farmstros can be reached at farmstros@yahoo.com

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Murilo Gouvea Ready to Pitch in Japan

Murilo Gouvea and his teammates in the World Baseball Classic will have a busy 24 hours this weekend in Japan.  Team Brazil kicks off play in the tournament against Japan on Saturday at 7 pm(Japan time).  They take the field again against Cuba at 12:30 Sunday afternoon. 

For those looking to follow the contests online, Brazil's games are slated for 4 am and 9:30 pm Saturday(Minute Maid Park Time).  Gouvea and Brazil wrap up their first round play against China on Tuesday at 2 am(MMPT).

Gouvea, from Sao Paolo, has been with the Astros organization since 2009.  He spent 2012 pitching out of Lexington's bullpen.

Archive of Dukes Poems

2012- The Sword Bellied Dukes Fans shirts held Scimitars
2011- Ballpark time Machine
2010- The Second Baseman Rides into the Sunset
2009- Three Days' Journey From Worst to First
2008- The Golden Sombrero Wearer

The Good, The Bad and the Astros




 by Jared Webb @webberoo11

Spring is here, my friends. People are packing away their winter coats, and putting on their Astros gear. Making moves has been the name of the game for our hometown team. Trades, Rrule-5 picks, more trades, and even a few minor league signings.  Baseball is back people, and the Astros are kicking it off the right way.  In six games, the Astros have only managed to drop two.

Now, I know Spring Training isn't a major indicator of who will win the World Series, but it's hard not to get excited about what we are seeing (or hearing) from our young team.  I know it’s early, but let’s go ahead and talk about what's gone on. So, without further pointless chattering, let me layout what I have loved and what I haven't.

The Good

Bo Porter
Big Bo has brought energy to a team that had none last year.  We are stealing bases, playing sharp D, racking up hits, and just doing the little things right.  Bo has even given us a few arguments with the umps.

Robert Ford and Steve Sparks
You never realize how good you have something until you lose it.  I was in pain when I had to listen to the Rays broadcast.  These two bring good knowledge and deep voices flowing into our homes.  Considering 99% of Astros fans won't be able to watch the games, these two will save the day.

Robbie "Gutsy" Grossman
A small cult following is growing, demanding that Gutsy Grossman gets his chance in CF as our leadoff hitter.  After only 10 at bats, Robbie is putting on a show that has fans thrilled for his future. But wait, there's more!! Not only are we getting solid at bats with doubles power, Grossman is also showing off defensive skills.  I for one would be ok with Grossman in CF on opening day

"Matty D" Dominguez
When was the last time the Astros had a slick fielding 3B?  Matty is showing off his great glove, but what fans are really craving is some offense. I know it's early, but you can't help but find encouragement with what we're seeing at the plate. Dominguez has already gone yard, while refusing to yield a strikeout. I may give Matt more credit than he is due, but if he can combine discipline with his good bat to ball skills then we might have a 3B, folks!

Alex White
Woah, woah,woah!, so you're saying there are pitchers on this list?! White has only had one appearance so far, but I'm encouraged by what I heard. In his two innings of work, he used all three of his pitches effectively yielding only one hit. Considering what we've seen from a few of our other young hopefuls, I'll call this a success.

Jarred Cosart
Two pitchers on the list?!?!?! Cosart is giving us a taste of what the future could hold. He is splashing in a few strikeout and keeping the walks down, all while only allowing one hit. I'm sure most fans want to see Cosart as a starter, and he is showing us what we want to see.

Chris Carter
I know we're all waiting for the long ball, but I'm encouraged with Carter's pitch selection.  He doesn't seem to be chasing balls out of the zone, preferring to wait for the inside pitch that he loves to crush.  Once his timing is on, I'm sure he will start going deep.

Jason Castro
Castro has only had four AB, but in those four he has crushed the ball.  Fans are waiting for a full season of health and offense from Castro.  Could this be the year he gives it to us?

Carlos Corporan
We all know he is a good defender, but last year we caught glimpses of a guy who might have a little more to offer. At 28, Corporan could be the perfect back up catcher for a team with a young rotation.

George Springer
I don't think I need to say anything.

Brett Wallace
Most fans (including myself) have sort of written Brett Wallace off due to Singleton.  Well Brett is using his bat, early in spring training, to make sure we remember him.  I can imagine worse problems then having a log jam of good bats at 1B.

The Bad

Jordan Lyles
I'm sure there isn't a single person who was encouraged by Lyles’ first outing.  I'm a huge fan of his, but 10 hits in two innings is a lot to handle.  The good news is that Lyles control was there.  He was working in the low 90's and stayed in the zone all day.  Considering command comes last, I was only slightly heartbroken by the appearance.  I'm sure we will see better in his next outing.

Brad Peacock
I was more discouraged by Brad's outing than I was with Jordan's. Brad was all over the zone, consistently elevating up and out of the zone.  Not a big deal considering it was his first appearance, but I know fans are hoping for a turn around from Peacock.

Tyler Greene
It's early but if i had to choose a starting SS today it wouldn't be Greene.  Marwin is showing a better plate approach and offers better defense.  I also like Marwin as the younger option too.

There were others that I could have mentioned like Nate "The Giant" Freiman, but considering we are only six games in to spring training, I will spare you the pain of a long article. I think one thing we can all agree on is Thank God baseball is back.

c2013 by Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Looking to Buy Astros Tickets? You May want to Bring a Decision Scientist to Help You Out

Apparently, complicated algorithms and formulas are just as necessary for someone trying to decide which Astros' tickets to buy in 2013 as they are for figuring out which players are likely to be on the field for those games.

Jim Crane's Baseball Company  will begin selling single game tickets in March.  According to pricing information posted on the company's website, costs for entrance to games will vary greatly depending on who is playing, when they are playing and other market factors.

For the convenience of the members of the Farmstros Village, here is a listing of the pricing for all 81 dates in seven selected sections.   These prices are subject to change.

Pricing Highlights:

The first thing that jumps out is the cost of opening day tickets.  For the most part, tickets for opening day will cost double the regular rate(or more).

Premium prices will be charged for many of the Astros' home games against the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, and Tigers, as well as the Rangers.

