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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sapp Hospitalized with Meningitis

Astros catching prospect Max Sapp is in the hospital with meningitis. I put a link to the story in the recent articles section.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A few new Farmstros

The Astros signed two first basemen, Josh Pressley and John Gall for the 2009 season.

Pressley, 28 was originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 1998. The left-handed hitter has also spent time with the Mets, Royals, Cardinals, Marlins and Red Sox. He was with Somerset of the Atlantic League the last two years. In 2008, he batted .354 with 30 home runs and 101 RBI.

Gall, 30 was originally signed by the Cardinals. He has spent parts of three seasons in the majors, playing 33 games with the Cardinals and Marlins. The right-handed hitter was with Albuquerque in 2008, where he batted .312 with 12 home runs and 76 RBI.

The Astros also released pitcher Agustin Pinales.

In other notes, Ray Sadler(Rays) and Ryan Houston(Brewers) have signed contracts outside the Houston organization.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hensley on board for 2009

The Astros have signed right-handed reliever Clay Hensley to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Hensley, 29, has spent the last four seasons with the Padres with a 15-18 record and a 4.09 ERA. He started as a starter, but last year he made 31 or 32 appearances out of the San Diego bullpen. In 2008, he had a 5.31 ERA in 39 innings pitched.

Two other transactions of note:

Reggie Abercrombie, OF, is showing up as a non-roster invite for the Astros.

Jose Castillo, IF, has signed with Washington.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Esposito in Astros system

The Astros added a veteran minor league catcher to their organization, Brian Esposito. Esposito, 29 was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2000. He has one major league at bat with St. Louis in 2007. Other than that brief cup of coffee, Esposito's highest level of experience is AAA. In 2008, he played for Tulsa(Colorado, AA). He batted .206 in 68 games.

In another transaction, Dave Borkowski received a spring training invite from the Phillies as a non-roster player.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter in the Caribbean

It's been a while since we've looked at the Caribbean Winter leagues, so here's a quick glance at some of the Astros/Farmstros who are playing right now.

Puerto Rico
Edwin Maysonet is batting .295(18/61) with six doubles, one triples, and 15 RBI.

Domican Republic
Alberto Arias has a 4.70 ERA in 15 1/3 IP with 19 strikeouts in 14 games.
Michael Bourn is batting .314(32/102) with eight doubles, one triple, four stolen bases, 15 walks and 24 strikeouts.

Venezuela
Wladamir Sutil is batting .270(10/37) with one double, one home run and five RBI.
Humberto Quintero is batting .239(16/67) with five doubles and six RBI.
Fernando Nieve has a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 IP, with 12 strikeouts in nine games.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Estrada Back with Houston

The Astros resigned minor league free agent Paul Estrada. Estrada, 26 was originally signed by the Astros in 1999 out of the Dominican roster. He spent last season on the Astros 40-man roster. However, he was disabled for most of 2008. He made nine relief apperances for Corpus Christi near the end of the sesaon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two Arizona Fall Leagues in 2009?

There is a possibility of two fall developmental leagues in Arizona after the 2009 season. The affiliation between MLB and the Hawaii Winter League has ended, and there is some discussion that the spot will be filled by another league in Arizona.

Astros Closing Venezuelan Academy

The Astros announced that they will be closing their Venezuelan Academy(see link to full story in Favorites section), which they have operated for 20 seasons. The Astros were the first team to open an academy in the South American nation. Bobby Abreu, Johan Santana, and Richard Hidalgo are among the alumni produced over 20 years. The Astros will be starting many of their Venezuelan signees in the Florida-based Gulf Coast League. Others will be assigned to the team's Dominican Republic academy.
One of the more knowledgeable posters at a website called Spikesnstars.com who goes by the screen name Duman offered the opinion that the shift indicates that the team will be shifting philosophy in Venezuelan scouting from "looking for diamonds in the rough to looking for rough diamonds."
The GCL team will be playing at the Astros spring training field in Osceola County, Florida, which gives fans making a summer trip to DisneyWorld a chance to see some future Astros on the trip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Towles in the Dominican Republic

J.R. Towles has started playing for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. He made his winter appearance on Thursday, December 11. In four games, he is 0 for 6 with one run scored.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Rule 5 Draft, December 2009?

With the conclusion of the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 Draft yesterday, the Astros have 26 players who should be eligible for the first time at next December's draft. Here's a look at five players who are most likely to be added to the 40-man roster for protection:

Chris Johnson, 3B. Johnson spent 2008 with Corpus Christi and Round Rock. He also had a solid Arizona Fall League. There has been some speculation that he will be in Houston at some point during 2009, so I can't see any way he is not on the 40-man roster come December 2009.

