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, February 26, 2011

What To Watch For In 2011 - Former G-Stros Shortstops

Working around the horn, we land at shortstop. Here we go.


Wlad Sutil
- Wlad was with the G-Stros in 2004. He spent most of 2010 in Corpus Christi while spending part of the season level higher at Round Rock. In 2011, we are asking the following questions. Where will he break camp? AA or AAA? If he gets to AAA, can he hit better there than his .237 last year?

Jio Mier - Jio had a rough 2010 in Lexington. It is reported that he wore down as the season progressed and lost 15 pounds. He has reported to big league camp after gaining 20 pounds over the off season. In 2011, we are asking the following questions. Will his body able to stand up to the grind this year? Will his season resemble the first half of last season or the second half? I expect he will start the year back in Lexington.

Jonathan Merritt - The shortstop for the G-Stros in 2010 was a non drafted free agent from UAB. He performed adequately, but at 22, he was older than most of the competition. I expect he will be a back up in Tri Cities or Greeneville this season.

News From Spring Training: First & LIst

The big buzz coming out of big boy camp at Kissimmee yesterday was that J. R. Towles was taking some ground balls at first base.

Photo: Karen Warren/Chronicle
He will also be taking some reps at 3rd and in the outfield. This is an effort to increase his versatility and vie for a roster spot with the big club.
"I feel I'm athletic enough to play other positions than just catch," Towles said. "They're going to work with me for a while first and show me what to do, and what not to do. I like playing other positions."
G-Stros on Intersquad Game Rosters
The first game of the spring involves an inter-squad game between the 63 players in camp with the Astros. They have two coaches draft the players, and the big stars don't get picked. It is a chance for those in camp to show what they have. Here is the list of former G-stros picked for today's game.

On third base coach Dave Clark's roster: J. D. Martinez (09), Koby Clemens (05), Jordan Lyles (08), Pat Urkfitz (08), & Arcenio Leon (07, 08).

On first base coach Bobby Meachem's roster: J. R. Towles (04), Jio Mier (09), Fernando Abad (07), Jorge DeLeon (08), & Doug Arguello (04).

Minor League Mini Camp Roster:
Those involved in the Astros Minor League Mini Camp have reported.

Pitchers: (10 out of 20 invited)
Ruben Alaniz (10)
Jose Cisnero (09)
Brad Dydalewicz (08)
Mike Foltynewicz (10)
Kyle Greenewalt (07, 08)
Zachary Grimmett (08)
B. J. Hyatt (09)
Carlos Quevedo (09)
Rodney Quintero (10)
Ross Seaton (08)

Catchers: (2 out of 4)
Roberto Pena (10)
Chris Wallace (10)

Infielders: (3 out of 9)
Delino DeShields Jr. (10)
Jon Meyer (09)
Marcus Nidiffer (10)

Outfielders: (2 out of 6)
Jay Austin (08)
Telvin Nash (10)

That makes 17 out of 39 players in mini camp are former Greeneville Astros. Notice that most of the players played in the last three seasons in Greeneville. When you combine the big league spring training roster & the minor's mini camp roster, here is the number of players present from the last seven years of the Greeneville Astros.

2004 - 2
2005 - 1
2006 - 0
2007 - 3 (2 were also on the 08 roster)
2008 - 8
2009 - 6
2010 - 8

There are a few players on the list who are potential G-Stros this year. Ariel Ovando (OF) was signed for over 2 million dollars last summer and has yet to appear in a professional game for the Astros. He is 17 years old. Jose Fernandez is a 17 year old SS who played every day for the GCL Astros last year. Jose Perdome (P), will be 19 when the season starts. He dominated the GCL with a 1.67 ERA and 69 Ks in 59 1/3 IP. I hope we see at least one of these three in Greeneville this year.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What To Watch For In 2011 - Former G-Stros Secondbaseman

In our continuing series of what we will be looking for from former Greeneville Astros. Moving around the diamond to second, let's see what we will be watching for as the season begins. The year(s) they played in Greeneville and their age on opening day will be in parenthesis.

