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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lavigne Signs with Baltimore

Some regular readers may remember Tim Lavigne. The pitcher, who ended the season with Corpus Christi and had an impressive winter in Mexico has signed with Baltimore. Lavigne is from the Norfolk area, and with this signing, he could end up in Norfolk with the Orioles Triple AAA team. Possible teammates there? Troy Patton, Mike Costanzo.

Links to articles on James and Manzella

I have started a new section that includes links to recent articles of interest. There's a new one there from the Chronicle's McTaggart on Brad James and's Footer on Manzella and others at the mini-camp.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Minor League S.T. Schedule Released

The Hooks have announced their spring training schedule, which begins on March 14(one week after the first full team workout on March 7). It appears that the AAA, AA, and A teams all play the same organization on a given day with some games at each team's facility.

The Schedule
March 14- vs. Cleveland. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 15- Camp Day(intrasquad)
March 16- vs. Washington. AAA & AA(HOME); A(AWAY)
March 17- vs. Detroit. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 18- vs. Cleveland. AAA & AA(HOME); A(AWAY)
March 19- vs. Washington. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 20- Camp Day(intrasquad)
March 21- vs. Cleveland. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 22- vs. Washington. AAA & AA(HOME); A(AWAY)
March 23- vs. Atlanta. AAA & AA(HOME); A(AWAY)
March 24- vs. Atlanta. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 25- vs. Detroit. AAA & AA(AWAY); A(HOME)
March 26- vs. Detroit. AAA & AA(HOME); A(AWAY)
March 27- Camp Day(intrasquad)
March 28- Travel Day
March 29- Hooks vs. Express at Round Rock(6 pm)
March 30- Hooks vs. Express at Corpus Christi(2 pm)

All Florida games are scheduled for 1 pm Florida time.
Astros- Kissimmee, FL
Braves- Disney Complex, Kissimee, FL
Indians- Winter Haven, FL
Tigers- Lakeland, FL
Nationals- Viera, FL

Van Ostrand heads to camp

Astros prospect James Van Ostrand is included in the above article about former Cal Poly San Luis Opispo players who are heading to minor league camp this week. Van Ostrand spent last year in the Lexington outfield. He also hit a home run in last year's future's game. He represented Canada for the international squad in that game.

Astros affiliates' status

A few weeks ago, the Astros extended their affiliation with Round Rock and Corpus Christi through the 2010 season. The lower reaches of the system aren't as stable. As has been mentioned here previously, Salem(High A) has been purchased by the entity that owns the Red Sox. All signs indicate that the Avalanche will be a Red Sox affiliate in '09, meaning that the Astros will be moving, either to another Carolina League city(their preferred destination) or to Lancaster(California) the current Red Sox affiliate. According to a Baseball America article(see link below), the agreement with Lexington(Low A) and Tri-City(short season) expire after this season. The article doesn't mention Greeneville(rookie), but I have read that the Astros own that franchise. More on these issues will develop over the upcoming season.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cooper on James, Muecke, and Gervacio

The following is taken from a Q&A that Jose de Jesus Ortiz had with Cecil Cooper and posted at

"There's a couple of guys that have opened my eyes. Brad James has looked awfully good. I'm kind of reminded of a little bit (that) he has a lot of movement like (Chad) Qualls. His ball's continually jumping from one place to another. It's usually down in the strike zone. He's got a good, good arm. You guys did all the talking this winter that we depleted our arms, but we didn't. That's a pretty good arm.

Josh Muecke has really been impressive. I like what I saw at the mini-camp. And then the couple of times I've seen him throw here, it looks like he can possibly help us at this point. And Gervacio, he looks electric with that stuff he's throwing up there and the way he delivers it. We just need to get these kids a little bit of experience. They're going to help us. They're going to help us at some point."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Minor League Mini-Camp Monday

40 of the top Astros propsects will take part in a mini-camp tomorrow at Osceola County Stadium in preparation for next week's spring training. 17 pitchers and 23 position players are slated to take part in the camp. Included will be several veterans and players moving up a level in 2008. Koby Clemens who is slated to move to catcher this season at Salem is supposed to attend the camp. For the record, I came across one report, that indicated 41 players were to take part in this mini-camp.

