Saturday, November 21, 2009

Greeneville Astros: Jose Cisnero

Jose Cisnero
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2008 season
Stats: 6'3", 185 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20

Splits!














SplitIPERA/WHIPK:BBBAA
Season55.23.56/1.1164:30.165
vs LHB264.15/0.9225:10.165
vs RHB29.23.03/1.2839:20.165
Home22.23.18/1.1027:12.167
Away333.82/1.1237:18.164
Bases Empty26.2x/1.3935:19.173
Runners On29x/0.8629:11.156
w/RISP18.1x/0.9821:9.155
June6.15.68/1.585:6.174
July213.43/1.0522:8.187
August28.13.18/1.0637:16.146


K/9 Rate: 10.3
BB/9 Rate: 4.9
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.20
K:BB Ratio: 2.13

Cisnero was the Gastros team leader among starters in IP, Ks, ERA and WHIP, and absolutely dominated opponents (just look at the BAA and the WHIP in July and August). Now in his second year in the Organization, Cisnero actually saw a rise in those key stats, but that he stayed close despite throwing in the States for the first time, and throwing 26.2IP more than 2008, and that he's 20 (turning 21 on April 11, 2010) is pretty exciting for Cisnero.

Greeneville Astros: Jeiler Castillo

Jeiler Castillo
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2006 season
Stats: 6'0", 155 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Splits!














SplitIPERA/WHIPK:BBBAA
Season33.25.61/1.7234:14.312
vs LHB13.16.75/1.886:5.351
vs RHB20.14.87/1.6228:9.286
Home22.25.96/1.9018:11.333
Away114.91/1.3616:3.267
Bases Empty17.1x/1.6718:8.292
Runners On16.1x/1.7816:6.333
w/RISP10.2x/2.0613:4.367
June63.00/1.339:1.292
July13.28.56/1.9814:6.344
August143.86/1.6411:7.286


K/9 Rate: 9.1
BB/9 Rate: 3.7
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.00
K:BB Ratio: 2.43

This is Castillo's fourth season in the Astros organization, with the first two in the Venezuelan Summer League, and the past two seasons in Greeneville. Castillo started 11 games for the VSL Astros, going 1-3 with a 2.69 ERA before shifting back to a reliever role in Greeneville. These numbers, on the surface, don't look great. Especially that rough July. But when you compare them to 2008, it gets better.

2008 K/9 Rate: 7.8
2008 BB.9 Rate: 9.1
2008 K:BB Ratio: 0.86

So the strikeouts are up, walks are down, and while his ERA dropped slightly from 5.66 to 5.61, his ERA dropped from 2.13 to 1.72. Not great, but improviement, and that's due to the 21 walks in 20.2IP improving to 14BB in 33.2IP.

Greeneville Astros: Garrett Bullock

Long-time Astros fan Garrett Bullock came out of Wake Forest as an undrafted free agent.

Garrett Bullock
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent
Stats: 6'3", 195 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23

Splits (Greeneville only):















SplitIPERA/WHIPK:BBBAA
Season19.13.26/1.7615:13.276
wGCL132.77/1.8511:9.294
wGRN6.14.26/1.584:4.240
vs LHB2.17.71/1.292:2.111
vs RHB10.21.69/1.979:7.333
Home2.26.75/2.631:4.250
Away10.11.74/1.6510:5.308
Bases Empty5x/2.806:6.333
Runners On8x/1.255:3.259
w/RISP5.1x/1.134:2.200
July0.227.00/6.000:1.750
August12.11.46/1.6211:8.255


(Season total)
K/9 Rate: 7.0
BB/9 Rate: 6.1
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.77
K:BB Ratio: 1.15

Bullock started out with the GCL, where he threw 6IP, and was brought up to Greeneville on July 30. We're talking about an incredibly small sample size, so when a reliever gets 13 innings at one level, and then gives up 2ER in 0.2IP - his first game in Greeneville, it's going to screw some things up. So luckily, since he played 10 games for Greeneville, we can see the game-by-game breakdown. In his 10 Greeneville games, Bullock gave up earned runs in two of them, he had 3+ out appearances in seven of the ten, and didn't give up an earned run in any of them (because, well, if you give up earned runs as a reliever, you're not going to be sticking around). He had two perfect outings in those ten games, so the walks are obviously going to need to come down.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Heyman on Top 50 Free Agents

SI's Jon Heyman's new column deals with notes on the Top 50 Free Agents, and the Astros have a couple in there:

Miggs:
Nice year in Houston (.313, 86 RBIs) should draw interest. Philly, Texas and possibly the Giants all make some sense.

Valverde:
Terrific stuff makes him the cream of a very good crop of relievers. Likely to get a three-year deal from someone.

Would you give a three-year deal to Valverde?

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America released the Top 10 Astros prospects today, and they take their shots at the Astros (and are completely justified):

At the July 31 trading deadline, the Astros had a .500 record and ranked sixth in the National League wild-card race. Despite having the oldest roster in baseball and a run differential that suggested the team was due for regression, Houston stood pat rather than seizing an opportunity to trade big leaguers and rebuild a farm system that ranked dead last entering 2009.

The Astros tanked afterward, finishing 74-88 to drop to 17 games under .500 since they played in the 2005 World Series. Despite the eighth-highest Opening Day payroll ($103 million), Houston ranked 27th in baseball in scoring and 23rd in runs allowed.