Second Base
Jose Altuve (2008,09 - 20) Can he build off his success in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues? Can he stay ahead of the throng of young second basement behind him? Can he improve his base stealing?

Delino DeShields (2010 - 18) How will his move from center to second work? How will he perform as the a teen in the Sally League? How will his body & mind hold up over the longer full season? Where will he wind up to end the season?

Albert Cartwright (2007, 08 - 22) - How will he do in AA with the Phillies farm system?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Towles Talks To McTaggart

Astros.com beat writer, Brian McTaggart, has posted an interview with J. R. Towles. Here are a few highlights but head over there and check out the video.

On dealing with the ups & downs of his journey:
"You always assess the situation, but then I try not to think about it too much," he said. "I try to stay upbeat and not get too down. It's hard when you see everybody else playing and doing well and you know you're capable of being out there with them and helping the team win, and you're not. It is a little discouraging at times. You have to keep a good attitude and keep your head up and be ready for whatever is next."
On his confidence he can play at the MLB level:
"It's not like I'm not going to be able to hit or catch," he said." I've always worked hard and done well and had success where I've been. I know I'm capable of playing up there. I just need to have a shot up there and take advantage of it."

Friday, February 18, 2011

What To Watch For In 2011 - Former G-Stros First Basemen

This is one of the thinnest positions in the Astros farm system. After seven seasons, there are only three former Greeneville Astros first basemen left in organized ball. Here is what I am watching for from them this year.

First Base
Koby Clemens - (2005 - 24- AA) - How does he handle the pitching in MLB Spring Training? Can he cut down on strike outs and bring up the batting average back above .250?

Kody Hinze - (2008 - 23 - A) - Can he get more hits than strike outs? How much will his power numbers jump in Lancaster?

Marcus Nidiffer - (2010 - 24 - SS A) How fast can he move through an unclogged system? Can he hit as he moves up?

Projected Placement

Oklahoma (AAA)

Lancaster (HiA)

Lexington (LoA)

What To Watch For In 2011 - Former G-Stros Catchers

For those of us who live in short season towns, spring training is just a tease. Our seasons don't begin until the middle of June. So to keep me occupied until then, here are some of the things I am going to be looking for from former Greeneville Astros. The year they played in Greeneville will be in parenthesis along with their age at the start of the season and the highest level they played at last season.

Contrary to what the Bleacher Report says, I think this is one of the deepest positions in the farm system. The three players added in the 2010 draft (Heath, Pena, Wallace) should all be challenging at positions on full season squads. This makes this a big spring for several players who have been in the system for a few years.

Frederico Hernandez - (2008 - 23 - AA) - Can he hit at AA? Can he improve his caught stealing percentage?

Rene Garcia - (2008 - 21 - High A) - Can he continue to throw out base stealers at a 41% clip as he moves up a level to High A?

Roberto Pena - (2010 - 18 - Low A) - Lexington or Tri Cities? Can the bat improve? Can he keep up the 44% caught stealing percentage?

Chris Wallace - (2010 - 22 - SS A) - How fast can he progress through the system? Can he keep up the 45% caught stealing percentage?

Bubby Williams - (2009-10, 22 - Low A) - This is one of the guys I was talking about when I said it is an important year to show progress. Can he show more progress this year with the bat?

J. R. Towles - (2004 - 26 - MLB) - Yesterday, I posted a retrospective of his journey. Can he recapture the hitting magic of 2007? Can he stay healthy? Will he be traded?

Placement Predictions


Corpus Christi



Tri Cities

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Towles' Up & Down Journey

Photo by Karen Warren/Chronicle

By far, the fan favorite of the 2004 Greeneville Astros was J.R. Towles. Mitch Einertson put up the big numbers but he was shy and aloof. Towles was humble, kind and polite. He said sir & ma'am, smiled alot and signed plenty of autographs. The fact that he added Phil. 4:13 after every signature endeared him to the good church going folks of Greeneville. Everyone liked him but it was clear, he wasn't the best player on the team. He was a good catcher and a neat kid.