Bud Norris, RHP. Norris is from everything I've read the top pitcher in the system. I'm not sure if he'll start at Corpus or Round Rock in 2009, but he's another one who may see Houston during the 2009 "Championship" season.

James Van Ostrand, OF. The Canadian Olympian had a solid 2008 at Salem(High A). If he has good production at AA, he may earn a 40-man spot.

Sergio Perez, RHP. Perez had his AA season in 2008 shortened by two injuries. My guess he is in Corpus to start 2009. A good showing may propel him to the 40-man roster.

Koby Clemens, C. If the catching experiment goes well in year two, he may be worth protecting.

ONE SPECIAL CASE:
Josh Flores, OF. Flores was Rule 5 eligible for the first time this December. However, he was injured all 0f 2008. If returns well to Corpus, he may need protecting next December.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parraz to Royals

According to the MLB hot stove report, the Astros sent outfielder Jordan Parraz to the Royals to the complete the acquisition of Tyler Lumsden, who is on the 40-man roster. Parraz, 24, was drafted in 2004 by Houston(3rd Round). He spent 2008 with Salem where he batted .289 with six home runs, 42 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 114 games.

Rule 5- Astros pick-up Three, Lose one

The Astros picked up Left-handed reliever Gilbert de La Vara from Kansas City with their first pick in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. The team also traded for Baltimore's 1st Round pick, Lou Palmisano, a catcher from the Brewers' system. In addition, Houston picked up first baseman Drew Locke from the Dodgers and lost second baseman Jonny Ash to the Brewers in the AAA phase of the draft.

de La Vara,24, who must remain on the big league roster throughout the 2009 season or be offered back to the Royals split the 2008 season between High A and AA. At High A Wilmington, he pitched 24 games, 44 IP, with 31 Ks and a 3.65 ERA. At AA Northwest Arkansas, he pitched 21 games, 33 IP, with 21 Ks and a 2.76 ERA. He was originally drafted by the Royals in the 15th round of the 2004 draft. de La Vara pitched in the Arizona Fall League posting a 6.16 ERA in 12 games(19 IP).

Palmisano,26, was acquired from the Orioles for cash. Palmisano, a right-handed hitter, was highly regarded being drafted by Milwaukee in the third round of the 2003 draft. However, his bat has not kept up with his highly rated fielding skills. He is recovering from a knee injury. He spent 2008 in High A and Rookie ball. He did not catch any games during the season.
For the rookie Arizona League Brewers, he batted .276 (8 for 29)
For High A Brevard County, he batted .306 (22 for 72) with two home runs and eight RBI.
Palmisano did catch games during the Arizona Fall League, where he was 17 for 46 with two home runs and nine RBI.

Locke, 25, taken in the AAA phase, spent 2008 at High A Inland Empire. It was his second season at High A. A shortage of at bats in 2007 indicate he may have suffered an injury. In 2008, he batted .311 in 122 games, mostly as a first baseman with 11 home runs and 85 RBI.
The right-handed hitter was drafted in the 19th round of the 2005 by the Dodgers.

It is likely that fans of the Astros minor league system will most remember Jonny Ash for his game-winning hit in the 10th inning of the 2007 Texas League All-Star Game at Whataburger Field and resulting MVP award. Ash was drafted by the Astros in the 11th Round of the 2004 draft out of Stanford. He struggled at AAA Round Rock in 2008, where he batted only .224 in 73 games before being sent back to Corpus Christi.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who Is Eligible for the Rule 5 Draft?

On the eve of the Rule 5 draft, Baseball America has posted a list of all Rule 5 eligible players(see link in Recent Articles section, please). They show 30 Farmstros as eligible. In my speculation and previous posting I came up with 30, but some of mine were based on guesses of signing dates. The eight I posted as possibly eligible who according to BA are not:

Castellano, LHP(VSL Astros)
Martinez, RHP(VSL Astros)
Noguera, LHP(Tri-City)
Cespedes, RHP(Lexington)
Ciriaco, RHP(Tri-City)
Espinal, RHP(DSL Astros)
Figueroa, IF(VSL Astros)
Tello, OF(Greeneville)

As you can see, these are all low-level guys.

One name BA doesn't list as eligible is Doug Arguello, LHP, who spent an impressive 2008 in Salem. He resigned with Astros a few weeks ago, and I think he is eligible, which would bring the Astros number to 31. If this is the case, they should be able to protect all players from the AAA and AA phases of the draft, once the major league phase concludes.

