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, April 29, 2013

Wierzbicki Featured in QC Paper

Former Greeneville Astro Jesse Wierzbicki has a nice feature in the Quad Cities local paper.  The article focuses on a knee injury that forced him to move from catcher to first while he was in college.  Here is what his current manager, Omar Lopez had to say about him.  Lopez was also his manager during his time in Greeneville.

"He's got a lot of potential to be in this organization and baseball for a long time,"... "When you work like that, he could be in the big leagues."
Wierzbicki is a bit older for the league he is playing in and his maturity shows in the approach he takes towards the game.
"I try to just play each day and not try to think too much into the future. You never know what can happen. But I'm trying to stay positive and get better each day." 

Blast from the past - here is video of Wierzbicki's first pro homer in Greeneville

Friday, April 26, 2013

Early Trends From Tandem Pitching

I have been very interested in the tandem pitching system put in place by the Astros this year in their minor league system.  Even though we are dealing with a very small sample, I was curious if there were players who were performing more effectively in  the starter role verses the reliever role and who was better at shutting the door than opening it.  I was also interested in seeing who was performing well regardless of what role they were in. Let's look at the pitchers at Quad Cities, Lancaster, & Corpus Christi since their rotation hasn't been cannibalized like OKC's has.

Pitchers Post Work Stretch @ Spring Training - Photo by AppyAstros (Use by permission only)

Please let me start:
Here are the guys who have the biggest difference between their starter ERA (S-ERA) and their reliever ERA (R-ERA)

Luis Cruz (Lan)  -7.38
S-ERA 0.93 (9 2/3 IP)
R-ERA 8.31 (8 2/3 IP)
12 of the 16 hits allowed have been as a reliever.  

Mike Hauschild (QC) -5.85
S-ERA 0.90 (10 IP) 
R-ERA 6.75 (5 1/3 IP)
Hausechild's numbers don't jump out with any big splits.  Possibly a case of small sample size since he excelled in the reliever role in Greeneville last season.

Bobby Doran (CC) -4.50

S-ERA 0.90 (10 IP)
R-ERA 5.40 (8 1/3 IP)
Both HR surrendered came as a reliever.  Has walked four as a reliever verses just one as a starter.

No, you go ahead. I insist:
These are the guys who have performed more effectively as relievers than as starters.  Their S-ERA is much higher than their R-ERA.

David Rollins (Lan) +7.45
S-ERA 7.45 (9 2/3 IP)
R-ERA 0.00 (12 IP)
14 of his 22 Ks have come as a reliever

Joe Bircher (QC) +7.00
S-ERA 7.00 (9 IP)
R-ERA 0.00 (7 IP)
All his HR (2) and Walks (3) have come as a starter.

Tyson Perez (Lan) +5.26
S-ERA 6.39 (12 2/3 IP)
R-ERA 1.13 (8 IP)
Has 18 hits and seven walks as a starter against six hits and no walks as a reliever.

Just give me the ball!
These guys have performed equally well regardless of which half of the tandem role they fulfilled.

Asher Wojciechowski (CC) +1.20
S-ERA 1.20 (15 IP)
R-ERA 0.00 (8 IP)

Lance McCullers Jr (QC) -.39
S-ERA 2.45 (7 1/3 IP)
R-ERA 2.84 (6 1/3 IP)

Vincent Velasquez (QC) +2.70
S-ERA 2.70 (10 IP)
R-ERA 0.00 (8 IP)

In looking at the stats, it looks like two guys have already settled into full time starter roles.  Jake Buchanan has made four straight starts and Michael Foltynewicz has made three starts in a row. (4/27/13 - figures as soon as point this out, Folty pitched in relief last night.)

Grant Hogue Leaves Baseball WIth Class

Yesterday, I saw this tweet from former Greeneville Astro Grant Hogue
What a classy good bye.  But if you have had any interaction with Grant Hogue, that should come as no surprise.  Grant was on the 2009 G-Stros.  That team was full of young draft picks that needed a leader. Grant filled that role with ease.  He also became a fan favorite with easy smile and his polite Southern way of answering "yes sir and yes ma'am" to everyone. 

