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.

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.

Albert Cartwright Talks About His Season

Greeneville Astro Alumni, Albert Cartwright (07,08), was interviewed by the The Tribune in his home country of the Bahamas. In the article, he talks about what he needs to do to progress beyond AA next season.

"Hopefully if I can do that (get on base more), it will get me into the big league (Majors)," he projected. "But you also always need to work on your defense, if you want to get better.

"But as long as I can put the bunts down, get on base, I should be able to look forward to a good year."

Cartwright plans to head back to Florida to spend his off season preparing for spring training and doesn't have a plan to play winter ball at this time.

He is one of only two players from the Bahamas in minor league baseball. If he can make it to the show, he will be the sixth player from the Bahamas to do so.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Extreme Fatigue - Dom. Edition

I have found a list of players on the Fatigue list for the Dominican Republic Winter League. Here are the Astros who are listed:

Alberto Arias
Sammy Gervacio
Enerio del Rosario
Wandy Rodriguez

Extreme Fatigue List - Ven. Edition

Here is the list I mentioned in my previous comments of the Latin players who are listed by MLB as not being allowed to play in winter ball because they have passed "extreme fatigue" thresholds.

The thresholds for pitchers are:

MLB/AAA -160 IP or 60 appearances
AA - 150 IP
A - 130 IP
Short A - 75 IP
Rookie - 70 IP

The thresholds for hitters are:
MLB - 502 AB
AAA - A - 550 AB

There are also thresholds for catchers but I have no idea what entries recieved are so I won't try to guess.

Here are the Venezuelan Astros who are on the list:
Carlos Quevedo P
Luis Alvarez C (injury)
Jhonny Medrano INF (injury)
Felipe Paulino P

The various winter ball teams can appeal the decision and if overturned, the players can start playing in December. There is a Dominican list with at least 75 names on it but I can't find it yet.

Troy Patton Keeping the Bench & the Arm Warm

Troy Patton was one of my favorite Greeneville Astros from the 2004 season. He has been on the Baltimore roster three times this year. The most recent stint began on September 7th and he is yet to get into a game. According to this report from Steve Melewski, the plan is for him to work as a long reliever and the starters are just doing too well right now.

Patton on staying fresh waiting for his turn:

"I might use a bullpen to keep the breaking balls fresh. My arm feels good. I'm not worried about throwing strikes with the fastball, it's the breaking ball that, if you take too long off, they are just not the same."

Buck Showalter would like to see him in game action but isn't complaining.

"I've seen some of his work days. But to sit here and smugly say I got to see it, of course not, you go by what people tell you and you see a little on the side. But I can't sit here and for sure tell you what he's going to be able to do...."But he's in the big leagues and that gives you an idea of what we think about him potentially."

Patton says it's better than the alternative.
It's better than being in Houston right now, watching games on TV."

I would say there are worse things than getting almost $2500 a game to ride the pine.

Instructs & AFL Rosters

Zachary Levine at the Houston Chronicle has posted the roster of players who are in Kissimmee at the Instructional League. This three week season allows for some fine tuning and work with some of the younger prospects. This is where the work begins for "Lino" DeShields to become a second baseman.

Players off the 2010 Greeneville Roster attending include:
Ruben Alaniz
Michael Foltynewicz
Euris Quezada
Rodney Quintero
Roberto Pena
Chris Wallace
Delino DeShields
Marcus Nidiffer
Telvin Nash

Breaking down where the other players spent the MAJORITY of their season:

DSL: 3
The fact the 16 year old Ariel Ovando is in Instructs is a strong sign he will be state side for spring training. Here's hoping he winds up in G'ville.

GCL: 11
A couple of teens to watch out of this group, Jose Fernandez who won't turn 18 until next May, and Jordan Scott who put up solid numbers for a 14th round pick out of HS.

Tri Cities: 11
No surprise Ben Heath is on the list since he finished the year at AA. Glad to see Thomas Shirley on the list since he hadn't pitched since mid July.

Lexington: 11
Last years draft darlings, Mier & Meyer, return to recover from the dose of reality they faced this year.

