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, October 27, 2011

2006 & 2007 Greeneville Astros Progress Reports

Yesterday, we went back to 2005 to see who was still hanging around.  Today we will cover two years.  We are covering two years because, well..., there aren't many players left from these two teams.

There were 31 players on the 2006 roster.  Six of those players were still in affiliated ball during the 2011 season (19%). We have already covered half of these guys in the 2005 post (so click here to read about them). Those from the 2005 team who were also on the 2006 team include:
Brandon Barnes
Ralph Henriquez
Polin Trinidad

Other players who were active in 2011 were:

Tom Vessella - the 11th round pick in 2006 was released by the Astros after the 2008 season.  He played two years in indy ball and was signed by the Giants this year.  He started the season in AA, was sent down to the Sally League (A), was promoted to the Cal League (A+), before ending the year with one appearance in AAA Fresno.  Over those four stops, he amassed 5.50 ERA in 38 games (72 IP).  He started eight games and also finished 8 games.  He will be 26 years old when spring training starts next year. 

Armadeo Zazueta - the utility infielder from Mexico only appeared in 28 games and had just 57 plate appearances in Greeneville.  He was released after that season.  In 2008, he appeared back in the states playing indy ball.  He was signed by the Braves in 2010 and played in Myrtle Beach (A+) and Mississippi (AA).  He also suspended for PED use.  Then late this season, he showed up with the Padres' AA team in San Antonio.  In 15 games he hit .283 with his best games coming against the Corpus Christi Hooks.  Over a three game series, Zazueta went six for 13 with three singles, a double, a triple and a HR.  He will be 26 next season.

Reid Kelly - Kelly was the 33 round pick in 2005 but didn't sign until 2006.  He pitched in Greeneville in 2006.  He spent 07 & 08 in Lexington before finishing his time with the Astros organization in 2009 in Lancaster.  He was out of baseball for 2010 but was signed in 2011 by the White Sox.  He appeared in 18 games for Kannapolis of the Sally League (A) but was released in August.  In his time in the Sally, he put together a 3.72 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 19 1/3 IP.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." - Thumper (Bambi 1942)
This is going to be very, very short.  Of the 38 players that appeared on the roster in 2007, only five players are still active in affiliated ball (13%).  Sixty three percent (24) of the players were out of affiliated baseball at the start of the 2009 season.  Let those awful stats sink in for a moment and then let's say the nice things about the survivors.

Fernando Abad - The big righty made it to the bigs in 2010 appearing in 22 games out of the Houston bullpen.  He had a solid 2.84 ERA and looked primed to be an important part of the 2011 pen.  However, he wasn't effective in 29 games (19 2/3 IP) and was sent down to the minors in early July.  He made two rehab appearance in the Gulf Coast League before heading to AAA.  There he got 30 innings of work in with a 4.50 ERA.  Abad is currently on the 40 man roster, so he should be competing for a bullpen slot again this coming spring at age 26.

Albert Cartwright - Cartwright was drafted in the 36rd round of the 2007 draft.  He didn't get much playing time in 2007 due to some paperwork related issues but returned to Greeneville in 2008 where he shared time at 2B with Jose Altuve.  He then climbed the ladder all the way to AA in 2010 before he was traded last off season. He was traded to the Phillies for Sergio Escalona.  Cartwight injured his Achilles during spring training and missed the whole season.  He reported on his twitter feed that he was able to return to the field for instructional league games.

Kyle Greenwalt- He was drafted in the 20th round of the 2007 draft.  He repeated Greeneville in 2008 and was the MVP that season.  After stops in Lexington (09) and Lancaster (10), he spent the fall of 2010 in the Arizona Fall League.  He started 2011 in Corpus Christi and struggled.  After nine starts, he was moved to the bull pen and then in late July, he was sent back to Lancaster.  In Lancaster, the notorious hitters park, Greenwalt was extremely effective.  He pitched in 12 games (24 1/3 IP) amassing a 1.85 ERA.  Greenwalkt will be 23 at the start of next season where I expect he will take another shot at AA.

