Friday, November 27, 2009

Berkman wants an impact guy

I missed this from a few days back, but Brian McTaggart did an interview with Berkman on the upcoming season. Some highlights:

"I think we're going to be subtracting rather than adding this year from a payroll standpoint. If that's the case, it's going to be tough to add one of those [impact] guys. You never know. It's one of those situations where you don't ever count Drayton or Ed out. They may get something done."

This is the point where I would like to mention to Lance that, you're supposed to be the (insert expletive here) impact guy! God help me! You have Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence hitting behind you! (Another expletive, depending on your level of frustration)!!

Where can the Astros improve?
"It would be great if we could add another good, quality starting pitcher. That's the one thing that could help us more than anything else. I feel like we have a pretty good nucleus of guys from the everyday standpoint, but we definitely need some help on the staff. I don't think it's going to happen, but that's what I'd like to see."

Real optimistic, there. "Here's what we need. It won't happen, but whatever."

Oh, is Berkman worried about time running out on his career to win a ring?
"It would be concerning if I didn't have more than this year and maybe one more. If the club's not going to go in the right direction, I'm a free agent in two years and I have to look at it then. I can't image we couldn't be competitive, given the history and the fact that as long as Drayton's owned the team he's made it a point to contend. So I don't see us taking big steps backwards."

There's a mixed bag to get pissed off about here. He's looking at the past to prepare for the future, which I can appreciate. But what I do not appreciate is that, in the last three months, Berkman has publicly discussed retirement, and now his looking forward to free agency if the Astros don't contend in the next two years.

I think my problem with this is that Berkman is looking at how green the grass is when he needs to remember that he's the fertilizer (and I mean that in both ways it can be taken). Berkman is the face of the Astros, whether he likes it or not, and right now it seems to me that he doesn't like it. To me, it seems that there has been a void in leadership since Bagwell and Biggio retired, and when the clubhouse leader becomes Miguel Tejada instead of the longest-tenured Astro, that's a problem. Berkman is the home-grown, #3 hitter, All-Star, MVP-candidate, heir to Jeff Bagwell, and there's no accountability from him. The Astros need an impact guy? He's the impact guy. When the impact guy wants another impact guy, that's a bad sign.

I ran across this JJO blog post the other day, from December 2007, in which JJO rips his "leadership" for complaining that Chris Burke got traded for Jose Valverde:

Berkman's a great hitter, but he's no leader. He loves to share the truth as he sees it, but he'd be better off looking in the mirror.

If he spent some time polling his teammates, especially the stars, he'd find out that some of them think he whines too much and that more than a few think he's lazy. I won't out those teammates, but Berkman knows he can pick up the phone real quick and find out who feels this way.

Only Berkman would worry about the chemistry being shaken up on a team that lost 89 games. Astros fans pay good money to see a team win. If the team is losing, they couldn't care less if the team has good chemistry in the clubhouse with Chris Burke or Lance Berkman...

...If Berkman were more mature, he would have told Valverde how he felt before whining about it in public. If he were a team leader like Jeff Bagwell was, he would have handled the issue with dignity and class behind closed doors...

...Ed Wade, Tal Smith, Dave Gottfried and Ricky Bennett should take a bow for shaking this lousy team up. Sure, Berkman is upset. But Berkman must understand that some of the other high prized players, some of the true leaders on the club, appreciate the moves because they'd much rather win than hold hands with Chris Burke.

Only Berkman could possibly complain that a fourth-place team has been broken up.

This follow-up two days later has Berkman defending himself:

I had to point out what I thought of Berkman's comments and leadership abilities in my blog on Monday. With that said, Astros fans should be excited if Berkman is committed to being a team leader next year. In his defense, he pointed out that he has never had a chance to be the team leader, per se. Well, now is that time, as I told him.

I rip JJO a lot, but these two posts were the best he's ever written. Berkman wanted to be a better leader in 2008? Didn't happen. 2009? Nope. He whined and moaned and lolly-gagged to the point of getting called out by an unnamed club official, who said, "If he had been playing in any other city, you guys would have ripped his (behind)." I guess that media accountability ended in December 2007.

Berkman pointed out he has never had a chance to be the team leader. Well, now that Bagwell/Biggio/Tejada are gone, he has that chance. I don't care if he hits .270 again, I want to see some fire and leadership, instead of asking someone else to provide it. And if he doesn't? As Berkman said, he's a free agent in two years...

Updated Winter Ball stats

Alright, let's take us a gander at how our Winterstros are doing in their respective leagues.

Dominican Winter League (hitters)


Dominican Winter League (pitchers)


Puerto Rican Winter League (hitters)


Puerto Rican Winter League (pitcher)


Venezuelan Winter League (hitters)


Venezuelan Winter League (pitcher)


Tri-City ValleyCats: Jorge De Leon

Jorge De Leon
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2006 season
Stats: 6'0", 168 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Splits (with Tri-City)

vs LHP22.318/.375/.5003:24-2
vs RHP44.205/.255/.29510:22-5
Bases Empty41.244/.262/.3668:14-0
Runners On25.240/.345/.3605:32-7

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 7.29
K/PA %: 25.2%
XBH/H %: 30.7%

De Leon played each of his 64 games in the field at SS. At Lexington, he committed 18 errors in 181 chances for a .901 Fld%, and at Tri-City he committed nine errors in 93 chances for a .903 Fld%. All told, that's a .901 Fld% for the season.

