Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Reid Ryan's first day, Carlos Pena's decline and the Royals' top prospects...

Some things to talk about while Houston's mayor gets involved in the CSN Houston negotiations...

1) Reid Ryan's first day on the job

Monday marked the first day for Houston's newest president of business operations, Reid Ryan. Brian McTaggart has a good story up on what his first day looked like, including mundane first-day-at-a-new-job stuff like getting keys made and setting up a computer.

Ryan has already touched base on a couple of priority issues: getting a TV deal done and making sure Larry Dierker comes back into the fold, along with keeping communication lines open with other former Astros.

Here's a good quote from the story:

"I go back to common sense," Ryan said. "We want the games on TV for the fans. I've been hit on Twitter and people emailing me and at a restaurant last night, saying, 'You've got to help us with the TV deal.' Everybody wants a TV deal. But do they want it for the short-term feel-good [benefit] of having games on TV for the long-term expense of not being able to compete? I don't think they do."

As the story on CSN Houston's cash problems said last week, Jim Crane will take departed president George Postolos' spot on the CSN board, but that doesn't mean Ryan won't be a big part of these negotiations. It's nice that he's got that already on his plate, but I bet Crane is the one driving negotiations now from the Astros end.

Other than that, it sounded like a nice first day on the job. Better yet, there weren't any embarrassing PR gaffes, which is always nice.

2) Has Carlos Pena rebounded?

One of the questions that floated around Carlos Pena before the season was whether or not his 2012 season was due to decline or normal statistical fluctuation. Was he just getting older and losing stats, or was he due for a rebound to 2011 levels?

Well, after the past few weeks, it sure seems like the latter, doesn't it? Pena is walking more, striking out less and hitting for a little pop. He's got his average well over .200 (for him, anyways), and he's contributing something to this team.

Except he's still in a pretty big decline. His isolated power average is down to .126, about 30 points lower than it was in 2012 and a full 100 points lower than it was in 2011. Oh, and that high (for him) batting average? Buoyed by a .316 batting average on balls in play, which is sure to fall closer to his career BABiP average of .278.

Now, there are some signs on his batted ball data that he might just be statistically anomalizing. His line drive rate remains consistent, but his ground ball and fly ball numbers are wildly out of whack with his career. He's got a ground ball rate of 52 percent and has a 37 percent career rate. That could be an explanation for the lower power numbers, and suggests a spike might be in the offing, if it weren't for the decline in his home run per fly ball rate, which is down almost eight percent under his career average and has been trending downward for the past five years.

After all that, Pena is still on pace to post an fWAR number close to or bettering the 0.8 he had last season. Do you know how much he was worth, when converting that win total to free agent dollars last year? $2.9 million, or exactly how much the Astros are paying him this year.

That's your latest reminder that this Astros front office is smart and knows what it's doing.

3) KC shows that prospects not a sure thing

There's a fascinating email exchange up at Grantland about the Royals and can't-miss prospects (thanks, Jordan, for the tip!). What's great about it, to me, is that it brings up a lot of the downside of these "relying on prospect" dreams that the Astros are selling. Yes, the system has much more talent, but what if it doesn't pan out.

Take the case of Alex Gordon, who was the No. 2 pick in the draft and is on his way to having a fine career. It wasn't always that way, though:

And four years later, he turned into the star that we all thought he would be — you can make a compelling case that after Ben Zobrist, coming into this season Gordon was the most underrated player in the majors. But the reason he's so underrated is because everyone remembers the four years in between: the disappointing-but-not-terrible rookie season in 2007, the promising-but-still-not-there 2008, and then a disastrous 2009 and 2010, when he hit .222 with 14 home runs combined, and played almost as many games in the minor leagues (105) as in the majors (123).

Gordon had as little risk as any prospect I've ever seen, and ultimately fulfilled his potential — and yet even he fought through so many struggles that the Royals, and their fans, were tempted to give up on him for a time.

Will that happen to Jonathan Singleton? George Springer? Carlos Correa? How long do we give guys like that before you're clamoring for the next DDJ to take their jobs?

Prospecting can be a dangerous way to build a team, because the bust rate, even for can't miss guys, is so high. I feel like the Astros are doing this thing right, but I look back at the Royals of the past decade and cringe just the tiniest bit.

Heck, the best news there might be that Dayton Moore has been on the job seven years in trying to get the team rebuilt. That means Jeff Luhnow should get about 10 years before feeling pressure, right?

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