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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That Chris Chenes Sure can count Peanuts!!

Chris Chenes, the Valley Cats Media Relations/Productions Manager recently took a little time to count some legumes. On Facebook recently, Tri-City had a contest in which fans guessed how many peanuts were in a glass jar. On camera, Chenes counted 502 peanuts, meaning, "Gail Ann Nizinkirck" wins the team-worn Valley Cats batting practice jersey. According to her Facebook page, Nizinkirck is a teacher in the Troy City Schools. Seeing that she guessed exactly 502 peanuts, my guess is she's a math teacher.

Jim Crane: My kingdom for a HOLE EXPERT!

The first part of my conversation with John Manuel, Editor-in-Chief of Baseball America(posted above) reminds me of the episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun where Dick and Harry Solomon fall in a hole. In that episode, Dick unwittingly falls into a hole, which leads to Harry asking him, "How long you gonna be down there." Not surprisingly, Harry's attempt to get help for Dick ends when he too falls into the hole.

I originally planned to talk to Manuel about the upcoming Rule 5 draft(audio on that topic will be coming soon). However, since the recent changes in the Astros front office are a hot topic, I asked Baseball America's Editor-in-Chief for his take on what the moves mean to the future of the Astros. You can listen to his repsonse above. Take fair warning, there is some discussion about holes, digging yourself in a hole, deep holes, and the substantial amount of climbing out of holes that still remains for the Houston organization.

After talking to Manuel, I think it is safe to conclude that rather than a new General Manager, Jim Crane might be well-advised to look for a HOLE EXPERT. If you have interest in applying for that position take note that "A hole expert is the man who reaches down into God's caverns and plucks out what lives and breathes and ought not to be there."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Looking Ahead to June 2012- 50 Top prospects

Jonathan Mayo has posted his 50 top prospects for the 2012 June Draft. The Astros have the first pick in the draft, a compensation pick for Clint Barmes, and the first pick in the second round, so three of these 50 prospects could be Astros of the Future.

The "Wild of the Future" are Going MOvember Too

It appears that minor league hockey players can grow moustaches to promote men's health awareness too.

Throughout this month, Farmstros has been keeping up with Jimmy Van Ostrand's facial hair. Van Ostrand, a first baseman in the Astros system, is participating in a project called MOVEMBER. Van Ostrand and others are letting their beards and moustaches grow all month in hopes of "Changing the Face of Men's Health".

As witnessed by the video above, Van Ostrand is joined in this venture by a few hockey players who lace up their skates just down the street from Minute Maid Park. The video was produced by the Houston Aeros , a minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. The Aeros play their home games in downtown Houston at the Toyota Center.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Smith and Wade Aren't Invited to Spring Training, but These Guys Could Be

For the first time in several years, Ed Wade and Tal Smith won't be headed to Osceola County Stadium in February 2012. However, as the Astros continue their efforts to rebuild with youth, there will be a large contingent of new players reporting in Florida a few weeks after T.J. Yates leads the Texans to victory over the Packers in Super Bowl XLVI.

The 38 players on the 40-man roster have been set. 12 of these 38 players were not on 40-man roster when Spring Training began in 2011.

An influx of non-roster invitees will likely fill the extra space in the Kissimmee clubhouse. Nine non-roster players have already been invited. Here's a look at 14 more possible candidates to be in Florida in February.

Emerson Frostad
Rene Garcia
Chris Wallace

With approximately 25 pitchers reporting on February 20, the club will need more than the three catchers on the 40-man roster to keep up with all the bullpen pitches that will be thrown.

Jarred Cosart, RHP
Brett Oberholtzer, LHP
Jason Stoffel, RHP
Jonathan Villar, SS
Josh Zeid, RHP

All of these products of Ed Wade transactions ended the 2011 season with Corpus Christi.

Jacob Goebbert, OF
Kody Hinze, 1B
Dallas Keuchel, LHP

Goebbert, Hinze, and Kuechel built on solid regular seasons with appearances in the Arizona Fall League.

Jake Buchanan

Buchanan was voted the pitcher of the year by readers of Farmstros in 2011.

Delino DeShields, Jr.
Jiovanni Mier

The 2009 first round pick, Mier had a clause in his contract that required the Astros to invite him to Spring Training in 2011. Does the clause include 2012? Does 2010 first round pick DeShields have a similar clause?

Brandon Barnes, OF
Travis Buck, OF
Xavier Cedeno, LHP
Carlos Corporan, C(Signed and Invited 11/29/2011)
Diory Hernandez, IF(Signed and Invited 12/2011)
Scott Moore, IF
Lance Pendleton, RHP
Brad Snyder, OF
Nick Stavinoha, OF
Joe Thurston, IF
Jose Valdez, RHP

These nine have RSVP'ed to their invitation.

