Thursday, November 26, 2015

Exit Music (For A Player): Will Harris

This is the Exit Music (For A Player) series, reviewing the major components of the 2015 season. Check out other Exit Music (For A Player) posts here

Acquired: Selected off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, November 2014.

Age: 31; Harris will be 32 next August

Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration; Will be Arbitration-eligible in 2017, won't be a free agent until 2020.


Drafted by the Rockies in the 9th Round of the 2006 draft out of LSU, Will Harris posted Ridiculous Numbers in the minors. In 242 appearances, Harris posted a 2.48 ERA/1.14 WHIP with a 3.63 K:BB ratio. In his first two professional seasons in Low-A and Single-A, Harris threw 78.2IP with 58H/11ER, 110K:22BB. While things couldn't go quite as well for Harris after that first impression, he was a low-ERA, high-strikeout guy for the rest of his time in the minors.

He got called up by the Rockies after Edgmer Escalona was put on the 15-Day DL on August 11, 2012. To that point in 2012 Harris had struck out 86 batters with 14 walks in 52IP. That is nuts. His Major League debut came on August 13, at home in Colorado against Milwaukee in the 9th inning with the Rockies leading 9-3. He threw 16 pitches, allowed two hits - one of which was a home run - but the Rockies won 9-6. Two days later he threw 24 pitches to record six perfect outs in a 7-6 win over the same Brewers.

Relievers' numbers are misleading. Throw few innings with a handful of bad results and it looks like the pitcher won some sort of fan contest to get on the 25-Man roster. He gave up four runs on August 29th against the Dodgers, and concluded his season with consecutive 3ER games to end up with an 8.15 ERA and a .922 OPS-against. He was in his Age 27 season.

On April 3, 2013 Harris was selected off waivers by the A's from Colorado. Three days later he was selected off waivers from the Diamondbacks by Oakland. Now a Diamondback, Harris threw 52.2IP in 2013, allowing 50H/17ER, with 53K:15BB. His 2.91 ERA was a touch worse than his 2.74 FIP. Things were better. He held righties to a .277/.338/.420 line - which isn't great, but consider that the previous year he allowed righties a .400/.429/.644 line, and he was worse on the road than he was at Coors.

Things weren't as great in 2014. He only threw 29IP, allowed 27H/14ER, with 35K:9BB for a 4.34 ERA/1.24 WHIP. His K/9 ratio was up from 2013's 9.1 to 2014's 10.9. His BB/9 ratio rose slightly from 2.6 to 2.8. But at Reno in 2014 he threw 45.2IP, allowing 34H/5ER, with 44K:20BB - a 1.97 ERA/1.18 WHIP.

On November 3, 2014 Harris was selected off waivers by the Astros from the Diamondbacks in what appeared to be an attempt to revamp what had recently been a bullpen that could only be qualified as God-Awful/Look-Directly-At-It-And-Your-Face-Will-Melt-Nazi-Indiana-Jones-Bullcrap.


So whatever. Because Josh Fields was dealing with a groin injury early on in Spring Training, Harris joined a host of new faces in the bullpen: himself, Neshek, Gregerson, et al. He took advantage of his fortune, cruising through April in fairly low-leverage situations - April 12 against the Rangers as an exception, when he was perfect in the 12th and 13th innings with three strikeouts - with 11IP, 2H/0ER, 14K:4BB. Harris didn't give up an earned run until May 6 - his 11th appearance - when the Rangers won in a blowout.

Harris didn't give up his 2nd earned run until June 7, after Harris had made 21 appearances, with 26.2IP, 6H/1ER, 31K:7BB. This is stupid. He had a 0.34 ERA/0.50 WHIP. That is dumb. He allowed a .071/.152/.107 line on an .096 BABIP. This is unsustainable. Almost literally everything he threw went right to an Astro defender. This is unbelievable.

He got some All-Star love. After all, only 22 MLB pitchers had thrown at least 40IP with no games started in the 1st Half of the 2015 season. Harris had thrown 41.1IP, 16H/4ER, with 42K:14BB. Nobody allowed fewer hits. Nobody allowed fewer earned runs. Nobody had a lower ERA.

