BBA: Top 10 Astros Prospects

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by xcrunner51, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. xcrunner51

    xcrunner51 Contributing Member

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    1. Jason Hirsh, rhp
    2. Troy Patton, lhp
    3. Fernando Nieve, rhp
    4. Jimmy Barthmaier, rhp
    5. Eli Iorg, of
    6. Hunter Pence, of
    7. Felipe Paulino del Guidice, rhp
    8. Juan Gutierrez, rhp
    9. Brian Bogusevic, lhp
    10. Josh Flores, of

    BEST TOOLS
    Best Hitter for Average - Hunter Pence
    Best Power Hitter - Luke Scott
    Best Strike-Zone Discipline - Ben Zobrist
    Fastest Baserunner - Josh Flores
    Best Athlete - Charlton Jimerson
    Best Fastball - Felipe Paulino del Guidice
    Best Curveball - Jimmy Barthmaier
    Best Slider - Jared Gothreaux
    Best Changeup - Mitch Talbot
    Best Control - Jason Hirsh
    Best Defensive Catcher - J.R. Towles
    Best Defensive Infielder - Tommy Manzella
    Best Infield Arm - Tommy Manzella
    Best Defensive Outfielder - Charlton Jimerson
    Best Outfield Arm - Charlton Jimerson

    Tim Purpura’s first year as Astros general manager got off to an ominous start. His predecessor, Gerry Hunsicker, declined Jeff Kent’s $9 million option for 2005 shortly before his abrupt resignation, and Purpura was unable to re-sign Kent.

    Then Purpura was held hostage by free agent Carlos Beltran, who waited until a January deadline before turning down a club-record $105 million contract offer. At that point, no other comparable options remained, and Houston already had concerns about Lance Berkman’s right knee and Jeff Bagwell’s right shoulder. The Astros’ offense never truly recovered, finishing 11th in the National League in scoring and dead last in road games.

    Houston started the year 15-30, giving it the game’s third-worst record on May 24. But just like they had in 2004, the Astros made a stunning comeback, going 74-43 the rest of the way—the best record in baseball—to earn their second straight wild-card berth. They reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 44 seasons, losing a hotly contested sweep at the hands of the White Sox.

    The club’s farm system has slipped in recent years because of unproductive drafts and increased competition for talent in Venezuela, an arena Houston once dominated. Yet the Astros’ first-ever World Series club had a predominantly homegrown flavor. They signed and developed their four best hitters (Berkman, Craig Biggio, Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane), as well as 20-game winner Roy Oswalt and closer Brad Lidge.

    Though Baseball America rated the talent in the system 22nd among the 30 organizations entering 2005, six rookies made the World Series roster. The top three players on this list a year ago—second baseman/outfielder Chris Burke, righthander Ezequiel Astacio and outfielder Willy Taveras—all became regulars in the second half. Chad Qualls proved to be a valuable set-up man, and lefty Wandy Rodriguez and outfielder Luke Scott also made contributions.

    Whether many of them will become more than role players remains to be seen, however. The system also doesn’t have much to offer in the near future beyond righthanders Jason Hirsh and Fernando Nieve. It may be two or three years before a homegrown position player can challenge for a spot in the lineup.

    Concerned about the talent drain, Hunsicker reassigned former scouting director David Lakey after the 2004 draft and promoted coordinator of pro scouting Paul Ricciarini to replace him. Ricciarini used his 2005 first-round pick on Brian Bogusevic, addressing the lack of talented lefthanders in the system, then focused on high-ceiling athletes. Outfielders Eli Iorg (supplemental first round) and Josh Flores (fourth) join Bogusevic on this Top 10 list.

    It will take more than one draft to rebuild their system, though the Astros have bought some goodwill with their fans during the last two years. To sustain that momentum, they’ll have to use trades and free agents in the short term.

    Link: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/05top10s/astros.html

    Does anyone have a subscription to BBA.com and can post the insider stuff?
     
    #1 xcrunner51, Dec 2, 2005
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2005
  2. OldManBernie

    OldManBernie Member

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    The farm system should be considerably higher than 22nd overall this year. While the system doesn't have a whole lot of immediate help to the team, their AA talent from last year is very good. I personally feel there is 2 or 3 top shelf pitching talent in that group. Based on what I've read, Hirsh and Patton are going to be studs and Nieve is very good. If Hunter Pence continue to develop, there will be a lot of talent influx for the team in 2007.
     