De Leon started the season at Lexington, but was sent to eastern New York on July 11, and it wasn't hard to see why. Errors abounded, and in 43 games, he hit .187/.219/.244 for the Legends, with 38 strikeouts and three walks. 2009 was De Leon's fourth season in the Astros organization, spending his first two in the Dominican Summer League, while spending 2008 in Greeneville. He hasn't shown much stick, hitting a career high .235 in 2008, and has never had an OBP over .298. And the strikeouts have basically always been there, as well, with a career K:BB ratio just over 4.00.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tri-City ValleyCats: Erik Castro

Erik Castro
How did he get here?: Drafted, 10th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'4", 200 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP54.296/.367/.40715:64-7
vs RHP138.254/.346/.47123:2017-29
Bases Empty102.275/.383/.45119:1712-3
Runners On90.256/.314/.45619:99-33

K:BB Ratio: 1.46
K/PA %: 17.0%
XBH/H %: 41.2%

Castro spent 36 of his 49 games in the field at 3B, committing 13 errors in 106 chances for an iffy .877 Fld%. In 109 chances at 1B, he was perfect, and by "perfect" I mean "didn't commit any errors."

It was a tale of two halves for Castro. Or maybe, more accurately, it was a tale of one two-thirds and one one-third. Pre NYPL All-Star Break, Castro hit .218/.329/.379 with 29K:21BB (in 41 games), and .353/.397/.588 in 19 games after the All-Star Break. The walk rate is very encouraging, and he strikes out in only 17% of his plate appearances. Guy's huge, and with that kind of plate discipline, he should come along with the consistency.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Barry Butera

Barry Butera
How did he get here?: Drafted, 21st Round (2009)
Stats: 5'11", 175 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP60.350/.391/.3838:32-4
vs RHP142.232/.335/.29644:209-7
Bases Empty119.286/.380/.34532:167-0
Runners On83.241/.308/.28920:74-11

K:BB Ratio: 2.26
K/PA %: 22.2%
XBH/H %: 20.4%

Butera spent 35 games at 2B, committing two errors in 186 chances for a .989 Fld%, and 24 games at SS, making six errors in 111 chances for a .946 Fld%. He did play two games at 3B and one in RF. He also stole 16 bases in 19 tries for a 84.2% success rate.

Butera, whose father played in the Boston organization, is a Louisiana boy drafted out of Boston College. He absolutely killed lefties, struggled in June and July, and smoked it in August before cooling off to end the season (.200/.317/.229 in his last ten games of the season). He doesn't strikeout terribly often, and all of his extra-base hits were doubles, but it will be interesting to see him in a full season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Backe might not be done with his riot

The Galveston Daily News is reporting that charges are still pending, kind of, against Brandon Backe and four other people for their "riot" at H2O in Galveston.

Meanwhile, Backe, Christopher Cornwell and Calvin Silva await adjudication in Galveston Municipal Court on misdemeanor chargers of interfering with a police officer and failure to appear, Alicia Cahill, a city spokeswoman, said.

American's Best Man: Still in the news.

Clemens, Gaston named to Topps All-Star Team

Topps and Minor League Baseball have named Koby Clemens and Jon Gaston to their Class-A All-Star team.

Rule 5 action

On the heels of McTaggart's new post, with the earlier news of taking Brad James off the 40-man, I'm going to agree with OremLK and go ahead and guess that the Astros will be active in the 2009 Rule V draft in a couple of weeks.

There are four spots available on the 40-man roster, and the Astros have not added Drew Locke, Koby Clemens, or Jon Gaston to the roster - guessing, hopefully correctly, that they wouldn't stick on a 25-man club for all of 2010.

That said, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi is saying that Daniel Cabrera's live arm, nosebleed ERA, is looking for a 40-man roster spot. Whaddaya think?

Update: Everyone is correct, Gaston is not eligible for Rule V selection. I got carried away. It won't happen again. Until it does.

Paul White: Tejada "not likely" to return

In a Hot Stove Preview (what have we been doing to this point?), USA Today's Paul White breaks down some key decisions. One of those deals with Miguel Tejada:

The Houston Astros also are looking to reduce payroll, which means free agent shortstop Miguel Tejada isn't likely to return.

If we promise to kneecap Jeremy Schapp (knee-Schapp), think he'll return for League Minimum?

Hey! That's not nice...

In an article on, Larry Dobrow tries to save the A's, and their Moneyball philosophy:

Heading into what projects as a fourth straight sub-.500 season, you have to wonder whether, at some point, A's fans would prefer to win dumb rather than lose smart. Could it be time for the A's to start going about their business as thoughtlessly and recklessly as the Astros do?

God, no. Still, that doesn't mean the 2010 season has to be a write-off. The A's are in good shape for the long-term; let's see if we can Save This Franchise!™©® for the year immediately ahead.

Thoughtless? Maybe. Reckless? No. If anything, we operate under a controlled insanity...

Phillies easing up on Tejada?

The Phillies are reportedly focusing on Adrian Beltre or Mark DeRosa, potentially meaning that they're easing off Miguel Tejada as an option at 3B.

Back on November 12 there was speculation that the Phillies could be gearing up for a run at Miggs, provided he shifted to 3B.

Astros are four men short of a 40-man roster

Alyson Footer is reporting that the Astros have optioned Brad James to Round Rock, and off the 40-man roster. This means there are now 36-men on the 40-man roster.