The Crawfish Boxes have a good take that it was the easiest thing in the world to just trade a bunch of guys on July 31:

(Writer Ben Badler) makes it sound like the Astros had an easy fix this year at the trade deadline. Assuming the Astros do trade Valverde and Hawkins, do they really just steal away so many prospects that produces a night and day difference for the farm system's ranking? Maybe...but I don't think it's as dramatic as Balder tries to portray it.

Back to Badler:

Focusing on the big league club and neglecting their farm system, the Astros haven't acquired a significant prospect via trade in years. Instead, their strategy has been to sign veteran free agents (costing them draft picks as compensation) and to deal prospects for veterans. That philosophy proved painful last season when Ben Zobrist emerged as one of the game's better players, three years after Houston sent him to the Rays in a deal for Aubrey Huff. Zobrist wasn't highly regarded at the time but has proven a costly loss.

Okay, okay. Let's McGwire this, and not talk about the past:

Bobby Heck's first draft as scouting director in 2008 has yielded two promising prospects, catcher Jason Castro and righthander Jordan Lyles. Neither was a consensus choice at their draft slots, but Houston has seen rewards from going against the industry grain...

...Houston's 2009 first-rounder, shortstop Jiovanni Mier, also has exceeded expectations thus far.


Then there's some bad stuff, then this:

Where do the Astros go from here? Heck was a regional crosschecker for the Brewers when they built through the draft and jumped from No. 30 to No. 1 in BA's talent rankings from 2001 to 2004. Houston will have a prime opportunity to add to its system with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, its highest selection since taking Phil Nevin No. 1 overall in 1992.

Dealing their big leaguers for youngsters could accelerate an Astros turnaround as well. But under owner Drayton McLane, the team has shied away from committing to rebuilding.


It hasn't occurred to me until reading this, but rebuilding would get the Astros into contention faster than just hoping that Mike Hampton-esque players can recapture one last season of magic. There's little chance that this crop of Astros can get to the playoffs before 2013, so why not chuck it in, shed some payroll, and get the farm team stocked.

Anyhow, let's get to the Top 10, ranked by Baseball America:
1. Jason Castro, c
2. Jiovanni Mier, ss
3. Jordan Lyles, rhp
4. Sammy Gervacio, rhp
5. Chia-Jen Lo, rhp
6. Ross Seaton, rhp
7. Tanner Bushue, rhp
8. Jay Austin, of
9. Jon Gaston, of
10. T.J. Steele, of

Best Hitter for Average: Jason Castro
Best Power Hitter: Jon Gaston
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: J.B. Shuck
Fastest Baserunner: Jay Austin
Best Athlete: Jay Austin
Best Fastball: Arcenio Leon
Best Curveball: Ashton Mowdy
Best Slider: Sammy Gervacio
Best Changeup: Jordan Lyles
Best Control: Fernando Abad
Best Defensive Catcher: Jason Castro
Best Defensive Infielder: Jiovanni Mier
Best Infield Arm: Jiovanni Mier
Best Defensive Outfielder: T.J. Steele
Best Outfield Arm: Yordany Ramirez


Que interesante! I'm surprised by the absence of Locke and Clemens. you?

Astros sign Jose Valdez + Roster Moves

Playing catch up this afternoon, and first up is word that the Astros have signed free agent pitcher Jose Valdez, and added him to the club's 40-man Roster.

Valdez comes from the Yankees organization, where he spent time in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Stats, you ask?

Valdez will be 27 on April 1, 2010, and spent the last seven seasons within the Yankees' farm teams. From 2002-2004 he advanced from the NY-Penn League to the Florida State League, and then missed the 2005 season. Coming back in 2006, he advanced from Rookie ball to appearing in nine games with the Triple-A club. He came back after 2005 as a reliever.

Season line:
Trenton (Double-A): 34 games, 10 saves, 38.1IP, 32H/13ER, 3.05 ERA/1.44 WHIP. 42K:23BB. 9.9 K/9 rate, 1.83 K:BB ratio.
SWB (Triple-A): 9 games, 19.1IP, 23H/9ER, 4.19ERA/1.71 WHIP. 18K:10BB. 8.4 K/9 rate, 1.80 K:BB ratio.

We also learn within the linked article that the Astros have purchased the contracts of Evan Englebrook, Matt Nevarez, and Henry Villar, adding them to the 40-man roster, as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Astros have an offer in to LaHawk

I totally missed this when we talked about McTaggart's article this morning (so, captip to Ben Nicholson-Smith, but the Astros already have an offer on the table to LaHawk.

Back on October 3 I predicted around a $5 million contract for LaHawk. We shall see.

Greeneville Astros: Joan Belliard

Reliever Joan Belliard starts off the look at the pitchers of the Greeneville Astros...

Joan Belliard
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 6'2", 185 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21

Splits!














SplitIPERA/WHIPK:BBBAA
Season43.23.71/1.2438:14.240
vs LHB163.38/1.4411:4.292
vs RHB27.23.90/1.1227:10.206
Home21.15.06/1.5522:9.276
Away22.12.42/0.9416:5.200
Bases Empty18.1x/1.4717:11.216
Runners On25.1x/1.0721:3.258
w/RISP17.1x/0.8117:3.186
June4.21.93/1.504:2.278
July17.13.63/1.1510:6.219
August21.24.15/1.2724:6.247


K/9 Rate: 7.8
BB/9 Rate: 2.9
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.79
K:BB Ratio: 2.71

Lots of encouraging things about Belliard to note. This is his third season in the Astros' organization, and his second season in a full-time reliever role (meaning he only pitched in nine games in the Dominican Summer League in 2007). His IPs went from 35.2IP in 08 to 43.2IP in 09, so a nice easy increase over last year. Last year his strikeouts were up (8.1 per 9), and his K:BB ratio was an impressive 4.57:1. That said, I can handle that kind of WHIP across his splits. Lefties hit him pretty well, but he gets RHBs to ground out much more often (2.29:1 as opposed to 1.25:1 for LHBs). And seeing his WHIP drop as he gets into more precarious situations is encouraging.