Sutil Won't be Visiting Corpus Christi in 2012

If fans of the Corpus Christi Hooks want to see one of the most prolific infielders in franchise history during the 2012 season, they will need to hit the road. After nine seasons in the Astros' organization, Wladimir Sutil has moved on. The 27-year old infielder recently signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sutil spent parts of four seasons(2008-11) with Corpus Christi, and he is at our near the top of several career offensive categories for the franchise. Sutil is #1 in Hooks' history in games(345), at bats(1253), and hits(341). He is also #2 in runs scored(178) and stolen bases(69).

The closest Sutil will be playing to Whataburger Field in 2012 could be Mississippi. If he ends up with Mobile, the Diamondbacks AA affiliate, he will be visiting Jackson, Mississippi(May 17-21) and Pearl, Mississippi(July 24-28). If Sutil lands with AAA Reno, he will be visting Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee from May 8-15 in 2012.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Apparently, Tim Tebow Doesn't Like The Amazing Race

Astute readers of this blog may recall that I like CBS' reality show, The Amazing Race. After today, I am convinced that, despite any other positive attributes he may possess, Denver Broncos' Quarterback Tim Tebow doesn't share this affinity.

Without fail, the Farmstros household gathers around the rabbit ears-powered television every Sunday at 7 p.m.(Minute Maid Park time) to watch TAR host Phil Keoghan work his magic. However, during football season, viewing of the racers is regularly delayed due to the 3 o'clock NFL game on CBS running late. The delay tonigtht was extra-long due to the exploits of Tebow.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Tebow had his Broncos in range of a go-ahead touchdown, which would have given them a lead over San Diego and a likely quick end to the game(and a relatively normal start time for the racers in Belgium). However, Denver settled for a tying field goal on the drive in question and a lengthy over-time period ensued.

Tebow took his sweet time carrying out his latest miracle and as a result, fans of The Amazing Race had to delay their viewing until 7:55. As a result, bed times for at least one 2nd grader and one 3rd grader in the Houston ISD were moved back nearly an hour. Don't think this won't affect student performance in the classroom tomorrow and perhaps beyond.

I fully appreciate a miracle worker such as Tebow working on his own unique time table. It is an impressive thing to watch, even if he isn't a very good passer. At the same time, I am glad that the Broncos won't have another late Sunday afternoon game on CBS until after this season's Amazing Race finale on December 11.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Win a Team Worn Valley Cat BP jersey

It seems that Tri-City is always ahead of the curve with the cool(or at least attention-getting) internet promotions. Not surprisingly, Chris Chenes and the gang have struck again the day after Thanksgiving.

Readers of the club's Facebook page have a chance to win a "Team Worn BP jersey". To enter this contest, go to the Valley Cats' Facebook page , find the post which includes a picture of a jar full of peanuts, and guess how many peanuts are in that jar. Closest guess wins the shirt.

NOTE: The picture was "borrowed for promotional reasons" from the Valley Cats' Facebook page. I am assuming they won't mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unlikely Realignment Winner- Milo Hamilton

The Astros' move to the American League in 2013 will make it convenient for Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton to add to his list of accomplishments.

Heading into the 2012 season, Hamilton has broadcasted games in 59 different stadiums. Assuming he travels to Miami in April 2012 to have his voice heard from the Marlins' new stadium, the switch to the AL in 2013 will make it relatively easy for Hamilton to check number 61 off of his list. Although Hamilton has broadcasted games from two venues in the Twin Cities(Metropolitan Stadium and The Metrodome), he has yet to do so from Target Field, the Twins new home. That fact should change in 2013, and Hamilton's count would stand at 61.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Van Ostrand's MOVEMBER goes Retro

Jimmy Van Ostrand, who is getting ready for a MOVEMBER Madness basketball torunament this weekend in British Columbia, looks like he is ready for the Astros' 50th anniversary season. MOVEMBER is an initiative to promote awareness of men's health issues.

American League All-Stars of the Future

2016 American League All-Star?: Jake Buchanan

In July 2013 at Citi Field in New York City, at least one Astros' All-Star representative will take his place in line for pre-game introductions between players from the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals. While Houston's players will soon be battling in the mid-summer classic for home field advantage on behalf of the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, et. al, here is a look at current members of the organization who have a chance to take the field for the Junior Circuit in the near future.

Catcher- Chris Wallace, 24(Age as of Opening Day 2012). Wallace was drafted in 2010 and his bat has already carried him to AA Corpus.

First Base- Jonathan Singleton, 20. Singleton showed a hot bat in Lancaster for a month in 2011 after being acquired in the Hunter Pence trade.

Second Base- DeLino DeShields, Jr., 19. The Astros #1 pick in 2010 spent 2011 in Lexington. He may find his path blocked by Jose Altuve.

