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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Four Astros farmhands to Hang Ten In Hawaii

As the Astros' season comes to a close this weekend, four members of their organization are on their way to Hawaii to begin a new season in the Hawaii Winter Baseball season.

The league is made up mostly of A and AA players from the major leagues and prospects and runs from late September to mid-Novmber. The Astros prospects are on the roster of the North Shore Honu who plays their first game Saturday afternoon.

Bud Norris ended his season with Salem after spending a majority of the year with Lexington. His fastball helped him strike out 117 batters in a mere 96 2/3 innings for Lexington. Norris is expected to start in Hawaii.

Lou Santangelo will be one of the Honu's catcher. He spent the year at AA Corpus, however, he missed fifty games with a performance enhancing drug use suspension. In an interesting note, another catcher on the team, Brewers' prospect, Angel Salome, missed 50 games this season for the same reason.

RHP Sean Walker only appeared in 20 games for Salem and was on the injured list for a considerable amount of time.

IF Chris Johnson split the season equally between Lexington and Salem, totaling 14 HRs and 82 RBIs between the two stops.

The Honu roster also includes five members of the Brewers' organization and four future Pirates. The Japanese players for the North Shore team come from the Orix Buffaloes a team managed by former Astros manager, Terry Collins.

First pitch is at noon Hawaii time on Saturday, September 29.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Three to the Bigs (with more to come?)

Three members of the 2007 Hooks squad made it all the way to Houston in 2007 and more may be on the way in the next few seasons. The team finished with an over-all record of 67 and 73; however, they were improved in the second half and were in the play-off until the final week of the season.

Players to watch fall into three categories: those who spent some time in Corpus and moved up; those who spent the whole season in Corpus; and those who moved up from Salem during the season:

Players who moved up...

J.R. Towles, 24, C(20th Round, 2004). Towles sped through the farm system making stops in Salem, Corpus, and Round Rock before his 8 RBI game last night for the Astros. His longest stay of the season was Corpus where he hit .324 with 11 HR, 49 RBI and 9 Steals in 61 games.
Troy Patton, 22, LHP(9th Round, 2004). Patton was packing his suitcase often in '07. He made stops in Corpus and Round Rock, before making a few starts for the big club. At Corpus , he made 16 starts posting a 2.99 ERA in 102 1/3 innings.
Felipe Paulino, 24, RHP(Dominican). Paulino got the September call-up to Houston after posting a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts for the Hooks. The flame-thrower struck out 110 in 112 innings.
Brian Gordon, 29, LHP. After several years as a minor-league position player Gordon switched to pitching this season. He pitched 50 innings with a 2.88 ERA as a reliever before being called up to AAA.

Full-Season Hooks:
Johnny Ash, 25, IF(11th Round, 2004). Before being injured in August, Ash .300 with 16 doubles and 33 RBI in 79 games. If healthy, he'll begin the year at Round Rock.
Drew Sutton, 24, IF(15th Round, 2004). Sutton manned the hot corner for the Hooks. He hit .263 with 9 HRs, 53 RBIs and 24 steals.
Lou Santangelo, 25, C(4th Round, 2004). Santangelo missed fifty games this season(suspension). He was passed on the depth chart by Towles. He hit . 243 in 58 games. He is on his way to Hawaii next week to play in the Hawaii winter league.
Josh Muecke,26, LHP(5th Round, 2003). Muecke was a solid starter for the Hooks. 3.90 ERA in 131 2/3 IP, including several strong starts late in the season. He will be in the Round Rock rotation in 2008.


Up from Salem:
Sammy Gervacio, 23, RHP(Dominican). Gervacio was solid in the bullpen with 24 Ks in 22 1/3 IP and an 1.99 ERA Hooks. His performance came after equally impressive numbers in Salem.
Brad James, 23, RHP(29th Round, 2004). James was outstanding at Salem(9-2, 1.98 ERA). He struggled in AA, 1-5, 5.17, and will start there in '08.
Brian Bogusevic, 24, LHP(1st Round, 2005). Bogusevic is much the same story as James. Good at Salem struggled Corpus. Whataburger Field in 2008.
Josh Flores, 22, OF(4th Round, 2005). Flores hit .325 with 25 SBs for Salem in the first half. He struggled at Corpus in the second-half... 219 with 14 steals.