Rule 5 Draft Thursday

Baseball's Winter Meetings wrap up tomorrow with the Rule 5 Draft. Indications are that the Astros will take at least one player in that draft, and they make have a move to announce tomorrow. Farmstros will give you the scoop on players added to or lost from the roster tomorrow.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spend Your winter with Farmstros

Hot Stove League action kicks into high gear with this week's winter meetings. I hope you visit Farmstros often throughout the winter until opening day. I intend to keep you posted on the Rule 5 draft, minor league signings, Farmstros in the winter leagues, promotional dates for the Astros minor league teams, trades, spring training moves, and more right up until the opening day rosters are announced in Round Rock, Corpus Christi, Lancaster, and Lexington. I will probably take a week to ten days off right around Christmas, but other than that I appreciate your readership and will aim to make it worth your time to log in. Thanks.

Astros Sign Fulchino

The Astros kicked off the winter meetings by signing Jeff Fulchino. He joins Tyler Lumsden as a Royal cast-off who will be trying to make the Astros this spring. Fulchino, 29, a right-handed reliever, spent 2008 between NW Arkansas(AA), Omaha(AAA), and Kansas City. In 27 minor league games, he pitched 64 2/3 innings and had an ERA around 5. Fulchino was drafted in 2001 by Florida, he spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues with Floriday and Kansas City, pitching 14 1/3 innings in 13 games.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Kata signs With Houston

The Astros signed their first minor league free agent from outside the organization, Matt Kata. The 30-year old infielder was picked by Arizona in the 1999 draft. He has spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues with Arizona, Philadelphia, Texas and Pittsburgh posting a .242 average in 238 games. Last season, Kata was with Indianapolis, Pittsburgh's AAA affiliate. The switch-hitter batted .245 with eight home runs, 45 RBI and 18 stolen bases in the International League.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Arguello resigns with the Astros

Doug Arguello, LHP, who had a solid year with Salem in 2008, has resigned with the Astros organization. Arguello, 24, signed with the Astros in December of 2001 out of Nicaragua and was a free agent for the first time this off-season. He had his best professional season in 2008 pitching in 142 innings in 27 games(25 starts). He posted a 3.30 ERA and a 10-6 record for the Avalanche.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Four New Managers in the Astros Farm System

Four of the eight managers named by the Astros today as part of the organization's field staff for 2009 will be new to the system. Two others are managing in a new location. Managers in ALL CAPS are new to the Astros:

Round Rock- MARC BOMBARD(Charlotte Manager in 2008)
Corpus Christi- Luis Pujols
Lancaster- WES CLEMENTS(Birmingham hitting coach in 2008)
Lexington- TOM LAWLESS(Roving IF/Baserunning instructor for Baltimore in 2008)
Tri-City- Jim Pankovits(Salem Manager in 2008)
Greeneville- Rodney Linares
GCL Astros(new franchise)- Omar Lopez(VSL Astros manager in 2008)
DSL Astros- LUIS MARTINEZ(D.R. player development for Oakland in 2008)

The Astros released further information about their managers and each team's staff(hitting coaches, pitching coaches, etc.) at their website. There is a link to that article in the recent articles list.

GCL Astros in 2009

When the Astros named their minor league staff for 2009, they also revealed that will be fielding a team in the Gulf Coast Rookie League. The team will be based at Osceola County Stadium, the organization's Spring Training home. There is no indication of a staff for the Venezuelan Summer League Astros, and that team's 2008 manager, Omar Lopez will manage the GCL Astros, so I wonder if the Astros are out of Venezuela.

Rule 5- the AA Phase

I recently speculated on 33 players who are most likely to be protected in the AAA and AA phases of next week's Rule 5 draft. Other than those 33 players, my research shows five other players eligible for this year's draft.

Castellano, LHP(VSL Astros in 2008)
Goethals, C(Salem/Corpus Christi)
Martinez, RHP(VSL Astros)
Noguera, LHP(Tri-City)
Ramirez, IF(Tri-City/Lexington)

Last December, the Astros lost five players in the minor league phase: one in Corpus Christi, one in Lexington, one in Tri-City, one in VSL Astros, and one on Disabled List in 2007.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Express to Name New Manager Tomorrow

According to the team's website, the AAA Round Rock Express will be introducing their new manager to fans Wednesday from 5-7 at Dell Diamond. This will be the third manager in the franchise's 10-year history. Dave Clark left the Express after one season to become the Astros third base coach. Jackie Moore was the manager for the first eight seasons of the Round Rock franchise.