There are about 50 dates, which are priced at the "regular" rate.

I am admittedly a novice when it comes to "Dynamic Pricing"; however, I do wonder about the pricing of the games being played from April 19-24.  Ticket prices for the six games are increased in several sections.  Most notably, the outfield deck seats(normally $5) are listed at $15.

Who is visiting Minute Maid Park during this six game stretch?  The Indians and the Mariners.  I can see the supply/demand pricing strategy behind raised ticket prices for a weekend series against the AL champion Tigers, but three weeknight games in April against Seattle?  I don't see the demand for these games justifying any type of premium pricing.

NOTE: I am adding here a description of how I came about the numbers in the linked database.  I used this page that the Astros have set up on their website for selling individual tickets.     I clicked on every home date and opened up the price range box for 81 dates.  This was done on Wednesday, February 27. These were the numbers I inserted in my spreadsheet.

I assumed that the data on the club's website was accurate and ready for single-ticket purchases.  However, that may have been an incorrect assumption on my part.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prospect Report: Dylan Ebbs





Picture used with permission.
by Andrew Stewart- Follow Andrew @Astew_75

Dylan Ebbs 6'1”/195 RHP/LF
Santa Fe HS(Texas)
Sam Houston State Commit
DOB- 9/28/94

You could make an argument that Dylan Ebbs as a pitcher and a hitter might be the most underrated player in the entire state of Texas.  One of the reasons Ebbs’ name gets forgotten when listing the top prospects in the state is the fact he plays at a smaller Class 4A school south of Houston.

Ebbs got the chance to play on one of the top select teams in the country with the Houston Banditos.  He started as a pitcher and a hitter for them.  Ebbs’s success with the Banditos this summer helped garner him attention from major league scouts around the country.  Ebbs is currently signed to play at Sam Houston State University next season, where he will hit and pitch.

Ebbs pitches from a 3/4 quarter slot with a fastball that ranges from 87-90 mph. His curveball is debatably his best pitch.  It features a deadly 12-6 hook.  Over the past few years, Ebbs has developed a nasty changeup that he likes to use as his out pitch against lefties.  His final pitch, which he uses on occasion, is his sweeping slider that is utilized against righties.

In 2012, Ebbs earned first team all state honors as a pitcher, and won Galveston County’s MVP award.  Ebbs has started off strong his senior year, tallying up 15 strike outs in a complete game shut out in his one and only start of the season.

Scouts like Ebbs as a pitcher, but they absolutely love him as a hitter.  Hitting for a high average is something he has done consistently since his freshmen season at Santa Fe High.  Ebbs, a lefty swinger,  is considered a power gap hitter who makes a living off ripping doubles to both sides of the field.  One of the things he has improved on over the past year is his ability to pull the ball to right field.

When Ebbs is on base, he has very deceptive speed. During a show case this summer, he ran a very impressive 6.8, 60.  In 2012, he earned third team All-State honors as a OF, and was a first team all greater Houston selection as a utility man.  He also earned his second consecutive District 24-4A MVP award.

Overall, Ebbs has a 5th-7th round grade from major league teams as an outfielder.  With a good senior season, he has the ability to move up even higher than that.  It’s safe to say that come mid- June,  Ebbs is going to have a tough decision on his hands with either going to school, or starting his professional career.

c2013 by Andrew Stewart.  Used with permission.

Help Me Fill the Walls of the F.A.R.M.S.T.R.O.S. Office

I just realized what is missing from the walls of the Farmstros offices.  With minor league spring training scheduled to begin in earnest next week, it strikes me that my office walls are completely devoid of motivational posters of any kind.

Obviously, my chances of successfully making it through the 2013 season without poster-induced inspiration are pretty slim.  Therefore, Farmstros Village, please share your creativity with me.  I am now accepting submissions for idea for a wall poster that will help me keep my focus as I maintain Farmstros.

A few parameters to keep in mind:

Elementary aged children are often in the Farmstros offices, so please keep it clean.

Acrostic poems are completely acceptable- F.A.R.M.S.T.R.O.S.(?).  However, the five Ps and W.I.N. have already been claimed by Bo Porter.

Extra credit will be given to anyone who can finally reveal what #SIUEFA stands for.

Leave your ideas in the comments section.

Thanks for your assistance.

A Few Thoughts on Timed Baseball and Playing to Fail

The recurring discussion about whether the Astros would be better off long term if they aimed for the worst record in baseball(and the first pick in the 2014 draft) reminds me of a situation that occurs occasionally in the sport called timed baseball.

If you've ever played "recreational" softball or played or coached youth baseball, you have probably encountered the phenomena of timed baseball/softball.  In this sport, games are scheduled to last a certain number of innings.  However, a new inning can not start after a pre-determined amount of time.

Usually, timed baseball is not discernible from its un-timed cousin.  Yet, a few times a season, it forces teams to play a sport that is nothing like the game Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing.

In one common scenario, the home team trails by three or four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with about five minutes left on the game clock.  After one quick out is recorded against the #9 batter in the order(of an 11-man batting order), I have seen teams quickly concede their second and third out to efficiently end the inning.

This strategy, if properly employed, assures that trailing team will have the top of its order up to try to win the game after the visitors are duly retired in the top of the sixth.  If the #10 and #11 batters attack their at bats normally, there is a good chance that the team won't score the needed runs and time will run out, making a sixth-inning comeback impossible.

I don't experience this annoying aspect of timed baseball very often.  For this, I am thankful.

Short of playing only un-timed games and dealing with the resulting scheduling problems, I don't know of any good way to avoid this circumstance in which players are asked to intentionally fail at their "job" in order to help the team's future. Nonetheless, the lack of a good option doesn't make watching timed baseball any  more enjoyable.



Saturday, February 23, 2013

You Can Tell These Players without a Scorecard


Thanks to Tyler Heineman for the use of this picture.

Further proof of the Astros' commitment to the future can be found in the minor league clubhouse in Kissimmee.  Despite the financial struggles that the organization has been through the last five years, it appears that money has been found in the budget to stitch names on the jerseys of Houston's minor league players for Spring Training. 


