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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Farmstros and Prospect Lists

Regular readers may have noticed that I recently posted and have since pulled a top 30 listing from Baseball America. It seems at this time of the year that such prospect lists are plentiful. However, the only prospect list that really matters is Ed Wade's. I guess Ricky Bennett, etc. have some pull too. Anyhow, I'm not interested in posting everyone's top 30 list. My main goal concerning prospects is to give readers a place to find as much info. as possible about as many different Farmstros as I can find. In light of this, I have added the link in my favorites to a report posted by a Astros fan website. As best I can tell, they have information 59 different players, including indepth info. on the top 10(They even include some of the Dominican and Venezuelan prospects who haven't made it stateside yet. I'd encourage you to check out the "OWA Astros Prospects Guide" listed in my favorites. It is the most indepth coverage of the Astros system I have found, plus, they aren't trying to sell you a magazine or a book. If there is a particular player you are seeking more information, let me know, and I'll see what I can do.

Moehler in, Four Out

Brian Moehler has signed a minor league contract with Astros and has been invited to report to big league camp next month. The 36 year old right-hander made the club last season as a non-roster invitee. He ended the campaign with 42 appearances and a 4.07 ERA. For good measure, he recorded the first save of his eleven year career.

Baseball America reports that Houston has released four minor leaguers. Kevin Hooper is one of them. I assume he is retiring as McTaggart recently mentioned.

Andrew Holder, OF (16th Round Draft, 2006). He spent last season at Lexington hitting .252 with six homeruns and 28 RBI.
Tyler Evans, IF(signed from Florence Freedom of Independent Frontier League last season). He hit .140 in a handful of games with Lexington.
Jeff Mackor, C(16 Round Draft, 2002). Mackor hit .219(16 for 73) with Corpus Christ.

Sapp and Bogusevic looking to 2008

Brian McTaggart of the Chronicle interviewed the top picks in the Astros 2005 and 2006 the ongoing Elite Camp the team is holding at Minute Maid Park The article includes some quotes from Ricky Bennett and Paul Ricciarini concerning the players' development and future with the franchise.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hooper Retiring?

Don't put IF Kevin Hooper's name in ink on your roster card just yet. With Spring Training approaching, The Houston Chronicle's Brian McTaggart mentioned in one of his blogs that Hooper, who just turned 31 in December is retiring. I've crossed his name off in pencil, but will keep an ear out for further confirmation.

Newhan's Eighth Organization is Houston

Journeyman utility player David Newhan will be making himself familiar with an eighth major league/minor league organization in 2008: Houston. Newhan is a 34 year-old outfielder who has spent time with the Athletics, Padres, Phillies, Rockies, Rockies, Rangers, Orioles, and Mets in previous seasons. He spent 2007 in the Mets system. He hit .347 in 44 games at AAA New Orleans then posted a .203 average(15 for 74) after a call-up to the Mets. One bit of trivia: In 2004(as an Oriole), the left-handed swinger hit an inside-the-park home run off of Boston's Pedro Martinez. Also, Newhan is the son of Ross Newhan who earned a spot in the writer's wing of the baseball hall of fame in 2000 for his work as a writer/columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Chiasson Chronicles

Previously on Farmstros... Former futures gamer, Scott Chiasson was the property of the Yokohama Bay Stars, in Japan's Central League. However, he never appeared in a game in Japan at any level(major on minor league). I was able to find some articles in a Japanese online paper and put my rusty Japanese skills to work(I lived there two years in the 90s). As best I can tell here is what happened:
Chiasson signed for 4 Million Yen. During Spring Training he made three starts, pitching 12 innings posting a balk and a 6.00 ERA. (An aside, the article I read mentioned that he has a peculiar sidearm/three-quarters delivery) At some point, his elbow was bothering him(he had surgery in 2003). The season begins and he is unable to pitch. At some point in May, he returns to the state to have an American doctor look at his elbow. I think he went back to Japan still not able to pitch. He is released by the Bay Stars on August 27, receiving his full pay for the season.

Meanwhile, back in North America, apparently, Chiasson's arm is fine(see his stats. from Mexican Winter League in another post)

Finally, a look at his game log in Mexico shows he didn't pitch from December 2 to December 29. Interesting, arm trouble? Further investigation shows that a Heather and Scott Chiasson of Oakdale, CT, which I've seen listed as Chiasson's hometown, had a baby boy on December 7. That might explain why he couldn't pitch for a while.

Thus ends this installment of the Chiasson Chronicles.