She also notes that the Astros have hired Bob Rossi as a professional scout. Rossi has been a scout with at least the Mets, Cubs, and Pirates. Maybe more.

Where were you?

Big League Stew is counting up the top record-breaking and playoff home runs in the 2000s. Where does the Pujols/Lidge homer stand? Number three...

If you hadn't watched this one live, it'd be hard to believe that a three-run home run in Game 5 of the '05 NLCS could be ranked this high, especially when the Cardinals were eliminated in Game 6. But those who bore witness to Pujols' home run will still be talking about it 50 years from now. The hit was equal parts majesty (it hit near the train tracks atop Minute Maid Park) and devastation (Astros fans were one strike away from getting to celebrate the franchise's first World Series berth at home) and it still causes most fans to curse in amazement upon seeing the replay. The ball traveled so high and far that even the Astros made a joke to Lidge that they could see it outside their plane windows on the flight after the game. Quite simply a Hall of Fame moment for a Hall of Fame player.

Interestingly, the Astros figure in three of the top 10 moments. At #4 is the Podsednik Walk-Off in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, and Chris Burke rounded out the list at #10 with the 18th-inning home run.

But for me, the most memorable home run in Astros history is the Pujols homer. I was in my lucky stance (in the kitchen, looking at the tv over the sink, hands clasped behind my head, and swaying left-to-right), waiting to celebrate the Astros' first trip to the World Series. Instead, as soon as the ball left Pujols' bat I crumpled to the floor, only to get up and vomit in the sink (true story. Ask La Constabless.) I didn't see the ball land until SportsCenter the next morning, after I had called in sick to work.

So, let's do this. Where were you when Pujols hit The Home Run?

Update: C70 at the Bat is referring to this heartbreaking poem.


Jonathan Mayo's look at Eddie's Farm underscores how far the System has to go, but sees some light in the midst of fog and darkness.

Ricky Bennett:
"That's always an ongoing process. You're never where you want to be and you're never as bad as people think you are. From a prospect standpoint, guys are starting to go through the system. At every level, we feel we're making progress."

What's the major-est problem?:
"If you look throughout, the depth, it's going to take time to improve the depth. We feel happy with the prospects, though, how they're progressing and where they are in the development process."'s Pre-season Organizational Prospects of the Year: Jason Castro / Jordan Lyles:

On Castro:
The prediction was that the 10th overall pick in the 2008 Draft would excel in his first full season, proving he was worth the high selection while playing across two levels. That was pretty much spot on as Castro split the season between Lancaster and Corpus Christi before heading to play for Team USA's gold medal-winning team in the IBAF World Cup. Castro hit a combined .300 with a .380 OBP and .446 SLG over 119 games.

On Lyles:
It seemed like a tossup between young guns Lyles and Ross Seaton, but while Seaton was solid, Lyles was even better. Pay no attention to the win-loss record -- Lexington hit just .237 as a team. Instead, look at his 3.24 ERA, his 167 strikeouts (fourth overall in the Minors), his 10.39 K/9 rate and his extremely low walk rate (38 in 144 2/3 IP).'s Post-season Selections: Koby Clemens / Jordan Lyles:

On Clemens:
Critics will say Clemens isn't a prospect, that prior to this season, he'd done nothing of note offensively, that his 2009 season was a product of one of the most extreme hitter's parks in Minor League baseball. That might be true, but it's impossible to look past what Clemens did, still at age 22, in the California League. Friendly confines or not, Clemens hit .341 overall with 22 homers and 121 RBIs. His .620 slugging percentage was second best in all of the Minors. He was fourth in batting average, tied for third in doubles and led all of the Minors in RBIs. And he hit pretty well on the road, too. He'll need to prove himself at the next level, but he's definitely worth watching in '10.

More on Lyles:
The numbers mentioned above made him an obvious choice for this honor. His season didn't start out all that well, with a 5.00 ERA after his first four starts. From there, though, he was pretty consistent, with monthly ERAs of 2.48, 3.18, 3.86 and 2.89 before finishing off with a one-run start in September. That he did that in his first full season at the age of 18 makes it even more exciting to see what he does for an encore.

Linares, on Lexington

In a catch-up with 2009 Greeneville manager Rodney Linares, he discusses his appointment as the manager of the 2010 Lexington Legends (where he was the hitting coach in 2005-06, before managing the Gastros):

"I love Lexington, love Kentucky, love the fans. It's a great town. I still talk with many of the people I met there."

We won't know about the minor league assignments until late March, but some players will skip Tri-City and play for their old manager on a new team:

The Astros' top draft choice in 2009, shortstop Jiovanni Mier, is expected to be with the Legends in 2010. Count Linares among those who were impressed with Mier during his debut season with Greeneville.

"People like Jiovanni Mier don't come around that often - a kid at his age who can be a leader on and off the field," Linares said. "His maturity level is so 'up there' that I wouldn't be surprised if it takes him in the next two or three years to being a starting shortstop in the big leagues."

Tri-City ValleyCats: Sean Barksdale

Sean Barksdale
How did he get here?: Drafted, 38th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'0", 210 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23


vs LHP53.151/.167/.26419:14-4
vs RHP50.200/.298/.34015:74-4
Bases Empty63.159/.197/.25424:35-0
Runners On40.200/.289/.37510:53-8

K:BB Ratio: 4.25
K/PA %: 30.4%
XBH/H %: 44.4%

Barksdale spent 35 of his 36 starts in the outfield, with 28 of them coming in right field. He didn't commit an error all season, and had two outfield assists.

