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.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Eyewitness Report: 6/28/13 Greeneville 2 Kingsport 1

Wow! What a night.  After the teams traded solo home runs in the fifth, there were no runs for nine innings.  Finally in the bottom of the 15th, Greeneville walked off without the benefit of a hit.  Tanner Mathis walked, and was moved to second on a sac bunt by Jack Mayfield.  Darwin Rivera then hit a ground ball to first which should have just moved over Mathis to third but the K-Mets first baseman booted the ball.  It rolled to the edge of the grass and Josh Bonifay took a risk and sent Mathis home.  The throw was slightly up the line and the catcher had to stretch to take Mathis as he zoomed by.  The glove appeared to hit Mathis shoulder and the ball dropped free allowing the winning run to score. 

Here are my observations from the game.

On The Mound: 
A great deal went right here.  Just one run allowed in 15 innings with a team record 25 strike outs.  Let's take a quick look at each pitcher. 

Frederick Tiburcio had a solid start to the game.  He fanned seven and gave up just two hits and walked one in five innings.  The lone damage given up was a solo home run to left by 17 year old, Ahmed Rosario, whom the Mets signed for 1.7 million in the 2012 international signing period.  It was his first professional home run.

Tiburcio threw an unofficial 67 pitches in five innings.  To have that low of a pitch count with that many strike outs is impressive.

Tyler Brunnemann pitched the next two frames.  This was my first time to see Brunnemann pitch.  He has an extreme follow through. When he finishes his pitch his glove hand (left) and his left foot are both touching the ground as he falls toward first base. It is a violent motion that I didn't see him repeating very well.  It was effective when repeated as evidenced by the four strike outs in two innings.  But he also gave up two walks, both on full counts.

Ryan Connelly pitched the eight inning.  The submarine pitcher was the only pitcher of the night not to record a strike out.

Gonzalo Sanudo came in for the next two innings.  He pitched out of a jam in the ninth.  After a lead off double and a ground ball to 2nd to move the runner over, he was faced with a runner at third and one out.  He got Michael Bernal to strike out in a seven pitch at bat for the second out of the inning.
That at bat got circled in my score book as a key out of the game. Bernal had a rough night at the plate. He accounted for 20% of the teams strike outs, going 0-5 with 5 Ks.  Sanudo ended the night with three Ks in his two innings.

Gerado Ramirez came in and may have had the outing of his life time.  He pitched a career high four innings allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out nine K-Mets.

The final pitcher of the night was Christian Garcia.  Garcia pitched the 14th and 15th innings fanning two batters in each inning.  In each inning the lead off runner reached but never made it past first base.

At The Plate: 
Tanner Mathis reached base in five of his six plate appearances: E1, single, and three walks.  This is exactly what you want out of a lead off batter.  Also my 13 year old son observed he has the best walk up music this season.  He is going old school with some Run DMC - It's Tricky.

Wallace Gonzalez hit a towering home run in the fifth.  They had success pitching him away but they left that pitch over the inner half of the plate and he made them pay. Gonzalez appears to be pulling out when he swings so outside pitches are going to be an issue for him. Gonzalez added a single later in the game.

Ariel Ovando and Jack Mayfield also had two hits. 

In The Field:
Parker Hipp made a great play snagging a soft liner to start the game.  I was sure that ball was going to fall for a hit.

Wallace Gonzalez had a nice outfield assist on a shallow fly ball to left.  The runner was moving on the play and Gonzalez throw beat the runner back to first for a double play. 

Jack Mayfield made an outstanding diving stop on a ball in the hole at shortstop.  He popped up and made a good throw to first that Angel Ibanez made a nice stretch to complete the put out.

The defensive star of the night was Cristian Moronta. He was three for three in throwing out runners stealing second.  Two of those were on balls that he blocked and runners broke when he had trouble locating them.  Those three outs were huge in a ballgame this tight.  One ended an inning and two were to nab the hitter who had reached to start the inning.

Final Thought: After the 25 game strike out performance, the G-Stros now lead the Appy League with 104 strikeouts in just nine games. That puts them 16 Ks above second place Johnson City.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jandel Gustave Making A Name For Himself

What an introduction the Greeneville Astros fans received to Jandel Gustave last night.  The 20 year old from Pimentel, Dominican Republic pitched six no hit innings.  He finished the night with a line of: 6 innings pitched, no hits, no runs, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 7 strike outs.  That makes two solid outings for the year for Gustave.  Let's look a little deeper into his outing and then get into his back ground.

Getting the lead off batter out wasn't Gustave's strong suit last night.  He issued a walk to lead off batter Champ Stuart but despite Stuart stealing second, Gustave got out of the inning with no damage thanks to two strike outs and a fly out to center.

In the second, he hit the lead off batter but responded by striking out the next three batters.

In the third, the leadoff batter reached on a fielding error.  Gustave got the next three out with a fly out, a ground out back to the pitcher, and a strike out.

In the fourth, he got the lead off batter out on a strike out but walked the next batter.  He then induced a ground out and a fly out to end the inning.

The fifth was his only one, two, three inning and the first inning with no strike outs.

In the sixth, he again walked the lead off batter but one fly out and two ground balls later, the inning and Gustave's night were over.  He finished the night with a game score of 76! Six of his seven strike outs were of the swinging variety. 

We learned from the game story that Gustave was effective in locating two primary pitches.  A fastball and a slider.  Mike Elias, scouting director of the Astros, was at the game and tweeted that Gustave was hitting 99 MPH. 

