Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PreStros Morning Report: April 20

TL;DR

*Org affiliates go 1-3 on the day; cumulative 30-17 record
*Jon Singleton and Preston Tucker hit homers as Fresno's 16 hits dominate Las Vegas
*Carlos Correa hit a 401' solo homer and had two of Corpus' three hits in a 2-1 loss
*Lancaster gave up seven runs in the first on their way to a 13-8 loss in which Chase McDonald hit his 3rd homer of the year
*Quad Cities' errors overshadow Kevin Comer's strong start in a loss to Kane County

Fresno (8-4)

Fresno pounded out 16 hits with a pair of three-run innings for an 8-4 win at Las Vegas. Tommy Shirley threw 5.2IP, 2H/2R (1ER), 4K:2BB to improve to 2-0; Darin Downs got the last out of the 6th inning; Josh Fields allowed a hit and two walks in 2IP, and the sketchy start for James Hoyt continued as he allowed 2H/2ER, 1K:1BB in the 9th.

Hits and hits and hits! Jon Singleton was 3x5 with a solo homer; Matt Duffy was 3x5 with two doubles; Preston Tucker was 3x5 with a two-run homer and 4RBI on the night. L.J. Hoes (2B, 2RBI) and Alex Presley (RBI) had two hits each. Max Stassi was 1x3 with a walk. The 2-3-4-5 hitters in the lineup went 11x20 with three doubles, two homers, 7RBI, and six runs scored.

Man of the Match: Preston Tucker

Corpus (7-4)

Another pitcher's duel, another Tulsa win as Tulsa answers Carlos Correa's solo homer with two runs in the top of the 7th to give Corpus the 2-1 loss. Aaron West threw 4.2IP, 3H/0ER, 5K:0BB to lower his ERA to 0.93 on the season. In two starts, West has thrown 9.2IP, 6H/1ER, 7K:0BB. Travis Ballew took the loss with 2H/2ER, 2K:0BB, 1HR in 2.1IP; Jandel Gustave threw two perfect innings in the 8th and 9th.

Carlos Correa had two of the three Corpus hits, with a single and a solo homer that went 401 feet. Tyler White (1x2, BB) and Colin Moran (0x3, BB) were the only other baserunners. Tony Kemp got his first start in center field after spending most of his minor-league career at second base.

Man of the Match: Carlos Correa and Aaron West

Lancaster (6-6)

Well, two innings really did the JetHawks in last night: Rancho Cucamonga's 7-run 1st inning, and their 6-run 6th. Hard to come back from that, though the JetHawks did get the game to 7-6 after three innings in what would be a 13-8 loss. Edison Frias allowed 5H/6ER, 0K:1BB in 0.2IP; Tyler Brunnemann allowed 3H/1ER, 1K:0BB in 1.1IP; Brian Holmes gave up 4H/6R (3ER), 4K:4BB in 3IP, and Ambiorix De Leon allowed 3H/0ER (two of Holmes' inherited runners scored), 2K:2BB. That was ugly.

Chase McDonald was 3x5 with a two-run homer and 3RBI on the night; Brett Phillips was 2x3 with a triple, walk, and 2RBI; J.D. Davis was 2x5; A.J. Reed was 0x3 with two walks. Brian Holberton was 1x3 with a walk, and picked a runner off first.

Man of the Match: Chase McDonald

Quad Cities (9-3)

Quad Cities had leads of 3-0 and 5-4, but just couldn't hold on in an 8-6 loss to Kane County. Errors - three of them - sunk the River Bandits, with Kevin Comer throwing 4.1IP, 3H/4R (1ER), 6K:2BB; Chris Lee allowed 6H/4R (3ER), 4K:0BB in 3.2IP, and Albert Minnis allowed a hit in a scoreless 9th.

Nick Tanielu (BB, RBI) and Kristian Trompiz (2B) had two hits each. Mott Hyde was 1x3 with an RBI and two walks; Derek Fisher was 1x4 with a solo homer and a walk. Quad Cities was 3x15 w/RISP last night.

Man of the Match: Kevin Comer

Sunday, April 19, 2015

PreStros Morning Report: April 18

TL;DR

*Org goes 2-2 on the night; cumulative 28-11 record
*It all went sideways in Las Vegas as the Grizzlies lose 17-4.
*Pitchers duel in Corpus as errors lead to two unearned runs in a 2-1 Corpus loss.
*J.D. Davis and Brett Phillips both had four hits in an 11-4 Lancaster win.
*Quad Cities pitching held Kane County to four hits in a 2-1 win.

Fresno (7-3)

Well that got out of hand. Las Vegas had a 6-2 lead heading into the bottom of the 7th...and then, um, ha ha, scored ten runs in the 7th on their way to a 17-4 beatdown of Fresno. Luis Cruz allowed 8H/6ER, 2K:3BB in 4IP; Gonzalo Sanudo allowed 5H/6ER, 4K:1BB in 2IP; Darin Downs gave up 3H/4ER, 0K:1BB in 1IP; Jordan Jankowski emerged having allowed just 3H/1ER in 1IP.