Greeneville Astros: Bubby Williams

Completing our look at the hitters of the Greeneville Astros is catcher Bubby Williams.

David "Bubby" Williams
How did he get here?: Drafted in 11th round (2009)
Stats: 6'0", 190 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21

Season line: 39 games, 138 PAs, 26x129 - .202/.239/.341, 42K:4BB, 9XBH-16RBI

Splits:
vs. LHP (22ABs): .364/.440/.500, 8K:1BB, 1XBH-4RBI
vs. RHP (107ABs): .168/.195/.308, 34K:3BB, 8XBH-12RBI

Home (61ABs): .148/.161/.279, 26K:0BB, 4XBH-7RBI
Away (68ABs): .250/.303/.397, 16K:4BB, 5XBH-9RBI

Bases Empty (71ABs): .183/.227/.310, 23K:2BB, 4XBH-2RBI
Runners on (58ABs): .224/.254/.379, 19K:2BB, 5XBH-14RBI
w/RISP (37ABs): .135/.150/.189, 14K:1BB, 2XBH-9RBI

June (13ABs): .231/.333/.308, 3K:1BB, 1XBH-4RBI
July (54ABs): .222/.254/.333, 15K:1BB, 3XBH-6RBI
August (59ABs): .153/.180/.271, 24K:2BB, 3XBH-4RBI
September (3ABs): .667/.667/2.000, 0K:0BB, 2XBH-2RBI

Season Total
K/PA rate: 30.4%
XBH/H rate: 34.6%
K:BB ratio: 10.5

Williams made seven errors and allowed eight passed balls in 279 chances (38 games) behind the plate. 42 bases were stolen off of him, and he caught 16 runners for a 28% CS rate.

That was a pretty bad August that Williams endured. He got almost as many extra-base hits in one September game than he did in the whole month of August. Obviously the strikeout percentage and K:BB ratio is going to have to come down.

Citizen Steve, what say you of Bubby Williams?
Intense fellow. Loves baseball, but was overmatched at the plate. He's a positive influence on pitchers, but projected to repeat at Greeneville or head to Tri-City.

Lessons Not Learned: Exhibit W

McTaggart tells us a lot of things we already know, or had generally figured out from context clues about the Astros and free agency.

-They won't be signing John Lackey
-Payroll is going down
-They want to bring back LaHawk, Valverde, and Tejada
-If they can find someone to play third base, they'll do it

However, some lessons may not be learned:
And don't be surprised to see Houston take a flier on a veteran starting pitcher willing to come to camp on a Minor League contract and compete for a spot in the rotation.

Wade:
"We've made contact with the agents for a lot of players. We do have a desire to see if there's a way to retain several of the guys who were with us a year ago. We'll continue to explore the market. The goal during the offseason is try to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity to get better.

"Free agency presents certain opportunities, and we have to see who the right fits are from the standpoint of talent, from the standpoint of salary and from the standpoint of length of contract. We'll be aggressive in our pursuit, whether we're out there making a lot of offers remains to be seen."


God help me, if the Astros sign Shane Reynolds or Bert Blyleven, that's it, I'm out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greeneville Astros: Ben Orloff

Rough year for draftee Ben Orloff, who started the year in Tri-City, and on August 12 was sent to Greeneville.

Ben Orloff
How did he get here?: Drafted in 9th round (2009)
Stats: 5'11", 170 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Season line:
Tri-City: 28 games, 70 PAs, 9x60 - .150/.235/.167, 9K:5BB, 1XBH-8RBI
Greeneville: 11 games, 45 PAs, 7x37 - .189/.273/.243, 2K:3BB, 2XBH-5RBI

Splits (for Greeneville only. Which is real helpful.):
vs. LHP (8ABs): .222/.222/.250, 0K:0BB, 0XBH-3RBI
vs. RHP (29ABs): .172/.286/.241, 2K:3BB, 2XBH-2RBI

Home (22ABs): .182/.296/.273, 1K:2BB, 2XBH-3RBI
Away (15ABs): .200/.235/.200, 1K:1BB, 0XBH-2RBI

Bases Empty (24ABs): .208/.321/.292, 2K:2BB, 2XBH-0RBI
Runners on (13ABs): .154/.188/.154, 0K:1BB, 0XBH-5RBI
w/RISP (8ABs): .250/.200/.250, 0K:0BB, 0XBH-5RBI

August (37ABs): .189/.273/.243, 2K:3BB, 2XBH-5RBI

Season Total
K/PA rate: 11.3%
XBH/H rate: 18.8%
K:BB ratio: 1.38

Orloff spent 22 of his 26 games in the field at 2B, where he posted a .959 Fld% (3 errors in 74 chances).