Arcenio Leon - The hard throwing Venezuelan spent the first of his two seasons in Greeneville during the 2007 campaign.  After a solid but unspectacular 2009 in Lexington, he returned there and was outstanding.  In 26 games (54 IP) he struck out 60 batters and had a 2.33 ERA.  He was moved all the way up to AA Corpus Christi to finish that year and predictably he didn't fare as well.  His strike out numbers stayed good at 23 in 23 IP but he also walked 22 batters.  He returned to Corpus Christi in 2011 and struck out 73 batters in 64 2/3 IP.  But he still walked too many batters (48).  He did get moved up to Oklahoma City at the season for one brief appearance.  He will be 25 when next spring rolls around.  I look for him to be at AAA next season.  He is on the 40 man roster and has some promise if he can learn the control to match his velocity. 

Colton Pitkin - Pitkin was drafted in the 41st round of the 2007 draft.  He came with a tired shoulder so he was eased in to pro ball in 2007 only pitching 7 2/3 innings.  He returned to Greeneville in 2008 and struck out 45 batters in 44 innings out of the bullpen.  After a stint in 2009 as a starter for Tri Cities, he moved back to the pen in Lexington in 2010.  He stayed in the pen in Lancaster in 2011 where he got off to a great start with a 3.82 ERA in the first half.  However, after the all star break, he struggled and finished with a 6.45 ERA overall.  Pitkin will be 22 when he heads to Florida this spring, he will likely be in Lancaster but he might be in Corpus Christi. 

So there you have it.  2008 can only look better since we know there will be at least four of these players returning to the roster.  We will look at their outcomes soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Appy League Ties to the World Series

Josh Hamilton photo from SP Times story "Greener than grass".  Tells of Josh Hamilton's first season - a great read!

Every year, during the World Series, I go back and look at who from the two rosters might have played in the Appy League.  This year, there are ten players who wore an Appy League uniform. 

Cardinals - 

Yadier Molina - 2001 Johnson City Cardinals
Rafael Furcal - 1998 Danville Braves
Arthur Rhodes - 1988 Bluefield Orioles


Elvis Andrus - 2005 Danville Braves (only for 6 games)
Josh Hamilton - 1999 Princeton Devil Rays
Endy Chavez - 1997 & 1998 Kingsport Mets
Matt Harrison - 2004 Danville Braves
Colby Lewis - 1999 Pulaski Rangers
C.J. Wilson  -2001 Pulaski Rangers
Neftali Feliz - 2007 Danville Braves

The interesting thing is that there is only one former Johnson City Cardinal on the rosters.  Meanwhile there are four former Danville Braves (looks like the Rangers won that Texeira trade - Feliz, Harrison & Andrus were all part of that trade).

Only three of the players might have played at Pioneer park - Andrus, Harrison & Feliz.

2005 Greeneville Astros Progress Report

A few weeks back, we looked at the 2004 team and who was still active. Today, let's look back at the 2005 edition of the G-Stros and see who is still around and how they fared in 2011.

There are seven players who are still in affiliated ball from the 35 players who appeared on the 2005 Greeneville Astros roster. That means 20% were still in affiliated ball in 2011.  Most of these aren't the names I would have listed after the 2005 season.  The Baseball America 2005 top 20 Appy League prospects had four members of the 2005 G-Stros on the list.  The only one still playing affliiated ball today is Koby Clemens (16).  Those who were on the list that aren't around any more are Josh Flores (8), Eli Iorg (14), and Ryan Mitchell (19). 

Koby Clemens - Clemens was the big name of the 2005 draft class.  Some said he was drafted as a favor to his father Roger Clemens but Koby quickly let it be known that he was a decent ball player in his own right.  This was the year the senior Clemens was only traveling with the Houston Astros when he was pitching.  Therefore there were several sightings of Roger Clemens at Pioneer Park and the local Wal Mart.  2005 was Clemens only season in Greeneville.  He moved up the ladder showing progress and working to find a position that worked for him.  He started at 3rd, moved to Catcher and LF before finally landing at 1st.  He found the thin air of the California league to his liking and had a break out year in 2009.   His average dropped almost .100 points in the move from the Cal League to the Texas League in 2010 but he still hit 26 HR on the season.  That warranted a move to AAA for 2011.  There he hit .234 with 16 home runs.

He will turn 25 in the off season.  He is still working on his versatility in the field which is more important with Brett Wallace ahead of him on the depth chart and Kody Hinze and Jonathon Singleton behind him at 1st base. 