The Grizzlies only managed four hits, with 14 strikeouts and five walks. Two of those hits were homers by Preston Tucker (BB, 2RBI) and Domingo Santana (2RBI). Nolan Fontana (BB) and Max Stassi had your other singles. Andrew Aplin was 0x2 with two walks. Joe Sclafani's 49-game on-base streak came to an end.

Man of the Match: uhhhhh, Preston Tucker.

Corpus (7-2)

Corpus carried a 1-0 lead into the 8th before Springfield took the lead and held on to it to send Corpus to a 2-1 defeat. Chris Devenski allowed 2H/0ER, 3K:1BB in 5IP; Josh Hader gave up 2H/2R (both unearned) and Tyson Perez struck out two and walked two in a scoreless 9th.

The unearned runs were courtesy of three errors by Jio Mier, making his first start of the series, who also had three hits of Corpus' seven hits. Teoscar Hernandez, Colin Moran (RBI), Conrad Gregor, and Leo Heras had your other hits - all singles, as the Hooks go 1x12 w/RISP.

Man of the Match: Chris Devenski

Lancaster (6-4)

That's three in a row for the JetHawks, who pounded out 19 hits in an 11-4 win at High Desert. Adrian Houser allowed 5H/4ER, but with 8K:2BB in 4IP; Ambiorix De Leon allowed one hit but somehow walked five batters in 2IP; Chris Cotton allowed 4H/0ER, with 7K:0BB in the final 3IP.

J.D. Davis was 4x6 with a double and 2RBI and Brett Phillips was 4x5 with a homer and 3RBI to lead the offense. Danry Vasquez was 3x6 with two doubles; Chase McDonald and Jack Mayfield (2B, 2RBI) had two hits each. A.J. Reed was 1x5 with a walk and 4K and Brian Holberton was 1x4 with a double, walk, and an RBI.

Man of the Match: Brett Phillips

Quad Cities (8-2)

Kane County had a 1-0 lead late in the game, but a run in the 7th and 8th gave Quad Cities a 2-1 win. Joshua James (who is not the same Joshua James that wrote the wonderful song "Magazine," - seriously, you should check it out) threw 5IP, 3H/1ER, 3K:2BB; Keegan Yuhl threw 3IP, 0H/0ER, 4K:0BB; and Jose Montero walked one and allowed a hit in the 9th, but came out with the save.

Jamie Ritchie 2x2 with two walks; Kristian Trompiz hit a game-tying homer in the 7th and Jacob Nottingham put the River Bandits ahead. Ryan Bottger was 1x3 with a double and a walk.

Man of the Match: Keegan Yuhl

Saturday, April 18, 2015

From the Office of the County Clerk - G11: Angels at Astros

CJ Wilson (1-1, 3.95) v Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 1.29)

A happy crowd of just over 28,000 got to watch the Astros and Angels resolve a pitching duel via the long ball earlier this evening at MMP.  And for once, Mike Trout was not involved.  Wilson and Keuchel were economical in giving up hits, and the Astros managed to flick two home runs into the Crawford Boxes to even the series, and win 4-0.  Well played ballgame, taking only 2h 45m (by my reckoning) to complete.

On the Mound:
Dallas Keuchel continued his solid start to the season, throwing six scoreless frames of 2-hit, three-walk ball.  Only one baserunner made it to third base.  Keuchel also struck out seven in a solid overall effort, including Mike Trout with two on to end the fifth, and Albert Pujols twice.

David Freese led off the second inning with a single off the padding that justs out down the RF line.  Springer was in great position to keep it to a single, but he misplayed it for an error and Freese took second with no outs.  He advanced to third on a groundout, but Keuchel cleaned up the inning with a strikeout, a walk and a groundout back to the mound.

The next Angels baserunner was C.J. Cron, who doubled with two outs in the fourth.  But Jonathan Villar - getting the start at third - made two nice plays on the Aybar at-bat.  The first nice play was to let a slow roller down the third base line go foul, and the second was to tag Cron out later in the at-bat, after Aybar grounded out softly, inside the 3B chalk.  Aybar's at-bat was vital in the context of the game - he and Keuchel battled for 8 pitches, and a number of the foul balls were hit hard, including one just foul down the LF line with home-run distance.

After getting two quick outs to open the fifth frame, Keuchel then walked Johnny Giavotella on a full count.  Giovatella took second on a wild pitch with Kole Calhoun batting, which brought Mike Trout to the plate in a tie game.  Keuchel, however, worked Trout over, quickly getting to two strikes, then striking him out on the fifth pitch of the at-bat to end the frame.

