Former No. 1 overall draft pick Mark Appel and fellow right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez and third baseman Rio Ruiz headline the Astros’ contingent of prospects who will play in the Arizona Fall League this year.
Joining Appel, Velasquez and Ruiz on the Salt River Rafters team are left-hander Mitch Lambson, right-hander Tyson Perez, catcher Tyler Heineman, infielder Joe Sclafani and outfielder Andrew Aplin. Sclafani is a member of the taxi squad, which means he’s activated on only Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Appel, who missed all of Spring Training and the early part of 2014 while recovering from an appendectomy, struggled at Class A Lancaster before being moved up a month ago to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he’s pitched better.
Appel is ranked by MLB.com as the team’s No. 2 prospect. Velasquez (eighth), Ruiz (ninth) are also ranked in the Top 20.
The Rafters, who will play home games at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, included prospects from the Astros, D-backs, Marlins, Rockies and Twins. The six-team league, which is owned by Major League Baseball, plays Monday through Friday beginning Oct. 7.
Each Major League team is required to provide seven players to the AFL as long as they are Triple-A and Double-A players who were on Double-A rosters no later than Aug. 15. Each team can also send two Class A Advanced players, in addition to the current allowance of two “A-exempt” players (who are under contract as of Aug. 15).
Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country’s primary protected player list. No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited Major League service as of Aug. 31 (including disabled list time) are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
Representatives from the Astros and the Nationals will present a proposed joint Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Palm Beach County Tourism Development Council on Sept. 11 and Palm Beach County Commissioners on Sept. 23.
The Astros have been trying for more than a year to get a new complex built that it would share with another club, and the formal presentation is a big step. The Astros’ lease in Kissimmee, Fla., expires at the end of 2016, and the Astros would like to begin construction on a new spring site by January.
The Palm Beach Post reported the teams will ask for $3 million a year in hotel tax money to help for the proposed $140 million facility, which would be located at Haverhill Road and 45th Street in West Palm Beach.
In a joint statement, the Astros and Nationals said:
“The Astros and Nationals are finalizing a joint presentation in support of a proposed sports complex that will enable the Major League Clubs to co-locate our Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach. Our projections show that the economic impact created by the activities at the new complex will be in excess of $100 million each year.
“We have a strong desire to make Palm Beach County our home for Spring Training and help re-establish the east coast of Florida as a hub for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training activities and create a complex for community and national sporting events throughout the year.”
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan plans to fly to Iowa on Tuesday morning and sign a Player Development Contract to keep the team’s Class A affiliate at Quad Cities for two more years, he told MLB.com. A press conference will follow in Davenport, Iowa.
“Our guys are very happy with the relationship that we have throughout our system, and our goal is to continue to build the relationships at Quad Cities and hopefully [short-season] Tri-City and [Class A] Lancaster, and we think we have three of the best spots in all of baseball with good operations,” Ryan said. “We want to look to continue those relationships.”
Neither Ryan nor general manager Jeff Luhnow would comment on a report the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City would switch affiliates to the Dodgers. A group affiliated with the Dodgers is reportedly on the brink of purchasing team.
That would leave the Astros on the search for a new Triple-A affiliate for 2015. They would, of course, like to return to Triple-A Round Rock, which is owned by Ryan Sanders Baseball, but the Express recently renewed their PDC to remain the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers through 2018.
The Astros could be forced to move their Triple-A operation to Albuquerque, N.M. – replacing the Dodgers – though there could be other openings revealed in the next few weeks. They have expressed in interest in building a new facility in Montgomery County and relocating a team north of Houston, but that could be years away.
“We’ve been happy with our affiliate in Oklahoma City,” Luhnow said. “If it’s not to be, we’ll figure out what makes sense for us.”
Luhnow said the Astros are in discussions with Lancaster and Tri-City about renewing the PDC with those clubs, which expire after this year. The Astros own Double-A Corpus Christi, rookie-league Greeneville and the Gulf Coast League Astros, so no PDC is needed.