  3. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    1. Jason Hirsh

    Background:
    Despite his size, Hirsh drew little interest out of high school because he threw just 86-88 mph. He went undrafted, and no NCAA Division I programs wanted him, so he wound up at Division III Cal Lutheran. Hirsh blossomed with the Kingsmen, setting school records for career wins (26) and single-game strikeouts (18), but the number that got him noticed was his improved velocity. By his junior season in 2003, his fastball repeatedly touched 97 mph and his slider was peaking in the mid-80s. The Astros lacked a first-round pick that June after signing Jeff Kent as a free agent, and they made Hirsh their top pick as a second-rounder, signing him for $625,000. He blew away short-season New York-Penn League hitters in his debut but struggled at high Class A Salem in his first full season in 2004. Assigned the task of improving his secondary pitches, Hirsh struggled to do so and lost the edge on his fastball. Undeterred, Houston promoted him to Double-A Corpus Christi in 2005 and he responded by becoming Texas League pitcher of the year. A good year got even better for Hirsh when the Astros drafted and signed his brother Matt, another Cal Lutheran righty, in the 30th round. Matt went 1-2, 5.61 as a swingman at Rookie-level Greeneville.

    Strengths:
    Hirsh’s metamorphosis from 2004 to 2005 was astounding. A year after looking like he might not be more than a set-up man, he became a potential frontline starter. He has an intimidating frame at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, and he’s athletic for his size. That allows him to repeat his delivery and his arm slot, which helped him gain the feel of a hard 80-86 mph slider that’s much more consistent than it was in the past. Managers rated it the best breaking ball in the Texas League. Hirsh also has improved the sink on his fastball, opting for a two-seamer that sits at 91-93 mph. He can still reach the mid-90s when needed, but he’s more concerned with the location and movement on his fastball. His changeup made strides as well, and is an average pitch. He’s not afraid to pitch inside and throws strikes to both sides of the plate. As one scout with an American League club said, “To make that much progress in one year tells you about his makeup and aptitude.”

    Weaknesses:
    Having gone from owning no reliable pitch to now possessing three of them, Hirsh just needs to do some fine-tuning. He can still improve his command, which is average now but should become a plus with more experience. Likewise, his changeup can get better and is the least trustworthy of his three offerings.

    The Future:
    If Hirsh pitches as well at Triple-A Round Rock as he did in Double-A, he’ll get called up to Houston in short order. Should Roger Clemens decide to retire, Hirsh could get an opportunity to make the big league rotation in spring training. It’s also possible that he could break into the majors as a middle reliever should the Astros develop a need in their bullpen. Hirsh’s fastball-slider combination could allow him to excel in that role, but his long-term future is as a No. 2 or 3 starter.


    2. Troy Patton

    Background:
    Considered a tough sign after committing to the University of Texas, Patton turned pro for $550,000—easily the highest bonus in 2004’s ninth round. In his first full season, he set a low Class A Lexington record with 32 straight scoreless innings, pitched in the Futures Game and reached high Class A.

    Strengths:
    Patton can get strikes with his power curveball both by throwing it over the plate or by getting hitters to chase it out of the strike zone. He also can locate his 90-94 mph fastball all over the zone, and it has average life. He has very good control and a nasty competitive streak.

    Weaknesses:
    Patton needs to get stronger and battled some mild shoulder tendinitis in 2005. He must improve the command of his changeup, which lags partly because he doesn’t use it enough. His arm slot tends to wander, and he flattens out his curve when he gets under it.

    The Future:
    There’s debate within the Astros’ front office as to whether Jason Hirsh or Patton is the system’s top prospect. Patton isn’t as polished or as physical, but he’s lefthanded and 31/2 years younger. He could open 2006 in Double-A at age 20.

    3. Fernando Nieve

    Background:
    After signing in 1999, Nieve didn’t make it past low Class A until his sixth pro season. A Texas League all-star in 2005, he spent the second half in Triple-A and might have earned a September callup if his appendix hadn’t ruptured.

    Strengths:
    Nieve has two plus pitches, a 93-95 mph fastball with good riding life that managers rated the best in the Texas League, and a hard slider that’s not as consistent. Despite being just 6 feet tall, he pitches on a good downward plane. He repeats his delivery well, enhancing his ability to throw strikes.

