Friday, January 28, 2011

Keith Law's Top 10 Astros prospects

Continuing Keith Law Day, he posted his (Insider-Only, natch) Astros top ten prospects:

1. Jordan Lyles, RHP
2. Delino DeShields, Jr., CF
3. Ariel Ovando, OF
4. Austin Wates, OF
5. Tanner Bushue, RHP
6. Jiovanni Mier, SS
7. Telvin Nash, LF
8. Jonathan Villar, SS
9. Vincent Velasquez, RHP
10. J.D. Martinez, RHP


Keith Law: Ariel Ovando, Sleeper

Keith Law's been a busybody. And he has a new article up (Insider-Only, of course) identifying a sleeper prospect from each organization who could end up on the 2012 Top 100. The Astros' prospect is Ariel Ovando:

Outfielder Ariel Ovando has -- to use the technical term -- some "big whack" at the plate, a loose frame with room to add and already some feel for hitting.

Castro starting to feel comfortable

Profile season is underway, and McTaggart caught up with Jason Castro, as he prepares for the 2011 season with his name penciled in as C1 (until J.R. Towles does his yearly Babe Ruth impression until March 31):

"I've put a lot of work in and ironed out some things mechanically. I'm in a place right now that I feel really comfortable. That's the best part is feeling comfortable up there, and that really puts you in the best place to have success."

The intense workout program Castro participated in this winter was at SPARTA Performance Science, a facility used by a handful of pro athletes in which workouts are geared to the individual athlete. Castro said it's designed for him to be in top shape entering Spring Training, instead of using the spring to get in shape.

Did you know that Castro hit .070 (3x43) against LHP in 2010?

MLB puts the screwgee on the Astros/Red Sox exhibition game

Sure, it's an exhibition game that means absolutely nothing. But the people who show up, and I would bet that an exhibition game against the Red Sox in March will be better attended than a regular season game in September, would be spending real money. So when MLB decided to schedule regular season games throughout March 31, the Astros and Red Sox were forced to cancel the March 31 exhibition at Minute Maid, because they couldn't find a window around the regular season games.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Payroll: $80m-ish

Brian McTaggart has your payroll estimate for 2011. Carlos Lee will account for 23.75% of the Astros payroll. /tears up

Astros agree to terms with Towles, Johnson

McTaggart tells us that the Astros have agreed to terms with Chris Johnson and - yes - J.R. Towles $424,000.

Yahoo gazes into their crystal ball and finds mountains and mountains of crap

Over at Big League Stew, Alex Remington was asked "How many games will the 2011 Astros win?"

Quoting Dan Szymborski:
Of the players predicted to make up the Astros' 25-man roster, Szymborski only sees four players likely to achieve production above league average: hitters Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, and starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.

So this isn't going very well.

The Astros don't have a single player as good as Pirate center fielder Andrew McCutchen, and they might not have anyone as good as third baseman Pedro Alvarez, either. After years of Pirate dominance of the NL Central cellar, the race for the bottom might finally be competitive in 2011.

So what's the verdict?
I'm predicting a 64-98 record.


Wandy vs. the Big Inning

Anecdotally, we know about Wandy's tendency to give up the big inning. So let's see if we can quantify it, shall we?

First, what do you call a Big Inning? Let's arbitrarily set it at allowing three runs in one inning. Let's go.

Big Innings in 2010: 10

April 6 vs. SF (L 0-3)
Innings 1-5: 5H/0ER, 3K:1BB, 19 batters faced
6th inning: 2H/3ER, 1K:3BB, 8 batters faced

Wandy walked the first two batters on four straight balls (that's right, eight balls to open the inning), gave up a single, groundout, sac fly, single, and another walk before striking out Barry Zito to end the inning.

April 12 @ StL (L 0-5)
Innings 1-2: 3H/1ER, 0K:0BB, 8 batters faced
3rd inning: 3H/3ER, 0K:0BB, 6 batters faced

Wandy got Adam Wainwright to flyout to lead off the inning. But consecutive singles from Schumaker and Ludwick set up a three-run homer from Pujols.

May 6 vs. Ari (L 3-6)
Innings 1-2: 3H/1ER, 3K:1BB, 9 batters faced
3rd inning: 4H/3ER, 0K:0BB, 7 batters faced

This was a terrible inning. He led off the inning by hitting Kelly Johnson, then a single to Abreu, passed ball, single, sac fly, single, and single.

