Houston Astros Minor League Recap: 5/9/13

USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros minor leagues squared off against the 2006 Team USA World Junior Championship pitching staff. How did they do?

The Legend of Eddie Gaedel

The year was 1951. It was the 50th anniversary of the American League, and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck ("as in wreck," his autobiography states) - a master showman - came up with an interesting way to celebrate. On Sunday, August 19th, between games of a doubleheader, Veeck brought a papier-mache cake onto the field and out of it popped 3'7" Eddie Gaedel.

The promoter for the game, Falstaff Brewery, had been promised a surprise by Veeck. They were very dissatisfied, and all Veeck could do was apologize. He didn't want to let on that the biggest surprise was yet to come.

In the bottom of the first inning, leadoff batter Frank Saucier was pulled from the game, and Gaedel was put in to pinch-hit for him against Detroit Tigers pitcher Bob Cain. Veeck had made sure to have a copy of Gaedel's contract on hand, so when umpire Ed Hurley pulled Browns manager Zack Taylor aside, Taylor showed it to him and play resumed. Cain threw two pitches, both high. He laughed, shrugged, and tossed two more pitches in. Gaedel drew a walk and was replaced by a pinch runner, Jim Delsing.

The next day, American League president Will Harridge voided Gaedel's contract, stating that it was a mockery to the game of baseball, to which Veeck asked if Phil Rizzuto was "a short ballplayer or a tall midget." It would prove to be the one and only plate appearance of Gaedel's career.

Why am I talking about all of this? Because the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP), who finished their series against Lancaster last night, feature a player named Kyle Gaedele (note the different spelling,) Eddie Gaedel's grandnephew. The younger Gaedele stands 6'4" tall, and has quite a few more plate appearances to his name. But he'll certainly never be the OBP champion of the family.

The Case for Brett Wallace

Through seven games - 26 plate appearances - Brett Wallace was struggling. He was hitting .042/.115/.042. That's not bad, that's awful. He had just one hit - a single - in 26 plate appearances. He'd drawn 2 walks and struck out 17 times. In 26 plate appearances. That's a 65.4% strikeout rate, and a 7.7% walk rate. He was optioned to Oklahoma City, with Jeff Luhnow telling Brian McTaggart:

"I think the message is he needs to get regular at-bats, and right now he's not getting them at the big league level," Luhnow said. "He needs [to get] a steady diet of at-bats at Triple-A and find the swing and approach the way it was [in Spring Training]. This is not the Brett Wallace we've gotten to know and developed. It's in there, and he needs to get back to that. We'd rather him work that out at Triple-A."

Since that time, Wallace has been raking in Oklahoma City. Entering today's action, he was hitting .302/.380/.587, with a 9.9% walk rate and a 29.6% strikeout rate - still high, but within range of his previous Triple-A numbers. He had 5 home runs in 16 games, a .286 ISO, .419 wOBA, and 148 wRC+.

I won't sit here and tell you that Brett Wallace needs to be called up to the big leagues. I'll be completely forthright and tell you that I'm not sure I care who's on the big league roster right now. But if, in fact, the point of his demotion was to let him work through his contact issues, it seems to be working. If he continues this pace for another 15-20 games, or if an injury or a trade shifts the big league roster, don't be surprised if he shows back up in Houston this season.

Cold Start to the Season... Literally

Curt Rallo has a nice piece on top pick Carlos Correa and the beginning he's had to his minor league career. It's basically a feel-good piece about how he's 18 and anxious and how the Astros are trying to keep from putting any pressure on him. Like that.

But there's one quote that caught my eye, and it's the kind of thing that we sometimes forget that some players have to contend with: The weather.

"I've never experienced the cold," Correa said of his early struggles. "I'm trying to work as hard as I can and do the best I can for my team. It's been very challenging, but I know I have to fight through adversity."

It's sometimes so easy to forget that the average temperature in April in Davenport, Iowa, is between 57 and 67 degrees. In San Juan, it's 85. The weather, of course, isn't the only thing that a young man has to adjust to when entering professional baseball, but it is something that can easily go unnoticed until it's pointed out.

The Other Castro the Astro

Fans of Erik Castro might have been seeking solace after the Hooks' loss to Frisco. And, in so seeking, they may have made their way to MiLB.com, where they might have been thrilled to see that footage of Castro's solo home run was posted. Except that, when they click it, eager to wipe away the pain of a Corpus Christ loss, what they're instead greeted with is this:

That's actually footage of Chih-Hsien Chiang hitting a home run. The big problem with that is that Chih-Hsien Chiang plays for the other team. Poor Erik Castro fan(s).

Jake, Rattle, and Roll

Hooks pitcher Jake Buchanan, fresh off a Texas League Pitcher of the Week award, allowed just two hits and no walks over five scoreless innings yesterday, striking out four. Buchanan has walked just 2 batters through 39.1 innings this season, and has struck out 21. He's currently 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA, a 0.610 WHIP, and opposing batters are hitting just .165 against him.

