Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

This is a bit old, but we haven't discussed it around here. Andy Seiler breaks down all the scouting directors in baseball. Our own Bobby Heck ranks 15th. Here's what he has to say about Heck:

Heck has spearheaded a new way of drafting with the Astros, a team that would have been dead last in my rankings two years ago. He’s moving up this list quickly, and I like his unique system of finding live arms through private workouts. He needs to work on finding solid hitters, but with a couple more successful drafts, he could be the best drafter for arms beyond the first round.

Now, I could argue that Heck should be listed higher on this list. But, after an off-season full of Ed Wade bashing, isn't it nice to see one of the Astros executives ranked highly? It's also a study in the difference between perceptions about teams and how scouting directors work. Other teams in the Top 15 that might surprise fans are the Pirates, the Reds, the Orioles and the Giants.

Also on the list are the big money spenders like the Yankees, the Tigers and the Red Sox. It's a good reminder that while the big money teams can outspend the little guys, they still need talented people to identify where to spend that money.

It also brings up the question of lists. Sometimes, I think that the internet was invented just for list-making. I'm as guilty of it as the next guy, but as you could have told from various times this offseason, I do like to question the methodology behind them. If someone is coming up with their favorite songs, I might be interested in the list, but I wouldn't put much stock into its contents. If I'm given a list of top prospects from a respected source, I'd like to know how they made their decisions.

Since I've been thinking of this, I emailed Adam Foster of Project Prospect a few weeks ago to ask him a simple question: how important does position weigh in making these lists? My thinking was about a guy like Jio Mier, who has shot up the rankings this season. Is it solely because of his baseball skills, or does the fact that he play a key position weigh more heavily in that decision making?

From Foster:

We definitely put a lot of weight into position. We do it on a case-by-case basis. If he doesn't stick here, where would he move and how valuable could he be there.


Up-the-middle defenders who can hit get a healthy boost. Sometimes it's hard to find good info on defense. We tend to be conservative with second-guessing where a team has been playing a guy unless we've seen the guy play or have a lot of info on him.

But you've gotta hit!

That answer makes sense to me. Mier doesn't just get a bump because he plays short; he gets a bump because he hits AND plays good defense at short. Those guys are rare and should be rated more highly. When you look at him in comparison to a guy like Justin Smoak, who is an elite hitting prospect but plays one of the most replacable defensive position on the field.

It also makes me think about the Astros minor league system. It's been panned a lot for the past two seasons. We've also talked quite a bit about the lack of middle infield prospects in the system. Am I oversimplifying to think that the two things are linked? We might not need a ton of prospects at short and second, but sprinkling in a couple more couldn't hurt, right?

With that in mind, here's another couple of lists profiling the Astros top 15 prospects. The most surprising name on the list? 19-year old righthander Juri Perez, who pitched at rookie-league Greeneville in 2009. Perez was signed out of Venezuela before the 2007 season.

He was named the 10th-best prospect in the Appalachian League last season and was ranked as one of Houston's Top 30 prospects by BA. John Sickels gave Perez a grade of C+. Perez is listed at 5-foot-11, 150 pounds and uses a fastball-changeup combination with the best change in the Appy League last season. I'm surprised to see Perez this high, but this entire list is interesting. For instance, Jio Mier was listed as the top prospect in the system and Chia-jen Lo in the Top 5. What do you think of these?

Seiler also had an update to his first round mock draft. He changed the first round pick for the Astros, with Zach Cox being the new guy at No. 8. The other first round pick didn't change, with Colorado high school pitcher Kevin Gausmann at No. 19.

I know I've said that Cox might slip because of his strikeout rate. If he profiles to be a guy like Kevin Kouzmanoff, is that good enough to take at eight? More specifically, does a guy who will strike out have enough other skills (power, defensive ability at third) to cancel that out? I think Heck's track record wouldn't prevent him from taking a guy like Cox that highly, but I wonder if that's who they're targeting.

Wouldn't a guy like Brian Ragira, who at least one scout thinks is the most talented hitter in the draft, make sense at No. 8? Or will position play too much of a role in it? Would it make more sense to draft a pure defense second baseman like Chris Bisson or Pierre LePage highly?

I'm not sure we'll know what the Astros strategy will be heading into the draft, but it does give us some things to talk about, right?

Finally, let's briefly discuss who might be on the Round Rock opening day roster in two weeks. The Astros made their player assignments for the guys who were cut last week. Farmstros had a nice rundown of those players. Looking at who will probably also be there, this is what their lineup could look like:

1) Wladimir Sutil, SS

2) Brian Bogusevic, RF

3) Drew Locke, LF

4) Chris Johnson, 3B

5) Chris Shelton, 1B

6) Jason Castro, C

7) Yordany Ramirez, CF

8) Drew Meyer, 2B

9) Polin Trinidad, SP

Am I way off on anyone?

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