Jarred Ball update

A reliable source has confirmed that Jarred Ball did sign with the Astros on December 13, 2007. Ironically the signing took place on the same day that Troy Patton was traded to Baltimore. Ball and Patton were teammates at Tomball High School. Ball had a labrum injury and missed 2006. New management at Arizona decided Ball didn't fit into the team's plans, and he played only sporadically at AAA and AA in 2007. He will start this season at Corpus or Round Rock.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Draft Tweak

It has been documented that the Astros will have quite a few more early draft picks than last June. Here's a more accurate picture of the picks they have--thanks in part to Baseball America's draft preview

#10(1st Round)
#38(supplemental pick for losing Trever Miller)
#56(2nd Round--could be as low as #58*)
#88(3rd Round--could be as low as #90*)
#110(supplemental for not signing Derek Dietrich in 2007--could be as low as #112*)
#122(4th Round--could be as low as #124*)
#152(5th Round--could be as low as #126*)

*These picks could be lower if the Athletics receive compensatory picks for Type B free agents, Mike Piazza and Shannon Stewart.

The draft is schdeuled for June 5 and 6.

Cooper on Muecke; Bennett on James

Thanks to Gregg for forwarding a quote from Cecil Cooper on left-hander Josh Muecke so far this spring. Muecke was at Corpus last season(Hooks pitcher of the year). He also impressed at last fall's Arizona League.

"On who has stood out during the last eight days of workouts: “Josh Muecke has been pretty impressive . . . There have been several, but if I had to pick somebody right now, it would be Muecke."" (Feb 22, 2008)

The Chronicle's Brian McTaggart had a Q&A with Ricky Bennett on another starter Brad James.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jarred Ball in the Astros' system?

Here's some information that may be a scoop or may just be a typo. has rosters listed for all minor league teams. At this point in the year, they mostly have left-overs from the 2007 season listed. However, one name has popped up on the Corpus Christi roster that merits mention. Jarred Ball is listed as an outfielder for the Astros' AA team. Ball was drafted by Arizona in 2001 and became free agent after the 2007 season. The 24 year old was born in Katy and played at Tomball High School. The switch-hitter reached AAA for the first time last season, batting .346 in 23 games for Tucson. He also batted .252 in 77 games for AA Mobile last season. His career high in steals was 39 in 2005(AA). He hit 15 home runs and drove in 66 runs in 2004(High A).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

minor league spring games; Caipen Released

The Astros haven't released any official minor league schedules, but it looks like their minor league teams are grouped with Atlanta(Orlando), Cleveland(Winter Haven), and Detroit(Lakeland) for minor league games. Houston is paired with Cleveland and Detroit three times each and my best guess is they are paired with Atlanta six times, making a twelve game exhibition slate. The dates I could determine from Cleveland and Detroit's minor league schedules. The schedules I saw indicated that games start at 1 pm Florida time.

March 14 vs. Cleveland, AAA & AA- Away; A-Home
March 17 vs. Detroit, AAA & AA- Away; A-Home
March 18 vs. Cleveland, AAA & AA-Home; A-Away
March 21 vs. Cleveland, AAA & AA-Home; A-Away
March 25 vs. Detroit, AAA & AA-Away; A-Home
March 26 vs. Detroit, AAA & AA-Home; A-Away

As mentioned, several of the dates not listed will most likely be against the Braves. Also, the Indians and Tigers had three or four dates listed as camp days for intrasquad games. I'd guess the Astros have the same. There was no indication if the A level has two games or one, although two is possible. Once I see an Astros schedule, I'll post in case anyone is heading to Osceola County.

As minor league camp draws close, the Astros released infielder Brandon Caipen. Caipen was drafted in the 28th round of the 2006 draft. He spent '06 in Greeneville. The Youngstown State product spent last year between Tri-City(two games) and Lexington (.269 in 43 games).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Minor League spring training Dates

According to the update I received from the Hooks today, the February 25 mini-camp in Florida is for the players and staffs of the Corpus Christi Hooks and the Round Rock Express. Pitchers and catchers report March 2, and full minor league workouts begin March 7. As best I can tell, minor league games begin about a week later.

Round Rock/Corpus Christi Home and Home

The Astros top two affiliates will play an exhibition series on March 29 and 30. The Express and Hooks will face off at Dell Diamond at 6 pm on Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday at Whataburger Field. A little travel tip for anyone interested in seeing both games and getting a pre-season fix of Farmstros: Take 183 south out of Austin to Refugio and then proceed to Corpus from there. This tip is courtesy of Matt Rogers in the Hooks front office. Thanks.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Minor League Mini-Camp

The top Astros minor league prospects are slated to have a mini-camp before the start of camp. The mini-campers are slated to arrive February 24 for a one day camp on the 25th. I've seen it reported a few places that the full minor league camp begins on March 1. I haven't seen any indication of who is slated to attend the mini-camp.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More on the 2008 Draft

