Friday, December 28, 2012

Astros County Top 25 Prospects: 20-16

So, the last five spots generated quite a bit of discussion. If you missed it, go check it out first. Otherwise, let's get right down to business.

20.  Tyler Heineman

Heineman quickly made his presence known in a big way with Tri-City. As a catcher, he threw out 41% of would be basestealers while putting up a monster OBP, spraying doubles, and showing a strong inability to strikeout. As an 8th round pick out of college, Heineman will likely move through the system quickly if he keeps up this level of production. He should start the year in A ball and could sneak into AA by the end of the season, though I think it's unlikely.

19.  Robbie Grossman

Grossman is another high on-base ability prospect added this past season. He's played all three outfield positions relatively solidly and has the ability to steal a few bases as well. Originally a 6th round pick out of Cy-Fair High by the Pirates, Grossman was acquired in the Wandy Rodriguez trade. He spent the season in AA and should start in AAA next year, with an outside shot of seeing time as a late-season call-up.

18.  Carlos Perez

Despite spending the season in High A ball, there was some concern Perez was a potential Rule 5 selection this off-season. Thankfully, that didn't happen so the Astros get to keep this strong catching prospect in the system. Perez has gained acclaim for his improved defensive ability while routinely hitting for a good average with a strong on-base percentage as well. Perez was originally signed out of Venezuela by Toronto and came to the Astros in the multi-player deal this past summer. Perez will likely start the year in AA.

17. Ariel Ovando

Ovando took steps towards fulfilling his massive potential as he repeated with Greeneville. Known for his massive power potential, Ovando is still quite raw. However, eyewitness reports indicate that he appeared much more focused this past season, both at the plate and in the field. Ovando was given a $2.6M signing bonus by the Astros when they inked him out of the Dominican Republic. I imagine Ovando will get his first test of full-season ball this year, likely with Quad Cities.

16.  Josh Fields

Fields has the ability to put up eye-popping strikeout numbers, but always had control issues to go along with them. However, 2012 may have been the year he figured it out and started realizing the potential that led to him being a 1st round pick by Seattle in 2008. After being traded to Boston in 2011, Fields was selected by Houston in the 2012 Rule 5 draft. Assuming he doesn't implode during Spring Training and get returned to Boston, he'll break camp in 2013 as a member of the 25 man roster.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Astros County Top 25 Prospects: 25-21

What a difference a year makes! Since I know we have the smartest readers in the entire internet, I won't rehash just how needed this organizational overhaul was when Houston's rebuild was started a couple years ago. Not only do the Astros now have bona fide prospects knocking on the door, but quality depth on the farm as well. Sure, the last two years have been painful in The Juicebox, but the fans' patience should start paying off soon, with some of these kids making appearances as early as this coming season.

In order to add some semblance of structure to these rankings, I judged a list of about 50 players on four categories: ceiling, floor, production, and intangibles.

Because I don't feel like writing this as a novel, let's break it up a little so I can spend a couple seconds on each player.

25.  Jonathan Villar

"But wait, how can you rank a guy 25th when the experts have him in their top 10?" Honestly, I'm not a Villar fan. The tools are definitely there, and I think he has one of the higher ceilings in the system, but I have doubts that he'll ever put it all together. Between his lackluster production to date, and his questionable make-up I still feel like he could flame out at any minute. But if he pulls it all together this year and proves me wrong, I'll be one of his biggest cheerleaders. This toolsy shortstop will probably spend the year in AAA, but he's still fairly raw. Villar was signed by Philadelphia out of the Dominican Republic and came to Houston in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt deal.

24.  Marc Krauss

Marc is a power-hitting corner outfielder who is also capable of drawing a walk. After repeating at AA last year, he'll likely start the season at AAA and could show up in Houston late this season. He was a 2nd round pick for Arizona in 2009 and came to Houston in the Chris Johnson trade last year.

23.  Jiovanni Mier

Yep, Mier ranked above Villar. That just happened. Prior to a pretty bad hamstring injury this season, Mier was showing us why he was a #1 pick in 2009 (Lancaster caveat). He's a more polished fielder at shortstop with a better eye at the plate and, in my opinion, a better makeup than Villar. His ceiling may not be as high, but I think he's more likely to stick around for a little while. Assuming Villar moves up to AAA, Mier will probably be in Corpus this year.

22. Joe Musgrove

Musgrove is a big right-handed starter who battled injuries in 2012. If his health comes back and, with it, his velocity as well he could start moving up the list. He was a supplemental first round pick for Toronto in 2011 and came to the Astros organization as part of the multi-player trade with the BlueJays this year. I doubt Musgrove plays full-season ball this year, so I'll say he starts the year with Tri-City.

21.  Chia-Jen Lo

Lo has bounced around the prospect radar for a few years now. Remember when he was the winning pitcher in the same Futures game as Jason Castro? Well, since then he's thrown just 47 innings in the past three seasons. After injuries threatened to derail his career, he came roaring back in 2012. Lo was signed as a reliever out of Taiwan prior to the 2009 season. I'd expect him to start out at AA and could move up very quickly if his arm and production hold up. We may even see him in Houston in September.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Worst Hall of Fame Ballot You Will Read About (Hopefully)

Bob Brookover offers his thought process for his Hall of Fame vote, and boy is it a doozy. Brookover gets really hung up on the "integrity, sportsmanship, character," clause, even going so far as to break out his dictionary to get some defininitions for the terms. 

Without that clause, he acknowledges he would fill up his ballot, with Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza, McGriff, McGwire, Schilling and Palmiero. Instead, he winds up voting for Dale Murphy. 

Obviously, this is mostly about PEDs. Regarding Bagwell, he acknowledges the lack of evidence, and Bagwell's denials, but ultimately concludes "I'm just not sure I believe him, and the reason is because I've watched players lie in front of Congress. If they can lie there, they can lie anywhere about anything." So, because other baseball players have lied, Bagwell must be lying. That's all it takes for Brookover to justify a character assassination. Make no mistake, that's what this is. Brookover is saying that nothing Bagwell says can be trusted, because he played baseball in the 90's. Despite having no objective reason to disbelieve the denials, Bagwell does not meet Brookover's "integrity, sportmanship & character" standard.

Believe it or not, it gets worse. Schilling once lied about his use of smokeless tobacco, and some teammates disliked him. That's apparently enough to fall short of Brookover's standard. He doesn't go into Biggio, but apparently something Biggio has done, or something Brookover imagines he might have done, must keep him out. 

So he's down to Murphy, the paragon of virtue. Murphy, who has apparently never lied about anything ever. Murphy, whose playing career was apparently not enough to justify Brookover's vote in the past, is the only player who meets this new standard, where playing career is subordinate to your personal virtue. 

This can all be read as a protest vote, as he calls for the Hall to get rid of the integrity clause. In reality, its a cop out. Instead of coming to terms with the steroids era, and its place in baseball history that is filled with imperfect men, doing anything they could to get ahead, he passes the buck. There are liars, cheats, murderers, crooks, racists and drug abusers (greenies, definitely, steroids, probably) already in the Hall of Fame. It doesn't need Brookover to keep it pure. By only voting for Murphy, he helps ensure that no one will get in this year. The Hall will be left trying to promote a bunch of dead veteran comittee inductees, instead of having fans of the best players of the 90's flock to Cooperstown. By protecting the Hall, he just might destroy it.