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Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

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Yesterday was the day of prospect lists, as MLB.com rolled out its list on MLBTV Wednesday night, Keith Law released his Top 100 list, The Hardball Times released its Top 10 Houston prospects and Baseball America released the Prospect Handbook.

So, of course, we have to talk about prospects on this fine Friday. After the jump, I'll have extended thoughts, building on the comments in DQ's FanShot yesterday and more notes on the minor leagues.

Jason Castro was the only Astros prospect on the MLB.com list, clocking in at No. 31. His writeup and video can be found here. The money quote from the scouting report:

A solid to above-average every day catcher in the big leagues who makes those around him better with his leadership skills.

Those intangible skills will be important for the Astros once Oswalt and Berkman step down. That leadership is something Houston has really lacked since Bagwell and Biggio left. Miguel Tejada provided some of this as did Berkman and Oswalt, but I don't get the impression that either lead overtly very much. As McTaggart said in his interview, the clubhouse is still pretty laid back. Maybe the Astros need a kick in the pants from a kid like Castro.

On Law's list were Jordan Lyles and Jiovanni Mier. On THT's list, they are both ahead of Castro. Still, as clack noted in the comments, none of them are thought of as top-notch, future superstar talents. I'd argue that while Castro may turn into a perrenial All-Star, Mier has a chance to be special. His defense has the potential to be outstanding. If his bat holds up as an above average contact guy who's got some speed, he has the chance to be a reverse-Jeter, right? With his defense better than his bat? A great defender at short who can hit over .300? That's a star to me.

Of course, there's the problem. Mier's bat is still very projectable with little tangible results. Until he converts some of that potential into production, he'll be downgraded. With high school draftees, that's often the case, but it also explains why people may underrate him. Going back to the MLBTV special, I was struck with how similar Mier's scouting reports have been to a couple of the prospects they did include, Starlin Castro and Jose Iglesias. Both are international signees, but they are also defense-first guys who have questions around the bat. From what I've heard, there's not much difference between Mier's defense and theirs, so the difference is really just exposure, right? If not, it at least raised the question in my mind.

I was surprised to see Gaston on the list, since he still needs a solid season under his belt at Corpus. I would have much rather seen Collin DeLome, who has a similar profile to Gaston. I didn't see enough out of Tanner Bushue to rank him this highly, but that's quibbling at this point. My list would look a little different and I might have to actually write it up sometime soon. Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?

This article on Minor League Ball breaks down John Sickel's prospect rankings by monetary value and ranks the teams based on this. Are you surprised that the Astros came in at 24th? I wasn't really shocked by that. In fact, it confirmed my thought that the national experts are lagging a little behind on Houston's farm system. While the team doesn't have a deep system, the prospects at the top are both valuable and at key positions. I have used the numbers Victor Wang came up with, which the author used for this piece. These values show that hitters mean more to a team than pitchers. That's an opinion at odds with many national experts (or is at odds with their lists, at least). One thing that Bobby Heck has done well is add position players as well as pitchers with upside. If you're looking for what the Astros might do in this draft, don't bet against at least one position player being picked in the first round.

One guy who's been intriguing is one who was once considered the consensus top overall prospect in the 2010 draft, Bryce Harper. With some questions about his swing coming out and (probable) concerns over signability, could you see him dropping to No. 8? Would the Astros be able to pass him by at that spot?

Um, is anyone else shocked and/or amazed that BRANDON DUCKWORTH is the one who may pitch a deciding Game 9 in the Dominican League finals? On three days rest? Since Francisco Liriano is starting opposite Duckworth, could you think of a bigger mismatch? Then you see stories like this one from Jorge Arangue of ESPNDeportes, who says Liriano had to fight to start the game instead of appearing at the team's Fan Fest. Hmm...Fan Fest? Championship game? Fan Fest? Championship game? These winter leagues must be fun to cover.

The implications a story like this has aren't necessarily far-reaching, since MLB doesn't step in with every team like this. But, it does bring up the fact that a slotting system either needs to be collectively bargained or thrown away. Either way, the MLBPA is falling down on its job a bit with the draft.

Finally, this is getting a little ridiculous. First, Zach Levine follows my Chia-jen Lo story with one of his own. Then, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman gets "quotes" and "confirmation" of my opinion that the Round Rock franchise may change affiliations to the Rangers after the season (h/t to clack on both stories). Then, Bernardo Fallas has a post on Thursday about the Astros watching Noah Lowery pitch a day after my Wednesday story covering the same subject.

Please, print media, you're making me blush. I didn't realize how much of a trendsetter I was till this week. I just wish they would give TCB some credit here. Without this website, they'd obviously have NO ideas for stories. You're welcome, guys, you're welcome...