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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ronald Ramirez A Red Bird

Think back to the Greeneville Astros of 2006, who was the MVP? Yep, the guy mentioned in the headline. Ronald Ramirez, who played 44 games at SS and hit .314 with an OPS of .805. In the field, he finished with a fielding percentage of .919. He was #17 on the Baseball America Top 20 Appy League Prospects and made the Appy League All Star team.

He started 2007 in extended spring training and then just three games after a call up to Lexington, he dislocated his shoulder (other reports say broken collarbone). Then in 2008 he only played in 21 games after getting his arm strength back up. Two years of lost development put him behind and he was released after finishing the 2009 season in Lancaster.

He still played winter ball in Colombia along with fellow former G-Stros Steve Brown (Leones), Wilton Noel (Tigres) & Carlos Ladeuth (Tigres). Last fall, he played on the Colombian Pan American Qualifying team and he made some connections with the Cardinals. Here is what TheCardinalNation.com reports:

Ramirez also participated in the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in October 2010, where one of his coaches was Cardinals scout and VSL coach Neder Horta and Memphis infielder Donovan Solano was a teammate...

“Ramirez gives us a little insurance for Springfield in the event of injuries, and could help us avoid having to rush a player to Double-A prematurely if there’s a need at that level for an utility infielder,” explained the farm director (John Vuch).
Best of luck to Ronald with another chance in affiliated ball.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Keith Law Doesn't Think Much of Folty & Combined Top 10

Kieth Law, from ESPN.com, came out with his top 10 Astros prospects today. I won't give you the list because you have to pay to be an ESPN insider to obtain such priceless information. I will tell you that Jordan Lyles is #1 again. I will also fill you in on the fact that he doesn't put Folty in the top 10. He apparently talked to sources who told him "Folty threw very poorly in rookie ball, and I got two really negative reports on his stuff and body language." That wasn't what I saw but hey I am just a fan. Anyway, another good showing for former G-Stros as they made up 60% of the his Top 10.

That makes the 5th list that is out. I have been keeping track and thought it would be fun to combine all the list. I gave the # 1 ranked player 20 points, since two of the list (MinorLeagueBall.com & Baseball Prospectus) have a top 20 ranking. Here is what a combined Top 10 would look like:

1. Jordan Lyles - (100 points) - When you are #1 on all the list it is not a surprise to be ranked #1 on the combined list.

2. Delino DeShields Jr. - (94 pts) - He has been #2 on all list except one where he was #3.

3. Jonathon Villar - (74 pts) - This is where the opinions start diverging. He has been as high as #3 but as low as #9 but he is consistantly in the top 10. He actually tied in points with the #4 player be was placed #3 due to virtue of having a higher single ranking.

#4 Tanner Bushue - (74 pts) - His rankings ranged from #5 to #8. But again he is consistently on the list and that earned him a higher ranking than some other guys ranked ahead of him on individual list.

#5 Jio Mier - (70 pts) - He can thank Hard Ball Times for a #2 ranking that secured him a spot in the Top 5. In my mind he is closer to 7-9 range.

#6 Mike Foltynewicz - (70 pts) - He was 3rd or 4th in every ranking except Keith Law's where he wasn't included in the top 10 at all, so he falls to 6th tied with Jio. As your teachers used to tell you, 0's will kill your average.

#7 J. D. Martinez - (67 pts) - He was ranked as high as 5th and as low as 10th. This is a fair grade for where he fits in the org.

#8 Austin Wates - (66 pts) - He was rated as high as 4th but as low as 14th. I think he is slightly higher than this.

#9 Jimmy Parades - (51 pts) - Another case of a zero hurting his score. He was ranked between #6 & #10 on the rest of the rankings.

#10 Ariel Ovando - (40 pts) - A kid who hasn't played an inning of pro ball was ranked 3rd by Keith Law & 4th by Baseball Prospectus. That along with a #16 ranking from MinorLeagueBall.com, brings him into the Top 10 despite not being on two list at all.

I will be posting my top 10 in the next few days. It is not of all Astros prospect but just of those who have played at Pioneer Park.

So what do you think? Does this do any better job of matching what you believe to be true about the ranking of the Astros prospects?