Drafted out of Temple University, Barksdale, in three seasons, didn't hit worse than .307 (including a senior season in which he posted a line of .371/.413/.638). He hit 27 homers in his career, and stole 53 bases, as well. So his first professional season was, shall we say, unexpected. His stats are brutal at home and against lefties, though he did improve from the bases empty to RISP, with all stats ascending.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Jose Altuve

Time to start with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League. And we begin with Jose Altuve, who was named Greeneville's Team MVP despite playing the last month of the season in Tri-City.

Jose Altuve
How did he get here?: Signed contract before 2007 season
Stats: 5'5", 148 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Splits (with Tri-City)

vs LHP23.304/.385/.4353:23-4
vs RHP53.226/.317/.2647:62-3
Bases Empty49.245/.339/.3066:53-0
Runners On27.259/.333/.3334:22-7

Season Total (both Greeneville and Tri-City)
K:BB Ratio: 0.76
K/PA %: 10.2%
XBH/H %: 38.9%

Altuve, our very own Phil Rizzuto (5'5", 148?), spent 63 of his 64 games at 2B (and one at DH), committing 10 errors in 308 chances for a .968 Fld%.

The Tri-City splits don't do justice to the year that Altuve had. Not only did he have a pretty slick glove and a good bat, but he also stole 28 bases (with 6 CS) for an 82% success rate. This is Altuve's third year in the organization, and his second in the States. He hit .343/.429/.441 as a rookie in the VSL, and then put up a .284/.320/.433 line in his first go-round in Greeneville in 2008. His power has stayed around the same (35% XBH/H rate in 2008) from last year, but his plate discipline significantly improved, after drawing eight walks in 152 PAs in 2008 - and Altuve posted his second upside-down K:BB ratio in three seasons in 2009.

Citizen Steve, what say you on Jose Altuve?
Altuve was a fan favorite. Very quick, and fit the leadoff position well. He had used composite bats prior to this year and still showed decent pop. He also makes amazing plays running into short right field and foul territory.

Let's see what he has in Lexington, shall we?

Roy can expect a phone call here soon

Buster Olney's new blog post this morning leads off with a quick story on Roy:

When Roy Oswalt went through his back trouble last season, specialists recommended that he go through a regimen of swimming, and the Astros expect that he'll be ready to go at full speed when spring training begins. New Houston manager Brad Mills and GM Ed Wade will soon meet with Oswalt, in a get-to-know conversation for Mills, who chatted up Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee last month.

That's good news for us, as Roy is the anchor of the rotation. And since we'll be holding our breath to see if Wandy's 2009 season was the real deal, Roy really needs to be healthy.

Olney then goes on to put the Astros' 2010 payroll in the $90-93 million range. We'll look a little bit later today at what $93 million will get them this year...

Rosenthal just isn't sure

Ken Rosenthal's new column predicts whether teams will offer arbitration to certain players. And one of those certain players is Jose Valverde.

Does Smilin' Ken Rosenthal think the Astros will offer arbitration to JV? He actually, honest-to-God says, "Unclear."

If the Astros offer Valverde arbitration, the worst-case scenario is that he will accept and return as their closer next season for a salary in the $10 million range.

That number might be too high for owner Drayton McLane, even for one year. The Astros, though, lack an obvious replacement for Valverde, who missed six weeks with a right calf strain in the first half but went 17-for-17 in save opportunities with a 1.64 ERA after the All- Star Game.

Of course, McLane does not like paying draft picks either, so maybe he will just pass on an arbitration offer rather than risk having to pay another first-round pick in addition to the No. 8 selection overall next year.

So McLane doesn't like paying big-leaguers and prospects. That makes all the sense in the world. So much sense that I'm now going to stand on my desk and do the can-can.

Astros sign Ben Paxton

The Charleston (WV) Gazette is reporting that the Astros have signed pitcher Ben Paxton.

Paxton spent four years at Western Kentucky, starting seven of 93 career games with a career 5.27 ERA/1.58 WHIP. However, he did spend last season with Evansville in the independent Frontier League, going 1-1 with a 1.12 ERA in 40.1IP - and that was only because he allowed 4ER in his last outing. Before that, his ERA was 0.23.

Thus, Paxton was named independent league Prospect #4 by Baseball America. What did BA say?

An extreme groundball pitcher who relies on his defense (28 of his 34 hits allowed were singles), Paxton was pitching in front of the second-worst defense in the league (146 errors in 94 games) for a team that finished the season 28-66—no other pitcher on the team had an ERA below 4.60.

But Paxton's stuff stood out as a diamond among rhinestones. Paxton went 4-1, 3.62 as a sophomore in 2007 and 1-1, 3.41 as a junior in 2008 and seemed to be a potential senior sign as a later-round draft pick. But Paxton, who had converted to a sidearm delivery as a sophomore, struggled with his release point as a senior to slump to 1-1, 6.06.

Paxton adoped a higher low three-quarters delivery at Evansville. The new release point allowed him to add some velocity (he touched some 92s) and helped give his slider some newfound bite that made him more effective against lefties. Paxton found that his stuff actually plays better in pro ball. His 88-89 mph fastball has a natural boring action that can break wooden bats on pitches that were jam-job singles against metal.


