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, February 27, 2012

Former G-Stro Patton Working To Make O's Pen

Former 2004 Greeneville Astro, Troy Patton is in the Baltimore Orioles spring training working on making the team out of spring training for the first time in his career.  Roch Kubatko of MASN details his resume from last season:
Patton is out of options, so the Orioles will have to pass him through waivers if they want to send him down. He earned Showalter's trust last season and went 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 20 appearances. He posted a 2.39 ERA in his last 18 games.
Patton was 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in 15 appearances against the American League East that covered 25 innings. He walked five and struck out 22 in 30 innings last season. His ERA was 0.77 in eight September outings. Right-handers batted .186 against him in 2011. He didn't allow an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter in 56 plate appearances.
Patton tells him about his adjustment to life in the pen:
"It's just getting loose," he said. "I'm used to it, I'm accustomed to it. I think I'm ready to fill any spot that they need me to. I can be a short guy and I can be a long guy if that's better. Whatever ends up working out between where players fall and whatever happens with the starting rotation, because that's obviously going to be a real surprise, whatever happens, because we've got nine guys competing. So, I'll wait until those chips fall where they may and see where I end up."

Former G-Stro Esteban Gonzalez Now A Manager

In 2005, Esteban Gonzalez played third base for the Greeneville Astros.  He played in 26 games and hit .183 as Koby Clemens back up that year.  His paying career was over but not his career in baseball. In 2010, he became the manager of the Venezuela Summer League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays organization. In two seasons, he has compiled a 66-56 record as a manager.

In 2010, Voice of America did a story on the Rays VSL team and Gonzalez is interviewed in the piece. 

What To Watch For In 2012 - Former G-Stros Third Basemen

In our trip around the diamond, we are over to the hot corner.  Let's see what questions we will be watching for as the 2012 full season begins and I am sitting here waiting for short season ball in June.

Of the bat, let's not forget that two former G-Stros 3rd basemen are covered in other projections.  Clemens was in the first base What to Watch For and Ebert Rosario will be covered in the pitchers.

Third Basemen

Jean Batista - (2011, 20, Rookie) - Signed in 2010 as a 17 year old switch hitting shortstop.  He didn't play in 2010 but made his debut in the GCL as a 19 year old in 2011.  Notice the ages there....something isn't adding up, which may indicate why he didn't play in the DSL in 2010.  Regardless, Batista is listed as a shortstop but has played more games at 3B (15), 2B (15) than SS (12).  I am including him here because I write the blog and I get to decide! You got a problem with that? Here is what I will be watching for in 2012.  Which position will he spend the most time at? Can he keep the pop up as he moves up?

Jonathan Meyer (2009, 21, Hi A) - Showed significant progress defensively in Lancaster in 2011.  He dropped his errors from 29 to 16 in more chances.  He also showed an increase in power jumping from 2 HR in Lexington to 14 in Lancaster. He finished 2011 with a strong August & September.  In his last 31 games, he hit .307 and walked (19) more times than he struck out (18).  He also had seven of his 23 doubles and five of his 14 home runs during that stretch.  Can he carry the end of 2011 into 2012? Will the power continue or be just another example of the Lancaster effect? 

Darwin Rivera - (2011, 20, Rookie) - Rivera was signed in 2008 but had only appeared in 1
game prior to the 2011 season.  He started 2011 in the DSL and earned the promotion to Greeneville and struggled.  He set a G-Stros record for most errors in a season with 30.  His errors tended to come in clusters.  At the plate, he showed mixed reviews having good stretches and very cold stretches.  He showed pop as the season ended with three home runs in August.   Will he improve his fielding in 2012?  Can he show improvement in the mental side of the game (handling mistakes in the field and at the plate)? Can he show some of the potential that was hoped for when he signed in 2008? 