Fall Note: Flores and Muecke are slated to play for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does this Bus Go to Salem?(Lexington in review)

The 2007 edition of the Lexington Legends showed some power and speed, but not much pitching ending their South Atlantic League season with a 59 and 81 record. The Astros' low A club had five players in double figures in home runs and five players in double figures in stolen bases; however, only one pitcher reached double figures in victories. Here's a quick look at which Legends may be High A legends in 2008:

James Von Ostrand, OF,23(8th Round Pick, 2006). Van Ostrand who hit a home run in the July Futures' Game in San Francisco, finished the season with 18 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs and 60 RBIs in 98 games. This right handed hitter will look to improve on his .289 average in Salem next season.
Jordan Parraz, OF, 23(3rd Round, 2004). Parraz stole 33 bases to lead the Legends. His .281 average, 14 HRs and 76 RBI will get him on the High A bus next spring.
Tim Torres, IF,24(23rd Round, 2006). Torres split the season between Lexington and Salem. Between the two teams he stole 26 bases and drove in 68 runs. He was a key contributor in the Avalanche's post-season success.
David Qualben, LHP, 22(7th Round, 2006). Qualben won 11 games and posted a 3.94 ERA in 148 1/3 innings. He started 23 games and made 7 relief appearances.
Polin Trinidad, LHP,23(Venezuela). Trinidad received a late season call-up to Salem and was impressive in several play-off starts. At Lexington, he made 23 starts striking out 120 in 131 1/3 innings.
Bud Norris,23, RHP, (6th Round, 2006). Norris also made a few late season appearances for Salem. With Lexington, he made 22 starts, striking out 117 in only 96 2/3 innings. Norris is scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Sloar Sox.

A few more Legends of note:

Max Sapp, 20, C(1st Round, 2006). Sapp didn't show much power in his full professional season. 86 games, 2 home runs and 32 RBIs.
Koby Clemens, 21, IF(8th Round, 2005). Clemens did hit for some power with 15 HRs and 56 RBIs in 115 games.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Next Stop, Lexington?

The short-term effects of the Astros' draft were felt at the lowest levels of their minor league system this summer. The Short Season A Tri-City Valley Cats and Rookie League Greeneville Astros combined for a paltry 44-98 record. Adding only three players out of the first 300 plus players drafted has an effect apparently. In the midst of these performances, a few players showed enough promise to punch their ticket to Lexington and maybe even Salem in 2008.

Greeneville

Ebert Rosario, 20(ages are as of April 2008), 3B. Rosario had the top BA among Greeneville regulars. The Dominican product hit .273 with 26 RBI and 14 2B in 59 games.
Reinaldo Pestana, 20, C. Pestana, from Venezuela, hit .266 with 14 RBI in 44 games for Greeneville. He was called up to Tri-City for the final week of the season.
Leandro Cespedes, 20, RHP. Cespedes was the most successful starter in the Astros' rotation. The Dominican product posted 3.15 ERA in 10 starts. His performance, with 52 Ks in 54 1/3 IP,
was enough to earn him a brief(3 apperances) call-up to Lexington in August.
Fernando Abad, 22, LHP. Another Dominican product, Abad came out of the bullpen 13 times and started 4 times. His 54 Ks in 50 IP merited a trip to Tri-City for the last week of the season.

Tri-City
Matthew Cusick,21, 2B(10th Round Pick, 2007). Cusick hit .306 in 61 games. He had 21 extra base hits and 35 RBI for the Valley Cats
Collin DeLome, 22, OF(5th Round Pick, 2007). The Lamar University product finished the season at .300 with 17 doubles, 6, triples, 6 home runs and 28 RBI. He also stole nine bases and showed why he is the Astros "top pick" of 2007.
Jeff Icenogle, 22, RHP. Icenogle was the surprise of the summer for the short season teams. He was undrafted in June yet came through with a 2.36 ERA with 68 Ks in 61 IP mostly as a starter.
Carlos Ladeuth, 22, RHP. Ladeuth, a Colombian, made his first stateside season a good one. Pitching mostly out of the Valley Cats' bullpen, he posted a 2.41 ERA with 39 and only 8 walks in 52 1/3 IP.
Jason Dominguez, 22, RHP(31st Round Pick, 2007). Dominguez runs away with the prize for best performance by a low round Astro 2007 draft pick. He finished sixth in the New York Penn League with 10 saves. In 21 appearances, the Pepperdine product posted a 1.35 ERA with 26 Ks and 8 walks in 33 1/3 IP.

Writing on the Wall for Barthmeier, Estrada

The Astros have 36 of a possible 40 players on their active roster as of today. Considering that two players, Mike Rodriguez and Fernando Nieve are injured, only two healthy members of the 40-man roster have been left standing outside of Minute Maid Park this September to ponder their future in the Astros' system.