May 12 @ StL (W 9-6)
Innings 1-5: 1H/1ER, 3K:1BB, 18 batters faced
6th inning: 4H/4ER, 0K:1BB, 8 batters faced

After cruising through the first five innings, allowing only an unearned run, Schumaker led off the inning with a groundout. Then Ludwick singled, Pujols doubled, Holliday walked, Freese hit a ground-rule double, LaRue got a run-scoring groundout, and Stavinoha singled before Brendan Ryan ended the inning.

May 28 @ CIN (L 6-15)
Innings 1-2: 3H/2ER, 2K:1BB, 10 batters faced
3rd-4th innings: 5H/6ER, 3K:1BB, 10 batters faced

This was one of Wandy's worst starts of the season, lasting just 3.1IP and giving up 8ER. Cairo singled to lead off the inning, Philips struck out, Rolen doubled, and Gomes homered. He got Bruce and Stubbs to strike out looking, so he came back out for the 4th, gave up a lead-off single to Hanigan, a single to Cabrera, and walked Cairo. Chacin replaced Wandy, and Chacin allowed all three runs he inherited to score.

June 12 @ NYY (L 3-9)

Innings 1-2: 2H/1ER, 2K:1BB, 9 batters faced
3rd inning: 3H/5ER, 2K:2BB, 8 batters faced

Wandy walked Jeter to lead off the inning, then gave up a single to Swisher, walked Teixeira, a single to Cano, and Posada hit a grand slam to bring them all home. Wandy actually made it through the 5th before walking Cervelli and Granderson to lead off the 6th. Fulchino came in to clean it up, and gave up a homer to Jeter, bringing in Cervelli and Granderson.

June 18 @ TEX (L 3-9)

Innings 1-2: 0H/0ER, 0K:1BB, 7 batters faced
3rd inning: 4H/6ER, 0K:3BB, 10 batters faced

This game marked the end of Bad Wandy, he was dramatically better from this point forward in the season (obviously, as seven of his first 14 starts qualify as a Big Inning start). However, Borbon grounded out to start the inning, but then Feldman - the pitcher - cracked a double, Andrus walked, Young grounded out, but Kinsler and Vlad walked, Hamilton got a two-run single, Smoak got a two-run double, and Matt Treanor got an RBI single before Borbon lined out to end the inning.

July 19 @ CHC (W 11-5)

Innings 1-5: 4H/2ER, 2K:1BB, 18 batters faced
6th inning: 4H/3ER, 0K:0BB, 6 batters faced

Tyler Colvin homered to lead off the inning, Castro grounded out, Lee doubled, and Ramirez hit a two-run shot. He gave up a single to Soriano two batters later, but Soriano ran himself into an inning-ending out.

Sept 11 v LAD (L 3-6)

Innings 1-3: 0H/0ER, 5K:2BB, 11 batters faced
4th inning: 4H/3ER, 2K:0BB, 7 batters faced

Casey Blake homered to start the inning, and then Wandy got two of the next three batters out. Johnson singled, stole 2nd, and Ellis brought him home with another single. It doesn't fit the mold of his previous starts in this list, but it's still three earned runs in an inning. Wandy would go on to pitch another three strong innings.

Sept 17 vs. CIN (W 5-3)

Innings 1-5: 0H/0ER, 8K:5BB, 20 batters faced
6th inning: 3H/3ER, 2K:1BB, 7 batters faced

Votto doubled to lead off the 6th, Rolen walked, and Gomes tagged him for a 3-run homer. He did allow another single to Stubbs, but got out of the inning without any other damage.

So that sums up ten starts in which Wandy gave up 3+ ER in one inning. There are a couple of trends we can notice from this list:

*Five of the ten starts came against NL Central opponents. (2xSTL, 2xCIN, 1xCHC)
*Six starts were on the road, four at home
*The Astros lost seven of these games, though that says more about the offense as it does Wandy.
*The lead-off batter got on base in seven of the ten starts
*Of those seven starts, three started with an extra-base hit (the last three, actually). Two started with a walk, one with an HBP.
*In every instance, the Big Inning came on the 2nd time through the order, and generally the damage was done by the heart of the order.
*This makes sense as the highest OPSa Wandy posted was in the 2nd time through the order. Also keep in mind that the lead-off batter in the inning through the season had a .257/.335/.402 line.

What does it all mean? Well for one, it means that there's no way I'm going through every inning to evaluate more data. Second, it shows how ineffective Wandy was in the first half of the season that seven of his first 14 starts fell into this category, compared to just three of his last eighteen. Third, it's obvious to say that when Wandy doesn't allow a 3+ run inning, he does good. That's blatantly obvious - and borderline asinine. But it does show that Wandy was able to keep his composure much better in the 2nd half of the season. And gives us a little more ammunition that his 3yr deal is probably, for the time being, a good thing.