As I thought about his time in Greeneville last night, I have to share my favorite Grant Hogue memory.  I actually got to talk to Grant about it during spring training.  He remembered more details that I did! 

They were playing the K-Mets and an Astros pitcher hit a batter.  The batter acted like he was coming toward the pitcher and there was some mouthing going on.  Everyone was slowly moving towards the mound in case something erupted.  Everyone was moving slowly that is except for Grant Hogue.  Grant was sprinting in from center field and was already on the infield grass as things started to calm down.  That is the way I will remember the player Grant Hogue.  Running to the infield in a dead sprint to have his pitchers back. 

Best of luck to Grant as the next chapter of his life begins.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Two Former G-Stros Homer For Different Teams In Same Game

In the Atlantic League match up between the Long Island Ducks and the Sugarland Skeeters. Two former G-Stros accounted for all of the runs scored. Both players were from the 2005 edition of the Greeneville Astros. Ralph Henriquez hit a solo home run in the seventh to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. But Koby Clemens powered a two run homer in the eighth to secure the victory for the Skeeters. Both Henriquez and Clemens were drafted by the Astros in 2005 and were sent to Greeneville to start their pro careers. This is the first full season in independent ball for both players.

Jose Cisnero is 14th Greeneville Astro to Get THE Call

Brian McTaggart is reporting that Jose Cisnero is on a plane heading to Houston to join the Astros bullpen. That makes Cisnero the 14th former Greeneville Astro to get the call to come to the big leagues in the nine seasons since the franchise moved to Greeneville.  He will join 2009 G-Stro teammates Jose Altuve and J D Martinez when he gets to Houston.  Here is the list:

Here is the list of former Greeneville Astros who have made it to the big leagues

#1 RHP J C (Juan) Gutierrez
Greeneville Astros: 2004
MLB Debut: 8/19/2007 with Houston Astros
Currently with KC Royals

#2 LHP Troy Patton
Greeneville Astros: 2004
MLB Debut: 8/25/2007 with Houston Astros
Currently with Baltimore Orioles

#3 RHP Felipe Paulino
Greeneville Astros: 2004
MLB Debut: 9/5/2007 with Houston Astros
Currently on KC Royals DL

#4 C J.R. Towles
Greeneville Astros: 2004
MLB Debut: 9/5/2007 with Houston Astros
Currently in AAA in Cardinals system.

#5 RHP Jimmy Barthmaier
Greeneville Astros: 2004
MLB Debut: 6/27/2008 with Pittsburgh Pirates
Out of Baseball

#6 RHP Sammy Gervacio
Greeneville Astros: 2005
MLB Debut: 8/14/2009 with Houston Astros
Currently in Mexican League (AAA - Unaffiliated)

#7 LHP Victor Garate
Greeneville Astros: 2005
MLB Debut: 9/5/2009 with Washington Nationals
Currently in Mexican League (AAA - Unaffiliated)

#8 LHP Fernando Abad
Greeneville Astros: 2007
MLB Debut: 7/28/2010 with Houston Astros
Currently in AAA in Nationals organization

#9 RHP Henry Villar
Greeneville Astros: 2008
MLB Debut: 9/10/2010 with Houston Astros
Out of Baseball

#10 RHP Jordan Lyles
Greeneville Astros: 2008
MLB Debut: 5/31/11 with Houston Astros
Currently in AAA - Oklahoma City

#11 2B Jose Altuve
Greeneville Astros: 2008-09
MLB Debut: 7/20/11 with Houston Astros -Current

#12 LF J. D. Martinez
Greeneville Astros: 2009
MLB Debut: 7/30/11 with Houston Astros - Current

#13 OF Brandon Barnes
Greeneville Astros: 2005-06
MLB Debut: 8/7/12 with Houston Astros- Current

#14 RHP Jose Cisnero
Greeneville Astros 2009
MLB Debut: 4/22/13

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Big Games for Former G-Stros

Normally I post the highlights for former Greeneville Astros box scores on twitter.  Just highlighting the best performances of the night.  However, last night, there are several that are worth mentioning and giving a little more attention to.

