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.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nash & DeShields Get "B-Team" Help

It has been known since he was drafted that Delino DeShields would be attempting a move to 2nd base. It has also been suspected that Telvin Nash might be moved to first in the future.

According to a story by Zachary Levine in the Houston Chronicle today, the future is now and they are getting some help with the transition from a pair of former Killer Bs. He reports that Astros great Craig Biggio is helping DeShields make the move to second and another Astros legend, Jeff Bagwell, is helping Nash with his transition to first.

The story quotes Astros director of player development Fred Nelson on the Nash move:

“We looked throughout our organization, and it might be a spot that we might be a little bit thin in,” Nelson said. “And he’s a big, strong guy with power. We see an opportunity to begin to work him at first base, also stay in the outfield and of course in the minor leagues you have an opportunity to DH, so it gives him multiple positions that he can get at-bats in.”
Both Nash & DeSheilds are creating quite a buzz that should be fun to watch. I expect both to start at Lexington this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Towles "Hands Down"

J. R. Towles is making the most of the playing time provided by the injury to Jason Castro. Towles went 2 for 4 today with a double and a run scored. He also struck out once today. While the hits are good, the strike out may be better. It was the first time he has struck out this spring. That gives him 1 K in 20 AB (5%). How good is that? Let's put it in context of his personal history.

Last year in spring, he had 10 in 45 AB (22%). Back in spring of 09, it was 7 Ks in 21 AB (33%). In MLB regular season action, he fanned 16 times in 48 AB in the 2009 season (.33). In 2010, it was 12 Ks in 47 AB (25.5%).

Towles didn't strike out much in the minors. From 04 to 08, he amassed 1303 AB, he only fanned 186 times. That is a K rate of 14%! What changed between 2008 & his time with the big club?

Towles has stated this spring that he is hitting with his hands lower, like he used to in 2007 & 2008. The reduction in strike outs could be one indication that this adjustment is having the desired effect.

I don't expect him to keep the K rate at 5% for the rest of the spring, much less the rest of the year. Thanks to this post, he may wear the golden sombrero tomorrow. If that happens, I apologize in advance. But let's just hope he can keep the K rate in the teens. That will improve his offense and his prospects for sticking at the MLB level.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nash Surpasses Heyward

Last year, all the buzz at the Disney Wild World of Sports complex was about Jason Heyward's car damaging homer. That was the precursor to a great season for Heyward. Today, Telvin Nash hit a home run that Brian McTaggart said was "perhaps the longest homer in the history of Champion Stadium (formerly Cracker Jack stadium), sending a pitch over the giant scoreboard in left-center."

The MLB write up of the game had this report:

In the ninth, Astros Minor League callup Telvin Nash hit a monstrous home run off Braves right-hander Cristhian Martinez. The ball cleared a 65-foot-high scoreboard in left-center field by about 15 feet.
For a more reasonable description, Brett Dolan tweeted
@AstrosRadio Astros minor leaguer Telvin Nash just hit 800 foot homer at Disney. Hit it over giant scoreboard in LC. Wow.
According to Wikipedia, it is 385 feet to left center. Below is a photo of the field from the Wikipedia site that shows the scoreboard.

What do spring training home runs mean, especially in a 7-1 loss? Not much at all. But let's hope that the buzz created by Nash's home run will lead to a great season of development for him.

By the way, I heard that Nash's home run ball just passed the Albert Pujols home run ball from the 2005 playoffs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

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

Wrapping up our what to watch for series, we go to the expanse of the outfield. Here, we have several older players who are in other organizations now and a bunch of younger guys working their way to the top. Again the years they played in Greeneville, highest level and age on opening day will be in parenthesis.


Jay Austin (2008 - High A - 20) - Austin was one of the youngest players both in the California League and in the Arizona Fall League. He showed the ability to adjust pretty well to the Cal. League but struggled in the AFL. He has seen alittle big league spring training action this year and even made the highlights once with his defense. Will he repeat high A or be moved on to AA? Can he use his speed to find more ways to reach base?

Brandon Barnes (2005,06 - AAA - 24) - Barnes keeps climbing the later as many of his peers fall to the side. In 2005, he played in the shadow of Eli Iorg & Josh Flores in Greeneville. Now, he is the only one left. Will his power hold up in the higher levels? Can he cut down on strikeouts? Will he be squeezed out playing time by the crush of OF in the system at the AA level?

Bryce Lane (2010 - High A - 21) Lane had a yo yo season last year. He started in Greeneville, was sent down to Gulf Coast League only to be promoted to High A Lancaster to finish the year. There, he found his groove and hit .356 in 15 games, with an OPS of over 1.000. Where will he start the season, Lex or Lancaster? Was his end of the year burst for real or just a flash in the pan?

J. D. Martinez (2009 - AA - 23) - Martinez's stock continues to rise. After skipping straight from low A to AA this year and continuing to hit over .300, he was invited to attend Major League Spring Training. He was slowed with a slight injury but was there primarily for the experience. At AAA, will he continue to show his solid average? Can his BB/SO rates hold up to more advance pitching? How will his power be after he suffered a bit of a power drop at AA? Will they experiment with him at first base any?

Telvin Nash (2010 - Rookie - 20) Nash was the 2010 MVP in Greeneville. He has raised some eyebrows in BP this spring with his power. That is by far the strongest (weak pun intended) part of this game. Can he improve his strike out rate? How much time does he have to improve his OF play before he is moved to 1B? How many HR will he his this year?

