Saturday, December 5, 2009

JJO returns!

Why hasn't JJO been blogging much? Well, in his new-ish post, he tells us:

Sorry I have not blogged much lately. I've been making my calls to players and agents, but I haven't blogged because there really hasn't been any significant news coming out of Union Station.

That doesn't stop us! It doesn't even hope to contain us!

Anyhow, he has some news from Roy:

Oswalt says his back is feeling quite well...He hasn't started throwing yet, but he says that's no big deal because he usually doesn't start throwing until January.

Oh, and Oswalt isn't going out of his way to catch up with Brad Mills:
Also, he has been in touch with new manager Brad Mills, who has called him a couple of times. They both hope to meet at some point, but Oswalt isn't likely to be in Houston until January, he told me today over the phone.

Hm. Yeah, he sounds pumped (referencing JJO's post title.)

Then there's a really weird paragraph on what happened to him after the Jose Cruz "reassignment." I don't get it, but it's pretty typical JJO. Read it, and then let me know what you think.

Justice = Astros County

Got a question in the ol' inbox from Citizen Mark:
Justice's new blog post has a similar feel to your post on McTaggart's "Few Needs" article. Pissed?

There was a flap yesterday over Bill Simmons having the same schtick as a sports blogger (re: Chris Johnson's vanilla name) who had a similar post the previous day.

Simmons denied it, pointing out (rightly so):
Do (you) think after 12 yrs of coming up with my own stuff that a) I need to steal ideas, or b) I'd risk my career like that? Come on.

It's a valid point. Which is why I'm not going to get my hackles up over Justice's post saying that the "Astros Have Few Needs Entering Winter Meetings Headline" was ridiculous. As did Astros County yesterday.

There's not much going on in Astroland, with the Astros being the source of virtually no news, except who's going to take our relievers off our hands, and how bad everyone thinks our farm system is. As pointed out in the Sports by Brooks post, sometimes people have the same ideas. I won't ever read another blogger or journalist's article and pawn it as my own, and I wouldn't expect anybody else to do it either. Oh, I'll use it as material, but I'll always link to the original source.

Justice fleshed his post out better than mine (of course, I have a job, that actually pays money. This...not so much.):
Needs? The Astros might have as many of them as any team in the major leagues. What they don't have is a plan for filling those needs. They'll probably throw some young players onto the big league roster and see what happens. Maybe there'll be some free-agent bargains on the market in late January.

I like the idea of finding out if Chris Johnson and Tommy Manzella can play, but until the starting rotation gets better, the Astros aren't going to come close to contending.

It's not an issue of whether the Astros have needs. It's an issue that they're taking a unique approach to filling those needs. They're not. Glass half full. End of discussion.

Revisiting: ADHD among MLB players

Rob Neyer has some comments on a story that MLB has approved 108 therapeutic-use exemptions to Major League players for ADHD.

This is up two exemptions from last season.

Now, back on January 10 we took a brief look at drugs used to treat ADHD, such as Adderall, which is apparently an epidemic on college campuses during Finals Week (I made it through finals on Kamel Reds, which I no longer use, and Red Stripe, which I do.) What do these college pups call Adderall? "Scholastic Steroids." Huh.

Head out to Baytown tomorrow, if you haven't frozen to death

Call ahead to confirm that it's still on, but Chris Sampson will be hosting a clinic for 50 kids from the Baytown YMCA tomorrow from 1pm-2pm.

It's private, but if anybody can get a picture of Sampson with a Proof of Citizenship, you'll get a free prize.

Which reminds me, it's been a while since anybody has submitted a photo. Send in a picture with a Proof of Citizenship and get it posted on Astros County.

Astros hope that, on the offchance the veterans don't feel like playing, the prospects will.

McTaggart's new article details the impact the front office hopes our prospects can make:

Ricky Bennett drops some philosophy:
"We look at the system from top to bottom and you see bright spots at every level. Throughout the system, you really start to see signs that we're making progress and we're just going to have to keep doing what we've been doing the last couple of years, signing Draft picks and getting them in the system and focusing on individual instruction and getting kids better. We're making progress, but we're not where we need to be. We're going to continue to be aggressive and try to acquire players through trades and the waiver wire and free agency," Bennett said. "But in terms of acquiring players that have an impact on the Major League team, you've got to do that through the Draft. If we continue to Draft the right way and develop the right way, we'll start to see impact players coming through our system. If you look across the league, most important position players were drafted and developed."

On Castro (who apparently is the source of inter-office turmoil about whether he'll open the season on the Astros):
"I don't think any of us know the true answer to when he'll be ready. He's going to get the opportunity. Obviously, he had a good year this past year from a developmental standpoint and we were happy with his progress. He has a good attitude and will continue to get better as he gains experience. He will be in big league camp in 2010 and his play will dictate where he starts the season. If he shows he's ready to handle the Major League job, it's something we'll consider."

On Mier:
"He's a natural leader. Guys gravitate to him, and he enjoys playing the game and understands the game. The leadership is the one thing that stood out for us, other than the physical tools. He's going to be a good player. He'll come into our Minor League camp this spring and we'll let his ability and maturity dictate where he goes. Only time will tell when he's going to be ready at the Major League level."

On Chris Johnson:
"He really made progress the past two months of the season in July and August and didn't fare as well in September when he got an opportunity to play at the Major League level. That doesn't take away from his progress prior to that. He had a good Spring Training last [season] and will be back in big league camp and we'll have to see how he handles it."

Just to point out: Chris Johnson got 22 ABs in a month. 22.