    Weaknesses:
    Nieve’s arm action is long, allowing lefthanders to get a good look at his pitches. They batted .273 against him in 2005, and he’s working on a splitter to combat them. A changeup would help, but he doesn’t have faith in the pitch. He can lose his focus and pitch backwards, and at times he’ll use a curveball to the detriment of his slider.

    The Future:
    Nieve is close to helping the Astros. Some scouts envision him becoming a No. 3 starter, while others see him as a late-innings reliever in the mold of Ugueth Urbina.


    4. Jimmy Barthmaier

    Background:
    A high school quarterback, Barthmaier drew interest from several college football programs but didn’t commit to one because he didn’t want to scare off baseball teams. He slid in the 2003 draft anyway before signing for $750,000, a record for a 13th-rounder.

    Strengths:
    Strong and athletic, Barthmaier projects as an innings-eater. He has a chance to have three plus pitches, and his fastball and curveball already are that good. He throws his fastball at 91-93 mph and peaks at 95, and his power curve is the best in the system. His changeup also is making progress.

    Weaknesses:
    Barthmaier doesn’t have the same feel as Jason Hirsh or Troy Patton, and he’s still learning to locate his fastball where he wants. His mechanics have gotten better since he signed, but they still could use some more smoothing. There are some minor questions about his maturity.

    The Future:
    Barthmaier is on the verge of putting it all together, and once he does he’ll move quickly to Houston. Ticketed for high Class A to begin 2006, he could reach Double-A by midseason.


    5. Eli Iorg

    Background:
    Iorg was the first outfielder drafted in the first round by the Astros since 1999, when they took Mike Rosamond—the son of the area scout who signed Iorg for $950,000. Iorg has baseball relatives as well, as his father Garth and uncle Dane played in the majors; older brother Isaac played in the Braves system; and younger brother Cale could go early in the 2007 draft.

    Strengths:
    Iorg has a quick, sound swing and a strong frame that should allow him to hit for both power and average. He has slightly above-average speed and good instincts, giving him 20-20 potential in the majors. He has solid range and a plus arm in right field. His intensity is another asset.

    Weaknesses:
    Iorg, who spent 2003 on a Mormon mission to Argentina, was too old for Rookie ball at 22, but went to Greeneville so he could recover from a stress fracture in his right foot while close to his Tennessee home. He could use more patience at the plate and better accuracy on his throws.

    The Future:
    Houston might send Iorg to low Class A to start 2006. He needs a sterner test and should reach high Class A before too long.


    6. Hunter Pence

    Background:
    The Astros made Pence their top pick in 2004. He has done nothing but hit as a pro, tying for the system lead in homers in 2005 while finishing second in hitting (.327) and RBIs despite a strained left quadriceps.

    Strengths:
    Pence doesn’t look pretty at the plate, choking up on the bat and employing a hitch in his swing, but he has quick hands than enable him to get into good hitting position. He punishes fastballs and has power to all fields. Managers rated him the best hitter and the best power hitter in the South Atlantic League. His speed and athleticism are solid.

    Weaknesses:
    Some scouts wonder if more advanced pitchers will take advantage of Pence’s hitch by pounding him inside. Though he has played primarily center field in the minors, he’s destined for left. He doesn’t get good jumps and reads on fly balls, and his arm is below average.

    The Future:
    Like many of the system’s best college position players, Pence has been old for his leagues and needs to be challenged. He’ll move up to Double-A in 2006.


    7. Felipe Paulino Del Guidice

    Background:
    Like Fernando Nieve, Paulino del Guidice signed out of Venezuela, has a power arm and has been brought along slowly. He has intrigued scouts ever since his first pitch in the United States—a 96 mph fastball at Rookie-level Martinsville in 2003.

    Strengths:
    The Astros have seen Paulino del Guidice throw as hard as 100 mph, other organizations have clocked him at 102 and he usually pitches from 90-98. Batters not only have to contend with his velocity, but also heavy boring and riding action on his fastball. He changed the grip on his curveball in 2005 and came up with a plus 80-85 mph breaker.

    Weaknesses:
    Paulino del Guidice is still raw as a pitcher. He’s still discovering how to control his curveball, and his overall command can improve. He’s reluctant to throw his changeup, stunting the development of the third pitch he needs to remain a starter.

    The Future:
    Paulino del Guidice will pitch in the Salem rotation in 2006. It’s easier to project him as a reliever once he reaches the majors, and he has the stuff to become a closer.


