Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 12: Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez #51of the Houston Astros throws against the St. Louis Cardinals in the home opener at Busch Stadium on April 12, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Lots of draft and minor league stuff to talk about. 

Since I got back from my trip to STL, I have been playing catch-up on a lot of work. One of the things I haven't gotten to is updating my minor league stats. So, I don't have as detailed a breakdown on how guys are doing or a Runs Created leaderboard, which will definitely pop up in future weeks. So, how are we going to handle the minors this week? Well, Farmstros already gave you the best performers. What I thought I'd give you is the guys you might not be as familiar with at each level. Call it 'The Forgotten List.'

Round Rock

Forgotten Hitter - Drew Meyer, UTIL - The 28-year old third baseman/second baseman had a good run in spring training, but hasn't gotten many headlines since going to Round Rock. The reason is he's 8 for 47 with three runs scored and zero RBIs. The one plus to his season is he has walked nine times, giving him a .304 OBP even though his batting average is at .170. Even more surprising? Meyer has stolen two bases in two attempts. Considering the jokes he's dodged since the spring about his weight, well, you see where this is going...

Forgotten Pitcher: Andy Van Hekken, LHP - The 29-year old lefthander has started three games for Round Rock with pretty good results. He's thrown two scoreless outings sandwiched around a three run, 5 2/3 inning start recently. Van Hekken was drafted back in 1998 by Seattle and has bounced around the minors ever since. He actually has another Houston connection, as he was traded from Seattle to Detroit for Brian Hunter in 1999. Van Hekken signed with Houston midway through the 2008 season and has pitched between Corpus and Round Rock since. His 17-4 K/BB rate this season is great, but probably not sustainable. Still, he's an intriguing option if a starting pitcher goes down.

Corpus Christi

Forgotten Hitter: Marcos Cabral, SS - The 26-year old has played for five different organizations after being drafted in the 31st round of the 2002 draft by the New York Mets. He signed with the Astros after the 2008 season, but was dropped from Triple-A all the way down to HIgh A Lancaster. This season, he's gotten his chance to play at Corpus and is doing well, going 7 for 23 with a double, a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs. 

Forgotten Pitcher: Douglas Arguello, LHP - This one is kind of a stretch, because Arguello has gotten a lot of press so far. But, I still don't think it's enough. I was disappointed to see him back at Corpus this season and hope he can get called up quickly to Round Rock. Arguello has been lights out for the Hooks, giving up just two runs in 2010 with a 14-4 K/BB ratio.

Lancaster

Forgotten Hitter: Albert Cartwright, 2B - The 22-year old was drafted in the 36th round of the 2007 draft. He got off to a hot start in 2009, but broke his wrist and missed six weeks starting in early May last season. Once he returned, he wasn't the same player, but has started 2010 on another hot streak. Cartwright is hitting .364/.417/.636 this season with two doubles, two triples and a home run. He's also stolen one base in his only attempt. He's only walked twice, but has also struck out just four times in 33 at-bats. 

Forgotten Pitcher: David Berner, LHP - It may seem like I just have a thing for lefthanders. Believe me, I do not. I do, however, like Berner quite a bit. His makeup looks to be very solid after spending four years at San Jose State. He's made a pretty good transition to pro ball after being drafted last season. As a reliever in four games, Berner has thrown in 9 2/3 innings while allowing eight hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out 11 and walking just one. In Lancaster, you have to limit the walks to survive. It looks like Berner is adjusting to that environment well.

Lexington

Forgotten Hitter: Andrew Simunic, 2B - There are not many hitters at Lexington who aren't well known. Simunic might fit this bill, however. Part of the reason is he's not a very good prospect. A 17th round pick in 2008 out of the University of Tennessee, Simunic has filled in nicely at second base for two seasons now, but struggled when moved up to Lancaster last season and has opened the 2010 season in a 2 for 20 funk. He's still one of the better second base prospects in the system, but probably won't get past Triple-A.

Forgotten Pitcher: Robert Donovan, RHP - See? I told you I didn't just pick lefties. Donovan was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2009 draft and has been lights out for the Legends. In three starts, Donovan has thrown 16 innings while striking out five and walking six. The 22-year old played his college ball at Stetson University and was one of the biggest pitchers the Astros drafted last season. His delivery is high effort, though, which may be causing some of his control issues. 

 

Onto the draft...

