Friday, February 10, 2012

Prospects to watch in 2012

By now, most of the "experts" have released their top 10, 11, 15, 20, however many lists and we've linked to as many of them as we could find and thought relevant. So I'm not going to add my own top (insert random number) list to the noise. Instead, we'll look position by position and identify the experts' consensus top prospect, an intriguing under the radar player, and those facing a potential make or break season.


Consensus: Chris Wallace - Chris has impressed both offensively and defensively so far, hitting .280/.355/.495 in two seasons while throwing out 34% of would-be base stealers, though that number dropped to just 10% in 30 AA games at the end of 2011. If his bat holds true and his defensive struggles at Corpus prove to be a sample size blip, Chris has a good shot at success.

Under the Radar: Ernesto Genoves - Genoves had a mini-breakout in 2011 at Greeneville where he hit .280/.375/.464 and had a 31% caught stealing rate. Offensively this is the first time we've seen much pop from him, but his strikeout rate is decent and he's shown some ability to get on base. He does have an issue with passed balls as a catcher, which could hamper his progress.

Make or Break: Rene Garcia - Garcia is another of the many defense-first catchers we've seen lately in the organization. His 37% career CS% looks good, but another season of swinging a wet noodle on offense (.242/.288/.303 at Lancaster in 2011) will certainly relegate him to organizational fodder.

First Base

Consensus: Jonathan Singleton - Singleton, acquired from Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade, is regarded by some as the Astros top prospect. In three minor league seasons he sports a line of .294/.393/.456. This guy hits for average, is starting to realize his power potential, and is willing to take a walk. Barring any setbacks don't be surprised to see him in Houston as early as 2013.

Under the Radar: Mario Gonzalez - Not much is known about Mario, as he's spent his three year career so far in the Dominican Summer League. He has enormous plate discipline, especially for a younger player. Last season he hit .273/.443/.398 with 50 walks in just 238 plate appearances. I don't know if he has much power potential, but I'm hoping he makes the move to the states in 2012 so we can get a better look at him. He also threw three scoreless innings last season.

Make or Break: Kody Hinze - Kody burst onto the scene in 2010 with a good increase in power and continued his improved hitting in 2011 as he hit .306/.420/.541 between Lancaster and Corpus, though his power dropped off in Corpus. He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last season, and time is ticking away for Kody.

Second Base

Consensus: Delino DeShields - DDJ struggled in his first full season as the organization challenged him by placing him in Lexington, where he hit .220/.305/.322, and switching him from center field to second base. The tools are there, though, and players who are children of former major leaguers often have the makeup to fight through the struggles and come out on the other side in good shape.

Under the Radar: Brandon Wikoff - Brandon is the kind of player that gets described using the words "gritty", "hustle", and "scrappy." He's undersized with almost no power but he hits for good average, doesn't strikeout much, and plays multiple positions without embarrassing himself at any of them. Last year, mostly at Corpus, he hit .302/.391/.346 and logged innings at second base, shortstop, and third base. Think Jeff Keppinger but with better defense and none of the power.

Make or Break: Andrew Simunic - Simunic and Wikoff are very similar on paper. Andrew has the ability to at least hit a few doubles, but with a few more strikeouts. His career line is .272/.367/.346. He's played a little outfield; he's actually appeared at every position except catcher, but is best at second base. However, Simunic is already 26 and only has 37 games above high A ball.


Consensus: Jonathan Villar - Villar, acquired in the Oswalt deal, has enormous potential, profiling as a future 20/20 shortstop. He's very young and raw, though. Villar has hit .255/.331/.370 in his minor league career with a scary 26.1% strikeout rate and an equally scary .923 fielding percentage. But, he's been two to three years younger than his competition the last couple seasons as he's been aggressively pushed through the Houston system since the trade.

Under the Radar: Juan Santana - Juan played last season as a 16 year old in the Dominican Summer League. Like Mario Gonzalez, Juan doesn't have many reports out there for me to pull from and I'm unfortunately not able to travel to the D.R. to watch them. What we can tell is that he shows above age level plate discipline as he hit .274/.350/.363 with 28 walks and 22 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances. I suspect he'll spend another season or two in the DSL before coming stateside to play, but I'll be watching the box scores for his name in the meantime.

Make or Break: Jiovanni Mier - Before we get too far into Jio, let me say he's still very young and has time to figure it out. However, he's already been passed by Villar because his bat hasn't developed the way the Astros were hoping. He's shown good patience at the plate and may yet develop a little pop, but his career slash line is just .244/.341/.355 through three seasons. He needs to take a good step forward this season to get back on the top prospect track.

