Tag:Houston Astros
Posted on: April 6, 2010 1:49 pm

2010 Astros Organizational Preview Part 2: A+/A

Welcome to Part 2 of my Astros Organizational Preview. You can find Part 1 by either scrolling down or clicking this link... http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
, Part 1 details the minor league affiliates at the AAA and AA level. This, Part 2, discusses the players at the high A, Lancaster and A, Lexington, levels.

Lancaster JetHawks (A+)

Lancaster graduated a great class of hitters to AA Corpus Christi, who I discussed in part 1, and they'll receive a great class of pitchers from Lexington in 2010 (although both Jordan Lyles and Henry Villar will skip Lancaster to move straight to AA). Perhaps the best of this class is Ross Seaton , the Astros' #6 prospect according to BA. Taken by the Astros in the 2008 draft, signing of slot in the third round, Seaton has a ton of upside. He's projectable and athletic, with good stuff when he came out of high school. However, he didn't stand out in a terrific Lexington rotation, although I don't know if that's his fault, he had to pitch along side Jordan Lyles afterall. I was not impressed with Seaton's strikeout rate, although overall his numbers were solid. He's still young, but will be tested in the hitter's league of California, the best wy to get outs here: keep the ball on the ground, or even better, strike guys out! I'd love to see Seaton put things together at this level this year, while showing his plus fastball and breaking ball, he has top of the rotation potential, but he's a long way from that at the major league level.

Joining Seaton in Lancaster are 2009 Lexington pitchers, Brad Dydalewicz , Kyle (Jeff) Greenwalt and Kyle Godfrey . Dydalewicz, a lefty and 2008 draft pick, probably has the most potential of the bunch, he has the best stuff. However, Greenwalt had the best 2009 season. Godfrey was a little behind the first two and could be used as a starter or reliever. All may have a hard time continuing the success they had in A ball in Lancaster though. We'll have to be patient with them, as their A+ stats may not immediately reflect their true potential. Ashton Mowdy, owener of the organization's best cruveball, according to BA, will also pitch in high A Lancaster.

Leanadro Cespedes pitched all of 2009 in Lancaster, and will return their again in 2010. His ERA last season was 5.06, however, he was Houston's best starter! He also improved as the season wore on and sported a good strikeout rate. He's an undersized righty, at 5'11 160, but has had good results in the past. He'll be expected to lead this young rotation.

Dallas Keuchel makes the jump from short season A, Try-City, to full season ball. He's perhaps the most interesting name of the bunch. He's an '09 draftee out of Arkansas, who pitched spectacularly last summer in the New York-Penn League. He's a pitchability lefty, with a good enough stuff to be a starter in the majors, even if it's only as a 4th or 5th starter. I think Keuchel is smart enough and advanced enough to lead Lancaster's stellar rotation in stats--as it may take Seaton and Dydalewicz some time to adjust. I fully expect to see Keuchel starting in Corpus Christi by early August.

The infield consists of Mark Ori, Albert Cartwright , Ebert Rosario and Brandon Wikoff . Ori was demoted from AA, playing there all of last season. With Koby Clemens and others moving up to AA, the Astros had to do something with Ori, move him up to Round Rock (where Chris Shelton and Drew Locke are) or move him down, where there isn't a useful 1B prospect. Ori should be the big run producer in the Lancaster lineup. He'll hit 20-30 homeruns and could battle for the league RBI title, but he's older and should not be regarded as a serious prospect. Cartwright and Rosario are coming from Lexington. They had some mild success there. Rosario is a very raw product, he strikes out a lot and has yet to fill out his 6-3 frame. He is getting old for the level though, he'll turn 23 in May. Brandon Wickoff was drafted in the top ten rounds in 2009 out of a small college in Illinois. He shows off some on-base skills and has some plate discipline, but he isn't a top prospect either. He could do well in Lancaster though, although he has no power to speak of.

The outfield, like in 2009, is where the offense should come from in Lancaster. Josh Flores was once considered a top 10 prospect, but that hasn't been true for a number of years. He, like Ori, was sent down from Corpus Christi do to Gaston, Steele and Shuck moving up, he's old for the league at 24. Flores, again like Ori, should provide some major offense here. He has amazing speed and could lead off. His career stats will get a boost in California, but it's unlikely he makes himself a prospect to truly watch again. Brandon Barnes is an intriguing name, with some tools, I think of him in the same way I thought of Jordan Parraz. However, he will turn 24 in May and is still very raw, striking out 133 times compared to 28 walks in 2009. He should help to replace Jon Gaston in the lineup, but he isn't likely a serious top prospect either. Jay Austin is a serious prospect, the 2008 second rounder,was rated eighth among Astros prospects by BA. I was encouraged by his 2009 performance in Lexington, particularly in the second half. He has tools, speed and defense mostly. However, there is little power in his bat and I am unsure of how much he'll hit at higher levels, since he hasn't even tore the cover off the ball in Lexington. I am hoping to see him take a step forward with the bat though, if he does we could be talking about a real good prospect next year.