Then next season, on the way up to Tri Cities to play for the ValleyCats, he gets a phone call. That phone call that changed his destination to Lexington. I have to say this for J.R., he took advantage of that opprotunity. He hit over .300 in 05 and 06 in Lexington. In 07, he got off to a rough start in Salem. Then opprotunity knocked again. He was sent to fill in at Corpus Christi for a brief time and ended up getting promoted to Round Rock and later in the year to Houston. Once in Houston, he again took advantage of the opprotunity, hitting .375 in 14 games and knocking in a record 8 runs in one game. What a magical season!

The last three years have been spent, battling injury and expectations from his magical run in 2007. Last year, he started the season in Houston and struggled. He was sent down all the way to AA where he played in just a few games prior to being injured and missing the rest of the season.

So what does this year hold? Since my crystal ball is on the fritz, I can't say for sure. However, I will give a few possibilities.

1. Towles is traded. This would be the best case scenario for the Astros & J.R. . The Astros are committed to Jason Castro as their #1 catcher. Humberto Quintero is a solid veteran back up. That makes Towles expendable. With other solid catching prospects coming up the system, maybe he could be traded for a less deep position player to help out the system depth. He is young enough and talented enough to be beneficial to another organization who is not deep in catching.

2. Towles starts in AAA. This is most likely. The same factors that make option 1 attractive, make option 2 likely. He would be a call up should Castro or Q become injured.

3. Towles has another break out spring and makes the roster. This is highly unlikely. But remember this is the Phil. 4:13 kid. If this happens, there will be a bunch of happy fans in Greeneville.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Few Updates

Nothing earth shattering, just keeping you abreast of the latest regarding the former G-Stros.

Delino Deshields Sr. is the manager of the Dayton Dragons, Reds low A ball affiliate in the MidWest League. In article today, it was learned that it is not just the boys in the family who are talented. Former G-Stro DeLino Deshields Jr's little sis is making a name for herself.
Diamond, a 6-foot-2 guard who can dunk, was the Georgia big-school basketball player of the year as a freshman. Now a sophomore, she plans to visit Connecticut, Tennessee, Duke and Xavier, among others.
The article also told us that Lino is slated to be heading to Lexington to start the season.

Jordan Parraz is in spring training with the Yankee's this year after they picked him up on waivers from the Red Sox who had claimed him on waivers from the Royals. NJ.com introduced him to the Yankee fans this way.

OF Jordan Parraz, 26, owns a .289 (672-for-2,324) career batting average with 147 doubles, 54 home runs and 325 RBI in 634 minor league games in the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals organizations. In 2010, he played the entire season with Triple-A Omaha (KC), batting .266 (115-for-432) with 58 runs, 27 doubles, 11 home runs and 61 RBI in 123 games. Following the season, he played with La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .306 (22-for-72) in 25 games. Parraz was originally selected by Houston in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Fifth starter and bullpen are two hot topics for the Astros in spring training. Fernando Abad is finding himself square in the middle of those discussions. The following quotes are from Brian McTaggart's recent interview with Astros GM Ed Wade:
What do we do with Fernando Abad? He just went 7-1 in the Dominican, a lot of it was as a starter. What's his role on our club? Do we put him in the bullpen? Do we roll him out and let him compete for a starting job? Those are things that we'll have to address...

I just think what Fernando did this offseason, all of a sudden you've got to say, 'Wow, this is pretty significant.' Philosophically, I'm a believer - I've said this before -- I'm a believer that if a guy shows a potential for being a starter you exhaust those possibilities... bullpen guys are far less expensive than starting pitchers, and starting pitchers make a lot of money for a reason 'cause there aren't very many of them around.

Johnson City Cardinals Lose The Hill

On my drive to work today, I heard on "The Sports Monster" an interview with East Tennessee State head baseball coach Tony Skole (pronounced like the dip - what a great baseball name). He mentioned that the hill that stretched from the right field line almost to the corner of center (yes, there is a corner in center field) had been leveled.