Third Base

Consensus: Mike Kvasnicka - That Mike is seen as our top 3B prospect probably says more about the Astros system than it does about Kvasnicka. He was drafted as a catcher but the Astros quickly moved him out from behind the plate and he's struggled defensively with the switch so far. He's described as having power potential, but at his age I don't see much more room to develop that power. He's hit .251/.320/.357 as a professional. Had the Astros system not been so thin at third base, I would have listed him as the make or break candidate. I've spoken with a few teammates of his, though, and almost to a man they gave me Mike's name as a player they think could move through the system quickly, so there may be more there that I'm not seeing.

Under the Radar: Jonathan Meyer - Jonathan had a mini-breakout last season at Lancaster but still needs to improve before really making a case for prospect status. He hit .264/.343/.399 with 14 home runs while improving his defense and walk rate. He'll be just 21 in 2012 and may be coming into his own.

Make or Break: David Flores - David may turn out to be another of the organizations many Lancaster flukes. After hitting .311/.371/.585 in 205 plate appearances in his third stint with the JetHawks he seemingly forgot how to hit in Corpus. In 251 trips to the plate for the Hooks, Flores hit just .203/.264/.313. He doesn't strike out much, though, so if he can make more solid contact there's hope. At 25 years old he needs to figure it out soon.


Consensus: Ariel Ovando - Ovando became Houston's first big money international free agent when he signed for $2.6M in 2010. He has big power potential, should hit for average as he develops, and has a strong arm in right field. He played for the G-Stros as a 17 year old and hit .235/.283/.365, which wasn't bad for his age.

George Springer - George was the 2011 1st round pick but only appeared in 8 games and hit .179/.303/.393. He's athletic, hits for power, and runs well. He's a little raw for a college pick, but has potential to be a star center fielder in a few years.

Domingo Santana - A lot of the baseball community was surprised when Santana was named as the player to be named later in the Pence trade. He has a big, powerful frame, big power potential, and a strong arm in right field. In many ways, his profile is similar to Ovando, just bigger and advanced a couple years. He took a good step forward last season as he hit .287/.362/.471 between the Philadelphia and Houston A level teams. He does strikeout a lot and that will need to be watched as he moves up.

Under the Radar: Brandon Meredith - Brandon signed quickly after getting drafted in 2011 and appeared in 35 games for Tri-City, hitting .244/.371/.395. He has good patience at the plate and a good glove, and he may well be the hardest working guy in the organization.

Teoscar Hernandez - Hernandez is another of a group of young Dominican Summer League Astros players that shows an unusual patience at the plate. Teoscar hit .274/.360/.487 last year and showed good base stealing ability as well, succeeding in 16 of 20 attempts.

Adam Bailey - Adam's strong showing in 2011 seemed to come out of nowhere. He hit .291/.327/.478 with 24 home runs as he quickly moved from Lexington to Lancaster to Corpus by season's end. He doesn't walk much, but his strikeouts are manageable and he plays a fairly solid right field.

Make or Break: Grant Hogue - Grant has been a solid but unspectacular player who can steal a few bases for his three professional seasons. His career line of .279/.352/.342 indicates that he has some patience, but doesn't hit for average or power. He's also been older than his competition all three seasons. He's likely just organizational depth but a breakout season from Hogue could still shake things up.

T.J. Steele - Steele turned a lot of heads when he hit .345/.385/.562 at Lancaster in 2009. Unfortunately, he has struggled mightily through two seasons in Corpus since then and now sports a career line of just .254/.289/.392. At 25, T.J. needs to regain the spark he found with the JetHawks quickly.

Jon Gaston - Yet another Lancaster phenom, Gaston got noticed when he hit 35 home runs there in 2009. However, his numbers have plummeted since then as he's struggled against AA pitching. His career line is now just .247/.324/.438. Like Steele, Jon is 25 and likely facing his last chance to make a name for himself as a prospect.

Starting Pitcher

Consensus: Jarred Cosart - Cosart has the stuff to be a staff ace, featuring a fastball in the upper 90's with a good curve and developing changeup. In 240 minor league innings he has a 3.82 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 3.0 K/9. A September call up in 2012 is not out of the question for Jarred, but 2013 is probably more realistic, as he only has 36.1 innings above A ball so far.

Brett Oberholtzer - Brett may be the best piece of the Bourn trade. He held his own as a 21 year old at AA in 2011 and has career stats of a 3.49 ERA, 7.6 K/9, and 2.1 K/9. He doesn't have the potential that Cosart has, but he's projected to be a solid 3rd starter. Brett is a likely 2012 call up.

Paul Clemens - Clemens also came over in the Bourn trade. He has the potential to be a mid rotation starter, but may end up in the bullpen if his changeup doesn't continue to develop. He holds a 4.09 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 but those numbers are skewed by a rough 2009 season. His last two years have been much better.