Lexington Legends (A)

The Legends graduate six great pitchers from last year's staff. However, there is still some talent left there and some more moving in from short season and the 2009 draft. The cream of Lexington's 2010 crop is Tanner Bushue , Houston's 2009 second rounder. He reminds me a lot of Jordan Lyles: projectable, athletic, with an advanced approach for a high school pitcher. He had a great debut last summer, but was slowed down by a pre-existing back injury, one that won't affect him moving forward. He's too young to really be able to project in the future, but he has top of the rotation potential, depending on how his pitches develp.

Joining, Bushue in the 2010 will be pitchers: David Duncan, Jose Cisnero, Michael Schurz and Brandt Walker . Duncan was taken in the top ten rounds in 2008, out of Georgia Tech. He's a big lefty, but has had inconsistant results thus far, pitching in Lancaster and Tri-City last year before settling in Lexington. He's got a good repitoire, but will be 24 in June, he simply hasn't progressed since being drafted. I don't know much about Cisnero actually, I don't know anything about his stuff at least. However, he's 21 years old (or will be on Sunday) and has a good frame, 6-3 185. He also threw well in short season Greenville last summer. Striking out 64 and giving up only 32 hits in 55.2 innings, he started 13 games. I can't wait to see how this guy does over a full season's worth of starts and better competition than in rookie ball. Schurz and Walker are both relievers (Walker will likely be long term, even though he started in Tri-City last summer). Walker has electric stuff, but doesn't have the comman you'd like to see out of a college pitcher (he comes from Stanford). He did not perform well in his debut, despite being taken in the top 10 rounds in 2009. Schurz excelled in his debut, he struck out 37 in 29.2 innings of relief, his ERA was 1.52. He'll look to keep up his success in 2010.

Lexington's lineup is highlighted by 2009 first round pick, Jiovanni Mier . He has the potential to provide special defense from shortstop. He also has a pretty advanced bat, which he showed off in his debut, hitting 7 homeruns and walking 30 times. His OBP was .380 and his SLG% was a .484... not bad for a high school guy, who wasn't touted highly for his bat. I'd love to see him continue to hit to start the season. His defense will get him to Houston, but his bat will need to continue to grow for him to become an all-star.

Joining Mier in the infield is fellow 2009 draft pick, Jonathan Meyer . He is very raw with the bat, and lacks power, but will draw a lot of walks and plays good defense, with a great arm from third. His batting average has to improve this season, though. The second basemen will be Jose Altuve . He was a hitting machine in rookie ball last summer, and will look to keep up the success as he moves into full season ball. He's only 5-9 and the success rate for prospects of that stature isn't good, but he has some ability and will look to prove doubters wrong.

The big bat in the outfield will come from J.D. Martinez , another 2009 draftee. He surprised everyone last summer by hitting for a .400 OBP and nearly .600 SLG%. This was likely a simple matter of advanced hitter against weak competition, but he is a big name to watch coming into his full season debut, like the former Lancaster hitters, he'll look to keep up his strong numbers. I also like Brian Kemp . He provides some on-base skills and speed, but otherwise isn't very valuable and won't likely ever contribute in the majors.

Posted on: April 5, 2010 6:56 pm

Astros: Week 1 Preview

Post four on the day! Thirty minutes to gametime. I feel a little accomplished.

I got this idea last night to do a weekly preview of the games ahead. It would be simple, discuss the pitching matchups a little, predict a winner and so forth. Today, I am really started to get bored of writing, but in the future it may be more comprehensive, although it will likely be dropped, who knows? Anyways, let's take a look at the Astros' first week:


Houston vs. San Francisco
Roy Oswalt vs. Tim Lincecum

What a draw! I have been anticipating this marquee matchup for awhile. Plus, thanks to reigning CY Lincecum, ESPN2 picked up the game... SO I GET TO WATCH! This matchup brings so much intrique because Lincecum was often compared to Oswalt when he was first breaking into the league. Oswalt has pitched extremely well this spring and despite the foreshadowing of some back trouble, he should be in top form for tonights opener. I think this game could be even 2-2 into the seventh and I like the Astros' bullpen. Chalk this one up as a surprise (surprise? it's at home, so maybe not surprise) win. 5-3


Wandy Rodriguez vs. Matt Cain

Wandy Rodriguez at home, this game should be a lock right? Not so fast, Cain is one of the five best pitchers in the NL. My heart wants to mark this as an Astros win, but I can't believe they go 2-0. So, I'm going to say Wandy gets shelled in the first two innings and is out by the fourth. Matt Cain goes into the eighth. Giants win it, 7-1


Brett Myers vs. Barry Zito

I want to say that I liked seeing Zito have a decent year in '09, he may not be back, back, but it's good to see him relevant again. That said, I am amped for this game! Chris Johnson should be getting the start against the lefty, I'm expecting him to swing a hot bat--and hopefully earn himself some more playing time, I do not want him sent down when Berkman comes back! Hunter Pence can also mash against lefties, expect both to go yard in a 6-4 victory.


