The Bitter Taste is Gone. Now What?

So in my last post I had said the Astros had some things going for them, but that the bitter taste of another squandered season was still too fresh to appreciate them fully.  I'm not sure if that's correct, or if I was perhaps just being optimistic, so I figured I'd take a look and see. Also, I suggested a few options via free agency last time, but I wanted to see if any trades were possible. Come on my ride.

Ok, so hope I used that jump right. Still learning. Firstly, I wanted to look at the guys in AA and AAA that could be potential contributors next year. Complain as we might, the Yankees are an awesome home grown team. Yes, they buy the top free agent nearly every year, but their premier players, barring A-rod, are typically brought up through their system.  Obviously that's a recurring theme in most successful teams, and one that we just don't have. . . or do we? We're consistenly marked at or near the bottom in farm system rankings every year, but we don't need 25 guys to come up and play, we only need two or three. Do we have them?

First let's look at AA, and keep in mind, I'm not a SABR man nor am I knowledgeable about how AA stats convert to AAA and then up to the Majors, but seeing as SABR stats deny the existence of clutch, and we see guys consistently perform at a level barely cpable of being called mediocre and then just smashing the ball or blowing it by someone, I feel comfortable with my lack of knowledge. There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.

So, mini rant aside, AA:

Note: As a setup for this first guy I actually had a little rant supporting Q as our backup catcher, but I deleted it because it was a bit of a tangent. :)

Jonathon Fixler:

Pros: He's pretty much never been anything more than a backup player, only playing in about a half to two-thirds of his teams games.  His numbers don't explode off the screen, but he's a catcher. I'm especially impressed with how he finished last season with the Hooks. He carries a career .225/.311/.493 with 28 doubles, 6 triples, and 24 home runs in 70 AA games, including a .265/.363/.500 line in 33 games with only 1 GIDB, 26 hits including 4 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers, and 14 rbis.

Cons: In three seasons he's played 169 games at catcher up and down through the minors, just over a full season, and he's made 21 errors, including 4 in his 33 games at the end of last season. He's also a huge strikeout threat.  While he did show some improvement between 08-09, he has reverted back, and he's about a strikeout/game kinda guy.  I think, though, that this can be considered offset by the improvement, about 70 points, in his OBP between 09-10. It shows he's teachable.

Koby Clemens:

Pros: Roger's little boy.  I'm not a fan of nepotism, but the fact is the kid can swing a bat. .241/.349/.467 with 22 doubles, 3 triples, and 26 homers in 132 AA games.  He's also posted respectable fielding percentages at first and catcher, and went errorless through 16 games in LF. He could back up Castro and/or Q should one go down for some reason or another, warm up guys in the pen, sub for what I feel is the inevitable Wallace/Lee platoon at first, and even be another option in left though 16 games isn't an indication of an ability to succeed, but it at least shows an ability to perform.

Cons: As with a lot of the young guys, strike outs. Over and over and over again.

Jonathan Gaston:

Pros: I don't see how this kid can't start in AAA next year, and he may be able to contribute. He's posted a .250/.337/.466 line through 3 years in the minors going up a rank each year ending at AA this year. He can run a little with double digits in stolen bases, can hit singles, doubles, triples, and homers as well as play all the outfield spots.

Cons: His numbers in AA did slip a little, but I still see him coming up to AAA and performing admirably. Too early to call, but I want to make a bold prediction, instead of the safe ones I am inclined to make, and say this kid is the new left fielder, despite a little trouble with errors that I think he'll iron out, when Carlos is gone if he can continue to develop the way he has. You may not have heard it here first, but whether you did or not, remember I said it :)

David Cook:

Pros: My last AA guy I'm impressed with is a guy I'm not sure how he hasn't been called up yet. At the age of 28 he's on the verge of being a career minor leaguer a la Coste, and I hope it doesn't come to that unless there's just something I don't know, which is possible. through 8 seasons in the minors he has posted .258/.369/.468. And before anyone thinks that may just be the effect of mashing in the low minors, in 81 AAA games his line sits at .254/.342/.416. He basically does everything Gaston does, but is a little older.

Cons: the one thing he does that Gaston doesn't is commit errors. his fielding percentages across the outfield are good, about .975 if he stays out of right field where he seems to hit a rough spot. He's no defensive whiz but I think he's passable. He's no Vlad. Ouch, poor guy can't play the field anymore.


I don't really see a lot of contributors in AAA, which is distressing, though I really liked our draft class this year, so I'm excited to see AAA in about 3 years. I hope the approach with Castro and Lyles is an indication because while I think it's important to let a kid develop, you ball players are not wine.

The two players who I thought were contributors I will not bother detailing because most of you know them better than me, and that is Drew Locke and Brian Bogusevic.  Neither are getting any younger and have nothing left to prove at the minor league level. Like Tommy and Paulie last year, they need to be given every opportunity this year as a make or break season.

Interestingly, all of the guys I mention are outfielders, except Fixler, as even Koby is converting.  What that means to me is we have depth. Others may disagree. We only NEED one outfielder as Bourn may not hit, but his OBP of .341 last year shows that his bat is no liability to the team, in my opinion, and he's got wheels.

So, what do we do with this depth? With Bourn and Pence locked in for years to come, because I think Bourns defense offsets any value an upgraded bat would bring to center field, do we internally improve at left, leaving other talent to rot on the vine, or do we lump a couple of these kids together and throw them at teams hoping something sticks. Ideas. . .

Dan Uggla: The guy is an All Star, he's only 30, and he can swing a stick.  I've heard it said, though I won't pretend to know, that the Marlins are in need of outfield help.  Yes he costs money, and yes he will need to be extended, but he's worth it, for Drayton to open the purse strings. What say you? Maybe Kepp, though I like him his trade value will never be higher, and a bullpen arm which is an area we also have depth, combined with one of the outfielders I mentioned.  Or maybe even Fixler, as they are interested in Buck, so they must need a catcher, unless he's an exception.

I've also heard the BoSox need outfield help, and I like Scutaro. It might be worth kicking tires. Remember, the minor leaguers or today are the superstars of tomorrow. Someone's gonna take a chance on our kids if we let them, and we might just like what we get in return.

What about Stephen Drew? He's gotta be considered untouchable, but at the same time, the DBacks know they aren't going to compete, or at least I should hope they know it. Get what they can for him. I say send them Seaton and some money and see if that gets it, it won't but then it let's them throw a counter offer before we go offering the kitchen sink. It's not trading the farm away if you're getting rid of guys you'll never bring to the majors. That's the purpose of a well stocked farm, not to win a AAA or AA world series.

Off the Wall Crazy Signing

Brandon Webb:

Former Cy Young quality pitcher, never a power guy anyways, but you have to worry about a guy who can barely top 80. Still, over the offseason he gets his velocity up to say 86-88, shows he can still find the zone, and comes to spring training ready to compete, why not. The only reason I don't like this is because he's not worth what he'll ask.  If he is, great, but this isn't high risk/high reward, it's flushing money down the toilet if he tanks.  If he's willing to come for say 2yr/10 mil and just a boatload of incentives that make him earn the real money, I'm all for it, but he's not going to, based on the reports I read awhile back.

I think we're competitive next year at least for the wild card. I think if we can sign a fifth starter, again for me Paulie is done. I hope Drayton and Ed feel the same. If we can sign a middle infielder, maybe even two to cover both sides of the bag, and a starting pitcher not named Webb, I think we'll have something.  Crawford still isn't the answer I'd like him to be, but with Lee moving between Left and First and rookies getting time at both too, and a revamped middle infield I like where we sit.

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