Harris came out of the All-Star Break with two scoreless appearances and then allowed earned runs in back-to-back outings - taking the loss on my anniversary, July 25, a 2-1 loss at Kansas City that I watched out of the corner of my eye while at dinner with my wife. Still, over the first 20 outings of the 2nd Half, from July 17-September 9, Harris was good - not as Unreal as his 1st Half - 20IP, 18H/5ER, 17K:5BB. .594 OPS-against on a .298 BABIP. In other words, this was a Very Good Relief Pitcher as opposed to the Other-Worldly Relief Pitcher that he was in the 1st Half. We were spoiled by ridiculousness.

Mid- to late-September happened. He took the loss at Anaheim on September 12. He look the loss at Texas on September 14. He took the loss at Anaheim on September 23. Every reliever is allowed a few bad games. Harris had bad games at the time when we fans pulled our hair out at the most intense time. Harris allowed a baserunner in six of his first seven September appearances - multiple baserunners in four of his first five in the month. In the Arlington Chainsaw Massacre in mid-September, Harris left two games in a worse position than when he entered. He picked the worst time to be ineffective. Had it happened in April, we might not have noticed.

But he ended fairly strong! Seven of his last nine regular season appearances were scoreless outings. He threw a perfect outing against the Yankees in the Wild Card game. The Royals then proceeded to kill him. In Game 1 of the ALDS he allowed two hits in 0.2IP, but the Astros won, so whatever. Then Harris lost Game 2, giving up 2H/1ER in 0.2IP. In Game 4, though, this is where Recency Bias kicks in.

With the Astros up 6-2 in the 8th inning of The Game Of Which We Shall Not Speak, Harris allowed a single to left to Alex Rios, a single to center to Alcides Escobar, a line drive to center to Ben Zobrist. Should he have been taken out? It's still 6-2. Double Play still in effect. What do you do? Hinch left him in. Harris allowed a single to left to Lorenzo Cain. When Harris left, it was still 6-3 Astros. Tony Sipp allowed the other three batters Harris/Blind Luck/Destiny let get on base to score.

It was the worst ending to an absolutely fantastic season. You had no faith in Will Harris. I had no faith in Will Harris. With the benefit of distance it's not as bad. We were blinded by Will Harris' excellence in the first half of the season. In other words: regression was a Stone Cold Bitch to Will Harris.


What do you want to hear? That Will Harris sucks? His 87.4% LOB rate was 3rd-best in baseball among relievers with a minimum of 70IP thrown. His 1.90 ERA was belied by a 3.66 FIP/3.31 xFIP. But his 14.8% HR/FB rate was the highest among relievers with 70IP thrown in 2015. Harris didn't get hit often, but when he did he got hit hard. I'd bring him back, if only for his 1st Half.

Jed's Back... In Oakland.

File this one under absolutely shocking, for me.  The Astros traded Jed Lowrie for the second time, and to the Athletics for the second time.  This occurs around two-and-one-half weeks short of the one year anniversary of Lowrie signing with Houston on a sweetheart free-agent deal that was meant to last three or four years, and a week or so after the Astros traded another utility-player / middle infielder away for what I thought was an underwhelming return.

(As an aside, this is the third "Jed's Back" article on Astros County.  The first is linked to above.  Here is the second.)

The Astros managed quite the haul for Jed last time they traded him to the A's.  Perhaps the haul wasn't tremendous, but the three players that the Astros got for Lowrie all remain with the organisation, and all look to have some serious upside.  Carter remains an enigma at times, as does Brad Peacock, but both of them have shown signs of putting it all together for stretches.  Max Stassi could certainly combine with either Jason Castro or Hank Conger in donning the Tools of Ignorance next year, or he could be the starting catcher for the Astros in 2017.  While the Lowrie Trade First Edition has not been a runaway win for the Astros, it at least remains intriguing, and it was a clear win to the Astros.

So what does the Lowrie Trade Second Edition Look like for the Astros.  What's that, you say??  An A-ball pitcher??  A reliever??  Frick!!  Frick-on-a-stick!!!