Houston vs. Philadelphia

Bud Norris vs. Jamie Moyer

I think it will be Moyer at least (Moyer 4th, Kendrick 5th, right?). Another series at home, but this time against the NL favorite. I like the 25 year old man against the 65 year old man. Astros win, 6-5


Roy Oswalt vs. Roy Halladay

This is where things get tricky, but I'm going to assume both teams throw out their aces. Oswalt faces two of the toughest opponents in the NL in his first two starts, and unlike the first one (the one in 8 min!) I don't think he'll be able to keep up. Phillies win 8-3.


Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cole Hamels

Another tough draw for Wandy too. Wandy at home two times in the same week, he's going to win at least one. Hamels is a lefty against a right handed hitting team (Carlos Lee, Pence, Johnson, Feliz), so I like the Astros to finish the week strong, 4-3.

Week 1 record: 4-2

I would be absolutely thrilled if the Astros could pull this off in week one. Here's to hoping I'm not completely dellusional... and we'll find out very, very, soon.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:22 pm

2010 Astros Organizational Preview Part 1: AAA/AA

...On to my third post today. I absolutely love looking at a team's prospects, glare into the future and be optimistic. I check minor league box scores on, at least, a bi-daily basis. So, this post is devoted to previewing the four full-season minor league team's in the Astros organization. I will touch on all the key guys at each level. I'm especially excited about this Astros organization, which is already on the rise, because they have three of this year's drafts top thirty-three picks (8th, 19th and 33rd). Giving the Astros a big chance at rising even further. Here's a breakdown of Houston's AAA and AA affiliates. A breakdown of Houston's high A and A ball team's, Lancaster and Lexington, are forthcoming.
Round Rock Express (AAA)

The big name in Round Rock is Jason Castro, the Astros' top prospect and number ten pick overall in 2008. He had a terrific spring, just losing the major league starting catcher job to the older J.R. Towles. I fully expect, however, Castro to hold that position by the middle of June. Castro is an elite defensive catcher with good on-base skills, many people are done on his ability to hit for power, but I bet he's able to hit plenty of doubles with maybe 15-20 HRs annually (sounds a little like Biggio in that regard, without the speed though).

The Round Rock infield consists of Chris Shelton 1B, Edwin Matsonet UTIL, Drew Meyer 2B, among others. Maysonet got plenty of looks in Houston last season and in spring training this year. He's a utility infielder at the major league level. Due to his ability to play SS, there is a chance he could become more valuable to Houston than Jeff Keppinger. Shelton is older, not a prospect, has some power, but has already had his chances with the Tigers. Drew Meyer is interesting. He had a good season with Corpus Christi last season, gets on base, but is an older prospect.

The RR outfield draws more intigue than the infield. It consists of former pitcher and first round pick, Brian Bogusevic, Colin DeLome and (An)Drew Locke. Locke, like Meyer, is an older prospect, he was picked up from the Dodgers during the minor league phase of the rule V draft before last season. He absolutely crushed the ball in AA in 2009. He hit .338 with a .920 OPS (20 HRs/31doubles). He'll also play first base. Bogusevic will repeat AAA after having a mediocre 2009, his first full season as an outfielder. He has the potential to be an average to above-average defender in CF/RF and could provide some average on-base skills and speed. His power isn't great, however. DeLome is the guy with the most upside, due to ample supplies of both power and speed. In AA last season he hit 20 HRs and stole 15 bases, but struck out 141 times and only hit for a .255 ave. and .323 OBP. If he can improve his pitch recognition and patience he could develop into a special player. He's not extremely old for a prospect (he'll be 24 all of this season), but he still has a very raw hit tool. He'll also be only be able to play LF.

Wesley Wright and Polin Trinidad (both LH starters) are the two pitchers to watch. Wright's transition as a starter has been well documented and he is no longer a prospect, obviously. However, Trinidad has always been a bit of an underrated prospect, being a LH pitchability guy. He's had success at pretty much every level though. Casey Daigle made some noise in spring training and Wilton Lopez and Evan Engelbrook are a pair of reliever (Lopez will be one at the ML level) who could make their way to Houston at some point.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)

AA also seems to be the place for top prospects. Strasburg was sent to AA rather than AAA. Jason Castro started last season in AA. AAA is for veterans who are already to be placed on a ML bench. AA is where top prospects mash and throw filthy pitches. This is certainly the case for The Hooks in 2010. The big name is Jordan Lyles. Lyles is a RH SP and won't turn 20 until October. The Astros brass has decided to have him skip the launching pad of Lancaster. It's a risky move. AA hitting is much MUCH better than high A batting, but if anyone is up to it, it's Lyles. Lyles struck out 167 batters in Lexington last season, walking only 38 in 144.2 innings. He also only gave up five homeruns all year. Lyles is a very advanced pitcher for his age, his success is mostly due to his fastball command. He throws both a 4 and 2-seam fastball in the low 90s, along with a cutter, curveball and a changeup which BA describes as the best in the organization. His upside looks to be in the #3/#4 starter range right now, but he's only 19 and could still improve his stuff and add a few ticks to his fastball. Don't be too afraid if he struggles this year, he's 19 and could repeat AA next year no matter what, but he's got a very bright future. He could also come out and dominate, which means he could be knocking on the door this time next year at 20.

