Astros' DeShields ticketed for AFL, outfield

Astros' DeShields ticketed for AFL, outfield

CHICAGO -- Delino DeShields Jr., the Astros' first-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, will make the transition back to the outfield when he plays in the Arizona Fall League this year.

DeShields, ranked No. 8 among the organization's top prospects by MLB.com, was a center fielder when he was drafted out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., and made the move to second base early in his career with the Astros, but with second baseman Jose Altuve signed to a multi-year deal, DeShields is headed back to the outfield.

"I'm fine with it," he said. "It's tough because I worked so hard playing second base for the last three years, but to go back out there is an easy transition. I'm really comfortable out there and I could go out there today and play the outfield.

"For them to try to move me and see what I can do out there, hopefully I'm in their future plans and hopefully I can go out there and show them I can play the outfield and continue to do what I'm doing offensively. It's going to be a little weird at first, but it won't take me long to get accustomed to it."

DeShields, 21, stole 101 bases last year in the Minor Leagues. He's spent all of this season at Class A Lancaster and is hitting .316 with 25 doubles, 12 triples, four homers, 51 RBIs and 47 stolen bases in 105 games for the JetHawks.

"Ultimately, the goal is to get to the big leagues and help the team win," he said. "It's not about where you start; it's where you finish. At some point, I want to finish in the big leagues and have a good career up there."

The Astros' AFL contingent will play for the Peoria Javelinas, along with prospects from the Mariners, Padres, Phillies and Royals. The team, which will play at Surprise Stadium, will be managed by former Astros infielder Jim Pankovits.

Joining DeShields in the desert this fall will be infielders Japhet Amador, Nolan Fontana and Jonathan Meyer, who's on the taxi squad and will be active on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pitchers Jonas Dufek, Mark Heidenreich, Andrew Robinson and Alex Sogard, a lefty, will also play in the AFL.

"It's a great league," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It's gotten better over time and so many big leaguers have come through there. It's a good finishing school for Major League prospects. Fontana and Delino are moving quickly through our organization, getting to a high level, and we want them to face the best possible pitching we can. Meyer had a tremendous year and deserves that opportunity. With Amador, it's about making sure we understand the type of player he is. It's different when you're playing in a different country, and we want to get to know him a lot better."

Fontana, a second-round pick last year who's playing shortstop alongside DeShields in Lancaster, is hitting .254 with eight homers and 59 RBIs, but he has 96 walks in 101 games, giving him a .406 on-base percentage.

Amador, acquired last week from the Mexican League, went 5-for-13 with an RBI in his first three games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He hit .368 with 22 doubles, 36 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .419 OBP in 104 games for the Diablos Rojos this season.

Meyer, a third-round pick in 2009, is hitting .263 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs as the third baseman at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Dufek is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA combined in 47 games at Lancaster and Corpus Christi, where he's gone 6-0 with a 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 innings for the Hooks. Heidenreich, acquired last year from the White Sox in the Brett Myers trade, is 4-4 with a 7.61 ERA in 23 games (six starts) for Corpus Christi.

Robinson is 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 36 relief appearances for Corpus Christi. Sogard has split this season between two levels, going 2-1 with a 9.39 ERA at Oklahoma City and 0-0 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 appearances at Corpus Christi.

"With the number of innings our pitchers have had this year, we had to be more selective and careful asking pitchers to go to the Fall League," Luhnow said. "Heidenreich missed some time and should be able to make it up. The other guys are relievers who didn't quite have as many innings and deserve the opportunity as well. All three of those guys have big league upside."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.