Fields of Gold

Rule 5 pick Josh Fields will make a rehab appearance with the Quad Cities River Bandits during Friday's game against Cedar Rapids. It will mark the first time since 2006 that a player has made a rehab appearance with the River Bandits at Modern Woodmen Park. Quad Cities was a Cardinals affiliate back then, and the rehab appearance was by Mark Mulder. Mulder went five innings; Fields will pitch just two.

Strollin' Nolan

There is an oddly-timed piece on Nolan Fontana and Delino DeShields, Jr. over at MiLB.com (I guess sometimes you write something and have to post it whether one of the guys is hurt or not). It purports to talk about both of them, but it focuses on Fontana, a Crawfish Boxes folk hero for his ability to get on base. One of the most exciting parts is a quote from Rodney Linares about Fontana:

"He's very mature for his age," said JetHawks manager Rodney Linares. "I would compare him to Ben Zobrist, and he is a solid shortstop."

Zobrist, of course, was an Astros farmhand who traveled to Tampa Bay in the Aubrey Huff trade in 2006. And whether you agree with Linares or not, that's a quote that gets the blood flowing.

Party Like It's 2006

As the Oklahoma City RedHawks faced off against Tacoma starter Blake Beavan, their Double-A counterparts - the Corpus Christi Hooks - took on Frisco's starter, Neil Ramirez. This isn't a terribly impressive thing in and of itself, until you realize that Beavan and Ramirez were teammates for Team USA in the 2006 World Junior Championship - a team that won the silver medal. Both were then drafted the following year by the Rangers - Beavan in the first round (17th overall) and Ramirez in the supplemental round (44th overall). Their Team USA teammate, Michael Main, was also taken by the Rangers in that draft.

Main is now in the Marlins system, being converted from pitcher to outfielder. Beavan was sent to Seattle as part of the Cliff Lee trade, and has tasted the majors, but is now in Tacoma. Meanwhile, Ramirez is dominating the Texas League this season. Entering yesterday's start, he was 2-0 in 6 starts, with a 3.07 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 10.75 K/9, and no home runs allowed. It's a repeat of the level, however, after tasting Triple-A in each of the previous two seasons.

What Happened Was...

Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA) - Three pitchers going in three different directions - Asher Wojciechowsi, pitching in just his second game after being promoted from Corpus Christi, got the start. Rhiner Cruz, in just his third appearance since being demoted from the big league club, followed him. Jose Valdez, who has spent most of the last three seasons in Oklahoma City, closed the game out. They combined to allow just one run by the Tacoma Rainiers (SEA) as the offense - led by one Mr. Brett Wallace - scratched together three against Tacoma starter Blake Beavan. Doing a little bit of math, that makes the RedHawks 3-1 victors. Jonathan Villar kept up his torrid pace with a multi-hit/multi-steal game, as well.

  • SS Jonathan Villar - 2/4, K, 2 SB
  • 1B Brett Wallace - 2/3, 2B, R, RBI, K
  • 3B Brandon Laird - 1/3, R, RBI, SB
  • RHP Asher Wojciechowski - 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 77 pitches/45 strikes
  • RHP Rhiner Cruz - 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 26/18
  • RHP Jose Valdez - 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 12/7
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) - Despite a brilliant start by Jake Buchanan, the Hooks found themselves in a scoreless tie as Carlos Quevedo took the mound in the sixth. Quevedo struggled out of the gate, though, and the Hooks went to bat in the bottom of the frame down, 2-0. A solo home run by Erik Castro brought them to within a single run, but Quevedo gave up three more runs in the seventh inning. The Hooks offense matched that total, but were ultimately unable to overcome the deficit entirely as Corpus Christi fell, 6-4, to the Frisco RoughRiders (TEX). Hooks batters recorded 13 strikeouts, 9 of them at the hands of Frisco's starter, Neil Ramirez.
  • SS Jiovanni Mier - 1/4, 2 K, CS
  • CF George Springer - 0/3, 3 K
  • RF Domingo Santana - 1/4, 2B, R, 2 K
  • RHP Jake Buchanan - 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
  • RHP Carlos Quevedo - 1.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Alex Sogard - 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Lancaster Jethawks (A+) - After losing the first three games against the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP), including both games of a doubleheader the day before, the Jethawks were looking to prevent a sweep and stop their season-long three-game skid. With a three-run lead through the first two innings, starter Aaron West hit a snag in the top of the third, allowing three Storm batters to cross the plate and tie the game. It would be all Lancaster from there, however, with six runs between the third, fourth, and fifth innings. Telvin Nash hit his first home run since April 27 - a 2-run shot in the fifth inning - to put the Jethawks up 9-3. They went on to win 10-4.
  • SS Nolan Fontana - 1/5, R, K
  • 2B Joe Sclafani - 2/5, R, RBI
  • CF Andrew Aplin - 3/5, 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB
  • DH MP Cokinos - 1/3, 2 RBI, BB
  • 1B Telvin Nash - 1/2, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K
  • C Tyler Heineman - 2/4, 2B, R, K
  • RHP Aaron West - 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
  • LHP Theron Geith - 2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
  • LHP Blair Walters - 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Travis Ballew - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Quad Cities River Bandits (A) - The River Bandits game was postponed. They will play a doubleheader today at Modern Woodmen Park.
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