On Jordan Lyles:
He's got a chance to be special. He continues to learn. He had a good instructional league and he really took hold of what we were trying to get accomplished with him. He, too, will be challenged this coming spring. Where he ends up, we're not quite sure, but he's going to get the ball and continue to compete and that's the one thing we like about him the most -- he's not afraid to complete."

On C-Lo:
He's very mature for his age [23] and has a ton of experience in international competition. I don't think he's going to be overwhelmed when he's in Spring Training. From an ability standpoint, he has an average to above-average fastball and a very good breaking ball that he's starting to command and gain more confidence in."

J.J. Putz is a "strong possibility" for the Astros

Yahoo Sports' Winter Primer breaks down each NL Central team going into the Winter Meetings. A lot of things we already know, but we do see:

The Astros are seeking a cheaper alternative for Valverde (J.J. Putz is a strong possibility) but are trying to re-sign Hawkins.

Once again, LaHawk is Plan B for Colorado

The Denver Post's Troy E. Renck is reporting that, should the Rockies not be able to resign Rafael Betancourt, LaTroy Hawkins and Justin Duchscherer are their top priorities.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Meat Wagon is in service in the Caribbean

McTaggart tells us that Bogusevic and Wesley Wright have sustained minor injuries in Winter Ball. The extent?

*Wesley Wright took a line drive off the heel, and may be brought back to Houston for examination.

"He was due to come back here at some point before Christmas, and we may accelerate that and get him back here and checked out."

*Brian Bogusevic landed awkwardly on first base and may have a meniscus injury, AND may or may not be brought back to Houston for examination.

"We thought initially it was a meniscus injury. We're still waiting to find out more, but he's not going back immediately."

Bagwell "richly deserves" enshrinement

(Captip to Street.)

In an article on Edgar Martinez' Hall of Fame candidacy, Rob Neyer closes:

I've been going back and forth on Edgar Martinez for years. Today, though, I'm convinced. He belongs. He wasn't nearly as valuable during his career as Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell, both of whom richly deserve enshrinement. But he was valuable enough.


Tri-City ValleyCats: Wander Alvino

Wander Alvino
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2006 season
Stats: 5'11", 159 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHB31.24.26/1.7418:15.317
vs RHB39.25.90/1.1631:14.215
Bases Empty38.2x/1.5525:20.255
Runners On32.2x/1.2624:9.271

Season Total
K/9 Rate: 6.2
BB/9 Rate: 3.7
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 0.97
K:BB Ratio: 1.69

This is Alvino's fourth season in the Astros' organization, and his second in the States, pitching mainly as a reliever (1 start, 14 games) in 2008. In 2009, he did post the lowest WHIP of this career, though his K/9 ratio was down for the second straight year, and his BB/9 ratio jumping from 1.5 to 3.7. In Greeneville, Alvino walked seven batters (in 192 faced) all season long. For that to jump to 29 (in 309 BF) is alarming, as is the fact that he gives up more flyball outs than groundouts. His IP jumped 29.1 innings (again, the reliever-starter change will do that), just enough to keep him in the Verducci Zone. Where Alvino needs to work is against LHBs (.317 against, 18K:15BB), and with the bases empty, strangely. Six of the eight homers Alvino allowed came with the bases empty, as well as 20 of his 29 walks.

One of the more preposterous headlines you'll read about the 2010 Astros

Brian McTaggart has a new article, improbably headlined: "Astros have few needs entering Meetings."

Methinks it should read, "Astros have few means entering Meetings."

ANYway, there's not much we didn't know already, except for a couple of nuggets:

-Jason Michaels may not be likely to return

-Under "Who They Can or Need to Trade," Kaz Matsui (please, God) and Chris Johnson are listed:

Kazuo Matsui: He's entering the final year of a three-year deal that will pay him $5.5 million next year and certainly won't be returning to the Astros beyond this deal. He hit .250 last season, played in a career-high 132 games and was stellar defensively, but that's a contract the Astros wouldn't mind shedding.

3B Chris Johnson: Once one of their top prospects, Johnson has gotten little chance to prove himself at the Major League level, and the re-signing of Geoff Blum won't exactly open up playing time. And if the Astros re-sign Miguel Tejada, he's going to get the lion's share of time at third. The book is out on whether Johnson can play at the Major League level.

Our friends in Canada must not know too much about the Astros

An article in The Star, within a piece on Marco Scutaro signing with Boston, close with where Roy Halladay might be headed:

Toronto's focus going into next week's baseball winter meetings now moves squarely onto pitcher Roy Halladay. The Toronto ace has imposed a deadline of this winter to get a trade done.

The Red Sox are also in the hunt for Halladay, along with the New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets. The Houston Astros, who hired Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg in the off-season, might be a dark horse.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Zach Levine blinds us with science

Or math. Whatever. Levine's new blog post details the problem of OPS among Astros 3Bs - namely, it was .664, 14th in the NL. Only St. Louis (.661) and Florida (.629) were worse.

Blum struggled after having an outstanding 2008 against right-handed pitching and became primarily responsible for the 14th place finish in the chart at the top. The Astros would need a bounceback (from Blum) even to have a true platoon with Chris Johnson to come out anywhere near average.

Johnson hit .281/.323/.461 in Class AAA last year and finally saw a reversal of his minor league career reverse split. He had an OPS 123 points higher against lefties than against righties, meaning he'd be a decent platoon candidate with Blum whom the Astros tried hard to keep away from left-handed pitching.

