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Astros Crawfish Boil: December 5, 2023

Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Vince Velasquez
| Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

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The Crawfish Boil for Tuesday features all of your normal accoutrements, including Chapter 39 of Everystros.

Houston Astros News

The Astros aren’t trading Alex Bregman. So what else can they do? (The Athletic)

Let’s examine if the Astros should sign flamethrower Jordan Hicks (SportsMap)

AL West News

Los Angeles Angels — Angels ready to be aggressive at Meetings

Oakland AthleticsDavid Forst cites A’s relocation as factor in free agent talks

Texas RangersDo the Rangers have enough protection behind catcher Jonah Heim? (Dallas Morning News)

Seattle MarinersWhat will the Mariners do with their newfound payroll flexibility? (The Athletic)

Jarred Kelenic pens heartfelt ode to his time in Seattle, conspicuously leaves Mariners organization out of note (Overtime Heroics)

The Jarred Kelenic era never got off the ground for the Mariners (The Seattle Times)

MLB News

Ohtani-Angels reunion? Trade talks heating up?

How Cubs are confronting offseason market’s ‘new dynamic’

2023-24 MLB free agency and trade grades: Jarred Kelenic to the Braves and more (ESPN)

The Draft Lottery is tomorrow — here are the odds

Soto trade talk pauses for Yanks, interest doesn’t

What’s the White Sox ‘threshold’ for moving Cease?

Houston Astros Birthdays

RHP Buddy Harris (1948-2022)

RHP Steve Shea (1942-2015)

Everystros XXXIX

473. Brandon Puffer is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from Downey, CA. Born on October 5, 1975, he was a 27th-round choice of the Minnesota Twins in 1994.

Puffer endured a volatile incubation period in the minors, getting released by the Twins two years after the draft, then getting signed and released by the California Angels, the Cincinnati Reds (twice), and the Colorado Rockies. While playing for the Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League, the Astros purchased his contract on July 17, 2000.

Puffer reached the majors for Houston in 2002, and ranked fifth on the club with 55 games. He struck out 48 in 69 innings, against 67 hits and 38 walks (1.522 WHIP). Puffer was 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA through his rookie campaign. While his K/BB was a team-worst 1.26, he also led the team in HR/9, with a mark of 0.4 (only three homers all season). Another innings eater, Houston used Puffer in aLi of 0.55. On July 18, he had a season-high 0.140 WPA with 1 23 perfect innings, with four strikeouts in a 4-2 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Puffer appeared in 13 of Houston’s first 68 games in 2003, with another low aLi (0.51). A long-reliever, he went over an inning in more than half of his appearances. Overall, he pitched to a 5.14 ERA and a 1.905 WHIP. On November 19, 2003, the Astros granted Puffer’s release.

Later, Puffer pitched for the San Diego Padres (0-1, 5.50, 18 IP, 12 K) and the San Francisco Giants (10.29, seven IP, one K).

472. Rick Wilkins is a six-foot-two right-handed throwing and lefty-hitting catcher from Jacksonville, FL. Born on June 4, 1967, he was drafted in the 23rd round in 1986 by the Chicago Cubs out of Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Wilkins reached the majors with the Cubs in 1991, and spent five seasons with them (455 games, .254/.342/.435, 57 jacks, 170 RBI. On June 28, 1995, the Cubs traded Wilkins to the Astros for Luis Gonzalez and Scott Servais.

Wilkins appeared in 99 games for the Astros over parts of two seasons, hitting .218/.339/.333 with seven home runs and 28 RBI. On April 22, 1996, Wilkins collected two singles, a double, and a home run for two RBI in an 11-8 win against the San Francisco Giants. He threw out 25-of-88 runners during his time with the team, a CS+ right at 100, and posted a .992 fielding percentage in 759 23 innings behind the plate.

On July 27, 1996, the Astros traded Wilkins to the Giants for Kirt Marwaring in a straight-up catcher swap.

471. Russ Johnson is a five-foot-10 right-handed second and third baseman from Baton Rouge, LA. Born on February 22, 1973, he was a first-round choice of Houston in 1994, with the 30th pick off the board out of Louisiana State University.

In Johnson’s first look at the majors, he began his career with a seven-game hit streak from April 8 through April 16, 1997. On September 26, he drew a walk in the second, hit a single, stole a base and scored in the fifth, and hit a leadoff homer in the seventh in a 2-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was 18-for-60 in 21 games for the season, with a .300/.364/.417 slash. Defensively he played 107 23 innings at third base (.963) and 19 innings at second (1.000).

Johnson went three-for-13 in 1998, spending the great majority of the season in Houston’s minors. In 1999, he appeared in 83 games for the Astros. On September 6, he hit a one-out three-run go-ahead pinch-hit home run, in an eventual 6-5 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall he hit .282/.358/.442 with five home runs and 23 RBI. In 2000 he went eight-for-45 before getting traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on May 27, for Marc Valdes.