Fernadno Abad, Henry Villar, Chia Jen-Lo and Matt Nevarez are four other pitchers to watch. Abad is the only starter among them and pitched well in high A and AA last year. He'll start the season in AA, but would likely be the first to move up, he's left handed with a good fastball. Villar, Nevarez and Lo are all relievers. They all had great succes last season, Villar and Nevarez in Lexington, Lo split between Lancaster and Corpus Christi, like Abad. Villar struck out 109 in 90 innings in 2009, walking only 18! All three could be in Houston by season's end. (Houston has a ton of relievers! Lindstrom, Lyon, Gervacio, Fulchino, Arias, Lo, Nevarez and Villar.)

All the big bats from Lancaster move up to Corpus Christi to start 2010, they will all be looking to prove they aren't a product of the ballpark. Among them are Koby Clemens, Jon Gaston, T.J. Steele and Jack Shuck. My favorite of the bunch is T.J. Steele, a 2008 fourth rounder (if memory serves me correct) out of Arizona. His tools, all five of them, are the best of any from this group. He has had trouble staying healthy and could struggle with his plate discipline (Ks and BBs). However, he could easily put it all together and become a top prospect. Gaston and Clemens I fear are both products of Lancaster. Both led the minors in a statistical category in 2009 (HRs and RBIs respectively). However, hopefully they prove me and everyone else wrong. Shuck is an intereting guy. He was very successful in Lancaster, but has no power, so his numbers couldn't have been inflated! He has excellent plate discipline, walking as much as he struck out and can steal bases, it'll be interesting to see if he can keep up his succes, or if he'll flame out in AA.

Wladimir Sutil is repeating AA, he's older, but a defensive wizard--I've heard, more so than Tommy Manzella. However, he's lacking on the offensive side, more so than Adam Everett of Tommy Manzella.

Posted on: April 5, 2010 9:56 am

NL Central Preview--And Other Introductions...

Today is Opening Day! The real Opening Day, not the day strictly reserved for Yanks and Sox fans. Seriously though, what kind of a score is 9-7 in a battle between the aces of the "two best teams in baseball"--they're not, I'll tell you who is later in the day with my playoff predictions post. Anyways, today is a great day for every baseball fan. Thirteen teams square off, including my beloved Houston Astros. The Astros open the season with Roy Oswalt on the mound for the eighth straight year. He'll face the two-time defending NL Cy Young, Tim Lincecum and the offense deprived Giants. To top it all off, the game will be NATIONALLY TELEVISED (7PM ESPN2). Meaning everyone, incluing those in central New York, can enjoy this marquee pitching matchup.

This being baseball season, I am going to attempt something a little daring. I am going to publish four posts today commemorating the opening of the 2010 season--I am after all, somehow, still, the Astros' "official blogger," I've got the writing badge to prove it. Here's what I have tentatively scheduled for today:

  • NL Central Preview (the second part of this post!)
  • Playoff Predictions (even though this is an Astros blog...)
  • Previewing the first week of the Astros' season: April 5th-11th
  • Previewing the Astros' four full-season minor league teams: Round Rock, Corpus Christi, Lancaster and Lexington
  • Optional: This is very unlikely, but if I get around to it (today, later this week, to start off next week), I would like to devote a post to some general Astros in 2010 musings. We'll see how the first four things work out though.

Now, without any further outstanding business, is my brief, to the point, NL Central Preview:

(If you disagree with any ranking, please let me know in the comments section--and why. If someone was to disagree with my list, or questioned my thought process below, I would explain my ranking in the comments. Maybe I'll do that anyway.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

MVP: Andrew McCutchen
CY Young: Zach Duke
Unheralded Hero: Bobby Crosby
Breakout Player: Jeff Clement
Breakout Pitcher: Charlie Morton
Prospect to Watch: Pedro Alvarez

5. Chicago Cubs

MVP: Aramis Ramirez
CY Young: Carlos Zambrano
Unheralded Hero: Carlos Marmol
Breakout Player: Tyler Colvin
Breakout Pitcher: NA
Prospects to Watch: Colvin and Jeff Samardzija

4. Milwaukee Brewers

MVP: Ryan Braun
CY Young: Randy Wolf
Unheralded Here: Alcides Escobar
Breakout Player: Escobar
Breakout Pitcher: NA
Prospects to Watch: Excobar, Mat Gamel and Jonathan LuCroy

3. Houston Astros

MVP: Hunter Pence
CY Young: Roy Oswalt
Unheralded Hero: Jason Castro
Breakout Player: Chris Johnson
Breakout Pitcher: Bud Norris
Prospects to Watch: Tommy Manzella, Castro, Johnson, Samuel Gervacio and Chia Jen-Lo