If Tejada commands something on the high side of the mid-seven figures, the prudent move might be to spend the money to replace the question mark at the end of their pitching rotation. But no matter which direction they go including external free agent, the production from the third base position looms as a huge mystery facing the 2010 Astros.

Astros sign Ryan Sadowski

Courtesy of minor-leaguer Garrett Broshuis' blog, the Astros have signed former Giants pitcher Ryan Sadowski to a minor-league deal, with an invitation to Big League Spring Training.

Sadowski, a 2003 12th round pick, is 27 years old, and was 2-4 with a 4.45 ERA in six starts this season - his rookie year. His line for the year?
2-4 (6 starts), 28.1IP, 28H/14ER, 17K:17BB, 4.45 ERA/1.59 WHIP.

Are you trying to remember where you have heard his name? It's because he dominated the Astros in G78 on July 3, throwing 7IP, 3H/0ER, 4K:1BB in his second career start. Things got a little bumpy for Sadowski at the end of July, and he was sent down, and then was released on November 23.

Former-teammate Broshuis:
I have no doubt that Dow can pitch again in the big leagues. I'm obviously a bit biased since he's such a great friend, but the guy has the stuff. When he's healthy, I'd pit him against any back of the rotation starter in the big leagues. He's probably not as good as his first two starts, but he's definitely not as bad as his last couple. The truth is somewhere in between. Now he's entering a phase of his career where he is likely to become a journeyman. And this can be difficult.

We also learn that Sadowski is getting married in a couple of weeks. So, congratulations all around!

More of the same on the farm system's perception

Baseball America's John Manuel ranks the best and worst farm systems in baseball.

Top five, in order? Rangers, Rays, Giants, Phillies, Indians

Bottom five, in order? Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and...yep.

Houston has added solid talent in its last two first-rounders, catcher Jason Castro (2008) and Jiovanni Mier (2009), as well as '08 supplemental pick Jordan Lyles, a promising right-hander. But the Astros' system is full of holes -- it hasn't produced a team with a winning record since 2007.

The Astros almost got themselves Jason LaRue

The Cardinals have brought back C2 Jason LaRue with a one-year $950,000 deal. But deep within Derrick Goold's article, we learn that LaRue contemplated heading closer to home (LaRue went to Smithson Valley HS in Spring Branch):

LaRue, who turns 36 during the coming spring training, said his preference was to return to the Cardinals. He entertained the possibility of playing closer to his home (read: with the Houston Astros). The Cardinals were more appealing for their place in the standings — this past October was LaRue’s first trip to the postseason in an 11-year career — as well as his familiarity with the position he’s had the past two seasons...

...“I know my role. I’m Yadi’s backup,” LaRue said. “I’ve said this many times and it hasn’t changed: I want to play my last few years on a winning team. I know this organization. I know it’s headed in the right direction. I know it’s going to give me the best chance.”

So does that mean the Astros would give him an opportunity to play on a losing team, headed in the wrong direction?

A note on posts regarding non-Astros players

Just as an aside, AC will be linking to reports regarding players not currently on the Astros roster (i.e.: Placido Polanco). The only instances in which this will happen are when there have been reports of interest between the Astros and another player.

Just so you know.

Eddie's going to have to work faster than that...

That's, of course, if he was really interested in Placido Polanco in the first place. Jon Heyman is giving a captip to WEEI for reporting that the Phillies will sign Polanco for what's believed to be $18 million over three years.

Soriano and Gonzalez decline arbitration

SI's Jon Heyman is reporting that Braves relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez have declined arbitration.

This is newsworthy as Easy Eddie mentioned both by name as being available last night on Astroline.

Both are Type A free agents.

Decent chance we'll be getting Valverde back

That would be one of your all-time backfires, huh? In Buster Olney's new blog post, he hears:

Some agents for the players who were offered arbitration are aggressively calling around to try to find out if they can get better offers for their clients from other teams. "I think a lot of the agents are looking at what happened last year with (Jon) Garland and (Jason) Varitek" -- who both turned down arbitration offers, and wound up taking much less in contracts than they would have gotten through arbitration -- "and they don't want to make the same mistake."

The teams that would be most likely to pay $10 million for a closer like Valverde pretty much already have closers. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels. The Braves just got Billy Wagner. So is Valverde's agent - Bill Rego - one of those who is calling around to see if he can get Valverde more money (or a multi-year deal for comparable money)? If he's smart, he is. And I'm guessing he won't want to make the mistake of declining arbitration if he's only going to get $6 million/year from another team.

Justice: Everything is whatever

Richard Justice's blog post from yesterday, he says the possibility of losing Tejada, LaHawk and Valverde is whatever:

When the Astros announced they weren't going to offer arbitration to Miguel Tejada and LaTroy Hawkins, I didn't blink. If Jose Valverde signs elsewhere, is it a big deal? I can't get worked up about any of it. The Astros are so far from contending that those three guys aren't going to make a big difference...

... There's a window coming after the 2010 season in which Carlos Lee can be traded, and by the time the 2008 draft picks begin arriving in 2011, the Astros could be exciting and competitive.

Some of those players from the all-important 2008 draft are going to end up at Corpus Christi next season, and their development will tell you how quickly the Astros will be respectable again. Tal Smith says OF T.J. Steele is the franchise's best five-tool prospect since Cesar CedeƱo. Pretty cool, huh?

2011? Let's say Lyles/Seaton/Bono/Dydalewicz find themselves in Corpus in 2010. That means they'll have to absolutely kill it in both Corpus and Round Rock to make it to the majors in September 2011.

