Saturday, January 28, 2012

Random Random Astro - Mark Portugal

In this installment of Random Random Astro, we'll take a look at Mark Portugal. Mark was a starting pitcher for Houston from 1989 to 1993.

Mark was traded to Houston from Minnesota, where he had been a very mediocre reliever, for a player to be named later in December of 1988. That PTBNL ended up being minor league reliever Todd McLure, who spent one season in the Minnesota farm system before his professional career was over, so Houston basically got Mark for nothing.

Houston decided to turn him into a starter and his career blossomed with the Astros. During his tenure with the team, Mark went 52-30 with a 3.34 ERA. He also hit is only two career home runs while playing for the Astros, one his first season in Houston and the other his last. The best year of Mark's career came in his final season with Houston, 1993, as he went 18-4 with a 2.77 ERA, led NL pitchers in win percentage (.818) and finished 6th in Cy Young voting.

While Mark obviously had several good outings for the Astros, two in particular stood out. July 11th, 1991 Mark threw 10 shutout innings while giving up six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in an eleven inning 1-0 win over the Phillies. He even went 1-3 at the plate with a double that game.

Another of Mark's best performances came September 21st, 1993 against the Giants. Mark went the distance for a shutout in the 6-0 victory. He allowed just three hits and one walk with six strikeouts. Again, Mark had a good day hitting as well, going 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI.

Mark became a free agent after that 1993 season, eventually signing with those same San Francisco Giants. As compensation for losing Mark, the Astros received the Giants 1st round draft pick in 1994, as well as a compensation pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. With the first compensation pick the Astros drafted pitcher Scott Elarton. With the sandwich pick Houston selected infielder Russ Johnson.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jarred Cosart doesn't give himself a legitimate shot

In David Dalati's piece on hometown boy Jarred Cosart, we find that Cosart didn't really want to sign with the Phillies in 2008:

"When the Phillies called, I was like, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'" But sly old Ruben Amaro got him to sign as a 38th Round pick, instead of going to Missouri.

And he doesn't think he'll make the roster out of Spring Training:
"I want to make the team. But I wouldn't give myself a legitimate shot. I'm still young, I have things to work on but I'm going in there with the mindset that I'm going to make the team."

(He's probably right).

Kellen Kiilsgaard out

Astros minor-leaguer Kellen Kiilsgaard let everyone know that he was no longer with the Astros today on Twitter.

We didn't see a whole lot of Kiilsgaard, the Astros 30th Round pick in 2010. He didn't play at all in 2010 due to injury, and in 36 games between Greeneville and Tri-City (he was sent to Greeneville to make room for Chase Davidson), Kiilsgaard hit .161/.213/.246.

Astros sign Zach Duke

So the Astros have signed free agent LHP Zach Duke to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Should we get worked up? Duke is a native Texan (Clifton), spent the first six years of his career with Pittsburgh, and last season with Arizona. Here are his career stats:

181GP (he started nine of his 21 games for the Diamondbacks in 2011), 1269H/528ER, 537K:282BB, 4.56 ERA/1.49 WHIP. How does that break down per game? 11 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 4.6 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9.

So he doesn't walk anybody, but he doesn't strike anybody out, either. In the two seasons since his 2009 All-Star appearance (as the lone Pittsburgh All-Star), he has a 5.46 ERA/1.63 WHIP, with a 73 ERA+. (J.A. Happ had a 71 ERA+ in 2011, as did Jordan Lyles.) In his six appearances (five starts) at Minute Maid, Duke has a 1-2 record, with a 3.41 ERA/1.33 WHIP - small sample size, so do what you want with it.

To be fair, his BABIP in 2010 and 2011 were .338 and .339, respectively, and his xFIP was 4.31 and 4.27, also respectively. Seems as though those ground balls found holes.

To answer the original question of us getting all worked up: Not really. It's a minor-league deal, so remember that.

Yep, another prospect list

Seedlings to Stars just put out their list for the Astros farm system. They took a different perspective, as they identified the top player at each position. As for the system as a whole, here's the gist:

Position Player Upside: C+
Position Player Depth: C
Pitching Upside: C+
Pitching Depth: B
System Grade: C+

I'm planning a prospect preview of my own, so I won't add any commentary to this.

*Edit: Now with more linky goodness.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FanGraphs on Delino DeShields Jr

FanGraphs' Mike Newman (also at Scouting the SAL) has a scouting report up on Delino DeShields, Jr.

