Let's start off with some good news. We have a winner in the Beyond Batting Average book contest from last week. As a reminder, we asked all you TCBers to pick which Astro with at least 10 plate appearances would post the highest wOBA over the six games last week.
Jason Michaels took the prize, at .586 in 13 PAs, but no one guessed Michaels. Second on the list was Hunter Pence at .407 wOBA. Three people guessed correctly on Pence, including titansfan4ever, playmaker173 and mr. manager.
As a tiebreaker, I asked that everyone submit the number of runs that the Astros would score over that stretch of games. Mr. manager nailed the answer exactly with 21 runs scored and is our contest winner!
He will get a hard copy of the book mailed to him to enjoy. Congratulations mr. manager!
For those of you who didn't win, you can always go buy this great book here. Thanks for everyone who participated!
Encarnacion coming to Houston?: The Toronto Blue Jays designated 27-year old third baseman Edwin Encarnacion for assignment Monday. This was a little confusing, since it just took him off the 40-man roster, since he had a minor league option remaining and was already at Triple-A. However, he's now on waivers and free to be plucked by any team that's interested.
Monday on Twitter, Jason Collete speculated that the Astros should go after Encarnacion. I responded that they may as well just give the job to a younger player in Chris Johnson, to which he replied that Johnson's .319 OBP as a minor leaguer isn't promising.
We could both probably agree that the Astros could easily fit both players on the roster if they ever decide to dump Pedro Feliz. The main reason why they won't go after Encarnacion is that he's owed 2.7 million dollars this season. With all the money the Astros have shelled out to this point, for a 100-loss team, I don't see them adding another couple million for a backup third baseman.
What do you think? Could Encarnacion help the team at third base?
Velasquez to sign: We covered this a little in Monday's Notes, but thanks to some great news-hounding by Subber10, we have a report that Astros second-round pick Vincent Velasquez is about to sign. That would leave just six players in the top 20 rounds (23 players in all) unsigned. Who are these masked men? DDJ, Austin Wates, Adam Plutko, Evan Grills, Davis Duren and JaCoby Jones. I imagine Jones and Plutko won't sign, but I expected both Wates and Duren to be no-doubters. Both are college juniors who have the option to go back to school, but neither had signability concerns.
Duren seems like the perfect player to add some depth to the system, as a patient and quick second baseman, who can lead off. While there's a chance they decided not to sign him after moving Wates and DDJ to the position, why would you take him that high if you didn't intend to sign him? The other option is that Duren is injured and the Astros are waiting to see how he does in the summer leagues. Neither of those theories feels right to me, but I'll be interested to know what happens in the next few weeks.
More Castro reactions: Astros County does a good job fisking Jason Grey's article on Stanford hitters. The basic premise is that Stanford coaches its hitters for flat, line-drive swings. The article goes on to talk about how bad this theory is for players, how it limits their power potential and hurts their pro potential.
Zachary Levine does a nice job featuring Castro in Tuesday's Chronicle, but from the opposite view. He even discusses a change in Castro's batting approach:
"I made a little adjustment in my swing, and it really helped me get real efficient with the fastball," Castro said.
The change was in his back elbow, which aided his approach to the fastball on the inner half of the plate. "He was much quicker to the ball and is now able to drive the ball to all parts of the field," assistant general manager for player development Ricky Bennett said in an e-mail.
I still think Castro will be defined more for the number of doubles he hits than the number of home runs. People have been quick to discount his power, but 40-50 doubles a season would put him in good company. By looking at Baseball Reference's Play Index, there have only been 16 seasons in the past 50 years where a catcher has hit 40 or more doubles. All of them were considered very good hitters, including guys like Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons and Brian McCann. Jason Varitek also pops up on the list once, but averaged just under 30 doubles over a seven year period starting in 1999. With his plus defensive skills and a good on-base percentage, Castro could easily have a career similar to 'Tek's.
Finally, here's a good overview of what Castro might (and might not) mean for the Astros this season by Joel Roza over at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Some hyperbole, sure, but the points about how Castro's ceiling will be overestimated by fans is a good one. I don't necessarily agree that Castro's defense will just be "average," but, hey, that's why no one pays me to scout, right?
Kvasnicka, Tri-City begin with a bang: We talked about some of this over the weekend, but I wanted to get a roundup here. Supplemental first round pick Mike Kvasnicka hit a home run and a double in his debut with the ValleyCats last Friday. He started in right field in three of the first four games, starting Sunday's at third base. Unfortunately, he went 0 for 10 in the last three games with two walks, one run scored, six strikeouts, and one RBI.
Fifth-round pick Ben Heath did a little better in his debut, going 1 for 3 in all three games he's played this weekend. Heath didn't have any extra-base hits, but he did walk once and struck out three times. He also scored one run and drove in two more.
There was good and bad out of Tri-City's first four games. Hopefully, there will be more of the former and less of the latter.