8/27/2014 2:43 A.M. ET
Appel among Astros prospects set for Fall League
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Former No. 1 overall Draft pick Mark Appel, fellow right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez and third baseman Rio Ruiz headline the Astros' contingent of prospects who will play in the Arizona Fall League this year. The rosters were unveiled Tuesday.
Joining Appel, Velasquez and Ruiz on the Salt River Rafters team are left-hander Mitch Lambson, right-hander Tyson Perez, catcher Tyler Heineman, infielder Joe Sclafani and outfielder Andrew Aplin. Sclafani is a member of the taxi squad, which means he's activated on only Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"We've got some of our top prospects that need some innings, and what better place to send them to Arizona to showcase their skill set while they continue to develop their talents," farm director Quinton McCracken said.
Appel, who missed all of Spring Training and the early part of 2014 while recovering from an appendectomy, struggled at Class A Lancaster (2-5, 9.74 ERA) before being moved up a month ago to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he's pitched better by going 1-2 with a 3.15 ERA in six starts.
On Tuesday night, Appel struck out 10 batters in eight-plus scoreless innings to lead Corpus Christi to a 1-0 victory against Frisco. He pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his professional career.
"He has some innings left in him and we just want to see him pick up extra innings so he keeps that level of innings pitched on the year and continue his development as far as keeping the ball down in the zone and throwing strikes and continue with the momentum he's had in Double-A Corpus for us," McCracken said.
Ruiz, a fourth-round pick in 2012, was hitting .297 with a .389 on-base percentage, 11 homers and 73 RBIs for Lancaster. Velasquez, a second-round pick in 2010, is 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 13 games for Lancaster, allowing 31 hits, 19 walks and striking out 65 in 51 innings.
The Rafters, who will play home games at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, include prospects from the Astros, D-backs, Marlins, Rockies and Twins. The six-team league, which is owned by Major League Baseball, begins play on Oct. 7.
Qualls claimed but likely to stay in Houston
HOUSTON -- The Tigers may have claimed Astros closer Chad Qualls off waivers, but don't expect the right-hander to be reunited with former teammate Brad Ausmus. Qualls said Tuesday he was aware of the claim put in by the Tigers and maintained he'd like to remain in Houston.
MLB Network first reported Tuesday morning that Detroit had the primary claim on Qualls. That followed FOX Sports' report Monday evening that Qualls had been claimed on revocable waivers. The Astros haven't commented, but Ausmus hinted Tuesday a deal wasn't going to happen.
"As far as I know, from a Tigers baseball standpoint, there's nothing," he said.
Under terms of revocable waivers, the Astros have 48 hours (until Wednesday) to work out a trade, pull Qualls back off waivers or let him go to the Tigers. The third option is a virtual certainty not to happen. Detroit must put together a deal, or Houston has to hold onto Qualls for the rest of the season.
"I could have signed there in the offseason and obviously they tried to trade for me at the Deadline, and with me being put on waivers, why wouldn't they take another chance now?" Qualls said. "Yet again, nothing's changed. I'm going to go to work as usual and do my thing."
Qualls, who turned down a two-year deal with the Tigers last winter to remain closer to his home in Austin, is a valuable part of the Astros' bullpen and has another year remaining on his contract, which is why the club is hesitant to let him go. He signed a two-year, $5.95 million deal with a $3.5 million club option for 2016.
"I'm sure he wants me," Qualls said of Ausmus. "I think around the Trade Deadline there were some other guys that were getting traded and I was just messing around and he's like, 'Well, if you would have just signed here in the first place, we wouldn't have to trade for anybody.' Just typical Brad Ausmus. Like I said before, I want to stay here and be a Houston Astro until I retire."
Qualls, 36, has 14 saves in 17 chances for the Astros with a 3.07 ERA. He's walked five batters (two intentional) and struck out 38 batters in 44 innings.
Moran excelling since joining Astros' system
HOUSTON -- Colin Moran, the Minor League third baseman the Astros acquired from the Marlins along with outfielder Jake Marisnick and a compensation pick in next year's Draft for pitcher Jarred Cosart, has performed well since joining Double-A Corpus Christi.
Through 22 games, Moran was hitting .307 with a .357 on-base percentage, two homers and 18 RBIs. He entered Wednesday on a six-game hitting streak, during which he was 9-for-27. The 6-foot-4 Moran was taken with the sixth overall pick out of North Carolina by the Marlins in 2013.
"I'm not surprised with that," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said of Moran's success. "He fits with our organizational philosophy of working counts and hitting for power and all that, and it's a good fit for him. I knew the numbers he put up in the Florida State League would translate very well to the Texas League, and so far it has."
Luhnow said Moran -- the team's No. 5-ranked prospect -- would likely be invited to Major League Spring Training next year, and with Matt Dominguez struggling at the plate for most of the season, he could be pushing him for playing time at some point next year.
"We're in good position," Luhnow said. "We have Moran and [Rio] Ruiz both developing nicely as third-base prospects, and that's a good spot to be in. Whether both of them come to camp, I don't know, but they both are deserving of at least a conversation, that's for sure."
• Astros manager Bo Porter said Tuesday it's unlikely that injured outfielders George Springer (quad strain) and Alex Presley (strained oblique) and pitcher Darin Downs (strained oblique) will be activated until rosters are expanded Monday at the earliest. Springer took batting practice on the field Tuesday.
• Downs, who's been on the disabled list since Aug. 18 with a right oblique strain, threw in the bullpen Tuesday without any issues and will take two days off before beginning a two-game Minor League rehab outing at Double-A Corpus Christi on Friday. He should be activated Sept. 2 if he doesn't have any setbacks.