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Astros Crawfish Boil: November 28, 2023

Welcome to your Tuesday Boil, and the 33rd chapter of the Everystros Countdown.

Taylor Jones
| Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the Tuesday Crawfish Boil and Chapter XXXIII of the Everystros Countdown!

Houston Astros News

Today’s headlines are mostly some derivative of “Alex Bregman on the trading block?” I’ve included two of them below. If you want more, you can go get it on dogpile.com, or some other newfangled webengine thingy.

Watch exclusive coverage ahead of this year’s Houston Sports Awards (Click2Houston)

How an Astros Minor Leaguer Balances Baseball and Music Careers (SI)

The Astros are apparently listening to trade offers for third baseman Alex Bregman (Blue Jays Nation)

New York Bound? 29-Year-Old Astros 2x All-Star Stirs Serious Rumors with Yankees (Essentially Sports)

AL West News

Angels — Former Dodgers Relief Pitcher Adam Kolarek Signs With Angels (Dodger Blue)

Athletics — A’s to make spring-training pit stop at Las Vegas Ballpark (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Rangers — Why Texas Rangers legend Adrian Beltre should be a unanimous first ballot Hall of Famer (KIII)

Mariners — Analysis: What worked and what didn’t for Mariners star Julio Rodriguez in 2023 (The Spokesman-Review)

MLB News

The 5 best starters you can trade for this offseason

‘I wanted to be a Cardinal’: Gray to St. Louis on 3-yr. deal

Braves among clubs in trade talks for Cease

Yankees poised to strike at Winter Meetings

Here’s why Ohtani is already a Hall of Famer

6 teams that fit as landing spots for Hader Houston is none of them

Houston Astros Birthdays

RHP Pedro Astacio (55)

OF / 1B Jim Fuller (73)

RHP Cristopher Presinal (19)


Everystros Countdown: Chapter XXXIII

In today’s countdown, we take a look back at 12 players who came in at 5.2 collective wins below replacement level. They totaled between 131 plate appearances (Taylor Jones) and 445 batters faced (Jason Jennings). Today’s group came in between negative-0.0015 and negative-0.0012 bWAR per PA/BF. Tomorrow we drop down to 11 players per day.

540. George Brunet is a six-foot-one left-handed pitcher from Houghton, MI. Born on June 8, 1935, he first got to the majors with the Kansas City A’s in 1956. In four seasons with the nomadic team, he was 0-3 with a 6.37 ERA in 15 games, with 19 strikeouts in 35 13 innings.

Brunet also played with the Milwaukee Braves (2-0, 5.10, 54 23 IP) before making his way to Houston in 1962. The Braves sent him to the Colt .45s for Ben Johnson on May 16. On August 18, he pitched a complete game victory, allowing three hits and two walks for one unearned run. He struck out seven in the 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. On August 26, he went the distance against the Cincinnati Reds, pitching a five-hitter in a 2-1 victory.

In 17 games overall, Brunet started 11 times, with 36 K’s in 54 innings. He allowed 31 runs, 27 earned, on 62 hits and 21 walks. He had a 1.537 WHIP, a 2.93 FIP, and a 4.50 ERA. He opened the 1963 season in Houston’s bullpen, then joined the rotation for three turns later in April. He was 0-3 with a 7.11 ERA. In 12 23 innings, he struck out 11 and walked six. On July 14, the Baltimore Orioles purchased Brunet’s contract.

After his time with the Orioles (0-1, one save, 5.40, 20 IP), Brunet went on to play for the California Angels (54-69, three saves, 3.13, 1047 13 IP), the Seattle Pilots (2-5, 5.37, 63 23 IP), the Washington Senators (8-6, 4.42, 118 IP), the Pittsburgh Pirates (1-1, 2.70, 16 23 IP), and the St. Louis Cardinals (0-1, 5.79, 9 13 IP). He went on to pitch in the Mexican League until 1984. SABR Bio

539. Taylor Jones is a six-foot-five right-handed first baseman and left fielder from Kent, WA. Born on December 9, 1993, he was taken in the 35th round of the 2015 draft out of Gonzaga by the Chicago Cubs. After not signing, he was again drafted in 2016, in the 19th round by Houston.

Jones made it to the majors for the first time with the Astros in 2020, going four-for-21 in seven games, with a double, a homer, and three RBI. Defensively, he played 18 innings at first base without an error. On August 19, he collected two of them by going two-for-five in a 13-6 win against the Colorado Rockies.

