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Friday, December 28, 2012

Opening Weekend includes Stanford/Rice, TCU/Ole Miss and More

One half of Jonathan Mayo's top 50 draft prospects heading into the 2013 season are college players.  The college season kicks off seven weeks from today on February 15, 2013.  If you want to get a head start looking at some of the players the Astros may be considering when the draft rolls around in June, here is a rundown of the series scheduled for opening weekend.

Stanford at Rice

Stanford's roster includes four of the top 50 prospects: Mark Appel, RHP; Austin Wilson, OF; A.J. Vanegas, RHP; Brian Ragira, 1B/OF

TCU at Ole Miss.

TCU's Andrew Mitchell, RHP and Ole Miss's Bobby Wahl, RHP are both in Mayo's Top 50.

Arkansas vs. Western Illinois

Arkansas' staff includes two top 50 prospects: Ryne Stanek, RHP and Colby Suggs, RHP

Florida vs. Duke

Gator right-handers Jonathan Crawford and Karsten Whitson are in the top 50.

Indiana State in the Bulldog Classic at Huntsville, Alabama

Left-hander Sean Manaea leads the Sycamore staff.

Other opening weekend match-ups that include players in the top 50(Teams in bold have players in the top 50):

San Diego State at San Diego
Seton Hall at North Carolina
Maryland at LSU
UCSB at Fresno St.
Cal St.-Fullerton hosts USC and Nebraska
Bethune-Cookman at Arizona St.
Oklahoma St. at New Mexico
New Mexico will spend the following weekend playing at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi.
Youngstown St. at Samford
Long Beach St. at Vanderbilt
Western Michigan at Pepperdine
Minnesota at UCLA
Notre Dame at Snowbird Tournament in Sarasota, Florida
Gonzaga at Palm Springs Tournament in California

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Where the Early Invitations Might be Addressed

Most of the players in the Astros' organization who aren't on the 40-man roster won't be reporting until a few weeks after pitcher and catchers report for Spring Training on February 11.  However, in all likelihood, several prospects will be reporting with the big league club as non-roster invitees.  The early arrival of more players accomplishes three things. It gives young players a chance to gain exposure to big league camp.  It provides more opportunities for the Astros to see their prospects as they interact with big leaguers.  In the case of catchers, it assures that the increased number of pitchers in Major League camp will have someone to catch their pitches in the bullpen.

Following are a few players who are candidates to be extended an invite to big league camp.

Carlos Correa, SS(GCL Astros/Greeneville in 2012)
Delino DeShields, 2B(Lexington/Lancaster)
Rene Garcia, C(Lancaster/Corpus Christi)
Marc Krauss, OF(Mobile/Corpus Christi/Oklahoma City)
Carlos Perez, C(Lansing/Lancaster)
Jon Singleton, 1B(Corpus Christi)
George Springer, OF(Lancaster/Corpus Christi)
Jason Stoffel, RHP(Corpus Christi)
Chris Wallace, C(Corpus Christi/Oklahoma City)

NOTE: In 2012, the Astros brought in seven pitchers and four catchers as part of a minor league mini-camp. It will be interesting to see if they continue that practice in 2013. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Farmstros Village

As far as Christmas gifts go, I have no chance of topping the '13 Prospects of Christmas that Jared Webb put in your stockings. About all I can add is the fact that those prospects will begin playing exactly 100 days from today on April 4, 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #1- Jon Singleton

by Jared Webb @webberoo11
#1 Jon Singleton L/L 1b 6'2 235" 1B 21 years old

What do we all see when we look at JSing? That's right....our hope. 
Singleton is what you dream of when thinking about what you want your 1B to be. Big bat, plate discipline, willing to make good contact and knows where 1B is. If you watched the Futures Game, you saw Sing work every single at bat and not trying to overdo them. He was taking pitchers deep into counts and hitting balls where they needed to be hit. 
If you watched any of Singleton's games in Corpus Christi,  you noticed him crush inside pitches. Of course, there is a split vs. left handers. (There is always a split vs. LHP).  I have a feeling that Singleton will adjust to this split much better than Brett Wallace.  Singleton will start the season at AAA (I've already taken leave in August for when the RedHawks come to Vegas), and he has the ability to make the big team this season.  My guess is that Jeff won't want to start his service timer if he can help it. 
Ceiling: All Star 1B/DH
Floor: Average Starting 1B
 The best thing about trying to rank prospects is that you get to know the guys that will dictate the future of your team.  I could have easily shuffled #4-#7 and been happy with who I slotted in those four spots.  The fact that the Astros have three big arms who have a ceiling of top of the rotation is something that should get fans chomping at the bit. I, for one, plan on following our prospects in 2013 with a zealous dedication.  I'm so invested in the Astros rebuilding effort that I'm trying to get Jeff Lunhow to adopt me. 

c2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #2- Carlos Correa

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

#2 Carlos Correa SS 6'4" 190 18 yrs old
If you didn't like Correa going #1 of the 2012 draft, then we aren't friends. 
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about why I love Correa. Offensively he has a nice smooth swing that will translate into power as he fills out. Correa could outgrow the shortstop position, but I've come to terms with that. Look at the kids hands.....they are gigantic! 
I can honestly see him being Giancarlo big (though he did lose weight during the season). Defensively, Correa is quick enough and has a good enough glove to stick at SS. He also has more than enough arm to play SS. All things considered this guy could be a perennial all star.  He has power to all fields, and he is still learning his body.  Correa has a smooth swing and great balance at the plate.  His pitch recognition will get better as he get more experience.  Carlos will start at Quad Cities, and I imagine the Astros won't rush him.
Ceiling: All Star SS or 3B
Floor: Above Average starting SS or 3B