In a recent post, I mentioned that the Astros would get a supplemental pick for Trever Miller, somewhere around 45 or 50, as best I can tell. The draft possibilities keep getting better. The team will also receive a compensatory pick for their unsigned third round pick from last season. They picked Derek Dietrich 111th last season, so their compensation will be pick #111a. However, two earlier teams have similar compensation picks, so the Astros will be picking 114. To summarize:

1st Round- Pick #10
Supplemental pick for around #50
2nd Round- around pick #62(depending on the final length of the supplemental round)
3rd Round- around pick #92
Compensation pick #111a(114)
4th Round- around #122

That makes six picks out of the first 125. Also, they will have seven in the first 171, the slot at which they picked Collin DeLome last June.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Farmstros Goals for 2008

As Spring Training gets rolling, here's a brief description of what my goals are for this blog for the next seven months. This gives you an idea of what you will be able to find here and it gives me a framework to budget the time I have to give to this site.

1) As the regular season begins, my goal is to report on the Astros minor league rosters, so you know who ends up where, and if I can find it, who is staying in Florida for a while.
2) Eyewitness the season progresses, my goal is to report my own eyewitness accounts, which will be limited, and draw on any reports my readers send in. Let me know, if you are going to see an Astros minor league team, and I will do my best to get your thoughts posted.
3) Weekly Farmstros Five... I plan to pick four or five Farmstros whose performance in a week merits attention and summarize that. This will hopefully start April 14 since the minor league seasons begin around April 4.
4) Updates on player movements/injuries and trades
5) Draft coverage in June
6) Links to stories of interest... for example, if the Roanoke paper has an interesting story on some player with the Salem Avalanche, I'll try to direct you there. Also, I will do my best to find footage of Farmstros in action.
7) A Farmstros poem every six to eight weeks.
8) Play-off coverage, provide any Astros minor league teams make it.

There you have it, thanks to those who read this blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Round Rock and Corpus Christi reupped through 2010

Astros prospects who can make it past High A ball know where they will be through 2010. The Astros extended their player development agreements with Round Rock for AAA and Corpus Christi for AA through the end of the 2010 season. The High A affiliation in Salem is not quite so stable. As has been mentioned here earlier, that affiliate has been purchased by a group that owns the Red Sox and the Astros will in all likelihood need to find a new affiliate after this season.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Astros add Castillo and Garcia

With spring training drawing ever closer, the Astros added two veterans to their system.

Albert Castillo, C, 38, will enter his 19th professional season this Spring. Castillo has spent parts of 12 seasons in the major leagues appearing in 418 games and hitting .220. He spent last season in the Baltimore organization. He played in 64 games and hit .271 at AAA Norfolk and appeared in 11 games for the Orioles. An interesting side note, Castillo spent the first five seasons of his pro career as a combined pitcher/catcher before settling in to solely catching.

Jessie Garcia, IF, 34, will be in familiar surroundings if he ends up in AA or AAA. He is a native of Corpus Christi and he spent the last two seasons as a middle infielder for Round Rock. This season will be his 15th in professional baseball. He has played 171 games in seven major league seasons, most recently 16 games for San Diego in 2005.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A to Z with Farmstros

I have two young children, which means in the last five years I have read about 100 different ABC books with a multitude of themes. With Spring Training getting rolling this week, it seems appropriate to add an ABC poem to the landscape. Here it is: A to Z with Farmstros...

A is for the Astros, the Greeneville nine, it’s true

B is for Buses, there’s no doubt they’ll ride a few

C’s for Collin DeLome, how will his ’08 go?

D is for Dell Diamond, Farmstros last stop ere the show

E is for the Errors…E5, E6, E8!

F is for a First round pick, hope this year’s turns out great

G is for Gervacio whose arm may take him far

H must be for Hunter, who now wears a Houston star

I’s for Independent Leagues, United and Frontier

Where guys like Paz and Just, now Farmstros, played their ball last year

K is for the Strikeouts that Bud Norris will amass

L is for the Legends who play A ball, lower class

M is for Missed signals, and the chaos that ensues

N is for the Nifty catch that ends up on YOU TUBE

O is for Off-Season when we wait and watch for Spring

P is for Paulino, hope he has the stuff to bring

Q is for Quinteros, Houston’s system now has two

R’s the guy in Rookie ball who’s quickly passing through

S is Salem, Sergios, and Sally League as well

Three promotions in one season is a Tale That Towles can Tell

U’s Undrafted players, Icenogle comes to mind

V is for the Valley Cats, that’s the Tri-City kind

W’s Whataburger Field, where Hooks oft play their games

X? the Extra effort by the Farmstros every game

Y is for Yordany, will he be the next big thing?