470. James Hoyt is a six-foot-six right-handed pitcher from Boise, ID. Born on September 30, 1986, he pitched in college for both Centenary College of Louisiana and Palomar College. He reached the majors for the first time in 2016 with the Astros. pitching 22 innings in 22 games for his age-29 season. He struck out 28 and posted a 1.136 WHIP, walking nine and allowing 16 hits. His ERA was a little high considering most of his basic metrics, but almost a third (five) of his hits allowed were home runs.

Despite Hoyt’s success, the Astros only used him in lower-level situations (0.51 aLi). Only once during the season did he allow more than one run in an appearance (four on August 18 against the Baltimore Orioles, in a 13-5 loss). On September 6, he earned his first major league victory with 1 13 perfect innings, including two strikeouts.

In 2017, Hoyt enjoyed his most prolific major league season, with 43 appearances and 49 13 innings. He was again put in an innings-eater role, to the tune of a 0.50 aLi. On April 22, he struck out three over 1 23 perfect innings in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. On May 2, he struck out five in two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and earning the win, 8-7 over the Texas Rangers. On June 3, he struck out two in a perfect inning of work, in a 6-5 win against the Rangers.

Hoyt struck out 66 batters against only 14 walks, with a 1.318 WHIP. He allowed 24 runs, all earned, on 51 hits. He remained in Houston’s system to begin the 2018 campaign, but only pitched 13 of an inning on April 11. On July 6, 2018, the Astros traded Hoyt to the Cleveland Indians for minor leaguer Tommy DeJuneas. After his time with the Tribe (8 13 IP, 10K, 2.16 ERA), Hoyt also played with the Miami Marlins (2-0, 1.23, 14 23 IP, 20 K) and the Los Angeles Angels (nine games, 8 IP, 11 K).

469. Joe Pepitone is a six-foot-two left-handed first baseman and centerfielder from Brooklyn, NY. Born on October 9, 1940, he played his first eight seasons with the New York Yankees (1051 games, .252/.294/.423, 166 home runs, 541 RBI, three All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves). On December 4, 1969, the Bombers traded Pepitone to the Astros for Curt Blefary.

Pepitone played in 75 of Houston’s first 87 games in 1970, collecting multiple hits in 19 of them, including seven times where he had three. On June 10, he provided most of Houston’s offense in a 5-3 win against the New York Mets, with a double and a home run for four RBI. On June 26, he hit an eighth-inning game-tying one-out two-run homer, in an eventual 3-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pepitone hit .251/.298/.470 in his season for Houston, with 14 home runs and 35 RBI. His full-season .482 SLG was the best mark of his career. As a defender, he played 396 23 innings at first (.995) and 221 innings in the outfield (.981).

On July 29, 1970, the Astros sold Pepitone’s contract to the Chicago Cubs (268 games, .284/.328/.454, 39 home runs, 144 RBI), later playing with the Atlanta Braves (three games, four-for-11).

468. Vince Velasquez is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from Montclair, CA. Born on June 7, 1992, he was Houston’s second-round pick in 2010 out of Garey HS. He reached the bigs with Houston five seasons later.

Velasquez made his first appearance on June 10, and remained in the rotation for seven turns. In that first appearance, he struck out five over five shutout innings despite walking three and scattering four hits. After his seven turns, he was 1-1, earning both decisions in the final two starts.

Relegated to the bullpen for the remainder of the campaign, Velasquez was used in an aLi of 0.50 over his final 12 appearances. On August 1, he struck out three in 2 23 hitless innings, allowing only a walk in a 9-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On December 12, 2015, the Astros traded Velasquez with minor leaguer Harold Arauz, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, and Brett Oberholtzer to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jonathan Araúz and Ken Giles. After six seasons with the Phillies (30-40, 4.93, 582 23 IP, 642 K), Velasquez pitched for the San Diego Padres (0-3, 8.53, 12 23 IP, 16 K), the Chicago White Sox (3-3, 4.78, 75 13 IP, 69 K), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (4-4, 3.86, 37 13 IP, 37 K).

Velasquez is currently a free agent. If someone were to give him a look, he’s projected to pitch 72 innings and log a 1.347 WHIP.

467. Hal Smith was a six-foot catcher from West Frankfort, IL. Born on December 7, 1930, Smith reached the majors in 1955 with the Baltimore Orioles. After his time with Baltimore (212 games, .268/.317/.369, seven home runs, 70 RBI), Smith played with the Kansas City Athletics (351 games, .287/.322/.421, 25 home runs, 142 RBI) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (144 games, .264, /316/.428, 14 home runs, 71 RBI.

On October 10, 1961, Smith became an original member of the Houston Colt .45s, getting taken with the sixth pick in the premium phase of the expansion draft. He was Houston’s original catcher, starting on Opening Day in 1962 and going two-for-four with a double and a home run in an 11-2 win against the Chicago Cubs.

Smith had 19 multi-hit games through that first season with the Colts. On September 20, he hit two singles with a home run, totaling three RBI in a 5-4, 12-inning win over the New York Mets. In 109 games, he hit .235/.286/.380 with 14 doubles and a dozen home runs. He drew 24 walks, scored 32 runs, and drove in 35. As a catcher, he made nine errors in 772 innings for a .986 fielding percentage. He threw out 24-of-83 basestealers, an 85 CS+.