    8. Juan Gutierrez

    Background:
    Gutierrez repeated both the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer and Appalachian leagues, so the Astros had to protect him on the 40-man roster before he reached full-season ball. He accomplished that mission in 2005, even making it to high Class A in August.

    Strengths:
    Yet another Venezuelan power pitcher in the system, Gutierrez has a 90-96 mph fastball and a big-breaking, 77-78 mph curveball that he uses as his out pitch. He’ll even flash a plus changeup at times. His curveball was more consistent in 2005, and he showed much better control and feel than he had in Rookie ball. Strong and durable, he should be able to accumulate innings.

    Weaknesses:
    Gutierrez still needs to grasp the art of changing speeds. His changeup has its moments, but it’s a distant third pitch. His mechanics break down at times, costing him control and command. He needs to improve his conditioning and tone down his on-field antics.

    The Future:
    If Gutierrez continues to improve like he did in 2005, he could soar through the rest of the minors. The Astros will start him off back in high Class A in 2006.


    9. Brian Bogusevic

    Background:
    Bogusevic led Tulane to the 2005 College World Series by going 13-3, 3.25 on the mound and batting .328 as a right fielder. Most teams preferred him on the mound, and the Astros concurred after taking him 24th overall and signing him for $1.375 million. Worn out by his two-way efforts and a hamstring injury in college, he was kept on a 45-pitch limit in his pro debut.

    Strengths:
    Even while tired, Bogusevic still hit 95 mph out of the bullpen at short-season Tri-City and generally works at 89-93 mph with his fastball. His slider can be nasty, his changeup is average and he throws strikes with all three of his pitches. His days as an outfielder are over, but he has plus hitting ability, raw power and speed.

    Weaknesses:
    Bogusevic needs to get stronger after fading in 2005 as well as 2004, when he hit .183 in the Cape Cod League. He needs to turn his slider into a more consistently plus pitch to work in the middle of a big league rotation.

    The Future:
    The Astros have few quality lefties in their system, so Bogusevic will get the opportunity to move quickly. He should be able to handle a jump to high Class A.


    10. Josh Flores

    Background:
    Some clubs soured on Flores after he turned down six-figure offers from the Braves as a 24th-rounder out of high school and again as a draft-and-follow last spring. He won the national juco batting title with a .519 average, and area scout Kevin Stein and regional supervisor Gerry Craft lobbied hard to draft him. After signing for $217,500, Flores earned Greeneville MVP and Appalachian League all-star honors.

    Strengths:
    The fastest player in the system, Flores goes from the right side of the plate to first base in 3.9 seconds. More than just a speedster, he’s an all-around athlete with hitting ability and surprising power. He has good range and a playable arm in center field.

    Weaknesses:
    Though he led the Appy League in hits, Flores still needs to tighten his strike zone and do a better job recognizing breaking balls. A shortstop until he turned pro, he’s still learning outfield nuances such as taking good routes and getting in position to throw.

    The Future:
    Flores will play in low Class A in 2006. He’s a few years away, but he offers more upside than Astros incumbent Willy Taveras
     
  4. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    Felipe Paulino Del Guidice was added to the 40 man roster last month and his fastball seems intriguing.
     
  5. LonghornFan

    LonghornFan Contributing Member

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    Can't wait to hear Milo call this kids name. Should be a nice little adventure.
     
  6. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    Milo will be retired by time he comes up if he ever comes of. The kid seems at least 3 years away.
     
  7. The Real Shady

    The Real Shady Contributing Member

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    1. Koby Clemens, of
    2. Jason Hirsh, rhp
    3. Troy Patton, lhp
    4. Fernando Nieve, rhp
    5. Jimmy Barthmaier, rhp
    6. Eli Iorg, of
    7. Hunter Pence, of
    8. Felipe Paulino del Guidice, rhp
    9. Juan Gutierrez, rhp
    10. Brian Bogusevic, lhp
     
  8. JBIIRockets

    JBIIRockets Contributing Member

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    not if he was in the marlins farm system, or most other teams.

    Astros keep their young guys in the minors too long.
     
  9. rikesh316

    rikesh316 Member

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    Here is the Chat Wrap.