Ralph Henriquez - Ralphie (as he was known then) was the Astros' 2nd round pick in  2005.  He spent the first of two years in Greeneville in 2005.  He was a fan favorite because of his willingness to spend time with kids.  After the 2007 season, he was traded for to the Mets for a minor league pitcher, Josh Appell.  After two seasons with the Mets organization, he signed as a free agent with the Mariners organization.  This appears to have been a good move for Henriquez as he got his first taste of AA ball in 2010.  In 2011, he spent time at three different levels, though he only spent one game at high A High Desert before going to the Jackson Generals of the Southern League.  In Jackson, Ralph hit just .196 and threw out 24% of base stealers in 39 games.  In late June, he moved up to AAA Tacoma of the PCL.  His found more success there. He hit a respectable .256 and threw out 30% of base stealers in 37 games.

Henriquez will turn 25 right at the start of the 2012 season.  He is showing improvement despite a slow start that saw him in short season ball for at least part of every season from 2005 to 2009. He is currently looking like a career organizational player but you never know.  Many folks thought he would be out of affiliated ball by now.

Since we are talking about Ralph, you can't mention his career with out the including the classic at bat in 2008 against Pat Venditte.  Switch hitter verses switch pitcher.

Brandon Barnes - Barnes was the 6th round pick in 2005. He like Henriquez spent two season in Greeneville.  Barnes took up baseball late and was primarily a football player in High School.  He was seen as someone with good athleticism and power but very raw.  He had a bit of a break out year in 2007 at Tri Cities where he was named the team MVP.  After spending 2008 in Lexington, he made three different stops in 2009.  He especially enjoyed Lancaster.  During the 2009 and 2010 season, he combined for 39 HR.  That is more than half of his career total of 77 round trippers.  After 2010, he spent some tie in the Arizona Fall League.  This year, he started in Corpus Christi (AA)  but was quickly moved to AAA Oklahoma City.  He didn't fare well there and was sent back to Corpus Christi in July. In Corpus Christiy, he played all three outfield positions and also played three games at second base.   He hit .286 with an OPS of .788 while on the Texas coast. At AAA Oklahoma City, he hit 197 with an OPS of .696.  He played almost exclusively in CF for the RedHawks.

Barnes will be 25 for another month when the season starts next year. I expect he will be in AAA to start the 2012 season.

Victor Garate  - Garate showed promise in Greeneville. He struck out 53 batters in 32 1/3 IP out of the pen but walked more batters (26) than he allowed on base via hits (21).  The questions could he learn control.  He made huge progress in 2006 in Tri Cities where his ERA dropped to 0.92.  Yet he struggled with walks again in Lexington and was sent back to Tri Cities to finish in 2007.  He was left off a AA or AAA roster in the offs eason and the Dodgers nabbed him in the minor league section of the rule 5 draft.He made solid progress for them and was traded to the Nationals in 2009 out of AA as a player to be named later in the Ronnie Belliard trade.  Washington brought him right to the big leagues and he made four appearances in the end of the 2009 season.  He didn't wow anyone with his performance and spent 2010 between AA and AAA in the Washington organization.  In 2011, he signed with the Marlins and had an impressive campaign with the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA).  He appeared in 43 games (56 1/3 IP) and had a 2.72 ERA.  During the year, he struck out 59 batters, walked 34 and allowed 44 hits and five home runs.

I was a bit surprised he didn't get a September call up based on the numbers he put up.  He will be 27 when the season begins and if he continues to do the quality of work he did last season, he should be getting another shot a the majors.

Sammy Gervacio - Gervacio or "Slingin' Sammy" as I like to call him, was the closer for the 2005 G-Stros.  He collected eight saves that season.  He spent 2006 in Lexington before climbing two levels a year in 2007 and 2008.  He ended 2009 with a late season call up to Houston.  He took advantage of his opprotunity and had a solid 2.14 ERA over 29 games (21 IP).  He started 2010 in the Astros bullpen but rotator cuff surgery ended his 2010 season and cut into his 2011 season.  This year he started his climb back to the majors in Corpus Christi in May.  In 8 games there (13 IP) he put up a 1.38 ERA and was promoted to AAA to finish the year.  In Oklahoma City, he appeared in 28 games with a 4.01 ERA. 

Gervacio will be 27 when the season starts next year.  Shoulder injuries often drop velocity and make pitchers have to learn to pitch differently.  Gervacio is playing winter ball for Licey in the Dominican. How he does there might impact where he starts 2012.

Brad James  - Yes was still on a roster this year.  Brad James spent two summers in Greeneville.  He then rode his sinking fast ball on a fast track to AA in 2007.  He spent 2008 and 2009 there.  He missed all of 2010 with a shoulder injury and made a brief comeback this season.  He was shut down in July.  At 27, James time is running out.  I would be surprised if he is on a roster next spring. 