Third Base- First Pick in 2012 Draft?

Shortstop- Jonathan Villar, 20. Villar was acquired in the 2010 Roy Oswalt trade. Finished 2011 as Corpus Christi's everyday shortstop.

Outfield- Austin Wates, 23. Wates was Lancaster's most consistent batter for the entire 2011 season.

Outfield- George Springer, 22. The 2011 First Round Pick begins his first full season as a pro in the spring.

Outfield- Domingo Santana, 19. Santana was impressive in Lexington after being acquired for Hunter Pence.

Designated Hitter- Kody Hinze, 24. Hinze led the system in home runs and RBI in 2011.

Starting Pitcher- Jarred Cosart, 20. Houston native was acquired in the Hunter Pence trade.

Starting Pitcher- Dallas Keuchel, 24. Lefty from Arkansas may make it up in time to be part of the National League Astros.

Starting Pitcher- Jake Buchanan, 22. Buchanan put up a solid season in 2011 despite pitching in pitcher-unfriendly Lancaster.

Starting Pitcher- Nick Tropeano, 21. Tropeano was just drafted last summer and was impressive in his short season debut with Tri-City.

Starting Pitcher- Paul Clemens, 24. Clemens was acquired for Michael Bourn and recently added to 40-man roster. Like Keuchel, he may get a chance to be a National Leaguer.

Reliever- Dayan Diaz, 23. After suffering from arm injuries for two seasons, Diaz had a breakout season in the 2011 Tri-City bullpen.

NOTE: Here are links to the prospect rankings of five other blogs/publications:

Baseball America Top 10 Organizational All-Stars

Baseball Prospectus Top 20 Top 10(Jonathan Mayo)

Minor League Ball Top Prospect List

Unlikely Realignment Winner- SugarLand Skeeters

When Matt O'Brien and the team building the SugarLand Skeeters sit down to eat their turkey and dressing on Thursday, the recent announcement that the Astros are moving to the American League will be near the top of the list of things for which they are thankful.

For those unfamiliar with the geography of Houston, SugarLand is less than 25 miles southwest of Minute Maid Park. Therefore, while the Skeeters aren't in the same league as the Astros, they will be competing to some degree with the big league club for butts to put into the 7500 seats of StarTex Power Field. From this chair, it is apparent that the dissatisfaction of the Astros' fan base over the impending move to the American League combined with the fact that the Astros are coming off of their worst season in franchise history, combine to give the Skeeters a maximum opportunity to succeed in carving out a niche in the Houston area baseball market.

NOTE: As an added bonus for the Skeeters, the weekend that the Skeeters begin their 2012 season, April 26-29, the Astros are out of town in Cincinnati.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Van Ostrand is Having a Movember Basketball Tournament

If you are in British Columbia this Saturday, you can participate in the MOVEMBER MADNESS 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament being organized by Jimmy Van Ostrand. Van Ostrand, a first baseman in the Houston organization, is participating in MOVEMBER, an initiative to promote awareness of men's health issues. All proceeds from the event will benefit the MOVEMBER FOUNDATION.

The tournament is scheduled to begin Saturday at 2 p.m.(Minute Maid Park time) at Richmond's Olympic Oval.

Felipe Paulino = Clint Barmes = ????

Brian McTaggart(yes, him again) is reporting that Clint Barmes has agreed to a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This marks the likely end of the Ronny Cedeno era at PNC Park. However, more importantly for the Farmstros Village, due to the fact that Barmes is a Type B free agent, it means the Astros will get an additional compensatory pick in the 2012 draft if Barmes signs by Wednesday. The pick would fall between the first and second rounds.

Barmes was acquired prior to the 2011 season for Felipe Paulino, meaning Ed Wade may well be in the process of turning Felipe Paulino into a high draft pick. The last time the Astros were compensated for the loss of a Type B free agent was the 2008 Draft when Jordan Lyles was selected with a pick received for the loss of Trever Miller.

Hey, Sports Radio 610 is Kite Flying a Sport?

When I heard about the Sports Radio 610 contest which gives one listener a trip to any sporting event in the world, one question popped into my mind: "Is kite flying a sport?"

I lived in Shirone, Japan from 1993-95. In that small town northwest of Tokyo, I participated in my favorite sporting event ever. Early every June(June 7-11 in 2012), the town shuts down for a long weekend known as the Shirone Giant Kite Battle. Preparations for the event begin months ahead of time as numerous neighborhood groups build 30-foot tall kites for the competition. During the event, groups of 30-40 people fly kites on both sides of the Shinano River. The goal of the contest is to cross ropes with a kite from the other side of the river. At this point, a tug-of-war is held to determine who has the strongest ropes.

