Next up is 1992 AL Rookie of the Year Pat Listach. After a stellar rookie campaign, his production fell off when he was sidelined by knee surgery and was never the same. Listach played his final big-leauge season here in Houston in 1997, serving as the left-handed side of a shortstop platoon with Tim Bogar. Unable to break the Mendoza line in 132 at-bats, Listach was released on July 1st that year and despite being picked up by several more teams, never played another game in the majors.
This season Pat has returned to the club as a coach, and judging on the club’s improvement, has been pretty good at his job, handling third base, infield, and baserunning duties. I’d like to think that he’s one reason that Altuve leads the AL in thefts. I’d sent these four cards to Pat via the club, and they came back in just 11 days.
I had asked if Listach would inscribe one of the cards with his ROY designation. I’d hoped it would be the ’92 Pinnacle, since that’s his actual rookie card, but I didn’t want to be too picky. I’d asked a lot of questions by that point in the letter and I already thought sending four cards was pushing my luck a bit. The ’93 Fleer Team Leaders card is pretty stellar, and I’ve always enjoyed his ’97 Fleer and the headfirst dive into third base. Maybe, just maybe, this ’93 Studio is the first in a quest to get as much of this set as I can autographed. We’ll see.
First up is Josh Hader, who blew the doors off High-A Lancaster while going 9-2 in 15 starts with a 2.70 ERA and posting a 1.1 WHIP and a 9.8 K/9 rate. Big deal, you say. That’s High-A ball, you say.
For those of you unfamiliar with Lancaster’s situation, it’s a bandbox. It’s at altitude in the Cal League, and hitters crush their, so for a pitcher to come out and post shutdown numbers is a pretty big deal indeed. Hader earned himself a late-season promotion to AA Corpus Christi, going 1-1 in four starts with a 10.8 K/9 rate. This week, he was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year.
Finally, we have a pair of autographs from the organization’s most talked-about minor league pitcher, Mark Appel. His ballooned stats depict his struggles at High-A Lancaster, but the organization was adamant that he “looked good” and it was just something he’d need to work through. After the hubbub surrounding his mystery bullpen session at Minute Maid Park – which is a huge load of BS and I don’t think anyone on the roster actually gave a damn – Appel moved on to AA Corpus Christi and had several nice outings to finish up the season. He’s slated to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, and pending a nice showing there, I think he’ll start the 2015 season either at AAA or have a pretty short AA stop before getting the bump. If things go according to plan, he might be a late season call-up next year, or with the team in 2016. Mark’s cards made the trip in a total of 49 days. I recall hearing that he stopped returning things at some point during the year and was saving it all up for the end of the season.
Phew! Well, that’s somewhere between three and six names off the all-time Houston roster, depending on how those last three pitchers pan out. I’ll try to make a proper update about the general progress of the project pretty soon.