In the Majors, Brandon Barnes hitting his first home run of the year for the Astros and Jose Altuve raising his average to .371 with a 2 for 3 night were some of the only highlights for the big league club.  In the minors, it was a different story. 

Delino DeSheilds went 3 for 3 with two triples, two RBI, three runs scored and one walk in Lancaster's win over Bakersfield.  He also stole two bases in the game.  Since returning from a five day layoff with a bum finger.  DDJ is 4 for 6 with a double, two triples and three walks.  Exactly what you want from a lead off guy.

Luis Cruz continued his solid start to the 2013 season in Lancaster.  He pitched five inning shut out innings, giving up just one hit, one walk and striking out five batters.  Cruz even earned the prestigious Morgan Ensberg "He's a really good player" award. Cruz has been working in the tandem starting role in Lancaster this season.  He has appeared in four games.  In 16 2/3 IP, he has allowed just nine hits, eight walks, four runs and has struck out 22 batters.

But the biggest night belonged to David Martinez of Corpus Christi. He pitched five perfect innings against Frisco in AA last night.  He threw just 60 pitches in five innings.  With the current tandem pitching rotation in the Astros minor league system, the starting pitcher for the day throws five innings or 75 pitches and the second reliever comes in to throw the last four or 60 pitches.  His ERA for the year is 1.88.  However in the two games he has been the starting pitcher, he has allowed just two hits and two walks in 10 innings pitched.  The plan according to the Astros is for the cream to rise to the top over time and the best five will be starting by mid season.  If Martinez and Cruz keep up what they are doing, they will be among those who continue starting. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Roberto Pena Featured In QC Paper

Okay, I must have been living under a rock but I learned something today while reading the Quad Cities Times feature on former G-Stro and current Quad-Cities Bandit, Roberto Pena.  I had no idea that his dad was Bert Pena who played in 88 games for the Astros from 1981 to 1987. 

Aside from that piece of information there were other nice nuggets in the piece.  Here are a few of those nuggets.  You can go here to read the full story.

On his childhood in Puerto Rico
“I grew up with a baseball in my hand," Pena said. “I learned most of the game from my dad. He was a shortstop, so I was a shortstop. Every day in Puerto Rico, we would play. We would go and watch Winter League games, then we would play. I always thought I would be a shortstop."
 On what he is working on.
“My hitting and the approach is something I work on every day," said Pena, who has hit .227 over his first three seasons in the Astros organization....“I am comfortable with my receiving, but I need to get better with my hitting and I feel like I am headed in the right direction. My dad would tell me this game is about adjusting and getting better and that is what I am trying to do."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Former G-Stros in Indy Ball

Indy ball is an option for players who aren't ready to hang up the spikes and occasionally you will hear of a player being signed from Indy ball back into affiliated ball.  This year, there are 11 former Greeneville Astros playing in four different Independent Leagues.  Here is the list:

American Association:
Mitch Einertson (2004) El Paso
Ryan Mitchell (2005,2006) Amarillo
Colton Pitkin (2007,2008) Winnipeg

In addition to these three, former G-Stro Beau Torbert (2004) works in the front office of the Sioux Falls team as the coordinator of baseball outreach.

