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, February 28, 2013

Going Camping: Update on Former G-Stros in Big League Camp

In Astros Camp, here is the latest on the former G-Stros:

Jose Altuve has appeared in just two games so far this spring.  He is a lock to make the big league club but his lack of playing time concerns me as far as a possible injury.

Brandon Barnes is making the most of his opportunities when he gets playing time.  He has appeared in four games thus far and is three for nine at the plate with a HR, no strike outs and two stolen bases.  He also has two outfield assist. There is a great deal of competition for the outfield spots and Barnes is doing his best to make the decision even tougher.

Jose Cisnero made his first appearance yesterday and was effective pitching 1 1/3 innings give up one hit and one walk while striking out one batter.

Delino DeShields is getting a full taste of major league camp this spring.  He has appeared in four games and has demonstrated his speed tool in the pinch runner mode several times.  He has scored three runs, even though he  has only reached base one time as a batter. 

Rene Garcia is in camp for catching depth and has played in three games thus far.  He is hit less in two at bats but has two walks in his other plate appearances.

Jordan Lyles had a rough outing in his first outing of the spring but it is nothing to get too worried about.  He will likely be in the rotation when camp breaks.

J.D. Martinez is three for his first 10 this spring as he fights for a starting spot in the Astros outfield.  It was reported yesterday he will see some time in right in addition to his usual spot in left.

Chris Wallace is also in camp for catching depth.  He has appeared in two games and doesn't have a hit in two at bats but he does have an RBI and a walk.

Other players on the spring training roster who might get some playing time as the spring progresses (especially in split squad games) are: Michael Foltynewicz (#88), Jonathan Meyer (#96). Roberto Pena (#84) and Ross Seaton (#61). 

 In other camps around baseball here is how the former G-Stros are doing.

Juan Gutierrez  has apparently decided on a name change.  He is now listed as J.C. Gutierrez on the Royals roster.  In his lone outing thus far, he pitched a 1,2,3 inning against the D-Backs and appears to be the top candidate for the final bullpen spot. He should make his second appearance today.

In other news from Royals camp, Felipe Paulino threw off the mound earlier this week and is making progress towards a mid season return.  

Troy Patton had a good outing yesterday with Baltimore.  He came into the game in a bases loaded one out jam. He escaped by striking out Shane Victorino and then got Christian Vazquez to ground into a force out.  His full line for the day was 1 1/3 IP, two hits, one run, one walk and two strike outs.

Fernando Abad is making some noise in Nationals camp.
If one player stood out aside from starter Dan Haren, it was left-handed reliever Fernando Abad. He had a 5.09 ERA last year for the Astros, but he’s been impressing the Nationals all spring, starting in bullpen sessions. Abad, 27, struck out one batter in a 1-2-3 inning. His odds to make the roster are long, but he could work his way into the competition for the final spot in the Nationals’ bullpen. If you’re looking for a sleeper, it may be Abad.
Jordan Parraz  has yet to start in game for the Braves but has preformed well when he has gotten time.  In six games (8 AB), he is hitting .250 with one HR.

J.R. Towles has appeared in two games for the Cards and has one hit in three at bats.

Arcenio Leon has made two appearances for the Brewers (1 2/3 IP) giving up two hits and two walks with no strike outs.  He has surrendered two earned runs and one long ball.

Victor Garate has yet to appear in a game in Dodgers camp thus far. 

My next update will come from Florida.  My son and I leave for Spring Training next Wednesday and hope to see many of Florida based former G-Stros in person. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nash Reports To Camp 30 Pounds Lighter

Earlier today, Brian McTaggart of Astros.com, in addition to talking about Delino DeShields chance to start in a Spring Training game and J.D. Martinez trying right field on for size; told us that Telvin Nash reported for Minor League Camp early and in much better shape than last year.  Apparently the Astros talked to Nash about his conditioning at the end of last season and he took it seriously reported 30 lbs. lighter at 230lbs. 
"I just feel all around much better," he said. "I feel faster at first base and in the outfield when I track balls down. If I'm holding a runner, I can get off the base and make a routine play. ... In the past, a ground ball was hit right at me and it was kind of tough. I made it look much more difficult than it really was. I feel much more explosive, I'm in shape and I'm healthier, too."
This is an important season for Nash who had fallen off the prospect list radar this off season.  Reporting in shape is a good first step.  The next steps are to show on the field he worked hard on his fielding and his contact rate at the plate.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Former G-Stros in Minor's Mini Camp