c2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #3- George Springer

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

#3 George Springer R/R OF 6'3" 200 22 years old
The tool shed is completely full with this guy. Big bat, good speed, big arm, good defender. What could make the difference between all star or just a everyday regular for Springer is the strikeout. 
Anyone who has watched him knows he really likes to swing the bat hard. He doesn't mind taking a walk (which is why his draft status jumped so high in 2011), but he tends to swing and miss a lot. Playing in Lancaster made Springer look like a pure force of nature and allowed the strikeouts to remain hidden. In spite of the large number of strikeouts, I still like Springer a lot. Any fan of prospects has to love a guy with this many tools. 
I see Springer as an everyday RF, because I see Deshields shifting to CF.  Springer has power that will translate well in Minute Maid.  He also  has speed that could help him rack up some steals.  AA will be a big test for Springer in 2013, but if he succeeds there Astros fans can hope for the best.
Ceiling: All-Star RF
Floor:  Average OF
c2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Minor to be Honored by the Hooks

It will be at least a few seasons until Daniel Minor gets a chance to pitch for the Corpus Christi Hooks.  However, the Dripping Springs native will be honored by the team next month.  Minor, who was selected in the ninth round of the 2012 draft by Houston, will be honored as one of two college baseball players of the year at January's South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet. 

Minor pitched 110 innings and posted a 2.20 ERA for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2012 before being drafted into the Astros' organization.  He was the Islanders team MVP.  He made 11 starts as a professional for the Astros' affiliate in Greeneville.

The banquet is scheduled for January 23 in Corpus Christi.  The 2013 gathering will be the Hooks' ninth annual celebration of baseball in South Texas.

Lance McCullers = Kris Kringle

Whether you think he will be an ace or not,  there's no debating that Lance McCulllers does a good impersonation of Father Christmas.  For the past few days, the Astros' 2012 supplemental first round pick has been celebrating Christmas 140 characters at a time by giving away baseball gear through his Twitter account  @LMcCullers_41.

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #4- Jarred Cosart

by Jared Webb @webberoo11
#4 Jarred Cosart RHP 6'3" 180 22 years old

I'm very bullish on Jarred CosartJarred has a mid 90's fastball that can touch 98 mph. He works with a full effort delivery (lots of movement) that has a slight pause in the leg lift (similar to that seen in Japanese pitchers). I don't love his windup, but his stuff is hard to argue with. 
He throws a plus power curve and has a nasty change-up. It has been said that he misses less bats than he should  considering how good his stuff is. The big thing for him is keeping the ball down and controlling it, all while staying healthy. 
2011/2012 showed major improvement in the health department, with only a blister problem slowing him in 2012.  Cosart could end 2013 in the MLB, but if he continues on the success of 2012 then Mr. Lunhow might not be able to hold him back. 
I imagine they will hold off on starting his service time until we see the development of some of our other prospects. His 2012 numbers showed that he is improving in the control area so his #1 ceiling could be attainable.  Cosart also got very good reviews from scouts during his time in the AFL.  It's also worth noting that he is a huge Texans fan
Ceiling: #2 Starting Pitcher
Floor: Closer
c2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let's Look at the OPS, then

It was great to hear John Granato at Yahoo! Sports 1560 AM in Houston ask Jeff Luhnow during an interview Wednesday if Carlos Pena's .197 batting average in 2012 scares him. 

After talking about the importance of scouting in the case of Pena and what Pena brings to the clubhouse, Luhnow discounted Pena's low batting average saying, "We far prefer if the fans are going to look at one number, that they look at OPS."  (Just in case OPS is not part of your baseball-watching vernacular, I will help you get with the Astros' program. OPS= On base percentage + Slugging Percentage.)

Well, I guess we need to look at that Carlos Pena's OPS, then. Pena's OPS in 2012 with Tampa Bay was .684. To give you some perspective, this number was the 124th highest out of 143 qualified major league batters.

Of the 15 players with 200 or more plate appearances for the 2012 Astros, Pena's OPS would have ranked 10th.  Among the players with a better OPS: Scott Moore, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, and Brett Wallace.

A New Version of The Night Before Christmas

Jayne at What the Heck, Bobby? has posted a Jeff Luhnow-inspired version of The Night Before Christmas.  It's worth the read, although it may cause you to wonder what exactly the standards are for sainthood these days. 

The Night Before Christmas-Farmstros Version(2007)

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #5- Delino DeShields, Jr.

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

#5 Delino Deshields, Jr. R/R 2B 5'9" 210 20 yrs old
Delino is a monster athlete. Most people who are 5'9", 210 aren't prime athletes, but Jr. is all muscle. 
His athleticism is highlighted by his blazing speed. He stole 101 bases at two levels and actually posted a better success rate than Billy Hamilton (I got sick of hearing about Hamilton over Deshields during the 2012 season). He will more than likely jump to AA, Corpus Christi in 2013, and we will probably see him play some CF.  He isn't 100% blocked at 2B, but if Altuve has a successful sophomore campaign we could see DeShields move to CF.   
DeShields showed better plate discipline this year drawing 83 walks at two levels, and flashed some power hitting(10 HR in the regular season and two in the playoffs). Bobby Heck showed a preference for tools when he drafted DeShields and Springer as 1st rounders, and Deshields looks like he is putting those tools together nicely.  Delino is showing a good feel for 2B now that he has gotten some experience there.  If DDJ develops into a Brandon Phillips type player then Astros will have a player to be thrilled about for years to come
Ceiling: All Star CF or 2B
Floor: Utility Player 
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ely Familiar with Astros AAA Teams

John Ely, who the Astros acquired in a trade with the Dodgers Wednesday,  hadn't faced the Astros since 2010, the first season in which he spent time with the Dodgers.  He made two big league starts against Houston that season.  However, in three seasons with Albuquerque, the right-hander made eight of his 65 starts against the Astros' AAA affiliates.(2010-Round Rock, 2011 & 2012- Oklahoma City). 

