Some things to talk about while Jeff Banister works some maturity magic on DDJ...
1) Shortstops and scouting
We're right in the middle of prospect season, when outlets release top minor league lists and we at TCB put together our own Top 30 list.
With that comes all sorts of scouting jargon. You'll read about ceilings, tools, bat speed, throwing motions and a whole lot of other points that don't usually come up in a baseball broadcast. They're old hat for writing about draft prospects or minor leaguers, though.
One of the biggest things that get discussed in evaluations is a question Kiley McDaniel tackles at FanGraphs. Can he stick at short?
McDaniel delves into it deeply and it's a fascinating read. As you go through lists and read about prospects, it's worth keeping this in mind. The passage I'm going to excerpt, though, deals more specifically with the Astros. Or it will.
When you drill down or talk to a scout who is really paying attention, you'll hear it pointed out that Martin makes a number of mental errors and lapses in focus to where he's clearly behind Bregman as a defender currently. Bregman is a smaller guy that is a tick slower, doesn't have flashy actions and has been projected as a pro second baseman or catcher his whole amateur career for these reasons.
That said, Bregman makes every play and to make up for his merely okay range, he charges almost every ball hit to him and has sure hands, making nearly every play. Martin has always had a light bat and was almost benched as a sophomore, but had a breakout offensive summer on the Cape, so now he's seen as a complete prospect that likely goes in the top 50 picks. Some scouts are a little wary of the short track record of offensive success and the inconsistency on defense, so it'll be interesting to track the scouting consensus and actual results for these two SEC shortstops.
In the years under Jeff Luhnow, the Astros appear to get this. Many of their player acquisition strategies revolve around this. Think about Marwin Gonzalez, who was traded for out of the Rule 5 draft very early in Luhnow's tenure. Think about the first time Houston acquired Jed Lowrie. Or the second time they did it.
Think about those draft picks, like Nolan Fontana or Carlos Correa. Players exactly like what McDaniel describes, guys who don't wow you physically on the field and who got dumped in that "won't stick at short" bucket early on.
Yet, Correa at least has shown he can stay at the position and most scouts have come around on that. Fontana still hasn't won anyone over, but played 25 of his 60 games in Corpus at short.
He, and Correa, will get a chance there because of the anti-Villar principle. They make plays, even if they don't look flashy doing it. It's what Miguel Tejada did in Houston oh, so many years ago. At shortstop, consistency may be more valuable than highlight-reel plays.
That's why, when Anthony puts together his "Very Luhnow Prospects" list, I'll be interested to see where Alex Bregman falls on it. Seems like, defensively, he fits what Houston values very nicely.
2) Jeff Bagwell back?
The Houston Chronicle had a story on its website yesterday about the possibility of Jeff Bagwell returning to a role with the team.
Bagwell, the Astros' all-time home run leader, has been estranged from the organization since he walked away from his personal services' contract with then-owner Drayton McLane in 2010.
"I just didn't like the direction it was going," Bagwell said.
Bagwell's stance has softened a bit since Hinch reached out to him via text this month to inquire about setting up dinner or lunch early in 2015. Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Bagwell's longtime agent Barry Axelrod also have urged Bagwell to consider a return.
I'd love for this to happen. Bagwell had a rough go of it a few years back, with the Brown Hand Center trial exposing some of his personal life that he'd probably rather have covered. Maybe now that the controversy has settled down a bit, he's more willing to embrace a public role.
Certainly, having him and Biggio helping out in the front office would be a huge boon for the perception of this club. Whether that translates to any qualitative difference in the team? That's a different story.
Also, I really kinda like A.J. Hinch.
3) Brett Myers country album
I'm just going to leave this here. You can take it or send it back. Up to you.
Mind you, this is no #HamRumors, but it's in the running for best 3 Things entry of 2014. I know what I'll be listening to tonight as we count down to midnight.
Brett Myers, singing Shake it Off. Obviously.
Or, is that not the country music he's singing? Is Taylor Swift not still country?
I'm so old.