The top talent in the system has been invited to report to camp early for a minicamp. Brian McTaggart posted the list of invitees yesterday. Here are those who were invited along with the year(s) they appeared in Greeneville:
 Ruben Alaniz (2010)
Michael Foltynewicz (2010)
David Martinez (2009)  
Lance McCullers Jr. (2012)
Vincent Velasquez (2010)  
Roberto Pena (2010)  
Carlos Correa (2012)  
Chase Davidson (2011)
Jonathan Meyer (2009)
Jiovanni Mier (2009)  
Rio Ruiz (2012)

In addition to those players a few other players will be participating some since they reported early to camp. Two of those are former G-Stros Telvin Nash (2010) and Ruben Sosa (2011 & 12)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Going Camping: Former G-Stros Edition

Let's check in on how a few of the former Greeneville Astros are doing in camps around Major League Baseball this spring.

Troy Patton - Baltimore - How many lefty's in the O's bullpen is too many? 
"That's too far down the line to be speculating on," he said. "I tell you this: We did OK with one left-hander down there, and the reason was the six right-handers were pitching well. That's just conventionally set up, and I'm not married to that. We'll take our best seven guys down there.....Those things can fluctuate depending on who your starters are.
"I think it comes more into play when your starters are predominantly right-handed that you need a second left-hander, preferably to be a long reliever. I think Patton is capable of doing both. I think he can pitch long and short, especially with his starting pitching background."
J.R. Towles - Cardinals - is really a long shot to make the major league roster.  

Felipe Paulino - Royals - is about a week away from throwing off the mound and is still slated to return at the All Star Break.  He is recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Juan Gutierrez - Royals - had a great winter ball campaign in Venezuela.  He was named the closer of the year in the LVBP. Gutierrez talked about the impact the injury from 2011 that required Tommy John surgery had on him.
"I matured a lot," he said. "It was the kind of pitcher that threw hard as I did not worry about working, by lifting weights and stuff. With rehabilitation forced me to work hard and now that I have become routine. I strengthened my muscles, I improved as a player and I learned that you have to work very hard to keep. "  (via google translate)
According to reports during winterball, his fastball was back to 93 mph.   He is not on the 40 man roster but has a shot at making the team out of camp with a solid spring.

Fernando Abad  - Nationals - might get a look as a starter in Nationals camp. 

Getting To Know the New G-Stros Manager Josh Bonifay

When the Astros announced their minor league coaching staffs for the upcoming season,  I was excited to see Josh Bonifay returning the Greeneville as the manager for the 2013 season.  He had been the hitting coach for the 2011 team.  I scoured the internet for background on Josh Bonifay and here is a summary of what I found.  Let's look at Josh's background and get to know him a little bit.

Josh is the son of former Pittsburg Pirate GM Cam Bonifay.  He played college ball at UNC-Wilmington where he hit .321/.441/.689 in his final season in 1999.  He was then drafted in the 24th round by the Pirates.  He climbed a level each year through 2003 when he reached AA. There his career stalled. He played four seasons at AA, the final one in 2006 when he played for Corpus Christi and appeared in 113 games and hit .261/.318/.480.  During his minor league career, he played every defensive position except catcher and short stop. He even pitched an inning in one game. He also started a triple play for the Hooks during game four of the Texas League finals.

After the 2006 season, he returned to college to finish his degree at UNC-Wilmington.  To give you an idea of how seriously Bonifay took his course work, one of his professors explained one interaction to the Star News when Bonfay found a course he needed to take was already closed.

"He did a great job of explaining his situation and why he was interested in the class,'' Rowe said. "He told me what he was looking to get out of it. He also mentioned his background in terms of coming back to UNCW. He was obviously very committed and interested in it. Normally I don't let students in after it is closed. In his case, we made an exception."..."When students are younger, they might talk a big game, but not always follow it up," Rowe continued. "In his case, he touched on a lot of the personal issues he has dealt with and his friends and everything and why he is coming back. He was confident he would do a good job in the class. He has exceeded that.''
He officially retired for the 2007 season due to shoulder issues and returned to school full time where he graduated with his Business Management degree with honors. 