Mike Foltynewicz - Folty has the stuff to be a front line starter, but struggles with consistency. So far he has a 4.74 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. He's young, the potential is there, and he has at time flashed dominance, but he still has some maturing to do.

Kyle Weiland - Weiland was acquired from Boston in the Melancon trade and is considered by some to be major league ready. He had 7 rough outings with Boston last September as the Red Sox struggled through injuries down the stretch. In roughly 450 minor league inning Kyle has a 3.51 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.

Under the Radar: Luis Ordosgoitti - Ordosgoitti is a 19 year old who was signed out of Venezuela. In 76.1 innings, Luis has a 4.13 ERA but his 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 indicate he could really blossom over the next couple seasons.

Nick Tropeano - Tropeano was the 5th round draft pick in 2011, so he's not exactly a sleeper. As a 20 year old at Tri-City, Nick dominated with a 2.36 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9. He already has a good changeup and if he can keep up this level of performance he won't be under the radar for long.

Carlos Quevedo - Quevedo is a control pitcher who can at times get hit a little hard. In over 400 minor league innings he has a 3.66 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and a minuscule 1.3 BB/9. If he can start missing a few more bats he could turn the corner.

Kyle Hallock - Kyle is another 2011 draftee that may quickly make a name for himself. In 61.2 innings at Tri-City, he had a 2.63 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9. He's a finesse lefty with good command and secondary pitches, so it's possible he may overpower the lower level hitters but could struggle as he faces more advanced opponents.

Jake Buchanan - Buchanan is a rare pitcher in that he was able to survive Lancaster without suffering a big drop off in performance. He pitched to a 3.91 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 158.2 innings. He's been able to survive his low strikeout rate with a ground ball percentage of over 60% so far.

Make or Break: Jonnathan Aristil - Aristil came over in the Matt Lindstrom trade. In 473.2 innings he has a 4.88 ERA, 8.0 K/9, and 4.2 BB/9. It's those strikeouts that have gotten him to where he is so far, but his walk and hit rates have risen along with his strikeout rate. At 25 years old and already traded once, if he can't increase his effectiveness in 2012 it may be about time to give up on him. A transition to the bullpen may still be possible, though.

Robert Donovan - After a decent debut at Tri-City, and an good showing in Lexington for the first part of 2010, Donovan has been torn apart by the meat grinder known as Lancaster. In 137.1 innings in 2011 he had a 6.29 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Assuming he gets a shot at Corpus this year, it will be interesting to see if he can repeat some of his earlier success.

Sergio Perez - Sergio has struggled through three straight mediocre seasons at AA and AAA. For his professional career he's pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. He'll be 27 this season and is about to be passed by the higher potential prospects in the organization.

Relief Pitcher

Consensus: Jack Armstrong - Jack's stuff has potential to start, but injuries and inconsistency in college lead him to be profiled as a likely relief pitcher. If he can pull it all together he'll be a star. There's a lot of high risk; high reward going on with Jack. He didn't sign in time to pitch professionally in 2011.

Adrian Houser - Houser has a plus fastball and curveball. He started in Rookie ball after signing, but if he can't develop a third pitch he'll end up in the bullpen. In 48 innings in 2011 he posted a 4.31 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9.

Under the Radar: Alex Sogard - Sogard was used as a swingman at Lexington in 2011. He's a hard throwing lefty with a 3.96 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 145.1 professional innings.

Mitchell Lambson - Lambson may have been a bit unlucky in his first minor league season. His 4.33 ERA doesn't quite match his 9.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 and his hit and home run rates were decent as well.

Ryan Cole - Ryan doesn't have the strikeout stuff as some of the other young relief pitchers in the system, but he's been effective nonetheless. In 62 minor league innings he has a 2.61 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. His success can be attributed to a groundball rate of over 50% which helps contribute to his outstanding 0.3 HR/9.

Evan Grills - After struggling in his first season in the Gulf Coast League as a starter, Evan had more success in 2011 as a reliever. In 33 innings last season, he had a 3.00 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9. Like his stablemate Ryan Cole, Evan has a groundball rate over 50% and a low 0.2 HR/9.

Matison Smith - Matison built on his strong 2010 debut with an outstanding 2011 season. He has a 2.12 ERA through 68 innings with 8.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. His 2011 K/9 was a phenomenal 11.9.

Make or Break: Pat Urckfitz - Pat has struggled the last two seasons, and struggling minor league relievers often don't hang around very long. In a 2012 split between Lancaster, Corpus, and Oklahoma City his ERA was 5.59 with 7.4 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9. He did have a strong start to the season with Lancaster, though, and his troubles didn't really start until his promotion to Corpus. He'll be 23 to start the season so there's still a little time to get back on track.