Fairchild Rehabbing

Astros Minor Leaguer Tip Fairchild is ahead of schedule in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The right-handed starter is rehabbing at the Central Maine Conditioning Clinic in Auburn, Maine. He is preparing for his final follow-up visit with Astros medical personnel next week in Houston. If all goes well, he is scheduled to go to an early top prospect training camp in Florida early next month. Fairchild, who was drafted in the 12th Round of the 2005 draft, made a handful of starts in Corpus last season, before his injury necessitated surgery in late May. In 2006, Farichild split time between Lexington and Salem. In Lexington, he pitched 108 2/3 innings with a 1.66 ERA. In Salem, he had 11 starts, 64 1/3 innings, and a 3.78 ERA.
The following link is to the full article on Fairchild's rehab, including some advice he got from Brandon Backe on a previous visit to Houston.

Recent Signees in Winter Ball

Ten players the Astros signed to Minor League contracts this off-season took part in the various winter seasons:

Nick Gorneault, OF- .156(7 of 45)
Carlos Hines, P- 13 games, eight saves, 11 1/3 IP, 5.56(ERA)
Scott Chiasson, P- 24 games, 26 1/3 innings, 24 strikeouts, 12 saves, 3.08 ERA

Tomas Perez, IF- .268(51/190)
Stephen Randolph, P- 11 starts, 46 2/3 IP, 50 strikeout, 5.21 ERA

Dominican Republic:
Runelvys Hernandez, P- 14 2/3 IP, 24 hits, 4.91 ERA
J.R. House, C-.161(10/62)
Victor Diaz, OF- .193(27/140), 38 strikeouts, seven homeruns
Rob Cosby, IF-.091(2/22)
Harold Eckert, P- 9 starts, 45 IP, 37 strikeouts, 3.60 ERA

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Video of Eckert

It turns out that new signee Harold Eckert finished last season with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. There's video of him pitching there at the following link. Eckert's numbers in Newark were impressive: 10 games, 59 innings, 71 strikeouts and a 2.59 ERA to go with a 5-0 record.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Astros Sign Former Future's Gamer

Among the three most recent Astros minor league signees is one who was on the U.S. Roster for the Future's Game held in conjunction with the 2001 All-Star Game.
Quite a bit has happened in the future of Scott Chiasson since that game in Seattle six and a half years ago. He appeared for several games with the Cubs in 2001 and 2002. He was sidelined with elbow surgery in May of 2003 and has bounced around the baseball world since then. Most recently, he signed with the Yokohama Bay Stars of Japan's Central League prior to 2007. However, my research shows that he did not pitch for the big league club in Japan last year. Now 30, Chiasson has signed for the upcoming season with the Astros farm system.

The team also signed:
Ken Chenard, RHP, 29, Chenard was drafted by the Mets in 1998. He stayed in the Mets organization until 2005 reaching AAA briefly. Last season he was in Frisco, where he pitched in 34 games and struck out 90 batters in 68 2/3 innings. His ERA was 6.42

Harold Eckert, RHP, 30, Eckert has spent the last four seasons in Las Vegas. Last year, he pitched 24 innings and posted a 6.38 ERA for the Dodgers AAA affiliate. He was a teammate of Rule 5 draftee Wesley Wright in Nevada last year.

Also, outfielder Mike Rodriguez who started 2007 on the Astros' 40-man roster was signed to a minor league contract by Baltimore. He'll probably be joining Sarfate, Costanzo, and maybe even Matt Albers in Norfolk this season.

Legends 2008 Promotions

Of the Astros four full-season minor-league teams, only Lexington has posted their promotion schedule for the upcoming season. A few highlights for planning a trip to Applebee Park.

April 11- Poster Giveaway vs. Augusta(Giants)
April 12- Magnet Giveaway vs. Augusta(Giants)
April 27- Kids Run the Bases with Pre-Game Kids' Clinic vs. Lakewood(Phillies)
May 9- Birdzerk vs.Delmarva(Orioles)
June 1- Seat Cushion vs. Kannapolis(White Sox)
June 21- BBQ Apron vs. Greensboro(Marlins)
August 3- Kids' Jerseys vs. Lake County(Indians)
August 8- Backpacks vs. Asheville(Rockies)
August 22- Josh Anderson Giveaway vs. Hickory(Pirates)