He returned to minor league baseball in 2008 as a coach for the Hickory Crawdads.  It is important to note that his father had been fired in 2001 from the Pirates yet it was a Pirates affiliate that gave him his first coaching job.  He coached for the West Virginia Power in 2010 before joining the Astros organization in 2011.  He spent 2011 in Greeneville and then 2012 in Lexington as the hitting coach.

Earlier during the off-season, Bonifay was slated to move up to Lancaster as the hitting coach but then when the front office looked at filling the Greeneville manager position, Bonifay was re-assigned after an interview process that Bonifay called a learning experience.

The Astros put him through a series of extensive interviews with three executives and a statistical analysis expert. Each interview lasted more than an hour. The conversations covered topics from game management, people skills, hypothetical game situations, running a clubhouse, even philosophy on bunts and hit and runs.
"It was a very good learning experience, even if I had not gotten the job,'' Bonifay said. "It was great to pick the brains of so many great and qualified men in baseball who possess so much knowledge of the game.''
In return, Bonifay asked about pitch counts, relievers' roles and the ability of everyone in the lineup to sacrifice or bunt for a hit
 Bonifay is making his managerial debut about an hour away from where he played high school baseball.  He played for Robinson High School in Asheville, North Carolina.  He says he will be trying to use his high school coach, Tom Smith, as one of his role models for this position
“Coach Smith is one of those people I want to be in this new gig,” said Bonifay... “I want to be somebody players can look up to, somebody players can call, somebody players know has their back and somebody who always teaches them the right way to go about their business.”
Coach Smith thinks highly of Bonifay as well.

“From his experiences, you could say he’s got a master’s degree or a doctorate in baseball,” ... Smith continued. “This is what he wants to do. I’d even thought he might get into the college ranks because he’s a really good teacher. He works with our kids from time to time. ... What a great opportunity this is for him.”
Smith is currently the head coach of UNC-Asheville and has had more than 20 players drafted but Bonifay is the first of his former players to manage professionally.

The more I read about Bonifay, the more excited I am that we may have a real up and coming managerial prospect at Pioneer Park this summer.  I am looking forward to watching him work.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

J R Towles in Making Himself Useful In Cardinals Camp

Pitchers and catchers officially report today!  It appears that former Greeneville Astro J.R. Towles is in camp and finding ways to make himself useful to the Cardinals.  Whether it was catching bullpen sessions for early arriving pitchers or taking ground balls; Towles continues to show, he just wants to be on the field.

The taking ground balls was at 2nd base.  This was a part of a drill for the Cardinal's Matt Carpenter who is making the transition to 2nd this season.  Towles took balls at 2nd in order to give Carpenter a break during the drills.
J. R. Towles, the sub -- Towles did drills along with Carpenter in order to build in a break for the fielder. Oquendo worried that if he didn't have a second glove out there taking grounders, doing the drills, that Carpenter would wear himself out going over and over and over and over and over and over again.
There are few players that I remember watching play the game with more joy than Towles displayed during his time in 2004 with the G-Stros.  I hope he can put together a solid spring and successful 2013.

Best of luck to all the former G-Stros, regardless if they are a roster lock or a long shot, reporting to camp today.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mier and Ovando Plus 3 Other Astros Make BA's 32nd Team

Baseball America has released it’s 32nd team this week.  Basically these are players who didn’t make the top 31 prospects of their organization but are still worthy of following.  What is interesting is there are five Astros' minor leaguers on this list.  

Bobby Borchering who is an outfielder we acquired from the D-Backs in the Chris Johnson deal.

Bobby Doran who excelled as a RHP in Lancaster last year and will be at AA this year.

Teoscar Hernandez who will play in the outfield at Quad Cities this year.

and two former G-Stros

Jiovanni Mier, who needs a healthy season of hitting to re-establish himself as a top prospect in the organization and may eventually be moved into more of a utility role. He played third a fair amount in the Arizona fall league.

Ariel Ovando, who apparently has worked at first base in instructional league. The article talks about how shoulder issues and “lack of overall athleticism” have lead to this move.  They project him to be in Tri Cities next season.

While it is discouraging to see a former first round pick and the player who received the largest international bonus in franchise history on the list and out of top prospect status; this list of players shows the depth that has been added to the Astros system over the year and a half.