June 2014

Astros promote Tucker, trade Chambers

With prospect Preston Tucker on his way to Triple-A Oklahoma City after being promoted from Double-A Corpus Christi on Thursday, the Astros opened a spot on the RedHawks roster by trading outfielder Adron Chambers to the Blue Jays for left-handed pitcher Alejandro Solarte and infielder Will Dupont.

“We felt we’d give Chambers a chance to get with the big league club somewhere else,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros signed Chambers as a left-handed bat who could play all three positions in a reserve role, but Alex Presley has filled that role in Houston. Chambers, 27, was hitting .281 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 25 games for the RedHawks.

Solarte and Dupont are both 19 and will report to Kissimmee, Fla.

“They’re guys we like,” Luhnow said. “We’re trying to fill out our short-season rosters, and we figured if we could find some guys that were already playing that we liked a little bit, that would a good way to get some value back. Our outfield picture [at Oklahoma City] is getting pretty crowded.”

Tucker, who was named to the Texas League All-Star squad, currently leads the league in homers (17) and RBIs (43) while hitting .276 in his 65 games with 17 doubles and a .536 slugging percentage. He will start in the outfield at Oklahoma City along with Domingo Santana and Austin Wates, and Marc Krauss is splitting time between the outfield, designed hitter and first base.

“We have four guys that can play out there,” Luhnow said. “I think Tucker, Santana and Wates need to get regular time, and Krauss needs to work in and get some time first and DH and outfield so he can be that versatile guy for us. It’s a pretty good mix there.”

When asked about any upcoming promotions in the Minor Leagues, Luhnow said nothing is on the front-burner. Several Astros Minor League players have earned All-Star selections in their respective leagues, and Luhnow wants them to enjoy that experience.

Astros sign second-rounder Reed

The Astros on Wednesday finalized a contract with University of Kentucky first baseman A.J. Reed, who was taken as the top pick in the second round of last week’s First-Year Player Draft. Reed received a signing bonus of $1.35 million, which is the assigned value of the pick.

The 21-year-old Reed (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) led the NCAA in home runs (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211) as a junior. He also hit .336 (75-for-223) this season with 18 doubles, 73 RBIs and a .476 on-base percentage. Reed walked 49 times in 2014 and struck out just 48 times.

A two-way player in college, Reed was also Kentucky’s Friday night starter and led the SEC with 12 wins. He was the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year, the SEC Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the best collegiate baseball player in the country.

“A.J. Reed was one of the best college bats in the draft this year, and his accomplishments speak for themselves,” Astros scouting director Mike Elias said. “What impresses us most with A.J. is his ability to use his power to both fields, his defensive prowess at first base, and the enthusiasm with which he plays the game. He’s going to be a fun player to watch and should immediately establish himself as one of our top power prospects in the minors.”

Reed is the first Top 10 pick by the Astros to officially sign, though MLB.com has reported the club has reached deals with third-round pick J.D. Davis, a third baseman from Cal State Fullerton; sixth-round pick Brock Dykxhoorn, a right-handed pitcher from Central Arizona College; eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a center fielder from West Virginia University; ninth-round pick Bryan Radziewski, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami; and 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama.

No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, a left-handed pitcher from the San Diego agree, has agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus and could have a contract done soon.

The Astros also announced the signing of right-hander Ryan Thompson (23rd round), right-hander Vince Wheeland (24th round), left-hander Zach Davis (25th round), infielder Mott Hyde (26th round), right-hander Brandon McNitt (27th round) and right-hander Keegan Yuhl (35th round). Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

Altuve out of lineup for first time

After saying this spring his goal was to play in 162 games this year, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was unhappy with being out of the lineup Wednesday against the D-backs. Altuve felt discomfort in his left oblique swinging at a 61-mph curveball Tuesday and was out of the lineup for the first time this season as a result.

“They asked me if I could play and I said, ‘Yes,’” said Altuve, who leads the Major Leagues with 88 hits and the AL with 24 steals and 279 at-bats. “I don’t think it’s something to take a day off, but if they want to keep me on the bench, I’m going to be ready to come in the game whenever they want.”