Ely against the Astros' AAA affiliates:

4 GS, 23 IP, 13 H, 13, R, 10 ER, 5 BB, 24 K, 3.91 ERA(2-1)

2 GS, 12 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 9 ER,  5 BB, 8 K, 6.75 ERA(0-2)

2 GS, 14 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 3.86 ERA(1-1)

Luhnow Was on the Radio This Morning

The Astros' General Manager Jeff Luhnow was on Yahoo! Sports Radio 1560 AM in Houston Wednesday morning.  He talked about Carlos Pena's OPS, Jarred Cosart and Lance McCullers among other things.  You can listen to his interview with John Granato and Sean Pendergast at this link.

Yahoo! Sports Radio 1560 is the media sponsor of the Larry Dierker Celebrity Golf Tournament which benefits Literacy Advance Houston.

Fill a Stocking with a ValleyCat Baseball Camp Ticket

The Tri-City Valley Cats are offering young fans a chance to learn the fundamentals of baseball on the field at Joe Bruno Stadium this summer.  The Astros' New York-Penn League affiliate is offering two summer baseball camp options for players ages 6 - 12.  A three-day camp for 6-9 year old athletes is scheduled from August 6-8, 2013.  July 17-19 are the dates for the 10-12 year old camp.

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #6- Lance McCullers, Jr.

by Jared Webb @webberoo11
#6 Lance McCullers Jr. RHP 6'1" 190 19 yrs old
I remember wondering on draft day who the Astros would take in the supplemental round. I saw Zach Elfin go off the board and I thought, "Man, that would have been a steal." I also remember thinking they would take Matt Smoral. Like everyone else, I thought McCullers would got in the top 15. 
 Then the 'stros called his name, and I literally ran around my living room fist pumping. 
Power pitcher is the best description for McCullers. His fastball can ramp up all the way to 100 and he throws a power slider that makes people look ridiculous. He never needed his change up in HS, but as a pro, he is bringing it back into the mix with good effect. When he was on this year he was dominant, and only got roughed up when he got wild. 
Control will be the issue going forward. He could profile as a top of the rotation arm, or an elite closer.  The Astros will continue working Lance as a starter for the time being.  He should be a fan favorite, and already shows a knack for interacting with the fans.

Ceiling: #1 Starter (Not Ace)
Floor: Closer 
 c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mom, Look, Farmstros is Using Phineas and Ferb's Time Machine

I understand that as the holidays approach, the UPS man is occasionally going to mis-deliver an occasional package.  So, I wasn't that surprised when a large, unexpected parcel was on my porch Monday night.  However, I was curious when I saw that the box was addressed to Phineas and Ferb.

Despite my curiosity, I was fully intent on leaving the box untouched so the driver could pick it up and give delivering it to the proper mailbox another try.  However, some of the younger members of the Farmstros staff insisted that we just give the box a look.  "Mike, it's for Phineas and Ferb! How can we not look inside!"

Reluctantly, I opened that box and found a brand new Time Machine.  I didn't want to use the machine, since it didn't belong to me. Yet, I'll admit that the opportunity to look at the Astros of the Future in the future and report on it was too tempting.  So, I gave it a go and set the machine's clock for December 18, 2022 and let her rip.

The ride was surprisingly smooth and its destination was the Farmstros offices, 10 years in the future.  The offices were empty, so I booted up the computer and hopped on the internet.  I was certain that the blogosphere had to have changed over the span of ten years, so I started with what I knew and googled "Astro draft picks".  Interestingly, the following article is the first thing that popped up.

Houston Born and Raised, All-American Catcher Not Sure if he'd Like to be an Astro
by James Brooks for Crawfish
posted December 18, 2022

It seemed normal to meet Lance Michaels at his "favorite baseball stadium" to talk about his upcoming junior season at Rice University and the prospect of being drafted in the first round of the MLB's 2023 Rule 4 draft. Michaels is a two-team All-American catcher and the centerpiece of Manager Lance Berkman's nationally recognized program, so it stands to reason he would be most comfortable being interviewed at the ballpark.

However, it was Michaels' choice of ballpark that threw me for a loop.  "This may seem a bit odd," said Michaels, "but if it's not too much trouble, I'd like to meet at the Rangers' stadium in Arlington." Conveniently, he and I were both in the Metroplex area last week, and we were able to set up a time to meet at the stadium.  I was intrigued as I set out to meet him in the shadow of Jerry World.

"I get asked often if I'd be excited to be drafted by the Astros in June."  Michaels, 21 says, "That possibility causes mixed emotions for me. Most people know that I grew up near downtown Houston.  I went to Carnegie High School which is a short drive from Minute Maid Park."  Most of Michaels extended family lives in the Houston area.

Despite this proximity, Houston's big league team didn't really rub off on Michaels.  "When I was starting to get into baseball, around 3rd or 4th grade, to be blunt, the Astros weren't of much interest to me. The team's leadership kept talking about being a winner someday in the future.  Some people thought they could do it, some people weren't sure.  As for me, I couldn't wait around to find out. I remember having the distinct thought, 'If I'm going to be a great player, I need to watch great players.'  Michaels started 4th grade in August 2011, when the Astros were wrapping up the first 100 loss season in team history.

"I couldn't convince my parents to move to Dallas, but they did  agree to take me to Arlington at least once a summer.  We'd also go to Minute Maid- to watch the Rangers play- a few times each season.  Also, we'd go to Reckling Park for a few games of Owl baseball each season." I failed to ask Michaels about watching baseball on television as a teenager, but I assume he wasn't too concerned about the CSN Houston deal being worked out.

