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Astros Minor League Notebook: Blanco Awarded in Dominican Winter League

Houston Astros Reliever Ronel Blanco
Tim Warner/GettyImages

Houston Astros prospect Ronel Blanco was voted the most dominant reliever in the Dominican Winter League by fellow players for the 2022 regular season. Blanco tossed 20.1 scoreless innings in relief for the Estrellas de Oriente, striking out 27 batters and issuing five walks.

Blanco carried that success into the postseason without allowing a run against his opposition. Baseball-Reference doesn’t log postseason statistics for the Dominican Winter League, but Blanco’s streak of not allowing an earned run stretches from the start of the 2021-22 season to the present.

Former Astros reliever Fernando Abad finished second in voting and former Houston farmhand Fernando Rodney finished third. Rodney, a veteran Major League pitcher, signed a minor-league contract with the Astros in July 2020 but didn’t make it to the Big Leagues with Houston.

Corpus Christi Sets Exhibition Game

The Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks announced Wednesday an exhibition game against Texas A&M-Kingsville for April 4 at Whataburger Field. The Astros’ affiliate kicks off the regular season April 6.

“We’re thrilled to partner with a local program such as the Javelinas to start the 2023 season,” Hooks general manager Brady Ballard said in a release. “We’re expecting a fun matchup and great experience for both Hooks and Javelinas players.”

Future of the Tourists

The Astros own the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers and the Hooks, but the organization doesn’t own the Asheville Tourists, the club’s High-A affiliate. A source told Astros Future this past year Houston could move on from the Tourists, purchasing a separate High-A franchise.

The future of Minor League Baseball in Asheville is up in the air. If the Tourists are without a plan and financing to accommodate to Major League Baseball requirements by April 1, the 2023 season could be their last in MiLB, according to the franchise.

Player Development Meetings Near

The Astros set their player development meetings with minor-league coaches for next week, a source told Astros Future. There will be more movement within the system, as MiLB teams start announcing their 2023 coaching staffs. 

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