After the sun goes down, the kites are put away until the next morning and neighbors gather for sushi, sake and a celebration of the day's events. I have been to two Final Fours, numerous baseball and basketball play-off games, and a baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and I have enjoyed them all. However, if Sports Radio 610 called me to ask me what sporting event I would like them to send me to, I would answer, "Let's go fly a kite!"

Hinze Being left out is a Good Sign

The Astros set their 40-man roster Friday, and Brian McTaggart had a nice post summarizing the club's process leading up to the roster deadline.

Ed Wade indicates in his interview with McTaggart that losing players in the Rule 5 draft is a sign that your farm system is where it needs to be. After reading McTaggart's article and having correpsondence with a person more knowledgeable of the Rule 5 Draft than myself, I don't think the Astros are in danger of losing the players they left unprotected. However, the fact that there is not room for a player like Kody Hinze is a good sign that the system is getting stronger.

The Astros' general manager, whoever that may be in November 2012, will have an even tougher job setting the 40-man roster next fall. The list of players who will be eligible for next December's Rule 5 draft includes: Jay Austin, Jacob Goebbert, Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer, Ross Seaton, Jonathan Villar, Brandon Wikoff, and Josh Zeid. This list could grow larger if the Astros get more prospects in trades. It is encouraging to see indications that the system is heading in a direction where it is too full to hold all of its talent.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Goebbert Drives in First Run of Game as Rafters Win AFL Title

Jacob Goebbert hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the second inning to drive in the first run of the Arizona Fall League Championship. Goebbert's RBI gave the Salt River Rafters a lead they never relinquished as they went on to knock off Surprise in Saturday's contest. Goebbert also singled and scored in a 5-run seventh inning as the Rafters finished the game with a 9-3 victory. Jason Castro had a double in the game, and Josh Zeid pitched 1/3 of an inning without allowing a run.

40-man Roster Set

Fernando Abad, 26(age as of April 6, 2012)
Juan Abreu, 26-Optioned
David Carpenter, 26
Paul Clemens, 24-Optioned
Rhiner Cruz, 25
Jorge DeLeon, 24-Optioned
Enerio Del Rosario, 26-Optioned
Sergio Escalona, 27-Injured
J.A. Happ, 29
Lucas Harrell, 26-(OUT OF OPTIONS#)
Arcenio Leon, 25-Optioned
Wilton Lopez, 28
Jordan Lyles, 21-optioned
Brandon Lyon, 32
Brett Myers, 31
Bud Norris, 27
Aneury Rodriguez, 24-Optioned
Fernando Rodriguez, Jr., 27
Wandy Rodriguez, 33
Henry Sosa, 26-(OUT OF OPTIONS#)-outrighted
Kyle Weiland, 25
Wesley Wright, 27-(OUT OF OPTIONS#)

Jason Castro, 24
Chris Snyder, 30

Jose Altuve, 21
Matt Downs, 28
Marwin Gonzalez, 23
Chris Johnson, 27
Carlos Lee, 36
Jed Lowrie, 27
Jimmy Paredes, 23-Optioned
Brett Wallace, 25-Optioned

Brian Bogusevic, 28-(OUT OF OPTIONS#)
Fernando Martinez, 23-Optioned
J.D. Martinez, 24
Jordan Schafer, 25-(OUT OF OPTIONS#)
J.B. Shuck, 24

Brandon Barnes, 25, OF-Reassigned
Brian Bixler, 29, IF-Reassigned
Travis Buck, 28, OF
Xavier Cedeno, 25, LHP-Reassigned
Carlos Corporan, 28, C-Reassigned
Delino DeShields, Jr., 19, 2B-Reassigned
Rene Garcia, 22, C-Reassigned
Jacob Goebbert, 24, OF-Reassigned
Diory Hernandez, 27, IF-Reassigned
Scott Moore, 28, IF-Reassigned
Landon Powell, 30, C-Reassigned
Justin Ruggiano, 29, OF-Reassigned
Angel Sanchez, 28, IF-Reassigned
Jonathan Singleton, 20, 1B/OF-Reassigned
Brad Snyder, 29, OF-Reassigned
George Springer, 22, OF-Reassigned
Jose Valdez, 29, RHP-Reassigned
Henry Villar, 24, RHP-Reassigned
Jonathan Villar, 20, SS-Reassigned
Chris Wallace, 23, C-Reassigned

#-A player who is OUT OF OPTIONS must clear waivers before he can be sent to the minor leagues.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Valley Cats Open June 20, When Will #1 Pick Arrive?

Tri-City announced their 2012 schedule today. The club begins their season June 20, 16 days after the Astros select the first player in the 2012 draft.

