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Friday Astros Minor Thoughts

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Throw another interesting kink in the minor league ballparks coming to the Houston area. This story talks about Montgomery County possibly getting an independant team from the Atlantic League, which could start play as early as 2012. The land for the stadium has already been purchased but construction has not begun.

What would a second Houston-area team mean? Sounds like neither team will be affiliated with a major league club outside of the Astros. Houston also hasn't shown much interest in making either of the two bids into one of its minor league affiliates, leaving the independant route for both.

Independant minor league baseball has a lot of potential, but I'm not sure how well it will do so close to Houston. While the summer league team here in Bryan does well, that probably wouldn't be the case if people could also go watch the Astros. On the other hand, these teams could have a good crop of talent to work with, as there are a ton of college and pro players from the Houston area. All it takes is one guy like Rickey Henderson to play for one of the teams to create some buzz.

This isn't nearly as exciting as having a Double-A or Triple-A affiliate at the doorstep to The Woodlands Mall. I do think, however, that the more clubs a city can support will give Houston a better chance to earn a reputation as a baseball town.

Lots and lots and lots of videos this week. Here's one of Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox. here's one on high school pitcher Chris Sale and another on high school outfielder Josh Sale. Another college third baseman, UConn's Mike Olt, has video here while there's also an update on high school pitcher Dylan Covey. All of these guys are expected to be high picks. The Sale kids and Covey will probably go before the Astros get a chance to pick. Cox, however, might be sliding. His strikeout rate is drawing criticism and the fact that he's batting fifth for the college team means he might slide out of the first round entirely. If the Astros are in position to take him in the second, should they pull the trigger? I'm not convinced that scenario would happen. Some team will bite on his other skills in the first round. Still, anything can happen this early in the draft process.

Finally, one that I was quite pleased to see, Bryan High outfielder Krey Bratsen. I've gotten to see Bratsen play on a few occasions in the past couple seasons and he's definitely got a good skill set with two great ones (speed and defensive range). When I saw him, Bratsen made a great play in center field, running down a ball in the gap that I was sure was falling for a double. One of my friends is the Bryan High beat reporter and he speaks very highly of Bratsen. Said that he's never seen pitchers get as rattled as they do when he gets on base, because his speed is such a threat (at the high school level). Bratsen also seems like a pretty good kid, so he shouldn't have any makeup concerns.

Along with the videos, we have a pair of lists put out by FanGraphs on the Top 50 prospects in the National League and the Top 100 prospects in baseball. The Astros Big Three all made it, as Jason Castro, Jio Mier and Jordan Lyles. What did you think of these? The new minor league guy over there, Brian Smith, has actually been pretty fair to the Astros so far. For instance, look at his take on the future of the organization here.

Looking back at organizational philosophy, it's interesting to see how they've moved away from drafting college players and how that has impacted the organization's future. Under Gerry Hunsicker, the team took chances on a lot of college seniors. This article looks at the development patterns of pitchers in college. Some very interesting concepts came up in the article, talking about possible strengths of schedule for college pitchers and the fact that there is a rising home run rate from freshman to senior year. While players do develop physically as they get older, adding arm strength and pitches. If that's the case, what baseball skills do a player gain by going to college? Couldn't he earn the same things in the minors?

Another article I saw here on an Orioles blog talking about the Rays minor league system. The Astros used to be pretty good about this, and I have the impression that Wade is more willing to push pitchers faster than this. The problem ultimately will be on organizational depth. Sometimes, a team will have no choice but to rush a guy a bit. However, I do like the idea of a team being patient enough with a pitcher that he can come up ready to be an effective major leaguer. While this blog pushes the popular idea that good players don't need Triple-A time. I don't think that's true, however, and hope a guy like Jordan Lyles gets a full season in Corpus and then in Round Rock before he makes his Astros debut. I can wait.

Another topic that Evan brought up recently was the backgrounds of current General Managers. This post takes that on, but from a demographic perspective rather than an educational one. As much as people get the impression that the Theo Epsteins are taking over the world, isn't it a bit surprising to see the average age hasn't changed much?

Last, but not least, here's a great chart from Beyond the Boxscore which looks at Hall of Fame might-have-beens. The Astro of note? Cesar Cedeno, who clearly leads the way on this chart in his best seasons. The sad thing is he had so few. His heir apparent TJ Steele also has a history of injuries. Let's hope he has a slightly longer career.