After an uneventful sixth for Keuchel, Chad Qualls started the seventh against the 6-7-8 hitters, and retired them in order.  Pat Neshek opened pitched the eighth, and was in trouble immediately, allowing a long double off the fence in front of the visiting 'pen to the first batter he faced, Johnny Giavotella.  However, the baserunner was not able to advance any further in the frame, after Neshek retired the top of the order on two fly outs, and a Mike Trout strikeout on a high slider.

Luke Gregerson set the Angels down in order in the ninth to complete the shutout.  Gregerson struck out the first two batters of the frame, which ran the strikeout total to 13 for the night (against 3 hits and 3 walks).

It is worthwhile pointing out the Keuchel's ERA sits at 0.90, and he has allowed a single run in three starts this year.  Gregerson is also yet to give up any runs after another scoreless appearance.

At the Plate:
Facing the lefty Wilson, the Astros started with Robbie Grossman in left Honk Conger (0-2, BB) catching, and Jonathan Villar at third.    Springer batted three, yielding his two-spot to Grossman, and Lowrie batted between Gattis and Carter, in the fifth spot in the lineup.

The Astros managed three walks in the first two innings, and added a further walk in the fourth frame.  Carter worked two of those walks (0-2, 2BB), and he advanced to second base on the throwing error in the second frame.  The best at-bat through four innings was probably Jonathan Villar's at-bat with two outs in the fourth frame and with Carter on first.  Villar hit the ball hard, twice, just foul down the LF line.  One foul ball was a hard liner into the corner that was a sure double, and the second was a fly ball just foul, with enough distance to get into the Crawford Boxes.  Villar was retired swinging at a high strike to end that frame, sadly.

The first hit of the night for the Astros was recorded in the fifth frame, when Jose Altuve hit a hard single to shortstop with two outs.  The first scoring play of the game was George Springer's lead-off home run off the Community Leaders signs above the Crawford Boxes - not too far from where I was sitting.  Springer took a 1-1 fastball down and in, and turned on it.  Wilson missed a little inside and up, and Springer (1-3, HR) made no mistake for his first home run of the year.

But the big inning for the Astros was in the seventh.  Wilson retired Jonathan Villar (0-3) on a fly ball to CF, and Hank Conger on a strikeout.  Then Marisnick (1-3) reached on a hard-hit grounder through the 5.5 hole.  With Altuve at the plate, and with two outs, Mike Scioscia relieved with righty Mike Morin.  And when Marisnick stole second on the first pitch of the at-bat (which was a strike), Scioscia made the curious decision to intentionally walk Altuve (1-3, BB) to get to Grossman.  I guess I can understand the logic - if Altuve records a hit to the outfield, then Marisnick scores.  And having Altuve on first sets up a force at every non-home plate base.  But Altuve records a lot of hits that never make it to the outfield, and Marisnick would not score on an infield hit.  So I remain a little surprised.

Anyhow, that brought Mike-Bob Grossman up with runners on first and second, facing a right hander for the first time in the game.  And on the second pitch of the at-bat, he took a high fastball, and dropped it three rows back into the Crawford Boxes.  The ball made it with distance to spare.  Grossman (1-3, HR) knew it straight away.  The crowd went nuts - as did twitter.  And as the Constable tweeted, Grossman's shot represented only the second time the Astros scored 3+ runs in an inning this year.

The Astros went quietly in the eighth inning, and never got to bat in the ninth.  I feel cheated, dammit!

Turning Point:
George Springer atoned for his first inning error by mashing a long home run on a pitch missed slightly inside for his first long ball of the season.  That broke the scoreless tie, and opened Springer's 2015 home-run account.

Man of the Match:
Bob Grossman, for all your insurance and home-run needs.  And if the opposition pitchers want to walk Jose Altuve to get to fearsome masher Bob Grossman, then best of luck to them!

Goat of the Game:
I thought about awarding Springer this, but he homered, so it wouldn't be fair.  Gattis went 0-4, but he hit some fly balls very hard.  One of them nearly touched the room, then landed just behind the pitchers' mound.  Jed Lowrie also went 0-4, but he also strung together some good at bats.

So no goat today.

Up Next:
Day game tomorrow... TBA - most likely Garret Richards, in his return from knee surgery - versus Scott Feldman (0-2, 6.17).

2 Eastern, 1 Central.

That will conclude the home stand, and the Astros will fly to Seattle for a series against the Mariners.