2. Cincinnati Reds

MVP: Jay Bruce
CY Young: Homer Bailey
Unheralded Hero: Drew Stubbs
Breakout Player: Stubbs
Breakout Pitcher: Bailey
Prospects to Watch: Mike Leake, Drew Stubbs, Aroldis Champman, Juan Francisco and Travis Wood

1. St. Louis Cardinals

MVP: Albert Pujols
CY Young: Adam Wainwright
Unheralded Hero: Ryan Franklin
Breakout Player: Colby Rasmus
Breakout Pitcher: Jaime Garcia
Prospects to Watch: Garcia

Posted on: February 1, 2010 6:47 pm

Pre Spring Training Notebook: Part 1

The Astros report--pitchers and catchers at least--to Kissimmee in eighteen days. This, along with some uninstigated optimism has my heart pounding for baseball season. My beloved Syracuse Orange[men] are up to #3 in the AP, they have only one loss, I have tickets to the 'Nova game and yet I cannot hold back my anticipation for spring training. That's right, not the actual baseball season, but SPRING TRAINING. Any of you baseball nuts, like me, will understand where I'm coming from. At the start of every season their is every reason to believe your team has a shot--I apologize for fans of: the Nationals, the Pirates, the Royals and the Blue Jays, for whom this is not true. I fully believe, despite a myriad of doubt coming from fans, experts and most everyone--other than the usually off-his-rocker Richard Justice (of the Houston Chronicle)--that the Astros will buck the consenus and prove to be a better than expected team. Essentially, my fellow Astros fans, there is reason to watch and follow along for the next seven+ months. It also occurs to me that I am still, undeservably so, in possession of the "writer's badge" for Astros coverage. So, I might as well begin chronicling the Astros' 2010 season, beginning on February 1st--one day before the LOST premiere.

I will begin with my "Pre Spring Training Notebook." This will be a quick sum up of the offseason and the names we can expect to see come actual Spring Training--which is again, EIGHTEEN days away. This will be done in four parts: The Subtractions, The Additions, The Prospects, The Holdovers. Today I bring you...

The Subtractions

Miguel Tejada SS - Perhaps the biggest loss for the Astros--certainly at the plate and in the clubhouse, at least--Tejada was not even offered a contract. We could debate whether Ed Wade should have made an attempt to sign Tejada back at a discounted price, but I think any conversation would be pointless. The fact remains, he was not resigned--an added bonus, he did not sign with Cardinals. The question I pose to you, the one I think matters, is: How much offense did we lose when we failed to even attempt to resign him. I would argue not much. In two seasons with the 'Stros Tejada averaged a .326 OBP and .435 SLG%. In comparison: Marlon Byrd OF (formerly of the Rangers) recorded a .329 OBP and .479 SLG% last year, Mark Teahen 3B (formerly of the Royals) recorded a .325 OBP and .408 SLG%, Cody Ross OF (Marlins) hit a .321 OBP and .469 SLG% and Melky Cabrera OF (formerly of the Yankees) hit for a .336 OBP and .416 SLG%. My point? Tejada put up solid numbers, NOT EXCEPTIONAL ONES. Not the kind of numbers you expect from one of your team's top offensive contributers. His numbers were merely good enough for average role players. Every team, of course, needs these players. However, they should be replaceable. Add to this fact his poor defensive ability--especially since he's being replaced by a good defensive reputation, Tommy Manzella--and we [the Astros illustrious fan base] don't have too much to worry about. How's that for optimism?

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins RP - I've decided to pair these two for two reasons 1. To save myself some time (I always get excited to start writing, then twenty minutes later, yawn...) 2. These two served the same role in 2009, co-closer. Both Valverde and Hawkins are big loses. My ideal plan heading into the offseason would have been to offer both arbitration. Allow Valverde to sign elsewhere and collect the draft picks and either keep Hawkins via arb. or collect a draft pick for him as well. Half of that came to fruition. However, seeing Hawkins sign with the Brewers hurt--not only because they are a division rival too. If the Astros are going to spend 15 million on Brandon Lyon, why couldn't they have spent half that on resigning Hawkins, who proved that he could be a more than effective closer in 2009. In my opinion, letting Hawkins walk was the biggest mistake of the offseason, however, he is old and his track record isn't great, so I could be wrong here. Ultimately thhough, the production of this pair will be very difficult to make up this season--eighth and ninth innings=DANGER!

Darin Erstad 1B/OF - I know, I know, we shouldn't even have to mention him. However, is there a better guy in sports? It's sad to see the former Nebraska punter go. He was a good bench player in 2008--even if regulated to morale booster last season--and that production off the bench will have to come from somewhere. I do not like Houston's bench as it stands. His departure will open the door for Cory Sullivan or one of the prospects to become Houston's fifth outfielder.

Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz - Can you say addition by subtraction?

At first glance you may say that Houston lost too much between the trio of Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins. I will admit, all of those loses hurt, although some more than others. However, with their departures, the composition of this team will change. The team is getting younger, the team is getting better on defense. It will ultimately be tough to say which team ('09 or '10) seems better. However, I would make a case for the 2010 team's new look. Especially when you take into consideration all of the addition by subtraction--and I'm not talking about Hampton and Moehler...

