Sorry, folks, lost the second and third parts to this last night when I tried to write it on my mobile. Was too disheartened last night to finish it up, but I'll attempt to recreate now. Just know what I had yesterday for the last two items was MUCH better...
1) Levine leaving
This has kind of been a bummer of a week, what with the J.D. news yesterday and now word that Zachary Levine is leaving the Chronicle. They've already got his replacement lined up, one Brian Smith from the Salt Lake Tribune, where he covered the Jazz.
You may have noticed that I'm a big fan of Z's writing. He's been great ever since he started at the Chronicle as the resident stats guy, back when McTaggart and JJO had the beat. Since then, he's been part of a new wave of beat writers who talk about advanced stats without sneering. His nuanced take on things, his well-crafted writing and his sense of humor will all be missed.
I got to know Zachary a little this season at games. He's been good to the site, coming on to talk about things on the podcast. So, there's a personal sense of loss to this deal too. But, I also completely understand. The newspaper business isn't exactly robust, and if something comes up, like it did for Steve Campbell earlier this year, I can't blame people for jumping. Not sure what Zachary's situation is, but I think I can join all of us here at TCB in wishing him well.
The only problem is that a TON of talent has left the professional ranks covering this team lately. From Cambell to Footer to Richie Justice and many others, there's been a talent drain there. New people are good, as Clark Goble has shown on MLB.com, but you can't expect it to work out every time. New people also don't have the instant rapport with a team like many of you on this site do, from following it so closely. That's also not a bad thing, but it may lead to some frustration early.
If there's a silver lining, it's that the Astros blogosphere is thriving. We here at TCB are not going away. In fact, we will only be adding to our great staff in the coming months. Astros County, Houston Counterplot, Climbing Tals Hill, What the Heck, Bobby? and so many others give the Astros a diverse set of online talent to discuss this team and catch things others may not. Which is exactly as it should be.
2) Astros fire catching coordinator
Courtesy of Brian McTaggart, we find out that the Astros have parted ways with minor league catching coordinator Danny Sheaffer. He had been in the system since 2009, so there's no telling what the reason for this is, whether it's part of the overall restructuring that the baseball operations side has been going through or just Luhnow wanting to bring in more of his own minor league people.
However, I did have an intriguing thought about this. Since we've talked before about how Mike Fast has been working on pitch framing and how it affects a catcher's play, could this be a part of that? I mean, it's not like the catching prospects Houston had were any great shakes. Some of the more promising ones have really slowed when they hit the upper levels of the minors.
But, if Fast were able to make use of the video on catching prospects he's able to get, don't you think he could do a good job determining which guys excel at that himself? Further, wouldn't it give Houston an edge if he could then try and teach said catchers how to frame pitches better? I'm not sure his work is in that stage, or if it will ever help that much, but it's a very intriguing application to something we know Houston has in it's hip pocket.
3) No. 1 pick talk
Apparently, it's the season to start throwing out potential names for the No. 1 overall pick, since Houston has it sewn up and all. Of course, just like last year, Houston native and Stanford pitcher Mark Appel is already in the conversation, since he's really good, throws the ball hard and is in the draft again.
Personally, I don't think that drafting Appel is in Luhnow and Mike Elias' style, but that's just me. If they can get Appel on the cheap this year? Yeah, they might pull the trigger, saving money for later on like they did this year and gaming the system a little more.
No offense to Appel, who is a good pitcher and should have a healthy MLB career, but he's not at the top of my draft board right now. As I mentioned on the podcast (or maybe I didn't, coulda been another "after" conversation Tim creepily taped), I lean towards position players, and the guy that's really impressed in that regard is Clint Frazier. I've heard some raves about him already and how strong his wrists are to the ball. He's got five tools already, has a very strong arm in the outfield and should develop good power. He'd make a very intriguing 1-2 punch with Carlos Correa. Dare I say, almost Griffey/A-Rod-like? Nahh...that'd be unfair. I think if Frazier could turn into Justin Upton, we'd be pretty happy with him there, though.
It's a long time before the spring, even, so we have plenty of time to diagnose who's going where, which names are in the mix and which college or high school guys pop up. Remember, we didn't even have Carlos Correa on the radar at this time last year. Well, maybe Sean did, but he's basically a draft guru at this point.
What do you think? Does taking Appel this year make sense? Would you like to build up the rotation a little with a guy who's got a great shot at getting to the big leagues quickly?