Your money quote:
Should DeShields Jr. develop perfectly, the potential is there for him to become poor man’s Brandon Phillips, but it’s a very loose comp and one I’m not completely comfortable with. The combination of his physique, position and tools make him a unique prospect with skills that leave him a true boom or bust candidate.

Read about Jake Goebbert and David Martinez

Baseball America has a little feature up where they highlight the "32nd Team:"

We provide a Top 30 Prospects list for each of the 30 organizations, and we used to call the leftover reports "The 31st Team." In 2009, we created a bonus supplement for readers who buy the Handbook directly from us, giving them one prospect for each farm system. That essentially became the 31st team, so now we consider the extras as "The 32nd Team."

Click the link to read more about Jake Goebbert:
He wouldn't be a factor if he didn't hit lefthanded, but the platoon advantage gives him a chance to become a second-division regular on an outfield corner if he keeps hitting.

David Martinez:
His ability to sink the ball should allow him to survive in one of the minors' toughest pitching environments. He still projects as a reliever in the long term.

Astros interested in Luis Ayala

Alden Gonzalez reports that the Astros are one of a "handful" of teams interested in 34-year old reliever Luis Ayala.

In 2011, Ayala threw 56IP for the Yankees, allowing 51H/13ER, 39K:20BB, with a 2.09 ERA/1.27 WHIP.

Interestingly enough (or not), Ayala was traded in 2008 to the Mets by the Nationals for a player to be named later. That PTBNL? Anderson Hernandez.

Astros have three on Top Prospect list

Hooray! The Astros have three players on the MLB Top 100 prospects list: Jonathan Singleton at #44, Jarred Cosart at #61, and George Springer at #84.

Daryle Ward suspended 50 games

Not that it really matters to us anymore, but Daryle Ward got himself suspended for 50 games after testing positive for "an amphetamine."

Ward is a minor-league free agent, so his suspension will start when he signs with a team. Or, more likely, his suspension will mean that he is suspended from baseball FOREVER.

Astros sign minor-league infielder Jordan Kreke

The Astros have signed infielder Jordan Kreke to a minor-league contract.

Kreke, who will be 25 in May, was a 13th-Round draft pick of the Braves in 2009 out of Eastern Illinois University (the same round that the Astros drafted Jake Goebbert). In part of three seasons (1139 PAs), Kreke has hit .239/.311/.311, and hit .218/.262/.288 for Double-A Mississippi in 2011. He has played 3B (125 games), 2B (123 games), SS (47 games), LF (2 games), and even threw 1.1IP in two games in 2011.

Signing with the Astros, according to Kreke, was a strategic move because, you know, the Braves' system is all good and stuff, and the Astros...
"Signing with the Astros takes some pressure off of me to perform. The Atlanta Braves have one of the top-5 farm systems in the league whereas the Astros are building theirs up. Hopefully, I can take off from the Astros' system, and who knows, make the big leagues."

Can someone please stop harrassing Jim Crane?

Here's an updated Business Week story on the Jim Crane/JP Morgan Chase/Jefferson County story, in which Crane's lawyers would like (someone) to kindly leave him out of it:

Since Crane doesn’t have any personal knowledge about JPMorgan’s role, “it is harassing and unduly burdensome to require Crane to appear and testify,” his attorneys said in court papers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snyder's deal: Low-risk, high-reward

Jerry Crasnick posted the details of Chris Snyder's deal last night, and it's quite favorable:

2012: $750,000 (only $350,000 guaranteed), bonuses for plate appearances and days on the roster.

2013: $4m - or a $500,000 buyout.

Reaction to the Mike Fast hiring

It's not terribly often that a front office hire (other than the GM) generates comment from around the baseball blogosphere, but that's exactly what Jeff Luhnow's hiring of Mike Fast has done.

Take, for instance, this Lookout Landing post:

The Astros aren't going to join the AL West as some kind of clown car. They're on their way towards legitimacy. And it's not just them. All teams are getting smarter. Some teams are getting smarter slower than other teams, and some teams are still run by Ned Colletti, but baseball's getting sharp. The intelligence gap between organizations is shrinking, increasing the significance of money and luck.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Want to know why we don't really try to "break news"?

Read this story from the Kings of Kauffman baiting an "Insider."

Angel Sanchez DFA'ed

To clear room for Chris Snyder, the Astros have DFA'ed Angel Sanchez.

