Monday, March 23, 2015

Straily, Appel and Aplin Leave...

Just a quick update because time is short today.  This afternoon, I will be unavailable due the largest sporting event locally since the Rugby World Cup in 2011.  The pundits say too close to call, and because there is no best-of-three / five / seven format, the microscope will be on every single play.  I am not going to have much in the way of fingernails left come 10pm this evening.

Anyhow, for fans of fifth-starter races, this move signals the first significant cut of the spring.  Dan Straily, recently acquired from Chicago, was optioned to Minor League Camp prior to today's game.  He pitched yesterday, giving up a solo homer in 3-and-two-thirds - one of his better outings of the spring.  Overall, he threw 10.2 IP for 12 hits and 5 walks, while striking out six.  He gave up seven earned runs over the spring.

Putting the Spring Training stats aside, it is probably important to acknowledge Straily's recent form. After a promising early Major League career, he struggled in 2014 with the Cubbies.  It is not every year that your pitching coach can take a struggling starter and turn them into a strikeout machine with an ERA in the mid- to high- twos using just one Spring Training.  With McHugh, it took a Spring Training and three weeks in the minor leagues, after all.

And placing unrealistic expectations to one side, it seems that the Astros are intent on adjusting the way that Straily pitches to perhaps alter his repertoire or try and regain some velocity.  I think it is also likely that the Astros saw Straily as someone who may require a little more than a single Spring Training to turn his career around when they traded for him.  Overall, this move isn't surprising, especially given the Roberto Hernandez roster situation, the Sam Deduno lack of options, and the strong spring of Wojo.

Mark Appel and Andrew Aplin were both reassigned to minor league camp.  Appel had a solid spring, throwing 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks against 5 strikeouts, and giving up two runs.  He appears ticketed to Corpus, and may be lined up for a cup of coffee or call up post-All Start Break this year.  Otherwise, he will sit in the minors for the first month of 2016, unless the Collective Bargaining Agreement is changed prior to then.

Andrew Aplin was granted 19 plate appearances, getting one hit and walking five times.  That lone hit was a single.  The Small Sample Size Police would arrest me for attempting to draw any inferences from those stats, and rightly so.  He remains an interesting prospect who is on the outside-looking-in with an Astros organisation with a number of high-ceiling outfield prospects and young major league pieces.

The camp now sits at 41, with the interesting decisions likely to be made in the next week.  Opening day is, after all, only two weeks from today, and the Astros have stated that they want player-battles over in the last week prior to starting the season.