McDaniel on Brady Aiken

Kiley McDaniel, lead prospect guru at Fangraphs, just published his early primer for the 2015 Rule 4 Draft.  His comments on Brady Aiken, who he ranked number 24, were particularly interesting.  Quote:
"Aiken is a massive question mark at this point. He has that #1 overall ability in him and he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, so many fans just assume he’ll go from a top 3 pick to a top 10-15 pick and that’s that. There is persistent, consistent and detailed buzz coming from many sources that there is more to Aiken’s injury than just a clean surgery like Erick Fedde, Jeff Hoffman or Lucas Giolito from recent years  
"I won’t repeat the specific rumors, but the worst versions of it say there are career-threatening issues at play, while others say it’s merely an increased risk of further injury going forward.  All 30 teams will get Aiken’s medical before the draft, the details will likely leak to the media and the answers that no one has at this point will come out before decisions have to be made. Either these rumors are bunk and Aiken will go 7th-10th overall as some expect, or he’ll get taken off a bunch of draft boards altogether and I’ll be forced to rank him somewhere around 40, with no telling where he’ll go or how much money he’ll get. I decided to split the difference and put him him in between those two possible scenarios."
This represents another data-point in what we think may have been behind the decision to renege on his contract.  Aiken's UCL was not damaged at the time of the draft; he was able to physically have Tommy John Surgery; the said surgery was reported to have been successful; but another anatomical problem may exist which means that Aiken may not ever get back to throwing how did prior to the draft.  

McDaniel seems to think that the details of what happens will probably become clearer prior to the draft.  I am a little less sure - from my much less knowledgeable position, that is.  Aiken's camp will probably fire off favourable medicals to interested teams, but medical ethics being what they are, confidentiality agreements will restrict the flow of information going to teams outside of what Aiken's camp provides.  Aiken's camp could troll the medical profession for reports that minimise or lessen the scale of the problem, if they wish.  Anyone who leaks any significant piece of detailed information that comments on the extent of the problem would be liable to be sued.  The amount that could be paid in damages would range from the amount of money that Aiken would miss out on in the draft to something approaching the cost of a fairly lucrative contract.

The ultimate determination of whether the Astros were justified in doing what they did is still years away from being clear.  But in the Court of Public Opinion, they have already been convicted and sentenced via portrayals that they are simply an evil organisation that was only interested in saving a million or two.  As I have said before, few retractions from the more critical of the commentators are likely to be published.   This whole situation was a nightmare for all concerned - especially Aiken - but the Astros have taken a bath in the public eye, and I don't think that was necessarily justified.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G10: Angels at Astros

Jered Weaver (0-2, 8.71) v Roberto Hernandez (0-1, 1.93)

Apologies, loyal readers for a lack of game recaps, and the lateness of this game recap.  Cockroach remains on the DL, and I am just completing a lighting tour around the globe.  The good news is that the latest stop in this lightning tour is Houston, Texas, where I will spend the weekend at MMP, attending games in person.  This culminates a week of good news for Astros fans from my part of the globe.

This series serves to be a fascinating one for a bunch of reasons.  Firstly, the Angels - who have themselves been the victims of a reasonably tepid start to the season - are a fabulous benchmark for a young Houston team, as the reigning champs in the AL West last year.  Secondly, this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Astros brand.  Thirdly, with the Rockets in the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how an early-season Astros team draws against post-season basketball.

And lastly, prior to launching into the game recap: much has been written about the demise of Mike Trout.  Remember him??  The guy who can't hit high fastballs??  With Mike Trout neutralised, once and for all, the Astros only really need to worry about that Albert Pujols guy, who... uh.... this.

On the Mound:
Roberto Hernandez started off strongly in what was an exceptionally well-pitched ballgame going into the fourth frame.  Hernandez struck out four while coaxing five groundouts out of the Angels bats the first time through the order, and he started the fourth inning without allowing a baserunner.

A Calhoun triple to lead off the fourth was the first hit of the game.  Marisnick may have been able to make the play with a better jump, but for the most part, this was a lead-off, stand-up triple to the base of Tal's Hill on the first fly-ball of the game for the Angels.  Hernandez bounced back well to get Trout swinging, then a walk to Albert Pujols put runners on the corners with one out.  Matt Joyce hit a shallow fly-ball to LF, Rasmus' strong throw was on target, but it hopped a bit on Castro, and he was unable to get the tag down in time to get a sliding Calhoun for the first run of the game.

Calhoun was also the architect for the next Angels scoring opportunity.  He took first on a bloop single into shallow left - down the third base line.  The next batter was Mike Trout, and he mashed a low fastball into the Crawford Boxes for his 100th career home run.  The pitch may have missed a little arm-side-and-up - Castro's glove did seem to move a little - but on a 3-2 count, a sinking fastball was on the cards, and Trout made no mistake.

Hernandez left the game after the sixth, with a promising looking final-line involving one walk and six strikeouts.  However, the three earned runs that he gave up didn't tell the entire story in terms of his pitching, and would be considered disappointing in an otherwise strong and solid performance.

Will Harris relieved, and he retired the first two before walking Chris Iannetta.  A strikeout ended the frame without further incident.  Harris managed to get two outs on four pitches, and I wondered whether he may have been trotted out there for a second inning had Iannetta been retired a little earlier.