Others to watch:

Grant Hogue (2009 - Low A - 24) Can he make it to AA before the year is out? Will younger prospects block his movement?

Emilio King (2010- Rookie - 21) Will he repeat Greeneville or land higher? Can he bring his hitting up to the level of his defense? How will teams respect the arm of a guy who had 14 OF assist in just 148 chances?

Jordan Parraz (2004 - AAA - 26) Will he get a chance to play in a big league game this year? After being in 4 organizations in his career, how long will he be with the Yankees?

Beau Torbert (2004 - AAA - 27) Will he stick with the Braves organization or be released from spring training?

Will They Make It Out Of Spring Training?

Ryan Humphrey (2009 - Rookie - 22)

Wilton Infante (2008, 09 - SS A - 23)
Renzo Tello (2008 - Low A - 23)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lucati Resigns - so much for the Europe experiement

A few years ago, there was buzz as the Astros were signing prospects from Europe. First was a Dutch shortstop, Jan Baldee and then Italian pitcher Andrea Lucati. Baldee played two seasons of short season ball before being released last year. He hit a combined .078 for two rookie league teams.

Today, Baseball America reported that Lucati voluntarily retired. He pitched three seasons of rookie level ball. He retires with a 5.18 ERA in 48 2/3 IP.

Since these two guys were signed, the Astros have focused much more international resources in Asia and Latin America. Much more proven areas for baseball talent.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Highlight Video of Mier & Austin

Jay Austin was showing off his arm and Jio Mier was showing his D in the split squad game against the Yanks earlier in the week. Thanks to Farmstros for the links.

Jay guns a runner at 3rd.

Jio makes diving stop to get runner at first.

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

Lets finish our trip around the infield with a look at what we are watching for out of former G-Stro third basemen in 2011. The theme for this position appears to be 'getting old fast'. Remember we covered Koby Clemens in our series when I discussed first basemen. In parenthisis are the year(s) they played in Greeneville and their age on opening day this year.

Third Basemen
Neil Sellers (2004, 28) -
After playing 3 seasons in the Phillies organization, he signed as a minor league free agent with the Marlins this season where he will likely be a AAA teammate of former G-Stro Victor Garate who also signed with Florida this off season. Can he improve on his poor AAA performance last season? Will the thinner ranks of the Marlins organization give him a shot at getting a cup of coffee in the bigs?

Jhon Florentino (2005, 27) - After progressing a step each year since 2005, he repeated at AA for 2010. His numbers didn't reflect any improvement in his second season there. He was a minor league free agent at the end of the season and I haven't seen him sign with anyone yet. So the only question is will he be in spring training at all?

Jonathan Meyer (2009, 20) - Will he repeat in Lex or get pushed on to Lancaster? Can he reduce the numbers of errors? Can he continue to improve at the plate?

Ebert Rosario (2007,08, 23) -
He was sent back to the GCL last season and converted to a pitcher. So he will be in one of the short season teams working on learning to pitch. Let's hope he has as much success at that as Jorge DeLeon had last year.

Rafael Valezuala (2010, 23) - I am wondering if he will start in short season or jump to Lexington.

Johnny Medrano (2010, 23) - What is the status of his injured arm? If healthy will he get a shot at Lexington?

Hector Rodriguez (2010, 20) - Will he be back in Greeneville because of the glut of 3rd older 3rd basemen in the system? Will he be used more as a utility player or will he stay at 3rd?

Towles Chances Improved

A while back, I documented the up and down journey of J. R. Towles. Several times on his journey, he benefited from someone else misfortune. That is the way baseball works, just ask Wally Pipp.

It looks like Towles will get another shot at being the Astros catcher due to Jason Castro's knee injury. At first it just looked like he would get a chance to get more reps behind the plate during spring training but this morning, it is being reported that Castro tore has ACL and will be out most of the season.

This means more chances for Towles behind the plate and he can put those fielders gloves away for a while.

"That's my comfort zone, but I wanted to do whatever I could to make the team and help this team," Towles said. "You never wish anybody back luck. I know what he's going through from being out all last year, and it looks like he might miss some time. You don't wish anything bad to happen to somebody. You want him back in the lineup and wish him the best."
Here is what Ed Wade had to say about what Castro's ACL tear means to the catching situation.
"I think the first thing we have to do is evaluate the catchers we have in camp," Wade said. "We're fortunate to have J.R. and Quintero and Corporan who have big league experience. We've got Garcia and Esposito here. We'll evaluate what we've got, but as is always the case if there's opportunity to do something to improve the club we'll try to do that."
His chances look better today than they did at the start of the week but he still needs to perform well this spring. Towles is 1 for 4 this spring with his one hit being a double.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beau "Big Daddy" Torbert?

Apparently, former Greeneville Astro Beau Torbert has an Aunt Cindy. Apparently Aunt Cindy had some unclaimed cash that the South Carolina treasurer delivered to her house last month. When asked her plans, here is what Aunt Cindy had to say:

Put some in the bank, make a few home improvements, and with the rest, "I'm going to take it and buy an airline ticket to Florida to watch my nephew play ball."

Her nephew from Georgia, her "baby" as she likes to say, is Beau "Big Daddy" Torbert, a 26-year-old outfielder signed by the in the off-season. Cindy says she'll spend a few days in Orlando, where Beau has spring training. "I'm gonna call his mother and say 'road trip time!'"

Family pride is a great thing. Yell for Beau for us at Appy Astros too!