Which brings us up to Z, the BUZZ that each spring training brings.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bennett on Seven Minor Leaguers

Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle has posted a Q&A with Astros co-assistant General Manager Ricky Bennett on his blog. The Q&A includes a discussion about Chris Johnson, Tommy Manzella, Eli Iorg, Brad James, Sergio Perez, Felipe Paulino and Chad Reineke. Here's the link to the blog:

Miller signs with Rays...Astros add a Pick

Former Astro reliever Trever Miller signed with Tampa Bay recently. The good news for the Astros is that Miller was a type B free agent meaning the Astros receive an extra draft pick in the supplemental round of the June draft. This means the Astros will have four picks in approximately the first 110 picks(The number is approximate depending on the final number of Type A and B free agents who sign with a new team before the season begins). For the record in last year's draft Houston had zero picks in the first 110. Also, as has been well-documented they failed to sign their first two picks. The highest pick they signed was Collin DeLome out of Lamar(#171). By this year's 171st pick, the team should have made six selections. Of course, the draft is not an exact science, but provided they can sign the players they select, the odds favor this year's draft being better than last year's.

The team will have the #10 pick over-all. With the #10 pick in last year, The Giants picked a high school pitcher who signed too late to play in 2007. The two previous #10 picks? 2006- Tim Lincecum-P to the Giants and 2005- Cameron Maybin-OF to the Tigers.
Further, the compensation pick for Miller will most likely fall into the 40-50 range... a few players of note picked in that range recently: 2006- #41-Joba Chamberlain(Yankees); 2005-#42-Clay Buchholz(Red Sox) and #45-Jed Lowrie(Red Sox); 2004- #40-Huston Street(Athletics); #46-Yovani Gallardo(Brewers).

Mark June 5 on your calendar to see how the new regime does in their first draft.

One more note: is featuring an interview with Dave Clark, who steps up to become the manager of the Round Rock Express this season. The website recently interviewed Corpus Christi's new manager, Luis Pujols.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fairhcild Throws at Elite Camp

Since Astros prospect pitcher Tip Fairchild was in Houston last week for a check-up on his recovery from Tommy John surgery...

...he took the mound a few times for the coaches at the Elite Camp at Minute Maid Park. All indications are that the right-hander is on schedule. He will go to Florida on February 20 for mini-camp before reporting to Spring Training in March. According to an article by Gary Hawkins at the following link...

...Corpus Christi will be Fairchild's starting point this season, although he may stay in Florida for extended spring training depending on his arm.

Yordany Strikes Again

It was as glamorous as scoring the winning run and hitting a home run as he had done the previous two games, however, Yordany Ramirez contributed to another victory for his Dominican team in the Caribbean Series Tuesday. Ramirez drove in his team's first run in a 2-1 victory as they improved to 4 and 0 in the six-game round robin. With one out in the 7th inning, the Venezuela team intentionally walked a batter to load the base for Ramirez in a scoreless game. Ramirez proceeded to reach on a fielder's choice avoiding a double play on a grounder to shortstop.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Minor League All-Star Games and an interview with Luis Pujols

In case you are planning your summer travels, has a listing of this summer's all-star games. Those that may involve Astros prospects:

June 17-South Atlantic- Greensboro, NC(Lexington, Low A)
June 24- California/Carolina- Myrtle Beach, SC(Salem, High A)
June 25- Texas- Springfield, MO(Corpus Christ, AA)
July 13- Futures' Game-Yankee Stadium
July 15- MLB All-Star Game- Yankee Stadium
July 16- Triple AAA- Louisville(Round Rock, AAA)
August 19- Short Season A- Troy, home of Astros' affiliate Tri-City also recently posted an interview with new Corpus Christi manager, Luis Pujols. The link to that site is in my favorites.

Astros Pick up an Ace in the Hole

As spring training closes in, the Astros find another source to stock their minor league rosters. This time its Alexandria, Louisiana by way of Venezuela. The team has signed 30 year-old shortstop Richard Paz, who spent the last two seasons with the Alexandria Aces of the Independent United League. Paz will begin his 15th season of pro baseball this spring. Prior to his stop in the United League, he spent five seasons in AA and AAA with four different organizations. The right-handed Venezuelan native had a league leading .459 OBP and 82 runs scored for Alexandria last season. He played in Venezuela this winter hitting .286 with a .483 OBP.