The Astros activated infielder/outfielder Jesus Guzman from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday and placed left-handed reliever Darin Downs on the DL with a right oblique strain. The Downs move is retroactive to Friday.
Guzman, who was out with back spasms, went 8-for-13 with three doubles and five RBIs in a rehab stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 36 games with the Astros this year, he’s hitting .200 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Downs threw one-third of an inning Thursday in Boston, giving up a run. He’s 2-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 40 games with the Astros this year.
Meanwhile, outfielder Alex Presley, who’s been on the disabled list since straining his oblique on July 8, rejoined the team in New York, but hasn’t been activated. He was on a rehab assignment at rookie-league Tri-City and suffered a setback on Saturday.
Astros pitcher Jesse Crain, who’s been on the disabled list all season, also met the team in New York. A timetable on his return isn’t known.
Astros rookie outfielder George Springer suffered a setback in his return from a left quad strain and won’t be allowed to perform any baseball-related drills for two more weeks, the team said Tuesday.
Springer played three games on a Minor League rehab last week in Class A Quad Cities and tweaked the quad running the bases. He returned to Houston and has been working out with the team, but met with a doctor Monday night at Minute Maid Park after not progressing enough.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to be a thing that he could work through quickly, but after the doctor saw him last night, he made the determination he needs to take some time off and let it heal,” Luhnow said. “It’s unfortunate because we felt like he was a couple of days away from rejoining our team and clearly is a missed presence in lineup and in the outfield. We’re going to have to wait until he’s completely healthy. We don’t want to take anymore risks.”
The Astros are getting outfielder Dexter Fowler back in the lineup after he completed a rehab from an intercostal injury. He’ll be in the lineup Wednesday.
Springer made his much anticipated Major League debut in mid-April and took off in May, being named American League Rookie of the Month. He’s played in 78 games and is hitting .231 with a 20 homers, 51 RBIs and a .336 on-base percentage.
“It’s tough just because I’m a competitor and I want to go out there and help the team, but I’ve got to get healthy and see what happens,” he said. “I want to go out there and compete with these guys and be able to help and not be a cheerleader. I want to be able to play, but you’ve got to be smart.”
Springer remains confident he’ll get on the field again this year.
“That’s the ultimate goal is to get back out there,” he said. “I’ll get stronger and keep doing what I’ve got to do in order to play.”
Luhnow believes Springer will play most of September.
“This type of injury, he should be able to come back from,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to be very cautious with bringing him back, but we still have plenty of time. I expect he’ll play the month of September here.”
George Springer says he’s “one-day closer” to returning to action. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Springer is “days” away from returning. All we know for sure is Springer continues to progress from a quad injury that’s kept him in the disabled list since July 20, but the timetable for his return remains unclear. <p>
Springer continues to take batting practice, but won’t be activated until he can run full speed. <p>
“You’ve got to be able to see what your body can handle and what it can’t, but at the same time you don’t want to overdo it and set yourself back,” he said. “You have to walk that thin line and be smart.” <p>
Luhnow said running remains the final hurdle for the rookie slugger. <p>
“It’s more running full speed and having to stop and change directions and those sort of things, which you have to do as an outfielder rand a base runner,” Luhnow said. “Those are the things you really don’t get fully tested until you’re in a game situation. We’re going to try and replicate as much of that as we can.” <p>
Luhnow said he wasn’t sure whether Springer would have to have another rehab assignment before returning to the Astros. <p>
“We haven’t made that decision,” he said. “The reason to do a rehab is in case there’s any sort of setback, you’re not burning another 15 days. That’s the worst thing to do. I know he’s anxious to get back and we’re anxious to have him back, and we have to weigh those.” <p>
Astros rookie outfielder Domingo Santana has had one plate appearance since being recalled a week ago to replace the injured Jesus Guzman, walking as a pinch-hitter on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Santana went 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts in his debut in July and was promptly sent back down.