Friday, February 22, 2013

Minor League Spring Training Schedule

The Astros' minor league teams will begin play on March 14 this spring. On a typical game day, two minor league teams are on the road and two are at home(in Kissimmee). AA and AAA teams are together, the High A and Low A teams are paired for travel. In past years games have begun at noon(Kissimmee time). I assume this will still be the case in 2013.

If you are interested in going to see some minor league games, Larry McCoy wrote a handy guide to watching the back fields a few years ago.  Detroit is based in Lakeland.  Washington plays in Viera.  Atlanta's games take place at the Disney Complex in Orlando. The backfields are only accessible on those days that the big league club is on the road.

The Schedule 
3/14- AA/AAA vs. Washington; A- at Washington
3/15- AA/AAA at Washington; A- vs. Washington
3/16- AA/AAA at Atlanta; A- vs. Atlanta
3/17- AA/AAA vs. Detroit; A- at Detroit
3/18- CAMP DAY
3/19- AA/AAA vs. Atlanta; A- at Atlanta
3/20- AA/AAA vs. Detroit; A- at Detroit
3/21- AA/AAA at Washington; A- vs. Washington
3/22- AA/AAA at Atlanta; A- vs. Atlanta
3/23- AA/AAA vs. Detroit; A- at Detroit
3/24- CAMP DAY
3/25- AA/AAA vs. Atlanta; A- at Atlanta
3/26- AA/AAA at Detroit; A- vs. Detroit
3/27- AA/AAA vs. Washington; A- at Washington
3/28- CAMP DAY
3/29- AA/AAA at Washington; A- vs. Washington
3/30- AA only at Detroit(10 am); A- vs. Detroit(10 am)

Dreaming of Draft Stars- Connor Jones



This video starts off with a great demo of Connor's "crouched" delivery.
 
By Jared Webb @webberoo11

Connor Jones-6'3"/205 RHP
Committed to University of Virginia
Draft Day age 18.8

Connor Jones has the build that tends to turn the heads of scouts.  His FB regularly sits in the 90-93 range with consistent velocity. He also throws a two-seam version that offers good sink. His best off-speed offering is a solid change up that he uses with good command, late drop, and arm speed. 

Jones throws a hybrid curve that shows potential and can turn into more of a slider depending on where he slots his arm.  What put Connor in the mix for the first two rounds was a big jump in velocity and two lights out innings at the Under Armour All-America game. 

There is a little funk in Jones' mechanics.  He has a crouched delivery that has a slight leg wrap.  While his mechanics add deception, they could also work against his command.  I personally like Connor Jones due to his build and the consistent velocity on his FB.  He could easily be a steal from rounds two through five.  Depending on how he throws this season and his signability, he could find his way into the late first round.

c2013 Jared Webb.  Used with permission.


The Pequod II- This Time from Kissimmee





Thanks to @KevinBassStache    for the use of the picture.

Call Me Ishmael.


Tomorrow another adventure begins for me.  When the sun rises here in Florida, our ship will set sail, seeking success that never came for Captain Ahab.

How did I get to Florida? you may ask.  Well, a young writer in the northeast part of the country told me there may be some openings for skrimshanders with experience in the County of Osceola.  The writer told  me that he would go himself, but he had never mastered the harpoon with his left hand.

I made my way to these parts and found great relief from the winters of Nantucket.  I sorely wish my old roommate Queequeg were here with me.  I would guess the weather of this region would remind him of home.  I miss Queequeg.

After having survived the Pequod's encounter with the great, white whale, I approach this journey with caution.  I must admit that being on a ship which has so recently encountered much bad fortune makes me a bit leery.  Further, by and large, the crew has little or no experience on a ship of this size.  Of course, this causes me concern, but this is the life I know, so I am happy to have a spot in which I can ply my trade and provide for myself.

Some veterans familiar with this trade spent much time with the crew during their preparations. This was helpful.  One old-timer in particular mentored the young harpooners for three or four days.  I believe he helped their confidence greatly- Queequeg would have been impressed.  However, several of the youngsters were confused when the veteran spoke of "taking out their knees."  Shortly after that particular meeting, I noticed several of the computer savvy harpooners Googling, "Do whales have knees?"

At first glance, it seems everything about this journey is different from the Pequod's. Yet, I notice at least one similarity.   Much as when we set out with Captain Ahab years ago, there is much uncertainty about where this ship will go and what it will accomplish.  However, the entire crew is committed to speaking their certainty of the ship's success.  Not since my day's leaving Nantucket with Queequeg, have I heard so much singing and cheering for a venture which has to that point in time not had any success.

Tomorrow, we shall begin to see if those cheers are well-founded.  I am happy to be along for the ride.  However, the first time the captain of this ship comes on deck with a wooden leg, I'm going overboard.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who's Going to Mini-Camp?

Several players will be attending a minor league mini-camp beginning February 22 in Kissimmee.  The roster for this portion of Spring Training has not been released. However, assuming the mini-camp involves only pitchers and catchers, which was the case in 2012, here's some speculation on who is going to Florida a little bit early.

A few weeks ago, The Grand Old Game posted a list of players who, according to his sources,  had been invited to minor league spring training.  His list included only pitchers and catchers.  Working with this list and the Farmstros database, we find that the following pitchers and catchers aren't invited to minor league spring training and are likely candidates to be at mini-camp.

NOTE: On February 21, Brian McTaggart posted 20 players who are coming to mini-camp.   13 of the 20 were included below.  The other seven are in Brian's post at the link above.

Pitchers
R.J. Alaniz-Yes
Mike Foltynewicz-Yes
Brian Holmes-Yes
David Martinez-Yes
Lance McCullers-Yes
Luis Ordosgoitti
Brady Rodgers-Yes
Nick Tropeano-Yes
Pat Urckfitz
Vincent Velasquez-Yes
Blair Walters
Kyle Weiland
Aaron West-Yes
Asher Wojciechowski-Yes

Catchers
Tyler Heieneman-Yes
Mike Kvasnicka
Jobduan Morales-Yes
Roberto Pena-Yes

The Brewers Have One Million Reasons to Love Being in the NL Central

The Astros will be playing ten home games against the Rangers in 2013 and, approximately, the same amount for many years to come.  The increased attendance/revenue generated by extra Rangers' games at Minute Maid Park bodes well for Jim Crane's Baseball Company.  Even the butts of Rangers' fans in the seats of Minute Maid Park will enhance the Astro franchise's ability to spend more money on the club when the Astros of the Future develop to the point that they are ready to be just "The Astros".