Man, this looks like quite the steal for the A's.  I think Jed Lowrie is underrated... and I am not the only one.  This Fangraphs article isn't quite sure what to make of Lowrie, and probably finds in more questions than it answers.  Lowrie may be a good defender... or he may not.  He may be work a lone WAR-point, or may be worth two.  His salary my be a low-grade steal, or outright theft.  Whatevs.

The bigger question for me is more around what the fudge the Astros are thinking in trading Jed Lowrie for a AA-reliever - moreso one who was drafted in the 22nd round, out of college.  I thought Lowrie had some serious value - more than what McCurry looks like at first glance - plus was signed for most of the rest of his useful baseball life for a team-friendly contract, which has the potential to turn into an outright steal.  The option year in 2018 seems like a bargain at six million (with a one million buyout), ill health be damned.

I may be missing something here, and if you disagree, please tell me why in the comments.  I thought Villar - at 24 - still had some serious room to grow, and could have developed into a switch-hitting shortstop with power and plate discipline, and the defensive chops to remain at the position.  Lowrie is less pretty defensively, but he has an excellent bat when he is hot, as evidenced by his team leading triple slash line of .300/.432/.567 through April.  Lowrie was nearly singlehandedly responsible for the Astros' offence throughout April, but he took the next three months off after he had an operation to reattach the collateral ligament in his right thumb, which was injured during a slide to the plate during an early away sweep of the Padres.  Health has certainly been his problem over the years.

If Villar brought back a middling pitching prospect, then Lowrie was exchanged for an even less heralded return.  Brandon McCurry was a 22nd round draft pick of the A's out of college in 2014.  He pitched in Hi-A and AA last year.  He is a righty, throws in the low 90's, and possesses a nasty curve, apparently.  He isn't nothing, but at first glance, he is certainly underwhelming.

That said, McCurry's numbers in the two levels that he traversed in 2015 are pretty darn good.  But this article isn't about McCurry and his dashboard stats.  This article is about underwhelming returns for major-league calibre shortstops - one young and yet to hit his ceiling, and one veteran guy - both with potentially good bats and both with positional flexibility.  Something that I would value highly if I were putting together a major-league roster.

Which leads us to a discussion about the depth the Astros have on the infield.  The middle infield positions are sewn up, with Correa and Altuve not going anywhere.  We know the Astros have crowded corners - Luis Valbuena, Matt Duffy, Chris Carter and Jon Singleton are all on the 40-man, and all have power and varying contact and plate discipline abilities.  They are all very much corner infielders defensively, and no one wants to see any of them in the outfield or up the middle.  Nolan Fontana was conspicuously added to the 40-man not long before the deadline - he is very much unproven, but his addition to the roster takes on more weight with the Lowrie trade.  But Marwin Gonz├ílez - long a favourite of the Astros fans and front office - is the biggest winner from these trades - both the guys on the depth chart challenging his super-utility position are gone.   Lowrie probably has a better bat than Gonz├ílez, Villar has a flashier glove and more speed, but the Astros have opted to stick with Marwin.  Interesting move.

But just because you have depth in one area of the diamond, it doesn't mean that you should sell for pennies in the dollar.  Neither Villar nor Lowrie brought back top-10 prospects from two relatively barren farm systems.  Both guys they brought back could be described as having high floors, but conversely also probably have low ceilings.  At least that is what is suggested by a quick analysis of their tools.  Neither prospect has anything in terms of name recognition.  I would classify both trades as strong from the perspectives of the Astros' trading partners, at least in the short term.  In both trades, the Astros have taken on considerably more risk.  The chances that Villar and Lowrie have been exchanged for nothing is higher than I would feel comfortable with if I were to make these trades.

