Wednesday's Three Astros Things

Two more days until this season kicks off...

1) Hypothetical: Carlos Lee for Adam Dunn - Is it Carlos Lee the player that fans dislike, or is it Carlos Lee's Contract?

I wondered that Tuesday night as I saw New Caney native Adam Dunn chatting with Lee at first base. The two have some striking similarities, both being known for their bats, both being poor defensive outfielders who had to move to first, and both of whom have drawn criticism for their declines later in their careers.

So, the question that popped into my head was: if Adam Dunn had signed Carlos Lee's massive contract instead way back when, would we feel differently about things?

Over the six years of Lee's contract, he's earned $100 million. Over that same stretch, Adam Dunn has earned just about $30 million less than that. Of course, Dunn was playing for three different teams over that stretch, including the team that drafted and developed him.

Lee has had a higher batting average than Dunn for most of that time, with Dunn besting Lee both in on-base percentage and raw home run totals. Dunn is also a few years younger than Lee, so his decline hasn't been as noticeable in the power department, until last season.

Dunn is a three true outcomes player. He's going to walk, strike out or hit a home run. Lee is a contact player, who strikes out fairly infrequently at this point, but also doesn't hit for a high average any more and doesn't really walk.

Is his playing style the real reason Lee has drawn criticism, or does his contract create lofty expectations that he just hasn't been able to deliver? Would Dunn have been subject to those same expectations, and would we have turned on him just as quickly? Or, because of his hometown status, would he have gotten more of a pass?

2) Bud's new pitch - Well, well, well...though Bud Norris didn't do great things last night against the White Sox, he did show off something that looked suspiciously like a two-seam fastball. Carson Cistulli over at FanGraphs is all over it, and Astros County has also commented on the strange pitch:

As the .gif shows, it's a fastball that tails away from a left handed batter which is indicative of a two-seam fastball. This is noteworthy because Bud's never really shown a two-seamer in the past. It will be interesting to see what impact this new pitch will have this season and beyond for Bud.

If you remember from our FanFest running diary, I asked Bud if he were working on another pitch to debut this season and he got all coy with me. Said he's always working on things, but that he didn't want to reveal his secrets to a bunch of stinky bloggers (I may have added that last part).

Lo and behold, he WAS working on something new, he just didn't want us to get the scoop. Oh, well, Bud. You're officially put on notice. Don't think I'll forget this. You just go out and do your thing. Winning will heal this wound...in time.

3) Draft update: Let's run through some of the more interesting prospects in this draft. You'll probably recognize all their names by this point:

Kevin Gausman, LSU, RHP - No big deal. Just 12 Ks in over six innings of work. Gausman did get touched for five runs on five hits and had two walks, so it wasn't his best start of the season. Still, he's got a knack for missing bats, doesn't he?

Mark Appel, Stanford, RHP - Not the best numbers for the big Cardinal, as he gave up 12 hits and six runs in 8 innings of work. His strikeout rate also dipped back down to just five with two walks. At this point, Appel will get drafted No. 1 overall not on his results this season, but on his potential.

Marcus Stroman, Duke, RHP - The Duke righthander has been very good this season at racking up strikeouts, but has not really been in consideration for that top overall spot. But, he did strike out 12 more on Friday, lowering his ERA down to 2.57. He might still be around when Houston is picking in the supplemental round.

Kyle Zimmer, San Francisco, RHP - Here's what Baseball America had to say after a recent scouting trip to see the Don:

His fastball sat 92-94, touching 96 mph, with decent life. The pitch flattens out at times up in the zone, but overall Zimmer commands it well, working both sides of the plate and challenging hitters. His curveball came in 79-81 with sharp, 11-to-5 break, and already rates as a solid out pitch. It has hard falling-off-the-table drop, drawing lots of swings and misses.

In addition, Zimmer mixed in a changeup and slider, both of which lacked consistency but showed flashes of great promise. His changeup was deceptive, sitting 83-85, with good arm speed and a little fade. He threw it for strikes, often with the first pitch of the at-bat. His slider, however, wasn’t very sharp, coming in 85-86 and hanging multiple times.

Mike Zunino, Florida, C - No home runs for Zunino this weekend, as he "only" went 2 for 12 with his eighth double of the season. But, he's now just hitting .351. That's with a .413 on-base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage. Not too shabby, huh?

Byron Buxton, GA HS, OF - It's hard to find stats on high school baseball players at this time of year. Plus, the talent level is even sketchier than in college, so there's no way of knowing how an individual player might actually be performing.

Still, I went digging on Buxton and found some interesting facts. First of all, his team is a perfect 16-0 on the season. Second, Buxton has also been pitching for those Appling County Pirates and struck out 14 in a recent game. Oh, and he'd only allowed four hits all season up to that point. I'd say he's got a pretty good arm and is an excellent athlete, and that'd be a huge understatement.

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