    Q: Kevin from Houston asks:
    Why is a total unproven like Iorg ranked above Pence (.327.400.598) last year? Pence may not be a star prospect, but he hits for average, draws walks, doesn't strike out excessively and obviously has some power
    A:
    Jim Callis: Repeat after me: It's not all about stats. It's about who will have the better career in a long run. I easily could have gone with Hunter Pence ahead of Eli Iorg, because they're close. I like Iorg's tools slightly more, and Pence has a hitch in his swing that could cause him trouble higher up the ladder.

    Q: Warren from Texas asks:
    After finishing a somewhat mediocre year with a seemingly solid performance in Arizona, how does Josh Anderson stand as a prospect and in the 'stros long-term plans? It seems Flores has replaced him as the "CF of the future"? Thanks
    A:
    Jim Callis: Willy Taveras will have something to say about "CF of the future" as well. I see Anderson as more of a fourth outfielder than a regular. He really hasn't had a lot of success since leaving low Class A, and he doesn't get on bases enough to make full use of his speed.

    Q: Roger from Dallas asks:
    Where's Ben Zobrist?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Zobrist is in the 11-20 range. (I'd be more specific, but co-editor-in-chief John Manuel would have me killed. You'll have to buy the Prospect Handbook). It's not Zobrist's fault that the Astros haven't promoted him more aggressively. I do like Zobrist and respect what he's accomplished. But he doesn't have an outstanding tool, and he may be more of a utilityman than a shortstop.

    Q: Joe from Long Beach, CA asks:
    Koby Clemens: a wasted, political pick or good value as an 8th-round selection?
    A:
    Jim Callis: I'll choose the latter. Clemens has more ability than scouts thought he had. He's a pretty solid prospect who will easily make the Top 30. As a bonus, his presence may persuade his dad to pitch for another season.

    Q: Jaypers from Springfield, IL asks:
    Thanks for the chat, as always. How far did Mitch Einertson fall since last year's list? I realize he had a less-than-stellar season (due to family problems, I've been led to understand), but is his potential still there? Where would he have ranked this year?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Einertson fell into the 11-20 range. I think we all jumped on the bandwagon too quickly after his pro debut, and personal problems contributed to a disappointing season in 2005. He still has potential, but can he put it all together? We'll see.

    Q: Grayson from Dallas asks:
    If Luke Scott had played the entire year in AAA and not used up his rookie status, how would he have ranked on this list? Also, where do you see him in the Astros plan for the future?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Luke still qualifies because he didn't get 130 big league AB. He's one of 5-6 guys who could have snuck onto the end of the Top 10 but ultimately just missed. Scott has one plus tool, but it's a prized commodity: lefthanded power. He's having a big winter but it's unlikely the Astros will count on him as a regular in 2006. He'll have to make the team as a reserve and look for an opportuntity.

    Q: Charles Berg from Houston, Texas asks:
    Hi Jim, thanks for the great chats. It seems like Houston's system had a great year. Taveras, Burke, Qualls and Astacio made varying impacts in the pros, while the top talents (Patton, Pence, Hirsh, Barthmaier, and Nieve) all had really nice years. Couple that with a solid draft and the Astros seemed to have developed a pretty nice system. Do you agree? Where do you think it ranks amongst the 29 other teams?
    A:
    Jim Callis: The Astros system did make a nice step forward in 2005, and I'd throw in that their draft looks promising as well. However, they did lose Burke, Astacio, Taveras, Qualls and Bruntlett to the big league club. Many of their top prospects are in the lower minors, meaning that attrition naturally will cause some to fall by the wayside. So while the Astros have made some strides, I think they're still in the bottom third of baseball in terms of talent in the system.

    Q: Anita Khera from Houston, Texas asks:
    How close are Patton and Hirsh, and who do you prefer and why?
    A:
    Jim Callis: They were very close. I ranked Hirsh No. 1 and Patton No. 2. If you asked 10 scouts, you'd probably get five votes for each guy. Hirsh has done it at a higher level and is more physical, so I gave him the nod. Patton would have made a fine No. 1 also.

    Q: John Kurtz from Amarillo asks:
    Chance Douglass led the Carolina League in ERA this past season by a wide margin but you don't hear much about him. What are his negatives?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Douglass' stuff isn't overwhelming, though he's not just a finesse guy. He has average velocity and good sink on his fastball and needs to continue to polish his slider and changeup. He's a smart pitcher who exploits hitters' weaknesses and competes well. Nothing wrong with all that.