It is difficult to project how additional dates with the Rangers(and the Red Sox and Yankees, as well) will increase Minute Maid Park attendance long-term if/when the novelty of playing these teams wears off.  However, at least in one case, a team's move to a different league resulted in a substantial gain at the turnstiles.

In 1998, the Milwaukee Brewers made an unprecedented move from the American League Central to the National League Central. Much like the Astros, who are moving into a division with a nearby rival, the Brewers began competing on a regular basis with their neighbors, the Chicago Cubs(Wrigley Field is less than 100 miles from Milwaukee). At the end of the 1997 season, the Brew Crew, managed by Phil Garner, made the leap to the National League, bidding adieu to the Royals, Twins, Indians, and White Sox. The benefits reaped by Allan Huber Selig's former team as a result of their new neighborhood have been huge.

Over their last 15 years in the NL Central, the Brewers have hosted the Cubs(and their fans) 118 times.  The average attendance at Milwaukee County Stadium and Miller Park over those 118 dates has been approximately 37,200.  In all other Brewers' home games, the average attendance has been about 28,700. 

Doing the math, every time the Brewers hosted their NL Central rivals from Chicago, an extra 8500 people came to the game.  Over 15 years, that's a little more than one million additional tickets sold in Wisconsin.

I doubt that the 250-mile away Rangers' pull in Houston will equal the magnetism exhibited by the Cubs in Milwaukee.  However, it will be interesting to see how much power the Silver Boot has in the years to come. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who Will be the DH on the Astros All-Time Team in 2023?

One result of the Astros' upcoming switch to the American League is that the club will have a new position to fill the next time the marketing department decides to drum up excitement by announcing an ALL-TIME TEAM.  It is quite possible that by 2023, Jon Singleton, Telvin Nash, Chris Carter, J.D. Martinez or some other hitting specialist will have put up enough numbers to be considered as the franchise's top all-time Designated Hitter.

However, in the event that no DH rises to prominence for the American League Astros in the interim, the leader in the clubhouse at the moment is... Carlos Lee.

Lee played 27 games as the Astros' DH during interleague play.  He leads Houston's DHs in hits(25), home runs(5) and RBI(18).  Lee's batting average as a DH  for Houston was .243.

A few notes about Houston's DH history heading into their AL experience:

In 120 games at American League stadiums, Houston's DHs hit .270 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI.

Jeff Bagwell failed to hit a home run in 10 games as a designated hitter.

Bagwell was 1 for 6 as the DH in the 2005 World Series.

You can check out the unofficial Astros' historical DH statistics page here. 

#-On one occasion, Carl Everett pinch hit for DH Jeff Bagwell. I didn't include Everett's stats. on the linked page in my research.  He was 2 for 2 as a substitute DH.

Dreaming of Draft Stars- Kevin Ziomek




This video of Ziomek during his high school days gives a good representation of his arm action.

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

Kevin Ziomek  6'3/200” LHP
Vanderbilt
DOB-03/21/1992

I like lefties, have I ever said that before?

Ziomek works with three solid offerings starring as Vandy's Friday night starter.  His FB sits in the 90-93 range and plays up due to his two other solid offerings.  Ziomek's change-up is his best pitch, boasting good fade with a nice drop off in velocity.  The last pitch he will use is a "hybrid" curve that he uses well as a chase pitch. 

The big knock on the Vandy LHP seems to be his arm action.  When you watch videos of him, you tend to cringe a little at the effort and the snap of his arm.  A lot of reports I've read project him as a reliever or a back end starter.  His ceiling isn't the highest, but a LHP with three solid offerings and a low 90's FB is a prize for any team. 

Any team looking for a developed lefty could take Ziomek off the board early.  As of right now most reports have him as a second rounder due to his arm action, but a good junior season could have him pushing into the late first round.

c2013 by Jared Webb. Used with permission.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Simms Steals the Show at Reckling Park Series Finale

Rice's Sunday starter John Simms alleviated any disappointment I may have felt after missing Friday's showdown at Reckling Park between Austin Kubitza and Mark Appel.  Simms didn't allow a hit to Stanford until the lead off batter of the eighth inning as the Owls clinched the three-game series with a 3-0 win in the finale.

Simms, who was drafted in 2010 in the 39th Round by Washington, allowed only one hit, four walks and one hit batsmen while striking out three in his 7 1/3 innings of work.  He was not blowing away the Cardinal lineup, which included Dierkroeger, Ragira, Blandino and Kauppila(Austin Wilson did not play Sunday). However, he kept the hitters off balance all afternoon with his mix of pitches.  I am not familiar enough with Simms to know if he was more sharp than usual today, but he definitely got his junior season off to a promising start.

Simms was especially resilient in the first inning when an error and catcher's interference put two gift runners on base for Stanford with nobody out.  After a failed sacrifice attempt by Dierkroeger, Simms induced a double play grounder from Ragira, ending the threat.

His fastball was right around 89 (according to the Rice scoreboard), although he touched 92 mph a few times in the seventh inning.  I couldn't tell for sure what his off-speed stuff was, but it seemed like his 75 mph curve was on Sunday.  Also, I think he pulled the string on the change up occasionally at 75 mph. 

Another junior who stood out during the contest was Rice third baseman Shane Hoelscher.  Hoelscher had four hits in four at bats.  All the hits were solid singles, and one would have been an easy double if Hoelscher had not tripped over first base.  Hoelscher's first hit knocked in the Owls' second and third runs of the game, and he stole a base.  Hoelscher made a strong play in the field as well, charging a soft grounder to third and throwing across his body to force out the lead runner at second.

Rice reliever Zech Lemond finished off the game for Simms with 1 2/3 hitless IP, earning his second save of the season.  Lemond, a sophomore, walked one and struck out two.  His stiff delivery produced a fastball around 92-93 mph.  He also threw what appeared to be a slider consistently at 81 mph. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In Case you Need A Little Winning Culture


Thanks to Franklin Leon (@falketjethawks) for the picture above. 