Lancaster: 5
Jay Austin is spending time in instructs prior to heading out to Arizona for fall league.

AFL Roster Moves
Levine also reports there have been some changes to the Arizona Fall League players from the Astros. T. J. Steele has been removed from the roster and replaced with Jay Austin. Also Brandon Barnes has been added to the roster and according to his twitter, it is as a member of the Taxi Squad. That means he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But at bats against strong competition is a good thing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Federico Hernandez To Be Opening Day Catcher In Ven.

More Winterball News today. Frederico Hernandez appears to be the opening day starter for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. Here is what is being said about him (translated through google translator so syntax is not correct but you get the idea).
Luis Blasini, Manager of Electric Sports said, "I have no concern whatsoever that Federico Hernandez will do a great job this season, he neglected a bit of their offensive in recent years but I must say that after the mid-season like everyone behaved a double A-class player. "

The linked post also talks about former Houston Astro Richard Hildago who will be patrolling RF for the Navigators

Dominican Winter League Draft

The Dominican Winter League rookie draft has taken place. Here are the former Greeneville Astros and other players from the Houston minors who were drafted and what team they will be on next month when the DWL begins.

Jonathon Villar - taken in the 1st round by Aguilas Cibaenas (2nd overall)
Jimmy Paredes - taken in the 2nd round by Gigantes del Cibao
Wander Alvino - (G-Stro 2008) taken in the 8th round by Estrella de Oriente.
Juan Minaya - taken in the 8th round by Tigres del Licey
Miguel Arrendell (G-Stro 2009) taken in the 12th round by Estrella de Oriente.
Jose Cisneros - (G-Stro 2009) taken in the 6th round by Gigantes del Cibao

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Season Recap: Outfielders

We get out of the dirt now and into the players who run in the grass. We will do this like the rest of the positions going with most games played starting with left field.

Telvin Nash (Games played by position - LF - 51, DH - 6 games) The 19 year old, who looks like a linebacker, was the MVP of the Greeneville Astros this season. Here is a photo of him ripping a double on the night he was crowned MVP by the Astros.

His power really developed this year, especially during the month of July when he had 8 homers in 77 at bats. He also had a OPS of .997 for the month. Overall for the year, he finished with 25 extra base hits in 200 AB (1 out of every 8). Compare that to his 2009 numbers of 12 extra base hits in 142 AB (1 out of every 11.8). In a freakish statistical twilight zone moment, he had the same number of walks as extra base hits in both years. But since walks are included in AB, we will see how often he walks based on plate appearances (PA). 2009 he walked once every 13.1 PA. In 2010, it improved to once every 9.6 PA. The only real negative in his batting numbers is the high strike out rate. In 2010, he K'd once every 3.125 AB. After his promotion to Tri Cities, he K's 7 times in 13 at bats.

His defense was a liability in left field for the G-Stros. How can you tell? The Astros played 66 games. You add up all the players who played in left for the year and you get 91. That means, in 25 games, there was a defensive substitution into left field. His arm is not impressive. He takes interesting routes to balls. On the bright side, he was better this year than last year. He only made one more error this year than last year in twice as many chances.

Expectations for next year: This may be more of a hope than an expectation but I think Nash will be at Tri Cities to continue to work on his defense and his pitch recognition. However, if he shows improvement in those areas over the instructional league time and in spring training, I could see him in Lexington.

Bryce Lane - (Games played by position - CF - 25, LF - 8, RF - 2) - The JC drafee who jilted Auburn to sign with the Astros was the primary center fielder for the first part of the G-Stros season.

At the plate, he started in a hole hitting .105 (2 for 19) during the June portion of the schedule. He warmed up to .238 in July and then was sent down to the GCL in early August. He only had one extra base hit, a double, while he was in Greeneville. In the GCL, he found his hitting stroke and got 10 hits in 30 AB during his short stay there. Then he made the big jump to Lancaster to take the roster spot of the injured Lee Cruz. The boy from Phenix City, Alabama took a liking to the California League. He exploded with 16 hits in 15 games. He had 6 extra base hits after hitting just two in the two rookie leagues. He walked 8 times in 56 plate appearances after walking just 9 in 132 PA. He reduced his strike outs from 29 out of 129 AB to 8 in 45 AB. He appears to have caught lightning in a bottle. It is a shame the season had to end.

