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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nine Questions for '09- #4

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE WILL 2410 MILES MAKE?

During the off-season, the Astros High A affiliate was relocated from Salem, Virginia to Lancaster, California. The move was the end product of the Salem franchise being purchased by the group that owns the Red Sox. The Red Sox moved back from Lancaster and the Astros, looking for High A home ended up in a partnership with the Jet Hawks. The move gave Houston their first California League affiliate since Modesto in 1964.

Aside from the obvious geographical difference, the move will affect the Astros and their fans in a few ways:

-- The California League has a reputation for being a hitters league. Statistics for pitchers and hitters will be looked at through this filter.
--The California League has 10 teams compared to the Carolina League's eight. One of the benefits of the smaller league was players saw opponents more often and were forced to make more adjustment more often.
--Games start later. For those fans who like to listen to minor league games on the internet the Pacific Time Zone is a factor.
--Last season on occasion, players had a short call-up to High A Salem from Low A Lexington. The same thing happened between Salem and AA Corpus Christi. With a cross-country trip involved, the short call-up may not be as common in 2009.
--The weather is different. One of the promotions the Jet Hawks have for early in the season is a polar club in April. Fans receive vouchers for hot chocolate during games and other incentives to get them to brave the cold. (I'm including a link to the Jet Hawks full promotion schedule for 2009).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nine Questions for '09- #3

HOW MUCH DNA DOES BRIAN BOGUSEVIC SHARE WITH RICK ANKIEL?

One of the most notable moves in the Astros system last season was the conversion of Brian Bogusevic from Pitcher to Outfielder. The team's second pick in the first round of the 2005 draft out of Tulane made the switch from the mound to everyday player around the mid-point of the 2008 season.

Bogusevic had never established himself as a pitcher in the minor leagues. However, after a brief stint at Salem to get his outfielding legs back, he batted .371 in 42 games as part of the Corpus Christi lineup. He continued his progression in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .338 in 74 at bats. He has an outside shot at being a fifth outfielder for the big league club this spring.

Wherever Bogusevic starts the season, it will be worth keeping an eye on him to see if he is the next Rick Ankiel.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nine Questions for '09- #2

SUTTON? JOHNSON? MANZELLA? MAYSONET?

If the first game of the Grapefruit League season is any indication, the battle for the final major league infield spot should be interesting. Three of the four candidates looking to make the jump from the minors played and contributed.(For those who are new to this blog, we only focus on the Astros farm system and its effectiveness or lack therof. We know about David Newhan, Matt Kata, etc., however, they aren't mentioned here until during the regular season, provided they are part of an Astros minor league team).

Drew Sutton went two for two with two runs scored, Tommy Manzella picked up a hit in his only at bat(I didn't listen to hear if he made any plays in the field), Chris Johnson hit a solo home run. Only Edwin Maysonet didn't play.

One interesting story for 2009 will be how much these four players contribute at Houston:

Edwin Maysonet, 27 is the oldest of the four. His bat has been solid but not overwhelming. I think he is first a shortstop, but doesn't have the glove that Manzella has.

Drew Sutton, 25 is a switch-hitter. He had a very strong offensive season last year in his second season with Corpus Christi. His best position is second, which may help with Matsui's health issues. His stock has definitely risen after his 2008 performance. I think he has the best chance of these four players to stick at MMP this season in a utility role.

Tommy Manzella, 25 is a strong defensive shortstop. He spent most of last season at Corpus being called up to Round Rock near the end of the year. He struggled offensively at AAA. I have seen him compared to Adam Everett.

Chris Johnson, 24 is the youngest of the four. He had a very good season at Corpus last year, struggling during a late season stint at Round Rock. With the Boone/Blum platoon in place at his postion, third base, AAA looks like Johnson's place to develp this season at least at the beginning.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Castro tops BA Top 100 Prospect List at #53

Astros 2008 first-round draft pick Jason Castro is the only player in the organization to crack Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list. The catcher is listed at #53 and BA projects him to reach the majors in 2011.

Nine Questions for '09- #1

HOW MANY ARMS WILL MAKE THE TRIP FROM DELL DIAMOND TO MINUTE MAID?

Heading out of Spring Training in 2008, the Astros had basically no hope of receiving any help by calling a young arm up from their AAA affiliate, Round Rock. As it turned out, call-ups Jack Cassel and Fernando Nieve combined for one win, pitching 41 innings in 20 appearances between them.

In spite of this minimal production and the bleak picture painted by most concerning the Astros minor league system in general, there is hope for improvement in the area of young arms this Spring.

The hope begins with Bud Norris, who spent last season in Corpus Christi. He also participated in the Arizona Fall League. His 2008 was good enough that he received a major league training camp invite and has a chance to leave Florida with the big club most likely as a reliever.

After Norris, Felipe Paulino and Fernando Nieve are next in line. Both pitchers struggled with injuries in 2008. However, if they are healthy, they could contribute to the big club.

