As was noted over the weekend, Geoff Blum was placed on the disabled list and Jason Bourgeois was recalled from Round Rock. Also, to make up for the shallow catching situation in the high minors, the Astros bought catcher Edwin Bellorin from the Royals. I say "bought" instead of "traded" because the trade was for cash considerations. Basically, the Astros said "We'll pay you five dollars if you give us Bellorin." It may or may not have been more than five dollars, but you get the gist. This was a transaction, not a trade.
It also doesn't mean much, other than J.R. Towles is either really hurt or really in the dog house. He just can't get untracked with this organization and I could see the Astros trading him for a minor leaguer within the next year.
I liked seeing Bourgeois getting called up, since he was named the TCB Hitter of the Week. He doesn't provide much in the way of lineup impact, because he's only an upgrade over Carlos Lee. Since Lee will be in the starting lineup until it drives all of us crazy, there's not a chance for Bourgeois to be more than a fifth outfielder.
The Blum move also makes sense for the Angel Sanchez trade. I'll be honest. I like Ozzie Navarro just fine, but I have doubts about him being the starter. He just hasn't shown enough defensively or with his bat to justify playing regularly. At least Sanchez has flashed good to great defense in his big league past. I can live with a all-glove, no-bat shortstop for a while until either Manzella gets back...Wait, isn't Manz--nah, I'd rather not finish that thought...
The last domino in these moves is that Yordany Ramirez was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Sanchez. We've speculated for a while that this could be a possibility, since Ramirez had fallen out of favor with the organization on account of his bat and a pathological resistance to walks. Round Rock is down to three outfielders, but I don't see the Astros bringing anyone up from Corpus.
For one, Bourgeois will be back with the Express in a few weeks. Secondly, Ramirez wasn't a starter in the first place this season, so Round Rock is only having to replace its fourth outfielder. That's not hard to do and isn't really a job for someone like J.B. Shuck or Jon Gaston. Lastly, the Express have a host of utility players who can fill the gaps. With Collin DeLome on the disabled list (but on his way back soon), the Express have a ton of infielders playing in the outfield. Guys like Ramon Vasquez, Luis Maza and Matt Kata can all play on the corners if needed. It's just one of those roster crunches that is bad in the short term but not bad enough to make drastic moves.
In other news, Willy Taveras was signed again , so we can stop our candlelight vigil to keep him from ending up on the Astros roster. The Braves' newest outfielder now has a chance to be released by a fourth team since spring training began. If you count the trade from the Reds, that's five teams that didn't think Taveras was useful enough to keep around. If I were fired or reassigned five times in four months, I might have some serious self-esteem issues. I guess that's just part and parcel of being a professional athlete.
And the winner is...: Don't think I forgot about our Jason Castro nickname contest. The people have spoken and our winning nickname is...Cast Iron, which nudged out Castro the Astro by two votes. Thanks to Xan, who submitted Cast Iron. As a reward, he wins a 1987 Topps Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner card, which says Gar's "hobbies include playing the guitar." I miss finding out stuff like that on baseball cards.
Thanks to everyone who participated and voted on this ridiculously early attempt to nickname one of the newest Astros. To collect your excellent prize, email me at m.david.coleman AT gmail.com.
More All-Star notes: The other two things I didn't get a chance to mention this morning is that Cesar Cedeno was one of the youngest All-Stars ever when he made his debut in 1974 at the ripe age of 21. Cedeno was the youngest Astro to appear in an ASG and the 24th youngest player ever. Pretty impressive accolades. If only T.J. Steele can start living up to those same expectations...
Also, you may have noticed that Jose Valverde made the American League All-Star team but Matt Lindstrom did not. This may lead you to believe that the Astros got the worse end of that trade-off. Make no mistake, the Astros came out ahead. If they hadn't let Valverde walk, they never would have ended up with the 19th overall pick, which netted them possibly the second-best pitching prospect in the system in Mike Foltynewicz. They also wouldn't have added the bat of Mike Kvasnicka. While it'll take a few years to see whether those two make even a small impact in the majors, it's clear the Astros got good value for letting Valverde walk.
Berner's big night: I've made no secret of my feelings about David Berner. For some reason, I have liked this guy since he was drafted last season. Every thing I have read about him is positive. He's got a great makeup, it seems, even if his arm is a little short. Still, he's thrived (relatively) in Lancaster as the closer, which is admirable and looks like another solid relief arm picked up later in the draft by Bobby Heck.
Why do I bring all this up? Because of this article, by a writer who's known Berner since childhood. As someone who writes a lot of boring copy for newspapers and tries to write slightly more exciting game stories here, I really loved the descriptors in this story. I mean, a game-ending triple play on a warning-track fly ball is pretty amazing, but the way it was described reads like the best kind of baseball poetry.