Paxton will be assigned to Lancaster come 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Greeneville Astros: Dan Sarisky

Hey! With Dan Sarisky, we're done with the Greeneville Astros. I realized how many more players we had to go, and how little time there is between now and Spring Training, and it was time to step it up...

Dan Sarisky
How did he get here?: Drafted, 40th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'1", 175 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


vs LHB10.23.38/1.036:2.243
vs RHB18.27.71/1.988:5.360
Bases Empty9.2x/2.078:3.340
Runners On19.2x/1.426:4.316

Season Total (3.23)
K/9 Rate: 4.3
BB/9 Rate: 2.2
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.37
K:BB Ratio: 2.00

Hmm. I'm not so sure what to think about Mr. Sarisky. He did record five saves for Greeneville, and it's his first season in professional baseball, so that should absolutely be taken into account. But the .325 BAA, combined with the low strikeout rate, is something of a concern. In his last ten games, Sarisky had three outings in which he didn't allow an earned run. Only one of those was a 3+ out appearance. He does have a right-side-up groundout/flyout ratio, and his WHIP goes in the right direction as the situation becomes more precarious. Let's see what 2010 brings, when he can focus on baseball, and not being in a military academy.

Greeneville Astros: Carlos Quevedo

Carlos Quevedo
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 6'1", 222 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20

We can't do the splits with Quevedo, as he's with the Venezuelan Winter League, and we're not going to break down five innings of Winter League ball. So we're going to try something a little different...

2007 (VSL)11/954.12.32/1.0325:1514.12.51.67
2008 (VSL)14/1468.11.98/0.9853:1127.01.44.82
2009 (GRN)13/1354.25.60/1.3955:999.11.56.11

Did you see what I did there? Bam! A couple of things to note: That strikeout/walk ratio is disgusting. But so is that home run rate. Nine of them in 54.2IP. Still, his ERA and WHIP took a considerable jump, but the walk rate was extremely low. So it seems to me that hitters were able to adjust pretty well to his pitches. But the strikeouts are pretty encouraging.

Citizen Steve, what say you on Carlos Quevedo?
If you look at his August numbers, he was starting to put it together. Especially in the last 5 starts. He's a big-bodied kid who will fill out and might have more power.

I wish we could look at his August numbers, Citizen Steve, I wish we could...

Greeneville Astros: Juri Perez

Juri Perez
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 5'11", 148 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19


As Reliever153.60/1.0023:10.207
As Starter36.22.45/1.0937:9.225
vs LHB18.12.45/1.1522:9.188
vs RHB33.12.97/1.2338:10.235
Bases Empty28x/1.2538:10.221
Runners On23.2x/1.1422:9.217

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 10.5
BB/9 Rate: 3.3
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.05
K:BB Ratio: 3.16

In a lot of instances such as these, we're making an exception for a player who is in the States for the first time, yet Perez didn't make it a speedbump. In his third season with the organization, Perez posted ERAs of 4.32 and 2.68 in the Venezuelan Summer League before jumping to Greeneville, where in many instances, he posted better numbers than before. His ERA rose slightly, as did his WHIP (from 1.09 to 1.20), but his K-rate jumped from 4.4 in 2008 to 10.5 in 2009. Coming off a season in which he threw 57IP in 2008, he threw just under six fewer innings in 2009.

Perez did give up seven homers, three more than he did in his first 90.1IP combined. Three of those HRs came while he was a reliever, three of them were to LHBs (and the other four to RHBs, obviously). In his eight starts - his last eight appearances of the season - Perez allowed 0 or 1 ER in five of them. He allowed 3ER in two starts, and left his last start with an elbow injury after 0.1IP. and I'm looking to see how severe the injury is.

Citizen Steve, what say you on Juri Perez?
Had great stuff, but left his last start with an elbow injury. He was listed on the rehab list for the instructional league.

Englebrook throws hard

Baseball America got with Pitch F/X to list the velocities of Arizona Fall League pitchers.

Stephen Strasburg was, of course, tops with a 100.5 mph max fastball. But Evan Englebrook was 10th on the list with a 96.8 mph max fastball.

Elsewhere, Chia-Jen Lo recorded a 95.6 mph max fastball, Wilton Lopez threw a 95.3 mph fastball, Danny Meszaros threw a 93.9 mph fastball.

Average fastballs were as follows:
Evan Englebrook: 94.25 mph
Chia-Jen Lo: 92.7 mph
Danny Meszaros: 92.76 mph
Wilton Lopez: 91.29 mph

Pence can't wait for Spring

Join the crowd, Hunter Pence. I'm ripping apart splits from the Appalachian League while THERE'S NOTHING ELSE GOING ON! But today, Brian McTaggart filed a report on what Hunter Pence is doing. Predictably, he's swinging a bat.

Some of his aging Astros teammates are still trying to work out the physical pain from last season's 88-loss campaign, but Pence is working out four days a week with strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman and -- as always -- trying to perfect his hitting.

"I can't wait for Spring Training. I'm preparing to have a great season with the Astros. I'm coming to the ballpark and putting in the work with Doc [Coleman] and letting Doc show me the way. He's been doing it for a long time, and he knows how to get ready to play baseball. I'm doing that and trying to lay low...

...You always do your tee work and are in the cage. We have a cage and a pitching machine [at the ballpark] and people to throw to us. I listen to everyone, and I want to find a way to shorten up and be short to the ball and long through it."

