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 31, 2013

Martinez Added To Roster & Barnes Gets Opening Day Start

Yesterday, it was learned that J.D. Martinez would be added to the Astros' 25 man roster to take the place of Fernando Martinez who was placed on the 15 day DL.  J.D.'s presence on the roster gives us five former G-Stros on Major League Rosters for opening day.

It was announced a few hours ago that Brandon Barnes would be the starting right fielder for the opening night game against the Rangers.  I shared a story about our family's connection with Brandon Barnes when he made his debut last year but here is a link in case you missed it then.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Four Former G-Stros Make Opening Day Rosters As Gutierrez Claims Final Spot

Yesterday it was announced that J.C. Gutierrez claimed the final spot in the Royals' bullpen. He won it based on a solid performance in spring training and the fact that he was the only person vying for the spot who was out of options.  The Royals didn't want to expose the ex -Astros formerly known as Juan Gutierrez to waivers.

With the announcement of Gutierrez winning his spot; there are four former Greeneville Astros on opening day rosters this season:  Jose Altuve, Brandon Barnes, Troy Patton and J.C. Guttierez.

The could be one more former G-Stro who could be named to a roster as an injury replacement.  News out of Houston is that Fernando Martinez might have to go on the DL for an oblique injury.  If that happens, it is possible that J.D. Martinez will take his roster spot. Though I suspect the Astros will go with switch hitting Trevor Crowe to increase match up options on the bench.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Going Camping: Making The Roster & Getting Reassigned

Camps are wrapping up and players are starting to learn their fate.  Let's see where things stand going in to the last few days of camp.

In Houston's Camp:

Jose Altuve will be the opening day second baseman and will hit leadoff for the Astros.  He will be joined on the opening day roster by Brandon Barnes.  Barnes won the reserve outfield spot thanks to his flexibility to play all three outfield positions and his outstanding defense.  Barnes is the new poster child for reminding folks not to read too much into Appy League stats.  In 91 games, over two seasons, Barnes hit .211/.284/.318 with more strike outs (83) than hits (67).  Barnes was raw when drafted.  The minor leagues is about development.  Sometimes we forget that.  Barnes has developed into a major league ball player. 

J.D. Martinez got the news Saturday that he was being sent down to AAA.  I don't expect this to be a long trip for Martinez who had off season surgery to remove the Hamate bone in his wrist.  The Astros are still positive about Martinez.
 "We see J.D. as an everyday outfielder, and when you switch to the American League, it's hard to get our fourth or fifth outfielders a lot of playing time because the fact you're not doing as many double switches," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's going to play a lot, and right now we couldn't guarantee him that amount of playing time at the big league level 

All of the other former G-Stros have been sent back to minor league camp.  Though kudos to David Martinez for getting the start on Sunday and earning the win.  We are also hearing the Delino DeShields Jr. will be with the team for their final exhibition game against the Cubs in Houston.

In Other Camps:

Troy Patton is a lock for the Orioles 'pen despite a recent rough outing.

J.R. Towles and Jordan Parraz were sent to AAA by the Cards & Braves respectively.  And apparently I missed Arcenio Leon being sent down by the Brewers earlier this month. 

J.C. Gutierrez and Fernando Abad  are both battling for the final spot in the Royals and Nats bullpens respectively.  However it is likely both will start the season in AAA.

That means that it is likely only three former G-Stros will be on opening day rosters this year.  Last year, there were four on rosters (Patton, Altuve, Lyles and Martinez) with Paulino on the DL in KC. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Going Camping: Updates from Major League Spring Camps

Well, it is less than two weeks to opening day and we have some movement among former G-Stros in big league spring training.  Let's check out the updates starting with those in Astros camp:

Jose Altuve is a lock for the starting 2nd base job in Houston.  He has had a good spring hitting .356 with a on base percentage of .396.  It has been announced he will be batting in the lead off spot.

Brandon Barnes is continuing to make a case for making the 25 man roster out of spring training.  He has hit four home runs and has only struck out three times in 30 at bats.  He continues to provide stellar defense which helps his case as a reserve outfielder on the roster.

Rene Garcia is still in camp.  In a very small sample size (10 AB) he has a .300 average and a healthy .417 on base percentage.  He will likely return to minor league camp soon but it has been a good spring for Garcia.

Jordan Lyles was sent down to minor league camp today.  The Astros want him to right the ship in AAA and then return to the majors never to be sent down again.  Let's hope that is the case for Lyles.  According to Bo Porter, "it is not a demotion, it's a delay".

David Martinez got called up today and made his major league spring training debut.  He came in and pitched the 8th and 9th.  Facing only six batters and striking out two.  He will go back to minor league camp after the game, but it was nice to see him get a shot at some big league batters.

J.D. Martinez is being talked about as a part of the platoon in right field, sharing time with Rike Ankiel.  He is not having a great spring statistically.

Chris Wallace is still in big league camp but is getting limited action.  He will be heading to minor league camp before long.