Franklin was at the Opening House at The Hangar in Lancaster Saturday.  At the event, JetHawks fans were able to check out the team's rings from last season's California League championship.  Franklin liked trying the ring on so much that he got a picture taken to commemorate the moment.

According to the following tweet from Nick Tropeano, the players will get their rings in Florida.



A Few Thoughts on Getting to School on Time and the Astros' Rebuild

There are some mornings that getting my two children to their elementary school reminds me of the various reactions surrounding the current state of the Astros.  If you will indulge me a few moments of your time, I will attempt to explain.

Although my children were born only 17 months a part, their outlooks on life couldn't be much more different.  Getting to school is one prime example of this fact.

One child is very goal oriented and loves the challenge of getting ready more quickly every day. I am convinced that if he was given full control of our transportation, we would eventually be arriving at school an hour before the doors open at least. He is always looking to win the race against himself.

The other child couldn't care less about such challenges.  She is not excited about the early start time of school, but she is always ready to go to school in plenty of time.  However, she is more concerned about getting ready at her own pace.  Her style works for her, and she is always mentally prepared for school and we arrive on time.

Needless to say, these differences of opinion occasionally lead to tense moments in the Taurus some mornings on the way to school.  However, despite the drama, we get to school on time, usually with a minimal amount of grumpy looks and hurt feelings.

After a recent touchy morning, it struck me that the drama in the back seat of my car is not much different from the debate that surrounds the Astros' rebuilding at times.  For some, frustration pervades because the Astros bus to school is moving too slowly.  Meanwhile, others are able to enjoy the ride despite the traffic jams, trains, and school zones that impede the progress. Here's hoping Bus Driver Luhnow can reach his destination without incurring too many tardy slips.





Friday, February 15, 2013

Open House Saturday at the Hangar

The JetHawks are hosting a community open house Saturday at The Hangar.  The event will include free food, catch and batting practice on the field, and a chance to see the a sample of the club's 2012 California League championship ring. 

Congratulations to @jafarmer60

Sometime Friday afternoon, @webberoo11, the Bureau Chief of the Farmstros Village Scouting Bureau passed 150 followers on Twitter.  As had been promoted here previously, this means that somebody is going to get a pack of five brand new prospects cards.  The decision as to who to give the pack to was left in @webberoo11's capable hands, and he chose @jafarmer60.  Thanks to everyone who follows Jared, and congratulations to @jafarmer.. 

Rice and Stanford Looking a lot like NASCAR

One unique thing about NASCAR is that the racing circuit begins its season with its Super Bowl, the Daytona 500.  This year the folks at NASCAR will have some company as they implement their calendar.  Rice and Stanford are beginning the 2013 baseball season with what may be the top pitching match-up of the season.

This afternoon, the Owls and Cardinal are each sending a top draft prospect to the mound in their season opener at 4:30 pm(Minute Maid Park time) at Rice's Reckling Park.  Stanford's Mark Appel begins his senior season as a possible #1 over-all pick in the June draft.  He was drafted eighth by Pittsburgh in the 2012 draft. However, he didn't sign with the Pirates. Rice's opening day starter will be junior Austin Kubitza.  Kubitza was also selected by Pittsburgh.  The Pirates picked him out of high school in the seventh round of the 2010 draft.  However, Kubitza decided to go to Rice.

Rice and Stanford are also scheduled to face off Saturday and Sunday afternoon in Houston.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Transcript of Chat with Jim Callis



Jim Callis
Hi, everyone. Glad to be here and take some college/draft questions. We've had a ton of college and draft (and high school) preview content over at baseballamerica.com recently, so check that out.

farmstros: Welcome, Jim, thanks for taking time to talk to the Farmstros Village

Ryan: Jim, would you prefer to go with an established college arm like Mark Appel over a high upside highschooler such as Austin Meadows?

Jim Callis: 
Glad to be here, Mike ... Ryan, I think, you have to evaluate the players for who you are and not worry about the demographic. If you're picking at the top of the draft, you're usually a dreadful team that's not going to contend in a year or so. So to me, you have to take whoever the better player is in the long run. Appel vs. Meadows is a tossup at the moment, I'd lean toward Meadows.

Ryan: Who do you view as the best college arm? Appel, Stanek or Manaea?

farmstros: Jim, did we lose you?

Jim Callis: 
I'd say Appel. Those are the top three arms in the draft right now. Appel gets the edge for me because he's got the deepest repertoire.

Jim Callis
Sorry, working from home and had an unexpected delivery of a rug I had to go deal with. Back now.

farmstros: I'm curious if you have any thoughts on who the 8 players the Astros are looking at might be? Hope the rug is the right color and size.

Jim Callis
Rug is being stored here by my father-in-law, not anything we have space to use ... I talked to the Astros and wasn't told individual names but got the impression it was the same guys at the top of everyone's list (in no order: Appel, Manaea, Stanek, Meadows, Frazier, Moran and a couple of others). Also got the impression that they will expand the search as needed.

Ryan: From the Astros standpoint, do you think they are in greater need of an arm or a bat at the top of the draft?

Jim Callis: 
They really need everything. Their outfield is dreadful so Austin Meadows would be a nice fit. But their rotation is dreadful, too, so Mark Appel would make sense too. They should take whomever they think is the best player.

Ryan: Do you see Houston going the unconventional route again at the top of the draft to better utilize their money? If so, who could it be?

Jim Callis
I don't think the Astros took Correa just so they could save money. I think they took him because he was in the group at the top of their draft board (he was our No. 2 prospect) and he allowed them to save money. It's too early to say who might fit that profile of being a legitimate top-of-the-draft talent and allow them to use money elsewhere.

Darin: Jim, when you say "their outfield is dreadful" are you referring to their MLB roster or minor league depth?  

Jim Callis
Their MLB roster. They have some prospects, but it's not like Springer, Santana, Grossman and Phillips guarantee they're going to have three quality outfielders a couple of years down the road.

Ryan: Beyond picking 1-1 this year, is the draft deep enough that Houston could pick up some impact talent through the later rounds?