The system is still fairly thin between the top prospects and the interesting short season players that played Rookie ball last season. Once the Astros are able to fill the entire pipeline with decent depth the franchise will be back to the circumstances that allowed them to reel off so many winning seasons in the 90's and 00's.

Oooh, yesterday was quite interesting

Zachary Levine's new article from yesterday tells us many plethoras of things:

-Jed Lowrie is not going to relax simply because there isn't anybody ready to take his spot:
“Even though it might seem like I have a defined role right now with this team, it’s about beating the other guys. There’s a comfort in that, but you can’t relax.”

-J.D. Martinez has bulked up from 206lbs at the end of 2011 to 228lbs now.

-Luhnow is headed to the Dominican on Sunday to meet with scouts and reassure them of their importance:
“It’s just important that they know how important the Latin program is to us here in Houston and going there and spending a few days with them, I think, will signal that.”

Koby is just happy to sign

Koby Clemens told Mark Berman that he's just happy he was able to sign with another team.

"With how long it took, with all the free agents that were still out there and the waiting game, it was all new to me. So I'm just relieved and excited that one of the few teams that was interested in me giving me a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to getting out there and showing the Toronto Blue Jays organization what I can do."

It's a shame that it didn't work out with Clemens. Regardless about how you feel about his dad, for about a year and a half, Clemens looked like the 2nd Coming of Babe Ruth.

Think about it this way - in terms of the percentage of his hits that were for extra-bases:
2005 GRN (133 PAs): 36.4% (.876 OPS)
2005 TRI (36 PAs): 33.3% (.799 OPS)
2006 LEX (352 PAs): 35.7% (.660 OPS)
2007 LEX (484 PAs): 34.6% (.755 OPS)
2008 SAL (458 PAs): 39.4% (.792 OPS)
2009 LAN (492 PAs): 48.7% (1.055 OPS)
2009 COR (21 PAs): 0.0% (.569 OPS)
2010 COR (535 PAs): 46.8% (.825 OPS)
2011 OKC (444 PAs): 43.3% (.756 OPS)

Clemens always hit the ball hard, he just didn't hit it often enough. But despite a career 41.9% XBH%, he only had an OPS over .800 in three of seven seasons. His OBP and SLG were there, but ultimately his lack of defensive viability (he had at least 20 games at LF, 1B, C, and 3B) and 23% strikeout rate did him in. Hopefully a new team will give him the change of scenery he may need.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Koby Clemens signs with Blue Jays

Kevin Goldstein just tweeted that the Blue Jays signed Koby Clemens to a minor-league deal.

Clemens peaked in 2009 with Lancaster, hitting .341/.415/.636 for the JetHawks, and then followed that up with Corpus in 2010 with 26 HRs and a .241/.350/.476 line. He hit .234/.331/.424 in 126 games (444 PAs) with OKC in 2011.

Clemens was the Astros' 8th Round pick in 2005. That leaves Brian Bogusevic, Brandon Barnes (who may actually still be a minor-league free agent), and T.J. Steele as the only players from the '05 draft still in the system. In an interesting little side note, the Astros' 50th Round pick in 2005 was Wes Musick, whom the Astros received from the Rockies in the Matt Lindstrom deal.

UPDATE: The Commenter Is Right. Forgot they drafted Steele in 2005, and again in 2008.

The One Where Berkman Ate Twinkies On The Field

The Katy Times has a recap of a recent visit by Berkman and Pettitte to 2nd Baptist Church in Katy, where Berkman talked about wanting to cry when he got traded to New York, and then had a little story to tell:

“There were two guys who were on me the whole game. They were shaking packages of Twinkies at me. I’m the type of guy who likes to engage the crowd, so I told those guys during a pitching change to throw those things on the field.

“I tore open one of those packages of Twinkies and ate one right there. Those people went absolutely ballistic. They gave me a standing ovation and they loved me the rest of the game.

Lookout Landing brings the noise

Jeff Sullivan brings the noise about the Astros in a post titled, "The Worst Team Ever Projected?"

This stems from CAIRO projecting the 2012 Astros to go 60-102 - and from the list of projections compiled, that's the worst projection. Maybe ever.

But get through all the ugly, and you read this:
The Astros are in the hands of smart people, and in time, smart people usually build competitive teams. It's just ... it's probably going to be a while. Keith Law just ranked the Astros' farm system No. 27 in baseball. And CAIRO just ranked the Astros' major league product as one of the very worst that a projection system's ever seen. Steps forward have been made. There are a lot more steps.