On August 21, 2021, Jones fell a single short of the cycle, driving in four in a 15-1 win against the Seattle Mariners. In 35 games, he was 25-for-102 with two jacks and 16 driven in, slashing .245/.269/.402. Defensively, he fielded 87 innings at first base and 75 13 in left field without an error.

538. Preston Tucker is a six-foot left-handed left fielder from Tampa, FL. Born on July 6, 1990, he was a 16th-round choice of the Colorado Rockies in 2011 out of the University of Florida. After not signing, the Astros took him a season later in the seventh round.

Tucker reached the bigs with the Astros for the first time in 2015, and appeared in 98 games through the season. On May 7, he hit a one-out single in the top of the ninth, driving in the game-tying run in an eventual 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Angels.

Tucker collected multiple hits in 16 games, including a four-hit game on July 6, when he fell a triple short of the cycle with a pair of RBI in a 9-4 win against the Cleveland Indians. Overall, he slashed .243/.297/.437 with 13 round-trippers and 33 RBI.

Tucker stayed on for an encore in 2016, appearing in another 48 games and hitting .164/.222/.328 with four home runs and eight RBI. After starting the season five-for-13 with a five-game hitting streak, he went the rest of the year 17-for-121.

After a 2017 campaign spent entirely in the minors, Houston sent Tucker to the Atlanta Braves for cash. Tucker appeared for both Atlanta (80 games, .240/.303/.411, four homers, 22 RBI) and the Cincinnati Reds (17 games, .189/.286/.378, two homers, five RBI) in 2018.

537. Benny Distefano is a six-foot-one left-handed first baseman and right-fielder from Brooklyn, NY. Born on January 23, 1962, he was initially a 16th-round choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in January, 1981 out of Alvin Community College. In June, 1981, he was a second-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays. After failing to come to terms both times, the Pittsburgh Pirates took him in the second round in 1982.

It was with the Pirates for whom Distefano accrued most of his time in the majors, appearing in 188 games over parts of four seasons with the Buccos between 1984 and 1989. He hit .227/.294/.360 with seven home runs and 35 RBI.

After bouncing around the minors for a bit, Distefano signed with the Houston Astros through free agency for the 1992 campaign. He appeared in 52 games for Houston, going 14-for-60 with two triples and seven RBI, slashing .233/.303/.300. Most of his contributions were largely forgettable, but on May 24, in a losing effort, he did everything he could. He went four-for-four with two RBI in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Sometimes you’re the hammer....

Defensively Distefano was perfect at three positions for the Astros, in 27 23 innings in left field, 23 innings at first base, and 21 13 innings in right field.

536. Jason Jennings is a six-foot-two left-handed batting and right-handed throwing pitcher from Dallas, TX. Born on July 17, 1978, he was originally chosen in the 54th round of the 1996 draft out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Instead of signing, he attended Baylor University, where he was taken out of in the first round in 1999, by the Colorado Rockies with the 16th overall selection.

Jennings played a good hunk of time with the Rockies once he made the majors in 2001. In six seasons, he was 58-56 with a 4.74 ERA over 156 starts. He had a 4.60 FIP, a 103 ERA+, and a 1.548 WHIP.

After the 2006 season, the Rockies sent Jennings with Miguel Asencio to the Astros for Taylor Buchholz (317), Jason Hirsh (551), and Willy Tavares (759).

In 2007, Jennings made 19 starts in the rotation for the Astros, and somehow, Houston went 3-16 in those games. Jennings himself was 2-9 despite seven Quality Starts. One of those was on June 9, when he lasted seven innings and struck out six, allowing one run on six hits and a walk, but earning no-decision in an eventual 3-2 win against the Chicago White Sox.

Jennings ended up with a 6.45 ERA through the season, with 71 K’s in 99 innings. He posted a 1.545 WHIP and a 5.39 FIP, with a 69 ERA+ and 6.5 K/9. He was granted free agency following the season, then pitched the next two seasons with the Texas Rangers (2-9, one save, 5.50, 88 13 IP). SABR Bio

535. Scipio Spinks is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Chicago, IL. Born on July 12, 1947, he reached the major leagues for the first time with Houston in 1969. He appeared in one game, striking out four and allowing only an unearned run on a hit and a walk in an 8-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. He somehow ended the season with a FIP of 0.01. I just report the news, folks.