Unlikely Re-alignment Winner- Lee Street

None of the voices in cyberspace has been more disppointed about the Astros upcoming move to the American League than Texas native and Portland, Oregon resident, Lee Street. Street, who is also known as StreetJL and OregonStrosFan in various locations, grew up in Texas and fondly remembers watching Nolan Ryan and yelling "Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz" as a youngster at the Astrodome. However, he has been in an Astro vacuum since moving to the Great Northwest of Portland in 1994. Fortunately for Street, Astros baseball will be in his neighborhood more regularly starting in 2013.

Since Street has been in Portland, the Astros have made only one visit to Seattle(a 3 game series in 2004), so Street has been forced to travel to San Francisco and Phoenix to catch up with his hometown team. With the Astros move to the AL West, Street will need only to take a 2.5 hour trip up the Pacific Coast to watch the Astros in person as many as nine times a season.

While the harsh reality of the move still stings for Street, he admits that he will benefit from the geographical ramifications of this realignment. He already has plans to be the only person at Safeco Field with an Astros jersey on in 2013. However, in spite of being an unlikely beneficiary of the latest machinations of major league baseball, Street insists that " I will always passionately despise Bud Selig for as long as I live."

Paul Clemens added to 40-Man Roster

Picture by the Corpus Christi Hooks. Used with permission.

The Astros haved added right-handed pitcher Paul Clemens to their 40-man roster. This move brings the club's 40-man roster count to 38. Clemens played for Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City in 2011 after being acquired from Atlanta in the Michael Bourn trade.

This evening is the deadline for club's to set their rosters in preparation for next month's Rule 5 Draft. I assume the Astros won't be making any more additions, meaning Kody Hinze and Dayan Diaz will be left unprotected in the draft which will be held December 8.

In a side note, the Astros also signed right-handed starter Lance Pendleton and invited him to spring training as a non-roster player

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hinze Makes Final Case For 40-Man Roster Spot

Photo by George Tuley. Used with permission.

Kody Hinze has two things to do in Arizona Friday: prepare for Saturday's Arizona Fall League Championship Game and wait to hear if he is added to the Astros' 40-man roster. Hinze wrapped up the regular season of the Arizona Fall League Thursday. He gave the Astros something to think about while they decide whether to include him on their 40-man roster before Friday's deadline.

Hinze batted .268 for the Salt River Rafters this fall. He was 22 for 82 with four doubles, four home runs, 14 runs scored and 18 RBI. This performance was a follow up to a regular split between Lancaster and Corpus Christi in which he led the Houston organization with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. He will officially complete his 2011 season when the Rafters face Peoria at 2:10 (Minute Maid Park time) on Saturday.

Legends' Fans may Need a Little Extra Gas Money to see the Astros in 2013

Boosters of the Lexington baseball team will need to budget some extra funds for travel if they want to go see any former Legends playing in the major leagues for the Astros in 2013. Legends' new General Manager Seth Poteat pointed out that with the Astros in the National League, it is convenient for their fans to make the short trek to Cincinnati when Houston is in town to take on the Reds. Cincinnati is less than 100 miles from the home of the Astros' Low A affiliate in Kentucky.

This tradition is most common among the team's booster club members and fans who serve as host families for players. A small portion of these Legends' faithful keep in touch with players as they advance through the minor leagues, and enjoy traveling to see them play with a star on their caps. Such reunions will be less economical once the Astros move to the Junior Circuit. The three closest American League cities to Lexington are Cleveland(333 miles), Detroit(347 miles), and Chicago(370 miles). Arlington will be the Astros' closest division rival to Lexington after the realignment at nearly 900 miles.

Houston's Baseball Future Meets Houston's Baseball Past

Chris Wallace was only 11 years old when the Astros played their final game at the Astrodome in 1999. This Astro of the future was two months old when Craig Biggio made his major league debut. Wallace was a senior at Cy-Fair High School with tickets to Game 5 when the White Sox swept the Astros in the 2005 World Series. Now after growing up surrounded by Houston baseball history, Chris Wallace is aiming to write his own chapter of that history.

The Astros drafted Wallace out of the University of Houston in June 2010. After spending the 2010 summer with short season Greeneville and Tri-City, Wallace sped up the club's minor league ladder in 2011. He started the campaign at Low A Lexington, and was promoted to AA Corpus Christi after just 66 games. The rigors of his first full pro season took a toll on him after he got to Southeast Texas. "The first three weeks in Corpus took a toll on me," Wallace said in an interview at the Houston Baseball Museum. However, despite the fatigue and an injury, Wallace appeared in 36 games for the Hooks, hitting six home runs and driving in 29 runs.

Wallace is spending the off-season in Houston working out with Humberto Quintero, Bud Norris, Ross Seaton, and Jarred Cosart several days a week. He is aiming to lose 10 pounds in preparation for his second full season, which will likely start in the heat of Corpus Christi. While Whataburger Field IS his likely opening assignment in 2012, Wallace witnessed first hand that Corpus can be a launching pad to Houston. He saw three teammates, J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve and Jimmy Paredes make the jump to Minute Maid Park from AA in the 2011 season. Seeing those players success was an added motivator for Wallace who said the promotion of the young trio made him think, "That could be me. You never know who's going to get called up."