Keith Law ranks the Astros

Keith Law listed his Top 100 prospects (Insider-Only) for 2012 and we find the following of particular importance:

#46 - Jonathan Singleton
#60 - George Springer
#78 - Jarred Cosart

Notably, Anthony Gose was #59.

And here (also Insider-Only), Law ranks the Astros' farm system as a whole at #27. Ranking below the Astros are the Marlins, Indians, and White Sox.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jonathan Mayo's Top 20 NL Central prospects

Jonathan Mayo has his Top 20 prospects in the NL Central, and yes, there are some Astros on it - namely Jonathan Singleton as Mayo's #1 1B prospect, and George Sprigner the #3 OF prospect.

And in this article, Mayo has his organizational preview (with a Top 20 list here, which you can click the link for Mayo's full write-up on each one):

#1 - Jonathan Singleton
#2 - Jarred Cosart
#3 - George Springer
#4 - Jonathan Villar
#5 - Mike Foltynewicz
#6 - Paul Clemens
#7 - Brett Oberholtzer
#8 - Delino DeShields
#9 - Domingo Santana
#10 - Telvin Nash
#11 - Jordan Scott
#12 - Tanner Bushue
#13 - Austin Wates
#14 - Jake Buchanan
#15 - Nick Tropeano
#16 - Juan Abreu
#17 - Kyle Weiland
#18 - Josh Zeid
#19 - Mike Kvasnicka
#20 - Ariel Ovando

Astros avoid arbitration with Jed Lowrie

The Astros have avoided arbitration with SS Jed Lowrie.

Back in January, the Astros were interested in giving Lowrie $900K, whereas Lowrie was interested in the Astros giving him $1.5m. So they settled before the hearing for $1.15m, which by using 100,000 people's fingers, is $50K less than the midpoint.

And if you click the link, you'll read Lowrie's agent say that Lowrie is in the - yes - best shape of his life.

“The biggest issue with Jed has been the amount of time he’s spent on the field as opposed to in the training room and on the DL, but there’s nothing about his skill set that would suggest that he can’t play an everyday role if he’s healthy.”

Wallace to try out 3B

Now this is interesting. Brett Wallace will go into Spring Training trying to earn a spot at 3B.

Since the Astros can't get rid of Carlos Lee, and Carlos Lee is like the Kool-Aid Man in Left Field (OHHHH YEAH), and the Astros are light on 3B, Brett Wallace will head back to the position he played at Arizona State, and to begin his pro career.

"I've been happy with how quickly I've been able to get in a rhythm over there and feel comfortable again."

"Wallace needs to get back to the swing and offensive production we know he's capable of, and whether that ends up at third base or first base, the offensive production is what we need him to do."

Wallace played 3B in 2008-09, getting 164 games at the hot corner, and posting a .943 Fld% (whatever that means to you). For comparison purposes, Chris Johnson posted a .925 Fld% at 3B from 2009-11, albeit at the Major-League level. Still, in parts of six minor-league seasons at 3B, Johnson had a .938 Fld%.

So this would allow Paredes to get another year in the minors for seasoning, and if Wallace can hit, he could slide back over to 1B in 2013. Ideally, the Astros would be able to see exactly what they have in Wallace and give him a fair shot with 500-600 PAs, while allowing their best OFs to do their thing, and minimize Carlos Lee's fielding nightmare, trying to get their $19m worth.

That's a big Ideal Situation, but it's at least worth a shot.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Random random Astro - Mark Ross

In this episode of RRA, we take a look at a little used relief pitcher from the early to mid 80's, Mark Ross. Mark was the Astros 7th round pick in 1979 out of Texas A&M where he was a two-time all SWC pitcher.

After a moderate amount of success in the minors, Mark made his major league debut September 12, 1982 against the Dodgers, coming in to pitch the 8th and 9th innings and giving up two hits and one run with one strikeout in a 7-3 loss to L.A. He would finish his cup of coffee with a 1.50 ERA in six innings across four games with four strikeouts and no walks.

After spending all of 1983 on the farm Mark would get a couple refills on that cup in 1984, when he pitched in just two games, and 1985, when he made 12 appearances. His Astros career spanned three seasons of short call-ups, totaling 21.1 innings in 14 games. Mark compiled a 1-2 record with one save, eight strikeouts, two walks, and a 3.38 ERA.

It's tempting to say the highlight of his brief Astros career would be either his one win or his one save, but let's look at things a little differently. On September 22, 1982, Mark came in for Frank DiPino the top of the sixth against Atlanta with the Braves leading 2-1. Facing the heart of the lineup against a Joe Torre led Braves team that would win the NL West that year, Mark pitched two scoreless innings, inducing six ground-outs while allowing just one single. With Mark holding the line the Astros were able to regroup for a comeback victory as they scored two runs after Ross left the game.