Abad Talks About His No Hit Outing

Thanks to Google Translate, I found some good quotes from Fernando Abad regarding his 6 inning no - hit performance in the Dominican Play Offs last week. Here are the quotes from listendiario.com

"My pitches were falling well. He had good location and I put all my efforts to do the job to get a good job, "..."I was given six innings and did my role," said Abad, who made only 70 pitches which is the fee that has been assigned because it is rigorously preparing to go to spring training in good condition.
He went on to say that his change up was performing very well that game. He mixed that in with his breaking pitches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where will Jordan Lyles spend 2011?

Yesterday, Jonathon Mayo of MLB.com chatted about the recently released top 50 prospect list. Jordan Lyles was the lone Astro prospect on the list. Here is a link to video that accompanied his placement on the list

Here is the question I asked during the chat and his reply.

appyastro: Do you think Jordan Lyles will spend more time in Triple-A or Houston this year?

Mayo: My gut says he starts the year in Triple-A (he didn't pitch there all that much last year), but he finishes it in the Astros' rotation. If you don't see him by the All-Star break, I'd be surprised.

If this is the case, it looks like he is the leading candidate to be the 10th former G-Stro to make it to the majors since the franchise moved here in 2004.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Abad Coming Into His Own?

Back in 2007, Fernando Abad pitched in 17 games in Greeneville. He was 21 and was experiencing state side baseball for the first time. There were some very promising signs from him that year. He had more strike outs (54) than innings pitched (50). That is impressive but the most impressive thing Abad did was he adjusted to the league he was in. He started off the season with a very forgettable start against Burlington where he gave up 6 earned runs in 4 2/3 IP. During that outing, he surrendered 5 hits, 2 of which left the yard. He also gave up 3 walks which was 1/4 of his season total. In fact, he gave up 10 of his 12 walks in his first six outings. That showed his ability to adjust. To learn how to pitch. He has continued to show that ability to adjust as he has moved through the Astros' farm system. Notice the drop in HR year by year in his minor league career.

2007 Greeneville / Tri Cities - 6 in 53 IP (1 per 9 innings pitched)
2008 Lexington - 9 in 76 IP (1.1 per 9 IP)
2009 Lancaster/ CC - 9 in 96 2/3 IP (0.8 per 9 IP)
2010 CC/ RR - 4 in 46 IP ( 0.8 IP per 9 IP)

He adjusted as he moved up. The fact that he improved his HR stats while in Lancaster is impressive. In the majors last year, he gave up 3 in 22 IP (1.4 per 9 IP). So he still has some learning to do. but he has shown the ability to adjust before.

His pitching is leading the Toros of the Dominican Winter League into the Caribbean Series. Before they moved on to focus on the winners of the Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, & Mexican Leagues; Abad was able to be congratulated by President Leonel Fernandez (see photo). So his star is shining bright in the Dominican right now. What about here in the states?

In today's Houston Chronicle, columnist Richard Justice states "there is cautious optimism" about Abad's ability to fill the 5th starter role in Houston this year. He outlines Abad's eye opening performance this winter:

Abad has emerged this winter as perhaps the most interesting player at spring training. He has had a steady climb through the system since being signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2002.

In 333 minor league innings, Abad has 53 walks and 351 strikeouts. He performed well during a 22-game major league stint out of the bullpen last season and will come to camp as a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Abad has opened eyes all over baseball this winter with his performance in winter ball, pitching 19 consecutive shutout innings at one point.

Troy Patton Cited for DWI

For the second time this month, a former G-Stro has been cited for DWI. Patton was arrested last weekend in Texas. According to MLB.com:
Patton, 25, was pulled over by police for speeding and driving over a curb, according to the report. Police also said Patton had a 0.14 blood-alcohol content, which is nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 in Texas, and that he was released on $500 bond, with a court date scheduled for later this month.
Patton pitched for the 2004 Greeneville Astros and was sent to the Orioles as a part of the package for SS Miguel Tijada. He appeared in one major league game last year and is likely to start at AAA again this year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Abad is Dominating Dominican Playoffs

Tonight, Fernando Abad pitched 6 no hit innings for Toro del Este. He was pulled because of limits set by the Astros and the pen gave up the no hitter & shutout in the 9th inning. Abad has appeared in four post season games so far this season and has earned the win in all of them. He has started two games and relieved two games. He has only allowed eight hits and three walks in 19 innings pitched while fanning 17 batters. Needless to say, he is leading the league in post season ERA.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Folty Gives G'ville Some Love, DeSheilds in Some Trouble & Other News

Just read MILB.com's 10 questions with Mike Foltynewicz. He talks about his experiences in Greeneville this summer and does a decent job of summing up what it is like playing in Greeneville.