Frontier League
Garrett Bullock (2009, 2010) Evansville
Marcus Nidiffer (2010) Travers City
Brad Propst (2011, 2012) River City
Bubby Williams (2009, 2010) Normal

Atlantic League
Ralph Henriquez (2005, 2006) Long Island
Koby Clemens (2005) Sugarland
Wlad Sutil (2004) South Maryland Blue Crabs

Can/Am League
Kyle Greenwalt (2007,2008) New Jersey
Bryce Lane (2010) Newark

When checking these rosters, I came across a few other Astros farm hands who are active in Indy ball.  They are: Neiko Johnson (Gateway - Frontier), Kirk Clark (Sioux Falls - American), Jon Gaston (Rockland - Can/Am).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chris Wallace Traded To Cleveland

2010 Greeneville Astro Chris Wallace has been traded to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for LHP Eric Berger. It is reported that Wallace will head to AA Akron.

Jeff Luhnow has added catching depth to the organization in recent years. He obtained Carlos Perez in the 10 player trade with the Blue Jays last summer and then added Max Stassi in the trade with the A's this February. Stassi started the year on the DL but should be ready to go soon.

Wallace had only appeared in one game for the RedHawks (AAA) this season as a DH. The catching had been done by Jason Jaramillo and Cody Clark. AA catching is currently filled with Perez and Rene Garcia. Wallace was essentially a catcher with out a team. When you add Stassi's return to the mix (expected at AA), there were too many catchers.

 Akron's catcher situation was dire because of the trickle down effect of injuries at the major league level. 

By the end of the game, what had first appeared to be a break for Cleveland native Alex Lavisky, seemed more like a cruel joke.
The dire catching situation for the parent club Indians (Lou Marson was placed on the disabled list with a neck strain and Carlos Santana injured his left thumb in Monday’s home opener) had dominoed into the opportunity for the Aeros back up catcher to make his second start of the season.
Aeros starting backstop Roberto Perez was called up to Triple-A Columbus after the Clippers lost two catchers in Yan Gomes and Omir Santos, both being called up to Cleveland.
That article was writen on the 9th. Yesterday, the Aeros placed Lavisky on the 7 day DL.  They needed catching help badly.

Likewise, the Astros also need arms in AAA due to their staff being depleted by injuries at the major league level. Berger has bounced between AA and AAA the last three years. So he will likely be given the chance to fill the depth at AAA.

42 Day: A Cap Tip to Rachel Robinson

I took my son to go see 42 yesterday. When he was younger, he had a copy of the 1950 production of The Jackie Robinson story. He just about wore it out. He was asked in 1st grade what his favorite movie was and he said "The Jackie Robinson Story". He had been fascinated by Robinson ever since. As he has grown, it was time for him to gain a deeper appreciation for the challenge that Robinson and, to a lesser degree, Branch Rickey faced. We both though the film was well done and left the theater singing "Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball".

One thing I thought was particularly well done in the movie was to show how tough the process was on Jackie's wife, Rachel Robinson. The powerful scene where Phillies Manager Ben Chapman is openly berating Robinson with racist taunts and insults. Robinson was clearly struggling and the camera cut to Mrs. Robinson saying "look at me, look at me." She wanted to let him know he wasn't alone in undergoing the abuse. She wanted to support him but she was in the stands and he was one the field. There were several scenes that I found moving involving the relationship between Jackie and Rachel. Of the four relationship threads in the movie (Robinson and Rickey, Robinson and writer Wendell Smith, Robinson and the team, and Jackie and Rachel) I found this to be the most compelling.

I have great respect for Rachel Robinson.  She heard the taunts, she suffered the abuse second hand, she had to sit still while she saw someone she loved being mistreated, and she was anxious at home while he was on the road in some very hostile places.  It became clear to me that she was a very key part of Jackie Robinson being able to withstand the challenge of breaking the color line. So today as the baseball world wears 42 today to honor Jackie and his remarkable feat. I tip my cap to Rachel Robinson for being there behind Jackie. Supporting him, encouraging him, and urging him on. Helping him become the baseball hero that is remembered today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interview with Correa, McCullers and Ruiz

Tara Wellman shared a nice interview with Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz.  They talk about their chemistry, the challenge of high expectations and the need to continue to adjust to the speed of the game.  Great interview:

Inside Sports: River Bandits from Mediacom Connections on Vimeo.