Outside of Astros Camp:

Fernando Abad has had a solid spring but appears to be looking at starting the year in AAA.

Victor Garate was released by the Dodgers without ever appearing in a Spring Training game. 

J.C. Gutierrez (Juan) is battling for a return to the big leagues after missing last season with an injury. He is facing an up hill battle but is out of options so if he doesn't make the Royals, he might be a waiver claim candidate.

Arcenio Leon is still in big league camp with the Brewers but has only appeared in two games.  Both of those appearances were last month.

Troy Patton appears to be a fixture in the O's bullpen.  He appears to really like playing for manager Buck Showalter

Felipe Paulino is up to 35 pitches, throwing just fastballs and change ups.  He is slated to return around mid season. 

Jordan Parraz hit a three run pinch hit homer today.  He has had a solid spring but has little chance of making the 25 man roster for Atlanta.  But it is only a short drive from AAA to the ATL.

J.R. Towles has had a descent spring but is all but certainly headed to AAA Memphis.

So based on how things look right now.  Two former G-Stros (Altuve & Patton) are locks to be on rosters on opening day.   After that, those with descent chances are Barnes, Martinez & Gutierrez.  We will check in again next week to see where they stand.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dinner Table Guys

Let's go back to the beginning of my interest in the Astros minor leagues. The Astros came to Greeneville in 2004. At that time, we were just excited to have pro baseball in town. Prior to living in Greeneville, we lived in Birmingham and my daughter and I took in several games there. I loved the baseball and she loved cotton candy. We had missed minor league ball. So when the news broke of an Appy League team moving to Greeneville we were thrilled.

When the Astros announced their roster, I saw a kid named Wallace "Beau" Torbert had been drafted out of the university my wife had spent her first two years of college. Turns out he was from a town just a few miles down the road from where I grew up. One of the first games we went to, we connected and we made arrangements for Beau to come over to the house for lunch one day.

Just a few weeks later, my son (then 4) was at McDonald's with my wife. He saw some young guys nearby and he said to my wife "I think those are Astros players". She told him to go ask. Sure enough, they were.

That night, he and I were at the game and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a young guy with a clip board. He looked at James and said, "Were you the kid who was at McDonald's today?" My son nodded. The player then said, "My name is Troy Patton, I am one of the pitchers but I am charting pitches today. Meet me at the field after the game and I will give you a ball." That night, my son went home with a brand new clean Appalachian League baseball. He still has this ball.  It is still clean and he meant to bring it to Florida for Troy to sign but he forgot.

Troy was then added to lunch plans with Beau. They came over and shared a meal with us and then shared some wiffle ball with James. Troy would pitch to my son and make a fuss over him hitting his curve ball. The season wore on and we continued to build relationships with our "dinner table guys". They come over to the house once more and at my son's requested brought another player with them.
Later that year, I learned I had close to one million dollars in signing bonuses sitting around the table. But I was clueless at the time. These were guys who were happy for a home cooked meal.

The season ended and we exchanged email addresses. We stayed in touch and got to see Troy over the next few seasons in both Low A and High A ball. Then he was promoted to AA and before long, he was wearing a Houston Astros uniform. The morning I woke my son up to tell him that Troy made his major league debut, his response was, "Now I can say I hit a major league curve ball." This year will be Troy's 10th season of pro ball.

We were able to connect when we were at Spring Training last week. Troy continues to make a fuss over my son (who is 13 now) and my son continues to soak up every word Troy says. Last Thursday, Troy showed my son a different change up grip. Saturday, my son was trying to throw that pitch behind the condo. It looked pretty good. Oh, and he also gave him a shiny new Major League Baseball with his name signed on it. 

Photo Property of  AppyAstros (All rights reserved)
Troy with my son in 2004 

(Photo by AppyAstros/All Rights Reserved)
I planned to get an updated picture of the two of them together last week but we got so busy talking, I forgot to take the picture.  Maybe I see where my son gets his forgetfulness from.

Spending time with Troy and the other dinner table guys this spring training makes me long for the players to report to Greeneville and to add more names to the list.  
In nine season, we have had a total of 18 players over to our house for meals. Some were top prospects, some were raw talent that took some time to develop, some were non drafted free agents just trying to get a chance and some were guys spending their third year in Greeneville and knew their pro baseball career would be over at the end of the season. We provided the meal and they provided the memories.

Of those 18 guys, four were in big league camp with two assured a MLB spot. Two more are battling for roster spots. We got to see all four of these guys play on our trip to spring training and got to talk to three of them. Of the rest of the dinner table guys, one other is in a minor league camp and one is a hitting coach in indy ball. Two are coaching high school baseball. One owns a small construction company. One works as a division director for a staffing company. One plans to graduate law school in a few months. One is working on obtaining a visa to come back to America. One is selling fitness products and giving private hitting lessons. There are a few that I have lost touch with over time.

