Results tagged ‘ Jay Austin ’

Arizona Fall League update

There will be more on the Arizona Fall League and some other Astros playing in winter ball when the story posts on Astros.com later today, but here’s a sneak peek:

Astros general manager Ed Wade came away impressed after spending some time earlier this month getting a close-up look at the club’s prospects that are participating in the Arizona Fall League, which is about halfway through its schedule.

The seven players from the Houston organization are competing for the Salt River Rafters.

“We’re pleased with the way things are going there,” said Wade, who traveled to Arizona early in the month with assistant general manager David Gottfried. “We missed Jason Castro while we were there. I had seen him in instructional league the previous week and we had given Jason permission to be in a wedding and we missed him when we were out there. All reports we have gotten have been very solid.”

Astros Major League scout Paul Ricciarini is currently in Arizona and has sent positive reports back about Castro, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament running the bases early in Spring Training and had season-ending knee surgery in March.

Castro, who’s expected to be the team’s starting catcher next year, was hitting .167 with five strikeouts in only 12 at-bats in four games (he was slowed by a ribcage injury), but he went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI on Thursday and, more importantly, is in good shape physically.

“Paul was very impressed with the way Jason has progressed since the last time he had a chance to see him,” Wade said.

The player putting up the best numbers for the Astros is first baseman Kody Hinze, who slugged 29 homers last season between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi combined. He was hitting .294 with two homers and nine RBIs through nine games.

Jake Goebbert, a left-handed-hitting outfielder who progressed from Lancaster to Triple-A Oklahoma City last season and hit a combined .290 with 12 homers and 67 RBIs, was batting .162 with two homers and three RBIs in 10 games. Speedy outfielder Jay Austin had appeared in five games and was hitting .263 with three stolen bases.

“From the position players we did see, Kody Hinze was swinging the bat well and driving in some runs,” Wade said. “Jay Austin was out there on a taxi squad and played a couple of games and got on base, and we see the same tools and same out of Jay since we drafted him and signed him. He just needs to continue to be given opportunities. He’s probably one of those guys that’s going to take a level at a time to get his feet on the ground and show what he’s capable of doing.

“Goebbert played in a couple of games and swung the bat well. He knows how to play the game the right way and we like what we saw out of him.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who went 9-7 with a 3.17 ERA at Double-A before getting his feet wet at Triple-A last season, is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three starts in Arizona.

“He’s one of those guys you have to ignore the radar gun when he’s pitching because he’s not going to put up big gun numbers,” Wade said. “In the game I saw him pitch, he was consistent with what I’ve seen out of him every time he’s pitched. He commanded his pitches well and he’s got an excellent changeup and changes speeds.”

Right-hander Jason Stoffel had appeared in six games and allowed five earned runs and eight walks and struck out nine batters in five innings. Right-hander Josh Zeid was 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA in six games, but he had allowed only one run in his past three outings entering play Monday.

Astros position breakdown: outfield

OUTFIELD

2010 Opening Day starters: LF Carlos Lee, CF Michael Bourn, RF Hunter Pence.

2010 end-of-season starters: LF Carlos Lee, CF Michael Bourn, RF Hunter Pence.

Others who were in the mix: Brian Bogusevic (LF-CF-RF), Jason Bourgeois (LF-CF-RF), Jason Michaels (LF-CF-RF, Cory Sullivan (LF-RF-CF).

Combined 2010 stats of Astros outfielders: .261 BA/.317 OBP/.401 SLG, 93 doubles, 51 homers, 217 RBIs, 156 walks, 316 strikeouts, 1,917 at-bats.

Free agents: None.

Arbitration eligible: Bourn and Pence.

What happened: The Astros went into last season feeling good about what they had in the outfield with Carlos Lee returning in left, Michael Bourn returning in center and Hunter Pence returning in right. Lee had averaged 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first three seasons with Houston, Bourn was named the team’s MVP in 2009 and won a Gold Glove and Pence was coming off his first All-Star appearance. The three held down the starting duties, but not without some road bumps.

Lee, who started 133 games in left field, struggled out of the gate and hit .183 in April with no home runs. He had only five homers at the end of May and wound up hitting .240 in the first half with 12 homer and 45 RBIs, helping put the Astros in a hole. He came around in the second half with a .254 average to go along with 12 homers and 44 RBIs to finish with 24 homers and 89 RBIs, his lowest totals with Houston. He split time before left field and first base in September as the Astros wanted to get a look at him at first defensively.

Bourn, who started 133 games in center, picked up where he left off in 2009 and got off to a quick start, hitting .311 in April. His average slowly began dipping as the season wore on. He hit .245 in May, .252 in June and .185 in July with an on-base percentage of .271. Bourn was enjoying a great finish – he hit .229 in his final 17 games – before his season ended two weeks early with an oblique strain. He hit .265/.341/.356 with 52 stolen bases and had another Gold Glove-caliber season in center field.

Pence, who started 155 games in right, joined Lee in getting off to a slow start. He hit around .230 with two homers and seven RBIs in April before coming around in May, batting .302 with six homers and 16 RBIs. After hitting .263 before the All-Star break, Pence hit .302 in the second half and finished with 25 homers for the third year in a row and 91 RBIs to lead the team. He was up and down defensively.

Jason Michaels, the fourth outfielder, had a solid year in a backup role and parlayed that into his option being picked up for 2011. He hit .253/.310/.468 with eight homers and 26 RBIs while playing all three outfield spots. He had two pinch-hit home runs. Jason Bourgeois, a speedster who doesn’t hit for a high average, got the bulk of the playing time in center in the final two weeks with Bourn on the shelf. The Astros got an abbreviated look at former No. 1 pick Brian Bogusevic, the pitcher-turned-outfielder who made his Major League debut. Cory Sullivan began the year as the fifth outfielder but was let go in the middle of the season.