Regardless, Harris needed 16 pitches to end the frame, so Qualls took over for the seventh and was immediately in trouble.  An infield single to open the frame, followed by a walk, put Trout at the plate with runners on first and second.  Qualls quickly worked the count to 0-2, Trout fouled off two more strikes (one of the fouls was on a pitch down that he was out in front of, and was a great piece of hitting) then Qualls missed down on Castro's call for a high fastball, and the ball was sent 10 rows back, just to the right of the Astros bullpen in RF.  Three-run shot - Trout's second of the game, and both off sinker-ballers - and the Angels took the lead.

Sam Deduno took the hill for the ninth, and he faced the minimum despite allowing a lead-off single. Altuve made a really nice play on a grounder up the middle, beating the runner to the bag and firing over to first in time.  The defence from the right side of the infield has been solid this year, and Lowrie (on the left side) makes the plays he is supposed to, which is nice to see given the groundball-heavy pitching staff that the Astros have.

At the Plate:
Personally, I was hoping for a repeat of the homer-fest that happened the last time Weaver pitched an early-season game in Houston, but it was not to be.  Weaver carried an 8-something ERA into this game, having only managed 11 innings in two starts in 2015.  The radar gun has not been his friend in 2015 so far, and this continued, as he struggled to get a pitch above 85 on the MMP gun all night.

But he was effective, and again, the Astros had trouble with a lack of big hits in big situations.  Despite that, the game was tied at 3 heading into Quall's eighth inning, but no rally was able to be mounted against Joe Smith and Houston Street in the eighth and ninth frames respectively.

Against Weaver, Gattis (2-4, 2B) represented the first Astros baserunner in the second frame with a single to left with one out.  Gattis later doubled to shallow-left in the fourth to put two runners in scoring position for Jason Castro, but he hit a hard grounder to second to end the frame.

In the fifth, the Astros had a chance for a crooked number, but more hard-hit balls that didn't find gaps, and a slight baserunning mistake from Jake Marisnick meant that only one run resulted from an inning where three singles, a stolen base, and a sac-fly occurred.  Chris Carter opened the frame with a single to short, Jake Marisnick (1-2) followed with a one-out single to short, then Jose Altuve (1-3, BB) hit a hard grounder up the middle to score Carter (1-4) and send Marisnick to third.  Altuve stole second to put to runners in scoring position, and Springer (0-3, RBI) hit a hard, low shot to the warning track in left.  Marisnick wasn't tagging up - he may have struggled to erase his secondary lead to tag up regardless because the ball was hit so flat and hard - but he clearly froze, and was unable to come home on a ball that was deep enough for him to score.  Jed Lowrie (0-4) grounded out to end the frame.

Jason Castro (1-4, HR) hit a two-out shot to right in the sixth - a nice piece of hitting with enough distance on a fly-ball just to clear the wall in RF.  Kole Calhoun is... um... not tall, and was unable to scale the wall to bring it back, but it would have been hard to retrieve anyhow.  Castro had a bunch of hard-hit balls that didn't go for hits again tonight.  Weaver was pulled one out later.

With Colby Rasmus (0-2, 2K) due up to start the seventh, Mike Scioscia opted for the lefty, Jose Álvarez to open the frame.  A.J. Hinch countered with Robbie Grossman (1-2), and the move paid off when Grossman blooped one into CF for a leadoff single.  RHP Vinnie Pestano relieved to face the rightly Marisnick, and Hinch again countered with a switch-hitting replacement, Jonathan Villar (1-2).  A repeat of the Grossman's at-bat happened: a bloop hit to nearly the exact same place, with Robbie Grossman needing to hold to make sure the ball dropped and eventually stopping at second.  Jose Altuve followed with a walk to load the bases with no outs.  Springer then scored Grossman on a hard-hit sac-fly to the warning track in right, but Jose Altuve was unable to advance to second on the throw.  This was critical, because Lowrie GIDP-ed on an 0-2 count to end the threat.  This represented the Astros' last scoring opportunity.

So, again, inopportune hitting dominated, with the Astros going 1-5 with runners in scoring position. As a team they managed eight hits - two for extra-bases - and walked once, striking out five times.

Turning Point:
A number of solid candidates for the turning point could be nominated for this game.  I have chosen the Springer sac-fly.  A little more distance, and the Astros have four runs on the board - enough to cover for Mike Trout's heroics.  Instead, they were left with runners on the corners, and a GIDP three pitches later put and end to that threat.

Trust me, people, the bats will wake up, and things will be exciting again.  Hopefully soon.

Man of the Match:
Jason Castro has threatened to be an offensive force at the plate this year.  He was hitting between Gattis and Carter - something that I think has been sorely needed for some time.  It seems that even his outs are loud at the moment.  If he gets going offensively, then things could change.  Plus, his receiving - at least to my untrained eye - seems to be solid this year.  Kudos to the coaching staff, and Castro himself, because some work seems to have been put in during the offseason.

