In preparation of the 2012 season I decided to round-up our writers and ask them some hard hitting preseason questions.
What player in the majors are you keeping an eye on and why?
David: There are plenty of obvious answers, but the one that jumps to mind first is Jordan Lyles. How will he respond to another season in the majors? Will he start making progress or backslide with a bit of a sophomore slump? We all want Lyles to be more than a third or fourth starter, but he's going to need to show some more strikeout potential to get there.
AstroBrit: Brian Bogusevic. He's going to bust a move and be the player he always wanted to be out of Tulane, powering the club to an improbable 70 wins. Seriously? I just think he's come on an unusual path to the majors and I want him to succeed against the odds. And he has a cannon in right field.
CRPerry13: Justin Upton...he's been on my fantasy keeper teams since age 20 and he's a generational talent. I want to see if he can really turn physical tools into an MVP-level performance. By association, I'm also watching his brother BJ to see if HE can use his physical tools to turn around a disappointing career. I like 5-tool players, and these guys fit. I'm watching Jose Altuve because if he fixes his plate discipline I think he can be unique and also have a very good career. Also Eric Hosmer, because his approach and skills make him look like a young Albert Pujols. There aren't any pitchers that are grabbing my attention right now, but it's fun to watch Lincecum because of the things he can do that he probably shouldn't be able to. I'm not buying Strasburg-mania. Let's see if he turns into Mark Prior first.
Clack: Lowrie. (Runner up answer---Fernando Martinez, but I don’t know if he will be in the majors or minors)
Native_Astro: I'm a huge Matt Kemp fan. I enjoy watching Kemp because he to me is the ceiling that George Springer could have for the Astros.
What player in the minors are you keeping an eye on and why?
David: There are plenty of candidates for this. I'm tempted to say Vincent Velasquez, but I'm really going to be watching George Springer the most. He's possibly the safest prospect Houston has and the potential to be a real star for the Astros. But, with very limited minor league data, we'll need to watch this season to see just where he stands.
AstroBrit: Jonathan Villar. As David wrote last week for SB Nation Houston, attention is going to be shifted to him in light of the Roy Oswalt trade. His power arrived at Corpus Christi last year, but we are still waiting for defensive reliability and other things to materialise. I could live with us having a shortstop with fantastic range, 20 home runs, 30 steals, and good on-base skills. Also keep a close eye on Jarred Cosart's K/9, which seems to be a cause celebre in Astros minor league circles.
CRPerry13: Springer and Singleton for obviously selfish reasons, since I'm an Astros fan. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, again because I think they're generational talents. I'm not seeing any pitchers that are exciting me. I guess Jamison Taillon for the local interest (I live in the Woodlands). That's all I got.
Clack: Springer. (Lots of runner up answers.)
Native_Astro: Oddly enough the player in the minors that I'm keeping an eye on is our own George Springer. Five tool players don't come along very often and George Springer is truly a five tool type player. I asked this question about Springer's ceiling to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus in his top 101 prospect chat. Here is his response about Springer:
Sean (San Francisco): Can George Springer make a jump to the top 25 with a strong year in 2012? Does he have that type of ceiling?Kevin Goldstein: He does have that kind of ceiling.
The first Astros you would take in a fantasy league?
David: Bud Norris, easily. None of the position players have upside more than as bench players, but Norris has strikeout potential and could still take a step forward. He'd be a bargain later on in many drafts.
AstroBrit: I would say Bud Norris because of his strikeouts, but the staff's win total could be disappointing this year. Maybe Carlos Lee, because at least he's guaranteed to play most of the season. Who else is at this point?
CRPerry13: I usually avoid picking Astros because it causes mental anguish on two fronts when they stink. When they're good, I can applaud them regardless if they're on my fantasy teams. But if you are forcing me to choose, I'd take Lowrie in the middle rounds if I didn't get one of the top 5 shortstops, grab Lee if he fell to me in late rounds because of his dual position eligibility, or I'd take Snyder with a Last-Round pick. Those probably are the only three Astros that would sniff my roster, unless I got Wandy cheaply or Norris to fill my fourth or fifth starting pitcher spot.
Clack: Bud Norris (Runner up answer, Wandy Rodriguez)
Native_Astro: If I had to take a player for fantasy, it would probably be Bud Norris due to his K rate. I tend to stay set from Astros players in fantasy drafts, but I would probably take a chance on Norris followed by Wandy Rodriguez.
What are you looking forward to this season?
David: Seeing how the young players progress. Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, J.D. Martinez...heck, even Jed Lowrie could be counted in that mix. We've been waiting to see a rebuilding process for years and now that it's here, it's pretty exciting.
AstroBrit: I'm looking forward to the draft, and our number one pick, seeing whether Jim Crane can bring back fans to the ballpark, and whether Jeff Luhnow can flip Wandy Rodriguez at the trade deadline.
CRPerry13: I think rebuilding projects are fascinating, so I'm looking forward to seeing who will boom, who will bust, and most of all, who we acquire in trades. If we don't make the playoffs, I'm ok with a 100 loss season because it speeds the rebuilding process with more high draft picks.
Clack: Whining by opposing team bloggers whenever the Astros beat their teams ("Ew! We just got beat by the Astros.")
Native_Astro: I'm looking forward to the Astros continuing to rebuild in 2012. The Astros hold the #1 pick for the first time since 1992 when the Astros picked Phil Nevin over Derek Jeter. This will be the first draft for new owner Jim Crane and new GM Jeff Luhnow. The Astros can't afford to miss on their top picks. Wether that means the Astros go with the early consensus top pick in Mark Appel or go with the high ceiling high school guys Lucas Giolito or the electric Byron Buxton.
How many games do you predict you will watch?
David: Let's say 150 games, which is missing a game a month, plus taking into account non-TV games. I may not be able to watch the games live, but that's what they invented DVRs for, right?
AstroBrit: In person? Maybe 1. I'm hoping to make a sneaky trip to Austin for my cousin's graduation from UT, so maybe I can arrange a lay-over in Houston. Quite a few in the middle of the night on mlb.tv for my sins.
Favorite food to eat while watching a game either at home or in the ballpark?
David: I'm a bit of a traditionalist, so I'm going with a hot dog. Although, I will say that at Olsen Field in College Station, they make a sausage wrap from a local sausage-making company, which is infinitely better than a plain hot dog.
AstroBrit: Monkey nuts and a soda usually keeps me occupied while filling in the old scorecard, peering down at the game from the upper levels.
CRPerry13: My wife made Kobe Beef sliders and fries for one of my fantasy baseball draft parties. I wouldn't complain if she did the same for games.
Clack: Nachos or freeto pie.
Native_Astro: At home, I'm a chicken wings and Blue Moon with an Orange type guy. At the game, I stick with the classics in hot dogs, cracker jacks, and a Dr.Pepper.