Michaels' strategy of watching great players(instead of less than mediocre ones)has paid off.  He was an all-state catcher two times in high school.  He was second team All-American in 2021, his freshmen year at Rice.  That year's team gave Berkman his first College World Series Championship as Rice's manager.  Michaels was first team All-American in 2022, and is the consensus college player of the year headed into 2023.

For those of you scoring at home, after reading and printing out the above article in 2022, I returned to 2012, packed up the time machine, and called the UPS offices to explain the situation.  As I write this post, the man in brown shorts is loading the box in his truck so he can properly deliver it to Phineas and Ferb.

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #7- Mike Foltynewicz

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

#7 Mike Foltynewicz RHP 6'4" 200 20 yrs old                    
Folty can pump his fastball up to 99 mph and normally sits in the 93-95 range. His curve shows plus potential with good bite, while his change is ahead of his curve. One thing I read about Folty is that he is a major work ethic guy who always pushes his catcher to make sure he works all his pitches and all his weak spots. I imagine that Folty will skip Lancaster(after spending two seasons at Low A Lexington) and move to Corpus Christi.  Mike will make or break himself based on the developement of his command.  His off-speed pitch should continue to develop, and he could be a top of the rotation guy for Houston.
Ceiling: #2 Starter
Floor: Late Inning Bullpen
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Monday, December 17, 2012

If this Post helps you as a parent after Last Week, I'll be Grateful

I just received an email from the PTA where my children go to school.  The email included advice to help parents in the aftermath of last week's tragedy in Connecticut. The original source of the information is the National Association of School Psychologists.

I hope a few readers find it helpful.

English version

Spanish version


The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #8- Rio Ruiz

by Jared Webb @webberoo11
#8 Rio Ruiz L/R 3B 6'1" 180 18 yrs old
Rio can hit.  
 It comes down to that one statement.  I hope fans understand how good a comparison to Eric Chavez is.  If he hits like Chavez did in his prime, then the Astros have a perennial all-star.   
Astros' scouts thought that Ruiz had the sweetest left-handed swing in the 2012 draft and were willing to pay him based on that.  Ruiz has a smooth swing with enough loft that scouts can see power in his future.  He also has great balance at the plate and shows good pitch recognition.  Hitting isn't the only facet of his game (RIO CAN HIT!), he shows good defensive ability at 3rd and threw 95 mph off the mound in high school.  Ruiz is not going to steal many bases, but he runs the bases just fine for a third baseman.
Ceiling: All Star 3B
Floor: Average starting 3B
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Twitter 101 for the Astros of the Future

One of the pictures Brian T. Smith took when he was in the Dominican Republic recently sheds some light on how the Astros are instructing their players to communicate on Twitter.  One of the approximately 20 pictures in a slide show at the above link shows a sign that at Houston's Baseball Academy in the Dominican.

The poster(written in Spanish) includes some important dos and don'ts for Twitter users and some examples of Good Tweets and Bad Tweets.  (As best I can tell, using Google Translate gives a fairly good translation of what the Astros are telling their players.)

Spoiler Alert:  If they had to pick a Texan player, the Astros would apparently be more likely to invite Eric Winston than Arian Foster to be a guest speaker at their next social media use training session.

The Farmstros Village Picks Bagwell and Biggio

Thanks to those of you who voted in the Farmstros Hall of Fame balloting.  The voting ended last Friday night.  The official BBWAA results will be announced in January.  The 2013 induction ceremony is scheduled for July 28 in Cooperstown, New York.

Here are the final results of the Farmstros poll:

40 total votes

Craig Biggio- 39 (97.5%)
Jeff Bagwell- 38 (95)
Mike Piazza- 29 (72.5)
Roger Clemens- 26 (65)
Curt Schilling- 23 (57.5)
Barry Bonds- 18 (45)
Tim Raines- 17 (42.5)
Jack Morris- 15 (37.5)
Edgar Martinez- 12 (30)
Don Mattingly- 10 (25)
Lee Smith- 9 (22.5)
Alan Trammell- 9 (22.5)
Larry Walker- 8 (20)
Mark McGwire- 8 (20)
Kenny Lofton- 7 (17.5)
Rafael Palmeiro- 7 (17.5)
Dale Murphy- 6  (15)
Fred McGriff- 4 (10)
Bernie Williams- 4 (10)
Sammy Sosa- 3 (7.5)

Received One Vote- Sandy Alomar, Jr., Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, David Wells, Rondell White, Woody Williams

10 candidates received 0 votes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Martinez Family Will be Together for Christmas

Fittingly with the holiday season  approaching, Denny Martinez and his son have reportedly been reunited in the Astros' organization.  According to Baseball America, the Astros acquired Ricky Martinez from St. Louis for cash considerations.  Martinez, RHP, is the son of the Astros' new bullpen coach Denny Martinez. 

The younger Martinez was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cardinals in 2010.  He split the 2012 season between Low A Quad Cities and High A Palm Beach.  His father Denny was the pitching coach in Palm Beach, and Denny managed Ricky on Team Nicaragua during this fall's World Baseball Classic qualifier.

This Martinez holiday reunion has an added bonus.  Ricky Martinez also joins his former college teammate J.D. Martinez(no relation) in the Astros' system.  The two Martinez's were on the Nova Southeastern roster together from 2007-2009.