Cecil Cooper - COME ON, it wouldn't be an Astros offseason post if I didn't mention the cancer that was Cecil Cooper (I am sure "Coop" is a lovely man if I ever had the pleasure to meet him). The players hated him and he was a terrible tactitian. His departure can only mean good things for the Astros in 2010, right?

Discuss these former 'Stros or anything else in the comments section.

Due Up: Additions

Posted on: August 1, 2009 4:41 pm

Schedule - Kind of

What happened to those player grades, eh? 

Well, I got wrapped up in several other things and I am headed out of town on Monday.  However, I will get back to those, eventually.  I have really gotten back into prospect mode - what with the trade deadline and all.  You say, Victor Martinez to the Sox.  I say, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to the Indians.  Next pressing thing on my schedule is minor league reports for July, which may be a three or four parter depending on how I break it down.  I will also cover the short season leagues thus far. 
Posted on: July 19, 2009 2:56 pm

Astros Players Performance Grades, Midseason 2009

Stats, via Mlb.com , are as of July, 15th 2009.  All grades were assigned prior to the All-Star game. 


Ivan Rodriguez - C

At the start of the season, I think I could have predicted a line like this from Pudge - .245/.278/.397.  Perhaps the batting average and on-base percentages are a tad low, but he's still providing better offensively production (sadly) than the Astros have been used to in recent years.  Pudge has also belted seven homeruns along with scoring twenty-six runs and thirty RBIs.  Rodriguez has also been Pudge behind the plate, and that always helps. 

Humberto Quintero - D-

Only seventy-seven at-bats for Quintero, but he hasn't made the most of them, he's hitting .247/.266/.312 this season.  One thing I have learned about 'Q' is that he will not be an everday player, something we wondered about prior to the season. 

J.R. Towles did not qualify, having less than 50 at-bats. 


Miguel Tejada - A

Tejada has been amazing, maybe the defensive is in decline, but I haven't seen anything this year that makes me think his defense is detrimental to the team.  Tejada leads the team in batting average at .329.  He also hit a slugging % of .473 with seven homeruns and thirty-seven extra-base-hits.  Tejada struck out only twenty-six times the first half but, also only walked ten times, leading to a mediocre .357 OBP.  Miggy was tied for second on the team with forty-nine RBIs and third on the team in runs scored with forty-eight. 

Lance Berkman - A-

Due to a horrid April many believe Berkman has had a poor first half, however, he leads the team in homeruns, OBP, SLG%, walks, and RBIs (anymore I'm missing?  probably) with eighteen, a .403 OBP, a .526 SLG%, sixty-six and fifty-five respectively.  Berkman's average was only .271, but who cares with an OBP over .400, right?  He's also silently stolen six bases in eight tries and was second on the team with fort-nine runs scored. 

Jeff Keppinger - B-

Keppinger, the right-handed platoon at third base, has really grown on me.  When first acquired, I didn't feel Keppinger would provide anything more than Drew Sutton (who was sent to Cincinnati in the deal).  However, through the first half, Keppinger has been holding up his side of the plate.  Batting .273 with a .353 OBP and .416 SLG%, in one hundred and sixty-one at-bats (thirty-eight less at-bats than Blum).  Keppinger is also one of two Astros batters with a BB/K ratio over one (Berkman being the other), he has walked nineteen times and struck out sixteen times.  Also, in less at-hats, Keppinger has driven in one more run than Blum. 

Question of the day:  Would you prefer the power upgrade of Chris Johnson taking over the right side of the platoon, or keep Keppinger's on-base skills? 

Geoff Blum - C+

Blum has hit .281 with a .350 OBP and .362 SLG%.  He struck out twenty-seven times and walked nineteen times, scoring twenty-seven runs.  All-in-all nothing stands out about Blum, but he has been servicable and the two of them (Blum and Keppinger) manning third hasn't kept the Astros from competing. 

Kazuo Matsui - D

Matsui 1. couldn't stay healthy 2. Was not the most effective second basemen, even when he returned.  Matsui hit .252 with a .313 OBP and .338 SLG%.  He struck out forty-three times and walked only nineteen times.  He has stolen nine bases and has provided some timely hits, so I won't give him an F, but a D is more than deserved, unfortunately. 

Edwin Maysonet - B

I don't know why the front office doesn't seem to like Maysonet.  He fields well and provided some good offensive production during his stint in the majors.  In fifty-four at-bats he hit .315 with a .356 OBP and .407 SLG%.  Personally, I would like to see Maysonet be brought back up with a chance to stick, but with Matsui making five million for the next two years that, it isn't likely to happen. 

Matt Kata didn't qualify.

Due up:  The remaining 'Player Performance Grades' as well as a look into the Elias Rankings, the off-season and 2010.  I'm looking forward to reading your answers to the 'question of the day'. 

