Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why this week matters

I can't remember who tweeted out the link - because, while I consider some Brewers bloggers to be good Twitter friends, I'm not in the habit of reading Brewers blogs in January - but I came across this post by Brew Crew Ball, entitled "Why Do We Worry About Top 100 Prospect Lists?" The Brewers had no prospects in BP's Top 101 list, and just one in's Top 100 list. So the following paragraph was written:

This news inflamed people who are heavily concerned about the Brewer organization's ability to locate and develop impact talent. There's reason to be concerned about the Brewers' drafting and development, but I don't think prospect lists are a fair indication of talent levels across organizations. Baseball-wide prospect lists are, for the most part, an educated guess at best.

I can certainly understand this viewpoint. The next paragraph in the post points out the sheer volume of minor league games being played on a given day, and how it's just so much information, etc. And that's absolutely true. Since no one can watch every minor league game, then the evaluators are making generalizations based on a set of statistics, however advanced that may be.

That said, the post in Brew Crew Ball is exactly the sentiment I would have, were my favorite team the one with zero to one prospect on the top prospect lists. But the Astros have, as we have covered ad nauseum, seven prospects on Keith Law's and's Top 100 lists and five prospects on BP's Top 101 list. These are good things.

To me - and I could be way off on this - prospect lists are overall snapshots of an organization's health; and the snapshot of the Astros' organization is good. It's not great, because of The Crynasty. If you don't feel like clicking the link, we dubbed 2011-2013 as "The Crynasty" because the Astros are 118 games worse than the team with the best record in that span (which, oh yeah, just happens to be the Rangers) and are 33 games worse than the team with the 2nd-worst three-year record.

The point is that, while the Astros have lost at levels bordering on Crazy-Making over the last three years, these prospect lists show that there at least is a point to it. The 2009 Astros went 74-88 and put one prospect on BP's Top 101 list (Jason Castro - #76). That was a team that ran out Kaz Matsui, Miguel Tejada, Pudge Rodriguez, the ghost of Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz with regularity. There was literally nothing exciting about that team, and there was nothing foreseeable about which you could get excited about.

The outlook has since changed, and it's the new front office who has changed it. I'm not going to rehash everything The Apparatus has done over the last two years, because there's no need. TL;DR: they told us that 2012 and 2013 was going to happen. They also promised it would get better. And, at least on paper, it has.

Prospect lists are littered with players who busted or just didn't pan out. Even the Olney-anointed Genius Rays miss. Tim Beckham, the #1 overall pick in the 2008 draft (and the #15 overall prospect in BP's aforementioned 2009 list - ahead of Andrew McCutchen and a host of other players who have played in more than five major league games), has played in five major league games. But this time of year, prospect lists are like gold.

This is the worst time of year. It's freezing cold, the sun doesn't come out, basketball isn't my thing, the Super Bowl is almost over, and if soccer is your thing, you're constantly trying to figure out a way to get home by 1:45 in the afternoon to watch a game (or you're getting up at 6am on a Saturday). You wonder why people get so excited about Truck Day? Because it means something is actually happening.

So when BP or Keith Law comes out with a list at the end of January that shows there *may* be brighter days ahead for the Astros, it's exciting to me because it means that maybe, just maybe, all the remotes I have destroyed and subsequently replaced over the last three years were not sacrificed in vain.

A blown elbow here, an inability to adjust there, and the Astros' farm system is back to where it was a couple of years ago. Are all seven (or five) of the players going to be Willie Mays or Tom Seaver? Certainly not. But for once, let's just enjoy a nice thing. At least until Opening Day.