Here’s what manager Bo Porter had to say about Santana’s playing time:
“Even when he came, it was more of we were going to a National League ballpark and Guzman was down and you just don’t want to play short going into a National League ballpark where there’s double switches,” he said. “You end up with a short bench early in the game and now offensively you mount a comeback and you shoot yourself in the foot because you don’t have that extra guy. When you have guys in which you want to continue to see and play well, there’s no place for him to play.”
Jake Marisnick, acquired in a trade with the Marlins earlier this month, is starting in center field while Dexter Fowler recovers from an injury, and outfielder Robbie Grossman has been an on-base machine the last few days, while Marc Krauss has hit safely in nine of 12 starts since being recalled July 23.
Here’s the latest on the injured Astros:
- 2B Jose Altuve was out of the lineup Saturday one day after leaving Friday’s game with neck discomfort. The good news for the Astros is Altuve said he felt much better and expected to be back in the lineup Sunday. “They just told me to sit the bench today, and I’m going to be ready to pinch-hit and pinch-run,” he said.
- OF Alex Presley took batting practice on the field Saturday for the first time since he injured his oblique swinging the bat a month ago and said things went well. He could begin a Minor League rehab stint any day. “I’m looking forward to getting out there,” he said. “It’s been a while.”
- OF George Springer took batting practice Saturday, but it remains a mystery when he’ll be activated. Springer tweaked his injured left quad during a Minor League rehab assignment earlier this week. “My speed is my game and it’s hard not to have that, so it’s one of those things you just to be smart and go whenever I can go,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to be 100 percent, so hopefully I can get back out there soon.”
- OF Dexter Fowler could return to the Astros’ lineup any day. Astros manager Bo Porter said Saturday that Fowler was scheduled to have four at-bats as designated hitter in his second game on rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first game on Friday against Iowa. “When you play and you’re playing consecutive days and we don’t have any ill effects from what put you on the disabled list, you’re ready to go,” Porter said. “He’s not down there to prove he can hit. He’s down there to prove he’s healthy.”
Astros rookie outfielder George Springer suffered a setback Wednesday during his Minor League rehab assignment at Class A Quad Cities, leaving the game in the fifth inning after he tweaked a strained left quad that’s kept him on the disabled since July 20.
The Astros were hoping to activate Springer on Thursday against the Phillies or when the team returns home Friday against the Rangers. Springer will fly to Houston to be re-evaluated, Astros manager Bo Porter said.
“He hit a double and felt it a little bit in his quad and for precautionary reasons we went ahead and pulled him out of the game,” Porter said after his team’s 10-3 loss.
Springer, playing in his third rehab game, doubled in the first inning and walked in the fourth while starting at designed hitter against Burlington. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. Porter said earlier in the day Springer was scheduled to play seven innings in the field, so it’s unclear why he was at DH.
“We’re all behind him and we want the best for him,” said Astros first baseman Jon Singleton, who like Springer made a much-anticipated debut this year. “If he doesn’t come back, we’ll make the most of it. We’re definitely hoping he makes it through.”
Springer started in right field for the first time Tuesday for Quad Cities and was 0-for-2 after serving as designated hitter on Monday in his first rehab game.
“We’ll have a good indication of how he recovered from back to back days [in the field] and we’ll be able to make a decision from there,” Porter said prior to Wednesday’s game. “Maybe we’ll have him off Thursday and have him ready to go on Friday.”
Springer was hitting .231 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs in 78 games since being called up in the middle of April. He was the American League Rookie of the Month in May.
The Astros’ player development department has named the July Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Month at each of the team’s Minor League affiliates. These awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team.
At Triple A Oklahoma City, LHP Kevin Chapman was named Pitcher of the Month after going 1-0 with six saves, 20 strikeouts, four walks and a 2.53 ERA in 12 games in July. In his 40 games at Triple-A this season, the left-hander has recorded 62 strikeouts and a 1.31 ERA, while posting the best strikeouts per nine innings ratio (13.50) in the entire Pacific Coast League (min. 40 innings). Oklahoma City’s July Player of the Month award went to C Carlos Perez, who hit .338 with three doubles, one homer and a .420 on-base percentage in 21 July games. The 23-year-old backstop has thrown out 32.2 percent of all baserunners attempting to steal this season, which ranks seventh in the PCL.