Another arm to look for getting a few starts in 2009 is Polin Trinidad. Trinidad, a lefty, split 2008 between Salem and Corpus Christi. It will be interesting to see if he starts at Corpus or Round Rock. If the big league rotation struggles or is injured, Trinidad could get a chance to contribute.

Chris Blazek and Sammy Gervacio look to be ticketed for the Round Rock bullpen this Spring. However, the lefty and righty have high K/BB numbers and could fill in the Astros bullpen as the year progresses. This is more likely for Gervacio since he is on the 40-man roster and the Astros already have two lefties in the bullpen in Wright and Byrdak, not to mention de La Vara.

Longshots to contribute at the top level include Brad James and Josh Muecke. James pitched in Corpus in '08 missing some time to injury. Muecke was the most reliable starter at Round Rock. However, he faded as the season wore on. I have heard him mentioned as a possible bullpen candidate, although he has been mainly a starter in the minors.

With as many as eight candidates, the traffic of pitchers on Highway 71 between Houston and Austin this baseball season looks to be more active and productive this season than last.

NOTE: In the nine days leading up to March 6(the date minor league pitchers and catchers report), Farmstros is focusing on nine questions(one a day) about the upcoming minor league season.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three Farmstros and a coach in the WBC

Three players in the Astros farm system have been named to the final rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Pitcher T.J. Burton and Infielder Chris Barnwell will be representing Canada.

Pitcher Chia-Jen Lo is on the roster for Taiwan.

Also, infielder Stubby Clapp, who is Greeneville's batting coach, will likely be playing for Canada for the final time in his career.

Runelvys heads to Korea

Thanks to the reader who passed on the information that former Astros pitcher Runelvys Hernandez has signed with the Samsung Lions of the Korean baseball league.

Another reader pointed out that Erick Abreu and Roberton Mena appear on the Lancaster JetHawks roster. Those two have been on the Salem or Lancaster roster since the end of the 2008 season, so I am not sure if they have resigned with Houston or if they just haven't been removed yet by MiLB.com.

Either way, thanks for keeping your eyes open.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Three Free Agents Show Up Elsewhere

Three more free agents who were in the Astros organization have shown up with other franchises as Spring Training for minor leaguers gets closer.

Jarred Ball, OF has signed with Arizona. Ball spent last season with Corpus Christi.

Ron Chiavacci, P is with Detroit. Chiavacci was acquired last year for Stephen Randolph. He pitched for Lehigh Valley and Round Rock.

Nick Regilio, P is also with Detroit. Regilio spent 2008 with Round Rock.

These moves leave 15 free agents from last season's Astros system unaccounted for. Please let us know if you have any information on their whereabouts:

Erick Abreu, P
Rob Cosby, IF
Chance Douglass, P
Osvaldo Fernando, IF/Coach
Bo Hall, P
Runelvys Hernandez, P
Ray King, P
Danny Klassen, IF
Val Majewski, OF
Roberto Mena, IF
Kyle Middleton, P
Josh Miller, P
Jose Oyervidez, P
Tomas Perez, IF
Todd Self, IF/Coach

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sapp on Road Back

According to Astros.com Max Sapp is close to lifting weights at the clubs minor league facility. The team's catcher recently survived a bout with meningitis. He is a long way from a baseball field, but fortunately, he seems to be getting his health back for daily living. I incuded a link to a full story in the RECENT ARTICLES section.

A new Outfielder and a returning Lefty

With Minor League camp approaching, it looks like two more players will be on the minor league fields at Osceola County Stadium. Mark McClemore and Jason Romano are listed on the Round Rock roster at MiLB.com, so I am assuming they have signed with Houston.

McClemore, LHP was drafted by the Astros in 2002. He pitched 28 games with the Astros in 2007, before missing all of last season with an injury.

Romano, OF was drafted by Texas in 1997. He has played 129 games in the big leagues during parts of four seasons with five different types. His most recent experience was with Somerset of the Atlantic League(independent) in 2007.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Farmstros Branching Out

Recently I was approached about being a contributor to an Astros fan site called THE CRAWFISH BOXES. The site is looking to increase their coverage of the Astros minor league system. Based on what they have seen on this blog, they came to the conclusion that I am the person to fill that bill. Starting next week, I will be posting there regularly on what has become my area of expertise the past two years. I look forward to the opportunity to take Farmstros to some new places during the upcoming season.

At the same time, I plan to keep this blog going in its current format as well. I really like having my own space on the web, and I realize that an appeal of this blog is that it is very specialized so that you don't know have to wade through numerous pages to find out about the Astros of the future if that is your only interest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Farmstros a Finalist

I went three for three in Round 1 of today's Tournament of Champions on J.D. and Dave's Excellent Adventure advancing to the Finals. However, I lost in the finals. My mom couldn't believe that I didn't know that Roger Metzger played the most games as an Astro shortstop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Farmstros in the Tournament of Champions

Tomorrow is the final installment of JD and Dave's Excellent Off-Season Adventure on 790 AM in Houston. As part of the show, they are bringing back four fans who have participated on the show
during the off-season. I am one of the four fans who will be part of the show's Tournament of Champions. The show airs at 10 am Houston time on Wednesday. The show streams live through the 790 AM the Sports Animal website.