Jim Callis
Even in a mediocre draft--and this is a mediocre draft--there's talent throughout. Last year's draft was nothing special either, and the Astros got Correa, McCullers, Fontana, Rodgers, Ruiz, Phillips, etc.

Joker: Who should I be looking for if I go see Stanford and Rice? Also who are the best players to go see in the Astros College Classic in a couple of weeks?

Jim Callis
Besides Appel, Stanford has two other first-team All-Americans who will figure prominently in the draft in first baseman Brian Ragira and outfielder Austin Wilson. Righthander A.J. Vanegas could pitch his way into the first round, too. Rice's best prospects for 2013 are pitchers Austin Kubitza and John Simms, who both have something to prove after so-so summers in the Cape Cod League. As for the College Classic, North Carolina has the best hitter in the draft (Colin Moran), California has the best catcher in the draft (Andrew Knapp) and Texas A&M may have the fastest player in the draft (Krey Bratsen).

Joker: I was thinking of going to see the SWAC teams at the Urban Invitational. Any prospects there? Does Southern have another Rickie Weeks or Fred Lewis?

Jim Callis
Southern has righthander Jose DeLeon, who owns a 90-93 mph fastball and is the best prospect in the SWAC this year.

Guest: With the current regime's history with Austin Wilson, do you think that he could be in the mix for 1/1? What do you think he needs to show to prove worthy of that kind of pick?

farmstros: Can you shed some light on this regime's history with Austin Wilson?

Jim Callis
I think that would be a stretch. He's huge and very athletic for his size, but he strikes out way too much for me to consider taking him at 1-1. To me, he's an even bigger risk to hit than George Springer was. Springer went 11th, that's about the same area where Wilson should go ... Jeff Luhnow and Co. drafted him in the 12th round out of high school, when he was considered unsignable.

Ryan: Jim, sorry if you've answered this elsewhere previously, do you rate prospects using the 20-80 scale? 

Jim Callis: 
We do in the Prospect Handbook, based on realistic ceiling (and ask a factor). We don't elsewhere -- I think for our purposes, scouting reports get too jargony if you start throwing 55s and 60s and 65s all over the place.

Dan: What role do you see Marc Krauss filling with the Astros in 2013? Does the Carter trade essentially keep Krauss in AAA all season (barring injury, of course)? Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
I don't think any of the Astros' options for the outfield or DH are sure things, so if Krauss hits, I think he could become a regular for Houston this year. Have always liked him a little bit.

Ryan: With the Astros minors increasing in depth, where could you see Appel or Meadows slot into their top 10?

Jim Callis: 
As high as No. 2, behind Correa, depending on how this season plays out. Either of those guys has the potential to have a greater impact than a first baseman (Jonathan Singleton, who was our Astros No. 2 prospect this offseason).

Guest: Is 1/1 rich for Moran? Sure, the hit tool is nice, but what kind of value do you get beyond that?

Jim Callis
I think that's a bit rich. He's a tremendous hitter, but it might not be more than average power and adequate third-base defense. I think you need more than that at 1-1. Not that you're worrying about having too much talent at one position at this point, but Moran isn't much different from what the Astros think Rio Ruiz can be.

Guest: Can you compare Austin Meadows to Byron Buxton from last year?

Jim Callis
Quick version: Meadows is more polished at the same stage, Buxton has a little more upside for me.

Joker: What are the chances of Rule 5 picks Nate Freiman and Joshua Fields sticking in Houston? Did you like those picks?

Jim Callis
Pretty high, because there's not much talent on the big league roster. I did like the picks. Fields was an obvious Rule 5 target, a Triple-A reliever who had a lot of success in the second half of 2012. Was kind of surprised the Red Sox didn't protect him. We'll see on Freiman, but his power made him worth taking.

Guest: Do you see Delino Deshields reaching AA this season and what kind of numbers do you see him putting up? Chance at Top 50 next year?

Jim Callis: 
I do see him reaching Double-A, maybe even to start the year if the Astros get aggressive. If he spent the whole year in Double-A, I'd say .275/.375/.400 with 85 steals. If he has the kind of season, he could make the Top 50.

farmstros: How do think Appel's being a senior will affect his draft status?

Jim Callis
I don't think much at all. How he performs this spring will matter much more. It's hard to fathom Appel turning down another team this summer and re-entering the 2014 draft, but he's also as talented as any prospect in this crop and advised by the Boras Corp., so he's not going to roll over and sign just because he's a senior. Unless he tanks, he'll get more than the $3.8 mil he turned down from the Pirates. I don't think that necessarily will mean he made the right decision. I think it will ultimately cost him money to have delayed his pro career by a year.

farmstros: Some readers are in Corpus...are there any prospects to keep an eye on at the tournament at Whataburger Field in a few weeks: TAMU-Corpus Christi, Iowa, Oklahoma and New Mexico?

Jim Callis: 
Yes. Oklahoma has potential first-rounders in LHP Dillon Overton and RHP Jonathan Gray, and another LHP to watch in Billy Waltrip. New Mexico has 3B D.J. Peterson, a likely first-rounder, and Mitch Garver, one of the best college catchers in a thin crop.

Ryan: If Carlos Rodon was eligible for the 2013 draft, would he be the clear choice to go #1 overall?

farmstros: We have about 10 more minutes until we wrap up.

Jim Callis: 
Not head and shoulders above everyone else, but Rodon would be the likely No. 1 pick. I'd take him over Appel and Meadows.

Guest 
With Drew Ward entering the draft early, in what range do you see him going? How are the tools compared to the top guys (Meadows/Frazier/Smith)? 

Jim Callis
You know, we've never gotten definite confirmation that Ward will be eligible a year earlier than expected, though I did have a team tell me they expect he will. He offers a lot of power, but I've also been told he's been overhyped. Sounds like more of a second- or third-rounder than a top-10-pick type. I'll admit, I haven't beared down on him much yet because he's a 2014.

Ryan: Does next years draft project to better or still mediocre?

Jim Callis
I don't bear down on the HS guys until it gets closer. College crop doesn't seem noticeably better.

Guest: Any chance Clint Frazier ends up being taken before Austin Meadows? How close are they rated as of now?