Astros Decline All Arbitration Offers

The Astros announced that they decided not to offer arbitration to Doug Brocail, Randy Wolf, and Mark Loretta meaning the team will not get any compensation if those free agents end up elsewhere in 2009. In a related note, the Cardinals didn't offer arbitration to Type A free agent Russ Springer. This makes the reliever more appealing to the Astros.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Arbitration Deadline Tonight at 11 pm Houston time

The Astros have less than 12 hours to decide whether of not to offer arbitration to their free agents. The big decisions, according to an article by Alyson Footer at Astros.com, concern Doug Brocail and Randy Wolf. Brocail is a type A free agent(two draft picks), Wolf a type B(one pick), meaning the club will get compensation in the form of 2009 draft picks if arbitration is offered and the players end up elsewhere. According to Footer, the club will likely not offer arbitration to Mark Loretta who is a type B free agent.
The Astros eyes are likely also on St. Louis and Russ Springer. Springer is a type A free agent. The Astros' reluctance to part with draft picks would probably prevent them from pursuing Springer if the Cardinals offer him arbitration today.

What about the Minor League Phase?

December 11 is the date of baseball's Rule 5 draft. As the date approaches, it is relatively easy to find information about the major league phase. The minor league phases? That's a different story.

As best I have been able to determine, in addition to the 40-man roster an organization can put up to 38 players on their AAA roster. While these 38 could be taken in the Major League phase, they can not be taken in the consequent AAA phase. Further a team can put an additional 37 on their AA roster. These players cannot be taken in the AA phase. There is a nominal fee paid for players drafted in the minor league phases. However, unlike the Major League phase, a player taken in the minor league phases does not have to be kept at the level at which he was drafted. For example, Victor Garate, who was drafted in the AA phase by the Dodgers from the Astros last December spent 2008 with Los Angeles' Class A teams. I have posted earlier that Garate is now, a year later, on the Dodgers' 40-man roster.

Having said that, here is my speculation on 35 players the Astros are likely protecting on their AAA roster. All of them are vulnerable to the Major League phase, unless IN ALL CAPS. I have included 35 players, as being under the maximum allows a team to draft players from other teams.


Pitchers
Blazek(Corpus Christi in 2008)
Muecke(Round Rock)
Englebrook(Corpus Christi)
Fairchild(Corpus Christi)
McKeller(Corpus Christi)
NORRIS(CORPUS CHRISTI)
Van Hekken(Corpus Christi)
Abad(Lexington)
Cespedes(Lexington)
Duran(Tri-City/Lexington)
Severino(Lexington/Salem)
Ciriaco(Tri-City)
Espinal(DSL Astros)
Walker(Salem/Corpus Christi)
Bass(Salem)

Catchers
Lopez(Corpus Christi/Round Rock)
Santangelo(Corpus Christi/Round Rock)
Pestana(Tri-City)
Gonzalez(Greeneville/Tri-City)

Infielders
JOHNSON(CORPUS CHRISTI/ROUND ROCK)
Saccomanno(Round Rock)
Ash(Corpus Christi/Round Rock)
Sheldon(Corpus Christi)
Sutil(Salem/Corpus Christi)
Ori(Salem)
Florentino(Salem)
Brown(Lexington)
Figueroa(VSL Astros)

Outfielders
Einertson(Corpus Christi)
Hart(Corpus Christi)
Flores(Disabled)
Iorg(Corpus Christi)
Parraz(Salem)
Barnes(Lexington)
Tello(Greeneville)

Farmstros in the Caribbean

As December gets started, there are 25 players in the four Caribbean leagues that are affiliated with the Astros. Here's a look at how some of them are performing:

Puerto Rico
Edwin Maysonet, IF. Maysonet is 16 for 53 with six doubles, and 15 RBI

Dominican Republic
Michael Bourn, OF. Bourn is 27 for 86 with eight doubles, 14 walks, and four stolen bases.
Sammy Gervacio, P. Gervacio has pitched in 15 games, 10 1/3 IP, 12 Ks, three BB, and a 4.35 ERA.
Yordany Ramirez, OF. Ramirez is 10 for 38 with one double in 15 games.

Venezuela
Wladamir Sutil, IF. Sutil is 8 for 25 with three RBI.
Fernando Nieve, P. Nieve has pitched in four games, 3 2/3 IP, six Ks and a 2.45 ERA.

House to Royals

J.R. House became the first Astros minor league free agent to sign elsewhere when he signed a split contract with Kansas City for 2009. House, C/1B, spent most of 2008 with Round Rock, although he was called up long enough to have three at bats with the Astros.