The full promotional schedule is at the team's website

Friday, January 18, 2008

Avalanche on the move in '09

The Salem Avalanche franchise has been purchased by a group that owns the Boston Red Sox, so in all likelihood, the Astros will be looking for a new High A home for the 2009 season. Houston has indicated a preference to stay in the Carolina League, due to geography and league size. Following is a list of High A cities that will be up to renegotiate their affiliation agreements after the 2008 season:
Carolina League
Kinston, NC-Indians since 1987(2007 attendance-1745)
Lynchburg, VA- Pirates since 1995(2529)
Myrtle Beach,SC- Braves since 1999(3117)
Wilmington, NC- Royals since 2007(4574)
Winston-Salem, NC- White Sox since 1997(2442)

Florida State League
Fort Meyers- Twins since 1993(1807)

California League
High Desert- Mariners since 2007(1675)
Lake Elsinore- Padres since 2001(3398)
Lancaster-Red Sox since 2007(1817)* Boston likely to move to Salem
Modesto- Rockies since 2005(2271)
Rancho Cucamonga-Angels since 2001(4155)
San Bernardino-Dodgers since 2007(2488)
San Jose- Giants since 1988(2479)
Stockton- Athletics since 2005(3121)
Visalia- Diamondbacks since 2007(1192)

The process for aligning/realigning for 2009 begins sometime during the summer. If Boston moves to the Carolina League at least one team will need to find a home in a new league. Farmstros will keep an eye on these machinations as they develop. It will be interesting to see where Colin DeLome, David Dinelli, and maybe some of the players drafted this summer are going to play in 2009.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hernandez signs with Astros

Runelvys Hernandez signed a minor league contract with the Astros Thursday, and the right-handed starter has been invited to major league camp. Hernandez spent last year in Pawtucket, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Indianapolis after spending most of 2003-06 in the Royals starting rotation. In addition, Nick Gorneault, who had been signed to a minor league contract has been invited to major league camp next month.

Lexington Batting Coach in Ontario paper RE:Steroids

Stubby Clapp, who will be the hitting coach at Low A Lexington this season supported a former minor leaguer who is considering suing major league baseball for not providing a fair playing field for those athletes who chose to refrain from using performance enhancing drugs. Clapp, a Windsor, Ontario native was interviewed by the Windsor Star concerning a potential class action suit against MLB by Rich Hartmann. Infielder Danny Klassen who spent the 2007 with Round Rock and has signed a minor league contract with Houston for 2008 was also quoted in the article.

The link to the entire article is in the Favorites List of this blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two More Minor League Signees

Two more players have been added to the Farmstros fold.

Nick Gorneault, OF, will turn 29 in April. He was drafted by the Angels in 2001. He had spent his entire career in the Angels farm system through 2007. He spent '07 at AAA Salt Lake, where he batted .261 with 123 hits. He also had 24 doubles, 19 Home Runs, 59 RBI, and 17 Stolen Bases. He struck out 108 times, but posted a .437 slugging percentage as a regular outfielder for the Bees. See 2005 scouting report on Gorneault:

Rob Cosby, 3B, will turn 27 in April. He has spent his whole career with the Toronto organization after being drafted in 1999. Cosby hit .291 with 127 hits for AA New Hampshire in 2007. He had 34 doubles, 16 Home Runs, 70 RBI, and . 483 slugging percentage.

Baseball America revises top 10 Astros Prospects

With all the off-season moves Ed Wade has made, Baseball America has revised its list of the Astros top 10 prospects. The team traded #3 Troy Patton, #4 Juan Gutierrez, and #6 Mike Costanzo. The new top 10
1. Towles
2. Paulino
3. Bourn
4. Bud Norris, P
5. Brad James, P
6. Chad Reineke, P
7. Eli Iorg, OF
8. Josh Flores, OF
9. Mitch Einertson, OF
10. Colin DeLome, OF

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Farmstros Rejected; Hernandez on Deck?

Farmstros won't be covering the upcoming Elite Camps at Minute Maid Park. I had a little bit of free time the week of the camp, so I figure I'd give it a shot and petition the Astros for press credentials for a few days of the event. I'm pleased to announce that Farmstros has received its first rejection letter. The Astros were quite friendly about it. Thanks to Sally Gunter for her speedy reply, even though it did dash my dreams.