On September 1, Smith went three-for-three with a walk and an RBI in a 4-3 loss to the Cubs. In 31 games through the season, he hit .241/.290/.276, with two doubles. He drew four walks, scored one run, and drove two in. Houston released him on October 1, 1963. Smith went on to play in 1964 with the Cincinnati Reds (32 games, .121/.256/.136, three RBI).

466. Matt Downs is a six-foot-one right-handed second and third baseman from Tuscaloosa, AL. Born on March 19, 1984, he was a 25th-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Shelton State Community College in 2003, but didn’t sign. Three drafts later, the San Francisco Giants spent their 36th-round choice on him, out of the University of Alabama.

Downs reached the major leagues with the Giants in 2009, and played in parts of two seasons for the club (46 games, .214/.291/.328, two homers, nine RBI). On August 25, 2010, Houston claimed Downs off waivers. In 11 games for Houston to close out the season, he was two-for-19 with 32 23 innings of perfect defense, split nearly evenly between second, third and short.

On September 19, 2011, Downs drew a first-inning walk, singled to lead off the fourth, reached on an error in the sixth, and hit a go-ahead leadoff homer in the eighth inning of an eventual 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The 2011 season would be Downs best in the majors, by a wide margin. His 1.3 bWAR was more than double as good as his second-best season in the bigs. He hit .276/.347/.518 in 106 games, with 10 home runs and 41 RBI. As a defender, he put up a .965 in 162 innings at second, a .920 in 126 innings at third, a 1.000 in 42 innings at first, another 1.000 in 25 innings in right, and an .800 in 10 innings at shortstop.

Downs played in another 91 games for Houston in 2012, but slashed just .202/.253/.371 with eight homers and 16 RBI, with an OPS+ less than half of his mark of the season just past (67-to-137). The Astros granted his free agency on November 1.

465. Larry Howard was a six-foot-three right-handed catcher from Columbus, OH. Born on June 6, 1945, he reached the major leagues with Houston in 1970. In that first season, he hit .307/.378/.443 in 31 games, with two home runs and 16 RBI. He fielded at .993 in 196 23 innings behind the plate, and threw out seven-of-13 runners trying to take a free base (164 CS+) On September 7, he hit a double and two home runs for three RBI in a 10-5 win against the San Diego Padres.

Howard appeared in another 24 games for the 1971 Astros, going 15-for-64 with three doubles and two home runs. He drew three walks, scored six runs, and drove in 14. Once again, he threw out a better-than-average percentage of runners, gunning down five-of-12 trying to steal for a 120 CS+. On July 30, he hit a single and a home runs with three RBI in a 6-5 win against the Montreal Expos.

Howard’s most prolific major league season followed in 1972. He played in 54 games, and hit .223/.299/.306. In 1973, his final major league season, he appeared in 20 of Houston’s first 42 games and racked up a .474 OPS. On May 22, the Astros traded Howard to the Atlanta Braves for minor leaguer Tom Heierle. Howard played in 10 seasons for the Braves, going one-for-eight in his final major league service.

464. Jake Buchanan is a six-foot right-handed pitcher from Charlotte, NC. Born on September 24, 1989, he was an eighth-round pick of the Astros in 2010 out of North Carolina State University.

Buchanan got to the majors in 2014. In 44 13 innings over two seasons, he struck out 25 and walked 16, with a 1-3 record a 1.398 WHIP, and a 4.06 ERA. In his first season, he started in two of his 17 appearances. On July 27, he struck out four over 2 13 scoreless innings, allowing only a single in a 4-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. On August 11, he pitched three scoreless innings in a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. In 2015 he allowed nine baserunners in nine innings, allowing two runs. The Astros released him on March 31, 2016.

Later, Buchanan pitched for the Chicago Cubs (1-0, 1.50, six IP, four K) and the Cincinnati Reds (0-0

463. Gustavo Chacin is a five-foot-11 left-handed pitcher from Maracaibo, VZ. Born on December 4, 1980, he initially reached the bigs with the Toronto Blue Jays. He played four seasons with the team starting 58 games (25-15, 4.18, 331 23 IP, 185 K).

After two seasons in the minors between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies, and signed with the Astros through free agency on December 7, 2009. In 44 trips out of the bullpen, he was 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA and 31 K’s in 38 13 innings. He had a 1.852 WHIP and a 4.04 FIP, pitching with an aLi of 0.80.

On May 31, Chacin pitched 2 23 innings and gave up one run in a 14-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. He also hit a solo home run in his only plate appearance of the season. That’s a 5.000 OPS, but I don’t think it would have been sustainable, but we’ll never know. On June 2, he pitched one perfect inning, striking out two in a 5-1 win against the Nationals.

Houston granted Chacin his free agency following the season. He would go on to play in the system of the New York Mets in 2011, but didn’t get back to the major leagues.

Astros Drop Split Squad Games, 3-0 to Cardinals and 3-1 to Mets

Spring Training Game 2 Thread. February 25th, 2024, 12: 05 CT. Cardinals @ Astros

Astros Crawfish Boil

Everystros CXII