In the field, he covered ground well in center and made the plays you expect a center fielder to make. He played LF primarily when he was moved to Lancaster.

Expectations for next year: This is going to be interesting to see where he lands. In a vacuum, I would say he deserves to be given a shot an Lexington but with the other outfielders in Tri Cities and in Greeneville, there is going to be a tough competition for the OF spots in Lex. That also may allow him to jump back to Lancaster.

Emilio King - (Games played by position - RF 57, CF - 8, LF - 2) This is my sleeper prospect on the G-Stros in 2010. Add the numbers up there (57+8+2= 67). Greeneville only played in 66 and he only played in 63 of those. That means in at least 4 games, he was moved to another position for defensive reasons. The reason for those moves, King has a cannon. He had 14 outfield assist in his 57 games at RF. To put that in perspective, in 2002, Vlad Guerrero & Larry Walker tied for the NL lead in outfield assist with 14. Hunter Pence currently leads Houston outfielders with 9 through 141 games. This is an unreal amount of assist for a short season RF.

So where did this arm come from? King was signed as a catcher. He played his first two years in the DSL as a catcher before coming to the GCL last year and moving to RF. He made throws from deep RF to home that were absolute frozen ropes. This kid has the best OF arm I have seen in Greeneville.

King also exhibits good range. There were several times, I commented to little Appy Astro at games that a flair was a hit only to see King swoop in and snag the ball. He is impressive in the field.

At the plate, he is much less impressive. After a decent start to the season with a .257 June, he struggled the rest of the season. He finished with a .210 average and a .583 OPS.

Expectations for next year: I expect King to be in Tri Cities. His defense is already above that level but his bat is not there yet.

Ricardo Heredia
- (Games played by position LF - 21, RF - 17, DH - 5) The 21 year old from the Dominican Republic made the jump from the DSL to the Appy League this year. The landing was quite rough. He only made no errors in the field in limited playing time.

At the plate, he struggled mightily. Heredia finished the year with a dismal August hitting just .071.

Expectation for next year: Released

Ryan Humphrey
- (Games played by position: LF - 7, CF - 25, RF - 1, DH 1) Humphrey returned for his second year in Greeneville. His defense was better but his playing time decreased and his offensive numbers decreased. Not a good combination.

Expectation for next year: Released

Delino DeShields Jr.
- (Games played by position - CF - 15, DH - 1) DeShields joined the team in mid August. He immediately showed he belonged at the Appy League Level.

It is not too important to talk about his outfield defense because he will report to Fall Instructional League in a few weeks to start working on his transition to 2nd base. In 16 games with the G-Stros, DeShields impressed the local fans with his speed. His speed showed in his range in the field and his base running at the plate. I saw him turn a single in to a double one night just by hustle and pure speed.

His bat speed is impressive as well. He hit a solid .313 during his time with the G-Stros. He scored in 11 of the 26 times he reached base. Having that kind of efficiency at the top of the line is exciting to see.

Expectations for next year: With DeShields learning a new position, I am hesitant to place him in Lexington since he will still be 18 when the full season starts. If he is deemed ready for Lexington, I won't be surprised but I expect him to be in Tri Cities next year.

Summary In terms of position players, the outfield is where the most promising prospects were in Greeneville this season. DeShields is the cream of the crop but will not be an outfielder by next spring. I wish we could morph Nash's Bat & King's defense into one player. That would be an exciting player to watch.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Season Recap: Middle Infielders

Continuing with our review of the players who played for the Greeneville Astros this year, we move to the middle infielders.

Jonathan Merritt - (56 games at SS)- Merritt was signed as a free agent out of The University of Alabama - Birmingham. He was the starting shortstop in 56 of the Astros 66 games. Merritt, 22, committed 21 errors in 279 chances. He made a few spectacular plays and most of the routine ones. He did everything you would want from a short stop.