Jimmy Barthmeier, 24, ended this year struggling for AA Corpus Christi with a 2-9 record and 6.20 in 16 starts and 8 relief appearances. The 13th round draft pick in 2003, did register 73 Ks in 90 IP. He had recorded double-figure win totals in '06 at Salem and '05 at Lexington and Salem. In light of his previous strong performance, the right-hander will return to Corpus next spring, but not as a part of the 40 man roster

Paul Estrada, 25, had a down year in the Dell Diamond bullpen. In 53 appearances, he had a 5.12 ERA and 1-8 record. A bright spot for the right-hander signed in 1999 from Venezuela was 69 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings. He had 15 saves in 2006 for Corpus, so he may be headed back to Whataburger Field to regain his form with the Hooks.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who's the Next Wandy?(VSL and DSL in review)

With Wandy Rodriguez, Juan Gutierrez, and Felipe Paulino all pitching in the Astros' game this evening(September 15), it is a fitting time to review the club's Venezuelan and Dominican Summer League squads, with a look at a few prospects who may be filtering into rookie ball and other minor league levels next season and beyond. Ten players from the DSL or VSL Astros were on the Greeneville roster this summer.

The Venezuelan Astros won the summer league this season with a balanced attack and a 48 and 22 record. Five names to watch for in June 2008:

Jose Altuve- 17(ages are as of April 1, 2008), 2B. In his first season with the Astros, Altuve hit .343 with 15 Stolen Bases. He may be young for 2008, but keep an eye on him.
Herman Armas- 21, OF. Armas is improved greatly over his performance last season in VSL. He hit .300 with 9 HR and 58 RBI as well as ten stolen bases in 70 games. Greenville in '08.
Federico Hernandez- 20, C. The first-string catcher hit .299 with 23 RBI in his second season with the Astros. I'd look for him in Greenville or Tri-City depending on who the Astros draft.
German Perez- 17, RHP, 13 starts, 7-1, 2.07 ERA, 68 2/3 IP, 54 K. He may be too young for Greeneville, but he'll get there soon like Altuve.
Julio Puentes-21, RHP. 5-3, 8 saves, 20 appearances, 40 IP, 34 Ks, 2.25 ERA. Greeneville in '08.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Astros weren't as successful(29-39); however there are five to watch from there too:

Wilton Infante-20, OF. Infante was the only hitter on the DSL Astros over .260 with a .309 batting average. He also swiped 16 SB in 36 games.
Joel Romero-19, RHP. Romero started 12 games, pitched 61 innings and struck out 52. The right-hander also had 2.07 ERA. He may join several of his fellow pitchers in the Appalachain League next summer.
Henry Villar-20, RHP. Villar struck out 69 in 73 1/3 IP. He also posted a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts.
Jose Trinidad-20, RHP. The top reliever for the Astros, Trindad may find himself in the Greeneville bullpen soon after recording 8 saves and striking out 52 in 54 2/3 IP.
Wander Ortiz-21, RHP. (perhaps the next Wandy, based on name along)... Ortiz made 13 starts for the Astros. He struck out 59 in 68 1/3 innings and ended the year with a 3.16 ERA.

More than thirty players in the Astros organization this season are products of either the DSL or the VSL. Look for the above to join these numbers in 2008.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Better baseball headed to South Texas(Avalanche year in review)

A better brand of baseball may be rolling into South Texas as early as next Spring. Although the Salem Avalanche fell three games to one in the Carolina League championship to the Frederick Keys. The high A affiliate had the most successful season of the Astros' stateside minor league teams. The Avalanche, or at least a portion of it, is expected to make landfall in Corpus Christi, one step closer to Minute Maid Park, by Spring of 2008.

Players of note who ended the 2007 campaign on the Salem roster and their Farmstros forecast for 2008.

Billy Hart-3B(5th round- 2005)... Hart led the Carolina League in Batting Average(.305). Doesn't have much power for a third baseman(4 HR), but he did steal 23 bases. He's Corpus bound.
Mitch Einertson-OF(5th round-2004)...Einertson was the Carolina League MVP. Finished 2nd to Hart in batting average(also .305). With 11 HRs and 87 RBIs, he's Corpus Bound. Einertson is slated to play in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.
Eli Iorg-OF(1st round-2005)... Iorg was injured a majority of this season. He hit .296 with 5 HR, 24 RBI, and 14 SB in 44 games. If he is healthy, he'll be a Hook.
Wladimir Sutil- 2B-SS(23, Venezuela)... Sutil hit .272 and swiped 36 bases. He'll be Corpus' second baseman in '08.

