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Monday, October 29, 2007

Winter Baseball Update

The World Series is over, but baseball is still being played by future Astros in five locations:

Dominican Winter League:

The only player of note thus far in the Dominican is Polin Trinidad. The lefty has pitched 3 scoreless innings with 2 strikeouts in two relief appearances.

Venezuelan Winter League:

Victor Garate has been the epitome of the left-handed specialist this fall. Garate, who spent the 2007 season at Tri-City, has appeared in seven games completing two scoreless innings.

Also, in Venezuela, Corpus Christi's 2007 save leader, Kyle Middleton has been effective as a starter. In three starts, Middleton has an 0.57 ERA over 15 2/3 innings. Middleton's most recent start resulted in six scoreless innings.

Mexican Pacific League:

Tim Lavigne, who joined Corpus during the 2007 season from outside the organization has three saves in 8 appearances. The righty has six strikeouts in 9 innings.

Arizona Fall League:

Three pitchers have done well in the Arizona sun. Brad James has three starts and 3.27 ERA. Chad Reineke has 11 strikeouts and a 2.25 ERA in 8 relief innings. Josh Muecke has a 1.00 ERA in nine innings pitched.

Josh Flores is the hottest Astros bat in Arizona, since J.R. Towles was given the rest of the season off. Flores is batting .317(13 for 41) with four steals, ten runs, and five RBIs.

Hawaii Winter:

Bud Norris continues to baffle hitters on the island. Norris is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts. He has 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
Lou Santangelo is hitting .313(15 for 48) with ten runs, five doubles and six RBIs.
Finally, Billy Hart, IF, who was the Carolina League batting champion in 2007 for Salem has been added to the North Shore Honu roster for the remainder of the winter season.

Monday, October 22, 2007

J.R. to get a rest

According to MiLB.com's Arizona Fall League report Monday, Astros catcher J.R. Towles will be getting a well-deserved rest for the next few months. General Manager Ed Wade made the decision to send the prospect home after only four games in Arizona.
Towles had quite a ride in 2007. He began the season in Salem before making stops in Corpus Christi, Round Rock and Minute Maid Park(in September), where he made quite an impression, including eight RBIs in one game. 2008 may be even more eventful as the Crosby, Texas product appears to be first in line for the big league starting job when the team arrives in Florida for Spring Training.

Winter League Update- 10/22/2007

All Five winter baseball leagues are in full swing:

Hawaiian Winter League...
Bud Norris had another solid outing for North Shore Sunday, picking up his first win of the season. Norris has 24 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings covering 4 starts.
Norris teammate with the Honu, catcher Lou Santangelo, is hitting .302(13/43) with 5 doubles and 6 RBIs.

Arizona Fall League...
Tommy Manzella(6/17) .353 with 3 RBIs
J.R. Towles(3/7) .429
Josh Flores(8/25) .320 with 2 SBs
Brad James 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 7 innnings
Josh Muecke 5 appearences, 6 IP, 1.50 ERA

Venezuelan Winter...
Humberto Quintero-C is now on the roster of Aquilas for the season.
Kyle Middleton has a 1-0 record and an 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 IP for Tigres

Mexican Winter...
Tim Lavigne who pitched for Corpus Christi for part of 2007 has joined Algodoneros.
Dennis Sarfate continues to impress with Hermosillos. The closer in second in the league with three saves in four appearnces. He has 2.25 ERA with nine strikeouts in 4 innnings. Watch out Brad Lidge.

Dominican Winter...
A few Farmstros are on the rosters of Dominican teams for this season:
Aquilas
Sergio Severino-P(Lexington,2007)

Estrellas
Osvaldo Fernando-IF(Salem, Corpus, and Round Rock)

Tigres
Philip Barzilla-P(Round Rock)
Sammy Gervacio-P(Salem, Corpus)
Polin Trinidad-P(Lexington, Salem)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bud Norris, the day after

Although he didn't get a no-hitter, Bud Norris's start Monday in Hawaii was impressive. The right-hander went five innings allowing two hits and one run. He struck out six and walked only one gaining in no decision. In three starts this fall, Norris has 18 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings of work along with a 3.38 ERA.

More nothing from Bud Norris

About five minutes ago(12:29 a.m. Houston time) Bud Norris gave up a double to the first batter he faced in the 4th inning Monday night(Tuesday morning Houston time) in Hawaii. Prior to that hit, Norris had pitched 7 2/3 hitless innings over parts of three starts. In addition, he got 13 of his 23 outs during that time by strikeout.

A Tale of Two Catchers...