There wasn't really much to do in Greeneville, but they had one of the nicest and fields in the league and the highest average crowd. [The front office] really knew what they were doing and I was thankful to be there. Overall, I had a fun time. [The Appalachian League] is a good league and I liked being there.
He also talked about what caused the turn around after his the one awful outing he had on August 6th when he gave up 7 runs in 2 1/3 IP. After that outing, he only allowed one earned run in his last 18 2/3 IP.

My first start wasn't bad, but in a couple after that, I was really tense. I was throwing the crap out of the ball, but not pinpointing my location. In the middle of the year, I started telling myself that this is just like anything else. It was pitching a baseball, just like I did in high school. I needed to relax, in order to hit my spots like I know I can.
DeLino DeShields Arrested

Sunday, DeLino DeShields was arrested in Athens, Georgia for DUI, underage position of alcohol and going the wrong way on a one way street. He released a statement today on his facebook page & twitter feed that said:

"I take the responsibility of being a role model seriously and apologize to my fans, my community and the Astros organization, who continue to support my family and I during this unfortunate incident. I look forward to putting this matter behind me and sincerely appreciate the respect of privacy during this personal matter."

Delino is a bright young man who is very aware of how people look up to him. People make mistakes. He is fortunate that this was just an embarrassing mistake and not one that cost him or someone else their life. Driving under the influence is serious. I expect that the his family, the Astros front office & others are making sure he has a clear understanding of this.

Gervacio Having Shoulder Cleaned Out
Sammy Gervacio will have debris removed from his shoulder and bicep on Friday. He was removed from the 40 man roster and signed to a minor league contract this year because of injury concerns during the off season. He should miss the first two months of the season.

Transaction News
Phil Rorabaugh was released by the Astros earlier this month. I will always remember Phil as one of the Florida boys who had the gumption to do the Gator Chomp while RockyTop played during the 7th inning stretch at Pioneer Park. He was signed as a NDFA in 2009.

Tom Vassella played for Greeneville back in 2006. He was released by the Astros in 2008. He then went to indy ball. He played for two teams in the Frontier League before finishing 2010 with the Laredo Broncos of the United Baseball League. There he was teammates with former 1st round draft pick Wade Townsend and former major leaguers Ozzie & Jose Canseco. According to Baseball America's transaction page, Tom is back in affiliated ball with the San Fransisco Giants.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another Top 10, Scouting Jordan Lyles, Going to Camp, & More

A great deal has been going on with former Greeneville Astros over the past week or so. I have not been able to keep up with getting it up here. Let's do some catching up.

The Hardball Times Top 10

Top 10 list continue to come out. The most recent one is from the folks at The Hardball Times. With six former G-Stros, their top 10 contains the most former G-Stros of any list so far. Here is their list:

1. Jordan Lyles ('08)
2. Jio Mier ('09)
3. Delino Deshields ('10)
4. Mike Foltynewicz ('10)
5. Tanner Bushue
6. Jonathon Villar
7. Jimmy Parades
8. Austin Wates
9. J. D. Martinez ('09)
10. Jay Austin ('08)

Don't forget the combined top 10 list spreed sheet I have compiled here.

What folks are saying about Jordan Lyles

Jordan Lyles is the clear #1 prospect in the Astros organization. He is regularly seen as one of the top 50 prospects in all of Minor League Baseball. One list even had him as high as #3. AstroAndy over at The Crawfish Boxes, has compiled a compilation of all the scouting reports on Jordan Lyles. So if you have any questions about what he throws, that is a great one stop place to check.

Spring Training Invites

While getting the call up to the big leagues is the ultimate call up, getting to go to big league spring training is an honor as well. This year, several former Greeneville Astros will be in big league camp in Kissimmee in a few weeks. Last week, 10 minor leaguers were invited to spend camp with the big boys. Six of those minor league players are former G-Stros. They are:

Koby Clemens (05)
Rene Garcia (08)
Jordan Lyles (08)
Jio Mier (09)
J. D. Martinez (09)
Patrick Urckfitz (08)

The only one that was a total surprise was Jio Mier since he is possibly going to repeat low A ball in Lexington this year. It was explained that his inclusion was due to a contractual agreement.