Astros manager Bo Porter always likes to play it safe with any kind of injury, and that is certainly the case with his best hitter.

“Altuve obviously wants to play, but at the same time you have to protect them from themselves,” Porter said. “We feel like if he gets treatment today and tomorrow, he should be fine and ready to go. This is not something we want to linger and become a problem where he could miss two or three weeks trying to recover from.”

Altuve said that he was going to try to get Porter to change the lineup.

“Whenever his baseball career is over, he’s got a chance to be an attorney because he tried to plead his beset cast to get himself in the lineup,” Porter said. “Jose Altuve is arguably one of the best players in our game. He’s not someone you can replace, but at the same time it’s the next guy up. Marwin [Gonzalez] is going to play second base today, and the guys we run out there we believe they’re going to give us an opportunity to win the game.”

Porter wasn’t asked if he would even stay away from Altuve in a pinch-hit situation.

“I wouldn’t go that far, because if the big guy is standing on deck over there it makes the other team think twice,” he said.

Springer returns to Astros lineup

Astros rookie George Springer, who leads the club in RBIs and OPS, returned to the lineup Wednesday against the D-backs after missing the two previous games in Arizona with a sore right knee. He was hitting second behind Dexter Fowler and ahead of Jon Singleton.

“Two days [out] is better than 15,” Astros manager Bo Porter said of playing it safe with Springer. “He took two days, his knee calmed down, everything is fine and the trainers gave him the OK. He’s back in the lineup today.”

Springer hates missing games and told Porter on Monday and Tuesday in Arizona he could have played.

“I always try to snake my way in there no matter what,” Springer said. “Obviously, I have the utmost respect for [Porter] and the decisions he makes. He’s obviously doing it my best interest. He told me [to sit] and I said, ‘OK, I’ll get it checked out’ and now I’m good to go.”

Since making his Major League debut on April 16, Springer is tied for seven the American League in RBIs and ranks among the top 10 among AL rookies in homers (second), RBIs (second), slugging percentage (second), runs (third), on-base percentage (third), walks (third), extra-base hits (tied for third) and total bases (fourth).

Astros, Velazquez reach agreement

The Astros agreed to terms with another draft pick Tuesday, reaching a deal with seventh-round selection Derick Velazquez, a right-hander pitcher from Fresno State University.

Velazquez, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound pitcher from Fresno State, spent much of the year pitching relief for the Bulldogs before moving into a starting role late in the season. In 56 1/3 innings, Velazquez had an ERA of 4.79 and a 3-5 record for Fresno State. He struck out 28 and walked 23.

“It’s just a relief,” Velazquez told MLB.com. “It’s just a dream come true. I think when I get on the plane, it will really hit me.”

He said he will report to Kissimmee, Fla., before hitting to short-season Tri-City.

Velazquez, a junior, is from Los Banos, Calif., and played at Merced College for one season, where he was a junior college All-American and the Nor-Cal Player of the Year. His record was 11-0 with a 1.43 ERA.

MLB.com has previously reported the Astros have reached deals with second-round pick A.J. Reed, a first baseman from Kentucky; third-round pick J.D. Davis, a third baseman from Cal State Fullerton; eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a center fielder from West Virginia University; ninth-round pick Bryan Radziewski, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami; and 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama.

Astros’ sixth-round pick Brock Dykxhoorn, a right-handed pitcher from Central Arizona College, said Saturday he had agreed to a signing bonus and was sorting out the final details of the contract.

Second-round pick Reed heading to Houston

A.J. Reed, the burly slugger who’s a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as the college national player of the year, has reached an agreement on a contract with the Astros, he told MLB.com on Monday. He was taken with the first pick of the second round (42nd overall).

Reed, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound left-hander, was a two-way star at Kentucky as a pitcher and a hitter, but Houston drafted as a hitter. He said he’ll be in Houston on Wednesday to sign his deal and take a physical.