There are a bunch of important aspects of the Lowrie trade that I may be ignoring, however.  Firstly, there is a salary angle to it all.  Lowrie is guaranteed $15MM for the next two years - $7.5MM in 2016 and $6.5MM in 2017, with either a $1MM buyout or a $6MM option for 2018.  That salary isn't crippling, but it is significant, and perhaps the Astros have another use for it, hence the need to free it up.  Secondly, the Astros free up a 40-man slot.  It is significant that neither prospect brought back in the Villar and Lowrie trades need to be added to the 40-man for another two years.  They will like that with the Rule 5 squeeze entering its second year.  Thirdly, it is possible that the Astros traded Lowrie out of respect - they weren't able to offer him much playing time, or any playing time they were going to offer was of the multiple-position variety, and perhaps Lowrie wasn't comfortable with either of those options.  So a conversation was had along the lines of where Jed may wish to live, and a deal was struck accordingly.  There are no indications in any of the articles that this was the case, but the Astros front office is famously tight-lipped, so I not sure we would get to hear if this was a consideration, anyhow.  There may be other aspects that I am missing, but for now, I feel a little puzzled about the returns, and I welcome learned input in the comments.

Later on, I will take a look at Cy Sneed and Brendan McCurry - there are some clear parallels between the two of them after all - but for now, this is all about the Astros trading two of my favourite switch-hitting middle-infielders.  These were both guys that I saw a role for in the future.  Both of these trades seem curious and risky, and both have involved trading legit big league talent away.  Both of these trades could turn to custard by the end of the season, too.  But both could be considered small- to moderate-wins by the end of 2018.

I hope Jeff Luhnow knows what he is doing.  Time, as always, will tell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Updated 40-Man roster

So here's something we'll trot out every time it's necessary: the updated 40-Man roster.

Updated: November 25
*Added In Advance of Rule 5 Draft

Total: 39

Pitchers (18)

Kevin Chapman
Luis Cruz
Michael Feliz
Josh Fields
Mike F. Fiers
Luke Gregerson
Jandel Gustave*
Will Harris
Scott Kazmir
Dallas Keuchel
Lance McCullers
Collin McHugh
Juan Minaya*
Joe Musgrove*
Pat Neshek
Brett Oberholtzer
David Paulino*
Oliver Perez
Chad Qualls
Tony Sipp
Dan Straily
Joe Thatcher
Vince Velasquez
Asher Wojciechoswki

Catchers (4)

Jason Castro
Hank Conger
Alfredo Gonzalez*
Max Stassi

Infielders (9)

Jose Altuve
Chris Carter
Carlos Correa
Matt Duffy
Nolan Fontana*
Evan Gattis
Marwin Gonzalez
Jed Lowrie
Jon Singleton
Luis Valbuena
Jonathan Villar

Outfielders (6)

Andrew Aplin*
Carlos Gomez
Robbie Grossman
L.J. Hoes
Jake Marisnick
Colby Rasmus
George Springer
Preston Tucker

60-Day DL (2)

Sam Deduno
Scott Feldman
Brad Peacock

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What would it take to acquire Aroldis Chapman?

I'm not going to beat around the bush here - the Astros need a closer. You know it, I know it, and so do the Astros.

While the Astros made huge strides in 2015 with a bullpen that ranked near the top of the league in overall season performance, it was the September/October lull that ultimately killed their season far too early.

Luke Gregerson, bless him and his horseshoe, battled valiantly all season, compiling good all-around numbers (7-3, 3.10 ERA, 31 saves) and establishing career-lows in bad things like walks (10) and advanced figures like WHIP (0.95).

Underneath those sterling numbers, however, is a very hittable late-inning reliever that can't just get you out on stuff. That's the keystone to any successful reliever, long-term. When a batter takes you through a 3-2 count, fouling off pitch after pitch, making the at-bat seem more like a life experience, you need to be able to reach back and deliver filth you wouldn't feel comfortable letting your mom see in order to push things along.

The Astros bullpen, successful as it was over the long haul, did not have one "stuff" guy to their name. So yeah, while building a decent to great bullpen can be a fairly quick and inexpensive endeavor, that "stuff" guy is someone you should definitely consider splurging on.

While the July and August trade winds came up empty in that department, with fatal consequences, the Hot Stove season seems ripe with opportunity to make up for that mid-season faux pas.

Enter: Aroldis Chapman

The Reds are holding a fairly expensive yard sale this winter, and everything not nailed down by a no-trade clause MUST. GO.

Chapman is the crown jewel of the Cincinnati Outlet Mall and thus comes at a high price. Prior to acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres earlier this month, the Red Sox were engaged in Chapman talks.