Polin Trinidad - Trinidad spent both 05 and 06 in Greeneville as well.  He think climbed the Astros ladder and was at AAA in 2010 when he was released.  The Cubs picked him up  in the off season but released him in early 2011.  He was picked up by the A's and finished the year at AA Midland where he amassed a 6.91 ERA in 18 games/9 starts.  Trinidad will be 27 when next season begins.  Being a lefty, he might make it on someones roster.  He is playing winter ball in the Dominican for Estrellas de Oriente.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Insult to Injury? Juan Gutierrez Released By Diamond Backs After Tommy John Surgery

Juan Gutierrez, who played in Greeneville in 2004, was released yesterday by the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He left the Astros organization in the Jose Valverde trade.  Gutierrez missed most of the season with shoulder injuries and then during his come back suffered elbow trouble.  This resulted in him undergoing Tommy John surgery in early September.  While I was shocked by this move, this move was not surprising to those who followed the D-Backs. Here is what was reported after the diagnosis

“It’s the last thing you want to hear from the doctor,” Gutierrez said. “The only thing I can guarantee you is that I’m going to work hard to get back healthy.”
Gutierrez normally goes back to Venezuela in the off-season but said he’ll remain in Phoenix to rehab this winter.
His future is up in the air. He’ll be arbitration eligible in the winter, meaning he’ll probably be non-tendered, but he sounded as if he wants to remain in the organization, even with a minor-league deal.
We wish Juan a speedy recovery and a complete comeback.

Towles & Sutil Becoming Free Agents Removes All 2004 G-Stros from Houston Org

J. R. Towles, one of the most popular players to ever wear the GreenEville Astros uniform was removed from the Houston Astros 40 man roster yesterday.  He will become a free agent as soon as the World Series ends. Towles could resign with the Astros as a non roster invitee to spring training but I would expect he would test other teams interest before that occurs.

That transaction means that, along with Wlad Sutil's pending minor league free agency, that no members for the 2004 GreenEville Astros remain in the Astros organization.   

Here are the 2004 players who remained in affiliated ball this year:

Jordan Parraz - AAA for the NY Yankees - hit .289 with an OPS of .802.Left Astros organization via trade with the Royals for Tyler Lumsden.

Neil Sellers - AA for the Marlins - hit .176 in just 59 games for New Orleans.  At age 29, his dream of making the big leagues might be about out.  Left the Astros in the 2007 Rule 5 draft.

Wlad Sutil - AA/AAA for Houston - hit combined .269 for the year.  His .284 average and solid glove in AA earned him a promotion to AAA where he hit just .222. Doubled his career HR total with two round trippers this year. Will be a free agent after the World Series.

J. R. Towles - AAA/MLB for Houston - hit .276 in 35 games in the minors, but just hit .184 in 54 games in the majors.  Will be a free agent after the World Series.

Douglas Arguello - AAA for Houston and Texas - Arguello was released by Houston after amassing a 3.67 ERA in 31 games. Texas picked him up for two appearances in September.

Jimmy Barthmaier - AA for the Pirates - was 5-3 with a 5.05 ERA in 39 games.  Had 69 strikeouts in 67 2/3 IP.  Marked the first time he had more K's than IP in his pro career.  Was signed by the Pirates after Houston released him following the 2007 season.

Juan Gutierrez - MLB for D-Backs - Missed most of the season with shoulder trouble.  He was released yesterday by the D-Backs. He left the Houston organization as a part of the Valverde trade in 2007.

Troy Patton - AAA/MLB for Baltimore - bounced back and forth between AAA & the Baltimore pen.  He had a 1.83 ERA in Norfolk and a 3.00 ERA in Baltimore. He was a part of the Miguel Tejada trade after the 2007 season.

Felipe Paulino - MLB for Colorado & Kansas City - He has a rough start to 2011 in Colorado.  He was 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in his first 18 games.  After a trade to Kansas City, he had a solid showing.  For the Royals, he was 4-6 with a respectable 4.11 ERA. He was traded to Colorado prior to the 2011 season for Clint Barmes.  

So nine players from the 2004 G-Stros were still playing affiliated baseball this year.  Looking at the reason for leaving, most were a part of a trade to help the big club.  This serves as a reminder that prospects can help the club in more ways than in making it to the big club. 