In about three months, Wallace will be heading back to Florida for Spring Training. Will 2012 be the year he starts writing his chapter of Houston's baseball history?

NOTE: I interviewed Chris at the Houston Sports Museum which is located inside the Fingers Furniture Store at 4001 Gulf Freeway(77003). The store was built on the site of Buffs Stadium, which was the home of the Houston Buffs minor league baseball team from 1928-61. A replica home plate from Buffs Stadium is in the center of the exhibit. A majority of the museum is devoted to baseball with artifacts from the Buffs, Colt 45s and Astros. However, other Houston sports are included as well. Admission is free and the museum is open during Fingers' regular business hours.

Can Drive Re-Cap

Some rain put a damper on Aluminum Can Music Man's Can Drive in the Heights Tuesday. Here's a recap of the event.

BA's Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America has posted their list of the Astros top 10 prospects. Six of the ten players have been picked up in trades over the last two seasons. John Manuel's posting also includes a breakdown of the top tools in the organization.

Astros re-sign one, Release nine

According to the latest transactions report from Baseball America, the Astros have re-signed Erick Abreu. Abreu, 28, has spent four seasons in the Houston organization. He spent most of 2011 in Corpus, where he posted a a 4.29 ERA in 123 2/3 innings.

The Astros have also released nine players:

Miguel Arrendell, SS
Joan Belliard, RHP
Garrett Bullock, LHP
Danilo Del Rio, RHP
Pedro Gomez, RHP
Jacke Healey, SS
Mark Jones, RHP
Ronald Sanchez, 1B
Travis Smink, LHP

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

There Once was a Bully Named Bud

I originally wrote and posted this poem on October 20. Ever the optimist, I depicted my hero "Jimmy" standing up to a school yard bully named Allan Huber. Unfortunately for fans of National League baseball in Houston, in this case, my art does not imitate life.

Allan Huber roamed the grounds with handshakes and with smiles.
He laughed and said, "Yes, ma'am" a lot and looked good all the while.
Young Allan loved his teachers, and his teachers bragged on him
The place seemed better no doubt than a school had ever been.

Yet, when no one was looking, Allan Huber made it clear
To anyone who crossed him that he was someone to fear.
One student who did Allan's homework forgot it one day
And for a week had recess on a field quite far away.

Some students, he tormented with an extra touch of glee:
The children of the owner of the local A&P
Year after year, the grocer's kids were picked last in kickball
And giggled at without restraint by students short and tall.

"I love the grocer's children," Allan said for all to hear,
But if one looked behind the lines, his ways could be seen clear.
It seemed that Allan's reign would last 'til graduation day
The grocer's children looked up and saw only clouds of grey.

Then summer came and went and all the kids returned to school
And found a brand new student there, who seemed to be quite cool.
The teacher took the roll and everybody heard his name
He was the youngest off-spring of Seattle's Martin Crane.

Unlike his older brothers, this young Jimmy had a spine
He sought out Allan Huber and said, "This school will be mine."

Then over time, young Jimmy put the bully in his place
And did it daily with a great big smile upon his face.

It took a while as Allan Huber put up quite a fight
But as the weeks passed by, he began to see the light.

The school, no longer his to rule, young Allan laid quite low
He realized that Crane had won and this was Jimmy's Show.

Is the 40-man Roster set at 37?

With the outright of Carlos Corporan, Houston's 40-man roster stands at 37. The club has two days to set the 40-man roster heading into the winter meetings, which includes the Rule 5 Draft. With all due respect to Arcenio Leon, Angel Sanchez, and Henry Villar, there are three Rule 5 vulnerable players the Astros should consider protecting before the Friday dealine. Adding these players would require the removal of three from the current roster if the club wishes to keep three spots open for the Rule 5 Draft and/or free agent signings.

Paul Clemens, 24(2012 Opening Day age), RHP. Clemens was one of the pieces in the Michael Bourn trade. Some noise has been made that he has a chance to pitch at Minute Maid in 2012. In 2011, he started 26 games between Mississippi, Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. He posted a 3.81 ERA in 144 innings.

Kody Hinze, 24, 1B. With the Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Hinze is a perfect candidate for the DH depth chart. He led the organization in home runs and RBI in 2011. He has kept up the performance in the Arizona Fall League batting .280 with 15 RBI in 20 games heading into today's play.

Dayan Diaz, 23, RHP. Baseball America named Diaz the short-season relief pitcher of the year. His development has been slowed by injury, but he broke out in 2011 with 70 strikeouts and a 1.98 ERA in 50 innings pitched for Tri-City.