Gustave signed as a international free agent on May 25, 2010 as a 17 year old. He spent the next two season in the DSL where his strike out numbers were encouraging (27 in 26 1/3 IP and 19 in 19 1/3 IP), but his control issues were very troubling.  In 2011, in 19 1/3 innings, he walked 34 batters and had 21 wild pitches.

In 2012, he was promoted to the GCL.  There he showed improved control. His BB per nine innings dropped from 15.8 in 2011 to 8.7 in 2012.  His wild pitches dropped to seven while pitching 28 innings.  His strike outs dipped slightly to 22.

Early indications (small sample size alert) are that he has turned a corner in 2013.  After walking more batters than he struck out for three straight years, this year, he has four strike outs for each walk he has issued.  What a turn around! Here are some things I will be looking for as the season progresses.

In his first three seasons, he appeared in 38 games but only started 10.  This year in two starts, he has already thrown 11 innings. He has never thrown more than 28 in a season.  So how he handles an increased workload is one of the things I will be watching.

The development of a third pitch.  Pitchers with two pitches often wind up in the bullpen.  To stay a starter, he really needs a third pitch.  Not that there would be anything wrong in having a home grown late innings guy.

How he handles seeing a team for the second time. How does he adjust as they adjust. 

He has just moved to the top of the list of players I am excited about this season.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eyewitness Report: 6/25/13 Elizabethton 8 Greenevillle 4

Finally made it to Pioneer Park for my first game of the season.  What was a pretty good game for six innings dissolved in the seventh into a rout.  Here are some of my observations from the game:

On The Mound:

Starter Enderson Franco did not get off to a great start.  A four pitch walk to the lead off batter is not the way to start a game.  After a stolen base and a ground out, the runner scored on a two out single to give the E-Twins an early lead.  Lead off walks will kill you every time.

The second inning was when Franco impressed me the most.  After the third baseman booted the first batter's attempt.  The next batter hit a tailor made 5-4-3 double play ball that was dropped by the second baseman.  So instead of two outs. It was runners at first and second with no outs.  Franco induced a 3-1 ground out before walking a batter to load the bases.  He then got a pop to third in foul territory and a strike out to avoid any damage.  However the side effect of giving a team two extra outs in the inning is Franco threw 18 pitches that inning instead of just seven.

In the third, he only faced three batters but threw 20 pitches.  The inning went three pitch strike out looking, eight pitch F8 and nine pitch strike out swinging.

In the fourth, Franco got a lead off strikeout and then allowed three straight singles to the bottom of the line up.  He still got out of the inning with just one run scoring. His night was done after four innings.  By my count, he threw 71 pitches, with 50 of the going for strikes.  He fanned five batters and allowed four hits and two walks.

Franco needs to work on keeping base runners closer. In the first inning both runners who reached stole second and the throw never had a chance.  He has a pretty good size leg kick in his stretch and it allows runners to get a good jump on him.

He was relieved by  Edison Frias.  Frias didn't pitch badly, he just doesn't have an out pitch.  He faced five batters who fouled off at least one ball after a two strike count.  None of those at bats ended in a strike out.  Most of them ended up in base hits.  His breaking pitch was in the dirt and the E-Twins were not swinging at it.  He needs an out pitch.  He threw 74 pitches in 3 2/3 innings with 49 of the pitches for strikes.  He struck out two batters and walked one.  He allowed nine hits with five going for extra bases.

Ryan Connolly got the last four outs for the G-Stros.  He is an extreme side arm pitcher. No balls got out of the infield off him.  One was hit well but a nice play by Borchering at first took care of it.

At The Plate: 

Tanner Mathis did what you want a lead off to do.  He got on base.  He went 1-3 but also reached on a walk and a HBP.

Edwin Gomez had the two big hits for the night for Greeneville.  A RBI triple in the 4th and a two run homer in the 8th.  The home came on the seventh pitch of the at bat with a full count. Both hits were to right center.

Ricky Gingras had two hits, including a double to lead off the fourth.

Juan Santana added two singles.

Ariel Ovando looked very off balance at the plate.  He has a big step in the load of his swing and I believe it makes it hard for him to adjust to off speed pitches.  He was getting a heavy diet of breaking balls. He struck out swinging twice and hit two grounders to first.  The only good contact was on a couple of foul balls.

Bobby Borchering looked out of sorts as well.  He had one good hit that was smothered by the E-Twins 6'7" first baseman.  But otherwise, it was strikeouts and a pop out to short.

In The Field:

Other than the nice snag by Borchering on a line drive at first, there weren't too many stand out plays.  Gingras did a nice job behind the plate keeping the ball in front of him on several balls in dirt from Frias.

For the second straight night defense at third was an issue.  Angel Ibanez made two errors at third.  One on a well hit but routine grounder that got in on him.  The other was a throw on a tough play coming in.  The throw sailed on him and ended up in the seats.

The other error came on a missed catch by second baseman Parker Hipp.  The throw was low to start the 5-4-3 double play but it appeared to catch him in the palm of the glove and he couldn't squeeze it.

The outfield got lots of practice chasing after balls over their head.  Cut off throws were pretty effective and defensive position of cut off men looked sound.

