the season. He got 5 saves out of his first 6 outings. There doesn't appear to be a reason why he stopped getting save opportunities as he continued to be effective through the end of July, giving up just 3 ER in 151/3 IP. But maybe the Astros coaching staff could see something we couldn't because in August, Smink struggled. After posting a 2.25 ERA in 9 outings in July, he put up a 5. 02 ERA in his 7 August outings. For the year, he finished with a 3.34 ERA and 6 saves. Look for Smink to be in Lexington next season.

Jeiler Castillo started the year on the Tri Cities roster but was sent back for his third year with the G-Stros shortly after the season began. He was a solid arm out of the pen pulling two 4 inning stints in long relief. He also spot started 2 games and closed out 4, getting the save in 1 of those. Heading into August, Castillo was putting together a solid season. Then the wheels came off starting on August 11th. Over his next 4 outings, he gave up 9 earned runs in just 3 innings pitched. His ERA for July had been 2.25 and for August it was 8.71. Castillo will turn 23 this off season, I expect him to be in Lexington if he is with the organization next year. Three seasons of short season ball should be sufficient.

Paul Gerrish started his pro career in Greeneville. The former Horned Frog, appeared in 14 games for the G-Stros with mixed results. He finished 6 games and got the save in 1 of those. He held opponents to no earned runs in half of his appearances. He finished with an ERA of 4.56 but he had good control numbers (4 walks in 23 2/3 IP- 1 IBB) and only 2 of the 32 hits he surrendered were doubles or homers. Of the 19 runs he surrendered 7 were unearned. I am not sure if he was more unlucky or ineffective. He finished the year with a great outing, facing the minimum in 3 1/3 IP while striking out 4. He is already 24 so his age is a factor here. Based on his numbers and his age, I expect him to be in Lexington next year.

Jamaine Cotton took the long way to get the Greeneville. He is from St. Thomas, VI but went to college at Western Oklahoma State. This was his second straight year to be drafted (Giants in 09) and the Astros were able to sign him as their 15th pick. Apparently, Jamaine is a man of few words and is still learning the art of pitching. He only appeared in 13 games accounting for only 14 IP. He didn't meet much success. The only exciting stat is that he had more than one strike out per inning. However, he got hit (28 in 14 IP) and hard too (3 HR). He also struggled with control (7 BB & 3 WP). He had already pitched over 60 innings when he got to Greeneville so we don't know how tired he was, that might be a factor here. Jarmaine will probably get a second year in Greeneville.

Justin Harper was the 17th pick of the 2009 draft by the Astros. He had been selected before (Marlins 31st round 07, Yankees 37th round 08) so there is something scouts like when they see Harper pitch. He made 11 appearances in Greeneville totaling all of 18 innings pitched. He only got 6 innings pitched in 2009. So we have a 2 year vet with only 24 IP. Not much of a sample to make much of an assessment. Especially when you consider that 7 of his 10 earned runs occurred in his first three outings. He will be 22 when the season opens next year. I expect he will return to Tri Cities to show continued improvement and to get a full short season of work in.

Assessment None of these guys jump out and scream top prospect. Most will probably be roster fillers for their careers but you never can tell when someone puts it all together and makes it to the show. All of these guys have a long road ahead of them to get to the show, but we are pulling for them to make it.

Troy Patton's Father's Incredible Day

To see your son return to the Majors after shoulder surgery would make any dad's day. But to be sitting next the the daughter you had not seen sense she was four years old has to make it better. Thanks to Astros County for the link to Orioles Insider.

Fast forward to this year. Patton’s dad, who lives in Houston and is remarried with four boys, including Troy, set up a Facebook account and entered “Heather Patton.” And there was a hit for a woman in Boston that matched the age. It was her.

Patton’s dad and the woman agreed to meet in Boston, to watch the Red Sox and Orioles play this past week.

On Wednesday, they watched Patton make his Orioles debut and his first big-league appearance since September 2007, when he was with the Houston Astros.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Looking back at BA's Top 20's

Baseball America released it's top 20 Appy League prospects today. There are three 2010 Greeneville Astros in the top 11 on the list. Delino DeShields Jr is at #5, Mike Foltynewicz is at #7 and Vincent Velasquez is at #11. These list create a great deal of excitement when they come out. The question is how true a predictor are they? Let's look at Astros who have made the list since 2004. I have linked to each year's list below.

2004- Four Greeneville players made the list. This group was led by Mitch Einertson at #1. Mitch never made it past AA and is now out of baseball after continued issues with drugs.

Next on the list was #10 Troy Patton. Patton has spent a little bit of time in the majors and is probably looking to spend much more time there next year. An injury slowed his quick path to the top.

Juan Gutierrez was #12 on the list. He like Patton made his debut with the Astros in the bigs but was then traded. This year, Gutierrez has become the closer for the D-Backs. Since the all star break, he has 10 saves, and an ERA of 2.86.

Jordan Parraz was #13 on the list. Parraz is the third member of this group to be traded. He is in the Royals organization now and has made it as far as AAA. He has been a solid fielder but not consistent with the bat.