Goat of the Game:
Qualls, sadly.  He simply missed with that pitch to Trout.  But before we get on Chad too much, Mike Trout is hitting .442/.500/.750 on the young season, so Qualls and the Astros aren't the only guys he has hurt.  He was the difference in this game, however.

Up Later Today:
(because I am horribly jet lagged, and didn't get this recap done until 12+ hours after the game was done)

C.J. Wilson (1-1, 3.95) versus the underrated Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 1.29)

7 Eastern, 6 Central.

Saturday Morning Link Dump

Forget last night.

*"I can't believe it. It feels like there's a knife constantly in my back right now." - That was Brad Peacock, presumably talking about his intercostal strain and not the Astros as a franchise. He's on the DL three days after making his season debut, and Asher Wojciechowski is on his way back to Houston.

*Jake Marisnick is putting a charge into the bottom of the order. We're only talking about nine games here, but Marisnick is enjoying a .368 BABIP against righties (more on this later today).

*After eight games, Carlos Correa is hitting .394/.474/.727 with 7K:4BB, and eight doubles with one home run. Manager Rodney Linares said:
Those doubles are going to turn into homers. He's learning to stay behind the ball and just making excellent contact. I've said it before and I'll say it again: he has the chance to be an elite player in the big leagues.

*Here's the gamer from last night's crazy Fresno/Las Vegas game.

*Mets pitcher Jacob DeGrom matched Jim Deshaies as the only pitchers to strike out the first eight batters of the game. Here's the boxscore from Deshaies' game on 9/23/1986.

*Josh Hamilton's rehab in Houston is either going great, or is not going well at all. This is a freaking mess.

PreStros Morning Report: April 17

TL;DR

*Org affiliates go 3-1 on the day; cumulative 26-9 record.
*Crazy game in Las Vegas as Fresno had an 8-2 lead, then fell behind 9-8, and ended up winning 11-10.
*Carlos Correa dominated in a rain-shortened 8-5 win over Springfield.
*Lancaster jumped all over High Desert in a 10-4 win, with Evan Grills allowing 2H in 5IP.
*Quad Cities blew an 8th inning lead in a 9-6 loss, despite Thomas Lindauer's HR, BB, 3RBI night.

Fresno (7-2)

These games are crazy. Fresno had an 8-2 lead after three, and then Las Vegas scored the next seven runs (with a 6-run 6th inning) to take a 9-8 lead over Fresno. Then three more runs in the 7th for Fresno gave the Grizzlies an 11-9 lead, then Las Vegas brought it to 11-10 and James Hoyt threw a perfect 9th to preserve the 11-10 win. Alex White threw 5IP, 9H/6R (5ER), 3K:2BB; Gonzalo Sanudo made his Triple-A debut and allowed 5H/3ER (2HR) in 0.2IP; Jordan Jankowski held Las Vegas to 1H/0ER in 1.1IP; Josh Fields allowed the run to bring it to 11-10 with 3H/1ER in the 8th, and James Hoyt did his thing.

Nolan Fontana (2B, BB), L.J. Hoes (2B, BB), Andrew Aplin (HR, 2RBI) had two hits each. Jon Singleton (3-run homer) and Max Stassi (2RBI) added home runs. Domingo Santana was 1x4 with a triple, walk, and three runs scored.

Man of the Match: Andrew Aplin

Corpus (7-1)

Corpus jumped out to an 8-1 lead and withstood a 4-run 7th from Springfield before rain finished the game after 7 1/2 innings with an 8-5 Corpus win. Kyle Westwood threw 5IP, 7H/1ER, 4K:1BB; Angel Baez allowed 3H/4ER, 2K:3BB in 1.1IP; Jandel Gustave gave up two hits that led to two of Baez's charged runs in 0.2IP.

Carlos Correa is a beast, going 3x4 with two doubles and 2RBI. He's now hitting .394/.474/.727. Colin Moran was 2x4 with a double and 2RBI; Leo Heras was 2x3 with two doubles, and Roberto Pena was 2x3 with an RBI. Telvin Nash was 1x4 with 2RBI; Brandon Meredith was 1x3 with a solo homer. Tonky Kemp was 0x1 with three walks, a stolen base, and three runs scored.

Man of the Match: Carlos Correa

Lancaster (5-4)

Lancaster scored runs in seven of the nine innings on their way to a 10-4 win over High Desert. Evan Grills threw 5IP, 2H/0ER, 4K:0BB; Troy Scribner allowed 5H/4ER, 3K:2BB in 2.2IP; Randall Fant walked one in 1.1IP.

Danry Vasquez (2B, BB), J.D. Davis (2B, HR, BB, 2RBI), Chase McDonald (2B, HR, BB, RBI), Brett Phillips, and Brian Holberton (2 2B, 2RBI) all had two hits each. A.J. Reed hit a two-run homer in the 8th; Jack Mayfield had a triple and an RBI.