BA says Santo Luis "had maybe the best arm in independent ball"

Former G-Stro Santo Luis was released by the Red Sox this season and latched on to Lincoln of the American Association.  Baseball American had this to say about the big righty in their write up of those indy players who might get a shot at affiliated  ball next season. 

(Luis) had maybe the best arm in independent ball....Luis has a true plus fastball. It consistently sits at 92-94 mph, and he pairs it with a short slider and a split. His delivery has a lot of effort to it, which explains why he's had trouble with consistency throughout his affiliated minor league career. But at his best, Luis can be dominating, and he's struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings for his minor league career.
At 27, Luis' career chances are getting shorter but here's hoping he can get a look in spring training with an affiliated team and maybe a chance to get a call up for some major league time. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nidiffer Re-Signs with Angles

Marcus Nidiffer who played in Greeneville in 2010, has resigned with the Angles.  He hit .230 for the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Midwest League (Low A). While in G'ville, Marcus played 1st; in Cedar Rapids he returned to the position he played in college, catcher.  He appeared in 68 games as a catcher.  He threw out 29% of potential base stealers. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jordan Lyles Season According to John Sickles

John Sickles over at MinorLeagueBall.com has reviewed his top 50 pitching prospects from the start of the 2011 season. Here is how he captured Jordan Lyles year. Lyles was #17 on the list to start the year.

Jordan Lyles, RHP, Houston Astros, Grade B+: 3.61 ERA, 42/17 K/BB in 62 Triple-A innings. Went 2-8, 5.36 in 94 major league innings with 67/26 K/BB and 107 hits allowed. Remains on the Brad Radke career track.
Really, Brad Radke? Would we be okay if Jordan Lyles ended up pitching 12 seasons with a 4.22 ERA and a record of 148-139? Vote on your feelings about this comparison in the poll below.

survey service

MLB Post Season Awards

Normally, I keep my post to the Greeneville Astros, their alumni and the Astros farm system.  However, as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I get the opprotunity to put in my two cents in post season awards the group gives out.  So here are my thoughts on who deserves the hardware from the 2011 season. Not going into justifications, just putting the names out there. (edit - 10/7/11 - was just told I needed to change my ballot to make it NL only - which made it much tougher but here they are.)

Connie Mack Award (top manager): I get to nominate three guys here.
1. Kirk Gibson
2. Ron Roenicke
3. Clint Hurdle

Willie Mays Award (top rookie): I get to nominate three here as well.
1. Craig Kimbrell
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Dillon Gee

Goose Gossage Award (top reliever): once again three names.
1. Craig Kimbrell
2.  John Axford
3.  Johnny Venters
Walter Johnson Award (top pitcher): I get to expand to five names here
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Roy Halladay
3. Ian Kennedy
4. Cliff Lee
5. Craig Kimbrell
Stan Musial Award (top player): I get to put 10 names up here.
1. Matt Kemp
2. Ryan Braun
3. Joey Votto
4. Justin Upton
5. Prince Fielder
6. Troy Tulowitzki
7. Jose Reyes
8. Lance Berkman
9. Hunter Pence
10. Michael Morse

Astros Minor League Affiliates Lose the Most Games

Baseball America has posted it's listing of the combined records of all affiliates for each Major League team.  After climbing to 29th place in 2010.  The Astros affiliates fall back to 30th after finishing the season a combined 138 games under .500.  While it appears at first glance the Astros affiliates were 70 games back from the nearest MLB team, the Brewers.  It's not quite that bad. The Astros are one of eight teams that have seven affiliates instead of the normal six.  So when you divide the games back by number of affiliates, the Astros average 19.7 games back per affiliate.  The Brewers average 11.3 games back per affiliate..... Okay, so maybe it is as bad as it looks.

2011 DSL Astro Kelvin Santana Suspended

Baseball America is reporting that former Astros Minor Leaguer Kevlin Santana has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.  He is a free agent. His suspension would start next season if he signs with a team.  That would be unlikely because he would miss most of the the next season if were to play for a short season team and the leap to a full season team would be a big one.

Santana had pitched in 08 & 09 in the Orioles affiliate in the Dominican.  He didn't pitch professionally in 2010 but was signed by the Astros for the 2011 season.  He pitched well. In 20 1/3 IP, allowed just 11 hits and no earned runs.  He fanned 31 while walking 13.  He was old for the league at 21.