Want to see Hunter Pence? Find a kid, and take him to the Legends Sports Complex in The Woodlands from December 21-23 for a winter baseball camp.

Tejada gets MVP vote

Miguel Tejada got some love from the voters a voter today in the MVP vote, finishing in 24th place with one 8th place vote. We can just let that percolate and revisit it at another time.

This is the 17th year in a row in which the Astros have had a player qualify as "valuable."

2008: Lance Berkman (5th)
2007: Carlos Lee (19th)
2006: Berkman (3rd)
2005: Ensberg (! 4th), Berkman (14th), Clemens (22nd), Oswalt (23rd), Pettitte (24th), Lidge (30th)
2004: Berkman (7th), Clemens (8th), Beltran (12th), Kent (13th), Oswalt (23rd)
2003: Bagwell (14th), Hidalgo (18th), Wagner (23rd)
2002: Berkman (3rd), Oswalt (23rd)
2001: Berkman (5th), Alou (14th), Oswalt (22nd)
2000: Bagwell (7th), Alou (20th), Hidalgo (20th)
1999: Bagwell (2nd), Biggio (12th), Wagner (16th), Carl Everett (17th), Hampton (21st)
1998: Alou (3rd), Biggio (5th), Randy Johnson (21st)
1997: Bagwell (3rd), Biggio (4th), Darryl Kile (24th)
1996: Bagwell (9th)
1995: Biggio (10th), Derek Bell (14th), Bagwell (15th)
1994: Bagwell (1st), Biggio (16th)
1993: Bagwell (20th)
1992: Doug Jones (14th), Bagwell (19th)

Olney, on payroll

Buster Olney is tweeting on the Astros payroll:

The Astros' payroll will end up being cut somewhere in the range of $15 m, from $107 m. to something in the low 90s. Not much flexibility.

Ringolsby just can't help himself

Any time Tracy Ringolsby writes a Top Mistakes column, he just can't help but take a shot at the Astros. And today is no different.

In his Top 10 Free Agent Blunders, the Astros have a guy on the list. Who is it?

Carlos Lee: Signed to six-year, $100 million contract prior to 2007. On a team that is trying to cut costs -- and has done it at the expense of scouting and player development -- Lee is an expensive hood ornament. He's a one-dimensional player -- a run producer, and he has 305 RBI in three years with Houston -- but the total package is a negative. Not only is he defensive deficient, but he is a poster boy for a lack of hustle, and he's hauling in $55.5 million the next three years, Lee, combined with Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, account for $48 million of whatever payroll the Astros have in 2010.

I'll take issue with this. Sure, it would be nice to have an extra $18 million lying around, but Carlos Lee's defensive liability is minimized by the ground he doesn't have to cover in the small left-field at Minute Maid Park. And he sure doesn't belong on the same list as Milton Bradley, Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis, and Carlos Silva.

In his three seasons in Houston, Lee has hit .305/.354/.524 with 321 RBI, 163K:131BB in 437 games. If Lee is on this list, then Berkman (and I know, he doesn't qualify as a free-agent blunder) should be held accountable for his lack of hustle and attitude issues.

To compare, Gary Matthews Jr (also on the list), has hit .248/.325/.383 with 168 RBI, 271K:140BB in 370 games.

And FanGraphs says that, over the three years Lee has been in Houston, his value has been worth a total $39.6 million, while making $41.5 million - a difference of $1.9 million, on the wrong side. So no, he wasn't worth the $18.5 million he made in 2009, but he has produced about on par for his salary to date. Is Lee a defensive liability? Absolutely. Is he a blunder? Absolutely not.

Greeneville Astros: Scott Migl

Scott Migl
How did he get here?: Drafted, 34th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'4", 190 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Splits (with Greeneville)!

vs LHB83.38/1.007:4.148
vs RHB11.22.31/1.2010:4.233
Bases Empty12x/0.8312:2.178
Runners On7.2x/1.575:6.240

Season Total (both Tri-City/Greeneville)
K/9 Rate: 7.6
BB/9 Rate: 6.7
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.64
K:BB Ratio: 1.14

Control was the big problem for A&M's Scott Migl, who started the season in Greeneville, got moved up to Tri-City on July 11, and got moved back to Greeneville on August 3. And it's pretty easy to see why, based on his numbers at Tri-City. Migl walked 13 in 8.2IP at Tri-City with three WPs. At Greeneville, it looked like he felt more comfortable, with August providing a more realistic representation of his season. As with all players in the 2009 draft class, let's give him a full 2010 before passing any judgment...

Bray Day, Episode 10

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!

Sorry for the late response. I had a good week, and I am looking forward to this week, with the short week of class and Thanksgiving coming up. I was able to go to Athens and watch Georgia play Kentucky; unfortunately, my team lost.

What was the atmosphere of the clubhouse like, and what was the best prank of the season?

Our locker room was good, we had a good atmosphere. Everyone got along, and we were always joking around with each other. That's what made the season go by well, because we had that good relationship. As for pranks, there weren't many. We got Jio Mier with the shaving cream after a walk-off bomb. When players got bats, we would hide the box of bats, just little things that would be funny - not harmful. Everybody have a good week and a great Thanksgiving!