“I’m excited,” he told MLB.com. “I’m glad the whole process is over and I’m excited to get out here and start over.”

Reed led the nation in homers (23), slugging (.735) and OPS (1.211), while ranking as the Southeastern Conference leader, and fourth in the NCAA, in pitching victories (12). Reed hit .336 with 18 doubles, one triple, 73 RBIs, 49 walks and a .476 on-base percentage while posting a 2.09 ERA as the Wildcats’ Friday night starter.

“I’m ready to play that full year,” he said. “The past couple of summers, I didn’t really hit that much, just kind of pitched. I’m ready to see what it’s like playing that 60-game college season and player another 70, 80 games in the summer and fall. I’m anxious to see how I respond to that and what it takes to do that.”

Reed was asked if he would miss pitching.

“I don’t know if that’s something I can tell right now,” he said. “I’m excited that I finally can focus on one area.”

In his storied three-year career, Reed has a .306 average in 172 games, with 35 doubles, three triples, 40 homers and 168 RBIs, with a .559 slugging percentage and a .415 on-base percentage. On the mound, Reed — a first-team All-America selection — has a 19-13 record with a 2.83 ERA in 248 innings, allowing just 53 walks and striking out 174.

MLB.com previously reported the Astros had agreed to terms with ninth-round pick Bryan Radziewski, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami, eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a center fielder from West Virginia University, and 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama.

Astros’ sixth-round pick Brock Dykxhoorn, a right-handed pitcher from Central Arizona College, said Saturday he had agreed to a signing bonus and was sorting out the final details of the contract.

Astros reach agreement with third-round pick Davis

The Astros have reached an agreement with third-round pick, Cal State-Fullerton two-way standout J.D. Davis. He was the first pick of the second day of the First-Year Player Draft, taken at No. 75 overall.

Davis will receive a bonus of $748,600, which is the assigned pick value for that selection. He will report to short-season Tri-City later this week. Davis was a hitter and pitcher in college, but will play third base in the Astros system.

“I’m pretty excited,” he told MLB.com. “I just can’t believe it’s finally here. I got drafted three years ago and it didn’t work out, and now it’s finally come true. I can’t wait to get out there and be a part of the Astros organization.”

Davis, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander, led Fullerton with a batting average of .338, a slugging percentage of .523 and an on-base percentage of .419. He also led the team with 53 strikeouts and 32 walks.

“J.D. Davis was one of our favorite players in the draft this year,” scouting director Mike Elias said the day he was drafted. “He’s one of the best power bats available in the top three rounds of the draft. We love his swing. We think he can play third base.”

In Fullerton’s NCAA Tournament game against Nebraska, Davis hit a two-out, eighth-inning grand slam in a 5-1 victory. Fullerton was later eliminated by No. 1 seed Oklahoma State. Davis was named to the 2014 NCAA Stillwater Regional All-Tournament Team as the designated hitter.

MLB.com previously reported the Astros had agreed to terms with ninth-round pick Bryan Radziewski, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami, eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a center fielder from West Virginia University, and 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama.

Astros’ sixth-round pick Brock Dykxhoorn, a right-handed pitcher from Central Arizona College, said Saturday he had agreed to a signing bonus and was sorting out the final details of the contract.

Astros agree to terms with pair of Miami products

The Astros have agreed to terms with ninth-round pick Bryan Radziewski, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami. Radziewski told MLB.com on Monday he was headed to short-season Tri-City later this week.

He could be joined in Tri-City by college teammate Alex Hernandez, a second baseman from Miami who was taken in the 40th round who has also agreed to terms. Hernandez is awaiting to find out where he will be sent.

Radziewski, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, was 8-2 for the Hurricanes this season with an ERA of 2.86. Radziewski struck out 111 batters with 49 walks and was named to the Louisville Slugger All-America second team and the Rawlings All-America third team.