Keith Law: Lyles is #42

Keith Law's (Insider-Only) Top 100 prospect list was released today, and our boy Jordan Lyles clocks in at #42.

We're always hesitant to just post everything from a pay-site (yesterday's Organizational Ranking post was an exception, because it was only about six words long), so we'll give you the meat of his Lyles comments:

His command of his fastball and changeup is above-average, but he's still working on his feel for the two breaking pitches, and it's hard to project him as a No. 1 with only the change as a potential out pitch. However, the Astros surely would take him as a future No. 2 who's on the cusp of the majors at age 20, the best pitching prospect their system has produced since the days of Roy Oswalt.

Last year, Law ranked Lyles #60, and had this to say:
With the potential for him to add velocity, given his 6-foot-4 frame as he approaches the legal drinking age, Lyles could become a No. 2 starter or more for a team that hasn't developed anything close to that since Roy Oswalt.

Falling off Law's list from last year is Jason Castro (#65) and Jiovanni Mier (#94).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's look at how much money Wandy will make!

Alyson Footer has the breakdown of Wandy's contract:

Signing bonus: $1.5m
2011: $7m
2012: $10m
2013: $13m
2014: $13m (vesting or club option)

Hardball Talk's Astros Depth-Chart

Hardball Talk has their version of what the Astros' Depth-Chart looks like (click the link, I'm not re-posting the entire thing. Tell me what you think. If you're like me, this little nugget caught your eye:

Bogusevic was a disappointment again last season and it no longer seems likely that he’ll turn into even a legitimate fourth outfielder.

I'm just curious as to what about 2010 made Bogusevic a disappointment. Again. His Triple-A OPS rose 71 points. He only played in a handful of Major League games. The Astros have Carlos Lee's Immovable Contract and two outfielders who are - by all accounts - productive. What expectations could anyone possibly have about an outfielder who has only been an outfielder for two seasons (heading into 2010)?

Read this article at your peril. If you are pregnant, or have high blood pressure, or are taking Viagra, you might just want to leave it alone.

Astros rank #27th in Keith Law's Organizational Rankings

Keith Law posted his (Insider-only) Organizational Rankings. Your Houston Astros are 27th:

The Astros are slowly getting better through the draft and some dabbling in Latin America, but it sure would have been nice to see them get more in return for Roy Oswalt.

Yes. Yes it would have been nice to see them get more in return for Roy. Last year the Astros ranked 28th.

Lyles is #31

Jordan Lyles was named the 31st overall top prospect for 2011 in MLB's annual Top 50 list. He's the only Astro on the list. How did the NL Central compare?

Well, here's the number of prospects, by team:
Reds: 3 (Aroldis Chapman - #6; Devin Mesoraco - #45; Yonder Alonso - #49)
Cubs: 1 (Brett Jackson - #46)
Cardinals: 1 (Shelby Miller - #20)
Pirates: 1 (Taillon - #18)
Brewers: 0

Pence goes to arbitration

So the Astros were able to trade or settle all of their arbitration-eligible players, except for Hunter Pence, who will head to a hearing next month, where a judge will determine if he gets the $6.9m he wants, or the $5.15m the Astros want to pay him.

"It doesn't say anything about how we feel about the player. It's the mechanism that's in place in our game when two parties can't get together and come to a negotiated settlement. There is no reflection on how we feel about Hunter, or I'm assuming on how Hunter feels about us."

Pence didn't seem to mind the development:
This is just part of the business side of the game.

Astros sign Wandy to big ol' deal

So by now you've already heard or read that the Astros signed Wandy to a three-year, $34 million deal with a 4th-year option that could increase the total deal to $44.5m.

First, some reaction:

“I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. I feel at home here with the Houston Astros.”

“On a lot of different fronts, I think it’s the right thing for everyone. We have one of the top lefthanded pitchers in baseball going out for us every fifth day for the next three years — hopefully the next four and beyond.”

He doesn't have the kind of 97-mph stuff that sends scouts running to phone their bosses. That's a good thing for the Astros. Otherwise, they couldn't have afforded him and he'd be pitching for the Yankees...Actually, the Yankees would've given up on Rodriguez years ago because patience isn't their strength and he has required plenty.