I hope to make it out to another game this week if life doesn't get in the way. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting to Know Your 2013 Greeneville Astros

[Note from AppyAstros: This is the beginning of some cross posting work I am doing with WhatTheHeckBobby?.  I am thankful to Jayne for giving me the opportunity to expand my audience.]

The coaching staff is here. The clubbie is stocking the club house. The players are getting settled in their lodging for the next few months. Let's learn a little bit about the guys who will wear the G star on their caps this season.

This preliminary roster that was released only shows 22 players.  I would expect more drafted and non-drafted free agents (NDFA) to join this group as we approach the start of the season. 

Alan Abreu (GCL) - This is a great story.  Abreu was signed as a non drafted free agent out of Lander University by the Astros after a private workout in September of 2011 as a pitcher.  They signed this guy who:
"never pitched in his two years at Lander. Nor did Abreu pitch for Eastern Kentucky University, where he played his freshman year. Abreu didn't even pitch in high school. Believe it or not, he never even pitched in little league ball."
The right handed pitcher posses a 95 MPH fastball and is still learning to pitch. He was effective but not dominant in the GCL with just eight strike outs in 20 innings but still had a low 2.70 ERA.  

Tyler Brunnemann (40th Rd 2013) - Brunnemann was the final draft pick of 2013 for the Astros.  He is out of Hardin Simmons University in Texas.  The righty throws in the low to mid 90's with a curve, a change and is developing a slider. Pitching in tough situations shouldn't bother him much since he has already faced having a non-malignant brain tumor removed when he was 11!

William "Austin" Chrismon - (26th Round 2013) - Chrismon spent his first two college seasons at East Carolina before transferring to Christopher Newport University.  He is the first player from CNU to be drafted.  In one outing this season, the right hander struck out 18 batters in eight innings.

Enderson Franco (GCL) - The 20 year old right handed pitcher from Venezuela comes to Greeneville after spending two years in the GCL.  He has pitched mostly as a starter and really improved his control in 2012, cutting his walks from 3.3/9 innings to 1.4/9 innings.

Jandel Gustave (GCL) - A 20 year old from the Dominican Republic.  Appears to have good stuff with 22 Ks in 28 innings but struggles with control with 27 walks.  Let's hope the young righty learns to harness the stuff.

Krishawn Holley (GCL) - A 39th round pick in 2009 by the Astros. He made just one appearance in the GLC in 09 due to signing late.  He has spent the last two years in the GCL with limited action. When he has pitched, his numbers are impressive.  In 31 innings as a pro, he has an ERA of 1.45 with 24K and a WHIP of 0.968.   An intriguing right handed pitcher that I am excited to see in person.

Sebastian Kessay (22nd Round - 2013) - A lefty from Scottsdale Community College, Kessay fanned 98 in 72 innings this season.

Chris Lee (Greeneville) - This will be the 2010 4th round pick's third time to be in Greeneville.  He has struggled to stay healthy. The lefty threw just 8 2/3 innings in 2012.  Here's hoping the third time is the charm.

Jordan Mills (28th round 2013) - Was surprised to hear his name called on draft day.  The tall (6' 5") left handed pitcher throws a fastball (88-92), a slider and a change up.

J.D. Osborne (36th Round 2013) - Another left handed pitcher, Osborne was a fifth year senior with Wofford prior to being drafted.  He made 27 relief appearances for the Terriers with 37 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings pitched.

Frederick Tiburcio (Greeneville) - The second of our returners this season.  Tiburcio showed flashes of promise last season.  He struck out 55 batters in 58 1/3 innings pitched.  He is a 22 year old right handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic.

Ricky Gingras (Greeneville) - Gingras returns to Greeneville where he showed some pop hitting three HR in 29 games last season.  He and Alfredo Gonzalez will split most of the catching duties.

Alfredo Gonzalez (GCL) - The 20 year old from Venezuela showed significant improvement in his second year in the GCL.  He raised his average from .172 to .244 and cut his passed balls down from 15 to 9.  He threw out 37% of base stealers in 2012.

Cristian Moronta (Greeneville) - The 23 year old from the Dominican Republic returns to Greeneville for his third season.  It is likely he will likely see limited game action and will be the bullpen catcher.  However, he brings some maturity and leadership to the team.  He received the 2011 Oscar Pedron award for leadership. 

Edwin Gomez (GCL) - Signed last season after being released from the Tigers system.  He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft and had made it as far as A ball before being released.  He is a 21 year old from Puerto Rico who primarily played first for the GCL Astros but has history playing the corner outfield spots. That may come in handy with just three outfielders on the roster thus far.

Angel Ibanez (Greeneville) - Ibanez finished strong last season hitting .305 in 24 games in August. The 22 year old was drafted in the 28th round of the 2012 draft.  He primarily plays third. 

Jack Mayfield (NDFA 2013) A non drafted free agent signed out of the University of Oklahoma, Mayfield plays mostly 2nd base.  He hit .254 in 2013 with seven HR in his senior season.

Darwin Rivera (GCL) - This is Rivera's second trip to Greeneville.  He came here as an 19 year old and struggled in the field committing 30 errors. He spent last year in the GCL and hit well (.310) and made just 15 errors at 3rd.

Juan Santana (GCL) - He is a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic who plays the middle infield positions.  He hit .268 with 12 doubles for the GCL Astros last year. 

Wallace Gonzalez (GCL) - Drafted in the 29th round of the 2011 draft, Gonzalez has spent two seasons in the GLC prior to coming to Greeneville.  He showed more power in his second season raising his slugging percentage almost 100 points.  Expect to see him manning the corner outfield spots.