I'm guessing this wasn't the start that Orloff had in mind. That said, he doesn't strikeout much, so the contact ought to improve as he adjusts to pro-ball. He didn't strikeout at UC-Irvine either (67Ks in 877ABs - or 7.6%, because the math is free), and he didn't hit below .324 in his sophomore through senior seasons. So don't fret over the .446 OPS. Unless it happens again, and then we can fret.

Greeneville Astros: Carlos Mojica

Carlos Mojica
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2006 season
Stats: 6'0", 190 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21

Season line: 27 games, 84 PAs. 21x77 - .273/.321/.364 - 5XBH-8RBI. 22K:3BB

Splits:
vs. LHP (19ABs): .368/.400/.421, 7K:1BB, 1XBH-2RBI
vs. RHP (58ABs): .241/.297/.345, 15K:2BB, 4XBH-6RBI

Home (46ABs): .283/.340/.370, 17K:3BB, 2XBH-5RBI
Away (31ABs): .258/.294/.355, 5K:0BB, 3XBH-3RBI

Bases Empty (37ABs): .297/.366/.459, 11K:2BB, 4XBH-1RBI
Runners on (40ABs): .250/.279/.275, 11K:1BB, 1XBH-7RBI
w/RISP (28ABs): .214/.258/.250, 8K:1BB, 1XBH-7RBI

June (7ABs): .286/.375/.429, 3K:1BB, 1XBH-1RBI
July (21ABs): .286/.333/.381, 7K:0BB, 2XBH-1RBI
August (49ABs): .265/.308/.347, 12K:2BB, 2XBH-6RBI

Season Total
K/PA rate: 26.1%
XBH/H rate: 23.8%
K:BB ratio: 7.33

Mojica spent 24 games at catcher, committing three errors in 183 chances for a .984 Fld%. Encouragingly, Mojica threw out 16 of 37 baserunners, for a 43% CS rate. Discouragingly, Mojica also allowed 10 passed balls.

He is the only player in the Astros organization whose name sounds like a Rage Against the Machine lyric (Think "People of the Sun"), but this was Mojica's second year in Greeneville, and his OPS dropped from .690 to .685 from 08 to 09, posting a line of .302/.388/.302 in 16 games in 08.

Citizen Steve, what say you on Carlos Mojica?
He was mostly a bullpen catcher prior to Alvarez getting hurt. Roster filler.

On Wright's conversion to SP5

Brian McTaggart has taken notice of Wesley Wright's stats down in the Dominican Winter League (despite Sides' bubble-poppin' note that he ought to be striking out minor leaguers.)

Wright:
"My goal is to get stretched out and see how good I can be in that role, but I have no preconceived expectations."

Wade, on Wright:
"All the reports we've gotten have been very solid. A couple of our pro scouts were down there and had a chance to see him firsthand, and the reports have been very solid on him. [Assistant general manager] David Gottfried had a conversation with Wesley in the last couple of days, and Wesley is feeling really good about the way things have gone for him down there. We're going to give him every opportunity to try to win a job as a starter next year and see where it takes us...

..."We had some internal conversations about him late in the season, and then we approached Wesley. I had a conversation with him and Wes told me as an amateur he was a starting pitcher and he got into the Dodgers organization and they had a lot of high Draft picks that were starters and he ended up in the bullpen. He said he welcomed an opportunity to do this. I arranged a slot for him in winter ball, and he went down the instructional league to get his arm ready to go. And so far the results have been very solid down there. I think it's a clear indication that when a player is willing to go to winter ball and work on his craft, good things can happen."


Hey, so I think Cecil Cooper should get some credit on this. After all, he's the one that had him throw 328 pitches at Wrigley Field. Hey, maybe when Wright was in the hospital, Drayton had the doctors implant something in his brain...

The Crawfish Boxes want to hear about a plan, and dadgummit, so do I

Excellent post this morning over at The Crawfish Boxes referring to Brian McTaggart's interview with Ed Wade regarding the holes in the Astros (Astr-oles?)

...I can't discern a single line of thought from McTaggart's interview that would indicate there's any kind of plan for the Astros. I don't need a blueprint, but at least some sort of trajectory, and if not a trajectory, and least and indication that our front office is in fact in touch with reality...

...So our main objective for 2010 is to bring back a SS to play 3B at age 35 or 34 (honestly, I'll never get Miggy's age right). And then sign a closer-esque reliever. After that, the goal, ostensibly will be to plug the roster with in house pieces for the league minimum and hope that of Bud Norris, Feliepe Paulino, Yorman Bazardo, and Wesley Wright at least two can perform at or around league average for the course of the season. But wait, we apparently also have a void our outfield. This one was news to me. Of our current corps of minor leaguers, I think the only "stenghth" we might have is in the outfield. Am I wrong?

...The services of two veteran bench warmers who happened to play outfield at some point in their career is really worth a likely $2-3 million in their two contracts? Yordanny Ramirez, Reggie Abercrombie, Brian Bogusevic (just to name our AAA OFers, but not to slight the Gaston's and Locke's of the world) couldn't slot in their spots for less than $1 million? Interesting.


This is absolutely correct. So correct, in fact, I'm ashamed that my righteous indignation didn't bubble up sooner. There's no reason to spend $2-3mil on Erstad and Michaels for a year when we can get Reggie Abercrombie and Ramirez/Bogusevic to play for $900K total. They simply cannot be worse than 09 Erstad and Michaels were, except for a hitting spree Michaels put on from August 5-9 (6x13, .462/.500/1.077).