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #9- Nick Tropeano

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

#9 Nick "NiTro" Tropeano RHP 6'4" 205 22yrs old
I think the two accomplishments that got "Nitro" noticed were not getting shelled in Lancaster, and his velocity bumping from 88-91 to 91-94. Both of those events were pretty impressive, but the thing that keeps Nitro most relevant is his filthy nasty change up. I've read some reports indicating that the reason Nitro's velocity jumped was because he started throwing his fastball more and actually got a better feel for it.
 His change up is by far his best pitch, and he was accused of throwing it too often. He can throw it to lefties and righties,  and he throws it with great command. Even when his velocity jumped he was able to maintain good command of his FB. He will start next year in AA, and if he can maintain his great numbers might even be bumped to AAA. 
Tropeano has a legit. chance of being a middle of the rotation guy and his stuff actually projects really well in Minute Maid Park.  He has also shown the ability to come out of the bullpen.  He pitched in relief in this fall's Arizona League and led the entire pitching staff in strikeouts.
Ceiling: Middle Rotation Starter
Floor: Bullpen
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The '13 Propsects of Christmas- #10- Domingo Santana

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

 #10 Domingo Santana R/R OF 6'5 228 20 yrs old
We've all seen the movies about the bad guys who have that gigantic bodyguard....Santana is bigger than the bodyguard. 
 He is going to have monster power when he stops growing and he is showing good development with the bat. He runs well and has a big arm which could keep him in RF. Strikeouts might always be a problem, but he should still hit enough to be a good everyday RF. There is a chance he could move to left depending on who moves where within the organization. Santana's offspeed recognition will need to develop,  but if/when it does this guy could be scary.
Ceiling: Upper Tier OF
Floor: Bench Bat
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #11- Jonathan Villar

by Jared Webb @weberroo11
#11 Jonathan Villar S/R SS 6'1" 195 21 yrs old

I know some people have soured on Villar since he lost that fight with a door.  However, I still have him as a very legit SS prospect based on the fact that toolsy shorstops are incredibly rare.  Villar is a switch hitter who has some pop and shows off really good speed.  As a hitter, he is much better from the right side of the plate.  He tends to slash a little from the left side, but it's a work in progress.  He shows flashes of being a plus defender if he can clean up the sloppy errors.  Hitting is what will dictate Villar's future.  If he can hit in the majors, he will be an Astros SS for a long time.

Ceiling- Above average everyday starter
 Floor- 2nd String Shortstop
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #12- Nolan Fontana

by Jared Webb @Webberoo11

#12 Nolan Fontana R/R 2b/ss 5'11" 190 21 yrs old

The strike zone belongs to Nolan Fontana. He owns it plain and simple. You may never see this guy mash, but he will grind out at bats and use the entire field to his advantage.

Fontana also provides solid "D" that plays up a bit due to his great baseball smarts. His arm isn't amazing, but it is strong enough for him to stay at SS. Expect him to move fast in the Astros system. I see him starting 2013 at HiA, Lancaster.  He could possibly pass Jiovanni Mier depending on how Mier hits.

I see Fontana as a super utility guy in the Ben Zobrist mold. Guys like Fontana are really easy to overlook, because they don't amaze scouts with their abilities. When you add up all his parts, Fontana is a true ballplayer (Just like the one your pappy told you about).

Ceiling: Starting SS 

Floor: Utility IF

c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The '13 Prospects of Christmas- #13- Vincent Velasquez

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

Everytime I read a top prospect ranking, I'm SHOCKED when the top 25 guys aren't all Astros.  "How can this be?!" I think to myself.   OK,  so maybe I am a little bit biased towards my hometown team. 

2013 seems to be the year of the Astros.  The baseball guru, Jeff Lunhow, has assembled a farm system that is ready for war. Power arms? 'stros got that.  Big sticks? Houston has 'em.  Slick fielders?  Take your pick.   

When I was asked to put together a top '13 prospect for 2013 list, I had to sit and really contemplate my choices.  It's hard to not fall in love with players with tons of tools, but you can't overlook the solid "ballplayers".  With that,  I'm gonna shut up and give you the goods starting with #13.

#13 Vincent Velasquez RHP 6'3" 185 RHP 20 yrs old
I know what you're thinking, "Vinny V is your #13?!?!".  You're dang right he is.
 I sit around and read a lot of draft reports, scouting reports, and home and garden magazines(OK,  the last one in that list is just for me.)  Everything I read about Vinny V says that he has a filthy curve and change  with a solid fastball to boot.  In 2012, he came back from Tommy John surgery  and gained two mph on his fastball which sat in the low 90's.  
 Most prospects spend a majority of their time developing off-speed pitches, but Vinny V has the stuff already.  He was #3 in K's in Tri-City(51 strikeouts in 45 2/3 IP) and gave up fewer hits than the two pitchers ahead of him in strikeouts.  Developing command is going to be essential for Velasquez, but at 20 years of age there is time for that.  For him, it's all about learning how to use his stuff on a consistent basis and staying healthy.  Look for Vinny V to start the season at LoA(Quad Cities).  Depending on his progression with the River Bandits, he could very well skip Lancaster.   
 This guy could be one of the Astros most overlooked prospects, so,  open your eyes and start looking.   
Ceiling: #3 Starting Pitcher 
Floor: Late Inning Reliever
c2012 Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Here's a Unique Way to Follow the Astros of the Future...and get paid for it

How would you like to get paid to work side by side with the Astros' young prospects in Quad Cities during the 2013 season?  If you have the right skill set, this experience is a possibility thanks to two job openings listed by Professional Sports Catering. 

Professional Sports Catering is currently looking for a Concessions Supervisor and a Catering Supervisor for the upcoming season at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa.  The positions run throughout the season.  Both jobs require attendance at all the River Bandits home games.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Modern Woodmen Park Will Host Frost Fest Sunday

There won't be any baseball Sunday, December 16 at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, but there will be arts and crafts, cookie decorating, a photogenic child contest, a holiday movie and more as the Quad Cities River Bandits host their fifth annual Frost Fest. 

Admission to the event is free, but the River Bandits encourage guests to make a donation in support of the Bandits Scholars Program.  This program pays the entire first year of college tuition for two Quad Cities area students.  The event will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Iowa is the Place to be in May 2013

With Houston's Low A affiliate(Quad Cities) now located in Davenport, Iowa, followers of the Astros of the future will be looking towards the 29th state in the union with regularity during the 2013 season. 