Aaron Bray

Got a question for Aaron Bray? Email

Greeneville Astros: Tio McLean

Tio McLean
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent, signed June 2009
Stats: 6'4", 190 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23 (turns 24 on April 6, 2010)



That's going to do it for the splits, since the splits reference his 1.2IP stint in the GCL. McLean was sent down from Greeneville to the GCL on August 25 after a rough go of it in July/August.

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 6.6
BB/9 Rate: 5.8
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.08
K:BB Ratio: 1.13

McLean was undrafted out of Tusculum College, but made 51 appearances (5th-highest in school history) for Tusculum, with a 3.04 career ERA. In his final season at Tusculum, McLean was 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA/1.24 WHIP, and 29K:7BB in 30.2IP. More impressive was that, in the 31 hits he allowed for the 2009 Fightin' Tusculums (not their real name), only three of them were for extra-bases, and they were all doubles.

Jason Grey has further thoughts on Castro

In ESPN's Rumor Central follow-up on Justice's post yesterday, Jason Grey has some thoughts on Jason Castro:

"Multiple scouts have wondered why Castro has not hit for more power than he has, given his frame, balance, and the loft in his swing. Part of it is that his best pop seems to be to straight-away center, and part of it is that he can still add more strength. It was tough to get a read on him at the Arizona Fall League, where Castro was fatigued and did not look good in his sporadic playing time, and the team sent him home early to rest. How much he taps into his above-average power potential is going to be key in determining his future and how quickly he moves. Castro has the skills to stay behind the dish, and the fact he hit .300 with doubles power between high Class-A and Double-A this year while controlling the strike zone well bodes well for his future, especially if more balls start clearing the fence. It may be a bit premature to expect him to have impact next season, but he should be the starting catcher in Houston by 2011."

Greeneville Astros: David Martinez

David Martinez
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2005 season
Stats: 6'2", 180 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHB13.14.73/1.7310:5.300
vs RHB26.24.39/1.3915:9.272
Bases Empty21.1x/1.2711:3.275
Runners On18.2x/1.7114:11.292

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 5.6
BB/9 Rate: 3.2
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.58
K:BB Ratio: 1.79

Martinez just finished his fifth season in the Astros organization, having spent the previous four in the Venezuelan Summer League, with this ERA ascending in each year. July was the high-water mark of Martinez' season, but there's some cause for concern: His K:BB rate hit a career low, as did his K/9 rate. He posted 10+ H/9 for the second straight season, and had his highest HR/9 rate and BB/9 rate of his career, as well. 2010 might be his make-or-break year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Congratulations, Chris Johnson's dad

Congratulations to Chris Johnson's dad, Ron Johnson, who will be named the Red Sox' first base coach.

Greeneville Astros: B.J. Hyatt

B.J. Hyatt
How did he get here?: Drafted, 4th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'4", 205 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


as Reliever111.64/1.3611:3.273
as Starter8.118.36/3.244:9.429
vs LHB6.19.95/2.213:7.292
vs RHB138.31/2.1512:5.371
Bases Empty8.1x/2.168:5.333
Runners On11x/2.187:7.362

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 7.0
BB/9 Rate: 5.6
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 0.72
K:BB Ratio: 1.25

/slow-whistling. This was rough. It was probably a good idea to move him into a relief role, if only for the three-game starting stint from July 7-18, in which Hyatt gave up 17 ER in 8.1IP. There's a lot to take in here, such as the tendency to give up fly balls (but only two homers), and the high walk-rate, and the high batting average against. But we're still judging a pitcher by 19.1IP, and that just ain't fair.

Citizen Steve, what say you on BJ Hyatt?
Throws hard, but without much command. Very raw, and saw limited action due to overuse in college. I expect we'll get a better picture of him next year.

Baseball America on Jiovanni Mier

Hey, there's an article on Jiovanni Mier at Baseball America. But I'm not a subscriber (I need the $60), so I don't know what it says. If anyone is, and wants a guest post, let me know.

Astros to take it slow

Richard Justice's new post this morning talks about the approach the Astros will take with their young'uns come February. Some highlights, before we get into excerpts:

-The defense is pretty much set at 1B, LF, CF, and RF. Manzella figures to be SS1 and Matsui 2B1.

-But if the Astros Jovenes struggle in Spring Training (Johnson, Manzella, Castro), then alternate plans could be made.

(Note: Ed Wade gave Quintero and Towles all spring to fight it out for C1 before neither did anything and Wade signed Pudge.)

-Castro is "a tougher call." While it's exciting to get jazzed up about his promise, he still hasn't played in Triple-A, and this time last year he was finishing up a stint in Tri-City. There's talk that he could open the season at Round Rock, regardless of his Spring, to give him at least a look between Corpus and Houston.

-The Astros feel they can contend in 2010. They played in 75 games decided by two runs (Justice notes that the record was 24-23 in 1-run games and 15-13 in 2-run games).

I think fans simply want to see a plan that makes sense. If that plans calls on taking some chances, they'll buy in. The Rockets will be hard-pressed just to make the playoffs this season, but fans are still showing up for games because they know the people in charge and very competent and sticking to a plan.

It could be a painful 2010 for the Astros, but by the end of the season, there should be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I think the Rockets are a fair benchmark by which to judge the Astros. Same fan base, same situation (except Berkman doesn't miss 90% of every season. Yeah, McGrady, that's at you). I feel that we offer a fair representation of Astros fans (maybe a little bit more obsessed/nit-picky), and I'm okay with giving the young guys time to develop and time to get seasoned. I certainly don't want to sacrifice 2011-2020 to try to contend in 2010. Whatever free agent decisions are made, as long as they don't affect the long-term plan - provided there is one - let it be. It's not as though the Astros can afford to go out and give $100 million to Roy Halladay, anyway.