And it's at the point in the article that I started over, re-read and realized that Wade is literally just slapping duct-tape on this team and hoping it all holds. But with what purpose? I don't know. If Drayton's taking a hard line on the payroll because he doesn't want to lose money this year, why not just hold everyone we have in place? Offer arbitration to our FAs, and then whoever rejects it, take the picks and fill the slots with in house players at league minimum? If everyone rejects arbitration, we have a payroll of $80 million on opening day and we get finally see what are farm system actually has in it, and that seems more entertaining than the Ed Wade duct-tape ball that's being rolled right now. Hell, just throw some money at Hawkins and have someone we trust to close baseball games and still save Drayton a sizable chunk of change to invest in the 2010 draft.

Wade doesn't seem to be trying to make the roster better, he seems like he's trying to plug leaks on a sinking ship—but will still end up taking on water. And I have myself back to, what is the Astros objective for 2010 and beyond? Does anybody see it?

None of this is to say that I don't think the Astros can compete as assembled, or attempted to be assembled, in 2010, but my concern is that is there are plans for 2011, 2012, and beyond? Or is it going to just be duct-tape and prayers for the foreseeable future?


I literally could not have said it better myself. A few days ago, we discussed how the Astros have too much payroll committed to blow it up. But that does not mean that Ed Wade should just screw around until we're done paying Carlos Lee. I am encouraged by the new-found aggression in promoting prospects, but that's not a license to mail it in on the Major League level.

All that's to say, I'm afraid that what we will see is the latter of DyingQuail's questions - duct-tape and prayers for the foreseeable future.

Jason Grey on C-Lo

ESPN.com's Jason Grey takes a look at the pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. The only Astro pitcher "worth watching" was Chia-Jen Lo:

He'll hit 93-94 mph with his fastball, and has a solid cutter to go with a curve and change. He's a definite big league reliever, but I don't see him as a late-inning guy.

USA Today puts Valverde in Detroit

USA Today's Paul White breaks down where he thinks ten big-name free agents will end up.

Jose Valverde?
More closers are on the market than teams willing to commit significant money for one. That gives the Houston Astros a shot at keeping him. In the end, a contender takes the plunge. USA TODAY says: Detroit Tigers

Astros continue to build AL East team

The Astros have hired former Blue Jays Director of Player Development Dick Scott to replace Al Pedrique's old position of Minor League Field Coordinator.

Ricky Bennett (who is actually referred to as "Rick" Bennett in this article):
"Over the past few years, Dick and I have worked together on different committees and always seemed to view player development in the same light. With Dick's experience as a player and manager in the minor leagues, he'll be a huge asset to our staff as we continue to teach our players how to play the game the right way."

Astros NOT interested in Smoltz.

So suck it, Rosenthal. Hours after Fox Sports added Houston to a list of teams interested in John Smoltz, McTaggart sets the record straight:

Smoltz was said to have drawn interest of several teams according to a report by Foxsports.com, a list that included the Astros. And while the Astros have kicked around dozens of names from the list of free agents who have filed, sources indicate their interest in Smoltz just isn't there.

If Valverde leaves, the Astros will need a closer, but it ain't gonna be Smoltz.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sporting News puts their money on Valverde's return to Houston

The Sporting News published their free agent predictions. Jose Valverde?

After resurrecting his career a few seasons ago in Arizona, Valverde has been rock solid as the Astros' closer for the last two-years. I think the two sides find a way to keep him in Houston.

Wade, on the holes in the lineup...and the rotation

Expanding on the blog post earlier, Brian McTaggart has a full-length article addressing the holes in the Astros' lineup and rotation:

On the extra outfielder situation:
"From the standpoint of position players with both Jason Michaels and Darin Erstad being free agents, our extra-outfield situation at this point is an issue. I'm not saying we wouldn't bring both guys back, but both are free agents, and we have to recognize we have a void now."

What about adding a pitcher, despite really having only one spot open for Paulino, Wilton Lopez, and the newly-converted SP Wesley Wright?
"But at the same time, if we have an opportunity to make a deal that brings us a starting pitcher [it will be considered]. But everybody is looking to add starting pitching."

Oh, and what about catcher?
"I thought J.R. caught better for us at the end of the season last year. Q has established himself at the very least as a solid backup catcher at the big league level, so we have two guys we like. Whether we add onto that or not remains to be seen. Castro we think at some point in time will be here, whether it's April or some point beyond. I certainly don't see us going out and adding a front-line starting catcher. We do believe with J.R. and Q already here and Castro on the horizon that we've got coverage there. Our resources are better used in other areas to try to improve."

Greg Rajan's take on Pujols' dismissal

Greg Rajan, friend of Astros County, and Hooks' beat writer for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, had this to say for AC on the dismissal of Hooks manager Luis Pujols:

I'm really not surprised by the news. In Double-A, managers really don't stick around for longer than two or three years, as organizations move guys around, some more than others. Having Dave Clark here for three seasons was atypical, and Pujols' two years falls in line with most tenures. I think Pujols was ripped unfairly at times, because when it's all said and done, a manager is really only as good as the players you give him. The 2008-09 Hooks just did not have that much of a talent base in comparison to other teams in the Texas League.

To me, the biggest thing about Wes Clements' hiring is it shows that the core of Corpus Christi's 2010 team will be from Lancaster. Given the aggressive player-development approach Ed Wade promised when he took over, the move makes sense. Clements is familiar with these players and his presence should make their transition from high-A easier.

Door's open for Tejada

McTaggart is reporting that Ed Wade hasn't closed the door on bringing Tejada back.