At the plate, he spent the majority of his time batting 1st (112 AB) or 2nd (77 AB) in the line up. He hit much better in the second slot (.299/.413/.519 rather than lead off (.223/.350/.366). He stole 12 bases in 17 attempts. He also showed decent pop with 20 extra base hits (9 doubles, 6 triples and 4 home runs).

Merritt did what you expect a NDFA to do. He played his position well, was a good teammate and provided some organizational depth.

Expectations for next year: Depending on organizational needs I could see him backing up Ben Orloff in Lexington or playing in Tri Cities.

Ricardo Garcia
- (Games played by position: 2B - 41, DH - 4, 3B - 3, LF - 1, 1B - 1) The slight (5' 9" 142lbs) second baseman took on the utility role for the Astros this season when he wasn't playing second. He missed most of the 2009 season in the GCL and played only 8 games, all at 3B.

In the field, he didn't have the flare the G-Stros fans had become accustomed to from Jose Altuve, but he was solid. He made 10 errors in 213 chances. Some of the errors I saw were coming in on slowly hit balls.

At the plate, he didn't show that much that stood out. A sub .250 average and a OPS of .625 from a 21 year old in the Appy league isn't impressive.

Expectations for next year - He has one more year until he is a Minor League Free Agent. I expect if he makes it out of extended spring without being released, he will be assigned to Tri Cities.

Pedro Feliz - (Games played by position: 2B - 27) No not the guy we traded to the Cards but the 19 year old fellow. He split his games in 09 in the GCL between 2nd & 3rd. In 2010, he only played at 2nd but he played in less than half of the games.

In the field, he improved his numbers from 2009 at 2nd, making six errors in 125 chances. However, he still only showed a fielding percentage of .952.

At the plate, he showed very little. He hit .200 with striking out one out of every three at bats. The only promising number was he hit .100 higher on the road (.250) verses at home (.149).

Expectations for next year - He might get one more year in Greeneville due to him being just 20 when next year begins.

Summary: I saw nothing in this bunch that screamed prospect. However, one of the great things about Rookie ball is sometimes you can miss kids entirely. Albert Cartwright butchered the 2nd base position in 2007 as a 19 year old. He came back as a 20 year old and was better, especially at the plate. He finished 2010 in Corpus Christi. I would have never believed that in 2010.

The middle infield in the Astros organization is one of the deepest areas. With players like Sutil, Cartwright, Altuve, Mier, Villar, Paredes, & Hernandez already ahead of them. Plus adding Delino DeSheilds Jr. to the mix and having I don't see much hope for these guys getting much of a chance to make a big splash next year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Season Recap - On The Corners

In continuing to evaluate the 2010 Greeneville Astros, we will now examine the corner infielders. This is an older group of players with the youngest starting the season at 20 but finishing at 21. We will look at them in order of combined games played at the two positions. You will notice the games add up to more than the number of games the Astros played. That is because some of the appearances were as defensive substitutions.

Marcus Nidiffer (Games Played by Position 1B- 47, DH-1)- He was the old man of the bunch at 23. He was a NDFA who played catcher at Kentucky. He is also from nearby Bristol which made him a fan favorite from the beginning. Nidiffer played a solid first base, only making 4 errors on the season. He wasn't spectacular but he improved as the season progressed.

At the plate, Nidiffer started of the year hot and even though he faded in August, and was promoted to Tri Cities with half a month of games to play, he finished tied for the 9th best batting average in the league at .303. His 11 home runs were tied for 5th and .981 OPS was 2nd best. He was named to the Appy League All Star Team.

He exploded out of the gate in Tri Cities hitting two HR in one of his first games. He has since cooled off as he hit just .154 in his last 10 games in Tri Cities with only one extra base hit, a double.

Those close to the team gave Nidiffer high marks for his character and leadership as well. He will have a tough road to climb to make it very far in the system. His age and his status as a NDFA are working against him.

Expectations for next year - Tri Cities

Rafael Valenzuela
- (Games played by position 1B - 22, 3B - 17) - Signed as a NDFA out of the University of Arizona. The 22 year old has played all over the diamond in college but played 1st & 3rd for the G-Stros. He was called up to Greeneville after spending 16 games with the GCL Astros.