The Reds were reportedly asking for more than what the Red Sox eventually gave up for Kimbrel in spite of the fact that Kimbrel is under contract for another five seasons while Chapman is a free agent after 2016. Industry insiders widely believe the Red Sox paid too much for Kimbrel.

So the price is high. For now.

Looking at the reported asking price, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark just eight days ago, the Reds want "young talent that is Major-League-ready in trades for either (Todd) Frazier or closer Aroldis Chapman."

Other reports have the Reds asking for 3-4 of those kinds of pieces.

There is no better match for a trade - on paper - than the Astros. But, of course, the real talking point is - what would the Astros be willing to give up for, conceivably, one season of Aroldis Chapman plus a possible compensation pick if/when Chapman bolts after 2016?

The Astros could satisfy a number of Cincy's requirements without tearing down the bulk of their industry-leading farm system. Let's toss a couple packages around to see how they feel.

Astros trade:
- 1B Jon Singleton
- 3B Matt Duffy
- 2B Tony Kemp
- RHP Chris Devenski

Reds trade:
- Aroldis Chapman

Interesting and familiar names here. Singleton would be a sad departure, at least for me, because hopes were so high back in 2012 when he was rising through the system as the organization's top prospect and projected replacement for Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. Singleton's struggles at the big league level have been a disappointment, but it's still too early to condemn him to a life of Brett Wallace.

Signed to a then-controversial, team-friendly five-year deal worth $10 million in 2014, Singleton has slashed a .171/.290/.331 line with 14 homers and 50 RBI. His strikeout numbers are atrocious and his defense is... meh. It won't harm you, but it won't save anything extra either.

On the plus side, Singleton has yet to receive a full 162 games of big league at-bats and is going to be entering his age 24 season with plenty of upside, especially to teams who may believe the Astros have misused him.

Singleton started the season in Triple-A Fresno and lit the world on fire at one point in May, going full-on Barry Bonds on just about every pitch he saw. But once he received a call-up to Houston in June and began the back-and-forth between playing/not playing/back to Fresno/back to Houston, his season took a left turn to nowhere and that's pretty much where he ended up.

Still something there, but his value diminishes each year he falls out of favor in Houston.

Devenski is another interesting name in that he's fairly high regarded prospect in the Houston system, ranked number 18 overall by, but was recently left unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft that he's surely to be snatched up in.

After a wildly successful season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Devenski joined Triple-A Fresno in time for the postseason and pitched a beauty in the Triple-A National Championship Game, flirting with a perfect game through six innings, ultimately settling for a one-hit shutout in his first-ever game at the highest level of the minors.

As the Astros prepare for the Winter Meetings, losing another highly-regarded prospect for nothing in the Rule 5 would be painful to take. Of course, if the Astros trade him before the Winter Meetings, that would at least lessen the blow of losing him. It wouldn't be for nothing.

Kemp is a high-end prospect for the Astros who has risen quickly through the system despite his size (sound familiar?). He's completely blocked in Houston, so a trade makes complete sense. With the Reds looking to deal away long-time two-bagger Brandon Phillips, Kemp would be a key piece in replacing him.

Duffy, the 2015 PCL MVP, is yet another sleeper prospect who came out of seemingly nowhere to achieve "second-best Matt Duffy in baseball" status. His cup of coffee in Houston not withstanding, Duffy is 26 years old and is either going to make it or break it. He's too old to be a prospect, but he could be a serviceable piece for a bit while the Reds look into Todd Frazier deals and replacements for him.

Every one of these players is very close to or is Major League ready. While it isn't a package surrounding someone like Lance McCullers, like what the Yankees are rumored to want in exchange for Andrew Miller, it's a more than fair compensation package for a player in his final season.

Astros trade:
- 2B Tony Kemp
- RHP Chris Devenski
- 1B Jon Singleton
- RHP Michael Feliz
- RHP Akeem Bostick

Reds trade:
- LHP Aroldis Chapman
- RHP Nick Howard

Feliz and Bostick round out an impressive package that takes away two of Houston's three most major league-ready arms, as well as a highly projectable Bostick.

If any of these two deals, or close variations of them, occur, it should be considered a win for both sides. The Reds get a great jump start to their rebuilding by acquiring arms, projects and prospects, and the Astros get the flamethrower they so desperately need.