    Q: Virgil Dahl from Waterloo, Iowa asks:
    Knowing virtually nothing about any of the top pitching prospects, your description of thise pitchers makes them appear to be able to help Houston very soon, and in a potentially impressive fashion. Of all of the national league organizations covered thus far, the Astros appear to rate along side, or ahead of the Marlins and Braves. Is that a fair assessment, or do I need to go back to bed?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Wow, Virgil, you may need some sleep. I've been getting a few questions telling me I've been too harsh on the Astros. As for the pitchers at the top of the list--Jason Hirsh, Troy Patton, Fernando Nieve, Jimmy Barthmaier--they're all loaded with potential. But I don't think the system as a whole stacks up very well to the Marlins or Braves. Get some sleep!

    Q: Greg Dunn from Austin asks:
    C Justin Towles put together some awfully nice numbers at the plate for Lexington this year. Can you break down his receiving skills? And what's the prognosis on higher profile draftee Lou Santangelo, with whom Towles shared time behind the dish for the Legends?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Towles was No. 11 on my list, and I think he'll start getting a lot more attention in 2006. His receiving skills are fine, and he's the best all-around catcher in the system. Santangelo has better raw power and arm strength, but he's not as good a hitter or defender at Towles.

    Q: Tony Delgado from Livingston asks:
    Is catching prospect Hector Gimenez still on the prospect radar?
    A:
    Jim Callis: He is. He hit a little better in 2005, and defense remains his strength. I see him as more of a backup than a regular, however.

    Q: Blake Guyer from Madison, WI asks:
    Big question for all Houston fans, will we see Koby Clemens behind the plate catching his father "The Rocket"?
    A:
    Jim Callis: No chance. Koby is at least three years away from the majors, and he never has caught in his life. If he becomes a catcher, you can push that timetable back even further. I wouldn't put anything past Roger, but I don't see him pitching at age 47 or 48.

    Q: Scott Lindsey from Phoenix, Arizona asks:
    Is there any hope of Charleton Jimerson's performance catching up with his tools? Does he project anything more than a 4th OFer? Think he could still become a Torii Hunter?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Anyone who knows Jimerson or his story can't help but root for him, but I think his happy ending may already have come when he sat on Houston's bench as a September callup. He has the best all-around tools in system, but Jimerson just hasn't shown any aptitude for making contact. I don't think he's going to make a sudden breakthrough at this point.

    Q: Jeff Schneck from Richardson, Tx asks:
    Given the Astros obvious depth in pitching talent and obvious dearth of hitting talent, could you see them trading for Minor League talent instead of Major League talent in the near future to help plug holes in their system particularly at the higher levels? If so, would the Astros be more willing to trade low level players to do this or players like Ezequiel Asactio and Wandy Rodriguez? Which teams would be good trading partners in that situation?
    A:
    Jim Callis: That would be a hard philosophy for the Astros to sell their fans. They've been so close to winning it all the last couple of years, and they're going to continue to try to get over the top. I don't think they're going to expend much time or many assets trying to trade to build up their farm system.

    Q: Nate from San Diego asks:
    Hi Jim, thanks for your time. I wanted to know what you thought of LHP Joshua Muecke from Salem. He seems to be improving each year and lefties are hard to come by. Do you think he will be in an Astros uniform by 2007?
    A:
    Jim Callis: The Astros don't have a lot of depth in lefthanders behind Patton, and Muecke is one of their best. He works at 88-91 mph with a four-seam fastball, has a good curveball at times. He also has an inconsistent slider and a changeup he doens't use enough. I see him as more of a reliever, though the Astros still wonder if Muecke can make it as a starter. Wouldn't be surprised to see him get popped in the Rule 5 draft next week.

    Q: Todd from Newport Beach, CA asks:
    Hey man! Thanks for the chat! What do you know about 5th round pick Billy Hart from USC? As a back-up QB (behind Palmer and Leinart) he must be a heck of an athlete. What is his ceiling and who could you compare him to? I think he was hurt some this year.
    A:
    Jim Callis: Hart was part of Southern California's current football dynasty as a backup quarterback but didn't play much. He's a good athlete but raw as a baseball player, and he didn't get many AB in his pro debut. Interesting guy, but we don't know much about him on the diamond at this point.