RHP Tyson Perez went 1-0 with five saves, seven strikeouts and just two walks in his 10 2/3 innings in July en route to Corpus Christi Pitcher of the Month honors. Selected by the Astros in the 17th round of the 2011 draft, Perez has gone 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA and eight saves with the Hooks this season. IF Telvin Nash received Corpus Christi’s Player of the Month award after batting .328 with 10 homers, 20 RBIs and a 1.247 OPS in 20 July games. The 2009 third-round pick led all Double-A players in OPS and slugging in July, while ranking tied for first in homers. His 18 homers this season are the most in the Texas League.
Earning his second Lancaster Pitcher of the Month Award was LHP Josh Hader, who went 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 29 strikeouts in five games in July. The 20-year-old southpaw is 9-2 and leads the California League in ERA (2.70) and WHIP (1.10) while ranking third in strikeouts (112). IF Rio Ruiz was named Lancaster’s July Player of the Month after hitting .333 with 12 doubles, one triple, four homers, 21 RBI and a 1.005 OPS in 26 games. Ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 47 prospect in baseball two weeks ago, Ruiz has hit .303 with 30 doubles, 11 homers, 71 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage in 108 games with Lancaster this season.
LHP Albert Minnis was named the Class A Quad Cities July Pitcher of the Month, as he went 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA and 15 strikeouts in six outings during the month. IF Chase McDonald received River Bandits Player of the Month honors after hitting .362 with nine doubles, six homers, 19 RBI and a 1.083 OPS in 26 July games.
At Class A Short Season Tri-City, RHP Troy Scribner was named the July Pitcher of the Month after posting a 5-0 record with a 0.79 ERA and 40 strikeouts in six July starts. Recently promoted to Quad Cities, Scribner has gone 9-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 13 total outings between Tri-City (10 games) and Corpus Christi (three games). After getting selected by the Astros in the 14th round of this year’s Draft, IF Nick Tanielu earned Tri-City’s July Player of the Month honors. The 21-year-old hit .344 with seven doubles, one triple, two homers, 29 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage in his 23 games in July.
At rookie-level Greeneville, RHP Angel Heredia allowed just one earned run in 18 innings in July (0.50 ERA) while striking out 22 batters en route to Pitcher of the Month honors. A product of the Astros Dominican Academy, Heredia has put up a 1.75 ERA this season with the Astros and as not allowed a run in his last 13 1/3 innings pitched. OF Jason Martin was named the club’s Player of the Month for July after hitting .293 with seven doubles, four triples, nine RBIs and a .403 on-base percentage during the month. Martin, who was selected by the Astros in the eighth round of the 2013 draft, posted a 16-game hitting streak from July 3-21.
RHP Elieser Hernandez and OF Alexander Melendez received the GCL Pitcher and Player of the Month awards for July. The 19-year-old Hernandez went 3-1 with a 3.71 ERA and 26 strikeouts during the month, while Melendez hit .385 with a .903 OPS in 23 July games.
In the Dominican Summer League, the Astros named a pitcher and player of the month for each of their two clubs. For the DSL Astros Blue club, LHP Salvador Montano (2-1, 2.35 ERA, 28 K’s, 23 innings) received Pitcher of the Month honors while OF Rodrigo Ayarza (.287, eight doubles, one homer, 17 RBIs, .385 OBP) picked up Player of the Month honors.
For the DSL Astros Orange club, RHP Juan Hernandez (1-1, 2.89 ERA, 13 K’s, 18 2/3 innings) was named Pitcher of the Month and IF Frankeny Fernandez (.322, seven doubles, three triples, one homer, 18 RBIs, 15 steals, .430 OBP) was named Player of the Month. Both players were recently promoted to the Gulf Coast League Astros after their strong seasons in the DSL.