Jim Callis
Sure. Frazier isn't as big as Meadows, but they're comparable talents. They're neck and neck as the best HS guys in the 2013 crop.

farmstros: I saw that you wrote somewhere about when those two guys are facing off in Loganville, Ga. When is that again?

Jim Callis
March 12.

Guest: Do you think more teams will follow the Rays lead and go over-budget with international signings? If so, do we lose the advantage MLB intended?

farmstros: We've got two more questions that have been submitted and then we'll close.

Jim Callis
I think the Rays did that because they liked the guys they landed and didn't love this year's crop. I don't think you'll see a lot of teams do this, but the penalties are far less severe than those for exceeding the draft pools. So I think you may see a team occasionally exceed the international pool, but I'm not sure we'll ever see a team exceed the draft pool. And I think we'll have an international draft sooner rather than later (maybe even for 2014) anyway.

Guest: How is this year's international crop? Who are some names to watch for?

Jim Callis: 
I'll have to take a pass on that one. I do almost nothing internationally. That's Ben Badler's domain for Baseball America, and he said there's no single overwhelming talent this year.

Guest: Barring free agency/trades, when do you think we'll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel? When do you think we'll be competitive again?

Jim Callis: 
I'll say 2015. It's going to take at least a couple of years. But if you want some cause for optimism, Jeff Luhnow and Co. have an impressive track record with the Cardinals, and they're making some nice moves in Houston.

farmstros: Many thanks, Jim for taking some time out of your schedule to chat. We appreciate it. Enjoy the baseball season.

farmstros: The replay of this chat will be available shortly, so tell your friends. And Follow the Astros of the Future with us. www.farsmtros.blogspot.com

Dan: Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
Thanks, guys. I enjoyed it.

College Baseball Chat with Jim Callis


Jim Callis
Hi, everyone. Glad to be here and take some college/draft questions. We've had a ton of college and draft (and high school) preview content over at baseballamerica.com recently, so check that out.

farmstros: Welcome, Jim, thanks for taking time to talk to the Farmstros Village

Ryan: Jim, would you prefer to go with an established college arm like Mark Appel over a high upside highschooler such as Austin Meadows?

Jim Callis: 
Glad to be here, Mike ... Ryan, I think, you have to evaluate the players for who you are and not worry about the demographic. If you're picking at the top of the draft, you're usually a dreadful team that's not going to contend in a year or so. So to me, you have to take whoever the better player is in the long run. Appel vs. Meadows is a tossup at the moment, I'd lean toward Meadows.

Ryan: Who do you view as the best college arm? Appel, Stanek or Manaea?

farmstros: Jim, did we lose you?

Jim Callis: 
I'd say Appel. Those are the top three arms in the draft right now. Appel gets the edge for me because he's got the deepest repertoire.

Jim Callis
Sorry, working from home and had an unexpected delivery of a rug I had to go deal with. Back now.

farmstros: I'm curious if you have any thoughts on who the 8 players the Astros are looking at might be? Hope the rug is the right color and size.

Jim Callis
Rug is being stored here by my father-in-law, not anything we have space to use ... I talked to the Astros and wasn't told individual names but got the impression it was the same guys at the top of everyone's list (in no order: Appel, Manaea, Stanek, Meadows, Frazier, Moran and a couple of others). Also got the impression that they will expand the search as needed.

Ryan: From the Astros standpoint, do you think they are in greater need of an arm or a bat at the top of the draft?

Jim Callis: 
They really need everything. Their outfield is dreadful so Austin Meadows would be a nice fit. But their rotation is dreadful, too, so Mark Appel would make sense too. They should take whomever they think is the best player.

Ryan: Do you see Houston going the unconventional route again at the top of the draft to better utilize their money? If so, who could it be?

Jim Callis
I don't think the Astros took Correa just so they could save money. I think they took him because he was in the group at the top of their draft board (he was our No. 2 prospect) and he allowed them to save money. It's too early to say who might fit that profile of being a legitimate top-of-the-draft talent and allow them to use money elsewhere.

Darin: Jim, when you say "their outfield is dreadful" are you referring to their MLB roster or minor league depth?  

Jim Callis
Their MLB roster. They have some prospects, but it's not like Springer, Santana, Grossman and Phillips guarantee they're going to have three quality outfielders a couple of years down the road.

Ryan: Beyond picking 1-1 this year, is the draft deep enough that Houston could pick up some impact talent through the later rounds?

Jim Callis
Even in a mediocre draft--and this is a mediocre draft--there's talent throughout. Last year's draft was nothing special either, and the Astros got Correa, McCullers, Fontana, Rodgers, Ruiz, Phillips, etc.

Joker: Who should I be looking for if I go see Stanford and Rice? Also who are the best players to go see in the Astros College Classic in a couple of weeks?

Jim Callis
Besides Appel, Stanford has two other first-team All-Americans who will figure prominently in the draft in first baseman Brian Ragira and outfielder Austin Wilson. Righthander A.J. Vanegas could pitch his way into the first round, too. Rice's best prospects for 2013 are pitchers Austin Kubitza and John Simms, who both have something to prove after so-so summers in the Cape Cod League. As for the College Classic, North Carolina has the best hitter in the draft (Colin Moran), California has the best catcher in the draft (Andrew Knapp) and Texas A&M may have the fastest player in the draft (Krey Bratsen).

Joker: I was thinking of going to see the SWAC teams at the Urban Invitational. Any prospects there? Does Southern have another Rickie Weeks or Fred Lewis?

Jim Callis
Southern has righthander Jose DeLeon, who owns a 90-93 mph fastball and is the best prospect in the SWAC this year.

Guest: With the current regime's history with Austin Wilson, do you think that he could be in the mix for 1/1? What do you think he needs to show to prove worthy of that kind of pick?

farmstros: Can you shed some light on this regime's history with Austin Wilson?

Jim Callis
I think that would be a stretch. He's huge and very athletic for his size, but he strikes out way too much for me to consider taking him at 1-1. To me, he's an even bigger risk to hit than George Springer was. Springer went 11th, that's about the same area where Wilson should go ... Jeff Luhnow and Co. drafted him in the 12th round out of high school, when he was considered unsignable.