Greeneville Astros: Murillo Gouvea

Murillo Gouvea
How did he get here?: Acquired in trade with White Sox for future considerations, July 2009
Stats: 6'2", 190 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21

Season line is cumulative, Splits are with Greeneville

vs LHB9.18.68/1.617:3.333
vs RHB19.11.40/0.8423:5.169
Bases Empty18.1x/0.9819:5.197
Runners On10.1x/1.2611:3.286

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 10.1
BB/9 Rate: 3.9
Groundout/Flyout Rate (w/GRN): 0.92
K:BB Ratio: 2.61

Murillo Gouvea had a rougher time of it in Bristol, the White Sox' Appalachian League affiliate, and was traded for future considerations (who I hear has a wicked slider), where he performed much better for Greeneville. A couple of things stand out as far as the splits go, and that's how much he was rocked by LHBs, and dominated RHBs. And the home/away splits. If you're a right-handed batter at home, and Murillo Gouvea is on the mound, just go sit down. We'll find out next season if Gouvea just needed a change of scenery, or if the White Sox just gave up on him, or what the story is...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Greeneville Astros: Abraham Gonzalez

Abraham Gonzalez
How did he get here?: Signed as free agent on August 1, 2009
Stats: 5'11", 185 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23

Splits (with Greeneville)!

vs LHB6.10.00/0.637:1.136
vs RHB8.12.16/0.9611:2.200
Bases Empty8.2x/1.0410:3.188
Runners On6x/0.508:0.150

K/9 Rate: 11.0
BB/9 Rate: 1.8
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.27
K:BB Ratio: 6.00

Abraham Gonzalez started his second season with the Angels organization, with Orem of the Pioneer League. He was with Orem from June 24 until July 12, posting a 9.00 ERA/2.00 WHIP in six innings (five games) before getting cut loose, and played his first game with Greeneville on August 6, and saw an immediate improvement. Well, not immediate, he gave up 2H/1ER in his Appalachian League debut. And then that was it for earned runs until the last game of the season against Princeton on September 1. In his eight games with Greeneville, he had three hitless appearances, two with 1 hit, and three with 2+ hits. However, he only posted a .173 BAA for the season. On to Tri-City with you!

Greeneville Astros: Angel Gonzalez

Angel Gonzalez
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 6'0", 160 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


As Reliever9.210.24/1.6610:4.308
As Starter446.75/1.5532:12.311
vs LHB136.92/1.697:3.352
vs RHB40.27.52/1.5235:13.297
Bases Empty27.2x/1.5527:9.281
Runners On26x/1.5815:7.347

K/9 Rate: 7.0
BB/9 Rate: 2.7
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.18
K:BB Ratio: 2.63

Okay, some notes about Gonzalez: First season in the States, third in the organization. His walk rate was down, but so was his strikeout rate. That said, his K:BB ratio was up from 2008, from 2.36 to 2.63. His ERA jumped from 2.95 in his second go-around in the Dominican Summer League to 7.38 in 2009, so that's disconcerting. But he turned 21 in August, and his numbers are quite inflated this year than in his previous two. He may spend 2010 in Greeneville again, but I would be surprised if his ERA is over 7.00 again.

Greeneville Astros: Gabe Garcia

Gabe Garcia
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 5'11", 142 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20


vs LHB84.50/2.125:1.421
vs RHB30.28.80/1.8927:5.396
Bases Empty17x/2.1214:3.388
Runners On21.1x/1.8018:3.414

K/9 Rate: 7.4
BB/9 Rate: 1.4
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 1.20
K:BB Ratio: 5.33

The negatives pretty much speak for themselves. However, it's worth noting that in Garcia's first six starts, he had an ERA of 13.66. In his last four starts, his ERA was 3.82. His K:BB ratio was excellent, he just gave up a lot of hits. As he moves forward (and this was his first season in the States), that BAA should come down.

Greeneville Astros: Luis Cruz

Luis Cruz
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2008 season
Stats: 5'9", 170 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Bummer is that he's now playing winter ball, and his splits have moved to the winter league, so we don't have the detailed splits from 2009.

2009 K/9 Rate: 6.8
2008 K/9 Rate: 7.2

2009 BB/9 Rate: 3.6
2008 BB/9 Rate: 2.7

2009 Groundout/Flyout Rate: 0.89

2009 K:BB Ratio: 1.86
2008 K:BB Ratio: 2.71

Cruz is coming off shoulder surgery, and as a result, had a rough year after what was an impressive rookie 2008 season (no runs in five of his seven starts in 2008). It wasn't just his second year in the organization - both in Greeneville - but he saw his ERA jump from 2.28 to 6.75. And his Home Runs Allowed from 2 to 10. That said, his IPs went north from 23.2 to 54.2, starting 12 of his 10 games. He had an upside-down GB/FB rate (contributing to 10HR in 54.2IP), and was 1-4 for the year. Cruz also had 5HBPs and 8WPs, lending more credence to the control-problem issue.

Citizen Steve, what say you of Luis Cruz?
Still working his way back from shoulder injury last year. He had some great starts, and some where he got shelled.