"Everybody is aware Miggy is a free agent and that's 199 hits and a guy who did a really super job for us and a two-time All-Star [with the Astros]. We're not prepared to close any doors with Miggy."

We'll see how serious Miggs is about wanting to return to Houston when the Astros inevitably lowball him.

Clements, on Corpus.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times has some reaction from new Hooks manager Wes Clements on his new appointment at Corpus.

"I’m really thrilled about the staff. It should be fun and I hear nothing but great things about the ballpark and everybody in Corpus. And I hear there’s good golf."

What does he think about the Astros' much-maligned farm system?

"I don’t look at things as what we don’t have. I look at what we do have and always look at the positive of the scenario rather than the negative. I think that’s just for other people’s interpretation outside the organization to come up with a label or characterization for our organization. I care about the players and hopefully they see that — I believe they do. I want the game played correctly, from fundamentals all the way through, and I want the game respected. You won’t see any of our hitters hitting home run and (showboating). You won’t see them flipping bats. You’ll seem them running around the bases. Respect the game, respect the opponents and appreciate the fans."

The presence of Jon Gaston and Koby Clemens, among others, contributed to Clements' promotion, says Ricky Bennett:
"I think that’s a big part of the thought process behind giving Wes the opportunity. Obviously, he has a relationship from last year and they can go into the 2010 season with a comfort level in knowing what Wes brings as a manager and use that to their advantage as they get a chance to get adjusted at the Double-A level. He’s a gamer and I think he’s going to bring a lot to our organization."

Oh, but what about Luis Pujols? He won't be back in any capacity with the Astros organization:
"I’ve known Luis in my time here and also in Detroit and anytime you have to make a coaching change, they’re all difficult. But we had to look out for the best interests of the organization."

Pujols is currently the bench coach for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

Bray Day - Episode 9

Aaron Bray was the 27th round draft pick for the Astros in last June's amateur draft. He was also the winner of the Astros County Adopt-a-Player contest. Each week, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Check the sidebar for archives.

Hello Astros fans, hope all is well!!!
This wek has been hectic, the semester is coming to an end. So I have made many visits to the library to get some papers done. My working out has picked up more and I am excited for baseball to start.

Now to the question:
This week we took a look at your season splits. How often do you look at your stats during the season, and looking back at your season did any of these surprise you? What do you feel are your strengths that may not be reflected in the box score?

I will say that in hard times, such as slumps, I did not check my stats. Toward the end of the season when I was playing better I checked occasionally, but I was more worried about getting my work done. Because by putting in a good day's work, the results will come. Nothing really surprised me during the season. I knew I could compete and play well.

I would say a stat that is not kept in the box score is just having a good at bat, or playing good defense. Having a good at bat is a good thing. No one likes to strike out, but what if you have an at bat where you see 8-10 pitches? That's a good AB. Defense-wise it's being in the right spot at the right time - whether backing up or being the cutoff man. These are a couple things that are not shown in the stat book, but they help teams win.

Have a good week, Astros fans!

Got a question for Aaron Bray? Email astroscounty@hotmail.com

Winter Ball Stat Check

Let's check in on the Minor-leaguers to see how they're doing down south...














Name (ABs)BA/OBP/SLGXBH-RBIK:BB
Bogusevic (7).143/.333/.1430-01:0
Cabral (8).125/.125/.1250-20:0
Florentino (4).250/.250/.2500-01:0
Gaston (79).228/.358/.4568-1835:15
Johnson (8).250/.333/.2500-03:1
Locke (68).265/.351/.4416-1115:9
Maysonet (3).333/.333/.3330-00:0
Ramirez (38).184/.205/.3163-27:1
Sutil (87).299/.340/.3686-74:5
Vallejo (64).266/.333/.3342-614:7
















NameIPERA/WHIPK:BB
Abad25.22.45/0.8618:5
Abreu4.12.08/1.385:2
Capellan173.71/1.534:10
Duran70.00/0.716:3
Englebrook11.13.97/1.3211:3
Gervacio44.50/1.502:3
Lopez19.13.72/1.1413:3
Meszaros10.25.06/1.0312:3
Quevedo3.15.40/1.502:0
Trinidad51.80/1.205:1
Wright261.73/1.1233:12


Look at Wesley Wright. Five starts, 17 hits, 12 walks. 5 earned runs. .187 Batting average against.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Of course the Astros are interested in Billy Wagner

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi are reporting (scroll down) that the Astros are among eight teams with interest in Billy Wagner.

Boston, Atlanta, Washington, Houston and Baltimore are on the list, according to Stringfellow, along with three teams that preferred to remain anonymous.

Only in Boston would he not be the closer. This theoretically makes sense for the Astros, who are most likely going to lose Jose Valverde to free agency. And even though Wagner is a Type A free agent, the Astros would lose their second round pick as they finished in the bottom half of MLB teams (the 1st-15th picks are protected). But if the Astros offer arbitration to Valverde and he declines, they would then get that team's first round pick (unless the signing team was in the bottom 15, in which they would get the team's 2nd round pick).

I just...don't even know.

Astroline to resume Wednesday

Courtesy of Alyson Footer, Astroline will resume Wednesday night at 7pm on the flagship, 740 KTRH. Join Milo Hamilton as he chats with Brad Mills.