    Q: Bill Farmer from Miami, FL. asks:
    I noticed houston took a young 18 year old catcher- in the 2nd round Ralph Henriquez- a switch hitter - his batting average was only .217 but looks like he picked things up in August- what I see in his stats is that he has some pop in his bat second in doubles -behind Flores- second in triples- and drove in 27 runs in 150 ABS- which ranked behind Iorg- The Appy league can be challenging for a young catcher- looks like he has potential to become a power type -RBI reciever in Major leagues- I know he is very young with a big up side- what do you think-is he the future catcher for the astros ?
    A:
    Jim Callis: I think J.R. Towles is the best catcher in the system, but Henriquez does have some promise. He's more advanced defensively right now, though his bat also has some potential. His dad coaches in the Braves system, so Ralph knows the game very well.

    Q: Jay from Houston asks:
    If he had not gotten injured, where would Mark McLemore have fit in? How do his prospects for recovery look?
    A:
    Jim Callis: McLemore still fits toward the bottom of the Top 30 after labrum surgery. When healthy, he has three solid pitches, and he has more confidence than before. The Astros think he'll be ready for spring training.

    Q: Mikakis Long from Durham asks:
    You had Hirsch ranked 25 last year, but now he's number one. How do you explain the big wiff you took last year? I dropped him from my farm team because of you guys.
    A:
    Jim Callis: Hirsh was a totally different guy in 2005. The previous year, he was trying to put his secondary pitches together, and not only did he not succeed but he also lost some velocity and life on his fastball. This year, he got himself straightened out and all of his stuff made a signficant leap forward.

    Q: Greg Jackson from El Paso asks:
    In a system notably devoid of power hitters, Francisco Caraballo put up some nice slugging stats for Lexington this past season. Despite being a tad old for his level and some woeful whiff rates, does Frankie have much of a future?
    A:
    Jim Callis: He's not a top prospect, but he's worth watching. He has some athleticism to go with his power and probably fits best in right field.

    Q: Andrew from Houston, Texas asks:
    Where do you see Taylor Buccholtz in the Astros' system? I know he has had multiple injury problems, but he is still fairly young and when he has been healthy has pitched well. Does he still have a chance to be a significant part of the Astros' rotation in the future? Also, who do you see as the Astros' 5th starter to begin 2006? Assuming Clemens signs, that would leave 1 spot for Astacio, Rodriguez, and all the minor league options like Nieve or Hirsh.
    A:
    Jim Callis: Buchholz, who was the key to the Billy Wagner deal for the Astros, still has a lot of upside, starting with a good curveball. But I want to see him get through a full season with health and success, and he hasn't done that in the last two years. Astacio would be my pick as Houston's No. 5 starter.

    Q: marquis pettis from antioch, ca asks:
    what do think about johnny ash and eric king? do they have a chance to play in the big leagues in the near future or will they just be organization players?
    A:
    Jim Callis: They're both games with more grit than tools. The Astros like both Ash and King, but they're the type of guys who will have to prove themselves at each level. I don't think you'll see them in Houston very quickly.

    Q: Michael from Houston, Tx asks:
    How high of a ceiling does Nieve have? Do you see him being more likely to be a reliever or a starter in the majors?
    A:
    Jim Callis: Fernando Nieve has a high ceiling becuase he has two plus power pitches and his splitter is coming along. He definitely has the stuff to start, so I'd give him every chance to do that, but his first big league opportunity may come in the bullpen. Scouts are fairly split on where he'll wind up.

    Q: Matthias Peters-Kroll from Franklin and Marshall College asks:
    Has anyone ever seen Troy Patton and Gio Gonzalez in the same room together? They seem like carbon copies of each other. By the way, who do you prefer?
    A:
    Jim Callis: I'll take Patton because he throws harder, is built stronger and didn't get nicked up like Gonzalez did in their first full pro seasons.
     
  10. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member

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    That's a little more personal than I wanted to know about the guy! :eek:

    But really if Pence's hitch turns out to be a real problem they have nothing in terms of players with potential ready to play above the A level. Luke Scott doesn't strike me as anything more than a fifth outfielder/situational bat against righthanders, and the rest of the AAA roster is washed up rejects from other farm systems (Barry Wesson, Brooks Conrad, Danny Klassen & Carlos Rivera). As far as I can tell the only guy on the AA roster who seems interesting is Hector Gimenez, and that's only because he's a relatively young switch hitting catcher with some basic skills.

    Sure they seem to have a lot of decent pitching prospects, but one only has to look at old "top prospect" lists to see how much more often "can't miss" pitchers have something go wrong either before they even see the majors, or very quickly after they get there.
     
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