The Low A River Bandits will be playing games in America's heartland from April through Labor Day, and May will provide a bumper crop of Astros-affiliated games in the state.  During the second month of the season, in addition to Quad Cities' I owa contests, Oklahoma City, the Astros' AAA affiliate are scheduled to play eight games in Des Moines against the Cubs' AAA club. Between the River Bandits and the RedHawks, 27 games full of Astros' prospects are slated to take place in the Hawkeye State.

Quad Cities full season schedule

Oklahoma City full season schedule

May games in Iowa:

Oklahoma City(8)

May 3-6 at Iowa
May 24-27 at Iowa

Quad Cities(19)

May 8-10- vs. Cedar Rapids
May 11-13- vs. Peoria
May 17-20- vs. Beloit
May 22-24- vs. Wisconsin
May 25-27- at Clinton
May 28-30- vs. Kane County

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Rule 5 Draft Rundown

by Jared Webb

You can follow Jared @webberoo11 where he dedicates "more brain bytes to the Astros re-construction effort than (he) does to breathing."

Where were you during the 2012 Rule 5 Draft?  In 20 years you will be able to tell your kids...

Well, I'm sure neither you nor your kids will care.  

Be that as it may, Jeff Lunhow did a good job drafting in the Rule 5 Draft.  I made sure to make 45-2500 predictions on who I thought Houston would take in the Rule 5 this year.  I did guess Fields at one point, but Freiman snuck up on me. 

Josh Fields 6'0" 185 RHP 27 yrs

Fields was a first rounder in the 2008 draft, selected by the Mariners.  Fields has a power FB that touches 95 and a hard curve that serves as his out pitch.  Fields is considered a little old to be a prospect, but he held out and didn't sign after being drafted and opted to play his senior season.  He has only ever pitched at AA and AAA and bounced between the two frequently.  He has a max delivery effort that he honed this season, which led to much better control.  Fields has always been a closer and could step into the role for the Astros.  He dominated AA-AAA last year due to his newly found control.   

If anything, the Astros got a guy with wonderful flowing hair.  That's important for a baseball player right?

Nate Freiman 6'7" 225 R/R 1B 25 yrs

Freiman could easily be a low level enforcer for an evil super villian. He's huge!

That being said, Nate has a lot of power in his gigantic body.  Freiman wasn't on my Rule 5 radar, but when  Jonathan Mayo put Freiman on his list, I did notice that he had some good numbers.  Freiman has hit at every level he has been at all the way up to AA.  One question I saw brought up about Freiman was, "Did he hit so well at lower levels due to his advanced age?"  Well, I'm going to give Jeff Lunhow the credit he is due, and say that this kid probably has something.   

Freiman was a decent defender in college, but has had a little trouble in the minors.  But, come on, let's all realize that we grabbed this guy to hit the ball way way way over the fence and not play gold glove defense.  Depending on what happens with the DH situation, Freiman could get at bats off the bench and possibly work his way into the DH spot.  If he doesn't hit, then at least, Jeff Lunhow has a bodyguard.

Michael Burgess 5'11" 195 L/L OF 24 yrs

Burgess is a good cautionary tale to show the risk of HS players in the draft.  At 5'11" Burgess has attractive power, but spent three years in HiA not hitting.  He does offer ++ defense in the OF, but his selection is more of a minor league depth pick.

Cameron Lamb 6'3" 211 R/R RHP 23 yrs 

Editor's note-The following information about Lamb was taken from an Astros' press release

Lamb went 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA (6ER/25.2IP) last season in a total of 12 appearances with the Arizona League Giants and the Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In limited duty, Lamb recorded 19 strikeouts along with seven walks in 2012, while opponents hit just .194 off him throughout the year. A native of Perth Western in Australia, he was originally signed by the Giants as a non-drafted free agent on Jan. 26, 2007. Over his six-year minor league career, Lamb owns an 11-10 record with a 4.26 ERA (86ER/181.2IP) and 150 punchouts.

Honestly, it is rare Rule 5 picks to turn into stars.  I do think that Fields and Freiman can turn into contributors for a young club.  Jonathan Mayo was incredibly generous and ranked both guys in the Astros' top 20 prospect list, but I will be happy if these guys just stick the entire year.  Fields could turn into a late inning contributor, and if Freiman's stats from the minors translate to the MLB the team we will have a nice DH.  Either way, Lunhow did a really good job grabbing some good talent.

c 2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A few Thoughts About the Rule 5 Draft

First of all, the highlight of the Rule 5 Draft in the Farmstros offices was when the Chicago White Sox drafted Angel Sanchez.  It was ironic(and cool) to see him picked up, especially after reading about all the hidden treasures who might be uncovered in the draft.  I sincerely hope Sanchez turns out to be a hidden treasure in Chicago.

However, the most impressive part of the draft was how efficiently the Astros were in their selection process.  I'm sure that Jonathan Mayo appreciated the way Houston picked two players (#19- Fields and #20- Freiman) who could be neatly slotted in at the end of Mayo  Top 20 prospect list.  Since there was no need to reshuffle players or move profiles around within the Astros' page, the updated prospect list was up and ready for public consummation less than 10 hours after the selections were made.

Today's Rule 5 performance was evidence of a vast improvement in efficiency by Jeff Luhnow and his staff compared to their trade deadline deal with Toronto.  Granted three of the four players acquired in that deal(not including the PTBNL) made it onto the Top 20 list immediately(Musgrove, Wojciechowski,  and Perez).  However, Mayo had to scramble to puzzle the trio into the Astros' prospect equation so that an updated list could be posted the day after that trade was made.  I can't recall exactly where the three players were slotted in July, but I do remember that their placements were scattered similarly to their current #10, #11 and #18 ratings.  Fortunately for Mayo, Houston kept the prospect rating challenge a lot more manageable this time around.