ESPN Research note on Bourn's bunting abililty

In Buster Olney's blog post this morning:

Mark Simon of ESPN Research read the item on Michael Bourn from vacation, and chimed in with an e-mail: According to Stats Inc.'s calculations, Bourn had 17 bunt hits, second most in the majors. But they came in 67 bunt attempts (which they define as: "Any time a bunt is put in play or is fouled off for a third strike in a non-sacrifice situation."). Bourn's 67 bunt attempts ranked second in MLB to Emilio Bonifacio's 73. So Bourn's bunting batting average was .254. That's an interesting contrast to the leader in bunt hits -- Willy Aybar, who was 18 for 51 (.353 bunting batting average).

CHONE projections released

So the 2010 CHONE projections have been released. What does it look like for Astro hitters? (Note, I'm including players with projected regular playing time):
















NameBA/OBP/SLGXBH-RBIK:BB
Berkman.275/.377/.49856-89107:77
Matsui.255/.314/.36430-3978:34
Johnson.247/.288/.38530-4392:18
Manzella.245/.294/.34427-3386:26
Keppinger.282/.341/.39931-4037:33
Maysonet.240/.307/.34420-2364:25
Blum.238/.299/.36723-3952:23
Lee.292/.341/.50359-9756:37
Bourn.264/.335/.36528-2894:42
Pence.284/.344/.48358-75104:47
Towles.254/.335/.40925-3861:27
Castro.248/.315/.35425-3978:31


Should these hold up, and they've been pretty accurate, the Astros would have no .300 hitters on the 2010 club. There would be a huge drop-off from Tejada's 09 to Manzella's '10, and Chris Johnson would actually be an upgrade over Geoff Blum. Obviously they still don't think much of Chris Johnson's strike-zone control.

Hey, That Guy's an Astros Fan! Volume 3

Previously on Hey, That Guy's an Astros Fan we spoke to ESPN's Robert Flores, the Baseball Hall of Fame's Brad Horn, and today we bring you stand-up comedian John Wessling.

John was a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing 2 this summer on NBC. He's also appeared on the Loco Comedy Jam and SiTV's Latino Laugh Festival after touring theaters opening for George Lopez. After starting comedy in Kansas City in 1995, he's been a traffic reporter and a rock radio morning show writer and co-host. He's been touring all over the country and beyond ever since. John was a stand-out performer at the 2004 Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. He headlines at comedy clubs all over the US and Canada and in his spare time he grows hair for www.locksoflove.org. You can visit John's official website here.

AC: What's your earliest Astros memory?

JW: My dad worked in oilfield service stuff when I was a kid and I would ride in the truck riding from jobsite to jobsite with him all summer. He found that the only thing that would shut me up was listening to Astro games on AM radio. Milo Hamilton was my first babysitter.

AC: Favorite all-time Astro?

JW: Nolan Ryan. He'll either be commissioner of baseball or Governor of Texas in the next ten years.

AC: Best moment in Astros history?

JW: Hmmm. It's a tie. Clinching the 2005 NL championship over the Cards and the combined 6-man no-hitter at Yankee Stadium.

AC: If you could have hired any manager available, who would it have been and why?

JW: Buck Showalter. Nobody gives him credit for building the core Yankee team that Joe Torre won so many titles with OR for building the D-backs from the ground up...who went on to beat those Yanks in 2001. Whenever I see Buck on ESPN, no matter what he's talking about he's usually right.

AC: Who disappointed you the most in 2009?

JW: Lance Berkman. He's by far my favorite Astro and he was cold as a dead fish all year. I'd like to see more leadership and personality from him in the future.

You can read John's thoughts on sports at Ripped Foul.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Greeneville Astros: Kyle Miller

Kyle Miller
How did he get here?: Drafted, 21st Round (2007)
Stats: 6'1", 200 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23

Season line:
Lexington: 32 games, 100 PAs. 20x94 - .213/.260/.340 - 8XBH-10RBI. 38K:5BB
Greeneville: 35 games, 129 PAs. 27x118 - .229/.287/.322 - 11XBH-5RBI. 31K:9BB

Only the Greeneville splits are shown.

Splits:
vs. LHP (23ABs): .217/.296/.304, 10K:3BB, 2XBH-3RBI
vs. RHP (95ABs): .232/.284/.326, 21K:6BB, 9XBH-2RBI

Home (71ABs): .225/.273/.324, 16K:5BB, 7XBH-4RBI
Away (47ABs): .234/.308/.319, 15K:4BB, 4XBH-1RBI

Bases Empty (59ABs): .288/.354/.441, 14K:5BB, 9XBH-0RBI
Runners on (59ABs): .169/.219/.203, 17K:4BB, 2XBH-5RBI
w/RISP (36ABs): .139/.179/.194, 14K:2BB, 2XBH-5RBI

July (47ABs): .170/.235/.255, 13K:4BB, 4XBH-2RBI
August (67ABs): .254/.311/.358, 17K:5BB, 7XBH-3RBI
September (4ABs): .500/.500/.500, 1K:0BB, 0XBH-0RBI

Season Total
K/PA rate: 30.1%
XBH/H rate: 40.4%
K:BB ratio: 4.93

Miller spent 27 games at 1B between Lexington/Greeneville, 10 at 3B, and 25 at DH. He made 3 errors in 223 chances at 1B for a .987 Fld%, and 4 errors in 24 chances at 3B for an .833 Fld%.