Tanner Mathis (NDFA) - Mathis was drafted by the Astros in 2012 out of Ole Miss, but chose not to sign.  After not getting drafted in 2012, he signed on with the Astros as a non drafted free agent.

Marc Wik (Greeneville) - Drafted in the 21st round of the 2012 draft, Wik played mostly left field in Greeneville last season, though he did play in right some and got a few games at 2nd.  He started hot at the plate last year but faded as the year drug on. 

Wik, Marc

The New Players Guide to GreenEville 2013 Edition

(Updated from last year's post because well things change)

I am very excited for opening day for the short season being less than a week away.  Today, the players are supposed to be rolling in to town and getting settled before the season begins. This year, it looks like most of the  players will be making their first trip to the Greeneville, I thought I would give them an inside look at the town, the fans and some unsolicited advice about your time in Greeneville and some ways to occupy you friends and family when they come to visit this summer.

The first thing you need to know is the big E is important here.  Locals take pride that we are the only city in the country to have the e between the n and the v.  That is because it is named for a person not the color.  The person the town is named after is the revolutionary war hero Nathanael Greene.  There is also a nuclear submarine named after the town, the USS Greeneville - it was the one that hit the fishing boat a few years ago if you remember the controversy

Several big names have called Greeneville home and you will hear folks talk about them.

Davy Crockett was born in Greene County.  There is a state park on this birthplace site in the east end of the county.

The 17th President Andrew Johnson moved here as a young person and started his political career here.  There is a national historic site here.  It is a great place to send your parents when they come visit while you are at practice.  He is also buried in the national cemetery.

There are other cool history geeky kind of things to do and see in Greeneville. My favorite is the cannon ball church. Actually it is Cumberland Presbyterian Church on the corner of Church and Main.  But because it has a civil war cannon ball stuck in its front wall, everyone just calls it the cannon ball church. 

For baseball history, check out the little museum outside the front offices at the stadium.  You get a flavor of baseball in Greeneville.  You will learn about Greeneville's major leaguers Dale Alexander, who hit .331 over five seasons with the Tigers and the Red Sox, and about Rance Pless.

The latest big name to hail from Greeneville is the Country Pop group The Band Perry.  Last season, they were the local bobblehead.

Let's Eat
Greeneville is not a very big town but there are plenty of places to eat, unfortunately most of them are not open after the games.  Here are your options after games:  Applebee's, Waffle House, fast food drive through (McD's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, DQ, etc) and Tipton's Cafe

If your folks or girlfriend are in town and they are looking for good lunch spots.  Let me recommend some local flavor - The Sandwich House (best burgers-but warning it is cash only), Salsa's (best mexican), The Bean Barn, Top Choice BBQ, and Peggy Ann's Bakery.  There are other local places that are good too (Amy's Kitchen & Aunt Bea's) and it is a shame many players don't get eat at these places because they don't fit the ball players schedules but most are with in a mile or two of the hotel where the players stay.

For Saturday morning breakfast, I highly recommend The Farmer's Daughter.  It is about 15 minutes out of town but this family style restaurant will fill you up with good southern cooking.  They also serve lunch and dinner Friday-Sunday.  (Cash or check only).  While you are out there, Moms & Grandmas often enjoy going through the Mountain View Bulk Food store next door. The locals call it "the Mennonite store".  They have great fresh baked items, a wonderful deli and spices and baking supplies in bulk.

If you are a coffee person, the Creamy Cup is very close to the stadium and they have good lemonaid as well. 

For something nicer, Brumley's inside the historic General Morgan Inn in has a great lunch and weekend brunch. The General Morgan Inn is also a great place for parents to stay when they come into town.  A bit pricey but beautiful. It is worth a walk through just to see the inside of the lobby.

The Fans
Greeneville has won the league attendance title every year since the team arrived in 2004.  There are season ticket holders who know there baseball and there are folks who go just one time a year when someone they know is going to be on the field before the game.  Most of the regular attenders are very friendly and will strike up a conversation with you.  There is no formal host family system in Greeneville.  However, some families might invite you over for a meal.  Accept the invite if you can.  A free home cooked meal is never a bad thing.

A little unsolicited advice
There are some players who played in Greeneville and you will hear fans talk about them with reverence.  It is not so much what they did on the field, it is how they treated the fans.

If you are the guy who is warming up the right fielder and collects the balls from the guys warming up, please don't throw a ball to the kids who are begging like street children in a third world country.  They are like stray cats.  Feed them once and they never go away and more will come.  Kids will be hanging around the dug out bothering you the whole game if you do it one time. The fans who sit in those sections appreciate your cooperation with this.

Foul balls are different, I don't know why but they don't tend to draw the attention of ball beggars as much.  So feel free to throw foul balls up to kids.

On autographs, the first manager in Greeneville, Tim Bogar, told his players, "Sign every autograph you can, one day, no one will want your autograph." While this is good advice, I want to add to it.  Sign the autographs that will make the other persons day the most.  Kids first and guys with a duffle bag of stuff they plan to sell last.  For many kids, they only come to a few games and you have just made their day with an autograph.

Again, welcome to Greeneville! The next two and a half  months will be a whirlwind.  I wish you the best of luck.  See you at the park!

