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 30, 2012

Releases Hit Home

With spring training on the horizon, I am always excited to see the season start.  However, one of the things that comes at this time of the year is the last few releases.  In the last round of releases, there were four former G-Stros who were released.  The players whose time in the Astros organization ended were:

Kellen Kiilsgaard - The 30th round pick for 2010 played for Greeneville after having a .159 average in Tri Cities.  He appeared in 8 games for the G-Stros.

Colton Pitkin - A lefty who was a 41st round draft pick in 2007.  He spent 2007 and 2008 in Greeneville. 

Frederico Hernandez - One of the most exciting catchers to play in Greeneville, made his stateside debut in 2008.  He was viewed as a top catching prospect making it to AA in 2010. However, he struggled in 2011 and hit under .200 in both AA and high A.  Of the bunch, I feel he is the most likely to catch on with another organization.

Hector Rodriguez - Hector was a utility guy in 2010 for Greeneville.  That season, he got consistent playing time due to injuries and hit .303 for the year.  In 2011, he bounced between Tri Cities, Lexington and Lancaster where he hit a combined .163 in just 35 games. 

Releases are a part of minor league ball.  However, as a fan, you get to know some of these kids and when their name makes the Baseball America transactions page, it hits home.  Hector's release was expected but it was still hard to read about.  Hector and my son became friends in 2010. Despite a significant language barrier, they both enjoyed spending time together.  Because Hector was so kind to my child, he became a favorite of mine too. 

Best of luck to Hector and the rest of these men.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Age in the Appy and Making the Show

 I did some research over the last few days looking at those who make it to the big leagues from the Appy and the age at which they made their Appy League debut.  The results were interesting. In this post, we will look at the number by year, the number by age,  the number by affiliate, and the number by position player vs. pitcher.

Year to Year
I looked at 2004 - 2009 rosters.  Here are the numbers of players on those rosters who have made it to the show.  If a player repeated, I only listed them in their first season unless their second season was 2004 (there were six such players).

2004 - 31  (16 teens/ 15 older)
2005 - 21  (9 teens/ 12 older)
2006 - 19  (9 teens/ 10 older)
2007 - 16  (8 teens/ 8 older)
2008 - 12  (6 teens/ 6 older)
2009 -  3  (0 teens/ 3 older)

That is a total of 102 players who have made their MLB debut.  Sixty of the 102 have been pitchers and 42 were position players.  One, David Carpenter, started in the Appy as a fielder and then returned when converted to pitcher.  Since he made his MLB debut as a pitcher, I used his pitching debut for his age.

The diminishing number is not a surprise as it takes time for most players to climb the ladder.   It is surprising that the teen to older ratio stays around 50% for all years except 2009.  There were some fast moving teens in 2008.  That group includes Salvador Perez & Kelvin Herrera of the Royals, Julio Teheran & Randell Delgado of the Braves and  Jordan Lyles & Jose Altuve of the Astros.

Age #
You can see from the chart below the the most common ages were 18 (26), 20 (22), 21 (19) and 19 (17) .  You can also see that if you are over 20 in the Appy your chances of making the big leagues decline if you are a position player.
Overall, teens make up 47% of the players who have made their MLB debut from the Appy since 2004.  Teens make up 55.6% of the position players and 40% of the pitchers.

Affiliate Breakdown
In terms of affiliation, the Braves and Twins have had the most players make the majors with 20 each.  With the Braves nine of the 20 made their debut as teenagers.  Elvis Andrus made his debut as a 16 year old.  He is the youngest of the 102.  Other teens in the Braves pipeline included Jason Hayward, Julio Teheran, Randall Degado, Neftali Perez and Matt Harrison.  (note that three of those are now Rangers thanks to the Texeira trade)

With the Twins, they have only had four teenagers make it to the majors.  They accounted for seven of the 19 players who were 21 when they made their Appy debut and four of the 10 players who were 22 when they made their Appy debut.