In the field, Valenzuela was adequate but unremarkable for the G-Stros at either position. He was regularly used as a defensive replacement late in close games at 1st. After Nidiffer left, he was the best option the team had a 1st. Therefore, he spent a the last half of August at 1st.

At the plate, he made contact most of the time. However that contact resulted in ground balls over half the time. He was one of the few left handed bats in the line up.

Valenzuela has been offered the chance to play winter ball in Mexico.

Expectations for next year - Tri Cities if not released.

Jhonny Medrano - (Games played by position 1B - 11, 3B - 21, DH - 19) The 22 year old from Venezuela was the starting 3rd baseman for the season. He had been slated to be on the Greeneville roster in 2008 but he hurt his knee the day before the season started and had to miss the whole year. The next year, he had a disappointing year in Tri Cities. This year, it was expected he would show the ability that was the buzz when he was on the roster in 2008.

The injury bug bit Medrano again this year. On July 16th, he banged his elbow on a slide home and was out of the line up for much of the rest of July. When he returned, he didn't play 3rd any longer and after a failed attempt at him playing first, he was relegated to the DH role for much of August. At the last game of the season, he was seen in the dugout with a bulky brace on his elbow.

His hitting suffered after the injury. He had 23 of his 49 strike outs in just 71 at bats in August.

Expectations for next year: This was his sixth season after signing as a free agent as a 16 year old. Therefore, he will be a minor league free agent this off season. If the elbow requires surgery with significant rehab time, I don't see the Astros re-signing him.

Hector Rodriguez - (Games played by position 3b - 29, SS - 13, LF - 1) He was the baby of the group, starting the season at 20 years old. Rodriguez made the jump from the DLS Astros to Greeneville this season, with no stop at GCL. He was one of my favorite kids on the team this year. Not because of his play necessarily but because of his attitude. He was the first guy out of the dug out to welcome players off the field when an inning ended. He had a unique whistle noise he would make in the field or in the dugout when some one made a good play or when a pitcher made a good pitch. Occasionally, you would hear other players echo the whistle back to him. It was clear, he was having fun at the ball park.

In the field, he is a bit small to be playing 3rd at 6 foot and 150 pounds. He looks more like a shortstop than a 3rd baseman. He has the soft hands of a SS and ranges to his left well. He also made several nice plays coming in on the grass on bunts and dinks. He made one catch of a line drive over his head that showed off a quick reaction time and a solid vertical leap. he made 5 errors at 3rd. Most of those were on throws.

At the plate, he quietly put together a good season. He didn't have enough at bats to qualify for any league or team rankings, but he finished the year with a solid .303 average. He hits a bunch of ground balls and it might be that he is just getting lucky. Time will tell. He didn't strike out (25 K in 120 AB) but he also took only one walk all year. So he makes contact but will need to learn to be more selective.

Expectations for next year: Greeneville or Tri Cities

Chris Lovett - (Games played by position: 3B - 12, 2B -3, DH - 1. The 2009 12th round pick of the Braves was picked up at the end of July with the Braves released him. He started off getting a great deal of playing time but as his struggles at the plate grew, his playing time shrunk. Not a great sample size to pull from but hitting under .180 in 50 AB is not encouraging.

Expectations for next year: Released

In summary, there were not many prospects in the corner infield crop in Greenville this year. But what do you expect when three of the players were NDFA college kids, one is a oft injured soon to be minor league free agent.

Best Bat: Nidiffer
Best Glove: Rodriguez
Best Arm: Medrano (pre injury)
Best Overall Prospect: Rodriguez (though I considered putting none of the above)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Season Recap: Catchers

With the season over, it is time to look back and make some observations about what I saw at Pioneer Park. I am aiming to do this by position groups. We will start with catchers, move to corner infielders, then middle infielders, outfielders, starting pitchers, and then finally relief pitchers.

Without further ado, here are my observations about the guys who wore the tools of ignorance this year. They are listed in order of most games played at catcher.