Yordany overshadows Tejada

Yordany Ramirez continued contributing at the Caribbean Series Monday, overshadowing his potential future Astros teammate, Miguel Tejada. While Tejada was going 1 for 4 with a mere double, Ramirez belted a two run home run in his first start of the Series. Further, Ramirez's Dominican team beat Tejada's Domincan team 5-2 to stay undefeated during the round robin competition.

A Tale of Three Josh Johnson's

In a previous entry, I indicated that the Josh Johnson the Astros signed is converting from pitcher to catcher. My error I must admit is that I misread the tale of three Josh Johnson's. Last season, the Rays had two Josh Johnson's in their system. One was born in October of 1984. That Josh Johnson was drafted by Tampa last summer out of Mississippi State. He pitched at Hudson Valley and is still property of the Rays. The second Josh Johnson, born November of 1982 is the one the Astros signed. He is the non-prospect catcher who has been with the Twins and Rays as a catcher, pitcher occasionally in mop-up duty. To add to the confusion the Marlins left-handed starter Josh Johnson was born in January of 1984. His connection to this tale? His name and his location(Florida).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Astros Sign Two Low-Level Minor Leaguers

Baseball America indicates that the Astros signed a minor-league catcher and pitcher recently, but further research indicates they actually signed two pitchers.

Josh Johnson is listed as a catcher on BA's transaction page as an Astro signee. Indeed, he was drafted out of high school by Minnesota in 2001 as a catcher. He was signed by Tampa Bay in 2005 for the same purpose. However, after spending 30 games at Durham(Tampa's AAA) last season, Johnson, 25, was demoted to Hudson Valley(Short-Season A) apparently to try his hand as a starting pitcher. He made 12 starts and 2 relief appearances for Hudson Valley, pitching 64 innings. He posted a 5-2 record with a 3.38 ERA. It will be interesting to see where he is pitching this Spring.

In addition, the Astros signed Erick Abreu, RHP, 24. Abreu signed with the Yankees out of the Dominican in 2004. He missed the 2005 season with a stress fracture in his right elbow. He has never been higher than High A. Last season, he only appeared in eight games at High A. However, he showed some potential at Low A Charleston the previous season: 86 IP, 79 Ks and a 1.88 ERA.

Yordany scores winning run

Apparently Yordany Ramirez's legs are ready for Spring Training. The outfield prospect who the Astros signed this off-season pinch-ran and scored the winning run in the top of the 11th inning of his team's victory in a Caribbean Series game Sunday. Ramirez pinch ran at 1st base, moved to third on an infield single(according to the game log) and scored on a sacrifice fly. He stayed in and played the bottom of the inning in centerfield.

Article on Pitchers at Elite Camp

Jose de Jesus Ortiz wrapped up last week's Elite Camp with an article that inlcudes thoughts from Nolan Ryan, Cecil Cooper, and Ricky Bennett on some of the young pitchers. Included in the article Sammy Gervacio, Sergio Perez, Felipe Paulino, Bud Norris, Wesley Wright, and Brad James.

Ortiz also reports that the Astros are looking at Bartolo Colon and Alberto Castillo, a 38 year old catcher.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hopefully not Another Santana

With the Johan Santana trade culminating the last few days, Houston has been reminded that he was once an Astros farm hand. He was picked in the Rule 5 draft by Florida(they traded him to Mnnesota) after the 1999 season. Admittedly, Santana wasn't impressive with the Astros up to the point, but somebody saw something in him and look at him now.
Fast forward to the 2007 off-season. It wasn't a Rule 5 draft loss, but the Astros traded 2005 2nd round pick Ralph Henriquez III to the Mets for a low minor league pitcher Josh Appell. Henriquez a switch hitting catcher had the lowest OBP in the South Atlantic League(.227) while playing for Lexington. Seems innocent enough. However, one of the coaches that Henriquez faced during the season had some special insight into his play that the Mets may benefit from in 2008. Ralph Henriquez, Jr. is a coach at Charleston(Yankees) and he is Ralph III's father. After watching his son hit three balls to the warning track in a four game series, the elder Henriquez came to the conclusion that his son needed to bulk up. As a result, the former Astros farmhand spent the winter in the weight room and added 22 pounds to his 180 pound frame. All reports are that Henriquez's defense is sound. If the added weight results in Henriquez swinging a solid bat, it will be the Mets gain and unfortunately, the Astros loss.

Thanks to Adam Rubin's organizational report in Baseball America for some of this information.