Man of the Match: Evan Grills

Quad Cities (7-2)

The River Bandits took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the 8th, and by the time they came up to bat again it was 9-6 Beloit, which is how the game ended. Daniel Mengden threw 4.2IP, allowing 7H/4R (2ER), 6K:0BB; Ryan Thompson entered the game with the bases loaded and allowed one run (charged to Mengden) before ending the 5th. Austin Chrismon allowed 7H/5ER in 2IP, and Albert Minnis struck out one in the 9th.

Jacob Nottingham (2B, RBI), Thomas Lindauer (HR, BB, 3RBI), and Bobby Boyd all had two hits each. Derek Fisher and Mott Hyde had a double and a walk each. Alfredo Gonzalez was 1x3 with two walks.

Man of the Match: Thomas Lindauer

Friday, April 17, 2015

On the Cubs and drafting Kris Bryant

If the entirety of your baseball universe is comprised of the Astros and the Astros only, you have likely not heard of Kris Bryant since 2013, when the Astros passed on Kris Bryant with their 2nd of three consecutive #1 overall picks in order to select Mark Appel.

It was pretty clear before the draft that the Astros had "narrowed" their 2013 1-1 pick to Stanford's Mark Appel, University of San Diego's Kris Bryant, Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, North Carolina's Colin Moran, and high schoolers Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.

Baseball America's Aaron Fitt said he would take Kris Bryant over both Appel and Gray, simply because of Bryant's "special power bat."

Then-beat writer Bryan Smith tweeted on May 22 that the pick was really between Appel and Gray, but that the Astros wouldn't actually decide on a pick until everybody got together in Houston. 

On May 30, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo wrote in a mock draft that there were "whispers regarding Bryant and Moran, but Gray is still the pick."

Of course, a week later, the Astros selected Appel. With the next pick, the Cubs selected Kris Bryant over Jonathan Gray, who went to the Rockies with the next selection. Noting "conventional wisdom," MLB.com's (former Chicago Tribune's) Phil Rogers said that Appel and Gray were expected to go 1-1 and 1-2, with uncertainty if Bryant would be selected ahead of Moran, Meadows, and Frazier. 

Rogers noted yesterday in an article about Bryant that Cubs Senior VP of Player Development Jason McLeod that the Cubs had serious questions about Bryant's ability to hit. But in a one-on-one meeting with Bryant, the Cubs were sold. McLeod:
By that point, we'd already met with Jon Gray and Mark Appel. We felt like Kris, of the three, was just someone who was probably the most equipped to step into this type of market and to handle the expectations of being the No. 2 overall pick.

Ultimately, of course, the Cubs chose Bryant over Gray, Moran, Frazier, and Meadows, because of Bryant's bat. "History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the draft," McLeod said. Having settled on selecting Bryant, the Cubs then had to wait for the Astros to make their pick, and who knew what they would do?

McLeod:
We had no idea what they were doing...Until we heard Mark Appel's name called, we didn't know.

In 2014, Appel was either struggling in Lancaster or The Keepers of Base Ball were blasting him and the Astros for the Phantom Bullpen flap. While that was happening, Kris Bryant was hitting 43 home runs across Double-A and Triple-A. And today, Kris Bryant will take the field as the savior of the Cubs' franchise and the face of their title hopes. 

It's going to be difficult not to be wistful about seeing Kris Bryant. That's how this works - with every breakout star, you get this. We laugh at the 24 teams that passed on Mike Trout (Astros included). Or the 401 players who were drafted before Albert Pujols. Or the 683 players selected before the Astros took Roy Oswalt in the 23rd Round of the 1996 draft. It happens. Nothing you can do about it, but remember that Mark Appel now has a 0.90 ERA for Corpus and just close your eyes and think...


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hey, I think the Astros lifted this design

Two nights ago Orbit ran around the field waving a flag. It was cool.



But something looked familiar. Back in August 2014 I asked the Crawfish Boxes' Ryan Dunsmore - graphic designer extraordnaire (you may remember his work from the Rodon Warning graphic he graciously let us add to some posts in 2013-14) - to do this...



He even did one with a blue background very similar to the one you see in the flag above. And that was a variation on another design he put up in June 2014 on the Crawfish Boxes.

So...hey Astros....it's entirely possible that this is all just a coincidence. But you should probably hire Dunsmore, or at least throw him some partial credit, or some tickets. Or let him take an inning at DH.

Thursday Morning Link Dump

A few notes from last night's 6-1 win over the A's...

*Evan Gattis hit a homer! It was just his 3rd hit of the season, his first extra-base hit of the season, and his first home run since September 6, 2014, which was also the last game in which he had a hit prior to Monday. Dating back to August 24, 2014 Gattis' last four extra-base hits have all left the park.

