Wednesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about more prospect rankings, the sports cable bubble and IFA signings...

Some things to talk about while Twitter makes me write this article...

1) FanGraphs does midseason prospect ranking

Hey! More love for the Astros prospects this season. On FanGraphs' Top 50 midseason prospect update, five Astros prospects made the list. Topping that set is Carlos Correa at No. 11:

Houston's Correa isn't as far along in his development as Bogaerts or Lindor but he has a chance to be as good or better than his fellow shortstop prospects. After a slow first month to the 2013 season, the Puerto Rico native has been on fire and could probably handle the jump from Low-A to High-A ball but he's just 18 so there's no reason to rush him.

Next up? George Springer at No. 29:

Springer offers an intriguing combination of speed and power - and his game has taken a big step forward in 2013, even though he may strike out 150 or more times in a full big league season. All ready a 20-20 (HR-SB) player in 2013, the Astros prospect is a true threat to become a 30-30 player and is currently hitting .404 with seven home runs in his first 17 Triple-A games.

Jon Singleton ranked No. 31 followed by Mike Foltynewicz at No. 40 and Lance McCullers, Jr. at No. 49. It's very encouraging, especially with two pitchers making the list. McCullers, especially, has been a fast riser here. Remember when Baseball America ranked him in its Top 100 last winter and it was surprising? No more.

2) Sports Cable bubble

Lots of talk recently about the sports cable bubble. First up, this article from Patrick Hruby on how the whole thing might crumble down soon:

Whatever the case, sports fans finally will have to pay market rates. The Sports Cable Bubble will pop. It has to. Just do the math. Fifty-seven million cable and satellite subscribers who don't care about Dwight Howard's decision or Yasiel Puig as the baseball reincarnation of Bo Jackson currently pay at least $100 per person into television sports kitty, each and every year. Someday they won't have to. According to Dave Warner, the creator of the What You Pay for Sports website, losing just 10 million subscribers would cost ESPN $732 million in found-money affiliate fees. Now quadruple that number. Who makes up the difference? In a pay-only-for-what-you-actually-watch world, is Kentucky's basketball coach John Calipari worth $5.2 million annually when his entire sport's signature postseason tournament averages fewer viewers than CBS's "Under the Dome?" Does the Big Ten Network even exist?

It's a long, excellent article examining the background of this sports cable bubble. Hruby dives into the origins of this through ESPN. If you've read any books about the founding of ESPN (I've somehow read two), you'll know they basically invented this and may be the one most hurt by its collapse.

How is this relevant to Houston fans? Yeah, CSN Houston. Right. And that's not going away any time soon. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, companies like AT&T and Suddenlink are trying to argue that most of their viewers don't watch the Astros very often, so why should they pay more? Tad Brown of the Houston Rockets disagrees:

Tad Brown, chief executive of the Rockets, predicts the network eventually will gain full distribution. "Any metrics that suggest a market as vibrant and wealthy and passionate as Houston isn't engaged with its teams-I would say those metrics are wrong," he says.

This is going to be an ugly fight. It's not going away soon. It's part of the bigger media climate and the Astros and Rockets may find themselves on the first battleground as cable companies try to pop the sports cable bubble.

3) Astros sign more international players

Slowly but surely, Houston has been locking up international free agents. They're not paying a bunch and they didn't sign the flashy names like Eloy Jimenez, but I bet the Astros are once again maximizing value. They traded away one IFA slot for a pretty well-developed player and are getting guys at values here.

The latest signee is Wander Franco:

Here's what Baseball America had to say about Franco:

Franco, a 16-year-old switch-hitter, is a nephew of Angels shortstop Erick Aybar and former major leaguer Willy Aybar. His older brother, who is also named Wander Franco, is an infielder with the Royals on their Rookie-level Arizona League team. The younger Aybar isn't a toolsy player but he's impressed some teams with his performances against live pitching with a line-drive approach to all fields. He's 6 feet, 180 pounds, trains with Victor Baez and was represented by Jim Sanson and Luis Scheker.

Again, it sounds like Houston liked Franco quite a bit and got him into the system now. He's a ways away, but could develop down the road. Tie this move, where Houston found value off of the Top 30 IFA list, to this quote from Jeff Luhnow in a piece on unlikely All-Stars by Richard Justice:

Jeff Luhnow drafted both Craig and Carpenter, and he emphasizes he believes both players would get to the big leagues.

He said that part of a scouting director's job is understanding how other clubs see a player and where is the most economically efficient place to draft him.

The best GMs understand this. The worst don't. They'll draft players they like far too soon while smart GMs pull the trigger on guys like Austin Nicely at the exact appropriate time. I think this is one of Luhnow's strengths, is understanding how others value a player and reacting accordingly.

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