Nate Freiman and Austin Wates Will Have Something to Talk About in Kissimmee

The information provided by a tweet from @GregRajan during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft should provide a convenient ice breaker during Spring Training for Nate Freiman and Austin Wates. Freiman, who the Astros drafted in the second round of the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, was the batter robbed on May 5, 2012 at Whataburger Field when Austin Wates made the highlight reel catch pictured above.

In the bullpen, the Hooks pitcher celebrating the catch behind Wates in the video is Josh Zeid. Zeid and Freiman were teammates on Team Israel in the WBC qualifier earlier this off-season.

During 2011-12, 11 of Freiman's 46 home runs came against Astros' affiliates.

2011 vs. Lancaster-six home runs off of:
Kirk Clark
Colton Pitkin
Michael Ness
Robert Donovan
Jake Buchanan
Drew Robinson

2012 vs. Corpus Christi- five home runs off of:
Erick Abreu(twice-Abreu was also on the mound when Wates made his catch)
Jake Buchanan
Jose Cisnero
Alex Sogard

Rule 5 Draft

Who's In?

Major League Phase
Josh Fields, RHP, from Boston
Nate Freiman, 1B, from San Diego

Minor League Phases
Michael Burgess, OF, from Chicago Cubs
Cameron Lamb, RHP, from San Francisco

Who's Out?

Major League Phase

Minor League Phases

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When is the Rule 5 Draft and Where Can You Follow It?

Thursday's Rule 5 Draft is slated to begin at 9 a.m.(Minute Maid Park time).  Audio of the event will be available at 

The 13 Prospects of Christmas...Coming Next Week

In all likelihood, there won't be a pile of wins under the tree at Minute Maid Park this Christmas or in the near future.  However, starting next Wednesday, the Farmstros Village stocking will be filled up with the (20)13 Prospects of Christmas.  Starting on December 12, one prospect a day will be revealed starting with #13 and wrapping up with #1 on Christmas Eve.

Gillingham vs. the Astros of the Future in 2012

With the completion of the Wilton Lopez trade Tuesday night, a few more new faces are on the guest list for Houston's 2013 Spring Training.  Alex Gillingham, 23, the minor league pitcher acquired in the trade from Colorado, will have his share of introductions to go through when he arrives in Kissimmee.  However, his pitching will be familiar to some of the players in the Astros' minor league camp.

Gillingham spent 2012 with Asheville of the South Atlantic Leauge.  Two of his 19 starts during the season came against the Astros' Low A affiliate, Lexington.  In those two starts against the Legends, Gillingham pitched 14 innings, allowing 16 hits and four earned runs. He walked one and struck out 12.  Over-all in 2012, Gillingham had a 3.66 ERA in 123 innings pitched for the Tourists.

How the Astros of the Future fared against Gillingham in 2012:

DeShields- 1 for 8, 3 K
Scott- 1 for 7, 1 D, 1 RBI, 1 K
Todd- 0 for 4, 2 K
Duffy- 1 for 7, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
Muren- 1 for 3, 1 K
Kvasnicka- 2 for 6
Hinson- 1 for 3
Pena- 2 for 3
Epps- 1 for 2, 1 HBP
Z. Johnson- 1 for 4, 1 D, 1 RBI, 1 K
Wierzbicki- 2 for 3, 1 D, 1 RBI, 1 K
Meredith- 1 for 3, 1 RBI
Gominsky- 2 for 3, 1 K
Moon- 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Village is Concerned about Perez and Stoffel

Of the 38 members of the organization vulnerable to this Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the Farmstros Village is most concerned about losing catcher Carlos Perez or reliever Jason Stoffel.  In a poll that concluded Monday night, 28 readers indicated that they were concerned about losing Perez in the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place Thursday during baseball's Winter Meetings.  26 respondents claimed the same concern about Stoffel. 

A total of 71 readers participated in the poll.  Other voting results were Marc Krauss-18 votes, Josh Zeid-11, Other-2.  Participants were allowed to select multiple players when they voted.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why the Grinch Needs Ear Plugs

The Grinch hated baseball fans, that much was clear.
Their hope for the future. Their undying cheers.
Their noise as it echoed throughout Houston's streets
Was something the Grinch could not stand in the least.

He longed for a way he could quiet those fans
And keep them from filling up Minute Maid's stands.
He longed for a way he could silence the chatter
And hand out a strike out to every last batter.

He'd snatch up those wins, pack them all in a sack-
The same bag he'd used in his Whoville attack.
He'd snuff out their dreams, rest assured of it, man,
If he could just think of another great plan.

He thought and he thought and he thought a bit more.
He pondered and pondered, 'til his head was sore.
He gave up at last as he sat in his seat.
He threw up his hands and sought something to eat.

The Grinch, he had failed in his quest for a plan.
Yet, others were hard at work, rest assured, man.
The Grinch? he did nothing, but wins went away.
The losses, they piled up day after day.

The Grinch was ecstatic as Houston's team fell.
Each game that they lost, he would ring a small bell.
The schedule rolled on, he smiled more every day.
He laughed his mean laugh after every bad play.

"Pooh-Pooh to the fans!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no winning is coming!"
He listened intently a minute or two
Quite certain the fans would be crying "BOO! HOO!"

Then, off in the distance, a whisper WAS heard,
A softer song than from the smallest of birds.
It started in low, though the ground held no snow.
It started in low, then it started to grow.