PS that little town you drove through when you got of of I-81, Moshiem. It is pronounced MossHyme not Mo Shium (I learned that when I moved here just over 10 years ago).

Former G-Stros on Tri Cities Roster

The tentative 2013 Tri-Cities ValleyCats roster was released over the weekend.  It is a good mix of players stepping up from other short season teams and newly drafted players.

Here are the former G-Stros who are on the ValleyCats roster at this time:

Tanner Bushue
Kevin Comer
Adrian Houser
Michael Feliz
Christian Garcia
Andrew Walter
Ernesto Genoves
Luis Alvarez
Jose Fernandez
Chan Moon
Michael Martinez
D'Andre Toney

Here are the players that haven't been assigned to a club yet who might wind up in Gville today when players report.  Some of these might be released.

Zachary Dando
Erick Gonzalez
Joseph Musgrove
Francis Ramirez
Frederick Tiburcio
Ricky Gingras
Angel Ibanez
Marc Wik

There are other players who were listed on the Tri-Cities roster on the team's website who are not listed on the tentative roster.  They will either be returned to another level or be released.

Scott Zuloaga-correction - he retired last off season, he just hadn't been taken off the roster.
Euris Quezada
Cristian Moronta

Friday, June 14, 2013

Draft Digging

After looking at the results of the 2013 Astros draft, I was taken aback by the small number of high school players taken.  But when I dug deeper, I realized I shouldn't have been shocked.  In the last six drafts, here is the percentage of high school players drafted by Jeff Luhnow. 

2007 (Cardinals) 16% (8/51)
2008 (Cardinals) 16% (8/51)
2009 (Cardinals) 14% (7/50)
2010 (Cardinals) 21% (11/52)
2011 (Cardinals) 24% (12/50)
2012 (Astros) 27% (11/41)
2013 (Astros) 23% (9/40)

So it looks like 2012 was actually that odd year.  The Astros only signed 4 of the 11 high school players drafted in 2012.  If they sign half of the nine this year, the number of younger players in the system may be about the same.

It appears that the trend for Luhnow drafts is that the number of HS players taken will be somewhere around 15-25% depending in the depth of high school players in the draft that year.

The number that has really dropped off has been the number of JuCo players drafted by Luhnow and company. Did the reduction of rounds 41-50 impact this?

2007 - 8
2008 - 7
2009 - 9
2010 - 6
2011 - 8
2012 - 4
2013 - 2 

A Tale of Two Drafts

The real evaluation of  a draft is what happens four to five years down the road.  Let's look back at the Cardinals draft from 2009 to see how effective Jeff Luhnow and his staff were with that draft. Then we will look at the Astros draft from the same year and see which draft team you prefer. The Cardinals had the 18th overall pick and the Astros had the 20th overall pick. The Astros also had a compensation pick as well for not signing their 3rd round pick in 2008. So they had 51 picks total.

Cardinals 2009 Draft

Breakdown of players drafted/signed:
High School - 7 drafted, 5 signed, 4 active (MLB, Hi-A, 2-LoA)
Junior College - 9 drafted, 9 signed, 4 active (2-MLB, AAA, Hi-A)
College - 34 drafted, 30 signed, 8 active (3-MLB, 2-AAA, AA, Hi-A, Lo-A)

The major leaguers who are included in this draft are:

Shelby Miller (1st rd-HS)
Joe Kelly (3rd rd - College)
Matt Carpenter (13th rd - College)
Trevor Rosenthal (21th rd - JC)
Matt Adams (23th rd - College)
Keith Butler (24th rd - JC)

The Cardinals signed 44 out of 50 of their draft picks (88%) and still have 36% of those signed still active in their affiliated ball. That is 32% of the players that drafted both signed and unsigned.

Astros 2009 Draft

Breakdown of players drafted/signed:
High School - 19 drafted, 9 signed, 6 active (3-AA, Hi-A, 2-Extended Spring Training)
Junior College - 5 drafted, 3 signed, 0 active
College - 27 drafted, 24 signed, 4 active (2-MLB, 2-AA)

The MLB players included are:

Dallas Keuchel (7th rd - College)
J.D. Martinez (20th rd - College)

The Astros signed 36 out of their 51 draft picks (71%) and still have 28% of those signed active.  So basically 20% of the players drafted are still in affiliated ball today. Those who are active are at much lower levels than the ones in the Cardinals organization.

Just another reminder of why I am glad we have Jeff Luhnow leading the Astros as GM.  I believe the 2013 draft will be much closer to the Cardinals' 2009 draft than that Astros' 2009 draft when we look back in 2017.

JR Towles To Have Thumb Surgery

Former 2004 G-Stro J.R. Towles will miss some time due to surgery on his thumb. The injury occurred on June 8th when he tagged a runner out in a collision at the plate.  After a MRI didn't show anything and he still couldn't move his thumb, he was sent to a hand specialist who recommended surgery.  It is unknown how long Towles will be out of action.

Towles had started the season with the Cardinal organization in AAA.  He was released and signed by the Dodgers and was playing for Alburquerque (AAA) when the injury occurred. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Former G-Stro Felipe Paulino Has Successful Rehab Outing

Felipe Paulino (2004) continued his long rehab from Tommy John surgery by making a rehab appearance in AA NW Arkansas last night.  Paulino threw 67 pitches (42 for strikes) in five innings.  He allowed two hits and two runs while striking out six.  He didn't allow a run to score.  He is expected back sometime around the All Star Break. 

