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The Astros head to Kissimmee, A Challenge from Kansas City, Jason Castro's value and the Youngsters can walk

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It's been a long time in coming. Too long, I'd say, but "Truck Day" came and went for the Astros yesterday. Not exactly the most exciting day of the baseball season but it's a benchmark if nothing else. Baseball news is baseball news, and after a long off season filled with pessimistic projections, hyperbolic analysis, and everything in between, it's an invigorating feeling to know that the popping of mitts and the cracking of bats is not too far into the future. 

Here's a pretty funny article from the Kansas City Royals blog, Royals Review. One of their writers asked the straightforward question: Which team will be better in 2010, the Astros or the Royals. I think this goes back to my point that it can be hard to make the offseason interesting sometimes. The Astros aren't the most talented team in the majors...but it's the Royals we're talking about. I guess we're fair game, although the Royals have had one winning season in their past sixteen while the 'Stros have had five losing seasons total in that same period. Meh. Can't begrudge them all that much. Misery loves company, and it's doubtful those folks have had much to smile about over the past well...decade and a half.

I can think of one definite reason as to why they're confident that their club is better than ours: Scott Podsednik might be their center fielder. Yeah, this Scott Podsednik:

Game2_583_medium

That's not coming back, guys.

Pods is like David Eckstein...but with one fewer World Series ring.

With Jason Kendall at catcher, Yuniesky Betancourt manning short, and 'Stache Ankiel in centerfield, I can see why RoyalsFan is confident this season. Plus their ballpark is a beauty.

Project Prospect released their Top 50 prospects list last week with Jason Castro crouching in at #47. The scouting report is nothing new:

Already outstanding defensive C; simple LD swing doesn't generate much power

If you see the glass half full, Castro has displayed a strong tendency towards plate discipline in his minor league career, while simultaneously improving his K% as he's climbed the organizational ladder. While he will most likely never hit 20 home runs in a season, CHONE has him as a .313 OBP guy right now, before he's ever hit in the majors. Imagine a year from now, with a season's worth of AAA and Major League (most likely) at bats under his belt...

One forward thinking defensive measure says Castro could be one of the best defensive catchers in the majors when he is called up. I assume that the better baserunners in the big leagues will offer Jason a bigger challenge than what he's seen in the minors. Hopefully, he adapts well. Heading into the future, defense will be the least of my concerns with Jason Castro.

The glass half empty has it that Castro doesn't have the sort of bat that will truly separate him from the pack. Before his 2009 breakout campaign, even a batting title didn't earn Joe Mauer as much fanfare as he received last season when he started to smack home runs at a greater clip. This is the skill that can turn a good player into something special, and it appears unlikely that Jason Castro will become such a player. After a terrible 2007 draft, the popular refrain is that the Astros wanted a sure thing in 2008 and Castro offered just the sort of low risk proposition that the organization wanted. On one hand, you can't blame the Astros for thinking this way. On the other....we all pretty much do.

In the end, Castro will become the team's first First Round selection since Chris Burke to play a game for the Astros. As Burke never exactly panned out (besides that one tiny postseason HR), Castro will in all likelihood become the first first-rounder since Lance Berkman to become a starter as a position player in the majors. Let that sink in for a second. Stings in all sorts of ways. No wonder why the Royals are taking shots at us. Even I'm getting a little down in the dumps writing this, and I'm supposed to be the overly optimistic one around here!

Optimism...optimism...where can I find some of that? Even something that may never make a bit of difference for the Astros in the long run, but for now looks pretty good...

A-ha! This will do. No link to the exact info, but sign up SABR's Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010, and a free PDF with more stats than you can imagine will be yours forever and ever. Therein is the optimism that I've been grasping for. Like most treasures, I had to dig deep to find it, but there it is waaay down in the Rookie League, in our Greenville affiliate. In the Appalachian League, four of the top six players in total walks were Astros property: Jonathan Meyer (36), Miguel Arrendell (35), Jio Mier (30) and Aaron Bray (28). So there ya go. Let's end on a positive note.