Amandeo Zazueta - (2006, 26, AA) - Zazueta's career has survived being released by the Astros (2007), and the Braves (2010); playing for four different indy ball teams, and a 50 game suspension for PEDs (2010). Yet he is still playing in the Padres organization.  He has played 150 games in the minors & indy ball at shortstop.  He played 0 for the Astros organization in two season. At Greeneville, he languished on the bench while Timmy Johnson made 20 errors in 27 games in his second year in Greeneville.  He also put up solid numbers in the Mexican Winter League this off season hitting .278 and making nine errors.  Will he continue to defy the odds and find a spot on a roster

Projected placement of those still in the Astros system

Oklahoma (AAA)
Corpus Christi (AA)

Lancaster (Hi A)

Lexington (Lo A)

Extended Spring Training

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What To Watch For In 2012 - Former G-Stros Shortstops

Working around the horn, we land at shortstop. The only former G-Stro shorstop on the 40 man roster is Jorge DeLeon who is now been converted to a relief pitcher. Here is my look at what I will be watching while waiting for the short season to begin.


Jio Mier - (2009- 21 - Hi A) -  He evenly divided the 2011 season between Lexington & Lancaster (57 games each).  Will the new approach he talked about in a recent interview show improvement in 2012?

Towards the last two months of the season I kind of switched things up and decided to take the approach of getting comfortable and letting my athleticism take over and it helped me out a lot. I wasn't being so mechanical and thinking at all at the plate and was concentrating more on getting ready every pitch and reacting to the pitches.  [Over the off-season] I have been [doing] the same and am very excited to continue this process. This is basically the way I was in high school (which I got away from the last two seasons).

Jonathan Merritt - (2010 - 24 - Injured) He missed all of 2011 with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  Will his career end in 2012 or will he be on a roster out of spring training?

Chan Moon - (2011 - 20 - Rookie) - The Korean short stop improved his defense from 2010 to 2011.  His bat also showed a bit more pop.  Will he continue to show improvement in 2012, especially at the plate?  Will he be in Tri Cities or in Lexington?

Wlad Sutil - (2004 - 27- AAA) - After being the mayor of Corpus Christi, he signed a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks this off season.  Will he be in AA or AAA?  Will this be the year he gets a cup of coffee?

Alex Todd - (2011 - 22 - Hi A) - In a Jeckle and Hyde season for Todd, he struggled at SS and at the plate (.159 average) in Greeneville.  He was promoted to Lancaster which treated him much nicer.  In 16 games in California, he hit .298 and only made two errors in 15 games at 2B.  Where will he being the 2012 season? Lex or Lan?  Which batting average reflects the real Alex Todd?

Projected placement of those still in the Astros system

Oklahoma (AAA)
Corpus Christi (AA)

Lancaster (Hi A)

Lexington (Lo A)Todd

Extended Spring Training

Next we will move to the hot corner.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What To Watch For In 2012 - 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 full season ball begins. The year(s) they played in Greeneville and their age on opening day will be in parenthesis.

Second Base
Jose Altuve (2008,09 - 21) What a year for Jose!  Jumping from high A to MLB.  Getting almost 900 AB in minors, majors and winter ball?  Can he build off the buzz of a great 2011 season and put up solid MLB numbers in 2012? Will the lack of rest this winter hurt him this season?  

Albert Cartwright (2007, 08 - 23) - Missed all of 2011 season with a torn Achilles tendon. He is a part of the Phillies' farm system. How will he do after missing all of 2011?

Delino DeShields (2010 - 19) - Showed solid progress with the transition to second.  Yes he made a bunch of errors but many were before the all star break. Will he progress on to Lancaster to start the season?  With the defense improving, will the bat follow?  Will stolen bases improve?

Josh Magee (2011 - 20 - Rookie) - Hit .376 in August to boost his season average to .283.   This was aided by his record breaking 12 at bat hitting streak. Can he continue to improve his approach at the plate as the pitchers he faces improve? Can show improvement defensively this year?

Ben Orloff (2009 - 24 - Low A) - Orloff played 80 games at SS for Lexington last year and just 15 at 2B.  He hit a solid .284 but is old for the level.  Will he head to Lancaster or be released this year?

Ruben Sosa (2011 - 21 - Low A) - I am putting him in this group because he played more games at 2nd base (20) than he did in the outfield (16) for Greeneville in 2011.   Will he make a Lexington out of Spring Training?  Will he be in the OF or at 2nd this year?