One interesting note is that his return might result in former G-Stro J.C. Gutierrez losing his spot in the bullpen.  With both Paulino and Danny Duffy returning to the rotation, some starters will return to the pen. The domino effect might mean Gutierrez, who was the last man added to the pen but who is out of options might be put on waivers.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Houston Astros Team Double Play Record in Reach

Last week, I covered Jose Altuve's impressive season turning the double play and how he has a shot to break the team and maybe the AL record.  Today, let's look at the double play from a team perspective.  The Astros currently lead all of baseball with 77 double plays turned.  Over 65 games that averages out to 1.18 DP's per game.  Over a 162 game season, that would equal over 190 double plays. To put that in franchise perspective, let's look at the seasons the Astros turned 160 double plays or more.

1. 1999 - 170 DPs (97-65 -1st in NL Central )   This team was lead by Craig Biggio at second who was involved in 117 of the 170 (69%) of the double plays turned. Future Greeneville Astros manager  Tim Bogar had 65 and Ricky Gutierrez added 37 at shortstop.  Ken Caminiti contributed another 17 at 3rd.  Of course Jeff Bagwell was the end of most of those at 1st.  He took part in 141.

2.  1975 - 166 DPs (64-97 - 6th in NL West)    Roger Metzger led this group with 83 turned at SS.  He had three partners at second who made significant contributions:  Rob Andrews (65), Larry Milbourne (27), and Tommy Helms (19).  Doug Rader was at 3rd for 24 double plays.  Bob Watson anchored 1st base for 105 of them.

3.  1983 - 165 DPs  (85-77 - 3rd in NL West)   This team had middle infielders who both were involved in over 100 double plays.  Bill Doran at second turned 109 and Dickie Thon at short turned 114.  Ray Knight was the first baseman for that team being involved in 131. Craig Reynolds contributed also at 2nd (7), SS (6) and 3rd (2).   

4.  2009 - 164 DPs  (74-88 - 5th in NL Central)  Adam Everett led this team with 105 double plays turned at SS.  All other positions were a bit of a team effort. Craig Biggio added 80 at 2nd, while Chris Burke added an additional 26 there.  Morgan Ensberg contributed 10 from 3rd. Lance Berkman was a part of 96 at 1st.  Mike Lamb was a part of 48 at 1st, 1 at 2nd and 8 at 3rd.

T5.  2006 - 161 DPs (82-80 2nd in NL Central)   This was the surprise of the bunch to me.  Kaz Matsui assisted on 99 at 2nd and Miguel Tejada was involved in 105 at SS.  Jeff Keppinger (16) and Mike Blum (15) contributed to the total from 3rd.  Kepp also was a part of 12 at 2nd and 2 at SS.  Lance Berkman was the keystone at 1st taking part in 122.

T5.  1974 - 161 DPs  (81-81 4th in NL West)  This group was added by 11 double plays that involved outfielders (Cesar Cedeno - 4, Greg Gross - 4, Bob Watson - 2, and Wilbur Howard -1).  In the dirt areas, Tommy Helms led the way with 99 at 2nd.  Roger Metzger to part in 85 at short and Doug Rader was involved in 28 at 3rd.  Lee May took care of 118 at 1st.

7. 1984 - 160 DPs  (80-82 T-2nd in NL West)   Craig Reynolds was involved in 91 twin killings at SS.   Bill Doran turned 83 at 2nd.  Phil Garner added a team leading 16 at third in addition to another 26 at second base.  Denny Walling added another 14 at 3rd.

It is clear that this 2013 team has a shot to break the franchise record for double plays turned in a season.  

On the other end of the spectrum 
In case you were wondering, the worst teams at turning double plays in a full season were as follows: 

1987 - 113 (76-86 - 3rd in NL West)
1978 - 109 (74-88 - 5th in NL West)
1986 - 108 (96-66 - 1st in NL West)

It is also clear there is not a direct correlation between wins and losses and double plays.  

David Martinez's Unlikely Journey to a AA Breakout Season

When David Martinez pitched in Greeneville, his pedigree didn't scream future major league pitcher.  Lets look at his journey.

He was 21 years old when he appeared on the 2009 roster after four seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League.  In those seasons, he had appeared in 51 games with 16 starts and 18 games finished and his ERA increased every year. He wasn't really a starter and he wasn't really a reliever.

In 2009, he appeared in 22 games for the G-Stros pitching 40 innings all out of the bullpen.  He struck out just 25 batters and allowing a WHIP of 1.50.  These are the numbers of a pitcher that are likely to be released.  But something clicked after this year because his stats started improving after this season.

In 2010, Martinez pitched in Tri Cities.  He reduced his walks from 14 to 11 while pitching 65 2/3 innings.  His strike outs jumped to 57.  He also made 10 starts out of his 17 appearances.

In 2011, he went back to being a primary bullpen pitcher appearing in 37 games, with just five of those as starts. In 66 2/3 innings pitched, his strike outs regressed to 44 and his walks rose to 17 while he faced tougher competition. Three of the five starts came at the end of the season.  Which was a bit of foreshadowing.

In 2012, Martinez for the first time in his minor league career was truly a starting pitcher.  In Lancaster, known as a pitchers purgatory, Martinez made 26 starts plus one bullpen appearance.  All of a sudden, after not throwing more than 66 2/3 innings in any season in his career, he threw 160 innings in 2012.  His strike outs per nine was a respectable 6.4 and his walks per nine went down to 1.9.