Big name on the list is A's pitcher Gio Gonzalez at #5.

Misses & Snubbs (a pitcher & fielder who have already seen significant MLB time and weren't on the list): Wade Davis (Rays) Carlos Gomez (Twins)

2005 - Another year with 4 prospects making the list. The top rated G-Stro was Josh Flores at #8. Flores was moving up well until he blew out both knees. During his return from that, he had another knee injury. He could never quiet return after missing that much time. He was released last season.

Eli Iorg was #14 on the list in 2005. He was released after making it to AAA. He is out of baseball.

Next was #16 Koby Clemens. He has blossomed as a hitter but has yet to find a comfortable position. Though it looks like he had a pretty good year at first in AA this year.

Finally we have Ryan Mitchell at #19. This promising RHP was released after the next season and has been toiling in independent ball since then.

Big name on the list is #2 Colby Rasmus.

Misses & Snubbs: Brian Duensing (Twins), Chris Carter (A's)

2006 - Only two players made the list in 2006. Ronald Ramirez was listed at #17. He suffered an arm injury the next season and never was the same after. The middle infielder made it to high A ball in 2009 but that is where his career ended.

Sergio Severino was at #20 and made it as far as high A ball. At that point, he struggled to get batters out and ended up being released.

Not on the list but mentioned as those who just missed the cut that year was Polin Trinidad. He has made it as far as AAA but was sent back down to AA at the end of this season.

Big name on the list is Tommy Hanson at #4.

Misses & Snubbs: No pitcher , Danny Valencia (Twins)

2007 - The G-Stros had just two representatives again this year and again, they were toward the bottom of the list. Ebert Rosario was the #17 rated prospect as a 3rd baseman. This year, he was sent back to the GCL to become a pitcher.

Kyle Greenwalt was the #20 selection. He just finished a descent year in Lancaster and is slated to pitch in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). He should be in AA next season.

Big name on the list is Neftali Feliz at #4

Misses & Snubbs - Fernando Abad (Astros), (no fielder)

2008 - The G-Stros had a much better showing on the list than the two prior years. Leading the way was Jordan Lyles at #7. He has made it up to AAA and is expected to be in the majors next season at some point in time. He is the current #1 prospect for the Astros.

Jay Austin checked in at #12. The raw & toolsy center fielder has climbed his way through high A ball as a teenager. He is going to spend some time in the AFL as well this fall.

Frederico Hernandez rounded out the Astros on the list at #18. The catcher has already put in some time at AA.

Missed & Snubbed: Henry Villar (Astros), (No fielder)

2009 -The G-Stros placed three on the list again in 2009. Jio Mier started things off at #2 on the list. He has struggled in his first full season but is still very young. But expectations are high.

Juri (Yuri) Perez came in at #10. Unfortunately he injured his elbow in his last start of 09 and was just starting rehab starts in the GCL at the end of 2010. Keep an eye on him to see what happens. He has a great change up and a good fastball.

Jonathon Meyer was at #18 on the list. He also had a less than stellar season at Lexington but better than Miers so he hasn't caught as much flack.

Biggest mover on the list is #1 Julio Teheran who has already made seven starts at AA for the Braves.

So What?
What does this tell us? Not too much. I enjoy these list and I am glad BA puts them out. However, I think this proves Baseball America doesn't have a crystal ball. Not that they ever said they did. It proves that injuries can derail a players career. If shows that players personal issues can get in the way of development. It shows that what looks good in short season ball doesn't always project down the road. It proves that there are some very good players who come through the Appy Leagues.

What does all this tell you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Season Recap - Starting Pitching

Let's go to the mound and recap the starting pitchers for the 2010 Greeneville Astros. There were nine different starters for the G-Stros this season. We will cover seven of them in this section. The other two were primarily relievers who made a spot start or two and will be covered in the relief pitchers recap.

One of the challenges in assessing short season pitching stats for starters is the limited number of starts. Add to that the pitch count limits that many new draft picks come in with, their initial few starts may only last from one to three innings. Therefore, one bad or one great outing can skew the numbers significantly.

Therefore I propose the Appy Astro Adjusted Scoring System (3A2S). This system involves throwing out the best and worst outing a pitcher has and then figuring the stats. This I believe give s a more accurate picture of the pitcher's performance.

Let's start our review with 1st round pick Mike Foltynewicz. Folty had 12 starts during the season and accounted for 44 2/3 IP. His pre adjusted numbers are an ERA of 4.03, a WHIP of 1.37, K/9 of 7.86 & a K/BB of 2.6.

His worst outing was on the road on 8/6 in Princeton. He gave up 8 ER on 7 hits and 2 BB while striking out 2 in 2 1/3 IP. His best outing was the very next outing at home against Elizabethon on 8/11. On that night, he gave up just 1 hit and walked 1 batter while striking out 4 in 5 IP.