The Reds would like to wrap up the Chapman part of their off-season prior to the Winter Meetings, which start in just under two weeks.

Let's see what happens.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Morning Hot Links

*Put in your time-off request now: the Astros and Yankees will play on ESPN at 12:05pm Central on Monday, April 4.

*Jeff Luhnow said that he talked to 12 teams yesterday.

*Dallas Keuchel finished 5th in the BBWAA AL MVP voting. Altuve finished 10th, while Correa got one 8th-place vote.

*Keuchel thanked Brent Strom and Craig Bjornson for refining his game.

*The Masked Marvel wrote up a sweeter farewell to Jonathan Villar than I did.

*The Astros learned a lesson with last year's Rule 5 draft - losing DeShields and Rollins - and are hoping to avoid a repeat. (As a reminder: here's What The Heck Bobby's 2015 Rule 5 primer).

*File this under Well Of Course, but the Astros have checked in on Phillies reliever Ken Giles. Giles came to Philly from Dallas in the Hole Camels trade. Basically, if the guy looks decent in the 6th-9th innings, the Astros will have checked in on him.

In between award ceremonies, the Astros get some work done

We interrupt the regularly scheduled Exit Music (For A Music) series to quickly acknowledge the flurry of transactions that occurred earlier today.  The Constable has beaten me to the punch, but I was wanting to write some thoughts about Jonathan Villar regardless, so I thought that I would plough on.  I didn't expect the ol' Constable to post anything today, because I thought he would still be dancing in joy about Jonathan Villar joining another organisation.  He has, after all, made his feelings about Villar known over the last few years, most recently dusting off the face-butt-plant image on June 8, right before Carlos Correa made his ML debut.

I feel differently about Villar to most people, however.  I always pulled for him to succeed, because I really enjoyed watching him play.  I was able to keep the memories of the freaky-good defensive plays that he made, and I managed to erase the memories of the muffed routine plays that he tended to blow.  He had periods at the plate when he looked like he was locked in, and in those periods, if you squinted, you could see 15 or 20 home-run power, an OBP of .330-.340, and 40-odd steals in a year.  All that from a young, controllable, switch-hitting shortstop who had some serious athletic potential in the field.

The miscues always seemed to come at the wrong time.  That awful play when he fell over Jose Reyes who was standing on second base - right before Correa's call up - was brutally unlucky, I thought.  Perhaps a superior defender would have found a way to make that play, but Villar muffed it, and the Astros lost the game a couple of pitches later.  But the good bits always seemed to be pretty good, too.  For a period of time in September, and when it seemed like the rest of the Astros offence was struggling, Villar had a hot run at the plate, managing a couple of big hits in key situations.  He contributed a solid .284/.339/.414 line in the Bigs in his 128 plate appearances this year, but his .381/.435/.619 line in 23 September and October plate appearances got me thinking that he might have a future with the Astros.  I get that he was trade bait, but I wondered whether the Astros might look to trade one of their other utility guys, and keep Villar for 2016.

Even the manner in which he was traded was a little disappointing.  I always thought that Villar would be winging his way to San Deigo, with perhaps Luis Valbuena and Mark Appel in exchange for Tyson Ross or something.  Or perhaps he would allow the Braves to trade Erik Aybar in a larger exchange for Freddie Freeman, again with a platoon of other minor leaguers.   I guess I expected more than a #26-rated Brewers prospect, a low velocity guy who "has fringe-average stuff" for example.  It's not that Cy Sneed is nothing (although he does sound like an olde-timey golfey-baseballing guy), but I personally valued Villar a little higher than the initially perceived return.

(As an aside, Cy Sneed has some serious major-league facial hair - the kind the Astros lost when they traded Daniel Mengden to the A's - and Sneed also had a serious breakout season across two A-ball levels in 2015.  So I absolutely accept that I am not in a position to judge the return, I just thought that if Villar was going to bring someone back, it would be more of a headlining trade that he would be involved in.)