Chris Wallace - The 16th round pick out of Houston, played in 46 games for the G-Stros before being promoted to Tri Cities. Thirty of those games were behind the plate. There Wallace allowed just one passed ball and made two errors. He threw out 13 out of 35 (37%)base burglars. You have to remember that sometimes the base isn't stolen on the catcher but the pitcher. Since his promotion, Wallace has improved his caught stealing numbers nabbing 10 out of 19 (53%). Combined, that is a 43% rate so far this year, which is pretty impressive.

At the plate, Wallace hit .310 during his time in Greeneville. He had 6 doubles, 8 home runs and an unusually high 3 triples. His average was the 6th best in the Appy League. Wallace was fading when he was promoted. In August, prior to his promotion to Tri Cities, he was 7 out of 31 (.226) with just one extra base hit. At the same time, his strike out rate had increased from K-ing in 24% of his at bats to fanning in 32% of his at bats. After a slow start in Tri Cities, he is improving his numbers as the season wraps up.

Wallace is the only pro player I have seen wear a face mask on his helmet. He wears a clear mask that goes from one ear piece to the other. The reason behind that is that he took a pitch to the face in college, it fractured his cheek bone and had screws inserted to put the pieces back together. That is why he wears to mask.

Expectation for next year: Lexington or Lancaster

Carlos Mojica - The 22 year old started the year on the roster for the Tri Cities Valley Cats and then was sent to Lancaster for a brief stay until he landed back in Greeneville for the third year. Mojica didn't appear in any games in his first two stops of 2010. He was behind the plate 14 times for the G-Stros. He was the DH in 5 additional games. Runners didn't fair well against Mojica. He caught 7 out of 15 (47%) base stealers. He allowed 5 passed balls. Word is that Mojica will be seeing a doctor after the season is over. He was not very mobile behind the plate. He also committed 4 errors.

At the plate, he was hot in July hitting .320 in 10 games. He was frigid in August going 1 for 24 for a bingo batting average of .080.

As was stated earlier, this was Mojica's third season in Greeneville. It is his 5th overall since he was signed. That means he has one more season until he becomes a free agent. Based on what I saw this year, I am not sure he will get that shot.

Expectation for next year: Released

Bubby Williams - the 11th round pick from 2009, started his second season in Greeneville. He was the receiver in 13 games for the G-Stros in 2010. Behind the plate, he was solid receiving the ball. There were no passed balls on his watch. However, base runners took advantage of him with him only throwing out 25% of stealers (4/16). Since his promotion to Lexington, Williams has improved that number to 4 out of 9 (44%).

Bubby started the year very hot, hitting .400 in June with 4 home runs. It what may be the oddest split of the year, Williams hit .093 at home and .429 on the road while with the G-Stros. His bat hasn't been very effective since his call up. One of the factors here might be playing time. He has only had a plate appearance in 9 games since his call up in early August.

Williams is a good receiver and according to some of the pitchers I have talked to, he calls a pretty good game. His inconsistent bat and his throwing skill set must improve.

Expectation for next year: Lexington or Tri Cities

Roberto Pena - the 7th round pick for this year's draft started in the GLC and was called up to Greeneville in August. He has the best arm of the group. In the 13 games behind the plate in Greeneville, he shot down 7 of 14 base runners (50%). He had done an adequate job of this in the GCL (38%) prior to coming up. He has a very quick release and throws accurately to 2nd. He is not as confident in handling balls that aren't where he expects them as evidenced by the 4 passed balls.
At the plate, he struggled but he made contact. He fanned 10 times in 47 at bats, which isn't awful but he did fan 7 times in 20 at bats against RHP. He did show some clutch hit ability. He hit .286 with RISP compared to his G-Stros average of .191.

Pena is young, he turned 18 right at draft time. So he will still by 18 when he reports to spring training next year. In ranking the catchers I have seen in Greeneville, I would put him right behind Frederico Hernandez & Luis Alvarez.

Expectation for next year: Lexington

Ryan McCurdy
- the NDFA out of Duke only played in 6 games before heading to Tri Cities to ride the bench up there. Both sample sizes are so small, it is hard to pull any real conclusions. That in and of itself likely means that McCurdy's career may not be a long one.

