1) How different are Gregorius and Villar?
It's old news now, but when the Arizona Diamondbacks fixed their shortstop problems by trading for Didi Gregorius, it made me wonder. How good a prospect was Gregorius? How did his stats stack up to, say, Houston's own Jonathan Villar?
Well, turns out they're fairly similar. Gregorius is almost a year older, but also got 200 plate appearances at Triple-A this season. Villar hadn't gotten to Triple-A, but has a higher walk rate in his career than Gregorius. He's typically a worse hitter, but Gregorious has similar batting averages, on-base percentages and even slugging percentages.
What's more, while Gregorius has speed, he generally doesn't see that translate into steals. Villar has turned into a very good base stealer who had 38 swipes last season. Villar strikes out significantly more, which makes him a riskier prospect, since he's not making contact as consistently as Gregorius, but that's one of the few differences between the two.
It even boils down to defense. When I looked up Gregorius in John Sickels 2012 Prospect Book, the writeup read very much like Villar's. Athletic, but hasn't always turned that athleticism into good defense, with both racking up plenty of errors.
What does all this mean? To me, it puts some perspective on Villar. We are all kind of down on him as a prospect. He's been around for a while, hasn't REALLY tapped into his potential we were told about when he fronted the Roy Oswalt trade and is just kinda disappointing. However, he's also very similar to a player that was the key to a trade for Trevor Bauer, meaning he has value in this baseball world.
At least for me, that means I'm going to upgrade my opinion of Villar, just a bit.
2) How will MMP play power-wise?
Can't recall how I can across this in the past few days, but this ESPN Home Run Tracker is a neat roundup of how many home runs were hit at each ballpark last season. Houston's Minute Maid Park had the sixth-highest frequency for homers in the National League.
But, Houston won't be in the NL any more. So, where will MMP rank in the American League?
Houston averaged 1.93 homers per game last season in the NL. That's pretty consistent, too, as MMP gave up 1.86 in 2011 and 2.02 in 2009. The number dipped to 1.59 in 2010. From 2006 to 2008, the ballpark averaged 2.30 homers per game.
So, it's safe to say Houston's park have averaged about 1.9-2.0 homers per year in the last six. That would rank MMP Only four parks had lower home run rates than that last season. Does that mean MMP will suddenly become a pitcher's paradise in the AL?
Well, notorious pitchers parks like Detroit's Comerica Park still gave up 1.96 homers per game last season. Seattle's Safeco Field only gave up 1.43 homers per game last year, but will also be moving in the fences for next season.
The only problem with this is that there's generally more offense in the AL than there is in the NL. That means Houston's home run rates at MMP will likely be higher than they were the past five years, simply because the opposition will be better.
3) Will Houston chase either of the Cuban FAs?
I mentioned this the last time they came up, but the free agent market has gotten more interesting of late with both Aledmis Diaz and Dariel Alvarez declared free agents an are now eligible to sign with MLB teams. Per this MLB.com article, the new collective bargaining agreement states that players who have played at least three seasons professionally in Cuba and are 23 at the time they sign will not count against the international signing bonus pool.
Diaz is a shortstop who has good range, a ton of youtube video highlights of his fielding prowess, and a little bit of pop. From what I can briefly see on video, he's got a nice swing, generates some power with his hips and has a big frame.
Alvarez is an big, rangy outfielder. He can allegedly play all three outfield spots and has a nice swing as well in these videos. He looks like he might have some problems adjusting to big league pitching, as he appears to lunge a bit with his swing in some shots and doesn't quite have the bat speed of Diaz.
However, Alvarez would be an interesting addition to Houston's lineup, if they chose to spend money on a free agent. He'd be much more likely to be around when Houston contends than someone like Nick Swisher or even Michael Bourn.