No mention of T.J. in this article, as he sits silently somewhere in Florida and weeps...
Before we dive into the Baseball America Prospect Handbook (briefly...I don't want to reveal too much and rob them of more customers), I wanted to look at Jordan Lyles' outing Wednesday. I don't have Pitch F/X data on him, but I did track his velocities on his pitches.
For one thing, Lyles didn't look like he was working a game plan for each hitter as much as working on specific pitches at specific times. He only threw one breaking ball (a slider) in the first inning before switching to mostly breaking stuff in the second half of his appearance.
He mainly threw his fastball around 88-89 MPH, but did touch 93 and even 95 on one pitch I saw. When he gained velocity, the pitch wasn't as accurate, so he may lay off a bit on his velocity to get that pinpoint control. I couldn't tell much about the slider or the change, but it did look like the slider was around 80 MPH and the change about 70-75 MPH. That's still a pretty big spread and means Lyles may change speeds well enough to get strikeouts even without blazing speed on his fastball.
I was worried about the lack of strikeouts in Lyles' innings this spring. But, if this held for his other starts and Lyles isn't so much sequencing his pitches as working on specific ones at a time, then his numbers don't mean much. The other side of that coin is much less savory. What if Lyles is a two-pitch pitcher who only rarely uses his slider? I'm sure we would have heard about that by now, which is why I'm going to ignore his spring totals even more than I do normal spring numbers.
Onto my thoughts on the BA 2011 Handbook...
Martinez hit his home run off Young on the first pitch he saw. It was a fastball around 78-81 MPH (whether you're going off the TV or the scoreboard in left field) that was right down the pipe. Young gets a lot of downward plane with his fastball, but that was just piped. He threw a similar pitch to Carlos Lee, who flied out to left. So, it was impressively hit, traveling out in a hurry but also having some nice loft, but it wasn't a pitch he's likely to see too often in the majors.
Looking at the Top 30 list from last season, the Astros had 12 prospects drop off. One (Polin Trinidad) moved to the Cubs and another (Evan Englebrook) became a free agent. The Astros also had five players lose rookie status through major league playing time, meaning over 50 percent of the 2010 list turned over. The fact that the Astros team rating still went up to 26 speaks highly of the talent Bobby Heck and Co. are bringing into the system.
Speaking of Heck and Co., one of the nice things about BA's Handbook is it lists the scout who signed all the different prospects. It's a little thing, but seeing how many of the top guys were signed by a couple of scouts in Lincoln Martin and Troy Hoerner is informative. For one, it leads more credence to any rumors linking the Astros to prospects in the Illinois/Wisconsin region and the Southeast.
Another interesting tidbit from those scouting signings comes from Bobby Heck getting partial credit for signing Vincent Velasquez. Whether that's significant or not remains to be seen, but it does show that the Astros were very intent on signing the two-way star. We know the Astros drafted him earlier than expected because they were afraid they couldn't get him in the third round. If they were that aggressive, it only stands to reason that Heck himself would try hard to get Velasquez signed.
We haven't heard much about the instructional league, but there were a few interesting notes in the player write-ups. For instance, the Astros moved Jimmy Paredes to third base in the instructionals and he looked good, according to BA. Considering Paredes has struggled some in the field this spring and that there were already scouting report suggesting he'd have to move off-position, and it's safe to say his future probably lies at the hot corner. MIke Kvasnicka also looked good at third base, showing "rapid improvement." BA was also positive about the talent Ariel Ovando flashed in the instructional league, saying his bat played well against the most advanced pitching he'd seen.
There was a really positive writeup on Mike Foltynewicz that made me more excited about his future (if that was possible). But, the pitcher who I came away with a better opinion of was Ross Seaton. I liked the young righthander when he was throwing in Lexington with Lyles, but he was inconsistent to end that season and really got roughed up in Lancaster. The impressive thing that I had missed so far is that Seaton hasn't missed a start in two seasons. Sure, it's only two season and 50 starts, but it's a start. Pitching durability is sort of a lightning in a bottle proposition. If Seaton somehow turns out to have one of those magical durable arms? He's more valuable than mediocre numbers in an extreme hitter's park might show.