Farmstros' 40-man roster prediciton

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Home is Good to Keuchel in Arizona, Too

In what was likely his last outing in the Arizona Fall League, Dallas Keuchel had another impressive performance at home Tuesday. Keuchel, who pitched well at home, but struggled on the road in seven regular season starts after being called up to AAA Oklahoma City near the end of the regular season, continued that same pattern this fall in Arizona.

Keuchel pitched four innings striking out six and allowing only one run in what was a home game for the Salt River Rafters. He had a 2.40 ERA in four "home" outings this fall. In three road games, Keuchel had an 8.10 ERA. Over-all, the lefty had a 5.08 ERA in 28 1/3 IP in Arizona.

Aluminum Can Music Man visits the Dynamo's Home of the Future

To celebrate America Recycles Day, Aluminum Can Music Man visited the construction site of the Houston Dynamo's new stadium near downtown Houston Tuesday morning. Many thanks to the Houston Dynamo and GreenStar Recycling for making the visit possible.

Remember if you are in the Houston area Tuesday afternoon, you can take your aluminum cans to ALUMINUM CAN MUSIC MAN's 2nd Annual Can Drive in the Heights(2-4:30 at InvesTex Credit Union-17th and Durham). All proceeds from the event will help support recycling at Helms Elementary School.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Astros add a Little More American League Experience to the Organization

With an eye on their future in the American League(?), the Astros added a minor league free agent with a little experience in the Junior Circuit over the weekend. Houston signed infielder Joe Thurston, who played four games with Boston Red Sox in 2008. Thurston, 32, has played a total of 184 major leagues games in parts of seven seasons. He spent most of 2011 with Florida's AAA affiliate New Orleans where he batted .300 in 126 games. His signing with the Astros includes an invite to Spring Training as a non-roster player.

The Rafters Win the Pennant! The Rafters Win the Pennant!!

Outfielder Jay Austin went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored Saturday as the Salt River Rafters knocked off Peoria to clinch the Eastern Division of the Arizona Fall League. Austin and his Rafters have four more regular season games remaining this week. They will face the Surprise Saguaros Saturday at 2:15 p.m.(Minute Maid Park Time) in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Switching Leagues(Conferences) Worked for One Houston Team

With all signs pointing to a league switch for the Houston baseball team in the not too distant future, a quick look at one of the Astros' sports neigbors reveals that such a switch can have a positive result.

After playing in three coference championship games and winning two MLS cups as part of the league's Western Conference, the Houston Dynamo made the switch to the league's Eastern Conference for the 2011 season. Despite, losing Dallas as a inter-state conference rival and facing early start times against new Eastern Conference foes such as Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and Toronto, the Dynamo advanced to the MLS Cup for the first time in four seasons.

The Dynamo are slated to face the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday, November 20 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The game will kick off at 8 pm(Minute Maid Park time).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another Minor League Veteran OF in the Fold

The Astros have added another outfielder with a surplus of minor league experience to the mix for the 2012 season. Houston has signed Brad Snyder and invited him to Spring Training in 2012 as a non-roster player. Snyder, 29, has spent most of the last nine seasons in the minor leagues. He did play 20 big league games for the Cubs in 2010 and 2011.

Snyder, a left-handed thrower and batter, was drafted by Cleveland in the first round of the 2003 draft. He stayed with the Indians' organization through the 2008 season, topping out at AAA Buffalo. He moved to the Cubs' system prior to the 2009 campaign.
He is a career .280 hitter with 135 minor league home runs.

Magic Number is Two for Farmstros in Fall League

The Salt River Rafters knocked off the Mesa Solar Sox Friday night in the Arizona Fall League to move closer to clinching a spot in next Saturday's championship game. Seven members of the Houston organization are playing for the River Rafters, who hold a 3.5 game lead over Mesa with less than a week remaining in the season. The championship game against the Surprise Suguaros, who have already sewed up the West Division will be played November 19 at 2:10(Minute Maid Park Time).

Farmstros on the Salt River roster:
Jay Austin- Taxi Squad-only plays two days a week
Jason Castro
Jacob Goebbert
Kody Hinze
Dallas Keuchel
Jason Stoffel
Josh Zeid

McTaggart Discusses the Astros' Young Arms

Brian McTaggart at answered some of his readers' questions in his recent post. Question #1: What young arms do we keep a look out for if/when Wandy and Myers are traded.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Have you Seen the Baseball America's Minor League Free Agent Tracker?