Posted on: July 13, 2009 9:49 am
Edited on: July 19, 2009 3:04 pm

Astros Minor League Players of the Month: June

I have had this post sitting on my desktop for awhile and I am finally publishing it.  This marks my first post in exactly a month and I apologize for that.  I have some interesting topics coming up, however, and I hope to get on here more consistently.  The Astros are .500, so let's celebrate the first half of the season. 

A quick note about yesterday's Futures Game, which I watched in it's entirety despite a four hour rain-delay.  The Astros' Chia Jen-Lo recorded the win, pitching one inning and striking out one, with the bases loaded and two outs.  He was throwing in the low 90s with a good slider in the mid 70s.  Jason Castro also looked impressive.  He belted a hanging curve off a lefty to deep right field, scoring a three-run homer.  He also threw out Luis Durango at third on an attempted steal.  Durango had a good jump and the pitcher, Dan Duffy, was slow getting the ball to the plate but, Castro threw a strike down the third base line to nab Durango just in time.  His arm is definitely a plus tool despite throwing out only three of fourteen would-be basestealers. 

I have a couple of topics planned.  I am going to grade individual (major league) players on their performance thus far.  I also plan to take a trip across state to see Houston's New York-Penn League team, Tri City ValleyCats.  They are probably the minor league affiliate of Houston's I know the least about (their players that is), but they are far and away the closest in proximity (I can see them at three locations in the next month, including their home ballpark outside of Albany, within a two and a half hour drive).  So, I plan on having some form of scouting reports on some of their top prospects.  I may also review my top 15 Astros prospects at some point, but we'll see how things go. 

Without further ado, here are the Astros' top Minor Leaguers for the month of June.

Round Rock Express
Pitcher of the Month : Bud Norris RHP
Norris reclaims the monthly honor, having won it in April, but narrowly losing out to Bazardo in May.  That's not to say Bazardo made it easy.  He pitched 28 innings over four starts (7innings/start), posting a 3.21 ERA with a 1-0 record.  He struck out 15, while walking only 5 batters, and also gave up 29 hits.  For Bazardo it was another solid, but not dominant month.  Norris also pitched 28 innings over four starts (obviously still 7 innings/start).  He did it with a 0.96 ERA and 1-1 record though.  He gave up only 18 hits, but did walk 12, and stuck out 26 batters.  A couple things to note about Norris' month are that his strikeout rate did drop, for the first month this year his k/9 was under 9, but his ground out to air out ratio was much higher, and he gave up only one HR last month.  I continue to be inpressed by this duo, and very much look forward to seeing them in Houston soon.  Maybe one, or both, of them will become important parts to the Astros' second half. 
Batter of the Month: Chris Johnson 3B
Round Rock position players continue to underwhelm me, especially this month, when Brian Bogusevic , Mark Saccomanno , J.R. Towles and Tommy Manzella all had weak performances.  I was left with two options for the award.  Johnson, my number seven Astros prospect last offseason, or, John Gall a first basemen, with a season.255 AVG, who was born in the '70s.  Statistically they had very similar months, but Johnson had more extra base hits, and that was enough for me.  Johnson hit .280, with a poor .301 OBP, and .460 SLG%.  He hit 2 HRs, along with a total of 11 XBHs (extra base hits), and 28 hits total.  Now for the bad stuff, Johnson struck out 23 times, in 100 ABs, and walked only 3 times.  Wait a moment, let it sink in...  He walked only 3 times.  He played in 26 games last month, and walked... 3 times.  His K:BB ratio was 7.7 to 1.  That is absolutely terrible.  I love Johnson.  I think he provides a lot of offensive potential, along with solid defense from the hot corner, but he cannot, and will not become a ML contributor until he learns to take a walk, and raises his OBP. 

Corpus Christi Hooks
Pitcher of the Month: Polin Trinidad LHP
No contest.  Trinidad was the lone bright spot on a terrible Hooks pitching staff.  Trinidad pitched 37 and a third innings over five starts (>7 innings/start), accumulating a 3-2 record.  His ERA for the month was a spectacular 0.72, allowing only three earned runs all month.  He struck out 21 batters, walked four, and gave up 27 hits - a WHIP of .83 over 5 starts!  In July we'll see if Trinidad can give Bazardo and Norris a run for the AAA monthly crown, as he has been called up to Round Rock once the AA All-Star game is over. 
Batter of the Month: Wladamir Sutil SS
This was a very close four-horse race between Sutil , Drew Meyer 2B, Jason Castro C and perennial contender, but never winner, Colin DeLome.  Meyer was the runner up, he hit for a good average, on-base percentage, and provided enough power, I just liked what Sutil had to offer a little bit more.  Castro was a hitting machine upon getting called up, however, he began to slow down a little as the month ended, and he has yet to hit for power in AA, only two of his seventeen hits went for extra bases.  On top of that, Castro only walked twice in 16 games, but he also only struck out six times.  DeLome once again showed off some power, collecting nine extra base hits, including four homeruns, he also stole three bases.  However, per usual, he also struck out a lot, 27 times in 98 ABs (28 games).  DeLome still had one of the higher OPS' this month, though, his was .821, lifting his season OPS to .811.  Sutil is typically the leadoff hitter, and was a Texas League All-Star.  Usually I overlook Sutil, but this month I want to give him his due.  In 109 ABs, he hit .312 with a .390 OBP.  He hit no homeruns but, eight of his thirty-four hits were doubles.  He scored sixteen runs, and stole four bases.  Finally he stuck out only nine times (remember 109 ABs, 29 games) and walked 11 times, hooray for a prospect with a K:BB ratio less than one!

