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Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

There's a lot of momentum on TCB right now when we talk about the 2010 draft. Earlier this week, busterbluesy published a great rundown on what many of the leading sources are projecting for the Astros draft in 2010.

Last summer, I looked at what the Astros actually spent in the draft. My anger has waned some, as I think the team is still picking solid players. I'm just not sold that they'll definitely go above slot if it means getting the best available player.

Andy Seiler gives us a very in-depth look at the Astros draft history under Bobby Heck. One of his main points is that the Astros have not spent money outside of 2008 and probably won't look to go much over slot in the later rounds of 2010 since they will be laying out some serious cash in slot value to their first three picks. I really hope there is some language put into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement which quantifies these draft slot prices. That way all the teams would have to live up to them and the bigger money teams couldn't skirt the system.

There were two other things that jumped out at me with Seiler's analysis. First, it's definitely apparent that Heck likes 'workout arms.' So far, this has worked out for him, but I have a natural aversion to the workout warriors from the NFL draft process. Baseball evaluation is so different, though, that I may just need to get over it and embrace what the Astros are doing. On the other hand, it was a notable workout by Max Sapp that got him picked in the first round back in 2006. That hasn't exactly worked out to this point.

The point about targeting Georgia prep bats is also very interesting. I wonder if the Astros have a great scout in that area who just happens to uncover these guys, or if it's more an actual push to focus heavily on that particular area. Neither Jay Austin nor Telvin Nash have set the world on fire in the minors, but they have loads of potential to tap. It's up to the Astros to get them there.

In the past weeks when we've discussed the draft, comments inevitably turned to Christian Colon, who is one of the favorites of you TCBers. I, admittedly, did not know much about Colon prior to doing my homework on him for these pieces. This week, I found another article on him that makes a comparison sure to draw interest on draft day. FanGraphs' Bryan Smith compared Colon to the Astros' own Craig Biggio. We've seen how tenuous such comparisons can be (re: Manzella, Tommy), and I get the feeling that the Astros want some more thump from a college bat than Colon would provide. This article, though, raises some good points about his value and I have no doubt that he would be able to make an impact quickly.

HLP posted this the other day, but I wanted to follow up on it. I know this is one of the hot-button topics people push when they are advocating the international draft. I just don't see this working out. For one, I'm not really a fan of Big Brother collecting all this information on anyone, much less the implications on the draft back at home. Plus, I really don't think this is a program that baseball owners would want to give any money for. The average team just doesn't spend enough in Latin America to make this worthwhile. Teams who are wary of these sorts of problems can just not do business in the Dominican.

Here's a really fascinating article on minor league power splits. Notice how Gaston shows up as an extreme pull hitter while Koby Clemens is on the 'up the middle' list. Same ballpark, different hitting zones, though both were painted with the same "park effect" brush. It's encouraging to me that Clemens had so much of his success to center. Typically, this is the deepest part of a park, which means Clemens has to have serious power to have success. At the same time, part of his ISO could be generated from doubles and triples he got when a center fielder misread a ball or took a bad route. Collin DeLome also popped up here hitting to the opposite field, which makes sense since Corpus has a shorter porch in right field. I mentioned this in the comments of HLP's post yesterday, but Whataburger Field actually has a home run factor very similar to Lancaster's. This could be from hitters targeting this dimension, but I don't want to generalize. DeLome may just have great natural strength and a good in-and-out swing.

It's also the time of year for lists and fantasy previews. Astros prospects popped up on both recently, as the Sporting News profiled 10 rookies who could impact baseball in 2010. Of course, Tommy Manzella was one of the ten as he has the inside track to be a starter. The author said his defense is 'major-league ready.' As DQ pointed out on Monday, this doesn't mean his defense should be good, just that he's league average right now. Another preview listed the top 100 prospects who could impact fantasy baseball in 2010. The Astros listed in the Fantasy preview: No. 16 Tommy Manzella, No. 39 Jason Castro, No. 43 Jonathan Gaston, No. 64 Chris Johnson. It's funny that this is probably the only prospect list this year that will have Manzella on top and Johnson at No. 4. I was mildly shocked to see Gaston, since I'm sure he's a ways away from the majors, but his power must be awful tempting to non-prospecting listmakers. I'm assuming that someone like Jonathan Mayo didn't put this list together, after all. Which of these guys would you draft this year?

I had mentioned in the Manzella post by DQ earlier this week that I didn't think the Astros would give up on Manzella after a bad spring. What might be plausible is making a deal for a guy like Joaquin Arias. The Astros have already demonstrated they have a good working relationship with the Rangers front office (see: Rodriguez, Ivan) and might have a need for another infielder, just in case. Obviously, someone would have to get cut for this to happen. While it's unlikely, I could see a scenario where Geoff Blum shows up for ST and can't cut it, choosing to retire or get cut by the end. That way the Astros could keep Jeff Keppinger as a backup to Pedro Feliz and Kazuo Matsui, while slotting Arias in behind Manzella. The big question will be what Brad Mills' preferences will be. I'm sure he will have some input on the makeup of the bench and may make the final round of cutdowns hairy for a bunch of guys.