Gorneault a Blue Jay

Nick Gorneault, who spent 2008 with Round Rock, has signed a minor league contract with Toronto for 2009. The 29-year old outfielder batted .257 with 19 home runs and 56 RBI in 120 games during his first season in the Astros system. With the plethora of outfield prospects who spent 2008 in AA Corpus, Bogusevic, Iorg, Einertson, Hart not to mention Yordany Ramirez, there won't be room at Dell Diamond for any veteran outfielders on the roster.

In another transaction note, the Cincinnati Reds signed right-handed pitcher Luis Pardo. Pardo was drafted by the Astros in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. He spent 2008, his first full professional season, at Low A Lexington. The Astros released him after he posted a 5.57 ERA in 63 innings.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One More Spring Training Date Set

Thanks to Nicholas Skinner in the Mississippi Braves(AA) offices, we now know that the Astros minor leaguers are taking on the Braves farmhands on March 25.

Round Rock and Corpus Christi will make the trip to Disney, while Lancaster and Lexington host the Braves class A affiliates in the Osceola County Stadium complex.

At some point, the Astros schedule will be complete, and I will post it in its entirety.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Minor League Spring Training Schedule

I uncovered the first piece of the puzzle that is the Astros minor league spring training schedule. For geographical reasons, the club is in a pod with Atlanta(Kissimmee), Detroit(Lakeland), and Washington(Viera) for purposes of playing games. The Syracuse Chiefs, Washington's Triple A affiliate has announced their spring schedule. They take on Round Rock four times, meaning that four days of the Farmstros spring schedule are as follows:

March 23- vs. Washington: AAA/AA(Home)... A(Away)
March 26- vs. Washington: AAA/AA(Away)... A(Home)
March 28- vs. Washington: AAA/AA(Home)...A(Away)
April 3- vs. Washington: AAA/AA(Away)...A(Home)

The games begin at noon(Florida time)

If you are curious about minor league spring training, NJ.com had an informative blog post about the Yankees minor league camp. The dates are different, but the insights to how minor league camp is different from big league camp were useful. I've included a link in the recent articles section.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Farmstros...Dates of Note

With the trucks on their way to Florida for Spring Training, it's time to give a quick overview of dates of note on Farmstros in the upcoming weeks:

February 25-March 5...beginning with the day of the big league club's first S.T. game, we will be pondering nine('09) questions(one a day) that will enhance your enjoyment of the minor league season.

February 28- Minor league mini-camp begins- I assume most of the highly regarded prospects who aren't already in Big League camp will be at this event

March 6- Minor League Pitchers/Catchers report to Kissimmee

March 10- All minor league players report

March 11- First minor league full workout

April 2- Astros at Hooks(6 pm)
April 5- Hooks at Express(2 pm)
April 6- Astros vs. Cubs at Minute Maid Park(Opening Day- 6 pm)
April 7- Express at Hooks(6 pm)

April 9- Minor League Opening Day(Round Rock, Corpus Christi, Lancaster, and Lexington kick off their seasons). Farmstros will keep you informed of the minor league rosters as the season gets rolling. Who's new? Who's at a higher/lower level than expected?

April 12- Resurrection Commemoration!

April 15- Farmstros Five, week 1. This is a tentative date. My plan is to stick with a Wednesday-Tuesday time frame each week to select the top five Farmstros performers each week.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Astros sign two new, resign a free agent Catcher

With Spring Training just around the corner, the Astros continue to fill up their minor league rosters signing two new players and resigning a catcher who was in the system last season.

Catcher Julian Henson spent 2008 with Tri-City and Lexington picking up 19 hits in 96 at bats with nine RBI.

Rob Semerano, RHP was drafted by Oakland in 2004. His highest level has been High A. He spent 2008 with Tampa(Yankees, High A), where he pitched 35 1/3 innings in 22 games with a 5.09 ERA.

Felix Molina, 2B was drafted in 2001 by Minnesota. He reached the Twins AAA affiliate in 2008, getting three at bats at Rochester. He spent the remainder of last season at New Britain(AA), where he batted .247 with 35 RBI in 300 at bats.

Astros sign former Ranger First Round Pick

Infielder Drew Meyer was the 10th pick of the 2002 draft. In seven seasons with the Rangers, the left-handed hitter spent one season(2006) in the majors, picking up three hits in 14 at bats. He has now signed a minor league contract with the Astros for 2009. He spent 2008 with Oklahoma(AAA) batting .250 with two home runs and 24 RBI in 284 at bats.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Astros sign a Boilermaker

The Astros have signed undrafted outfielder Jordan Comadena for the 2009 season. Comadena spent four years at Purdue University. He batted .340 his junior year, however an injury kept him from being drafted. He batted .276 in 192 at bats in his senior season(2008). Comadena came to the Astros attention when Jimmy Wynn saw him playing in the Northwoods League Alumni Game in Wisconsion.