Results tagged ‘ Jon Gaston ’

Astros set 40-man roster

The Astros finalized their 40-man roster Friday ahead of next month’s Rule 5 Draft by purchasing the contract of right-handed pitcher Paul Clemens, who was acquired by the Astros from the Braves in last summer’s Michael Bourn trade.

Friday was the deadline to set 40-man rosters prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held Dec. 8 at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. By purchasing the contract of Clemens, the Astros’ 40-man roster stands at 38.

“At this stage, we want to have some flexibility to add a free agent or take a swipe at somebody in the Rule 5 Draft,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said.

The Rule 5 Draft was implemented to prevent teams from stockpiling too much young talent in the Minor Leagues. Players who are eligible to be taken are those who aren’t on the 40-man roster and were signed at 19 and have been in the organization for four years, or were signed at 18 and have been in the organization for five years.

The players selected by another club must remain on that team’s active roster for the entire following season or be offered back to their original club.

Among the players in Houston’s organization not on the 40-man roster who will be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft are pitchers Danny Meszaros, Xavier Cedeno, Sergio Perez and Kyle Greenwalt, outfielders Brandon Barnes, Jon Gaston, Collin DeLome and T.J. Steele and infielder Kody Hinze.

“We talked to a lot of our people here about their feelings about candidates for protection, and I always try to hold it to the premise that any player taken in the Rule 5 Draft has to stay with the club for an entire season,” Wade said. “When you do that, it lends some clarity to your decision-making. It’s tough to carry a guy.”

For more on this story, check out the headlines at Astros.com

 

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.

Mills, Wade heading to Arizona Fall League

New Astros manager Brad Mills will head to the Arizona Fall League this week for a get-to-know-you-better-meeting with general manager Ed Wade and members of his coaching staff, including third-base coach Dave Clark and hitting coach Sean Berry.

“Ed was real good about allowing us to bring in the coaching staff and sit and talk and have some meetings and get to know each other as a group No. 1, and talk individually about things about the ballclub,” Mills said. “We’ll learn about the ballclub and learn about a lot of the players we have in the organization and watch the fall league games.”

Here’s an update on each of the Astros’ prospects are doing in the AFL while playing for the Peoria Saguaros (through Sunday):

RHP Evan Englebrook: The 6-foot-8 reliever has a 5.87 ERA in six games. In 7 2/3 innings, he’s allowed 11 hits and struck out eight batters. Englebrook split time between Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Corpus Christi and was 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA this year.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He continues to improve. The one thing we like about him is his ability to throw down hill. He creates a good arm angle. He’s velocity has been up. He’s been sitting at 92 to 97 [mph], which is good. He’s a big, tall guy and his mechanics can get out of whack, but he’s showing more consistency and more velocity. He’s a late-bloomer.”

RHP Chia-Jen Lo: The Taiwan native was 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in six games in relief before having to return to Taiwan to complete some paperwork. He pitched 10 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits, two walks and struck out 12 batters. Lo split this year between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi and was 1-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He did pretty well. Our reports were all good. He continues to throw the ball well and pitch well. He’s really focused on using his breaking ball a lot more and has made progress with it. It’s not where it needs to be, but he’s starting to show more confidence and the ability to throw it for strikes. If he continues that focus, hopefully he comes into camp ready to pick up where he left off.”

RHP Wilton Lopez: After appearing in eight games with the Astros near the end of the season, including two starts, Lopez has pitched in three games in Arizona (two starts) and is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He threw four innings in relief in his most recent outing Thursday and allowed no runs and one hit.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He’s starting to become a lot more consistent with his arm slot and his breaking ball is more consistent, and that’s due to a higher arm slot. That’s something we’ve worked on since we signed him. He continues to work hard and make adjustments. It’s just a matter of getting him some mound time.”

RHP Danny Meszaros: Coming off a solid split season between Class A Salem (0-0, 0.71 ERA) and Double-A Corpus Christi (3-3, 3.36 ERA), Meszaros has struggled in the desert. He’s pitched six games in relief and is 0-0 with a 9.53 ERA, allowing six hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings. He’s also struck out eight.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “We’re not necessarily working on anything in particular in terms of mecanics. We just are trying to get him to have better command more than anything else. He pitches late in games and needs to get his command of his fastball down more consistently and use his breaking ball the same way.”

C Jason Castro: Last year’s first-round pick and catcher of the future is hitting .171 with a .286 on-base percentage and .257 slugging percentage in 35 at-bats. He has six hits, including one home run, and was walked five times and struck out eight times. But remember, this has been a long year for Castro, who endured his first full season of pro ball and then played for the U.S. in an international tournament in September.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He’s doing fine. He’s not tearing it up numbers-wise by any means, but he continues to work well with pitchers. I got a reporter from David Bell, the manager, who said he’s receiving the ball well and could improvely slightly on fastballs down in teh zone. He has an excellent idea of calling a game and is throwing well and understands how to play the game the right way.”

2B Jose Vallejo: The infielder acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Ivan Rodriguez trade, Vallejo is hitting .135 with one RBI in 24 at-bats and six games. He has three hits, all singles, and has struck out six times.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He’s doing OK. He’s staying on the ball better and his defense has been solid. He has good range, soft hands and an accurate arm. He’s a second baseman, but has had to play a little third base because of the makeup of the roster. He’s very athletic and plays hard. He’s been pulling off the ball, but lately he’s been trying to stay on the ball and use the whole field.”

OF Jon Gaston: Gaston, whose AFL Twitter updates can be followed by clicking here, is hitting .244 (11-for-45) with a double, four triples, one home runs and 10 RBIs. He has 10 walks and 20 strikeouts for an on-base percentage of .393 and a slugging percentage of .511. He hit .278 with 31 doubles, 15 triples, 35 homers and 100 RBIs at Class A Lancaster this year.

Assistant GM Ricky Bennett says: “He got off to a little bit of a slow start, and a lot of it is just timing. He had timing issues during the season and would get in longer slumps. He wouldn’t be aggressive and we kind of saw that when he first went out there. It took him some time to get his feet under him, but he has been swinging the bat better lately. He hit a grand slam a few games ago and that got him back on track. He’s hitting for power and takin ghis walks, but he still strikes out a little too much for us, and that’s something we have to address. He can play all three outfield position and is a gamer.”

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