Mark's transactional history is interesting, as he's listed as having been sent to the Cardinals as part of a conditional deal in December of 1985, but was returned to the Astros in March of 1986. Essentially he spent his winter break in St. Louis. After spending the 1986 season in Tucson, Mark was granted free agency by the Astros. He would get a few more innings in the majors with the Pirates and Blue Jays before hanging up his spikes following the 1991 season.

Strangely, Mark's early ups and downs with the Astros were tied to J.R. Richard as Richard was attempting his comeback from the 1980 stroke that struck him down as he was entering his prime. Prior to the 1982 season they were optioned to the minor leagues the same day. Then, he and Richard were called up the same day that September.

Mark has recently been a part of the Astros scouting organization as West Coast Supervisor.

See the Astros play the Washington Capitals!

Via Philly blog Crossing Broad, we learn that there will be a Spring Classic on March 23. What is this Spring Classic? Apparently, it's where the Astros will lace them up against the Washington Capitals who, of course, play something called "Hockey." I don't know about you, but I'm ordering 40 tickets to see this amazing event.

Drew Locke signs with Sugar Land

Courtesy of Farmstros, we learn that former Eddie's Farmhand Drew Locke has signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters.

Locke, a former Rule 5 pick of the Astros, spent 2009-11 with the Astros (09 with Corpus, 10-11 with Round Rock/OKC), hitting .272/.337/.458 in Triple-A, and sported a .297/.357/.480 minor-league career line.

Velocity and xFIP

Carson Cistulli has a great graph showing the relationship between fastball velocity and xFIP (from 2002-2011). Click the photo, but it basically works out to:

>= 95mph - 3.10 xFIP
94.0-94.9mph - 3.32
93.0-93.9 - 3.49
92.0-92.9 - 3.64
91.0-91.9 - 3.84
90.0-90.9 - 4.02
89.0-89.9 - 4.24
88.0-88.9 - 4.33
87.0-87.9 - 4.33
86.0-86.9 - 4.38
85.0-85.9 - 4.46
<85mph - 4.40

Where do the Astros fit in to this?

Well, let's go about it this way, looking at the starters (stats via FanGraphs):

Bud Norris (2009-11) has an avg 93.2mph fastball velocity, and a 3.90 xFIP.
Wandy Rodriguez (2005-11), avg 89.4mph fastball, 3.93 xFIP.
Brett Myers (2002-11), avg 90.2mph fastball, 3.86 xFIP.
J.A. Happ (2007-11), avg 89.8mph fastball, 4.54 xFIP.
Jordan Lyles (2011), avg 89.8mph fastball, 4.13 xFIP.

First of all, it's disconcerting that Bud Norris is the only starter from 2011 who has a fastball above 91mph. Lyles is right about where he historically should be, Wandy and Myers fared better than normal, and Happ and Norris fared worse. Do with this what you will...

David Schoenfield's NL Central position rankings

ESPN Sweet Spot Network Leader David Schoenfield posted his rankings, by position, for the NL Central. Click the link for the full read, but here's where the Astros rank:

Quintero/Castro - 6th (Doesn't matter who it is - they're the worst catcher in the division, apparently)
Lee - 3rd
Altuve - 4th
Paredes - 6th
Lowrie - 5th
Martinez - 4th
Schafer - 6th
Bogusevic - 6th
Myers (as SP1) - 5th
Wandy - 4th
Norris - 2nd
Happ - 6th
Lyles/Sosa - 4th
Lyon - 6th
Bullpen - 6th
Intangibles - 6th

Interesting. Especially on the last one, where the things that you cannot quantify have been quantified, and the Astros had less things that one cannot figure out than any other team.

Hoffman on Hennis

Ken Hoffman has an excellent story on the Chron about former short-time Astro, Randy Hennis.

Hennis' final line with the Astros: 3 appearances, 9.2IP, 1H/0ER, 4K:3BB, 0.00 ERA/0.41 WHIP. There is a little side note in Hoffman's piece...

“The next game was in Atlanta, and I pitched two innings in relief and gave up no hits. The game was on TBS, so all my friends and family could watch. I don’t remember who I faced. I was out late the night before.”

Let's help him out, shall we? On September 23, 1990, Hennis came in for the 7th and 8th innings against the Braves, down 3-0. He:

Struck out Kelly Mann, got Paul Marak to groundout, walked Lonnie Smith and Jeff Treadway, and got Ron Gant to fly out to center. In the 8th, he got David Justice to flyout down the left field line, Tommy Gregg to pop up to third, and Jeff Blauser to strikeout swinging.