Lancaster JetHawks High
Pitcher of the Month: Fernando Abad LHP
Just about every pitcher in Lancaster is a whose-who of bad performers.  It was so bad that I had to dig into the Lancaster bullpen, to grab a pitcher with only one save this season and shower him with this award.  Don't get me wrong, Abad had a good month.  In seven appearances, and seventeen innings, he posted a 1.06 ERA, struck out twelve, walking only three batters, and giving up only eight hits. 
Batter of the Month: T.J. Steele OF
I may consider dropping the high A pitching award and in its place, honor two Lancaster batters, because there are more than those deserving of being recognized.  Before I continue, I suppose I am obligated to tell you, the California League is an extreme hitters League.  That's why the Lancaster pitchers' numbers are terrible and their hitters' numbers can be extraordinary.  Still, big numbers are more fun to talk about.  Steele is one of my favorite prospects in the system, and he is finally healthy enough to win a monthly award.  He leads a stellar group of six contenders.  In 104 ABs, Steele hit .394, with a .439 OBP and .692 SLG%.  He hit four homeruns and added thirteen other extra base hits, including six triples.  He also knocked in twenty-six RBIs and scored another twenty-eight himself.  However, like most Astros prospects, Steele had trouble with his plate discipline.  Striking out twenty-three times, while walking seven times.  Steele stole five bases in ten attempts.  Other numbers of note on the offensive end of Lancaster: Gabriel Suarez hit .328 over 67 ABs with a .392 OBP.  Brandon Barnes was called up from Lexington and hit .327 over 49 ABs, and added 7 XBHs.  Jack Shuck hit .296, and struck out only 8 times over 98 ABs, he walked 7 more times than he struck out, 15.  Jon Gaston hit .311, he did not however match his May homerun number, the unbelievable 9 he hit last month, but he did hit 4, with a SLG% of .566.  Koby Clemens took over for Jason Castro as the starting catcher, making the most of the opportunity, he hit .329 with an OPS of .955.

Lexington Legends Low A
Pitcher of the Month: Jordan Lyles RHP
Before I talk about the two guys who battled for this award, I'll touch on several of the young Lexington pitchers I've been highlighting since April.  Robert Bono and Henry Villar both had their typical, also very good, months.  In five starts Bono had an ERA of 2.43, but only struck out six.  Henry Villar made eight appearances out of the bullpen, pitching thirteen and two thirds innings, with a 3.29 ERA and striking out eighteen.  Both Kyle Greenwalt and Brad Dydalewicz took a small step back, but on the season, both are still performing very well, and both of their first starts in July were very good.  That brings us to our winner, Jordan Lyles and runner-up, Ross Seaton.  Seaton started five games, pitching thirty-two and a third innings, with a 1-3 record and 2.51 ERA.  He finally started to show an ability to strikout batters, he struckout twenty-three of them last month, while walking ten and giving up twenty-eight hits.  Lyles has continued to be one of the very best pitchers in the South Atlantic League , I am amazed he, and Seaton as well, have not been called up yet (although if the plan is to wait till the end of the year, then move them both up to AA next season.  I am ok with it.  Why send your top two pitching prospects to a hitters league, the California League, if you can avoid it, right?).  Lyles made five starts in June, pitching twenty-eight and a third innings, with a 2-2 record and 3.18 ERA.  He struck out forty-three batters, while allowing only six walks, and giving up only twenty-two hits.  From the scouting reports I've seen Lyles has his fastball sitting in the 90s, with a developing and improved curveball and change, along with very good command.  All signs are pointing to good things from Lyles moving forward.  I would assume Lyles and others from this crop would have made the jump to high A, except for the fact that the front office doesn't want to throw them into the launching pad of Lancaster, which is probably a wise move.  Hopefully they can skip a level and start next season in AA. 
Batter of the Month: Brian Pellegrini OF
There's no one else in Lexington even challenging him at this point.  Ebert Rosario had a bad month, Brandon Barnes was called up, and although April's winner, Albert Cartwright returned from injury, he has not performed well either.  Pellegrini hit .437 over 87 ABs, with a .495 OBP and .816 SLG%, that's an OPS of an astonishing 1.311.  Need I say more?  He hit nine homeruns.  Is that enough for you?  Good, because the rest is less than stellar, although he "only" struck out 18 times, he only walked 9 times. Pellegrini is 24, and playing in low A, so he should be expected to dominate, as he has been.  I would say call him up, but the Lancaster outfield is crowded, as is the Corpus Christi outfield, and Pellegrini did not fare so well when he started the season off in Lancaster, anyways. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com