So his 3A2S season total looks like this: ERA of 2.89, WHIP of 1.34, K/9 of 7.96 and K/BB of 2.75

Assessment: Folty did better than his numbers show. He had some learning opportunities (2 rough outings) but finished very strong. Look for him in Lexington next season.

Rueben Alaniz
also started 12 games. His pre adjusted line is 4.21 ERA, WHIP of 1.30, K/9 of 6.56, and a K/BB of 4.2.

His worst start was on 7/10 in Bluefield. That night, he gave up 10 ER on 12 hits, and 2 walked in 2 2/3 IP. He did strike out two that night. His best start was on 7/27 at Elizabethon. There he allowed no runs and only one hit and one walk while fanning 10 E-Twins hitters in five IP.

Alaniz's 3A2S season total comes to: ERA of 3.06, WHIP of 1.18, K/9 of 5.40 and K/BB of 4.29.

Assessment: Alaniz's adjusted ERA being over one point lower than his actual tells me he was also a victim of a bad outing. Alaniz should and could make the jump to Lexington but I suspect he might wind up in Tri Cities due to lack of spots.

Euris Quezada, who was called 'El Grande' by the coaches due to his 6'6" frame, also started 12 games. His season line was: ERA of 5.83, WHIP 1.47, K/9 of 5/40 & K/BB 3.17.

Quezada's worst start occurred on 8/20 in Danville. There he surrendered 4 ER on 6 hits and one walk with no strike outs in 2 1/3 IP. His strongest outing was on 7/21 at home against Bristol. That outing, he pitched 7 innings giving up no runs, one hit, one walk and fanned 3.

Quezada's 3A2S adjusted numbers: ERA of 6.00, WHIP of 1.48, K/9 of 5.83 and K/BB of 3.50.

Assessment: There is not much difference between his actual numbers and the adjusted numbers. This should be a pretty good indicator that we have a pretty good picture of the pitcher Quezada is. At 22 next season, I suspect he might be given a shot at Tri Cities but he might not be a starter any longer.

Richardo Batista is the 4th G-Stro to have 12 starts. The left who turned 19 during the season finished with a line of: 6.29 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 6.47 K/9, and 1.52 K/BB.

Batista's worst night was on 8/9 against the E-Twins. He didn't make it out of the first inning, giving up 6 ER on 6 hits, 2 walks and 1 K in 2/3 of an inning. His best outing was on 7/23 when he went 7 innings giving up 1 ER on 5 hits, 1 walk and striking out 5 batters.

His 3A2S line is: 5.93 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 6.37 K/9 and 1.38 K/BB.

Assessment: Batista's numbers are also pretty close. I expect him to be back in Greeneville next year. Even though the numbers aren't great, they were improved from his time in the GCL. Control must continue to improve.

Vincent Velasquez, the 2nd round pick of the Astros in the 2010 draft was consistent in his limited time on the hill. He only pitched 29 1/3 innings due to injury issues. He had 10 days between two starts during the season and then in his last outing on 8/24, he left the game when apparently some scar tissue from a previous injury popped. His line on the season was: 3.07 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 7.67 K/9 and 5.00 K/BB.

His consistency makes it tough to pick a worst outing. None of them were that bad. His worst was on 7/24 when he gave up 2 ER in 3 2/3 IP in Kingsport. That night, he allowed 4 hits but no walks and fanned 3. His best evening came on 7/14 when his pitch count limit was still low and he actually pitched in relief. He allowed just one hit and no runs in 3 IP while fanning 4 batters.

Velasquez's 3A2S line is: 3.18 ERA, 1.06 ERA, 7.15 K/9 and 3.60 K/BB.

Assessment: Valasquez's numbers are about the same but this is a very small sample size. There is a great deal to be excited about here but in cloud of injury is hanging over him. How his arm heals will determine his location this year. If healthy, I could easily see him in Lexington.

Angel Gonzalez made 5 starts out of 8 appearances for the Astros. (In a freak of scheduling, I was present for about 6 of those games he appeared in.) He also was send down in the middle of the season to the GCL for a tune up. When he returned, he was used solely as a reliever. This was Gonzalez's second year in Greeneville. His line as a start was: 7.66 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.45 K/9, and 1.60 K/BB.

His best outing was 6 innings of no hit ball in Kingsport where he walked 2 and fanned 4 on 6/29. His worst outing was on 7/9 when he surrendered 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks and struck out just one batter.

His 3a2S line as a starter: 8.56 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.24 K/9, and 1.83 K/BB.

Assessment: Looks like the decision has already been made to move Gonzalez to the pen. He should be in Tri Cities next year, if he is still with the organization.

The last starter to discuss is Gabriel Garcia. Garcia started the year serving a 50 game PED suspension. He was sent back to Greeneville where he made 6 appearance and 4 starts in August. He was much more effective in his two relief appearances (2.70 ERA in 3 1/3 IP) verse his 4 starts (4.15 ERA in 13 IP). However even his starting numbers were a large improvement from last year (7.91 in 38 2/3 IP). Based on his solid K/9 of 9.4,and the log jam of quality starters, I could see him being moved to the bullpen and being in Tri Cities next year.