"The only thing I know about the Astros is that they're completely rebuilding" sat down with Wildcat alum and recent Astro signee Jordan Brown in a (fairly long) interview.

Hey, Jordan, what do you know about the Astros?
I don’t know too much about them. The only thing I know about them is that they are completely rebuilding. In Cleveland for the most part that wasn’t really the case. I’m excited for the opportunity though.

Uniform change would likely take effect in 2013

At the Astros' tour stop in Oklahoma City, Jim Crane talked about the logo, and that name change disaster.

The logo:
“It's got to be approved by (the MLB). If so, it's natural we would do it next year.”

The name change:
Crane initially pitched the idea of changing the team name, but 80 percent of fans polled said they did not want to change it.

80% seems a little low...

J.D. Martinez is controlling his controllables

The Oklahoman's article on the Astros' CAREavan talked to J.D. Martinez and David Carpenter.

J.D. Martinez is focusing on controlling everything he can control, including his controllables:
“In the sense of that, you hear it a lot. ‘You have a great opportunity here, you're going to be the face.' I feel like all of that stuff will take care of itself, really. Like I said, you've got to control your controllables. That's preparing yourself for the season and going out every day and giving it all you've got.”

Yesterday I lunched my lunchables, and everything took care of itself.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Astros sign C Jair Fernandez

Hat tip to Jayne over at What the Heck, Bobby, who informed us that the Astros have signed minor league catcher Jair Fernandez. Jair has spent time with the Seattle and Minnesota organizations, where he's shown to be a light hitting catcher with an outstanding CS%.

In just over 1500 minor league plate appearances Fernandez has hit .236/.326/.335 and has caught 169 of 421 attempted base stealers, a 40% rate. He'll likely be minor league depth, either in Corpus or OKC.

Random random Astro - Jeriome Robertson

In this installment of RRA, let's look at pitcher Jeriome Robertson. Jeriome was a left handed starting pitcher with Houston in 2002 and 2003.

Jeriome was drafted by the Astros in the 24th round in 1995. He steadily worked his way up the ranks until his first major league start in September of 2002. His first outing was a rough one as he lasted just 2.2 innings against Texas, giving up six hits and two runs to start his career 0-1. Jeriome spent the rest of 2002 in the bullpen, and finished the season with a 6.52 ERA over 9.2 innings.

Jeriome spent almost all of 2003 as a member of the Astros' major league rotation. In 32 games, 31 starts, he compiled 160.2 innings with 99 strikeouts, 64 walks, and a 5.10 ERA.  Despite that 86+ ERA, he managed a 15-7 record and finished 7th in rookie of the year voting. Two games stand out when looking for his Astros highlights, both from 2003. On April 10th at home against the Reds, Jeriome gave seven innings of two hit ball, including eight strikeouts, three walks, and one run to earn the victory as the Astros won 4-2. Later in the season, on July 22nd, Robertson pitched another strong game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. In that outing he threw 7.1 innings of shutout ball with two strikeouts and two walks while giving up just three hits. He also had an RBI single off Salomon Torres, scoring Lance Berkman as the Astros went on to win 2-0.

Just before the start of the 2004 season, he was traded to Cleveland for Luke Scott. Jeriome would throw just 14 innings in the majors for Cleveland and never appeared in the big leagues again.

Jeriome Robertson was killed in a motorcycle accident May 29, 2010.

* As reader AstroBrit has pointed out in the comments, Houston also retained the rights to that offseason's Rule 5 draft pick Willy Taveras in order to keep him in AAA for most of the 2004 season.

Ruggiano is Bogusevic - Bogusevic is Ruggiano

So the Astros have signed yet another corner outfielder to compete for the OF depth position at OKC. Who is this Ruggiano stranger?

The short answer is he's an older more powerful Bogusevic with less plate discipline. But don't just take my word for it, let's look at some minor league stats.


Bogusevic hit .347/.432/.537 with a 11.6% walk rate and 14.5% strikeout rate. Oh yeah, and 9 steals.
Ruggiano hit .315/.374/.537 with a 7.6% walk rate and 26.6% strikeout rate. Justin had 20 steals.


Bogusevic hit .274/.342/.365 with a 9.1% walk rate and 20.3% strikeout rate. And 22 steals.

Ruggiano hit .253/.330/.412 with a 9.6% walk rate and 27.6% strikeout rate. Justin had 23 steals.


Bogusevic hit .277/.364/.414 with a 11.7% walk rate and 18.8% strikeout rate. Brian had 23 steals.
Ruggiano hit .287/.357/.453 with a 8.3% walk rate and 25.4% strikeout rate. Justin had 24 steals.


