It wasn't just TCB that reacted to the Astros roster moves on Sunday. Alyson Footer wrote on her blog that she was surprised by the moves. Footer conveyed the same sense in the postgame show, since he had said before the game that she didn't expect Johnson to be called up until September.
Brian McTaggart thought these moves were "exciting" and a "watershed moment" for the team. Zachary Levine came down on the other side of that thought, saying these moves may have impact in 2011 and beyond, but that the Astros haven't been relevant enough this season to warrant optimism.
That's also what Aaron Gleeman says over at HardballTalk. He takes McTaggart to task for being so optimistic about Castro and Johnson. Where do I stand?
I think Gleeman has a bit of the national bias against this Astros team. While it's easy to declare Castro as an "overdraft" and talk about his "disappointing" offensive production, that oversimplifies his overall impact. By simply getting on base at a better clip than most of this team, he provides an instant impact. Did you realize that Berkman leads the team in on-base percentage at .341? That's unacceptable and is probably a big reason why this team struggles to score runs. Castro will probably be as good defensively as Quintero and definitely will be better than Cash. He also has a chance to be significantly better than Q. Both of those should help the Astros in ways that simple power production (which Stanton and Alvarez both offer) might show.
Johnson is a different case. He will not be the second coming of Morgan Ensberg. He will be an upgrade over Pedro Feliz. When a team is one of the worst in the majors, it needs to have as many players either at or above replacement level as it can. Feliz is playing below replacement level right now. Johnson appears to have the skill set to be better than that. So, he won't make a huge splash, but he will impact this team.
One of the things Stephen, Evan and I talked about at the game Saturday was how this team just deflated our spirits night in and night out. With Castro and Johnson, at least this team can give us fans some measure of hope, even if it is for seasons past this one. That's what rebuilding is all about, right? If anything, it's better than watching Feliz and Cash night after night.
Before we move on, I'd be remiss if I didn't recognize what excellent work OremLK did this weekend, both with his Midseason Top 30 list and his Astros of the Future post. Just some really good writing and information. Wait, the more that I think about it, all he's doing is making it harder and harder for me to impress you people. I don't like that at all...
Comments of the Weekend and Leaderboards: This is how I felt all weekend...
is this a comedy or a horror movie we’re watching?
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Baseball Beginnings on Vincent Velasquez: Here's a snippet from John Klima's mailbag post recently:
Dear BB: You fine folks are leaving out the best California Inland Empire switch-hitting shortstop/right-handed pitcher, Vincent Velasquez out of Garey High in Pomona. Only 17, already signed letter with Cal State Fullerton. But he ain’t going to Fullerton, look for Houston to offer him some bank in the fourth round.
BB: Yes, Houston did draft him. Velasquez was a player we covered at Area Codes, Fall Ball, and the Compton workout. I was impressed with his defense and we did publish video on him. I never had the chance to go out and see him again in high school ball, partly because he was not feeling strong and the fastball velocity was only 86-91. So there were guys throwing better in the spring that I needed to see. There was never a question here that he was a pro prospect. I do know that he’s talked about dreaming of playing shortstop for Cal State Fullerton. I’m not going to say which he is until he decides, then I’ll break him down. I will say that if he goes out as a hitter and struggles, you can almost 100 percent expect to see him tried on the mound.
This was a bit of a puzzling pick, but not one I immediately disliked. Velasquez is converting to the mound and has a pretty firm commitment to Fullerton. I said a couple weeks ago that I didn't expect the Astros to sign both Plutko and Velasquez. If Houston doesn't ink Velasquez, they at least get a compensation pick in next year's draft.
It does worry me a little that one of the most informed amateur scouts in California felt like Velasquez wasn't a good enough prospect to go see him over others. I trust the Astros scouting department, but that's a bad omen in my book.
Beyond the Box Score talks Astros: Satchel Price has a list of the best pitchers to switch teams in the offseason by fWAR. Not surprisingly, Brett Myers makes it at No. 4, though no mention is made of Ed Wade's competence in the move. Instead, if he's mentioned, it's like Aaron Gleeman's portrayal of him as "mistake-prone." For some reason, this bugs the crap out of me. You can't make fun of my GM. Only I can make fun of my GM...
Price also discussed some odd facts around the league, including a trio of Carlos's (Lee, Pena and Quentin). He also included Jose Bautista and Aaron Hill. Here's what he had to say:
All five have BABIP's at .217 or lower, which certainly accounts for their awful batting averages. Although we probably shouldn't be that surprised, all three of them have career BABIP's below the league average (particularly Quentin's .249 mark, jeez..), and none of these players are exactly known as lightning-quick line drive machines.
Lee's BABiP is probably a big reason why his average is so down, but does that mean he should rebound by a lot? His home run rate is not too far off previous seasons and his strikeout rate is quite elevated, but other than that, it's a normal season for Lee, with a terrible batting average. Not sure how much improvement he'll make in the coming months.
DeShields the Elder talks about DDJ: Here's a story on Delino DeShields, talking about when he was drafted by the Montreal Expos back in 1987 (h/t to AstrosCounty). Of note is his comments on DDJ's contract situation.
Now, the higher picks, they’re all kind of posturing, waiting for one another to sign. It’s just a waiting game right now. But I’m looking forward to him getting his career started. I’m hoping something will happen here in the next few days.
I was actually thinking about this same thing the other day, on whether baseball draft picks were playing the same games football players do. I know baseball has a slotting system, but for high picks, it matters what other guys sign for. I'm sure DDJ is just doing his due diligence, but I expect he'll be signed by this weekend.
Injuries, both real and imagined: Word came out this weekend that Jeff Fulchino has been battling some problems, which can explain his performance drop this season. Here's what he had to say:
"I've been having issues with throwing breaking balls," Fulchino said. "I can't really throw my slider in there really hard, and it hurts when I throw it."
The MRI he had done didn't show any strutural damage to suggest a bigger injury, but there was a lot of inflammation and some "loose bodies." Looks like the Astros are treating it, possibly with a cortisone injection. These are not good signs for the Astros bullpen. But, at least we have a tangible explanation why Fulchino has been terrible.
As for Wandy? We've all speculated that his problems could be due to injury. What if they're also due to a "mental block." The book on him in the past is that he fell apart when things started going bad. If he's lost some zip on his fastball, could that translate into less confidence and a regression to pre-2009 form? What if he is injured? When will the Astros pull the plug and get him checked out?
Farmstros Twitter Kus pass milestone: Over the weekend, Farmstros passed the 1,500 syllable mark in his quest to 3,000 syllables. Here's the record-setting piece of poetry:
Castro gets the callHis future battery-mate?In Corpus tonight
Farmstros is on pace to break his syllable mark by Labor Day weekend and will pass 2,000 syllables on July 24th at the Dell Diamond. If you're in the Austin area, feel free to stop by the game against the Iowa Cubs and possibly see how the magic happens.