As you know, the Elite Minor league camps are taking place this week, and despite Nolan Ryan's heart condition and Roger Clemens' media games, the story should still be about the prospects who were asked to attend.
Or NOT asked to attend, as the case may be. With all the talent assembled, including Patton and Pence and Towles, maybe the biggest story is those who attended last year, are still in the system, but were not invited back. This would include names like Josh Anderson, Jonathan Ash, Jimmy Barthmeier, and Paul Estrada.
For example, let's take Josh Anderson: Texas League All-Star Game MVP, Corpus Christi Most Valuable Player, fastest outfielder in the organization now that Willy's gone.
Your imagination does not have to be unduly stretched to see Josh Anderson playing centerfield for the Astros in September.
Let's say Biggio starts sitting more and more after reaching 3000 hits. So Burke sees more time at second, opening up a part-time spot in center. Right now we might hope either Hunter Pence or Jason Lane can be plugged in, but even ignoring the issues that both now bring to the table, both of them are true corner outfielders. If Anderson is successful with the Express early, he might be the most logical candidate in August to plug the hole created by Burke's move to second.
And if that's the case, maybe you'd like to see Anderson run up the hill a few times this week.
Barthmaier remains a top--if not THE top--pitching prospect. Why isn't he at the camp?
And Estrada is more of a dark horse, but he's a talented one. The man has a nasty-ass slider. Perhaps he should be looking over Brad Lidge's shoulder this week.
Anyway, enough moaning and groaning. Here's the rundown on the 27 who are there.
|RHP||Matt Albers *||06 Texas League Pitcher of The Year; 0 - 2 w/ a six flat for Houston in callups.|
|LHP||Brian Bogusevic *||Worst pick since Michael Rosamond? Needs to turn it around|
|INF/OF||Chris Burke||Presumably attending to work on his centerfield play|
|3B||Koby Clemens *||After a subpar '06, it might not be stretching things to say that daddy had something to do with the invite|
|2B||Brooks Conrad||Slugged .534 at Round Rock; Biggio had a .422 and Burke a .418|
|RHP||Tip Fairchild||10 - 3 with a 1.66 at Lexington before a promotion|
|OF||Josh Flores *||SLG dropped 140 points from 2005; OBP dropped 67 as he moved from Greeneville to Lexington|
|C||Ralph Henriquez *||Repeated at Greeneville and STILL OPSed .614|
|RHP||Lincoln Holdzkom||Rule V acquisition from the Cubs|
|RHP||Casey Hudspeth||Righthander had the worst WHIP among starters at Tri-City in '06|
|OF||Eli Iorg *||MVP at Lexington despite .256 average|
|RHP||Brad James||6 - 2 with a 1.36 at Lexington; held batters to a .220 BA|
|SS||Chris Johnson||.212/.251/.266 at Tri City|
|OF||Jason Lane||More than half his major league hits, doubles, and total bases came during the 2005 season|
|RHP||Brad Lidge||What can be said that hasn't already?|
|SS||Tommy Manzella *||The next Tommy Whiteman?|
|RHP||Bud Norris||Real name David; 46 K's in 38 innings at Tri City last year|
|LHP||Troy Patton *||2 - 5, 4.37 after the promotion to Corpus, but still maintained a respectable 1.25 WHIP|
|OF||Hunter Pence *||Needs to designate a driver|
|RHP||Sergio Perez||Right handed reliever and # 2 draft pick signed nearly a month late, but made his debut at Lexington, going 3 - 0 with a 2.20|
|RHP||Chad Reineke||Pitched equally well at High A Salem and AA Corpus in '06--3.00 ERAs and 1.25 WHIPs|
|OF||Mike Rodriguez.||Second in Runs scored behind Conrad at Round Rock in '06; tied with Jimerson for most steals for the Express|
|LHP||Chris Salamida.||Perhaps the most dominant minor league performance in the entire system: 10 - 1 with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP for Tri-City|
|RHP||Chris Sampson *||No pressure, dude: just anchor the back half of the major league rotation|
|C||Lou Santangelo *||Average dipped at high A Salem, but the power remained|
|C||Max Sapp||# 1 pick last June OPSed .619 at Tri-City|
|C||J.R. Towles *||Still flying under the radar despite having OPSed .906 at Lexington|
* Attended in 2006, as well
If the attendees at these camps somehow represent the State of the Farm, I gotta say I'm happy with our pitching and with our catching. Outfielders are probably average right now simply 'cause Flores and Iorg are coming off years that stepped down from their debuts. But I expect both to rebound.
The infield looks subpar, don't think there's any way around it.