Bogusevic hit .261/.362/.399 with a 11.8% walk rate and 19.3% strikeout rate. 20 steals.
Ruggiano hit .304/.378/.518 with a 10.5% walk rate and 22.1% strikeout rate. 12 steals.

Of course, there were some differences in level and playing time, but you get the point.

Camp Notes!

Brian McTaggart has some camp notes for us (and here and here):

Invited to Major-League Spring Camp:
Jonathan Singleton
Delino DeShields
George Springer
Jake Goebbert
Jonathan Villar

In that third link, we find the Astros have signed another outfielder, 29-year old Austin native Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano has played in parts of three seasons (07, 08, 11) with Tampa Bay, hitting a combined .226/.262/.359, but posting a career-high .248/.273/.400 in 111 PAs with the Rays in 2011.

In five seasons at Triple-A, Ruggiano has hit .289/.362/.473 with 546K:188BB, and 68HR in 2064 PAs.

Brandon Culbreth needs eye surgery

2011 8th Round pick Brandon Culbreth needs eye surgery, as he told Twitter today. In a Twitter reply to AC, he said he'll be ready for Spring Training.

Want to buy Tal Smith's house?

Thanks to comrade Tim at The Crawfish Boxes, we find this real estate listing, on the west side. Why do we care about a 7,744-square foot house? Is it because it has an elevator? Yes. Is it because it has a "mosquito system?" Yes! Is it because it's Tal Smith's old house? YES! I guess Tal is pulling up stakes and heading off to bigger and better things, as long as they relate to arbitration hearings.

The listing (and Tim) points out: the property is valued at $1.96 million, yet Tal wants $3.2 million. That's the Tal Smithiest thing I've read in quite some time. We're assuming the sale will go to arbitration, and Ed Wade will end up paying $3.2m for a house he doesn't even want.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Random random Astro - Al Osuna

Today we'll go back and look at left-handed reliever Al Osuna. Al was the Astros 16th round pick in the 1987 draft and in 1990 he made the jump from the AA Columbus MudCats to Houston. He converted a few save opportunities in 1991, then spent the next two seasons in Houston as middle reliever with an unusual reverse platoon split as he had more success against right-handed hitters than lefties.

Over the span of his Houston days Al was, on the whole, a below average pitcher. He appeared in 193 games and 180 innings, putting up a 3.75 ERA with 132 strikeouts and 103 walks. While that ERA may not look bad by today's standards, in the early 90's it only equates to a 94 ERA+. If Al had ever managed to get those walks under control he would have been much better for us.

While he was mediocre on average, he oscillated between good seasons and bad seasons. His final season in Houston was his best, as he appeared in 44 games and just 25.1 innings. It was that strong reverse split that led to this success, as he held opposing right-handed batters to a .452 OPS that season. He finished the year with a 3.20 ERA and 21 strikeouts against 13 walks.

Al's best game with the Astros is arguable, but we'll go with his appearance on June 16, 1991 against the Mets. Al was called upon to pitch in the bottom of the 8th with the Astros leading 5-4. The Mets went three up, three down in the 8th as the Astros clung to their lead. Osuna came back out to pitch the ninth and, after a leadoff single to Rick Cerone, retired the next three batters to earn a two inning save, ending the game when Daryl Boston stuck out looking.

Before the 1994 season Al was traded to the Dodgers for prospect Jimmy Daspit, who never appeared in the majors.

An interesting non-Astros related note, Al appears to have become a right-handed pitcher for his final season with the Padres in 1996. Details and/or verification of this unusual change are difficult to find, so if any readers have more information please comment.

Edit* The 1996 RHP listing may be a mis-classification. Baseball Almanac lists him as a LHP, Baseball-Reference lists him as a RHP. I'll keep digging.

Edit #2* I've verified with long time Padres blogger and current Baseball Prospectus writer Geoff Young that the RHP listing is indeed a typo by Baseball-Reference. Al Osuna was a still a LHP in 1996. On a side note, that's probably the most research anyone's done on Al Osuna in 15 plus years.

Ed Wade Speaks!

Ed Wade sat down with Bob Brookover for an interview and discussed his past few months.

I did not want a token position. I didn't need it from an economic standpoint and I don't want to just be there. The role they carved out for me is very fulfilling. I'll have a chance to see the entire system from the major leagues to the Gulf Coast League. I'll scout a few outside triple-A and big-league clubs."

On the location of Wade's heart:
"My heart and soul is with the Phillies. I want to wear a ring that says Phillies on it. I still get a paycheck from the Astros and I want all those kids we acquired, whether it was from the Phillies or Atlanta in the Michael Bourn deal, to show up at the big-league level and be good players. They all have a chance to be really good players."

"Ed is not someone who has a tremendous ego," Amaro said. "I don't see any downside to this."