Anyhow, your closing shot:
Wade's best option would be to sit out this early part of the marketplace and wait until late January when there could be bargains. He might add an important piece here or there to bridge the gap until the young guys are ready.

But it's way past time the Astros stopped thinking free agency and a patchwork roster of old guys would get them in contention.

I can't think of where that "important piece" might be. I'd rather Ed Wade release Matsui and give the job to Keppinger/Maysonet than to go get Placido Polanco. By re-signing Brian Moehler, I doubt the Astros will be adding a starting pitcher through free agency, unless it's Vida Blue. Maybe Jimmy Key.

Deal to buy the Rangers screwed up

Soon-to-be-ex Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks is in the process of trying to sell his team to get out from under some financial difficulty. Why is this news?

Because Hicks is choosing between three groups: One headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan; one headed by Hicks himself, with Nolan Ryan, and Roger Staubach; and one headed by Houston businessman Jim Crane.

How can Nolan Ryan be a part of two groups? Good question. And about that Jim Crane group, he's not likely to get much support, as he once allegedly backed out of a verbal agreement to buy the Astros.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tri-City ValleyCats: Renzo Tello

And thus concludes our look at the hitters of the Tri-City ValleyCats. In the morning we'll begin a recap of the pitchers.

Renzo Tello
How did he get here?: Signed as free agent, Nov 2004
Stats: 6'1", 155 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP54.148/.164/.22213:12-2
vs RHP93.226/.265/.28026:35-11
Bases Empty71.183/.227/.23924:22-1
Runners On76.211/.231/.27615:25-12

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 9.75
K/PA %: 25.5%
XBH/H %: 24.1%

The ValleyCats put Tello at every position in the outfield: 11 games in LF (0 errors in 21 chances), 15 games in CF (1 error in 33 chances), and 18 games in RF (0 errors in 21 chances), and seven combined outfield assists.

Dadgum. Tello had a rough time of it all the way around. The only instance in which he had an OPS over .650 was at home, and that was .694. In three seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, Tello hit .264/.317/.437, and strikeouts were pretty out of control there (110K:30BB). In Greeneville last season, Tello showed considerable promise, hitting .288/.347/.431 with 14 extra-base hits, but completely bottomed out in 2009.

Updated Winter Ball Stats

Let's take a break from the rumors to see how the WinterStros are doing in the Caribbean:

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)


Ed Wade on Astroline

Alyson Footer tweeted a whole lot during Astroline on KTRH. But here are the money quotes from Easy Eddie:

On Tejada:
The inspiration he brings to a clubhouse is unsurpassed.We'd love to have him back and he loves it here and would like to be back. The reality he's coming off $13 million as a shortstop

On a starting pitcher (after noting that Roy really should go back to winning 15-17 games):
If there are opportunities out there to do something that makes sense on the FA and trade markets we'll certainly try to pursue that. But I don't want to raise expectations. I don't know we'll have significant dollars available to pursue significant starting pitching.

Interesting note that Paulino stayed in Houston to work with trainer Doc Colemean, and has dropped 10-15 pounds:
Once he gets a command of his pitches, he's very special. He just needs command.

What happens if LaHawk and Valverde leave?
There are some other guys out there who we have our eyes on. Fernando Rodney is a free agent. Soriano and Gonzalez are available. Kevin Gregg is out on the market. There are closers out there, alternatives. We'd rather have Jose back.

On the catching situation:
We're going to Spring Training with Quintero and Towles on the roster. We've talked about Jason Castro, we're going to give all these guys an open shot at this thing. Hopefully either Towles or Castro will step up and team up with Q. I prefer to give the job to Castro or Towles or Q and sort it out from there.

LaHawk is Rockies' Plan B

According to's Thomas Harding, the Rockies are going to go hard after reliever Rafael Betancourt, whom the Rockies offered arbitration. But if they don't re-sign him?

The Rockies' bullpen focus is right-hander Rafael Betancourt, whom they offered arbitration. Only if he decides to leave -- he has until Monday to accept arbitration, but can continue negotiating with the Rockies beyond that -- will the Rockies begin in earnest pursuing free-agent relievers, with La Troy Hawkins on that list.

Astros interested in Placido Polanco

Brian McTaggart has a new post telling us that the Astros are interested in free agent Placido Polanco.

The Tigers did not offer him arbitration, despite his being a Type A free agent.

Ed Wade has dealt with Polanco before, acquiring him at the end of July 2002 from the Cardinals with Doug Nickle and Scott Rolen for Bud Smith and Mike Timlin. And then Wade traded him to the Tigers in 2005 for Ramon Martinez and Ugueth Urbina.

However, Todd Zolecki says the Phillies are further along in negotiations, beginning talks before the Tigers declined arbitration.

Casey Daigle signed to minor league deal with Big Ticket invite

Alyson Footer is reporting that the Astros have signed Casey Daigle to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

Daigle was 4-3 last year for Round Rock in 49 games in relief. He posted a line of:
55.2IP, 61H/18ER, 53K:25BB, for a 2.91 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.

Astros have interest in Joe Crede

SI's Jon Heyman is reporting that the Astros have interest in sometime-3B Joe Crede, apparently in an effort to bring back members of the Chicago White Sox in order to watch them fail, out of revenge for 2005.

Yeah...Randy Wolf won't be back.

Some of you intellectual-types might have been thinking, "Hey. What about Randy Wolf?" Like the Astros a year ago, the Dodgers were ignorant enough to decline arbitration to The Wolf. So he wouldn't cost the Astros any draft picks to bring him back. Perfect, right? Hold up, says Ed Wade:

"I love Randy Wolf and wish we could have done something a year ago [to sign him]. I don't think it's going to happen here. We haven't had those types of conversations. I suspect with the performance Randy turned in this past season coupled with what he did for us the second half of the '08 season, the numbers will be beyond us."

