AMP Mailbag: A new bag of Astros questions

Bob Levey

I've got questions! I've got answers? I hope so...

The minor league action is getting less and less, and now I'm sad. But, I'm always open for minor league talk so please feel free to tweet me or email me questions and will put out an AMP Mailbag whenever the bag gets uh...full?

-Rambo2

Who do you think will be the 2nd baseman if they decide to deal Altuve? I am guessing that it would be Fontana or Kemp. Who do you think would have the better chance?

First things first, I will say that this is an unlikely scenario, but I'm not going to be boring and leave the question with that. I'll bite!

I don't know what I want to say. I'm quite torn on this. I even had to have a brief, behind-the-TCB-curtain conversation with Anthony on it. In all honesty, neither should be counted on at this point.

Nolan Fontana's ability to draw walks is nothing short of unfair. But, he came in passive to a fault, and that is something that they have worked on. His bat-to-ball skills are lacking at this point and that is a very large concern. That's one of those things that you can't really teach. Can he survive with a league average LD% with very little pop? He hit .259 with a slightly elevated BABIP.

Truth is, we don't know a lot about Tony Kemp. Three months of first minor league experience across two levels is tough to get a true understanding of what kind of player he is. I have similar concerns about his ability to hit. He has much better speed and a more ground ball oriented swing in which he can use his speed with. That is, what we can tell in the sample. He hasn't been able to get much professional instruction yet, so things may change.

The safe bet is Fontana due to his ability to draw walks, but I don't envision him being an average second baseman. The higher ceiling is with Kemp, but we haven't seen enough to know much. Kemp would more adequately replace Jose Altuve, but it's not a safe bet at this part. I am a fan though.

-MadMartygan

I can’t really think of anything. Can we talk about Rio Ruiz or what minor league pitchers look likely for Houston 2014 bullpen. Not like the Stoffels and pitchers like that.

What's up, Marty? You don't tweet me much anymore. I feel like we've had a twitter-bro breakup!

Is it awkward enough to continue? Good!

All strange non-funny jokes aside, I'm not gonna talk about Ruiz because he'll come up on the podcast Sunday. But, let's talk relievers.

I think Jake Buchanan is a pretty safe bet to see the ML as a bullpen arm next season. He surprised me this season with continued success despite a poor strikeout rate. That ground ball rate has a decent chance at having some success.

Got lefties? I've always had a soft spot for Pat Urckfitz and he's had some success this year. He limits home runs, keeps the ball low, and induces some weak contact. I'd like to see a better strikeout rate and walk rate, but he might have some limited success as a LOOGY.

I'm going to give one more and go down deeper for it. Jonas Dufek. He spent most of the year in Lancaster and had some pretty decent results, especially given the environment. Then he was dominant for Corpus for fourteen appearances. He doesn't have standout stuff, but he knows how to use what he has very effectively.

I just can't wait to see Travis Ballew in Corpus!

-Dustin Griffin

At what point do we start talking 2014 MLB draft prospects?

Whenever you want. I already have.

DONE!

No, it's perfectly fine to talk about the PROSPECTS of the 2014 draft. But, it's too early to talk about where those prospects should be drafted outside of a range. Saying Carlos Rodon will be a top draft is perfectly fine. Saying Carlos Rodon with absolutely, without a doubt, be the top pick is premature. It's likely that he will, but that decision is far from being made.

Saying high school prospect A is looking really good and I like his swing or fastball, or frame, ect. is perfectly fine. Saying high school prospect A could be a first supplemental round level talent is perfectly OK. But, saying that he should be the Astros competitive balance pick is just pushing the bill way too far.

Feel free to talk about prospects' strengths and weaknesses. Talk about their stock in terms of potential round they could be drafted in. Talk about what they need to show in the fall and spring. It's just WAY too early to put picks, draft scenarios, or absolutes for the first overall pick into the discussion at this time. You're setting yourself up for disappointment by doing so because it will change dramatically by the time the season actually starts in the spring and even more so by mid-season.

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