In 1970, Spinks pitched in five games for Houston, including a pair of starts. In no single outing through his brief time with the team in May did he surrender as many or fewer baserunners than he had innings pitched, ending up with a 1.902 WHIP as evidence. In 13 23 innings, he struck out six and gave up 15 runs on 17 hits and nine walks, for a 9.88 ERA.

Through the process of elimination, Spinks had his best season with Houston in 1971, starting in one of his five September appearances. On September 13, he kept Houston in a 2-0 seventh-inning deficit with a three-strikeout and no-hits allowed pair of innings, allowing only a walk in the seventh and nothing in the eighth against the Padres. Houston eventually came back to win in walkoff fashion, when Cesar Geronimo crossed the plate on an error for a 3-2 win.

The very next day, Spinks relieved Wade Blasingame with one out in the first inning, and proceeded to give up no runs over 5 23 innings, on three hits while striking out six and zero walks. San Diego came out on top, eventually, in a 5-2 loss for Houston. Spinks ended the season at 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 29 13 innings. He gave up a dozen runs on 22 hits and 13 walks, with a 1.193 WHIP and a 3.00 FIP.

On April 15, 1972, Houston sent Spinks with Lance Clemons to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jerry Reuss (174). In two seasons for the Cards, Spinks was 6-10 with a 3.22 ERA and 118 K’s in 156 23 innings. SABR Bio

534. Jack Cassel is a six-foot-two right-handed pitcher from Los Angeles, CA. Born on August 8, 1980, he was a 25th-round selection in 2000, by the San Diego Padres out of Los Angeles Pierce College. He reached the majors with them in 2007, going 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in six games, including four starts. He struck out 11 in 22 23 innings. When San Diego granted his free agency after the end of the season, he signed on with the Houston Astros.

Cassel made his first appearance with Houston on April 24, pitching five innings into a start and holding the Reds to three runs on seven hits and zero walks in a 5-3 win against Cincinnati. That was one of three starts for the season, also appearing six other times in relief. On September 7, he struck out a pair and held Colorado to two runs on four hits and two walks over four innings in a 7-5 win against the Rockies.

In total, Cassell was 1-1 with Houston, with a 5.64 ERA and 14 K’s in 30 13 innings. Granted free agency after the season, he later signed with the Cleveland Indians but didn’t get back to the majors.

533. Joey Amalfitano

Joey Amalfitano was a five-foot-11 right-handed second baseman from San Pedro, CA. Born on January 23, 1934, Amalfitano made his major league debut in 45 games for the New York Giants in 1954 and 1955. He followed that with a significant minor-league odyssey that would see him absent from the majors for five seasons.

In 1960, Amalfitano reemerged at baseball’s top level with the Giants, although they were now based out of San Francisco. He played most of their infield positions over his two later seasons with the club, appearing mostly at second and third base. Over his parts of four seasons there, he slashed .263/.330/.333 in 260 contests.

With the second pick of the “premium phase” of the 1961 expansion draft, the Colt .45s chose Amalfitano and plugged him in as their inaugural opening day second baseman. In 117 contests for Houston, he hit .237/.317/.303 with one homer, four stolen. Bases in eight attempts, and 27 RBI. He collected multiple hits in 23 games, including the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Mets on September 18. He went three-for-five that day, with two doubles, two runs, an RBI, and a season-best .233 WPA.

Following the 1962 campaign, Amalfitano was traded back to the Giants for Dick LeMay and Manny Mota. He hit .175 in 54 games for them, then joined the Chicago Cubs for parts of four seasons.

532. Mark Davidson is a six-foot-two right-handed outfielder from Knoxville, TN. Born on February 15, 1961, he was an 11th-round choice of the Minnesota Twins in 1982 out of Clemson University. He reached the majors with the Twins in 1986, hitting .219/.283/.287 in 238 games for Minnesota over three seasons, with two home runs and 26 RBI.

On May 16, 1989, the Twins traded Davidson to the Astros for PTBNL Greg Johnson. On July 13, he hit a two-run homer in the top of the fifth that was all Houston needed in a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. In 33 games in total he was 13-for-65 with five RBI. Defensively, Davidson played 91 innings in right field, 46 in left, and nine in center, making zero errors. Advanced metrics suggest he was an elite left fielder, although he has a more balanced profile spread across the three positions.