I feel bad for Angel Sanchez, but he was a singles hitter who didn't hit singles all that often. He was decent enough in 2010, hitting .280/.316/.348 (which isn't all that decent), but hit just .240/.305/.285 in 2011, and went 106 PAs, from July 7 to September 23, without an extra-base hit. He had six extra-base hits in April, and then five for the rest of the year. As a starter in 2011, he hit .234/.297/.287. It just had to happen.

Fixed. We suggest you do the same.

Luhnow hires Mike Fast

So it came out in Jeff Luhnow's Sloan Sports chat that the Astros have hired Mike Fast - otherwise known on Twitter as Fastballs. He's an Austin-based writer for Baseball Prospectus whose archive can be found here.

According to Fast's "acceptance tweet," he'll have a role in baseball operations.

In Zachary Levine's article for the Chronicle, he writes:
Fast, one of the foremost experts on pitch trajectory (PITCHf/x) data, has also written on HITf/x data for BP. Some of his latest writings have been on hit-and-run success, quantifying how much control pitchers have over batted balls and an analysis of hot and cold zones for hitters.

Rany Jazayerli had this to say:
I have a problem with Astros hiring @fastballs. My problem: WHAT TOOK SO LONG? He's one of the best baseball analysts anywhere. About time.

High praise, indeed.

The Astros were interested in Desmond before Lowrie

Ken Rosenthal says that the Astros were interest in trading for Nationals' SS Ian Desmond before they went with Lowrie.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where Crane screwed up

Things were going so well. Lower ticket prices. Cheaper beer. Cheaper food. Hell, bring your own food! Maybe change the color scheme.

And then Crane screwed up. He mentioned exploring a name change. It doesn't matter that it was just a matter of exploration, or that he would seek fan input. All anyone is going to remember from this remarkable press conference is that it is theoretically possible that "Astros County" will have to go through a domain and Twitter name change, as well.

Crane shouldn't have even mentioned it. Fans were excited about going to Minute Maid again - and they probably still are - but they're all of a sudden too pissed off that, not only are the Astros going to be in the American League, the Astros might not even be the Astros when it happens.

In all likelihood, Crane already knows that it's unpopular. Someone maybe even printed out tweets on a dot matrix printer and showed it to him. But if he's seeking fan input, then you've already had your say. What was mentioned as a best-case scenario for Astros fans with new ownership in 2012? Everything that Crane said he'd do at the beginning of the press conference.

I would be very surprised if it even gets talked about further - other than a "We're keeping the name" press conference. For now, just settle down, everything is going to be alright. Probably.

Jim Crane is doing exactly the right thing to get fans back

There's a press conference currently taking place, where Jim Crane is announcing some fan-friendly initiatives for the 2012 season. These are culled from the press conference, and from Steve Campbell, Zachary Levine, and Alyson Footer's tweets. Among the new initiatives (Here's a link to Footer's post:

*Season ticket prices are being lowered.
*Cheapest seats are being reduced from $7 to $5.
*You can now bring food and drinks into MMP
*A 14-oz. beer is now $5.

Notably, Levine tweets that uniform changes are being considered for 2013, but nothing for the 50th anniversary season coming up.

Does it improve the on-field product? No. But Crane is doing what he needs to do in the short-term to get fans in the seats, which will ultimately help the on-field product.

Here's something crazy: Crane says the Apparatus will even evaluate changing the "Astros" name. How do you feel about that? Keep in mind, Crane originally said the name would stay the same, but it at least shows that they are re-evaluating EVERYTHING about the franchise.

J.D. Martinez hit with Manny today

J.D. Martinez tweeted that he took some BP with the Big Infertility, aka Manny Ramirez today:

How dare the Diamondbacks take a catcher we didn't need!?

Keith Law tweeted that the Diamondbacks have claimed catcher Craig Tatum, whom the Astros DFA'ed to make room for Jack Cust.

Tatum posted a .000/.000/.000 line for the Astros in 0 PAs.

Rank ALL the Prospects

I know, it seems like everyone and their brother has come out with prospect rankings recently. That said, Minor League Ball recently released their 2012 farm system rankings. Houston checks in at #25, but there is recognition of our improvement. Go check it out.

Tigers moving on from Carlos Lee?

It's hard to tell if the Tigers were ever actually interested in Carlos Lee, but via MLBTR, we find that Danny Knobler is reporting the Tigers have interest in Hideki Matsui and Raul Ibanez.

Nowhere in the post is El Caballo actually mentioned...