Three members of the Astros AAA affiliate Oklahoma City RedHawks have been selected to participate in this year’s All-Star Game. Shortstop Gregorio Petit, catcher Max Stassi, and pitcher Nick Tropeano will be on the PCL’s All-Star roster when they take on the International League All-Stars on July 16th in Durham, North Carolina.
Gregorio Petit is one of my favorite stories of the year. After toiling away for over a decade in the minors and the Venezuelan Winter League, Petit is having his best season ever. In fact, I was a little surprised that he wasn’t called up by the Astros when Jonathan Villar was recently sent down to AAA. Maybe the organization wanted to give Petit the opportunity to play in the All-Star Game. Who knows? A callup to the majors would not have been a first for Petit. He played 25 games with Oakland between the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
A slick fielding shortstop with a .270 career average in the minors, Petit has found himself looking for a team in each of the past four offseasons. During that time, he has been released or granted free agency by the Rangers, Indians, and Padres (twice) organizations.
This past winter, former Astros manager and current AAA skipper Tony DeFrancesco was managing in Venezuela and noticed that Petit had developed into a solid hitter. Having managed Gregorio in Sacramento in the late 2000’s, DeFrancesco remembered a player who was an outstanding defender but didn’t possess the hitting skills required to be an everyday big leaguer. The defense was still there. And now he can hit too.
DeFrancesco suggested that the Astros give Petit a look. They did — and now the two have been reunited. Petit, known for his always positive demeanor, has had reason to smile this season. He has been one of the most consistent performers on DeFrancesco’s Oklahoma City squad on both offense and defense. His All-Star nod is well-deserved and I’m pretty sure we will see Gregorio in an Astros uniform at some point in the 2014 season.
Max Stassi is another prospect that could be in Houston later this year. Like Petit, Stassi has already had a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Max played in three games with the Astros last season. Unfortunately, he suffered a concussion in his second big league game and missed a significant chunk of time.
Back and 100% healthy this season, Stassi landed in AAA with Petit and company. In his first season at the level, Max has yet to duplicate the gaudy power numbers he posted last season in the Texas League. But 24 extra-base hits in 64 games coupled with his stellar defense behind the plate helped Max land a spot on the PCL All-Star squad.
Nick Tropeano, a 23-year old righthander out of Stony Brook University, is in his fourth professional season –and his first at the AAA level. “Ni-Tro”, as he is affectionately referred to by Astros fans, leads the RedHawks staff with 87 innings pitched. He currently sports a stellar 0.95 WHIP and a .197 BAA in support of his 2.36 ERA.
Tropeano’s total of 377 strikeouts since the beginning of the 2012 season are the most in the Astros organization. The Astros system is somewhat heavy on starting pitchers but a September callup for Tropeano isn’t out of the question.
Congratulations to these three well deserving players who will represent the Astros organization in Durham on the 16th. That game will be broadcast live by MLB Network.