Three pitchers ended the 2007 season in AA after making contributions in Virginia(Brian Bogusevic, Brad James, and Sammy Gervacio). Other pitchers of note:

Raymar Diaz(42nd Round-2002)... Diaz pitched 137 1/3 innings with a 3.87 ERA. 116 Ks. He'll be starting with Bogusevic and James at Whataburger Field.
Sergio Perez(2nd Round-2006)... Perez, in his first full professional season, pitched 128 1/3 innings with a 4.00 ERA. He'll be starting in Corpus as well.
Chris Blazek(23rd Round-2005)... 50 appearance 66 1/3 innings, 4.07 ERA. Texas League next season.

Three players split time between Lexington and Salem in 2007 and will start '08 with the 'Lanche:

Tim Torres-SS(23rd Round-2006)... .262 in 40 games, 5 HR 31 RBI
Bud Norris-P(6th Round-2006)... Spent part of this season on the DL. Made two starts for Salem after 22 at Lexington. He recorded 125 Ks in 108 innings. Will participate in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League starting in late September.
Polin Trinidad-LHP(24, Dominican Republic)... went 2-1 in four regular season starts and had two play-off starts for Salem following his call-up from Lexington.

The Avalanche made the Carolina League championship series in spite of having eight players called up to AA during the season. Two more starters were lost to injury. The depth of talent exhibited in Virginia bodes well for an increase in the quality of baseball in South and Central Texas next season and in the years to come.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who Needs a first-round draft pick?

Two 23rd round draft picks are leading the way as the Salem Avalanche rolls toward the Carolina League championship. Tim Torres(2006 draft pick) knocked a three-run homer in the 6th inning of Game 2 of the Carolina League Championship Series Sunday afternoon at Frederick, Maryland. The homer was the beginning of a rally that brought the Avalanche back from a 4-1 deficit to an 8-4 victory over the Keys and evened the best-of-five series at one game each as it heads to Salem, Virginia for all remaining games. Torres is hitting .353 with 3 home runs and five RBIs in five games this postseason. The Astros' 23rd round pick in 2005, lefthanded pitcher Chris Blazek has appeared in all three of Salem's postseason victories. Blazek has recorded 5 and 2/3 scoresless innings earning a win and a save. The highest draft pick on Salem's active roster, right-hander Sergio Perez(2006-2nd round) takes the mound tonight in Game #3 of the series. Live coverage of the game is provided for free via milb.com at 6:07 p.m Houston time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

More Bad news from Greeneville

At least one pitcher on the 17-51 Greeneville Astros pitching staff won't be starting out next season on a minor league roster. 21 year-old left-hander, Carolos Lazu was suspended 50 games on September 7 after testing positive for an undisclosed performance-enhancing substance. In his first professional season the pitcher from Puerto Rico had no record posting an 8.14 ERA in 13 Appalachain League appearances. The suspension is effective at the start of the 2008 season.

Friday, September 7, 2007

JRod is to VY as...

An All-American from Houston passed over by a Houston team in the draft comes through in the clutch to haunt said Houston team. Sound familiar?
South Houston High School and Rice University product Josh Rodriguez hit a walk-off home run Thursday night to knock off the Astros' high A affiliate Salem Avalanche 1-0 in the Carolina League play-offs. Rodriguez, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft by Cleveland after the Astros took Max Sapp, lifted the Kinston Indians into a 1-1 tie with the Avalanche in a first round match-up.

For Houston, the story has a happy ending as Salem bounced back to win 5-3 on Friday night. The Avalanche advance to the Carolina League Championship beginning Saturday night at 6:05 in Frederick, Maryland against the Frederick Keys-an Orioles affiliate. The best of 5 series returns to Salem on Monday.

Whither Tim Raines, Jr. ?

.333 for Round Rock? 21 steals in 100 games? switch-hitter? 28 years old?
Signed as a fill-in for the AA Corpus Christi Hooks, Tim Raines, Jr. put up some solid numbers as an everyday leftfielder, after being called up to Round Rock early in the season. It makes sense that he wasn't called up to Houston for September. There have been reports that arm issues and not being on the 40 man roster prevented this move. Further, he has had 75 games in the big leagues with a .215 average during his 10 year professional career, so I don't know how much the Astros can learn about him this month. However, he should be on the radar for a minor league contract/spring training invite to Florida. He might fit in as a cheaper, faster, younger replacement for Palmeiro, assuming Palmeiro's Astro days are over.