The Johnson City Press followed that interview up with a story
. They described the berm this way:

Perhaps 15 feet high and banked at 55- or 60-degree angles in places, the hill turned outfielders into mountain goats. And because it doubled as a football stadium perimeter and continued to arc in from the right field corner, the berm also made straightaway right-center field some 310 feet from the plate.

Shopping at the right-center field gap could provide cheap home runs for batters who often circled the bases almost apologetically after slicing balls through the breeze and over the hill while pitchers cursed the baseball gods.

Skole said there were seasons their home ERA was 2.50 points higher because of the short field in right. So much for a home field advantage. He added:
From a fan’s standpoint, you don’t see a 20-foot hill in the outfield,” East Tennessee State coach Tony Skole, who has managed some 300 games there. “It added a lot of charisma. But if you pitched there on a consistent basis you could end up pulling your hair out. I know a lot of the purists are probably disappointed … but from a coaching standpoint I really applaud the city for taking it down and making the adjustment.
There are other great recollections of the hill in the article. I encourage you to check it out.

Howard Johnson Field at Cardinal Park used to back up to Steve Spurrier Field where the Science Hill Hilltoppers played their football games. That created the short right field. Now, with Science Hill having it's new on campus stadium, the football stands were leveled and so was the hill.

Here are some links to pictures of "the hill" - pic 1 , pic 2.

Personally, I am glad my son got to attend a game in that park last season so he could see "the hill" . With "the hill" leveled, now the high walls in left and the deep corner in center are the only character left in what otherwise is just an old nondescript stadium.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Five Former G-Stros Pitchers To Watch

We are just a few days away from pitchers & catchers reporting for Spring Training. Several Astros players have already arrived in Kissimmee and are getting ready for it to begin. Here is my list of the top five former Greeneville Astros I will be watching this spring.

Jordan Lyles - He has been named the #1 prospect in the system by everybody and his brother. He reached AAA last year as a teen and is now going to Major League Spring Training.

What I am watching for: How does he handle facing big league hitters in spring games? How does he handle the increased attention that comes with being with the big club? How quickly will he be reassigned to AAA?

Fernando Abad - The big lefty dominated the Dominican Winter League this season, after spending 22 innings on the field in the bigs last fall. He has been talked about as a lefty specialist out of the pen and a 5th starter for the Astros this year.

What I am watching for: How is his sharpness? He was wild in his last start in the Dominican (4 walks and 2 wild pitches). He should be ahead of most other players because of the time in winter ball. How is he used first? Bullpen or starter? Can he keep the ball in the park? That has been a problem at times for him in the past.

Carlos Quevado - The 21 year old lefty from Venezuela only got ten innings in the liga parralela (minor league winter ball) because the Astros had him on the "fatigued list." He had outstanding control in Tri Cities last year, only walking 8 out of 328 batters faced.

What I am watching for: Who will he break camp with? I am expecting him to be in Lex. How will he adjust to better competition and a full season?

Mike Foltynewicz - Last year's top drafted pitcher was one of the top three Astros prospects on almost every list.

What I am watching for: Will he be in Lex this year? How is his velocity on his fast ball? How does he handled to older, better competition?

Pat Urckfitz- The underdog NDFA lefty, who rocks the rec-specs, moved back to the pen for the Arizona Fall League after starting 12 games in Lancaster in 2010. The result of his good work was the he got a chance to play in the AFL Rising Stars game.

What I am watching for: Will he be a starter or reliever in AA this year? How will his arm hold up a year after throwing twice as many pitches as he ever had in a pro season before?