The Astros and the Cards each had 12 players make it from the Appy to the major leagues.  Six of the 12 Astros who made it all the way were teens when they made their Appy debut.  However, four of those repeated the level (Paulino, Gutierrez, Barthmaier and Altuve). 

The Cards' dozen includes four teens.  With Colby Rasmus being the big name in the bunch.  They had three players who have made it who were 22 during their Appy debut, with David Carpenter being one of those.

The only other affiliate to have at least 10 players was the White Sox.  Seven of their 11 have been 18 or 19 when they made their Appy debut.  Current Astro Lucas Harrell is in this group.  He was 19 when he made his Appy appearance in 2004.

The other affiliates had the following amount of success.

Rays 7 - all teens
Orioles 6 - five teens
Mets 5 - three teens
Indians 3 - no teens
Jays 3 - one teen
Royals 2 - both teens
Mariners 1 - no teens

In fairness, the Indians, Royals, Mariners and Jays have not had continuous presence in the league.   The Indians left Burlington after the 2006 season and the Royals moved in.  The Jays left Pulaski after the 2006 season and the Mariners moved in for the 2008 season. 

These numbers will continue to change over time as more players from 2007, 2008 and 2009 make their path to the majors; be it for a cup of coffee or a hall of fame career.  However, the numbers lead me to the following conclusions:

1. Watch teens in the Appy, especially position players.
2. Pitchers can be slightly older and still be worth watching.
3. Position players over the age of 20 are a long shot.
4. It is okay for teens to repeat but not 20's.

This backs up what my gut and common sense told me but it is always nice to have some facts to back it up.

Does this raise any questions you want answered?  Let me know appyastros(at)gmail.com or on twitter @AppyAstros

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jose and the Very Long Season

Zachary Levine did a great job of highlighting the marathon season Jose Altuve has had in 2011.  Let's look a little closer at the three seasons:

Minor Leagues:

He started off 2011 in Lancaster (A+, Cal League). There he had 213 at bats in 52 games.  He hit .408 during that stretch with 13 doubles, seven triples and five home runs.  He walked 19 times and struck out 26.

Then he moved up to Corpus Christi (AA, Texas League). There he had 144 at bats in 35 games.  He hit .361 during that stretch with nine doubles, three triples and five home runs.  He walked seven times and struck out 14. 

Major Leagues:

Altuve played more games for the big league Astros than he did for either minor league team this season.  During his call up, he had 221 at bats in 57 games.  He hit .276 with 10 doubles, one triple and two HR.  He walked five times and struck out 29. 

Winter Ball:

Altuve played the most games for Magallanes in the Liga Venezuela Biesbol Profesional (LVBP).  He had 242 at bats in 60 games.  There he hit .339 with 18 doubles, two triples and two HR.  He had 16 walks and 26 strike outs.  He will get some consideration for MVP of the league.

When you put all of this together, he played in 201 games and had 820 at bats (898 plate appearances).  He hit for a combined .344, with 50 doubles, 13 triples and 14 home runs.  A grand total of 400 total bases.  He walked 47 times and struck out 95. 

He made five errors in Lancaster, three in Corpus Christ and two in the Majors.  Then he made 14 in the LVBP.  So a combined 24 errors. 

Summing It Up:
Overall a very impressive season for someone who was just 20 when last season started.  And a very long season.  It is obvious that Altuve deserves some rest and relaxation.  I hope he does sit out the rest of the LVBP playoffs despite pressure from the Magallanes ownership to play.  He will report to spring training with the big leaguers which means he has just over one month left before he has to report to rest and recover.

The minor league season told us he could hit and was ready for a chance at the next level.  His time in the Major Leagues told us he could be a solid second baseman at the Major League level.  It also told us that he needed to be more selective at which pitches he swung at so that he can get better quality pitches to hit.  What does the winter ball season tell us?