I bet the whole "We'll give you $29 million for three years. Wait. No, we won't," fiasco of last year would leave a bit of a sour taste in Wolf's mouth in negotiations this time around. Wade is probably correct - Wolf will get more than the $5 million he got from the Dodgers in 2009 after an 11-7 season with a 3.23 ERA.

Astros inquire on Putz

According to ESPN's Rumor Central, the Astros have inquired on former Mets reliever J.J. Putz:

Putz, 32, saved 40 games for Seattle in 2007. The Mets hoped he would provide shutdown eighth-inning work in front of Francisco Rodriguez last season, but Putz lasted only 29 1/3 innings before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery in June.

Although Putz still has to show he's healthy, he's attracted a lot of early attention because he's willing to sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal to re-establish himself as a dominant back-end pitcher. Pittsburgh and Houston have also inquired on Putz, and Detroit, Tampa Bay and Texas are teams that could emerge as fits as the winter progresses.

So there is obviously some competition for Putz, but let this be a digital pat on the back to Astros County for noting this possibility on November 6.

Mayo, on the Astros' 2009 draft class

Jonathan Mayo has a look at the Astros' 2009 draft class:

Houston went the high-school route with their first four picks, clearly going with who they thought was the best available player in each spot instead of perhaps going with "safer" college players who could conceivably get to the big leagues faster. They did make up for that later on with a slew of college and junior-college picks. The final tally showed 27 of the 36 players signed did come from those ranks...

...And perhaps most important, the Astros didn't waste any time getting this talent going in the system. With just one exception, every pick who signed did so before June was over. If nothing beats experience, then the Astros are way ahead of the game with this Draft class.

On Jiovanni Mier:
The top high-school shortstop in the Draft class, Mier should actually be able to stay at short thanks to a great arm, smooth actions and good range. He impressed those who saw him in the Appalachian League during his debut on both sides of the ball. He hit .276/.380/.484 over 192 at-bats and looks like the Astros hitting prospect with the highest upside throughout the system.

On Tanner Bushue:
Bushue didn't get to pitch a ton even though he signed quickly because of a back injury. He did get in 22 1/3 Gulf Coast League innings, posting a 2.42 ERA and .220 batting average against, striking out 19 and walking just five. He's expected to be fine for Spring Training and it should be interesting to see how this projectable right-hander progresses when healthy.

On Telvin Nash:
Coming from the same high school as 2008 No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham, Nash has some serious raw power. He didn't show much of it during his debut in the GCL, where he hit .218/.280/.324 with 45 strikouts in 40 games. He did show some improvement with a .259/.317/.379 August, but he'll have to tighten up his swing some so he can tap into that power potential.

On Jonathan Meyer:
Taken in the compensation round following the third, thanks to not signing 2008 third-rounder Chase Davidson, Meyer was a versatile high schooler who played the infield, caught and pitched. The Astros are developing him as a third baseman and he has the chance to be a good one. He started switch-hitting not long ago and while he's behind from the left side, it looks like it might work. He played 62 games for Rookie League Greeneville alongside Mier and hit .190/.301/.299 with 69 strikeouts in 221 at-bats.

On B.J. Hyatt:
The Astros love the pre-Draft workout and Hyatt is one who likely got taken and signed because of how he looked in his workout with the team. He's strong-armed and projectable and his stats with Greeneville as a junior-college product might point to his future role: 1.64 ERA, 11 strikeouts in 11 innings as a reliever; 8.36 ERA in 8 1/3 innings, 18 hits allowed, nine walks and four strikeouts in three starts.

Sleeper Picks:
Dallas Keuchel, J.D. Martinez, Grant Hogue, and Mike Schurz

Projected Fast-Riser:
The Astros used Boston College senior sign James Macdonald (18th round) as a reliever with Tri-City and he pitched well in that role. Should he stay there, he could get there sooner than most.

Astros interested in Brett Myers

Jerry Crasnick is reporting the Astros have some interest in Phillies pitcher Brett Myers. It makes sense:

The Astros offered salary arbitration to closer Jose Valverde, but he's likely to go out and test the open market. Myers can both start and relieve, and would fit in the rotation behind Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris.

The Rangers are also said to be interested in Myers.

Myers is coming off a three-year $25.75m contract with the Phillies, in which he made $12 million last year to start 10 of 18 games. With coming off an injury, his market should be depressed.

Expect more of the same from the Astros at the GM Meetings

McTaggart talks to Ed Wade regarding the goals for next week's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. And it sounds like it was a brief conversation.

What's the priority? Same as it was yesterday: re-signing their own free agents.
The Astros' top priority remains re-signing their own free agents, a group that includes closer Jose Valverde, reliever LaTroy Hawkins and infielder Miguel Tejada, who, at this stage of his career, appears destined for a move to third base from shortstop.

Still, Wade will be on the lookout for help at the back of the bullpen. The Astros would have an even bigger need in that area if they lose Valverde and/or Hawkins to free agency. Wade also wants to explore the possibility of finding an offensive player to play third base and platoon with Geoff Blum.

So, despite having no money, the Astros need one - maybe two - relievers, a starting pitcher, and a half of a third baseman. Yep, it's all coming together...

Arbitration reactions

It's not a lengthy article, or even all that in-depth. But JJO files a report on yesterday's arbitration action.