Expectation for next year: Released

Luis Alvarez was on the roster all of this season. He never played a game because he is recovering from a knee injury he suffered last season backing up a play at first. He will be 21 when next season rolls around and needs to be remembered when thinking about who goes where next season.

If I were to give best tools, here is what they would be:

Best Arm: Pena
Best Backstop: Williams
Best Game Caller: Williams
Best Hitter: Wallace
Best All Around Prospect: Pena

Up next, the corner infielders.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Over - Looking Back at the 2010 G-Stros' Season

Well, it’s over. The 2010 Greeneville Astros wrapped up their season with a win over Pulaski. The G-Stros are in the cellar in the Appy West for the 4th straight year. They finished the season 31-35, 11 games out of the lead and 10 games out of the new wild card playoff spot. Not great but better than the last few years. Just to recap, here is where the G-Stros have finished since their move to Greeneville in 2004.

2009 - 27-40, 5th in the West, 17 1/2 games back
2008 - 30-36, 5th in the West, 11 games back
2007 - 17-51, 5th in the West, 33 games back
2006 - 34-33, 2nd in the West, 7 1/2 games back
2005 - 29-37, 3rd in the West, 17 1/2 games back
2004 - 41-26, 1st in the West, 3 games up, beat Danville in playoffs

The G-Stros started off hot, going 7-2 in June. They started July cold getting swept by Bristol & Kingsport in three game series to start the month. They went 13-17 in July and were 20-21 for the year. At that point, they were still in the playoff race. But a 3-8 start to August put them out of the race for the wild card and resulted in moving the two best hitters in the G-Stros line up, Marcus Nidiffer & Chris Wallace, to Tri Cities.

That move may have signalled the end of the playoff hopes but not the end of the excitement in Greeneville. The same day that Nidiffer & Wallace were shipped out to the ValleyCats, Delino DeShields Jr was added to the G-stros roster. The G-Stros finished out the month of August going 8-8 after Deshields arrival.

Nail Biters
This season was a season of close games. Of the G-Stros 66 games, 43 (65%) were decided by 3 runs or less. The G-Stros were 23-20 in those games. A full 1/3 of the games were decided by one run or less. They were 14-8 in those games. Their success in those close games is a bit of a surprise since they had a league worst ERA of 4.54.

The G-Stros had a winning record against the teams from the east (Pulaski, Princeton, Bluefield, Danville & Burlington) 17-13 and a 7-5 mark against the two play off teams. Against the teams from the west (Johnson City, Bristol, Elizabethon, and Kingsport), they had a 14-22 record and a 6-10 mark against those play off teams.

Power Surge
Prior to this season, only one Greeneville Astro had hit more than 8 home runs in a season. That was in 2004 with Mitch Einertson exploded on the scene with an Apply League record tying 24 HR. This year Telvin Nash hit 12 and Marcus Nidiffer hit 11 to move into second and 3rd respectively on the G-Stros list for homers in a season. Chris Wallace joined Josh Flores (2005) and Kody Hinze (2008) in a tie for 4th with 8 homers in a season. The fact that Wallace & Nidiffer did it in less than 50 games makes it even more impressive. Wallace has added two more long balls in Tri Cities and Nidiffer has added 3.

As a team, the 2010 G-Stros set a record with 53 round trippers. Their previous high was 45 in 2004 & 2005. They averaged a homer for every 10.5 hits and every 41.7 at bats. This high power didn’t translate to other extra base hits as reflected in league standings. However, the 111 doubles was the second highest in G-Stro history behind 09’s 118. The 23 triples is tied for third most in G-Stros history.

The G-Stros’ big swings may have lead to an increase in K’s. They fanned 589 times this year. That his the second most behind the 07 team's 593.

The Pitching
Young and inconsistent were the two words that came to my mind what I was trying to summarize the pitching this season. Twice, the G-Stros were one out away from no hit bids and 9 times they gave up more than 10 runs. As for the young part, Foltynewicz, Alaniz & Valasquez are all arms to watch as they mature. All had strong outings and all had rough outings. I expect this to be the core of the Lexington rotation next season.

On Deck
I will begin doing recaps that focus more on individual players soon and also catching up on what former G-Stros players are doing as well.