And so there is the problem.  My perception of Jonathan Villar is distorted, as perceptions tend to be.  We are all human, after all, and we all have trouble putting biases to one side, and being objective.  To me, Villar also represented the Astros' rebuild - a toolsy player that could be given a chance to stake his ML claim - with a bit of underdog sprinkled in.  And I love me some underdog.

Anyhow, every fan has funny little biases and weird misperceptions that lead to player favouritism.  If you had a thing for Robbie Grossman, then this would have been an even worse day for you.  I kind of liked the idea of Luis Cruz as well, and I wondered whether he would be the lefty out of the 'pen next year.  Who wouldn't root for an undersized strikeout guy (although he wasn't much of a strikeout guy above AA) who didn't appear on many prospect lists??  But all three of these now ex-Stros have been removed from the 40-man, making way for the next group of prospects for us biased fans to salivate over, and form distorted biases and beliefs about.

Villar's departure may sting a little if he suddenly finds a way to minimise the silly mistakes, and consistently put together good at-bats.  Joining David Stearns and most of the rest of the Astros' boom-or-bust prospects in Milwaukee is probably not the worst career move, either.  But this has merely been a long-winded way of saying that I will miss him (or more accurately, his potential) even if most Astros fans don't.

Or as the Constable would say... good night, sweet prince.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Astros make moves, clear 40-Man space

So the Astros did a few things today. Let's see what Those Things are...

*Released Robbie Grossman. Grossman was acquired in the Wandy trade on July 24, 2012 with Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens coming over from Pittsburgh. Grossman, who rejected (or his agent rejected, or it fell apart, or whatever) a contract extension reportedly for 6yrs/$13.5m back in March 2014, never could put it together for the Astros. After a somewhat promising 2013 season in which he hit .268/.332/.770, Grossman got 422 plate appearances in 2014, hitting .233/.337/.333, with 105K:55BB. He got 54 plate appearances in 2015, hitting .143/.222/.245.

*Released Luis Cruz. Cruz, a 25-year old LHP, was the Astros' 9th Round pick in the 2008 draft. In eight minor-league seasons, Cruz had a 49-42 record with a 4.40 ERA/1.34 WHIP. He spent all of 2015 in Fresno, throwing 116IP, 119H/55ER, 93K:52BB.

*Traded Jonathan Villar to the Milwaukee Stearns for Cy Young Sneed. Ahhh, Jonathan Villar.  Acquired in the Philly/Roy Oswalt trade for Anthony Gose and J.A. Happ, Villar joined the team immediately, and...hit .243/.321/.319. Whatever, he was 22. He played in a career-high 87 games in 2014, getting 289 PAs and hitting .209/.267/.354. It was bad. Villar got pushed out after Carlos Correa was clearly The Truth, but he hit a respectable .284/.339/.414. It was surprising. So with no obvious place to play, the Astros moved him.

So who is this Cy Sneed? The 23-year old Sneed was the Brewers' 3rd Round pick in 2014 out of Dallas Baptist University. He's a big drink of water - 6'4" 185lbs - and had a pretty great 2015 season. In 139.1IP between the Midwest League and High-A, Sneed allowed 129H/40ER, with 122K:28BB. This is Good.

Basically, the Astros got a pitcher who performed very well in exchange for a player with no position and some bad memories, and cleared three spots off the 40-Man Roster (which now sits at 34) in advance of the Rule 5 draft and any potential 25-Man additions.

Further Cy Sneed reading:
Brew Crew Ball - June 2014

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*Dallas Keuchel became the first Astro to win the Cy Young award since Roger Clemens back in 2004 when he received 22 of 30 1st place votes - David Price received the other eight - from the BBWAA. Keuchel, Clemens, and Mike Scott are the only Astros pitchers to win the Cy Young.

*Clemens welcomed Keuchel to the Cy Young club

*Keuchel told his mother that he was going to win...a week before the season started.

*Collin McHugh received five votes and finished 8th.

*Here's a big something from Jeff Passan:
Three sources told Yahoo Sports that Freeman's name came up in conversations with the Houston Astros as part of a mega-trade that would've included more than five players. It went nowhere. 

...Man, it would be fun to know what those conversations were like.

*Holy crap, read about the Marlins clubhouse.

*With HOF voting time ongoing, we get to read extremely bad opinions.