It wasn't a BOO! HOO!, the noise that was heard.
This song, it was hopeful, the future its word.
Not everyone sang it at first, it is true,
But it was convincing, and steadily grew

The team kept on losing, still  that song did grow.
The Grinch, he was flummoxed.  How could this be so?
“They can’t see the future, and they LONG for it?
All they see are losses, their team in a pit.
Yet,  they keep on singing, ‘We’ll be good some day,
Which season we confess, it’s too hard to say.’”

The Grinch was amazed as the song grew each year.
Resigned to his fate, he bought plugs for his ears.

c2012 Mike Tauser

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Couch on the Side of the Road(aka Five Non-Tendered Players of Note)

by Jared Webb

You can follow Jared @webberoo11 where he dedicates "more brain bytes to the Astros re-construction effort than (he) does to breathing."

There is a point in a man's life when he sees an abandoned couch on the side of the road and thinks, "With a little Febreeze that would be sweet"!  

Let's be honest, the 'stros are bargain bin shoppers now.  I'm not ashamed, and you shouldn't be either.  So, let's grab our coupons and go shopping!!  (Specifically let's focus on five recently non-tendered players who merit consideration.)

Non-Tendered by: Washington Nationals

Considering the 'stros lack of left-handed pitching, Lannan is a guy who merits a good, long look. Johnny spent most of his time in 2012 at AAA due mainly to the fact that the Nationals' rotation was stacked.He boasts a 88-91 mph four-seamer that he commands to both sides of the plate.  His two-seamer runs in on right handed batters and ties them up nicely.  His off-speed arsenal consists of a change-up that he throws well and a curve.  His curve can get loopy at times, but we're not talking about David Price here.  He was poised to make $5 million in 2013 (a big reason he was non-tendered), but I could see signing him for a little less with a promised spot in the Astros' rotation.

Projected Role: #3 starter

Non-Tendered by: Boston Red Sox

I think Sweeney is the type of player we hoped Bogey would be.  He is a very good defender with a strong arm who provides good value at the plate.  It seems Sweeney has never really gotten the opportunity to become an everyday regular.  Well, Mr. Sweeney, Houston has a spot on the Febreezed couch just for you.  Ryan is a decent contact hitter who is willing to take a walk and has a little pop to go with it.  I could easily see him giving us a .265/.348/.700 slash line while putting up 10 HR.  I could see us getting Sweeney for 1-2 years for $1-2 million a year.  He made $1.75 mil last year with the Red Sox.

Projected Role: 2-hole hitter, Starting RF

Non-Tendered by: Baltimore Orioles

Remember the scene in "Signs" when Mel Gibson's brother told the army recruiter "It just felt wrong not to swing"?  Mark Reynolds wants you to know that he "likes to swing hard".  He doesn't care what the count is.  He doesn't care what the situation is.  HE'S GONNA SWING HARD!!!  Mark would bring a 220 type BA with an over .300 OBP.  Another thing he would easily bring to the Astros is 25+ HR.  He is also going to strike out 150+ times.  Fans sitting in the Crawford boxes beware, Mark is going to swing hard.  I think he could be had in the $7-9 mil per year range.  Maybe a little pricey for the Astros right now, but he is a lot of fun to watch.

Projected Position: Clean up hitter, DH/1B

Non-Tendered by: Washington Nationals

Flores isn't going to bring much to the batters box, but that's not why the Astros would sign him.  Flores is a +++ defender behind the plate, who is young enough to lock up for a few years.  Flores was pushed out of Washington due to Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. He could be had for less than $1million a year.  He is a younger option that could be brought in to give days off to Jason Castro.

Projected Role: Back up catcher

Non-Tendered by: Atlanta Braves

Trade speculations surrounded Jurrjens throughout the  2012 season. He squashed all of those rumors by majorly under performing.  Before you start thinking I'm crazy for wanting Jair after he posted a mid 6.00 ERA, let's look at some of his better qualities.  Jurrjens is 26 and has 6yrs MLB service. and in 3 of those years, posted a sub 4.00 ERA.  Jurrjens has a 92-95 4-seamer with good sinking action and arm side run.  His change up also has good sink and is effective against lefties.  His curveball is good, although it is inconsistent at times.   

This is a great opportunity to buy while his value is low, and give him a chance to rebuild.  Jurrjens made $5.5 mil in 2012, and this is his final year of arbitration eligibility.  This guy is easily someone Houston could bring in on a $1-2 million/year deal and see turn into the key part of the rotation.

Projected Role: #2 Starter

I know you guys look at some of these names and say "this isn't exciting at all".  However, every one of these guys still has quite a few years left in the tank.  I'd be willing to buy in on their turn around value, and give them everyday starting positions in the blooming roster.  If anything, look at these guys with a "why not" attitude.  Each has the ability to be everyday regulars for a team that is trying to establish itself in a new division.

c2012 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I didn't Realize I was Listening to an Astro of the Future 9.5 Years Ago

The waiver claim and subsequent signing of Philip Humber by the Astros Friday night brought back some great Houston baseball memories in the Farmstros office.  On June 23, 2003, Humber was a right-handed pitcher for the Rice Owls.  On that day nine and one-half years ago, Humber pitched a complete game, allowing just five hits, as the Owls knocked off Stanford 14-2 to clinch the school's first College World Series championship.

I have been following Rice baseball since I was in middle school, so the championship was a highlight for me.  I distinctly remember listening to Jonathan Yardley's call of that game on KTRU(Rice radio) as well as most of Rice's run through the 2003 regular season and play-offs.  I also remember what may have been the first dual championship parade in Houston history.  Shortly after the Owls returned from Omaha, they joined the Houston Aeros on the streets of downtown Houston.  Spectators cheered the Owls' CWS championship and the Aeros' Calder Cup Championship, which they had clinched on June 12.

A little Astros of the Future trivia from the 2003 CWS championship:  The final batter retired by Humber in the finale was John Hester.  Hester grounded out as a pinch hitter for second baseman Jed Lowrie.