He was drafted by the Cardinals in the 29th round in 2013 after going 9-3 with an ERA of 1.78 in 14 starts. Radziewski is from Miami and went to Florida Christian High School.

“Being away from home for the first time, you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I’m excited to start my professional career.”

MLB.com reported over the week the Astros had agreed with eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a center fielder from West Virginia University, and 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama.

Astros’ sixth-round pick Brock Dykxhoorn, a right-handed pitcher from Central Arizona College, said Saturday he had agreed to a signing bonus and was sorting out the final details of the contract.

No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, a left-handed pitcher from the San Diego agree, has agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus and could have a contract done this week.

Astros hoping to sign Nix, Marshall

Astros scouting director Mike Elias was back at work Sunday in Houston trying to sign some of the 41 players the club drafted over three days. Two of his most challenging players to sign will be pitchers Jacob Nix (fifth round) and Mac Marshall (21st), both of whom are firmly committed to college.

Nix, a 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher from Los Alamitos High School in California, has committed to attend UCLA. Marshall is a 6-foot-2 right-hander from suburban Atlanta that has committed to LSU. Both would have been drafted higher had they not been so firm in their college commits.

Still, Elias believes the Astros have a shot to sign both. They were two of only four high school players the Astros took from among their 41 picks.

“Mac Marshall has a very strong commitment to LSU,” he said. “It was somebody that we saw on the board that late and drafted him on the off chance that we would be able to sign him. We’re certainly going to make an attempt to do everything within our power and within our financial capabilities. I don’t think it’s going to be a real easy sign for us.”

Nix is a good friend of No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, who the Astros hope will sway Nix away from UCLA.

“The kid is really tantalizing high school right-hander,” Elias said. “He’s huge. Our scouts compare him physically to Mark Prior. He’s got a really good arm and we see a lot of potential in him, especially with our pitching coach and the way they like to teach. We feel he would be a good fit for our system.

“We knew going into the Draft he was going to be an expensive sign. Being we took him in the fifth round, we wouldn’t have taken him that early if we weren’t confident in the fact we were going to sign him. I am optimistic about that one.”

Astros, top pick Aiken nearing deal

The father for No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken told MLB.com on Saturday he was hoping his son would have a deal completed soon with the Astros.

The 17-year-old Aiken was drafted by the Astros on Thursday out of Central Catholic High School in San Diego with the top pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

“It’s more contract language and a few more ancillary things in the contract to be hammered out,” Jim Aiken told MLB.com. “Our advisors are working with the Astros executives on the contract and once the Draft ends, then we’re going to get back on it.”

The Astros haven’t been available for comment.

Aiken is only the third left-handed high school pitcher to be taken with the first overall pick, joining Brien Taylor (Yankees, 1991) and Houston’s David Clyde (Rangers, 1973). Aiken is the fifth lefty selected first overall, and the first since David Price was taken by Tampa Bay in 2007.

“I’m really excited,” Brady Aiken told MLB.com. “I know my advisors and the Astros are talking and they’ve pretty much got it locked down. I’m really excited and can’t wait to get out there and start playing for the Astros.”

MLB.com senior writer Jim Callis reported Saturday the Astros and Aiken had agreed to a $6.5-million signing bonus, which would tie the record for the largest given to a high school pitcher. The Pirates gave Jameson Taillon a $6.5-million signing bonus after taking him with the second pick in 2010.

The slot value for the No. 1 overall pick is $7,922,100.

Once a contract agreement is announced, Aiken will be flown to Houston to take a physical and meet the media.

“I wanted to get out here and started playing as soon as I could,” Brady Aiken said. “The Astros, having the organization that they do have and the young players, young talent they have, it’s important to get out there and get used to the system and their philosophy so I can get to the bigs and help them win some games.”

Aiken posted a 7-0 record and a 1.06 ERA in 11 starts in his senior season. He was a 2014 Perfect Game first team All-American and an All-Region first team California. He led Team USA to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September by winning both of his starts, including a championship-game performance against Japan in which he struck out 10 and allowed one run in seven innings.

 

 

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