Each one of them will always be one of our dinner table guys.  There are other players who we were never able to have over but hold honorary seats at the table.  So if you ever see biases in my writing you can bet they were likely a dinner table guy. 

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 is hitting .314 through 12 games (35 At Bats).  We got to visit with him briefly down in Florida and he is the same nice guy he was in Greeneville.  He is a lock for the roster.

Brandon Barnes is making a case for a back up outfield spot.  He has played in 12 games and his hitting .409 in 22 at bats.  He is tied for the lead in HR on the team this spring with three.  He continues to play solid defense in the outfield.

Barnes & Altuve talk during warm ups
 (Photo by AppyAstros/All Rights Reserved)

Jose Cisnero appeared in two games (2 2/3 innings) before being sent down to minor league camp.

Delino DeShields appeared in 10 games and received 12 at bats.  He got four hits and stole two bases in three attempts.  He was moved back to minor league camp during the weekend.

Rene Garcia he has appeared in seven games with just eight at bats.  It won't be long before he is back in minor league camp.  We saw him at spring training and he is no longer the skinny kid he was in Greeneville. 

Jordan Lyles has been working on specific issues at the instruction of the Astros' coaching staff.  Therefore, his results on the mound haven't been pretty but results aren't the focus right now.

J. D. Martinez has played in 13 games with 31 at bats.  He is hitting just .258 this spring but likely has a spot on the roster. 

Chris Wallace has appeared in three games with out getting a hit.  Like Garcia, he is there for catching depth and will likely be returning to minor league camp soon.

Michael Foltynewicz appeared in one game and pitched a scoreless inning before being sent back down to minor league camp.  He was seen working out with the AA group during minor league drills.

Ross Seaton made appearances in two games and didn't give up any earned runs in his 2 2/3 innings pitched.  He has been sent back to minor league camp.

Though Jonathon Meyer and Roberto Pena were on the major league roster list, they have yet to appear in a major league spring training game.

Outside of Astros camp, Fernando Abad has been in the running for the final spot in the Nationals bullpen, but it looks like he will be the odd man out.

Felipe Paulino continues his rehab back from Tommy John surgery and will start the season on the DL.

Juan Guttierez (J.C.) has struggled recently and appears to be losing the battle for a major league roster spot. 

Troy Patton after struggling in February, he has had two scoreless outings in March.  He also appears to be getting a good number of ground balls this spring.  We had a chance to talk to Patton during spring training.  He talked about the fact that he came up as a starter and has four pitches has made his transition to the bullpen easy.  He said he can face right handed batters and never show them the same pitch in an at bat.

Jordan Parraz is hitting .200 in 25 at bats over 16 games.  He appears to be headed for AAA.

J.R. Towles is hitting .375 in 11 games (16 at bats).  However, he doesn't appear to have a realistic shot at the Cardinals' opening day roster.

Arcenio Leon has made two appearances for the Brewers giving up two runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched.

Victor Garate is still on the Dodgers roster but has not appeared in a game thus far. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Carlos Correa Talks About Winter Ball, Upcoming Season & Future WBC Participation

This morning, I stumbled across an interview with Carlos Correa from February 24th on elnuevodia.com.  He talked candidly on several subjects. All quotes are translated via google translator. Here are the highlights.

On playing winter ball for the Carolina Giants in his home country this year: 
"You're playing and with adults. It is not the same as playing with kids your age ... Now you face more competition and that requires making better adjustments and develop yourself as soon as possible to be at that level...
On his off season training:
"I had a plan of work, followed it to the letter and thank God it was good preparation. Everything happens for a purpose, "he said Correa, 6'4".
"I am in the best time I ever had physically as an athlete ... The preparation was there. Good nutrition and rest were always there. The preparation has been very good. Now, go to prove there in the field, and hope that everything goes well, "he added.
On his upcoming season:
"Everything will dictate the work we are doing in the field .... We are focused, mentally and physically prepared to do the job, "said Correa, currently rated as the second best prospect in the organization of Houston."It's a busy year evaluation, which will tell a lot. It will be a year very important for my career, "he added.
On expectations of his quick climb up the ladder:
"I have no hurry. Simply, I have to do my work in the field. The Astros and my work in the field will dictate how soon get to the big leagues, "said Correa, aware that the dismal performance of Houston in recent years could work to your advantage. "That franchise is not the best at this time is good for the players that are in Little League, and we can take a leap to the big leagues faster than a player who is in the Yankees organization."
On the possibility of playing for Puerto Rico in the WBC in 2017:
"It's very big. Already on the island, you represent your island and play for her. As game for the Houston Astros, represent my island is even more exciting, "he said Correa, without anticipating the possibility that the Astros may impede their future participation in the event. "I'm not so much in the future. I focus on what is happening now and next plans to follow. It depends on what happens will be taking decisions, but are things beyond my control right now, "he added.
Ruled, however, that major league teams should be more cooperative."They should support him if Major League is organizing this event.Obviously, people want to see play the best players from each country. They want to see them in action. That gives them more reasons to fans going to the game. "