Projected placement for those still in the Astros organization:


Oklahoma City - AAA

Corpus Christi - AA

Lancaster - High A

Lexington - Low A

Extended Spring Training

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What To Watch For In 2012 - Former G-Stros First Basemen

There are more former G-Stros at first than there were last year but the majority are a bit long in the tooth for the levels they were at last year.   Here is what I am watching for from them this year.

First Base
Koby Clemens - (2005 - 25- AAA) -  Signed a minor league free agent deal with the Blue Jays.  Where will he land when spring training breaks?  Las Vegas (AAA) or New Hampshire (AA)? Will he be at 1st or 3rd? 

Chase Davidson - (2011 - 22 - SS A) - Hit .335 in 43 games with Greeneville before a brief promotion to Tri Cities.  Saw only 10 games at 1B in the 2011 season.  How will he hit when he faces more age appropriate competition? Can he cut down on the K's?

Kody Hinze - (2008 - 24 - AA) - Made the two level move last year, blistering Lancaster and putting up solid numbers in AA.  Is the best defensive first baseman in the bunch, with a career .991 fielding percentage.  Can he increase his power numbers against advanced pitching?

Marcus Nidiffer - (2010 - 25 - Low A ) Was released by the Astros and later signed with the Angels last year.  They moved him back to catcher, where he played in college.  He hit .230 for Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League.  Will he get a shot to play ball again this season or will he be considered to old for the level? 

Telvin Nash - (2010 - 21 - Low A) Made the move to 1B last season and was off to a great start at he plate when he broke the hamate bone in his hand. He is the best prospect of the bunch.  Just how many prodigious HR will he hit in Lancaster this year?  Can he stay healthy?  Can he reduce the K's?

Rafael Valenzuela - (2010 - 24 - SS A) The NDFA out of Arizona missed part of 2011 with injury but hit a solid .316 in 31 games with Tri Cities. In his minor league career, he has 42 games at 1B and 37 at 3B. Will he get a shot at full season ball in 2012?   Which side of the diamond will he land on?

Jesse Wiersbicki - (2011- 23 - Rookie) Played 37 of 45 games at 1B for the G-Stros in 2011.  He hit .265 and had five HR.  Will he get to jump to full season ball in 2012?  Can he continue to show good OBP (358 in 2011) against advance competition?

Projected placement of those in the Astros organization. Last year, I was two out of three.

Oklahoma (AAA)


Corpus Christi

Lancaster (HiA)


Lexington (LoA)

Extended Spring Training

Blast from the past
2004 G-Stro Ole Shelton was still playing indy ball in 2011.  He hit .304 for the Saint Paul Saints.

Towles Battles for Back Up Spot with Twins

Former G-Stro catcher J R Towles is currently in Twins camp battling for a back up spot on the major league roster.  Here is what the Star Tribune said about his chances of beating out Drew Butera for the 3rd catcher spot.

The Twins did sign J.R. Towles as a free agent. Towles, 28, hit .184 with 54 games with Houston last season and has a .187 average over five seasons of spot play for the Astros. But unlike Butera, Towles hit well in the minors, with a .294 career average and .394 on-base percentage. He needs to show some of that in the majors.  Towles could push Butera for a spot -- if there's a spot to push for.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What To Watch For In 2012 - Former G-Stros Catchers

As I often say, 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 questions I am going to be looking for from former Greeneville Astros to answer in full season ball. I will be listing them by position.  Included in the player's write up is year(s) they played in Greeneville  along with their age at the start of the season and the highest level they played at last season.

Luis Alvarez - (2009/2011 - 21 - Rookie) - Last year he made a solid comeback from missing 2010 with a knee injury. Can he progress quickly this year to make up for the lost 2010 season?   

Rene Garcia - (2008 - 22 - Hi A) - Last year he hit .242 at Lancaster and threw out 30% of base stealers.  Can he bring those numbers up any?

Ernesto Genoves - (2011 - 20 - Rookie) - He showed a solid bat and improving defense in Greeneville last year. How will he look against more advanced talent at higher levels? 

Ryan McCurdy - (2010 - 24 - Low A) - Last year he showed a solid bat at Tri Cities hitting .324 but he is much older than the competition.  Will he make it out of spring training?