Although J.R. Towles is in Arizona, he may want to watch out. Lou Santangelo is gaining on him... from Hawaii. Fifteen days into the Hawaiian Winter season, Santangelo, who caught in 2007 for the Corpus Christi Hooks, is hitting .409(9 for 22) with four doubles and four RBIs in seven games. Santangelo was the projected starter for Corpus last season, however while serving a 50 game performance enhancing drug suspension, he was replaced and passed by Towles. Towles is hitting .429 in Arizona in seven at bats.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Astros No-No

For the second time in three days an Astros prospect threw multiple no-hit innings in a Fall Baseball start. Brad James threw three perfect innings in his first appearance for Mesa of the Arizona Fall League. James, who spent the 2007 season at Salem and Corpus Christi, threw only 35 pitches and struck out two while facing the minimum of nine batters.

Astros in Venezuela

Fourteen members of the Astros organization from Houston to Tri-City were on team rosters when the Venezuelan Winter League opened Thursday night. Milb.com has extensive coverage of all the winter baseball action. According to their listings, the following Astros are in Venezuela...

Bravos de Margarita
Felipe Paulino-P(Corpus Chrisit and Houston in 2007)
Enyelbert Soto-P(Salem)

Caribes de Oriente
Fernando Nieve-P(Round Rock/Disabled List)

Leones del Carcas
Victor Garate-P (Tri-City and Lexington)
Juan Gutierrez-P(Round Rock and Houston)
Cesar Quintero-OF(Lexington and Salem)

Navegantes del Magallanes
Paul Estrada-P(Round Rock)
German Melendez-P(Round Rock)
Hector Gimenez-C(Disabled List)
Mark Saccomanno-IF(Round Rock)
Wladamir Sutil-IF( Salem)
Francisco Caraballo-OF(Corpus Christi)
Luke Scott-OF(Houston)

Tigres de Aragua
Kyle Middleton-P(Corpus Christi)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Norris throws Four Hitless innings

Bud Norris threw four no-hit innings in his second start of the Fall for the North Shore Honu of the Hawaiian Winter League. Norris walked two and struck out seven. He has 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings of work in Hawaii.

Farmstros Go Global

Three pieces of Astros news from outside the USA. If this keeps up, the Farmstros staff will need to apply for a passport.

Sarfate gets Save in Mexico
Dennis Sarfate got his Mexican Winter League season off to a good start Tuesday. Sarfate, who the Astros picked up from the Brewers in September, pitched one scoreless inning, striking out the side and picking up a save in the first game of the season for Naranjeros de Hermosillo.

Astros sign first player from Holland
Astros.com reports that the team has signed Jan Baldee a shortstop from Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Baldee, who turns 17 in December, has taken part in Major League baseball's European Academy the last two years. He is scheduled to take part in the Astros' minor league spring training in March.

A lefty back from the Far East?
C.J. Nitkowski's season in Japan wrapped up early this morning with a 4-0 loss to Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines in the First Round of the Japanese Pacific League play-offs. Nitkowski, a lefthander with 10 years of big league experience, finished the season with 3.18 ERA in 34 IP for the Softbank Hawks, managed by home run king Sadaharu Oh. Nitkwoski, turns 35 in March and merits a spring training look with someone stateside. He was in the Astros' system in 1997 and 1998.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Astros in Arizona Tuesday

Eight Astros prospects start play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League Tuesday. Next year's potential starting catcher is joined in Arizona by pithcers Jimmy Barthmaier, Brad James, Chad Reineke, and Josh Muecke, infielder Tommy Manzella and outfielders Mitch Einerston, and Josh Flores. The Solar Sox, made up of prospects from the Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs and Red Sox will be managed by Dave Clark who has managed the Corpus Christi Hooks the last three seasons. This 16th season of the Arizona Fall League runs until the middle of November.

Friday, October 5, 2007

who's on the 40 man roster

Sometime in November, the new Astros regime will be setting their 40 man roster in preparation for December's Rule V draft. At season's close, there were 36 players on the team's 40-man roster(not including Jason Jennings and Hector Gimenez who were on the 60-day disabled list. Some will be gone and some will be added:

Gone:
Biggio-Retired
Barthmaier-RHP(Corpus Christi in 2007)
Estrada-RHP(Round Rock)
Jennings, Jason
Miller, Trever-LHP
Moehler, Brian-RHP
Randolph, Steven-LHP
Lamb, Mike-IF
Loretta, Mark-IF
Palmeiro, Orlando-OF