He made a strong enough impression that he appeared in three major league spring training games this year before the season.  He was then assigned to AA Corpus Christi where he has made a name for himself while surrounded by well known top prospects.  This season, he is 9-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 61 1/3 innings pitched.  His walks per nine is down to 1.8 and his WHIP is 0.995.  All while facing tougher competition. 

Today, there was a feature in the Chronicle about Martinez and Jake Buchanan.  Here are some of the quotes that highlight Martinez and what is behind his break out season.

Pitching Coach Gary Ruby:
“David has just been phenomenal.... He’s up to the 90-92 (mph) range but his slider right now is as good as anybody’s anywhere. He’s got a good changeup. He’s working on a little bit of a split(finger) for down the road. He works at a great pace, a quick tempo, and he just attacks the bottom of the zone.”
Manager Keith Bodie:
“He’s kind of a darkhorse. … You watch and you say, ‘Man, that ball had some life to it. Man, that ball sunk. Man, they took a bad swing at that breaking ball,’ ” Brodie said. “But they keep doing it and they don’t get a good look at him. His arm slot, from wherever he’s throwing, everything looks like it’s the same."
The season David Martinez is putting up highlights the challenges of player development.  You never know when something is going to click and a player just takes off.  We will be watching to see what happens as he continues to develop. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Altuve & Astros On Verge of Record Season Turning Double Plays

Jose Altuve, who played for the Greeneville Astros in 2008 & 2009, has taken part in 50 double plays in the first 57 games of the Houston Astros season. When you project that rate out for 162 games, that projects to 139 double plays for the season. How would a season like this stack up in history?

photo property of AppyAstros 2013
Altuve Talks To Freddie Freeman During Spring Training (photo property of AppyAstros 2013)
The Big Picture
The major league record for most double plays by a 2nd baseman is 161 by Bill Mazeroski in 1966.  The AL record belongs to Jerry Priddy of the Yankees in 1950 with 150.  If Altuve gets to the 139, it will be the most double plays by a 2nd baseman since 1957 when Nellie Fox turned 141.  Being in the company of Mazeroski and Fox is pretty heady company.  Not only are both Hall of Famers; they also
are #1 and #2 in career double plays turned by second baseman.  Maz turned 1706 in his career and Fox turned 1619.

Club Record In Easy Reach
In terms of Astros' history, there have only been six seasons by a second baseman where they turned more than 100 double plays. 

1999  Craig Biggio     117
1972  Tommy Helms  115
1983  Bill Doran         109
1997  Craig Biggio     108
1985  Bill Doran         108
1973  Tommy Helms  104

The club record is definitely within reach and the AL record is not out of the realm of possibility if Altuve stays healthy for the rest of the season. 

If you want to dig deeper, I suggest you go to Altuve's Baseball Reference advanced fielding stats page,  so you can see how those 50 double plays have transpired. It tells you how many were 643,543, 43, 463 and line drives.

Double Plays Are A Team Effort
But it is not just Altuve who is having an impressive season turning double plays. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez  currently has participated in 36 double plays.  That would put him on pace for 102 for the year.  If both cleared 100 double plays, it would mark the third time in franchise history that has happened.  The other two times are:

1983 - Dickie Thon (114) & Bill Doran (109)
1972 - Roger Metzger (101) & Tommy Helms (115)

Where Do Double Plays Come From?
All these double plays make me wonder what is behind them.  Is it the fact the Astros pitchers are serving up more ground balls?  Or is it the infielders are in better position to make the plays due to some of the analytic work by the folks in the baseball operations office?  Is it a combination of the two?  Is it just sheer luck?  What do you think? 

Former G-Stro Troy Patton Trying To Right Ship As He Heads Home

Troy Patton grew up in the Houston area and fulfilled the boyhood dream of being drafted by the Houston Astros and making his MLB debut with the Astros in 2007. He was then traded to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada deal.  After recovering from shoulder surgery, Patton has become a key piece of the Orioles bullpen.  He had a very successful 2012 appearing in 54 games with a 2.43 ERA and 49 Ks to just 12 walks.  Last fall, he became the first former Greeneville Astro to pitch in the post season.

Today, the Orioles come to Houston to open a three game set.  That will give Patton another chance to pitch in his hometown.  However, he is coming home trying to figure out what has gone wrong in 2013.  In 22 games this year, he has already walked more batters (13) and given up as many runs (15) as he did in 2012.

The Baltimore press has noticed the struggles and have talked to Patton about what he is doing about them.  It look like he is taking a two pronged approach.

1. He is going back to throwing bullpen sessions similar to what he did as a starter.
“I’m just trying to get back to what made me good,” Patton said. “I really just wanted to it to work on duplicating mechanics because my missed haven’t been smaller than last year. Aim small, miss small. My misses have been much more dramatic this season.”
2. He is watching video of 2012.
"We've been looking at some film from last year because things went well last season, and I had good results. Just looking at things I might have changed and then I just need to get my fastball to where I want it to go. Working on different things to get my arm where I can consistently throw the pitches where I want to."
He appears to be on the right track with these strategies.  After amassing a 7.71 ERA in May, he started June with a two inning outing where he surrendered two hits but didn't walk a batter and struck out three.  That was his highest strike out total of the season and accounted for 1/5th of his total strike outs for the year.