The Rice Owls were in town to play Texas A&M on Tuesday. Of course, I was at a high school softball game instead of being there to see Anthony Rendon, RIck Hague and company. Turns out I missed a doozy of a game, as Hague committed four errors, forcing manager Wayne Graham to move him off of shortstop for the immediate future. Prospect analysts are split on whether this is a long-term move. Most seem to view Hague as a third baseman in the pros, but a few still think he could stick at short. Of course, both Hague, Rendon and most of the Rice offense was pretty quiet at Olsen Field, since Clayton Ehlert pitched a four-hitter, shutting out Rice while striking out seven. Ehlert has been up and down this season and this is the first time I've seen him get out of the fifth inning since last year. Hey, at least I got to see some solid softball action, huh?

A site I mentioned before, Deep Leagues, put up its first mock draft this week. Here's the expanded version with some explanation of each pick. I emailed back and forth with Brad O'Neil (the author here), who's a big Astros fan. He said this mock was done with the best player available in mind but didn't necessarily take into account a team's draft trends or proclivities. He agreed with me that the Astros probably didn't need Wilson, because they have a ton of outfield prospects and that Christian Colon or Zach Cox made more sense there. I really liked most of the picks here, though. I was surprised by James Paxton at 19 to the Astros but found myself digging the pick. Paxton is something the Astros have shied away from the past two years, a college pitcher who might not have a high ceiling, but would be a quick mover through the system. I could see him breaking in with Jordan Lyles in 2012. 

The guys over at Project Prospect talk about some of the future draftees. Paxton is written up here, and I don't know what's more intriguing here, that all three of those other pitchers went to the same team or that Paxton is going across town. As the draft gets closer, I might have to wander up I-35 and see Mr. Paxton...

You might have seen that his MLB Bonus Baby site is now a SBNation site. He unveils his Top 100 draft prospects here. Am I glad to see him list Colon at No. 8? Yes. Does this mean Colon will go to the Astros? Not in the least. I think we all realize where the value lies in this draft, but one thing Wade and Heck have shown is their board doesn't look nearly like the others. That's why they could take Jason Castro at No. 10 in 2008 and why they could take Jordan Lyles in the supplemental round. Seiler also looked at the top prospects in the great state of Texas here and here.

Speaking of Top 100 lists, Nick James at PNR Scouting has his movers and shakers at mid-season here. That link takes you to the list of pitchers, but he also has lists for all the positions as well. I was pleasantly surprised to see Barrett Loux so high. I do like Loux and would love to see the Astros pick him in the second round. It also looks like Kevin Gausman is a quick riser, drawing comparisons to Roy Halladay (since they both hail from Colorado). I have to give it to Seiler. He had Gausman to the Astros at 19 months ago. With the way Gausman has pitched this spring, it's looking more and more likely, huh?

If you are having trouble keeping track of all the different pitchers out there, John Sickels comes to the rescue. For the past week, he's gone about publishing the mother of all draft summaries. Each player is given a quick paragraph scouting report, much like his excellent prospect book. Here are one and two for the high school pitchers and onetwothree and four for college pitchers. Why should you care about all the pitchers? Because, as this FanGraphs piece points out, this could be a draft chock-full of pitchers in the first round. On top of that, it could be a draft full of starters instead of relievers. So, be warned.

Speaking of college, this interview with Arkansas manager Dave Van Horn talks about Zach Cox. Van Horn said that Cox can start out at Double-A easily after he's drafted. The quotes here:

 

"People don't notice, but one of the things he's done is gotten a lot better defensively," Van Horn said. "He can make the routine play, he can make the off-balance throw on the slow roller. When he came in he was a little stiff and tight, and we had to get everything lined up right. He's lighter now, he's a lot more limber and flexible, and he's just quicker in the field.

"When we got him to commit to us, we told him, 'Obviously if you get the money you want, we understand, but if you don't you'll be eligible again in two years.' He's gotten so much better. I would put him in Double-A right out of the chute, because the kid's a Double-A hitter. He knows the strike zone. It was a plus move for him to come here for two years. He wanted to work on his defense, and he has. Zack is an extremely hard worker, and he knows what he wants. This guy is going to play in the big leagues. That's his mission. He loves being at Arkansas, he's an incredible leader, but you just can't out-work him."

I like seeing that Cox has gotten better defensively. If he can stick at third by playing good defense, his bat will make him a real asset there. I'm still worried about the strikeouts, but I'm not freaking out as much as I was earlier this year. We've only got two more months to obsess about this, right?

Let's end with some great prospect videos. What do you think of this guy? This one? And this one? I can't get enough of these old, grainy videos. I've never seen such a good one on Christy Mathewson. 

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