Why wasn't Tejada offered arbitration?
Tejada, who was the Astros' team leader on the field and in the clubhouse the last two seasons, said he's willing to move from shortstop to third base. But few, if any, teams would have likely risked going to arbitration with him because he stood to make anywhere from $12 million to $14 million for the 2010 season. Instead, baseball insiders believe Tejada will be cheaper on the free-agent market.

Baseball insiders. I don't think any of us qualify as baseball insiders. Well, maybe Deputy Jason - he knows Strech Suba. But all of us knew Tejada would have been cheaper as a free agent than through arbitration. Anyway.

What say you, Tejada?
“I'm just waiting to see what happens. I'm just here in the Dominican Republic waiting to hear something.”

But there is something of note, regarding LaHawk:
Including incentives, Hawkins made about $4 million last year with a base salary of $3.5 million, which is the same offer the Astros made to him immediately after the season, according to a person briefed on the negotiations.

So the Astros offered him $4 million, didn't reach an agreement for two weeks, and didn't offer him arbitration, which - had the judges found in LaHawk's favor - would have awarded him something close to the salary the Astros had already offered. But they didn't. So that's that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Crawfish Boxes ain't happy with the arbitration decision

The Crawfish Boxes have lashed out with a logical argument for offering arbitration to LaHawk. Which, of course, the Astros did not do.

Prior to a few hours ago, Hawkins was a questionable free-agent to invest in because of the detrimental Type-A tag hanging off his right arm. All Ed Wade had to do was explain to Drayton McLane is that by not offering Hawkins arbitration, he'd start hearing sizable offers that the Astros, or really any rational actor, likely cannot prudently match. Or that with an arbitration offer the Astros would get one of two results: teams become gun-shy due to the draft picks if Hawkins declines it, or the Astros get Hawkins back for probably no more than $4 million for one year if they go to arbitration.

Who, upon seeing that logic, says no to that? So either Drayton McLane is wholly illogical, or Ed Wade did not frame this decision very well to his boss. One of the two. But now there's no going back on this one and I think we'll see an interesting race to overpay for guys on the fringe of closer (like Hawkins, Gregg, and Sherril) as the hot stove heats up.

I don't understand it either. My immediate guess is that even $4 million (I thought $5m was a reasonable arrangement for LaHawk) is more than Run-DMC wants to spend on a closer in 2010, and the plan is to plug an in-house option in, while spending that money (or not) on another piece - maybe even Tejada. I, for a moment, thought that perhaps a deal had been worked out already with LaHawk, but then why wouldn't Ed offer arbitration, anyway? Just in case.

Ed could have locked up some sort of return for Hawkins' pretty great season and a half, be it by bringing him back or with a draft pick. But it didn't happen. And the most amazing thing about all of this is that nobody knows who to blame - Drayton, Ed, or the Wizard of As himself, Tal Smith.

Earlier I mentioned the possibility that the Astros will lose their 8th/9th inning pitchers this off-season, and that possibility is becoming more of a reality.

Teams lining up to talk to Miggs

Now that Miguel Tejada won't cost anybody a draft pick, he's drawing significant interest, says SI's Jon Heyman. Among the teams now interested: Cardinals, Phillies, Giants, Rangers, and - of course, the Astros.


Alyson Footer is reporting that the Astros have offered arbitration to Jose Valverde, but not to Miguel Tejada, LaTroy Hawkins, or Doug Brocail.

The only thing that surprises me is the decision on LaHawk. It's no secret that the Astros have an offer on the table to LaHawk, so he's likely returning - especially with the news that Valverde is probably out the door - though now that he won't cost any draft picks, he could draw more interest. Is it possible the Astros could lose their 8th/9th inning guys this off-season? Rest up, Jeff Fulchino.

Jerome Solomon is telling us, however, that talks are ongoing with all three (Brocail has already been shown the door. And by "the door," I mean, "a minor-league coaching position.")

UPDATE: MyFoxHouston quotes Easy Eddie:
“We would love to retain Valverde, Hawkins and Tejada, and we continue to negotiate with all three. However, we have to be realistic in our arbitration offerings because of the uncertainty of the process. We plan to continue talks with all three players.”

Arbitration decisions are imminent

Brian McTaggart tells us that Ed Wade's arbitration decisions will come "by afternoon." Stay tuned...

My predictions have been scattered throughout the last few weeks, but just to get them on the record today, they're not a lot different from what you've read elsewhere:

Valverde: Yes
LaHawk: Yes
Tejada: No

Tri-City ValleyCats: Nick Stanley

Nick Stanley
How did he get here?: Drafted, 25th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'2", 195 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP61.180/.275/.21315:82-4
vs RHP148.250/.321/.41230:1512-17
Bases Empty108.250/.341/.36120:148-2
Runners On101.208/.270/.34725:96-19

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 1.96
K/PA %: 19.2%
XBH/H %: 29.2%

Stanley was solid in his 60 games at 1B, committing six errors in 528 chances for a .989 Fld%.

August was the high point of Stanley's rookie season, in which he posted a season-high .690 OPS, but he was a consistent .230 hitter, hitting .230 before the All Star Break (three-quarters of the way through the season), and .228 after. Where did he struggle? Against lefties. And on the road (.831 OPS at home, .522 on the road). Stanley also hit two homers in his first eight games, and three in the remaining 55 games.

Red Sox interested in Tejada?

Missed this from yesterday, but the Red Sox could have interest in Miggs to be their shortstop in 2010, and their third baseman in 2011, when Lowell would likely be out.