Ryan: Jim, sorry if you've answered this elsewhere previously, do you rate prospects using the 20-80 scale? 

Jim Callis: 
We do in the Prospect Handbook, based on realistic ceiling (and ask a factor). We don't elsewhere -- I think for our purposes, scouting reports get too jargony if you start throwing 55s and 60s and 65s all over the place.

Dan: What role do you see Marc Krauss filling with the Astros in 2013? Does the Carter trade essentially keep Krauss in AAA all season (barring injury, of course)? Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
I don't think any of the Astros' options for the outfield or DH are sure things, so if Krauss hits, I think he could become a regular for Houston this year. Have always liked him a little bit.

Ryan: With the Astros minors increasing in depth, where could you see Appel or Meadows slot into their top 10?

Jim Callis: 
As high as No. 2, behind Correa, depending on how this season plays out. Either of those guys has the potential to have a greater impact than a first baseman (Jonathan Singleton, who was our Astros No. 2 prospect this offseason).

Guest: Is 1/1 rich for Moran? Sure, the hit tool is nice, but what kind of value do you get beyond that?

Jim Callis
I think that's a bit rich. He's a tremendous hitter, but it might not be more than average power and adequate third-base defense. I think you need more than that at 1-1. Not that you're worrying about having too much talent at one position at this point, but Moran isn't much different from what the Astros think Rio Ruiz can be.

Guest: Can you compare Austin Meadows to Byron Buxton from last year?

Jim Callis
Quick version: Meadows is more polished at the same stage, Buxton has a little more upside for me.

Joker: What are the chances of Rule 5 picks Nate Freiman and Joshua Fields sticking in Houston? Did you like those picks?

Jim Callis
Pretty high, because there's not much talent on the big league roster. I did like the picks. Fields was an obvious Rule 5 target, a Triple-A reliever who had a lot of success in the second half of 2012. Was kind of surprised the Red Sox didn't protect him. We'll see on Freiman, but his power made him worth taking.

Guest: Do you see Delino Deshields reaching AA this season and what kind of numbers do you see him putting up? Chance at Top 50 next year?

Jim Callis: 
I do see him reaching Double-A, maybe even to start the year if the Astros get aggressive. If he spent the whole year in Double-A, I'd say .275/.375/.400 with 85 steals. If he has the kind of season, he could make the Top 50.

farmstros: How do think Appel's being a senior will affect his draft status?

Jim Callis
I don't think much at all. How he performs this spring will matter much more. It's hard to fathom Appel turning down another team this summer and re-entering the 2014 draft, but he's also as talented as any prospect in this crop and advised by the Boras Corp., so he's not going to roll over and sign just because he's a senior. Unless he tanks, he'll get more than the $3.8 mil he turned down from the Pirates. I don't think that necessarily will mean he made the right decision. I think it will ultimately cost him money to have delayed his pro career by a year.

farmstros: Some readers are in Corpus...are there any prospects to keep an eye on at the tournament at Whataburger Field in a few weeks: TAMU-Corpus Christi, Iowa, Oklahoma and New Mexico?

Jim Callis: 
Yes. Oklahoma has potential first-rounders in LHP Dillon Overton and RHP Jonathan Gray, and another LHP to watch in Billy Waltrip. New Mexico has 3B D.J. Peterson, a likely first-rounder, and Mitch Garver, one of the best college catchers in a thin crop.

Ryan: If Carlos Rodon was eligible for the 2013 draft, would he be the clear choice to go #1 overall?

farmstros: We have about 10 more minutes until we wrap up.

Jim Callis: 
Not head and shoulders above everyone else, but Rodon would be the likely No. 1 pick. I'd take him over Appel and Meadows.

Guest 
With Drew Ward entering the draft early, in what range do you see him going? How are the tools compared to the top guys (Meadows/Frazier/Smith)? 

Jim Callis
You know, we've never gotten definite confirmation that Ward will be eligible a year earlier than expected, though I did have a team tell me they expect he will. He offers a lot of power, but I've also been told he's been overhyped. Sounds like more of a second- or third-rounder than a top-10-pick type. I'll admit, I haven't beared down on him much yet because he's a 2014.

Ryan: Does next years draft project to better or still mediocre?

Jim Callis
I don't bear down on the HS guys until it gets closer. College crop doesn't seem noticeably better.

Guest: Any chance Clint Frazier ends up being taken before Austin Meadows? How close are they rated as of now?

Jim Callis
Sure. Frazier isn't as big as Meadows, but they're comparable talents. They're neck and neck as the best HS guys in the 2013 crop.

farmstros: I saw that you wrote somewhere about when those two guys are facing off in Loganville, Ga. When is that again?

Jim Callis
March 12.

Guest: Do you think more teams will follow the Rays lead and go over-budget with international signings? If so, do we lose the advantage MLB intended?

farmstros: We've got two more questions that have been submitted and then we'll close.

Jim Callis
I think the Rays did that because they liked the guys they landed and didn't love this year's crop. I don't think you'll see a lot of teams do this, but the penalties are far less severe than those for exceeding the draft pools. So I think you may see a team occasionally exceed the international pool, but I'm not sure we'll ever see a team exceed the draft pool. And I think we'll have an international draft sooner rather than later (maybe even for 2014) anyway.

Guest: How is this year's international crop? Who are some names to watch for?

Jim Callis: 
I'll have to take a pass on that one. I do almost nothing internationally. That's Ben Badler's domain for Baseball America, and he said there's no single overwhelming talent this year.

Guest: Barring free agency/trades, when do you think we'll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel? When do you think we'll be competitive again?

Jim Callis: 
I'll say 2015. It's going to take at least a couple of years. But if you want some cause for optimism, Jeff Luhnow and Co. have an impressive track record with the Cardinals, and they're making some nice moves in Houston.

farmstros: Many thanks, Jim for taking some time out of your schedule to chat. We appreciate it. Enjoy the baseball season.

farmstros: The replay of this chat will be available shortly, so tell your friends. And Follow the Astros of the Future with us. www.farsmtros.blogspot.com

Dan: Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
Thanks, guys. I enjoyed it.