I will do my best to keep you up to date on the Astros' minor league free agent signings in the months to come. However, if you don't want to wait for my odd schedule to allow me to post updates, let me direct you to Baseball America's Minor League Free Agent Tracker. This is most likely where I will get most of my information, so if I'm moving too slow for you, feel free to cut out the middle man.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Astros sign Stavinoha Nine Years after Drafting Him

It took awhile, but the Astros finally got another one of their 2002 draft picks to sign on the dotted line. Wednesday Ed Wade announced that the Astros had signed Nick Stavinoha as a minor league free agent. Stavinhoa had spent six plus years in the Cardinals' organization. He played 147 games in parts of three big league seasons with St. Louis.

Prior to joining the Cardinals, however, Stavinoha was drafted out of Jersey Village High School by the Astros in the 39th Round of the 2002 Draft. He didn't sign with Houston, opting to go to LSU. Stavinoha's signing with Houston includes an invite to big league camp in the spring.

Astros sign two Minor League Free Agents

According to Baseball America, the Astros have signed two free agents on the minor league level.

Travis Buck, 28, OF (2011 in Cleveland organization in AAA and Majors). Zach Levine has reported that Buck is a non-roster invitee to spring training in 2012.

Adalberto Flores, 25, RHP (2011 in Texas organization in AA) Posts their Astros Farm System All-star Team posted an article about the 2011 season in the Houston organization. This link includes their system all-star team.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Van Ostrand MOVEMBER update- Day 8

Jimmy Van Ostrand Tweeted the picture above to display the growth of his MOVEMBER moustache today. The Canadian Gold Medalist/Farmstro is participating in the MOVEMBER project, which aims to increase awareness about men's health issues.

Here's a link to the Movember website.

Sports Radio 610 to help Roast Dierker and Advance Literacy on November 29

You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard.

With all the trades and call-ups from the minor leagues over the last two seasons, this statement has undoubtedly been true at Minute Maid Park recently. Yet, while it IS difficult to tell the players without a scorecard, it is even more difficult if not impossible for those people in Houston who can't READ the scorecard.

On Tuesday, November 29 at the Houston Improv, Sports Radio 610 will host a roast of long-time Astro great Larry Dierker to benefit Literacy Advance Houston, an organization whose goal is "Transforming lives and communities through the doorway of literacy."

Dierker has been involved with this organization as a volunteer for numerous years, and he hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament which benefits Literacy Advance. Dierker is a member of the organization's Board of Directors, and he was honored as a Literacy Advance Houston Champion of Literacy in 2006.

Dierker will be roasted at the event by Jim Deshaies, Bill Brown, Carroll Dawson, Norm Miller, and Bill Worrell. In addition, Dierker's former Astro teammate J.R. Richard is scheduled to be a special guest at the event. More information on the roast, including ticket purchases can be found on the Sports Radio 610 website.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What will I do without Andy Van Hekken and Drew Locke?

For me, at least two unwelcome names are on the list of Astros minor league free agents.

Andy Van Hekken has been a part of the Astros' organization for more than three seasons. He was a regular on this blog during the 2011. His stellar performance in AAA and as a representative of Team USA in October were attention getting. When Van Hekken finally makes it back to the major leagues(after more than nine seasons), the Farmstros Village will cheer whether he is an Astro or not.

Drew Locke was brave enough to share his spring training experience on this blog in March 2011. LOCKED IN WITH DREW helped get the 2011 season off to a great start. After three seasons with the Astros' organization, it appears Drew will be moving on.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bixler Signing a Poet's Dream

It's not every day that a team who used to have a player in their systeme named Fixler picks up a player on waivers whose name rhymes with Fixler. Given the rarity of the occassion, here's a couplet dedicated to the Astros' waiver pickup of Brian Bixler today.

This season was bad, losses out the wazoo
Plus, the end of the era of Fixler
Perhaps there is hope for 2012, though
I just read the Astros signed Bixler.

Houston, Aluminum Can Music Man Wants your Cans!

NOTE: C&D Scrap Metal's Monster Truck will be at the can drive from 4-4:30 p.m.

Also, the City of Houston Recycling Team will be at the event. Their appearance will include a visit from the city's recycling mascot.

When I am not following the Astros of the Future, one of my hobbies here in the Houston area is the creation of a cartoon superhero named Aluminum Can Music Man. Aluminum Can Music Man promotes recycling with one cape, one guitar and a pocket-ful of green songs.

On Tuesday November 15 from 2-4:30 pm, Aluminum Can Music Man will be holding a can drive at InvesTex Credit Union located at the corner of Durham and 17th Street in the Heights(77008). All proceeds from the event will help pay for recycling education at Helms Elementary School. If you are in Houston, please feel free to stop by on November 15 and bring your cans.

McTaggart with an Update on Castro in Arizona

Brian McTaggart has posted an article about Jason Castro's continuing progress in Arizona to get back with the Astros. In case you missed it, Castro spoke to Farmstros two weeks ago when he drove in his first run in over a year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011