The rational behind these young guys going to big league camp was explained by Astros General Manager Ed Wade:

“It gives these kids the chance to come in and see what the atmosphere is like on the big league side,” Wade said. “And it gives Millsie and the coaches the chance to see some of the guys we talk about a lot.

“And frankly, it allows us to show that we’re making progress in player development.”

These six will be joining former G-Stros Douglas Arguello (04) & Sammy Gervacio (05) who had already received invites after signing new minor league contracts. Those who will be there as a part of the Astros 40 man roster include:

Fernando Abad (07)
Jorge De Leon (08)
Arcenio Leon (07-08)
Henry Villar (08)
J.R. Towles (04)

That makes 13 of the 62 players on the spring roster are former G-Stros.

Last Link - Jermaine Cotton is keeping fit playing winter ball in his native St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The paper thinks he played last year in South Carolina and not Tennessee. I would be willing to go set them straight on the geography, if someone would finance a trip for me to the Virgin Islands. Tough job but someone needs to do it. Jermaine did capture the small town feel of Greeneville well.
"Basically, there's not a whole lot else to do in Greeneville," Cotton said this week. "It's sleep, eat and baseball."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nine Questions for Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve spent two years in Greeneville and was a fan favorite. His great personality along with his level of play created such a following that the G-Astros used his picture for billboards this past season.

This past season, as Jose successfully climbed from Lexington to Lancaster and then went on to have a solid season in Winterball (LVBP) in his native Venezuela, the rest of the baseball world learned that Jose is a player to keep an eye on. In fact, Jose's name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the rookie of the year award in the LVBP.

Jose was kind enough to agree to an electronic interview. I sent him questions and he responded. Let me just say that his English is leaps & bounds better than my Spanish. I have only edited his comments for formatting purposes.

International players are allowed to sign when they are younger than US prospects. How old were you when you signed and what kind of adjustment was it moving to the Astros’ academy?

Altuve: I was 16 years old and I made a lot adjustments in the academy.

AppyAstros: Has the Astros’ closing their Venezuelan academy impacted the Venezuelan born players any? If so, how?
Altuve: I don't know.

Every news story about you mentions your height. Do you get any motivation from people questioning if a player your height can make it to the Majors?
Altuve: Yes, I know every people that talk about me has to say somethings about my height and it's a motivation for me because I want to show to everybody that the short guys can play in the big league.

You had a good year in the LVBP. What is different about playing in Venezuela verses playing in the U.S.?
Altuve: Is almost the same but I play with big leaguers here (Venezuela) and in USA with a young guys like me.

AppyAstros: What did you learn from playing in the LVBP this year?
Altuve: A lot things. Like I said before I play with MLB players. They got a lot of things that can help you in the game.

AppyAstros: How do you describe yourself as a hitter? What spot in the batting order do you feel most comfortable?
Altuve: I'm an aggressive hitter. I feel good as a lead off hitter or second.

Second base is a key defensive position. What have you been working on to improve your defense?
Altuve: I have been working in my double play turn.

You reported to spring training last February. The started the season in Lexington before moving to Lancaster. Then you returned to Florida for instructional league before returning to Venezuela to play in the LVBP. How do you plan to spend your month off before you return to Florida for spring training?
Altuve: Working hard and getting ready for the season.

I once heard you and Jay Austin talking trash about who was the fastest runner. Has that issue been settled yet? Who is faster?
Altuve: Ha ha ha. I think he is a little bit faster.

I would like to thank Jose for taking the time to answer my questions. I am looking forward to seeing how he handles the expected step up to AA this year. I am pulling for him to continue to create a buzz about the short guy who can play in the big leagues.