In 1990, Davidson hit .292/.340/.369, all career highs, in 57 games for Houston. He posted 11 multi-hit games over the course of the campaign, including a pair of three-hit games. On August 18, he drove in the eventual game-winner with a pinch-hit RBI-single in the top of the 11th inning. Defensively he played 153 23 innings in right field, 151 23 in left, and 9 23 in center, only making a pair of errors in left.

The 1991 campaign would see Davidson appear in 85 games for Houston in total, with three multiple-hit games. On July 30, he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth for a 7-5 lead over St. Louis, in an eventual victory (by the same score) over the Cardinals. Davidson hit .190/.263/.275, with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI. He was perfect in 289 innings spread across the outfield, mostly at left (143) and right (139). He was granted free agency after the season, but didn’t appear elsewhere.

531. Randy Niemann is a six-foot-four left-handed pitcher from Scotia, CA. Born on November 15, 1955, he was a fifth-round pick in 1974 by the Montreal Expos out of College of the Redwoods. He was twice more drafted, by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in January 1975, then later in the same year in the second round by the New York Yankees.

In 1977, before making it to the majors, the Bombers sent Niemann with Mike Fischlin (666) and PTBNL Dave Bergman (426) to the Astros for Cliff Johnson (101). He reached the majors for the first time in 1979. In his second start, on May 29, he went the distance against the Reds, earning the win in a 2-1 victory by limiting Cincinnati to one run on eight hits, striking out six. He one-upped himself in his next start, holding the Phillies to six hits and a walk while striking out four in a 3-0 complete-game shutout. Niemann started in seven of his 26 appearances through the season, going 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA and 24 K’s in 67 innings. He walked 22 and allowed 68 hits for 32 runs (28 earned), with a 1.343 WHIP and a 3.24 FIP.

In 1980, Niemann pitched another 33 innings for Houston, pitching one start and 21 relief appearances. He went 0-1 with a 5.45 ERA and 18 K’s, with a 1.576 WHIP and a 3.54 FIP. Late in the 1981 campaign, the Astros sent Kevin Houston and Niemann to the Pittsburgh Pirates as PTBNL’s, along with Johnny Ray in an earlier deal for Phil Garner (97).

After two seasons with the Bucs (1-2, one save, 6.24, 49 IP), Niemann later also pitched for the Chicago White Sox (0-0, 1.69, 5 13 IP) and the New York Mets (2-3, 3.35, 40 13 IP). SABR Bio

530. Joe Pittman was a six-foot-one right-handed middle-infielder from Lake Jackson, TX. Born on New Years Day, 1953, he was a fifth-round choice of the 1975 Astros out of Southern University and A&M College. It took him six years, but he debuted with Houston in 1981. In 52 games he hit .281/.333/.341, with seven RBI and four stolen bases in eight attempts. On May 26, he provided all of the offense in a 1-0 win against the San Diego Padres, with two singles, a triple, and the sole RBI. He had a .980 fielding percentage in 273 innings at second and was perfect in 26 13 innings at third.

Between the start of the 1982 season and June 4, Pittman appeared in 15 more games for the Astros, he was two-for-10 with a double. On June 8, the Astros traded him to the Padres for Danny Boone (760). After his stint with San Diego (55 games, .254/.307/.271), Pittman went on to play for the San Francisco Giants (17 games, .227/.217/.227)

529. Wayne Franklin is a six-foot-two left-handed pitcher from Wilmington, DE. Born on March 9, 1974, he was a 36th-round choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1996 out of the University of Maryland. In 1998, the Astros took Franklin in the rule 5 draft.

Franklin spent two seasons coming out of the bullpen for Houston, totaling 36 appearances and 33 13 innings, although he never earned a save or a decision. He struck out 30 over that time, walking 21 and posting a 5.94 ERA and a 1.860 WHIP.

On September 3, 2002, Houston sent Franklin to the Milwaukee Brewers as a PTBNL, for Mark Loretta (186). After his time with Milwaukee (12-14, 5.19, 218 23 IP), he would go on to play a season each with the San Francisco Giants (2-1, 6.39, 50 23 IP), the New York Yankees (0-1, 6.39, 12 23 IP), and the Atlanta Braves (0-0, 7.04, 7 23 IP).


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