That, however, might change as Dustin Pedroia is interested in moving to short to allow the Red Sox to pursue cheaper, younger, alternatives at second base.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Jhonny Medrano

Jhonny Medrano
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2005 season
Stats: 6'1", 156 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP67.224/.274/.32815:45-8
vs RHP102.206/.255/.25522:65-15
Bases Empty84.190/.227/.27421:45-1
Runners On85.235/.295/.29416:65-22

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 3.70
K/PA %: 15.3%
XBH/H %: 27.8%

Forty of Medrano's 41 games in the field were spent at 3B, where he committed 15 errors in 129 chances for a pedestrian .884 Fld%.

We've made the allotment in looking at Greeneville players of their first season in the States, and the same courtesy should be extended here. Medrano had spent the 2005-2007 seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, and missed the 2008 season for reasons which I'm still looking for. In 2006-2007, Medrano had OPS' of .775 and .774, respectively, though his 2009 OPS was two points higher than his rookie season in '05, with a .544 OPS. Let's see if a second season produces a rebound before passing judgment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hey, good for Chris Coste

Chris Coste has signed a deal with the New York Mets. In an interesting provision in the contract, Coste must be placed on the Mets' 40-Man Roster.

Easy Eddie says a lot/nothing about the arbitration decisions

McTaggart talked to Ed Wade which (he does often, apparently) and Easy Eddie had this to say about the impending arbitration deadline, which is now just under 26 hours away:

"We've had a lot of conversations about our free agents, the guys who were ranked [by Elias Sports Bureau], and hopefully we'll make the right decisions. Obviously, if we offer and the players decline, then it sets us up in position to have a greater impact in the Draft. But at the same time, if we do offer and the players accept, we have to live with that as well. It's an important decision, and we'll sit down [Tuesday] before we have to make the decision."

It says a lot about the financial flexibility given to Ed that, should a two-time NL leader in saves accept the Astros offer to return, they'll "have to live with that."

Lyles named Astros Organization Pitcher of the Year

Jordan Lyles was named the Astros Organization Pitcher of the Year today, while Koby Clemens was the A.O. Hitter of the Year.

Lyles' 167 strikeouts were third in the South Atlantic League, and fourth in all of Minor League Baseball.

Clemens led the California League in hitting with a .345 average and 121 RBI, and hit 22 home runs.

Tri-City ValleyCats: J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez
How did he get here?: Drafted, 20th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'3", 175 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Splits (with Tri-City)!

vs LHP69.319/.360/.49310:47-15
vs RHP118.331/.391/.56820:1117-18
Bases Empty88.352/.394/.62514:514-4
Runners On99.303/.368/.46516:1010-29

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 2.20
K/PA %: 15.1%
XBH/H %: 42.4%

Martinez spent 30 games in LF over the course of the season, with two errors and four outfield assists for a .967 Fld%, and 2 games at 1B (1 error/22 chances). 38 of his games were as a DH.

Martinez has been the story of the 2009 draft class, as far as hitters go. He started the season in Greeneville, but after 19 games and a 1.186 OPS, the organization rightly felt, "Hey, maybe this is too easy for him," and moved him up to Tri-City on July 11. Where he continued to absolutely rake. He hit three of his seven homers for Tri-City in his first month on the job, and after returning to earth for a spell, finished up the season hitting .429/.512/.714 in his last ten games with five multi-hit games. Combine his power with his relatively low strikeout rate, and I can't imagine he'll be anywhere but Lexington next season.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Brian Kemp

Brian Kemp
How did he get here?: Drafted, 19th Round (2009)
Stats: 5'9", 180 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 21


vs LHP83.265/.361/.2899:101-5
vs RHP137.255/.370/.30722:156-6
Bases Empty137.292/.390/.33619:175-0
Runners On83.205/.330/.24112:82-11

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 1.24
K/PA %: 11.8%
XBH/H %: 12.3%

Kemp spent all of his 62 games in the field in CF, where he committed no errors, and had six outfield assists. He clearly has some wheels as he operated for most of the season out of the leadoff spot, and stole 16 bases on 19 tries (84.2%).

In June and July, Kemp was all over the place - .298 average / .387 OBP, with 21 runs. But as the season moved along, he had a harder time (OPS, by month: .908/.702/.597/.403). The stats with runners on/RISP are disconcerting, but given how fast he is and his plate discipline, 2010 should prove to be a more consistent season.

If you're in Greeneville, TN any summer for the next five years, you can see some Astros ball

The Astros have announced that they have signed a five-year extension with Tusculum College to play their home games at Pioneer Park in Greeneville.

Ricky Bennett:
“The relationship we have built with the city of Greeneville and Tusculum College is outstanding. The city, fans, atmosphere and facility are second to none in the Appalachian League. We have comfort in knowing our players and staff will reap the benefits of being in a first-class environment for years to come.”

McTaggart's inbox was full. Now it's empty.

Brian McTaggart posted his first mailbag today. Some highlights:

-Roy, Wandy, Norris, Player X, and Moehler is your rotation. And Player X will be either Paulino, Wright, or Bazardo.

-If (when) Valverde walks, the Astros would be comfortable letting LaHawk close.

-Re-signing Blum and publicly discussing Tejada shifting to 3B, and being willing to sign someone to platoon Blum if they don't re-sign Tejada means that things aren't looking so hot for Chris Johnson.

-Koby Clemens is "a man without a position."

-Don't be surprised if the Astros add a cheap, veteran catcher this off-season.

Agent: Tejada could get a three-year deal

Within Jon Heyman's column this morning, he takes a look at the movers and shakers in free agency this offseason.

