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.

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. "