Here are a few other former Greeneville Astro pitchers to keep an eye on as the season progresses:

Jorge De Leon - Short stop turned closer should get a shot in Lexington this year.
Luis Cruz - With his return from surgery a year behind him, can he build on his solid year in Lexington last year.
RJ Alaniz - Will he break camp with Lexington or get another year in extended spring?
Brad Dydalewicz - Can he bounce back from a rough season last year?
Kyle Greenwalt - Can he build off of his strong AFL performance as he moves to AA?
Ross Seaton - Was his bad season a product of Lancaster? How will he handle AA?
Arcenio Leon - Made a big jump from Lex to Corpus Christi last year. Can he cut down on the walks?
Henry Villar - Made the bigs late in the season after performing well at AA. Will he be in AAA or the Astros pen this spring?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nidiffer Hoping To Be A Legend

Marcus Nidiffer played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He was signed as a non drafted free agent by the Astros who happen to be affiliated with the Lexington Legends. If things work out, Nidiffer would be the first former Kentucky Wildcat to play for the home team Legends. Mark Maloney, of Kentucky.com caught up with Marcus at a Legend's Caravan stop last week. Here are some quotes worth sharing.

On the adjustment from college to pro ball:

"The adjustments that you make between college and pro ball are a lot quicker because you play every day," Nidiffer said. "You don't have that kind of 'dead time' to gather yourself and work on some things as you would in college.

"Pro ball, you 'do this' and then you're done. Then you'd better wake up and you do it again. You can't dwell on anything. ... You've just got to go do it and make those adjustments quick because you're going to play the next day and, after that day, you're going to play again."

If Marcus is on the roster in Lexington this season, it will mark his second "home coming" season. Last year, while playing for Greeneville, he got to play games in his hometown of Bristol, TN. Not many players get that opportunity.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Abad Has Solid Start

Fernando Abad started for the Dominican Republic verses Puerto Rico last night in the Caribbean Series. He went 4 2/3 IP giving up four hits, three walks and two runs (only one earned run). He struck out four batters. He appeared to struggle with his control. Both runs were aided by wild pitches. The Dominican Republic came back to win 4-3. They are 2-1 in the round robin tourney and all their games have been one run affairs.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feel Good Story From Last Year

Indulge me while I tell my favorite minor league story from 2010. Last May, the family and I were heading to North Carolina to tend to some family business. After checking the schedule, we decided to spend the night near Greensboro in order to see the Grasshoppers play the Lexington Legends. We were pumped to see former G-Stros such as Altuve, Mier, Meyer,Martinez, Bray, Hinze, Garcia, Leon & Hogue on the diamond.

The starter for the Grasshoppers was Curt Peterson. I didn't know anything about him and the Legends lit him up for 4 runs in 5 innings. After he was removed from the game, they brought him out to the mound and made a presentation to him.

Here is the story behind the presentation according to the Greensboro News & Record. Peterson had gone to WalMart to by some toilet paper (I am not making this up). As he is coming out of the store he reports he saw the following:

"This guy came up behind her and grabbed her purse and her keys," Petersen said. "She was yelling, 'Help! Help! Help!' I thought maybe it was just a joke. ... I thought maybe they were messing around. But then she got knocked down, and I knew it wasn't a joke."

Petersen said he dropped his things, ran to Dixon's car and grabbed Conrad before he could get in.

"I was like, 'What are you doing?' And he said, 'I'm taking her car.' And I was like, 'No, you're not,' " Petersen said. "I had a hold of him, and he threw the keys back to the lady and said, 'All right, all right, just let me go.' And I said, 'I don't think so.' "

Petersen said a crowd gathered, including Walmart employees, and they detained Conrad until police arrived...

"It was interesting," Petersen said. "I just went to the Walmart for toilet paper, and then all this happens."
In honor of his good deed, WalMart had sponsored Curt Peterson night. They gave away 1000 tickets to local charities and presented him with a plaque and a gift card. The crowd gave a nice standing ovation to Peterson.

By the way, Peterson got revenge on the Legends about a week later when he held the Legends scoreless for 7 innings.

If you ever get a chance to go to Greensboro and catch a game, they have a nice ball park and great bat dogs. Scotty Smalls over at Minor League University wrote about the canines recently. Check out his article here.