What’s next: Lee, Bourn and Pence are all back in 2011, barring a trade. Lee will be in the fifth year of his six-year, $100-million contract (he has a limited no-trade clause this year) and Bourn and Pence are eligible for arbitration. But not all three could return as starters in the outfield. The Astros are going to give Lee another look at first base in Spring Training next year, with the hopes Brett Wallace – acquired in the Roy Oswalt trade – does enough to warrant winning the first base job and keeping Lee in left field.

If the Astros deem Wallace needs more time in the Minor Leagues, they will stick Lee at first base. That’s why they’re on the lookout this winter for a left-handed hitting left fielder they could use in a platoon situation with Michaels. The decision on which player opens at first base won’t unfold until later in Spring Training.

The Astros are banking on Bourn and Pence to pick up where they left off at the end of last year and have the best offensive seasons of their careers. Lee had a down season in 2010 and would certainly give the club a boost if he can return to his 2007-09 form as a reliable run producer. Bogusevic and Bourgeois will get a look as backup outfielders, but don’t be surprised to see a Minor League player make a push during the spring.

Who’s on the farm: The Astros are starting to see the fruits of their last several drafts pay off in the outfield, where an impressive group of young outfielders is emerging.  The club is high on Jack Shuck, who had a bang-up season for Double-A Corpus Christi before finishing the year at Triple-A Round Rock. T.J. Steele had turned some heads before injuries slowed him down last season, and players like Jon Gaston, Jay Austin and J.D. Martinez could be ready for the Majors soon. Martinez was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year after he hit .341 with 40 doubles, 18 homers and 89 RBIs combined between Class A Lexington and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he finished the season. He was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player and was a midseason and postseason All-Star.

A look at the Astros at the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League gets underway today, giving the Astros and other Major League teams the opportunity see some of their top prospects play in what is considered a graduate school for prospects.

The Astros have eight players in Arizona playing for the Peoria Javelinas: pitchers David Carpenter, Kyle Greenwalt, Matt Nevarez and Patrick Urckfitz; infielder Koby Clemens; and outfielders Jay Austin, Brandon Barnes and Jack Shuck.

In fact, Nevarez will be blogging about his exprerience and you can follow it by clicking here.

Outfielder T.J. Steele and pitcher Sergio Perez were originally scheduled to play, but Steele is still recovering from an injury and Perez had a personal commitment. Carpenter and Barnes are on the taxi squad, meaning they’ll only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Each of the six Arizona Fall League teams plays a 32-game schedule through Nov. 18. All Triple-A and Double-A player are eligible to play provided they are on those rosters no later than Aug. 16. Two players below the Double-A level are also allowed to play.

Nearly 60 percent of the players to have played in league’s first 18 years of existence have made the Major Leagues, including more than 70 percent of players from a year ago. Astros catcher Jason Castro played in Arizona last fall.

“It’s a great environment because the competition level is always very high in Arizona,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “It’s a different environment than what exists in Latin America in the winter leagues. We’ve got big crowds and the competition amongst the clubs is significant.

“The Arizona Fall League provides an opportunity for top prospects to face top prospects, and all you have to do is look at the history of the Arizona Fall League to see how many outstanding Major League players have come through the program to recognize it’s importance. We’re excited about what we saw in the instructional league, anxious to see kids playing in the Fall League. We’re certainly monitoring what’s coming out of the other Latin programs as well.”

The Astros will scout the entire league with their pro scouts on assignment, with assistant general managers David Gottfried and Bobby Heck among those also going out to check out the league. Wade plans to head to Arizona to see four games later this month.

Here’s a look at the players the Astros sent to Arizona:

  • RHP David Carpenter, 25 years old: Acquired from the Cardinals in the Pedro Feliz trade, he went a combined 6-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 55 games in relief between Class A Palm Beach and Lancaster. He pitched in six games after being acquired from the Astros, going 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA.
  • RHP Kyle Greenwalt, 22 years old: A 20th-round draft pick in 2007, he went 8-7 with a 5.93 ERA in 27 starts in Class A Lancaster. He allowed 191 hits and struck out 90 batters 136 2/3 innings.
  • RHP Matt Nevarez, 23 years old: Injuries slowed him down this year, but he went 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 36 relief appearances after appearing in Major League Spring Training with the Astros, who acquired him from the Texas Rangers in the Ivan Rodriguez trade.
  • LHP Pat Urckfitz 22 years old: Spent most of last season at Class A Lancaster, going 5-9 with a 4.13 ERA in 35 games, including 12 starts. He appeared in one game at Double-A Corpus Christi at the end of the season.
  • IF Koby Clemens, 23 years old: Has hit 48 homers and driven in 208 runs in the past two years between Class A Lexington and Double-A Corpus Christi. Last season at Corpus, he hit .241 with 22 doubles, three triples, 26 homers and 85 RBIs.
  • OF Jay Austin, 20 years old: The speedy Austin was the youngest player in the California League to begin last season and wound up hitting .261 with 25 doubles, 13 triples, 10 homers, 59 RBIs and 54 stolen bases in 74 attempts for Class A Lancaster.
  • OF Brandon Barnes, 24 years old:  Taken in the sixth round of the 2005 Draft, Barnes hit .269 with 31 doubles, five triples, 27 homers and 80 RBIs last season at Class A Lancaster. He played six games at Triple-A Round Rock at the end of the year and hit .286 in 21 at-bats.
  • OF Jack Shuck, 23 years old: Spent most of last season at Double-A Corpus Christi and batted .298 with two homers and 28 RBIs. He played in 36 games at Triple-A Round Rock at the end of the year and hit .273 in 139 at-bats. Shuck was taken in sixth round of 2008 Draft.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 72 other followers