All of Miller's extra-base hits were doubles, but as you can see, he strikes out quite a bit. He had a pretty rough first month in Greeneville after getting sent down from Lexington on July 6. Miller ended the season on a tear, though, hitting .394/.429/.576 in his last ten games, striking out six times in 33 ABs (down from his season average).

2009 was Miller's third season in the Astros' organization, hitting .234/.291/.376 in Greeneville in 2007, and .247/.301/.426 between Greeneville and Lexington in 2007. Interestingly enough, Miller posted the same 69:14 K:BB rate in 2008 as he did in 2009.

First Impressions of Mills

Brian McTaggart's new post gives a first impression of Brad Mills, as he spent a couple of hours welcoming families transitioning out of homelessness at Minute Maid Park (he welcomed them at Minute Maid Park. They're not transitioning out of homelessness into Minute Maid Park. Never mind.)

Whether Mills can manage a game or a bullpen remains to be seen, but at first glance the Astros have hired a personable and capable manager. He said he's reached to about 90 percent of the players, and on Saturday got some face time with Berkman and Pence. Trust me. Having Berkman in your corner is a pretty big deal in the clubhouse. And so is communication with the players. Just ask Cecil Cooper...

...He won't get too high or too low. At least, that's his reputation. He's never been a Major League manager before, so we don't know for sure. He's been on the job for a month and is still feeling his way around, but if first impressions are anything, the Astros have a gem.


It's my fervent hope that the Astros won't suck so much that Mills gets let go after his two years are up.

Greeneville Astros: Jiovanni Mier

Jiovanni Mier
How did he get here?: Drafted, 1st Round - 21st Overall (2009)
Stats: 6'2", 175 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Season line: 51 games, 229 PAs. 53x192 - .276/.380/.484 - 20XBH-32RBI. 45K:30BB, 10SB/5CS

Splits:
vs. LHP (35ABs): .314/.405/.543, 8K:4BB, 3XBH-5RBI
vs. RHP (157ABs): .268/.374/.471, 37K:26BB, 17XBH-27RBI

Home (86ABs): .256/.380/.488, 22K:17BB, 9XBH-16RBI
Away (106ABs): .292/.380/.481, 23K:13BB, 11XBH-16RBI

Bases Empty (97ABs): .258/.339/.454, 22K:8BB, 8XBH-5RBI
Runners on (95ABs): .295/.417/.516, 23K:22BB, 12XBH-27RBI
w/RISP (62ABs): .306/.432/.484, 17K:16BB, 7XBH-22RBI

June (16ABs): .188/.278/.313, 5K:1BB, 1XBH-2RBI
July (87ABs): .333/.443/.517, 16K:15BB, 9XBH-16RBI
August (86ABs): .221/.327/.453, 24K:14BB, 9XBH-11RBI
September (3ABs): .667/.500/1.333, 0K:0BB, 1XBH-3RBI

K/PA rate: 19.7%
XBH/H rate: 37.7%
K:BB ratio: 1.50

Mier, obviously as the 1st round pick, spent his entire season at shortstop, making 18 errors in 230 chances for a .922 Fld%. Citizen Steve mentioned earlier that Oscar Figueroa could be partially responsible for Mier/Meyer's error rate.

Mier, like Meyer, came right out of high school, and turned 19 during the season, so there is a learning curve/conditioning question (note the drop-off in OPS from July to August) involved. That said, what impresses me is not just the walks and the slugging, but the ascending lines from Bases Empty to Runners On to RISP (.793 to .932 to .916) I would look for Mier to open 2010 in Lexington.

Citizen Steve, what say you on Jiovanni Mier?
Best player on the team by far. Made many outstanding plays, and missed some easy ones (concentration?). He has a tendency to field some sharply-hit balls on his glove side instead of moving in front of them ("Ole!"), and has a very high ceiling. Mier is a nice kid with an easy smile, which will make him very marketable as he moves up.

Minor League coaching carousel

Zach Levine breaks down the ripple effect of the coaching carousel that has occured in Houston with the hiring of Brad Mills and his staff.











Coach2009 role2010 role
Ed RomeroBench Coach, HoustonManager, Greeneville
Rodney LinaresManager, GreenevilleManager, Lexington
Tom LawlessManager, LexingtonManager, Corpus
Luis PujolsManager, CorpusN/A
Mark BaileyHitting Coach, HoustonHitting Coach, Corpus
Keith BodieHitting Coach, CorpusHitting Coach, Round Rock
Ron JacksonHitting Coach, Round RockN/A

NY Daily News: Don't offer arbitration to LaHawk

Jesse Spector of the NY Daily News is back, offering more advice to bumbling general managers. Today's column? Set-up men:

LaTroy Hawkins, Astros (Type A; 2009 salary: $3.5 million): The 15-year veteran has been fantastic since the Yankees traded him to Houston in July 2008, even saving 11 games this year while Jose Valverde was injured, but the financial risk is too much for a pitcher who turns 37 in December when the Astros are looking to pare down their payroll.

This one is probably the trickiest of all the Astros' arbitration decisions this off-season. On the one hand, with Valverde likely to exit, LaHawk showed he could handle the 9th inning while Valverde was hurt, or otherwise unavailable. So to offer him arbitration, which he may accept (remember, he lives in Prosper, TX), would be some insurance for when Valverde takes the money and runs.

However, if he does accept, the Astros are probably locked in to a $5 mil contract (pure speculation) for a 37-year old reliever. There is the possibility of the Astros offering him a multi-year deal. Then, if the Astros stumble next season, he would be a more attractive trade candidate.

What say you?