One of those is Fern Cuza, agent for Miggs:

He has two former MVPs for sale, Tejada and Guerrero. One competing agent suggests he may be able to get a three-year deal for Tejada, who is thought be drawing interest from the Cardinals, Astros, Giants, Phillies and Rangers.

Three years!

Astros "unlikely" to offer Tejada arbitration

McTaggart's new post reminds us all that the Astros have until midnight tomorrow night (Tuesday) to offer arbitration to their free agents: Tejada, Valverde, LaHawk, Michaels, and Erstad. Those players, then, have until next Monday to accept.

McTaggart does have a note about Tejada's impending arbitration decision:
Tejada made around $14 million last season and appears headed for a healthy pay cut on the free-agent market, which makes it seem unlikely the Astros would offer him arbitration.

And on Valverde?
Valverde, who made $8 million last season, is likely headed for a raise after coming off a season in which he was 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and converted 25 of 29 saves. He would be less likely to accept arbitration if he was offered by the Astros because he could command a higher salary in free agency.

We've maintained for quite some time that offering arbitration to Tejada is a huge risk, because he just might take it. The Astros could re-sign him at a lower rate on the free agent market, but there's also the risk that someone else could sign him - though the consensus seems to be that he'd (a) have to take a big pay cut, or (b) he'd have to play third base, since his defense is so suspect at short.

Valverde is an easier call, as he seems intent on testing the free agent market.

The Astros are faced with the same choice they had with Ty Wigginton last year: They would probably like him back, but it's too risky if he accepts because of the money involved. I would like to see the Astros get something for Tejada after giving up five players to get him in the first place, but not if it means having virtually no money left to play with.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2005 season
Stats: 5'11", 182 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 23

Instead of his 2009 splits, we have the splits from his one Winter League game, so let's take a look at his major stats from his five years in the Astros' organization:

2005 (VSL)101.287/.339/.32710:63-15
2006 (VSL)159.327/.405/.36513:236-27
2007 (APP)111.216/.281/.27918:107-6
2008 (APP/NYP)102.265/.318/.28422:82-9
2009 (NYP/SAL)126.167/.234/.19025:112-14

2009 Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 2.27
K/PA %: 17.7%
XBH/H %: 9.5%

In 44 games at catcher, Gonzalez committed six errors with two passed balls in 315 chances for a .981 Fld%.

This is just brutal. Two extra-base hits in 126ABs, and a steady slide since the 2006 season (albeit with a slight rebound in 2008, in 102ABs). And while Gonzalez started the season in Lexington, he was sent down to Tri-City on June 13, where he finished the season 16x82 for a .195/.241/.220 line.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tri-City ValleyCats: Jake Goebbert

Jake Goebbert
How did he get here?: Drafted, 13th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'0", 200 lbs, Bats/Throws: L/L
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22


vs LHP47.191/.296/.25511:52-4
vs RHP142.254/.344/.35928:1713-14
Bases Empty108.259/.310/.37024:710-7
Runners On81.210/.356/.28415:155-18

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 1.77
K/PA %: 17.9%
XBH/H %: 33.3%

Goebbert spent 42 of his 47 games in the field at LF (the other five in RF). In the outfield, he committed seven errors in 78 chances for a .910 Fld%, with two outfield assists.

Goebbert suffered a lacerated kidney while at Northwestern, so I'm guessing that's going to take some rehab time to get straight. That said, August was Goebbert's high-water mark of 2009, with a season-high .733 OPS, and getting 10 of his 15 extra-base hits. He did well against righties (.703 OPS), but struggled with lefties (.552 OPS). Encouragingly, away from Joe Bruno Stadium, Goebbert hit .257/.347/.367 (.714 OPS), compared to posting a .599 OPS at home.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Rene Garcia

Rene Garcia
How did he get here?: Drafted, 35th Round (2008)
Stats: 6'1", 172 lbs, Bats/Throws: R/R
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20


vs LHP61.213/.304/.2796:72-4
vs RHP112.196/.244/.25918:56-5
Bases Empty91.198/.270/.27516:76-0
Runners On82.207/.261/.2568:52-9

Season Total
K:BB Ratio: 2.00
K/PA %: 12.6%
XBH/H %: 22.9%

Garcia played 51 games behind the plate, committing three errors for a .991 Fld% and nine passed balls. However, he caught 30 of 65 baserunners for a 46% caught-stealing rate.

Garcia's arm and his defense is nice to have, but he regressed as a hitter in 2009. In 2008 (granted, in only 18 games), Garcia hit .295/.340/.386. Okay, so with 47 PAs to compare, maybe Garcia didn't regress at all, and this is a more accurate representation of his hitting prowess.

It's awesome that I have to read the Boston Globe to find out about the Astros

But exactly what has happened. The Globe's Nick Cafardo tells us that Koby Clemens is going to learn a whole bunch of positions next year:

The Astros are going to use him as a multi-positional player, sort of a Brandon Inge. The plan is to play him as a third baseman, left fielder, and catcher and let him develop as a hitter.

This is only good news for Clemens, who is going to get a chance to stick in the organization. He should start at Corpus and move up to Round Rock if he does well.

We also read that Miguel Tejada will draw considerable interest, perhaps from within the division, this off-season:

There’s no doubt he can still hit and will end up somewhere, with the Cardinals a good bet unless they opt for Mike Lowell (with the Sox picking up some of the contract). Tejada is on the radar of the Giants, Rangers, Orioles, and possible Mariners, who will lose Adrian Beltre.