...Given everything surrounding the organization – a lack of talent on the field, on the farm, and, at least given many of Ed Wade’s recent moves, in the front office – as well as Rodriguez’s relatively advanced age, the odds are long that the Astros will get anything of real value for their money or years.

First of all, may I jog your memory back to January 19, when the County Clerk said the following:
I'm guessing that the numbers would start at 3yrs/$33m.

So. Boom. Anyhow, that link will take you back to our thoughts on Wandy's progression, and how Carl Pavano is the most-similar to Wandy, according to Baseball-Reference. In Pavano's Age 32-34 seasons (2008-10), he posted the following total line:

72 starts, 35-25, 4.49 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 94 ERA+, 279K:86BB.

Comparing Wandy's 2008-10 to Pavano:

90 starts, 34-31, 3.36 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 121 ERA+, 502K:175BB.

But let's think about this from a financial/long-term standpoint.

This makes Wandy the second-highest paid player on the Astros in 2011 (behind Carlos Lee, obviously), tied with Brett Myers if we have the contract details straight. But it also means that the Astros have their 1-2 punch for the next two years, possibly three (with Myers' 2013 option). Also, Bud Norris won't hit free agency until 2016, and J.A. Happ until 2015. The Astros have their rotation set for the next several years, especially with everyone expecting Lyles to do what he does, either later in the season.

So regardless of how much you like the deal, and FanGraphs - predictably - doesn't, it brings some stability to the rotation. It's possible the Astros are over-committed on the rotation. Because what happens if Fernando Abad kills it, or should Dallas Keuchel turns into the player that I hope he does, these commitments could hinder their progression. Right now the Astros have quantity, we'll just have to see about the quality.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oklahoma City has a new play-by-play guy

And it's J.P. Shadrick, formerly of the Double-A Jacksonville Suns.

This affects the approximately two of you Astros County citizens who live in Oklahoma City, but we love everybody.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jose Carlos Thompson to Major League camp

Recent signee Jose Carlos Thompson has been invited to Major League Camp where, according to Zach Levine, he'll be considered for 2B/SS jobs in the minors. Where could the 23-year old play this season?

Oklahoma City:
It's reasonable to assume that whomever doesn't win the 2B1/2B2 or SS1/SS2 jobs (Matt Downs, Tommy Manzella, Oswaldo Navarro, Wladimir Sutil, etc) will be in Triple-A. So it's fairly unlikely that Oklahoma City is his destination.

Thompson would be a little young for Corpus (last year's average age for position players: 24.7), but last year's GP leader at 2B was German Duran. And he was recently released, and the primary starter at 2B for Lancaster in 2010 was Albert Cartwright, who was traded to Philadelphia. Jose Altuve saw some time towards the end of Lancaster's season, but I imagine that the Astros will want to see him in a full season at High-A (with him being 21 this season). Corpus is our pick for Thompson.

The lowest level I can see Thompson playing at, but Brandon Wikoff will likely get another year at Lancaster at SS, and we've already talked about Altuve in Lancaster.

Wandy has a Case to Watch

Over at MLBTR, they have a post on the Ten Arbitration Cases to Watch this off-season, and good ol' Wandy clocks in at #4:

Rodriguez's $10.25MM asking price seems high until you realize how few arbitration eligible pitchers have comparable big league experience (the Astros offered $8MM). Rodriguez is just 15 innings shy of 1,000 for his career and his ERA hasn't surpassed 3.60 in any of the past three seasons. The lefty's 985 innings are 246 more than Erik Bedard had after 2008, the season that set Bedard up for a $7.75MM payday. Few arbitration eligible pitchers earn eight-figure deals, but few have as much big league experience and success as Rodriguez.

Will the DWIs never stop?

He's not an Astro anymore, but former Astro Troy Patton was popped for suspicion of DWI on Saturday night.

This is just another sad brick in the wall of Astros/former Astros infamy, in which lawlessness runs rampant through anyone in the organization, or anyone ever associated with the organization..../sarcasm. /NotThatDWIisFunny.

Astros to Cantu: Thanks, but no thanks

The Examiner talked to Jorge Cantu and then the Astros, just as suddenly, stopped talking to Jorge Cantu.

"We were really trying with Houston, but talks have just ceased with them, which is unfortunate."

Astros sign another 2B

Missed this over the weekend, but the Astros have signed 2B Jose Carlos Thompson for $250,000. SI's Melissa Sagura points out that he's Aroldis Chapman's "BFF," and that he hit .440/.484/.729 at Western Oklahoma State. Western Oklahoma State's website lists Kurt Russell as their head coach, and facts about the 2009 team. FYI.