Here are some links to recent scouting reports of Jose:
Scouting the Sally - includes batting practice video.
Baseball Prospectus - named him the 11th rated prospect in the Astros organization.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cartwright Traded

Today, Albert Cartwright was traded from the Astros to the Phillies. The Astros have added depth at the middle infield positions last year through the draft & through trades. Cartwright was the oldest of the prospects at 23. The other prospects who are vying to get to Houston include the following (age at the start of next season):

Jose Altuve - (20) - will likely be in AA this year. Primarily a 2nd baseman

Jonathan Villar - (19) obtained in the Oswalt trade. Finished the year at Lancaster. Likely to repeat there but could move up to AA if Mier gets pushed to Lancaster. #3 in Baseball America's rankings of Astros' prospects

Jimmy Parades - (22) - obtained in the Berkman trade. Finished the year at Lex. Will likely be the 2nd baseman at Lancaster. #7 in Baseball America's rankings.

Jio Mier -(20) - 1st round draft pick 2009. Spent 2009 in as the SS in Lexington but struggled; likely to repeat. #5 in Baseball America's rankings.

Enrique Hernandez - (19) 6th round pick in the 2009 draft. Spent 2009 in Tri Cities and hit .287. Likely the 2nd baseman in Lexington next year, though he will be competing with our next prospect.

Delino DeShields - (18) 1st round pick in the 2010 draft. Hit .313 in a short stint in Greeneville but as a center fielder. I expect he will be sharing time with Hernandez in Lexington as he learns to play 2nd base. #2 prospect in Baseball America's rankings.

So to summarize, here is how I see the middle infields looking for AA, high A & A.

Corpus Christi -

2nd - Altuve
SS - Organizational player (possibly Wlad Sutil)

Lancaster -

2nd - Parades
SS - Villar

Lexington -

2nd - DeShields/Henriquez
SS - Mier

You can see where Cartwright was depth and not a top prospect. He was a 36th round draft pick and has been traded for a LHP who has a shot to help out in the bullpen at AAA or maybe in Houston. At this point, I would say this is a good trade for Houston. I would also wish Albert Cartwright the best of luck with his new team.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baseball America's Top 10 Full of Former Greeneville Astros

Baseball America released their Astros' Top 10 Prospects today. Five out of the six top ranked players were former G-Stros!

Here is the list with the year they played for Greeneville in parenthesis, along with any other accolades BA gave them:

1. Jordan Lyles, rhp (2008) - best slider, best change, best control
2. Delino DeShields Jr., of/2b (2010) - fastest base runner, best athlete
3. Jonathan Villar, ss
4. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp (2010) - best fastball
5. Jio Mier, ss (2009)
6. J.D. Martinez, of (2009) - best hitter for average
7. Jimmy Paredes, inf
8. Tanner Bushue, rhp
9. Austin Wates, of
10. Ariel Ovando, of

Villar & Paredes joined the Astros organization via trades this year. Buchue was a 2009 draft pick who jumped from the GCL to Lexington, bypassing Greeneville. Wates was a 2010 draftee out of Virginia Tech who started at Tri Cities. Ovando is a young Dominican prospect who was signed this summer for over 2 million dollars. I hope he makes his debut this summer in Greeneville.

Other former G-Stros listed among the best of the organization include:

Telvin Nash - best power
R. J. Alaniz - best curveball
Roberto Pena - best defensive catcher

I have created a google docs spread sheet that combines all the top prospect list I come across. You can access it at this link. Those on the spread sheet highlighted in green & bolded spent some time in Greeneville.

Former Greeneville Astros Released

Baseball America released their Minor League Transactions from the last part of 2010 a few days ago. Four former G-Stros were included in the list of players released by the Astros. Those players were:

Leandro Cespedes (2007)- I will never forget the night he struck out 11 Elizabethton Twins in a 7 inning stint in 2007. The strike outs continued to come pretty well as he moved up but when opponents hit the ball, it tended to leave the park too often. Highest level was AAA.

Angel Gonzalez (2009 - 2010) - I went to Kingsport last year and watched him throw an erratic 6 innings of no hit ball. His success didn't continue as he ended up finishing the year with 46 hits in 41 innings and was even sent down to the GCL for part of the season.

Carlos Mojica (2008-2010) - Carlos is a good kid. He spent some time with my family and has all the makings of a great baseball coach. He spent some time in Lancaster but never played.

Pedro Feliz (2010) - Pedro appeared in 28 games this year for Greeneville. He only hit .190 in his second season in the US.

Best of luck to all of these players as they move on to the next stages of their lives.