New to the 40 man roster
Gimenez, Hector-C
Gervacio, Sammy-RHP(Salem/Corpus Christi)
James, Brad-RHP(Salem/Corpus Christi)
Ash, Johnny-IF(Corpus Christi)
Sheldon, Ole-OF(Salem)
Sutil-IF(Salem)
Santangelo-C(Corpus Christi)
Reineke-RHP(Round Rock)
Mark Saccomanno-IF(Round Rock

all or nothing for Norris on mound in Hawaii

Bud Norris struck out five batters in 1 2/3 innings in his first appearance in Hawaiian Winter Baseball. However, Norris, who had 117 strikeouts for Lexington in 2007 also gave up two hits, two walks, and three runs failing to get out of the second inning in his start for the North Shore Honu.

More on Pankovits

A few days ago, I speculated here about the possibility of Jim Pankovits making the jump to Corpus Christi from Salem. I wanted to thank Greg Rajan, who covers the Hooks for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for his feedback on this issue. I did not realize that Pankovits has been in the Astros system for quite some time and may endure a similar fate to Paul Ricarinni(sp?), who was recently reassigned from his position at the head of the farm system. Thanking you for informing me of this.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Who We Saw?(Who we'll see?)

Previously, I discussed Round Rock players who didn't make it to Houston in September. Now, let's look at those who made it to the big club.

Josh Anderson, 25, OF. Anderson was the biggest surprise of the Round Rock call-ups. In Round Rock, he only hit .273, but he stole 40 bases. His impressive performance in September will earn him a long look in 2008.
J.R. Towles, 23, C. Towles spent most of his season in Corpus. Before tearing up big league pitching, including 8 RBIs in one game, he hit .279 in 13 games for Round Rock. He, like Anderson, will get every chance to be the opening day starter in 2008.
Cody Ransom, 32, IF. Ransom was the Express MVP. He hit .260 with 28 HRs and 90 RBIs. He may be on the Astros bench next season.
Juan Gutierrez, 24, RHP. He had a 4.15 ERA in 25 starts for Round Rock. He'll get a shot to win a starting or bullpen spot at Minute Maid in 2008.
Troy Patton, 22, LHP. Patton spent most of the year at Corpus. He had eight starts in Round Rock before making his way down 290. I predict the lefty starts 2008 in the Astros rotation.


Having said all that my prediction of the next ten players to contribute to the big club:
1. Patton
2. Towles
3. Anderson
4. Sammy Gervacio, RP. Gervacio tore up the Carolina League with Salem and ended the year impressively with AA Corpus Christi.
5. Gutierrez
6. Josh Muecke-LHP
7. Johnny Ash-IF
8. Felipe Paulino-RHP
9. Brad James-RHP
T10. Wladamir Sutil-IF
T10. Polin Trinidad-LHP

Prospect keys Hawaii win

The third game was a charm for Astros prospects in Hawaii on Tuesday night. The North Shore Honu won their third straight game of the Hawaii Winter season behind the first contribution of the season by an Astros prospect. Chris Johnson, who spent the 2007 season in Lexington and Salem had two hits including a double in the top of the ninth that gave the Honu a lead they would never relinquish against the Honolulu Sharks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Not to mention Jim Pankovits

Come to think of it, if Dave Clark moves up, Jim Pankovits will probably take his place. Pankovits, the long-time Astros infielder, led Salem to the play-offs the last two seasons. You heard it here first. He takes Dave Clark's locker in Corpus Christi.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What does this mean for Dave Clark?

Long-time Round Rock Express manager Jackie Moore will be Cecil Cooper's bench coach in 2008, meaning Round Rock will be looking for the second manager in franchise history. I have no inside information, but my guess is Dave Clark, who has been impressive in the lower minors including the last three years in Corpus Christi. If it happens, I'll chalk one up for Farmstros...

Who we didn't see in September

Although most of the AAA players of note in the Astros' system spent their September in Houston(including manager Jackie Moore), there are a few to keep an eye on in the off-season and next spring.

Tim Raines, OF, 28. Raines merits a spring look after batting .333 in 100 games for Round Rock. With 21 steals, he may add a little speed to the bench for little cash in 2008.
Mark Saccomanno, IF, 27(23rd Round, 2003). Saccomanno hit .277 with 22 HRs and 85 RBIs in 131 games. He played mostly at 1B which limits his possibilities with Berkman in the way.
Brian Gordon, LHP, 29. This was Gordon's first season as a professional pitcher after several minor league seasons as a position player. He spent most of the season in Corpus, throwing 11 innings in August for the Express.