I am sure there will be a large contingent of fans at the games this series pulling for Patton to do well.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jordan Scott Carrying a 17 Game On Base Streak for QC

In checking the minor league box scores this morning, something jumped out at me.  Jordan Scott has reached base in each of the last 17 games he has played in for the Quad Cities River Bandits!  Here are some notes about this streak:

  • The streak started on 5/13/13 when he went 0 for 4 but reached on a throwing error. That is the only game during the streak he did not reach by a walk or a hit. 
  • Over this stretch, Scott is hitting 18 of 47 (.382) with three doubles.
  • He has raised his average from .223 at the start of the streak to .285 as of yesterday's game. 
  • He has reached base at least two times in 10 of those games. 
  • He has scored in nine games totally 14 runs scored.
  • He has also walked 15 times while striking out only 10. 
  • He has had six games with multiple hits.
  • He has done this hitting in the bottom of the line up.  

Scott is 21 and is repeating the level.  I could see him being called up to Lancaster before the year is out.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Appy Astros Alumni of the Month - May 2013

We are getting closer to seeing baseball in Greeneville.  The draft is next week and players will report on the 16th of June.  Until that time, we spend our time watching box scores of former G-Stros.  Here are the alumni who stood out in the month of May. 

Quad Cities - Low A


No doubt who this one goes to this month.  Carlos Correa hit .349/.423/.442 with six doubles and a triple for the month.  He raised his average from .221 at the end of April to .292.  What may be more exciting is that his strike outs dropped from 23 in April to just 12 in May.  He was also 4 for 5 in the stolen base department.

Honorable mention goes toe Jordan Scott who bounced back from a .217 April with a .319 May.  At the same time, his OBP jumped from .347 to .473 thanks to increasing his walk total from 12 in April to 23 in May.


This month we have co-Alumi of the month in this spot. Lance McCullers continues to put up impressive numbers in QC.  In his seven appearances in May, he struck out 26 batters in 24 innings pitched with a 1.88 ERA.  He did struggle some with walks, offering 14 free passes to batters. 

As good as McCullers has been, Jordan Jankowski deserves a mention as well.  In his six appearances in May, he has struck out 32 batters in 29 1/3 IP.  He only allowed four walks during the month.  His ERA in May was 2.15. Jankowski at 24 is older than league average of 22.2 but he is putting up impressive numbers. It looks like he might be ready for the next challenge.

Honorable mention goes to Mike Hauschild who in seven appearances amassed a 3.09 ERA in 29 2/3 IP.  He fanned 19 while giving up nine walks.  He did not allow a home run during the month.

Lancaster - High A


Despite missing some time with an injury to his hand. Delino DeShields put up impressive numbers in May.  He his .312/.418/.442 with 12 walks and 15 strike outs in 20 games.  After going 5 for 11 in stolen bases in April, he was 7 for 9 in May. 


Despite his struggles during the month in general, when you pitch four innings of a combined no hitter (5/12/13), you get the nod for pitcher of the month.  So we give the nod this month to Luis Cruz.

Corpus Christi - AA


In what may be the biggest bounce of the month, Jonathan Meyer jumped his average from .165 at April's end to .250 as of 5/30.  In May, he put up a .321/.364/.481 line.  Eleven of his 34 hits for the month went for extra bases.  At the same time, he doubled his walk total (from 4 to 9) and he reduced his strike out rate (20/85 in April to 15/106 in May).

Honorable mention goes to Rene Garcia who put up another solid month - .304/.364/.405.  He leads the team and is 5th in the league with a .315 average on the season.


Michael Foltynewicz earns top props this month.  Since his promotion from Lancaster earlier this month, he has been lights out.  In 25 IP, he has only surrendered 13 hits and three earned runs.  His ERA for the month is a measly 1.08.  He has struck out 25 batters and has walked 10.

Honorable mention goes to his piggy back starting mate David Martinez.  Martinez had another good month with a 2.30 ERA.  His season total is 1.83 and is second in the league.  The Hooks have won 11 of the 13 games in which Martinez has made an appearance.

Oklahoma City - AAA

Greeneville only has one alumni in OKC.  Ross Seaton showed improvement in May, dropping his ERA from 11.57 at the end of April down to 7.78 at the end of May.

Minors - Other systems


There was some movement among former G-Stros outside of the organization.  Both Jordan Parraz and J.R. Towles were released by their teams and picked up by others.  Parraz in now in AA with the Twins organization and Towles landed with the Dodgers in AAA.  No one really excelled to earn the Alumni of the month for this category.


Fernando Abad pitched seven scoreless outings to earn the Alumni award before being promoted to the big leagues.  Since his arrival in Washington, he has appeared in four games.  He has allowed no runs and one hit in 2 1/3 IP with two strike outs and no walks.



J.D. Martinez had a very good month of May.  He hit .299/.325/.506 with 10 of his 23 hits going for extra bases.  It is nice to see the pop back in Martinez's bat.  It might be an indication he is finally fully healed from the broken Hamate bone and subsequent surgery.


J.C. Gutierrez gets the nod for Alumni of the month with his good work in limited action out of the Royals pen.  In 8 1/3 IP (6 appearances) he allowed no runs and just five hits with seven strike outs and no walks.

Honorable mention goes to Jose Cisnero, who except for one rough outing on 5/4/13 had a very good month.  When you take that one outing out, he put up 12 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 4 BB and 14 K.  So the month was much more good than bad for Cisnero.