I apparently like pictures of guys finishing slides awkwardly.
It's Wednesday, they're playing baseball, so why not have our first Astros Stock Watch of 2011?
We're still pretty early in the process, so we don't have players of the week yet. And, with only two games under their belts, there's not a lot we can talk about in regards to stock. But, will that stop me? Without further ado, the stock watch...
Fernando Abad, dropping - First, he loses his chance to be a fifth starter before they even start playing games. Then, in his first scheduled appearance of the season, Abad gets sick with a fever and misses his chance. What's worse, fellow lefty Wesley Wright took his spot Tuesday and pitched well enough. That's plenty to help send Abad's stock (and chances of making the Opening Day roster) drop a bit.
Patrick Urckfitz, falling fast - One of the longest shots on the team, Urckfitz wasn't pretty on Tuesday. He gave up two runs, three hits and a walk in one inning of work, but he did end his inning with a strikeout. I asked Brett Dolan on Twitter about Urckfitz and he said the former undrafted free agent looked good in the intrasquad game. Let's hope he can string together a couple of those in big league games. I like pulling for the long shots.
T.J. Steele, falling so fast he got injured again - I kid, T.J., I kid. Steele has actually been fairly useful through the first couple days of camp. He appeared in both games and has gone 2 for 3 and played decent defense in the outfield. Of course, he did actually get injured slightly in that last game, as McTaggart points out. Doesn't sound serious, but are you really surprised anymore to read "injury" and "Steele" in the same sentence?
Koby Clemens, rising slightly - Clemens is another guy who's played a bunch early. He got a start Tuesday and will start at designated hitter today against the Tigers. He was also named the unofficial "MVP" of the intrasquad game Sunday, hitting a home run there. I imagine Clemens will continue to get the third-most playing time at first base, behind Carlos and Wallace, while just beating out a guy like Brian Dopirak.
Brett Wallace, rising slightly -Oh, how those three hits from Monday can raise expectations. Wallace really needs a strong camp, both to win the starting first base job and to win over Astros fans who didn't see much from him last season. It's one game AND it's spring training. You have to take what you can get, I guess.
Wandy Rodriguez, holding steady - What, you thought I was going to overreact here? One bad spring start (when he threw almost no curves) means very, very little.
Ryan Rowland Smith, cautiously optimistic - On the other hand...Every spring needs some spice. Otherwise, you're just watching and writing about things that are ultimately meaningless and decisions that have been mostly made before camp starts. For me, I've tried to make as many T.J. Steele jokes as possible and have adopted Hyphen as my fifth starter. Not only is his nickname cool, I'm hoping at some point in this long, boring season, we could get him to say, "That's not a knife. This is a knife."
Tommy Manzella, surprisingly good - It's unfair to him, but I really haven't given two thoughts to Tommy Manzella making the team out of spring training. He was not very good last season and his position got usurped in a trade. However, he's showing some nice versatility in camp so far, playing third base a little and being pretty competent at it. If he can move into that swing infield role while Keppinger is on the disabled list, the Astros might find a use for Manzella after all.
Jeff Fulchino, rising slightly - Fighting through injuries and ineffectiveness last season, Fulchino made a pretty solid debut in 2011, pitching a perfect frame Tuesday. Considering he's got a big league track record, Fulchino probably has one of the best shots of making the bullpen out of camp. Hopefully, he can return to form a bit this season.
Jason Bourgeois, rising - I'm predicting right now that the toughest cut in camp will be deciding between Bourg and Bogey. Bourgeois got the start in center field Tuesday, allowing Bourn to rest. I'm sure he'll see plenty of work in the next few weeks, but I have no idea who's going to win this battle. Should be the most competitive position fight on the team.
Jimmy Paredes, rising slightly - I'm surprised Paredes has appeared in both games so far. He hasn't gotten a start yet (and doesn't appear likely to get one Wednesday in either split squad game. In all likelihood, Paredes is just getting some work because he's on the 40-man roster and will probably be in the first round of cuts. Still, it's a nice reminder that the Astros may have gotten something worthwhile for Berkman.