Despite the errors, the LVBP season gives us some to be excited about for next year.  Mainly that it showed Altuve was working on his pitch selectivity.  I have been told the LVBP's talent level is somewhere between AA and AAA depending on the roster you are facing that day.  Since Altuve only took 7 walks in AA and 5 in the majors, to see him take 16 in the LVBP may be an indication that he is working on not swinging at as many bad pitches. It is a small step but it is a step.

Garate Signs with Brewers

Baseball America has released it's latest transactions and from it we learn that former G-Stros Victor Garate (2005) has signed a minor league free agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.  This makes the 5th organization for the left handed pitcher.  It is expected he will have an invite to spring training but this hasn't been confirmed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quote: Sig Mejdal

Found an interesting interview with Sig Mejdal, the Houston Astros new Director of Decision Sciences.  The interview was from 2006 about his role in the book Fantasyland.  Apparently, he consulted with the author, Sam Walker on his fantasy team. Mejdal was working with the Cardinals when the book came out and was interviewed by TheCardinalNation.com.

Here is the money question and answer from the interview:

In Fantasyland, you are characterized as being totally against qualitative methods like observation and intuition in favor of quantification. Is that accurate and if so, why?

I come from the research world, so I think I have a bias toward data-driven decision-making. Because we observe it, because we perceive it, it doesn’t mean that it is so. Human decision and human observation have many inefficiencies associated with them. Just like data analysis has its shortcomings, too. So, I think I was data-driven 100% of the time, so I was perhaps a bit of a cynic when they said, “Aha! His Dad says he is going to have a breakout year.”

You ask my parents and they probably would be saying the same thing, but I wouldn’t want to draft me for this league. So, I think I was always cynical of it – I always questioned it. But, it has value, of course. But, until you can really quantify it, analyze it and separate the truth from the convention, I think you should be skeptical of it. So, perhaps I am painted as a polar opposite or completely on this side, but that’s not the case. And now, when I work with the Cardinals, I am able to see firsthand the value of the subjective evaluation.
Looks like I know what book I will pick up the next time I visit McKay's. There are a few pictures of Mejdal on the book website, including a classic picture where he and Walker are picketing in front of a baseball stadium asking for a player to play because "fantasy players are people too".

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Coaching Staff Named + Updates on Past Coaches

The Astros released their assignment of the minor league staff for the 2012 season. Greeneville's staff is getting a great deal of attention thanks to the addition of former Astros all star Cesar Cedano as hitting coach.  Cedano is returning to the Appy league 43 years after he made his pro debut for the Covington Astros in 1968.  

Also returning to the Appy League is last year's manager Omar Lopez, the young man of the crew at 35 will begin his fourth year as a minor league manager for the Astros organization.  His teams have owonmore games each year but have yet to achieve a winning record.

The pitching coach this year will be another new face in Greeneville.  Hector Mercado never played in the Appy but played just about every where else in his 15 year pro career.  He was the pitching coach in the GCL last season, so he will be familiar with the players who move up from there.

In other coaching news, let's check on where the former G-Stros coaches have wound up:

2004 manager Tim Bogar is now the Red Sox bench coach under new manager Bobby Valentine.

Former manager Ivan DeJesus returns to the minors after a five year stint with the Cubs.  He will be the manager in Lexington.  He will be joined by two former G-Stros coaches Dave Borkowski and Josh Bonifay.

Former manager Rodney Linares continues his climb up the minor league ladder.  After three season in Greeneville and two in Lexington, he will be the manager in Lancaster this season.

Former hitting coach Stubby Clapp will be the manager in Tri Cities again.  He will be joined by former G-Stros pitching coach Rick Aponte. 

Ed Romero, another former manager, will be the manager for the GCL Astros again this year. 

Former hitting coach D J Boston has moved from Danville to the GCL Braves this year

Players Getting Into Coaching
There are also some former G-Stros who are involved in coaching.  Former pitcher Travis Smink has put his VMI degree to work and has been named the pitching coach at Carlisle High (Pa.).  

Another former pitcher who is teaching and coaching baseball is Jake Hurry who is an assistant at Flagler High (Fl.).