If you are not following Tara on Twitter I recommend a follow for some good Quad Cities news. 

Gutierrez Coming Back Strong From Surgery

The Kansas City Star had a nice feature up this weekend about former Greeneville Astro J.C. Gutierrez (2004).  Gutierrez had to battle for the final spot in spring training with the Royals and won it in part due to the fact that he was out of options.  He also had been pitching very well.

“Inventory plays into it,” manager Ned Yost admitted, “but Gutierrez showed us what we can be. He’s a strike-throwing machine — a really good breaking ball and a 95 mile-an-hour fastball.”
Gutierrez pitched two scoreless outings to start the season before running into a rough patch on Sunday, when he surrendered a three run homer to Jimmy Rollins.

He won't be a free agent until 2016 so he could be a solid bullpen option for the Royals for the next few years.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/04/06/4166011/jc-gutierrez-looking-like-another.html#storylink=cpy

Waiting On The Season

Pardon the Proud Parent Post (otherwise known as a P3). 

This winter, my son entered a poem in a local writing contest at the behest of his mother, who happens to be an English teacher.  Today he is being recognized for winning first prize  7-9 grade poetry in the Andrew Johnson Women's Club annual writing contest. I am sharing the poem here because I am proud of him and because it is baseball related:

Waiting on the Season

Salty tears run down my cheeks
They come from agony pent up for weeks
The cause of which I may not know
It might come from the fresh white snow
The baseball season has gone away
And a shed is where the bases lay
Players young and old can’t wait for spring
When they receive another chance to win a championship ring

The snow is gone from these parts but we are still waiting on the Greeneville Astros season to begin.  Just two months until the draft and a few weeks after that the players will arrive.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Former G-Stros Start Year on DL

Baseball America's Minor League Transactions came out yesterday and confirmed that some of the players not on rosters were in fact on the disabled list.  Here is the list of Astros minor leaguers on the DL.  The former G-Stros are underlined.

RHP Murilo Gouvea
RHP Chia-Jen Lo
RHP Kyle Weiland
LHP Sergio Escalona
LHP Kenny Long
C Max Stassi
3B Andrew Simunic
3B Brandon Wikoff
OF Grant Hogue
OF Telvin Nash

If they are not on this list or on a roster, they are likely in extended spring training. 

In other transaction news, it appears that Ralph Henriquez has been released by the Rockies. Leaving Brandon Barnes the only player from the 2005 team who is still in affiliated baseball. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Progress Report 2004-2007

Since the full season minor league rosters for the Astros were released yesterday, I noticed there is no player in the Astros minor league organization who played for Greeneville in 2004-2007.  There is only one player from that time frame with the big league Astros and that is Brandon Barnes.  Not to bet a much beaten dead horse but it just goes to show how poorly run the system was a few years ago. 

Let's take a look at the 11 players who are left in affiliated ball from those teams.  

There are three players who are still in affiliated ball: Fernando Abad (Nationals AAA), Arcenio Leon (Brewers AA), Albert Cartwright (Phillies AA).

From the 2006 team, Brandon Barnes is in Houston with the big club.  Other than that, Ralph Henriquez is with AA Tulsa (Rockies) and Tom Vessella (AA Giants) are the only players left in affiliated ball.

Barnes and Henriquez are the only two players left in affiliated ball from the 2005 team.

The 2004 team still has a large number in affliated ball but none with the Astros organization.  Troy Patton (Baltimore) and J.C. Gutierrez (Royals) were on opening day rosters.   Felipe Paulino is on the Royals 60 day DL as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery.  He should be back in the majors around the all star break.  J.R. Towles (Cardinals) and Jordan Parraz (Braves) are both in AAA to start this season.

So basically out of the 11 players from those years, you have one player who is a home grown player who is a back up in the major leagues.

