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.