*Collin McHugh struck out eleven batters in 5.2IP last night, the first time he's recorded double-digit strikeouts since his Astros debut on April 22, 2014, when he struck out 12 Mariners. McHugh has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 12 straight starts dating back to July 27, 2014. He's the first Astro to win seven straight starts since Andy Pettitte in 2005.

*Chris Carter is 2x30 on the season. It's worth remembering that from April 9-20, 2014 - a span of eleven games - Carter was 2x31. He's a career .175 hitter in April (yeah, but in 60 games, nine of which are in 2015).

On to the links...

*Evan Drellich notes that Collin McHugh has been relying on a slider since the end of 2014 that could be a reason for his success.

*What with Will Harris pitching well, the Astros are going to let Josh Fields stay in Triple-A for a little bit.

*FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel writes that the Astros are linked to Dominican CF Gilberto Celestino, who will receive around a $2m signing bonus. Celestino is an "above average to plus runner" with above average arm strength and average raw power projection.

*Quad Cities' Nick Tanielu, who was hitting .412 on the young season, was transferred to Extended Spring Training.

*Here's an interesting comparison of the front-office styles of Billy Beane and Jeff Luhnow from Athletics Nation.

*One of the first Houston Urban Youth Academy graduates got a baseball scholarship.

PreStros Morning Report: April 15

TL;DR

*Affiliates go 2-1 on the day; cumulative 18-8 record
*Fresno won a wild one, blowing a 7-0 lead, getting an outfield assist from Preston Tucker to send it to extra-innings, and winning on a walkoff in the 11th started by Matt Duffy, who had five hits.
*Corpus was off.
*Lancaster and Stockton split a double-header. Edison Frias threw 5IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:2BB in Game 2.
*Quad Cities' game at Beloit was suspended due to a power failure and will be completed today.

Fresno (5-2)

Jeebus what a game. Fresno put up a seven-spot on Salt Lake in the bottom of the first, and had a 7-0 lead going into the 7th. Then Salt Lake got three back to make it 7-3. It was 8-3 Fresno going into the top of the 9th, when Salt Lake tied up the game at 8-8 (the inning ending when Preston Tucker started a 7-6-2 outfield assist to keep it at 8-8. In the bottom of the 11th, a Matt Dominguez sac bunt and subsequent throwing error scored pinch-runner Nolan Fontana to give Fresno the wild 9-8 walkoff win.

Jake Buchanan threw 7IP, 4H/3ER, 4K:1BB; Jordan Jankowski threw a perfect 8th, striking out two. James Hoyt's 9th inning is one he'd probably like to forget, starting out single, single, single, double, walk, and that would be James Hoyt's night. Kevin Chapman allowed all three runners to score before Fontana/Torreyes/Stassi helped him out. Chapman's line would end up 3IP, 2H/0ER (though three runs would be charged to Hoyt), 6K:1BB.

Matt Duffy had himself a night: 5x6 with a double and 2RBI, the double coming in the 11th, where he was replaced by Fontana. Ronny Torreyes was 3x5 with an RBI; Joe Sclafani (3B, 2RBI), L.J. Hoes (3B, 2BB), and Matt Dominguez (RBI) had two hits each.

Man of the Match: Matt Duffy

Corpus (5-1)

Off.

Lancaster (3-4)

Lancaster and Stockton end up splitting the doubleheader.

Game 1: Lancaster never had the lead in Game 1, with Stockton breaking a 1-1 tie in the 5th and adding on four in the 7th for a 7-3 win over Lancaster. Brian Holmes allowed 5H/3ER, 6K:1BB in 5IP; Ambiorix De Leon gave up 5H/4ER, 1K:2BB in 1IP; Chris Cotton shut down the 7th with a perfect inning, striking out two.

Jobduan Morales was 3x3 and Jose Fernandez was 2x3 to represent your multi-hit games. Brett Phillips, J.D. Davis (SB, RBI), Chase McDonald (RBI), Jack Mayfield and Marc Wik had the other hits.

Man of the Match: Jobduan Morales

Game 2: Aha! But then Lancaster cruised to a 5-1 win in Game 2, scoring the first five runs of the game. Edison Frias dominated, allowing just a hit with 5K:2BB in 5IP; Adrian Houser allowed 2H/1ER, 0K:2BB in just 0.1IP; and Tyler Brunnemann got his first save of the year with 1.2IP, 0H/0ER, 1K:1BB.

J.D. Davis was 3x3 with a double and 2RBI; Brett Phillips, Chase McDonald (2B, BB, SB, RBI), Jack Mayfield, and Chan Moon (SB) had your other hits.

Man of the Match: Edison Frias

Quad Cities (5-1)

Quad Cities and Beloit were tied 2-2 in the 5th when a power outage at Beloit's stadium suspended the game. It will be completed today prior to the regularly-scheduled game, which will now be seven innings long.