Roberto Pena - (2010 - 19 - Low A) - After allowing 10 passed balls in 38 games in 2010, he only allowed 11 in 82 games in 2011.  He threw out 39% of base stealers last season, can he keep that number up?  Can he improve from the .217 he hit in Lexington last year? 

J. R. Towles - (2004 - 27 - MLB) - Towles signed with the Twins organization as a free agent this off season.  If the Twins injury luck at catcher continues, this might prove to be a very wise move for J R. Will the change of scenery help J. R. make it back to the show?

Chris Wallace - (2010 - 23 - AA) - Last year Wallace jumped from low A to AA.  His average took a hit (.285 to .244) but his caught stealing rate took a bigger hit, dropping from 39% down to 10%.  Can he show he made adjustments in his approach at the plate and behind it?

Bubby Williams - (2009-10, 22 - SS A) - I said last year that it was an important year for Williams to show improvement.  Not much was seen.  He only caught 11 games and threw out only 13% of potential base stealers. He lead the team in Home Runs but only hit .206 in 36 games.  Will he make it out of spring training? 

Placement Predictions when full season rosters are announced:
(Last season, I predicted 5 of 6 catchers' correct starting teams)

Oklahoma (AAA)

Corpus Christi (AA)

Lancaster (Hi A)

Lexington (Low A)

Extended Spring Training

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lynchburg coming to the Appy?

Last week it was announced that the Atlanta Braves have reached a tentative deal to purchase the Lynchburg Hillcats.  When and if they purchase the team, they plan to move the team to Wilmington, North Carolina.  The whole deal is contingent upon Wilmington and the Braves reaching an agreement on building a new stadium complex.

Another part of the deal is that the Braves have given the Hillcat's board of directors "assurance that they will help the City of Lynchburg find another affiliated minor-league baseball team if they move the franchise to North Carolina."

BallparkDigest.com predicts that if the Braves move the team, an A-Ball replacement will not be likely.
We're guessing that replacement -- if it happens -- won't come at the Class A level. Lynchburg is probably more of an Appy League kinda town.
 Based on current affiliate agreements, most of the teams in the Appy are owned by their affiliate.   Bristol (White Sox), Johnson City (Cardinals), Greeneville (Astros), Kingsport (Mets), Danville (Braves), Elizabethton (Twins), and Princeton (Rays) are all owned by the parent organization.  Which means they could move the team at any time. They normally have a lease agreement for the stadium.  For example the Astros signed a five year agreement with Tusculum College last August for the use of Pioneer Park.

The other teams, have player development contracts that are usually signed on a two year basis. Here is the status for each of the remaining teams:

Bluefield Blue Jays - signed through 2014
Burlington Royals - signed through 2012
Pulaski Mariners - signed through 2012, possible extension to 2014

I would be surprised if Lynchburg falls all the way down to the Appy.  But it's facilities would be an upgrade over several of the other cities.  We will keep watching how this plays out. 

There are always rumblings about a team leaving or moving, for example in December, the Mets announced they are closing their GCL team and saying Kingsport will have the K-Mets for 2012.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Uni's for old G-Stros

As spring training approaches, it looks like most teams have wrapped up their signing of minor league free agents.  Baseball America has a great database tool this year to help keep up with where players have signed.  Here are players who used to be G-Stros and where they have signed for 2012.

Jimmy Barthmaier - Nationals (re-signed)
Koby Clemens - Blue Jays
Victor Garate - Brewers
Juan Gutierrez - Royals
Jordan Parraz - Braves
Wlad Sutil - Diamondbacks
 J.R. Towles - Twins

Still unsigned free agents:

Douglas Arguello
Sammy Gervacio
Brad James
Jhonny Medrano
Neil Sellers
Polin Trinidad

Of those left unsigned, Gervacio is the most surprising.  He pitched in 11 games (6 2/3 IP) in the Dominican Winter League.  His ERA was 6.43 in a very small sample size. He gave up eight of his 10 hits and all five runs in three outings (3 1/3 IP). He had no strike outs in those outings.  In the other eight (3 1/3 IP), he gave up only two hits and struck out seven. I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up in camp somewhere.