He loudly smacked a towering fly ball, arcing high, tremendously high into the black midsummer night sky, and slicing toward the right field corner.
Jethawks right fielder Brandon Barnes raced back, and to his left, further back, and further to his left, tracking the monster fly, rapidly moving closer and closer to the high wooden fence—colorfully festooned with advertisements—320 feet from home plate at the foul line.
The baseball came down, angrily hissing with velocity, and Barnes leaped high for it.
I'm a geek about the English language sometimes. I just love reading and writing, trying to hone that skill whenever I can. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to try and work "angrily hissing with velocity" into one of the Little League stories I write in the coming days. It'll probably be cut from the story, but that's a great line, isn't it?
Let's get Stephen a job: The Baseball Chronicle has a long article on some of the saberists working for big league teams. I'll join the guys over at THE BOOK in being blown away that Victor Wang is only 19! I based a lot of my trade value columns on his work in prospect valuation. To think he was doing that in high school when I was writing mediocre short stories and railing against the letter "W," is a bit humbling.
That's not the main point I wanted to make, though. I think the Astros need an employee to help them with all these new-fangled stats and I think that man should be Stephen.
What's not to like? He can be caustic, he would constantly rip on Ed Wade in the break room, which I'm sure Tal Smith would enjoy. He could buddy up to Alyson Footer and help her with her blogging duties. He might even throw in some contract negotiation help through his economics background. So, let's start the campaign! TCB for Stephen! TCB for Stephen! If you can change, and I can change, then the Astros can change!
Erstad working again: Thanks to Astros County for finding this note about Darin Erstad, who was recently hired to coach the Nebraska baseball team. Well, hired may be a strong description, as Erstad will be a volunteer assistant. Still, it means he's less likely to be signed by Ed Wade AND he gets to help out a Nebraska baseball program that's fallen on hard times.
Why do I care? Well, for one, my wife is from Nebraska, which means I now hear about Nebraska sports a lot more than I did before. It also helps score points with the father-in-law if I know a thing or two about his team. Second, the Aggies are coached by Rob Childress, who was the pitching coach at Nebraska before taking the A&M job. Childress was PC under Dave Van Horn when he was the manager of the Huskers. Van Horn left after the 2002 season and Childress followed after the 2005 season. Since then, Nebraska has had just two 40-win seasons, and that was in 2006 and 2008. The past two have been at or under .500, which is pretty bad in college baseball terms.
Maybe Erstad can teach the kids how to be "gritty." That's probably what they need to get back over the hump...
Speaking of Astros County, they're having a really neat contest right now to Adopt-A-Minor Leaguer. You can go vote for who you want over there, but if there's enough interest here, we can also do something similar here after his voting has ended. I see no reason why two minor leaguers can't share some support from our online Astros fans, right?
Drabek throws no-hitter: Speaking of those minor leagues, Kyle Drabek threw a no-hitter in Double-A over the weekend. It must have been a nice sign for Toronto, seeing as both of the other players involved in that huge three-team, but not quite three team swap were both selected to the All-Star team on Sunday (Halladay and Lee). Drabek is a nice prospect, but is no sure bet to one day be one of the best players in his league. Did the Blue Jays get enough value for Halladay if they just got one player who could help them out in the future?
Extrapolating that out for the Astros: would you rather get one sure-fire All-Star in an Oswalt deal or three players who have the potential to be solid starters. Do you want excellence? Or does slightly less with more volume make up for it? Going further, since the Rangers and Astros have apparently agreed to the two minor leaguers that would be included in the Oswalt deal, do you have any guesses to who those two would be?
Lyles given some high praise: In this notes column by John Sickels, he discusses Jordan Lyles. Specifically, he wonders why Lyles isn't getting more love from scouts and wonders if it's because of his fastball velocity. Since he's got everything else you could want in a pitcher (athleticism, control, feel of multiple pitches), why isn't he getting more love?
We like him around here, but seeing that Lyles could soon be a Top 10 and possibly a Top 5 pitching prospect is really exciting. It's things like this that will quickly reverse opinions on the Astros farm system.
Update on Slingin' Sammy: Lastly, Bernardo Fallas briefty talks with Sammy Gervacio about how he's been since going on the disabled list back in April. The news is not encouraging.
Basically, Gervacio has had multiple cortisone shots and it's still bothering him. I wonder when the Astros will decide to shut him down and have surgery. This doesn't really seem like a problem that will fix itself with rest. Since the bullpen is one area of strength, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Gervacio had to miss the rest of the season, as Alberto Arias already has. I'd rather see them both healthy for next season than risking more injury by continuing to pitch.