Another note Brian McTaggart of the Chronicle is reporting that the Astros are probably close to signing starting pitcher Runelvys Hernandez, who turns 30 in April, spent four years in Kansas City's starting rotation. He spent last season with three different triple A teams, with unimpressive results. According to McTaggart, he has been on a stricter diet this off-season and has seen some nice results in winter ball.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Signings and Invites

The Astros have announced that four players were signed to minor league contracts with an invite to Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting February 14, while full workouts begin February 19. The signees:

J.R. House, 28, C. House makes his second stop with Astros. He spent 2007 with Baltimore and Norfolk. His major league average over four seasons is .175 with three HRs, and three RBIs. House is expected to spend the season in Round Rock.
Lance Niekro, 29, IF. Niekro has played 195 games in the big leagues hitting .246 with 17 HRs, and 79 RBIs.
Mike DeJean, 37, RHP. DeJean has spent 10 seasons in the major leagues appearing in 565 games.
Victor Diaz, 25, OF. Diaz has 147 games of big league experience. He has 24 HRs and 73 RBIs to go with his .256 average.
In addition to these four signings, the Astros announced that Carlos Hines, who was signed in December has been invited to big league camp. The RHP spent 2007 at Fresno in the Giants system. He has 41 saves in eight minor league seasons.
Further, the Astros have invited Josh Muecke, LHP, and Tommy Manzella, IF to big league camp.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Elite Camp Dates announced

In case you missed the Brian McTaggart column in the Chronicle, the Astros have announced the dates of this year's Nolan Ryan-Jeff Bagwell Elite Camp. The camp is scheduled for January 28- February 1 at Minute Maid Park. Among the Astros' prospects heading to town are Eli Iorg, Yordanny Ramirez, Colin DeLome, Tommy Manzella, Chris Johnson, Max Sapp, and Koby Clemens, who will be getting some special catching work in preparation for his new role for 2008.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Farmstro in Championship Game

Spring Training may be almost six weeks away, but one Astros minor leaguer will be in uniform tonight. Devon Torrence an outfielder who the Astros selected in the 16th Round of the 2007 draft will be on the sidelines for the Ohio St. Buckeyes this evening when they take on LSU at the Superdome. Torrence a freshman joined the Buckeye football after spending part of the 2007 season with the Greeneville Astros(Rookie League). Torrence(Safety/WR) who wears #10 for the Buckeyes has played sparingly, appearing in seven games on both sides of the ball. He made four receptions and two tackles. He also forced one fumble and returned one punt. He may find the field if the game is a blowout either way. Torrence is from Canton, OH and a newspaper from Canton has a few brief quotes from him about his Ohio St. experience and Greeneville struggles(He batted .149- 13 for 87).

Friday, January 4, 2008

Three New Farmstros---Two Find New Homes

Minor League free agents are going like hot cakes... and the Astros added three of them to their system as the new year began.

Felipe Garcia, 25, RHP. Garcia has spent seasons in the minors with Detroit and Pittsburgh. His highest stop has been High A. 2007 was spent in Hickory of the South Atlantic League, where he posted a 5.14 ERA in 21 innings(15 appearances).
Carlos Hines, 27, RHP. Hines has spent time in the farm systems of Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco. AAA has been his highest rung thus far. 2007 was spent in Fresno(PCL), where he posted a 4.69 ERA in 29 appearances(40 1/3 innings).
Natanael Mateo, 27, RHP. Mateo has been in the Padres and the Mariners farm systems. He has been in AA at the highest. I can find no record of his playing in 2007. He also has a gap in his record from 2000-04, although I was able to find that he played in Japan(I think their minor leagues in 2002). 2006 found him in San Antonio with a 5.80 ERA. However, he did have 60 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings.

While three new came in, two members of the Astros organization in 2007 have signed elsewhere for 2008:

Tim Raines, Jr. signed with Arizona. The outfielder performed well in Round Rock and Corpus Christi.
Phllip Barzilla signed with Seattle. The left-hander from Rice signed with Seattle after several seasons in the Astros chain, including a few cups of coffee at Minute Maid Park.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Winter Leagues near Finish

The Mexican, Venezuelan, and Dominican Winter League regular seasons have wrapped up. The latest stats I can find on some Farmstros:

From Dominican:
Yordany Ramirez hits .290(20/69). He only had one walk and two stolen bases. He did have 12 RBI

From Venezuela:
Felipe Paulino ended up with six appearances and five starts. He pitched 19 2/3 innings and 3.20 ERA. He struck out 19, walked 16 and gave up 20 hits.
Cesar Quintero hit .264(29/110) with five SBs and 20 strikeouts.
Kyle Middleton finished with a 3.45 ERA in 10 starts. He pitched 44 1/3 innings and struck out 28.
Tomas Perez, a non-roster invite to Spring Training tailed off late in the season finishing with a .268 average(51/190) and 10 RBI.

From Mexico:
I have been tracking Tim Lavigne, who spent a portion of 2007 in Corpus Christi. Lavigne finished his winter with a 1.74 ERA and nine saves in 20 appearances. He struck out 20 in 31 innings. I am quite certain that Lavigne is still a free agent, I'll keep track of him in 2008.