Friday's Three Astros Things

Bob Levey

Talking about the Astros in the instructional league, the Rangers moving closer and more roster rumors....

Some things to talk about while we all wait for the TCB Top 30 Prospect podcast live this Sunday at 4 p.m. CST...

1) FanGraphs Instructional League reports

I really enjoyed these two posts by Kiley McDaniel over at FanGraphs, talking about Astros prospects in the instructional leagues. McDaniel obviously has history with some of these players from scouting them before the draft, and it's fascinating to hear his comments on how they've grown and what they need to do.

You should really check out the whole of both pieces, but the two comments that stuck out to me were the ones on Nolan Fontana and Preston Tucker. For Fontana, here's the money quote:

His defensive tools barely fit at shortstop but his outstanding instincts and footwork allow him to have a chance to stay there in the big leagues. He continued to control the zone in instructs, bunted, slashed line drives, made all the routine plays and looked comfortable doing it to where I’d have trouble betting against him becoming a solid big leaguer of some kind.

That's what I think Fontana's ultimate value will be, as a sure-fire major leaguer with a set skill which can succeed. In fact, he reminds me of plenty of Luhnow draftees with the Cardinals who have done the same thing, but the obvious guy to point to is Tyler Greene. He may not stick at shortstop, but he should be a MLB contributor and could get there pretty quickly.

As for Tucker, the outlook wasn't nearly as bright as some of our fellow TCB prospecters view him:

Preston Tucker is another guy I saw a lot of at UF this season and while’s he’s limited to a lefty-hitting bench 1B/emergency OF upside, I also like his chances for maximizing his tools and reaching his upside

The thing that stands out about Tucker here is that he has a track record of hitting everywhere he's been and power to all fields. That gives him value at the plate, even if his defensive value will be limited in the future. If we're looking for a Cardinals draftee comparison, maybe Nick Stavinoha? It looks good for Tucker making a MLB roster someday but it's unclear whether he can make an impact.

2) Rangers encroaching

Clack has expressed his displeasure with this in the comments, but it appears the Rangers are trying to spread their reach further and further south in Texas. We have a ways to go before the season begins, but this will only get worse if the new RSN doesn't come on line before the season starts.

Right now, all we have to worry about is exhibition games moving to cities like San Antonio and possibly Corpus Christi. But, the Fox Sports Southwest baseball broadcasts will be very interesting to follow. I assume they'll just show the Rangers across the entire state, but territory could be broken up in different ways. For instance, I just found out that the Beaumont/Port Arthur area will be considered in the New Orleans territory from now on. I have no idea if that means they'll show Rangers games in the New Orleans market or some other team.

On a positive note, though, DirecTV reached an agreement with the Lakers new channel to add them to its package. That means the hard line I quoted earlier this week could have just been a negotiating tactic. Let's hope the Astros new home will be added soon, too.

3) Roster rumors

First up, we have Ken Rosenthal rumor-mongering about a possible match between Houston and Kansas City on a Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell trade. He's right that Luhnow and Dayton Moore have history, but Luhnow would undoubtedly need pitchers back in the trade, and I'm not sure the Royals are willing to give up much for what Houston would offer.

I don't have a problem on principle trading either Norris or Harrell, since both seem like good pitchers but it's unclear whether they will continue to be successful for five or six more seasons. With Harrell, a ground ball guy, the intriguing match may be with the Colorado Rockies, who are apparently looking for pitching. I'm not suggesting Houston could get a Troy Tulowitzki out of the Rockies, but there may be a match there for a lesser deal.

Another thing to consider with Houston's search for pitching depth is Kyle McClellan. The Cardinals released him n the past week and, if he's healthy and wants to continue his career, he might make sense for Houston. He at least would know Luhnow and some of the other front office types while also having an opportunity to start. Wouldn't he make a great stash away guy in Triple-A? Plug him into the RedHawks rotation and let him prove he's healthy while serving as a great contingency plan with the big league club.

Any other interesting names out there? Do you see Houston matching up with either the Rockies or the Royals?

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