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From Blog to Book: The 2016 Houston Farm System Handbook

Since that first player interview in December 2011, Jayne Hansen has traveled countless miles, watched dozens of minor league games in person, conducted almost 250 interviews with Astros minor league and major league players, coaches, managers, front office staff and others, taken thousands of photographs and has otherwise immersed herself in the Astros minor league system. The depth of her knowledge can be found in the "2016 Houston Farm System Handbook," a reference work that includes profiles on 273 players in the Astros system.

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t remember how many seasons ago I met Jayne Hansen. I know this, the Astros were really bad, she had just started her blog, What the Heck Bobby, about the Astros minor leagues, and I had no interest in reading it.

Brutal, right? I’ve never been a big follower of the minors, in large part because you had to really work, to really want it to get the information that was interesting and meaningful. Jayne and her blog greatly changed that for me.

In a time when fans of the Houston Astros didn’t have a lot of fun at major league games watching a team that was horrifyingly bad, Jayne focused on the talent that was to come, the restocking of the farm, and the strategy behind the draft.

These days, Jayne still writes about the minor leagues of the Astros’ organization on the blog, but for the second year in a row, she’s also put a book out covering what’s going on in the minors. I asked her a bit about what fired her up to write it and what she’s up to next:

What prompted you to write an Astros minor league handbook?

After traveling extensively to several of the Astros minor league venues over the last few seasons, I found that I always ended up with tons of information from talking to coaches, players and minor league staff that never quite made it into the blog. The book evolved as I tried to make use of the information I've gleaned and the contacts I've made over the last five years.

Do you really have profiles on 273 players in the Astros system?

More or less, yes. There are a handful of international players who haven't played yet and there's not a lot of information available on them, but I've written full profiles on the rest, including stats for regular season, post-season and the player's most recent winter campaign; awards, honors and rankings for the player; links to photos, interviews and video of the player; and a narrative that includes my take on the player, along with any information obtained from coaches and fellow players.

That's a lot of information!

Yeah, I kind of got carried away. In concept, the project went from a simple handbook with basic player info to what it is now, an Astros minor league media guide on steroids!

What kind of feedback have you gotten on the book?

This is my second year of writing the book. Last year I got great feedback from Bill Brown and Steve Sparks, among others, and I was on cloud nine! This year, James Yasko at Astros County left a review saying that the information was "staggering," but presented in an easy to read format. That made me particularly happy because I tried so hard to make it a fun read.

Is there anything in the book for fans of advanced metrics?

Yes, I included BABIP for all the players and FIP for all the pitchers, as well as wOBA and WRC+ for selected players. Advanced metrics for the minor leagues can be both hard to come by and somewhat hit or miss as to being meaningful, particularly at the lower levels, but I wanted to include something for the statheads out there.

Are there any players that you singled out in the book that a casual minor league fan may not be familiar with?

Absolutely! I've always felt like anybody can write about top prospects like A.J. Reed and Francis Martes because there is so much information available on them. I've always tried to find those under the radar guys (like Tyler White and Chris Devenski) and there are plenty of them in the organization. A good season from RHP Dean Deetz (Lancaster) should propel him up the prospect rankings. And you have to root for someone like IF Jack Mayfield (Corpus Christi), a non-drafted free agent from 2013 who was a California League All-Star in 2015 alongside A.J. Reed (and who's gotten off to a terrific start in 2016). And the depth of talent coming from Latin America is nothing short of extraordinary. Astros Director of International Oz Ocampo has done a tremendous job with the international signings. But again, I like to look beyond the higher profile players like Gilberto Celestino and Miguelangel Sierra. I'm particularly enamored of 18-year Mexican right-hander Juan Robles and toolsy Dominican OF Andy Pineda. There are so many fascinating players to watch coming through the Astros Dominican Academy right now.

Where can people buy your book?

The 2016 Houston Farm System Handbook

2016 Houston Farm System Handbook
is available on Amazon. It can be downloaded to your desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone and is compatible with both Android and iOS (by downloading the free kindle app). You can also read it in the cloud by downloading the free kindle cloud reader.

There you have it – go buy and read the book, head over and check out What the Heck Bobby and remember that when things are tough on the field in Houston, there’s a whole lot of talent still to come!