It can’t be easy to be a fan of the Houston Astros these days. While most of them understand the painful process of basically starting over from top to bottom, that doesn’t make it much fun to watch the team routinely beaten. This is their third straight season of 105-plus losses. With the Arizona Fall League fast approaching, Houston fans should be anxious to see the players that will help turn the franchise around. Let us take a quick look at the eight players that Astros will be sending to the AFL with all player rankings courtesy of mlb.com.
Delino DeShields, Jr-He has the name and the Astros hope he can exceed his father’s game. DeShields stole 101 bases in 2012 which would have made its fair share of headlines if it wasn’t for Billy Hamilton‘s 155 steal campaign. The 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields had an outstanding 2013 season at Single A Lancaster with a slash line of .317/.405/.468 with 51 stolen bases. He has drawn numerous comparisons to his father although Houston believes the son will have more power. With Jose Altuve entrenched at second base, Deshields, the team’s #7 prospect will use the AFL to make the transition to the outfield, most likely in center, his high school position.
Nolan Fontana-Sitting one spot behind DeShields in the rankings is Fontana, a teammate in Lancaster. He had a solid 2013 season with 8 HR’s and 60 RBI’s with a line of .259/.415/.399. Fontana also swiped 16 bags and had 6 triples, combining speed and instincts. In the field, he is smart with a pretty good arm and above-average range. A shortstop by trade, the 2012 second round pick has his path blocked at short by #1 prospect Carlos Correa and Altuve at second. Still, the Astros may find a way to keep him around the organization because of his baseball smarts and pedigree at the University of Florida.
Jonathan Meyer-Houston took the 22-year old Meyer in the third round of the 2009 draft from Simi Valley High School in Simi Valley, CA. He finally arrived at Double A Corpus Christi in 2013 and had a decent season. He hit 15 home runs and drove in 68 runs in 484 at-bats while batting .260. However, Meyer struck out more than double the amount of times he walked (109-41), a ratio that has existed through his Minor League career. Third base is Meyer’s primary position but the road there is blocked by Matt Dominguez and a move to first is probably out of the question with Astros’ #2 prospect Jonathan Singleton ready to take over on the Major League level. Meyer’s future in Houston may be as a DH or out of the organization altogether.
Japhet Amador-This guy may be one of the most talked-about players in Arizona. Amador was signed by the Astros in August from the MexicanLeague where he out up some obscene numbers: 36 home runs, 121 RBI’s and a .368/.419/.692. Hr spent ten games at Triple A Oklahoma City and had 43 at-bats with no homers and two RBI’s. Did I also mention that he is 6-4 and 315 pounds?
Andrew Robinson-The run of Houston pitchers in the AFL starts with Robinson, a 25-year old righty. He began his Minor League in 2010 career as a starter before ineffectiveness made the organization switch to the bullpen. The move paid dividends in 2013 at Corpus Christi where Robinson went 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA. He appeared in 38 games covering 49 1/3 innings with 14 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Jonas Dufek-Drafted in the 9th round in 2011, Dufek is another guy who started as a starter before transitioning to the bullpen. He split 2013 between Lancaster and Corpus Christi. It was at the Double A level where he shined. In 14 games, he went 7-0 with a 0.47 ERA and 7 saves. In 19 1/3 innings, he allowed 14 hits and only one walk with 20 strikeouts. Perhaps Dufek’s future is as a late inning setup man.
Alex Sogard-Unlike the previous two names, the lefty Songard has been in the bullpen his entire Minor League career. He spent 2013 at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Sogard had a 2.88 ERA in 16 games at Double A but the bump up in levels was not kind to the 26-year old. In 22 games, Sogard went 2-1 with an unsightly 9.39 ERA. In 19 innings, he allowed 30 hits and 19 walks with five wild pitches. Still, some work in the AFL and improvement at Triple could result in a September call-up for Sogard.
Matt Heidenreich-The righty came over to the Astros in the Brett Myers deal. He has bounced back and forth between starting and relieving after primarily a starter in the White Sox system. Double A was not kind to Heidenreich as he went 4-5 with an 8.23 ERA in 25 games, seven of them starts. Still, he is 6-5 and only 22 so the team may think it is a matter of time before something clicks for him.
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