You have three players that were traded as a part of packages to obtain needed pieces:
Patton - key piece of the Tejada trade
Gutierrez - traded with Burke & Qualls for Valverde
Paulino - traded for Clint Barmes

And you have seven players who are currently organizational type players or AAAA type players in other systems. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Former G-Stros on Minor League Rosters

The Astros' minor league full season affiliates released their rosters tonight.  Here are the former G-Stros that are listed on those rosters with the year(s) they played in Greeneville in parentheses. I have added a brief comment about each player and what I am watching for this season. 

Quad Cities (Low A):
Carlos Correa (12) - excited to see how he handles an advanced level at a young age
Chase Davidson (11) - hope he can stay healthy and get a chance to show his ability
Mike Hauschild (12)- mature bullpen arm, was too old for Greeneville last year
Jordan Jankowski (12) - same as above
Terrell Joyce (12) - good athlete with some raw power
Mitchell Lambson (12) - is repeating low A in a new league
Lance McCullers (12)  - big jump - let's see how he does with it
Daniel Minor (12) - very excited to see how he does at this level - could move up a level in he continues to show success he had in G'ville last year.
Ariel Ovando (10,11) - surprised to see him here - was working with extended spring group while I was at spring training
Roberto Pena (10) - new catching depth has slowed his climb
Rio Ruiz (12) - another of the young guys taking a big jump 
Jordan Scott (11) - repeating level, looking at OF on roster he should see some time in CF
Vincent Velasquez  (10) - my pick for break out pitcher in first full season since TJ surgery caused him to miss 11 - was very good at Tri Cities last year
Jesse Wierzbicki (11) - will be watching to see if he can build on last year's success in Tri Cities

Luis Cruz (09) - still have hope for little lefty but time is starting to run out
Delino DeShields (10) - should be an all star if he is not promoted first
Michael Foltynewicz (10) - excited by what he showed this spring - how will he handle the winds of the Cal League?
Tyson Perez (11) - repeating the league after an up and down 2012
Carlos Quevedo (09) - repeating level, will be interesting to see if he is a starter or in the pen
Rafael Valenzuela (10) - also repeating the level after solid 2012 season

Corpus Christi:
Ruben Alaniz (10) - continues to quietly climb the ladder
Jorge De Leon (08) - converted shortstop was re-signed as a minor league free agent this year
Rene Garcia (08) - has never had more than nine passed balls in a season
David Martinez (09) - made a splash with some brief time in major league camp this spring
Ryan McCurdy (10) - NDFA out of Duke continues back up catcher career
Jonathan Meyer (09) - had put more weight on frame during off season - we'll be watching to see if power numbers increase
Jiovanni Mier (09) - can he stay out of the training room - important year for former first round draft pick
Ben Orloff  (09) - quietly having a very nice pro career playing mostly SS but some 2nd and 3rd as well
Ross Seaton (08) - repeating level despite solid 2012- newly acquired depth at starting pitching is creating challenge for him
Pat Urckfitz (08) - lefty NDFA took a step backwards last year spending the year in Lancaster - now back in Corpus where he spent most of 2011

Oklahoma City:
Jose Cisnero (08) - struck out 116 in 108 2/3 IP in CC last year
Jordan Lyles (08) - working out mechanical issues so he can be back in the majors soon
Chris Wallace (10) - needs to improve caught stealing numbers this year

Number of Players By Year in Greeneville

2004 -2007 - no remaining players in the Astros farm system
2008 - 6
2009 - 6
2010 - 9
2011 - 5
2012 - 8

Who is missing:
There are a few players who are not on these rosters.  They might be injured, been bumped out of full season spots by acquired players or have been released.  Here are a few that stand out to me who played full season ball last year:

Grant Hogue (09) - was injured when I visited spring training
Chan Moon (11)
Telvin Nash (10)
Murilo Gouvea (09,10)
Luis Ordosgoitti (11)

Koby Clemens A Skeeter

Koby Clemens, who played for the Greeneville Astros in 2005, has signed to play indy ball with the Sugar Land Skeeters.  Clemens, who has played multiple positions over his minor league career, is reported to be catching for the Skeeters.