Thursday, March 31, 2016

Opening Day Decisions are O.D.D.

Welcome Raymond Desadier to WTHB as he pens his first contribution (the first of many, I hope!). And give him a follow on twitter @desadier19.

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Each new baseball season brings another year of fans questioning the decisions made by their favorite team. While it would seem to the casual observer that the opening day roster should be filled with the 25 best players or, at the very least, the 25 most deserving based on prior performance as well as spring statistics, it is never that simple.

For the Astros, there will be some very deserving players making AAA Fresno their home at the outset of the 2016 season, but this does not mean they will not be contributing at some point in 2016. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch are tasked with managing their roster to be successful over a 162 game marathon rather than merely winning the first week in April. This coupled with contractual restrictions limits them on who stands on the chalk line on April 6, and leads to some ODD decisions.

A.J. Reed - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Take Wandy Rodriguez for example: while he did have a remarkable spring until a rough outing Monday, there are others such as Michael Feliz, James Hoyt (despite Wednesday's tough outing), and Chris Devenski who you could argue are more deserving of a roster spot and offer greater upside. However, the Astros brass are planning for the entire season and would much rather have all four of these arms at their disposal. Wandy’s veteran status has earned him the right to decline minor league assignments so the only way to ensure he remains an Astro is to put him on the 25-man roster at the outset.

While it is likely disappointing for Feliz, Hoyt, Devenski, and others to miss out on the Opening Day festivities, they can still be difference makers. Take Carlos Correa for example: he did not make it to Houston until June yet still became a key factor in making playoffs en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.

Speaking of Rookie of the Year candidates, one could also argue A.J. Reed deserves to be the Opening Day first baseman after an impressive spring. While most anyone will agree Reed has greater upside than Tyler White, White has earned the job not only this spring but also with his career performance. He deserves the shot not only to send a message to all Astros farmhands that their hard work will be rewarded, but also to determine just what he can do in the major leagues. If White continues to hit the way he has then he could be the designated hitter of the future, or stay at first should Reed turn out to be a bust. At the very least, he could perform well enough to become a valuable asset to trade. Adding both to the roster would be detrimental to their development because they both need to be in the lineup every day.

The same could be said of Colin Moran at third base. While Luis Valbuena is an outstanding defender and is capable of belting 25 home runs, his hitting still leaves much to be desired. However, Valbuena is a known quantity, and a team in contention would much rather have someone like him than an unknown such as Moran. The rebuild is over: we are playing for keeps now!

Something else to consider: spring statistics are extremely misleading. Rarely does the star of the Grapefruit League go on to win the MVP or Cy Young. Asher Wojciechowski had an outstanding performance in Spring 2015 but struggled mightily during the regular season in Houston. Sure Devenski has dominated and Reed and Moran have raked, but none of them have played a regular season game in AAA. Even players with extensive AAA experience struggle at the top level so it is naïve to think any of these players are the exception.

There are also the financial ramifications of them becoming Super Two players, which results in having to pay these players millions rather than thousands of dollars a year earlier. Whether you object to this strategy or not, the fact of the matter is Jim Crane and Luhnow are running a business and avoiding Super Two status is a sound business decision.

So while you may find some of the Opening Day Decisions rather ODD, just know there is a method to the madness.

Raymond Desadier
3/30/16

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Minor League Releases: 3/28

This is the part I hate. Particularly when I've had the pleasure of interviewing (and getting to know) six of the names on the list. Tyler Brunnemann is, apparently, being picked up by the Angels organization. I hope to see the rest get an opportunity with another affiliate as well.

LHP Steve Naemark - Released 3/28
RHP Jose Montero - Released 3/28
1B/OF Ryan Bottger - Released 3/28
RHP Kyle Westwood - Released 3/28
RHP Tyler Brunnemann - Released 3/28
RHP Austin Chrismon - Released 3/28
C Brian Holberton - Released 3/28
LHP Jordan Mills - Released 3/28
OF Sean McMullen - Released 3/28
RHP Samil de los Santos - Released 3/21

I wish each and every one of them the best of luck.


UPDATE 3/31: Per Evan Drellich, IF Joe Sclafani, RHP Travis Ballew, and RHP Jake Buchanan have also been released. Buchanan has agreed to a Minor League deal with the Cubs.

UPDATE 4/2: After scouring the transactions pages of all the affiliates on MiLB.com, RHPs Zac Grotz and Michel Martinez were released.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Astros Farm Report: 3/28

I opine on the Singleton/White and Heineman/Pena situations below. But first things first ...

WISHING A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO

3-28: IF Marcos Almonte (20)
3-30: SS Alex Bregman (22)
3-30: OF Jake Marisnick (25)
4-1: OF Cesar Cortez (17)

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Astros Farm Twitter is in good shape for the season!




TRANSACTIONS

I heard from a good source that a few minor league players were released over the weekend, but the only moves that have been confirmed are the following. I will post further information when it has been verified.

LHP Neal Cotts - Released 3/25
RHP Troy Scribner - Traded to the Angels for cash considerations 3/26

NEWS AND LINKS

When I wrote last week's Farm Report, Tyler White was hitting .344/.389/.500. Four games later, make that .366/.460/.585. I know that it's "only Spring Training," but Holy Toledo!!!

Honestly, I do believe that Jon Singleton will get it together and will have a long, successful major league career. But it looks increasingly likely that his career will be with a team other than the Astros. I truly like Singleton personally. Yes, he's made mistakes in the past, but he has worked very hard over the last two years to make up for those mistakes. But, with that said, if he can't get it done at the major league level, he will likely lose that chance for the Astros permanently later this year when A.J. Reed takes that spot and gets his opportunity to show what he can do.

In the meantime, Tyler White has more than proven himself at the plate and has (as I predicted) shown himself to be a serviceable fielder who works hard and gives it his all whether playing at first or third. He can also DH until Evan Gattis makes it back from the DL. Everyone loves an underdog, especially one who is as modest and hard-working as White. Well, White is the ultimate underdog, drafted in the 33rd round in 2013 and possessing a less than optimal physique for the job. I truly hope that he is given the opportunity to show what he can do for the Astros to start the season. He has certainly earned it.

Another question mark as Spring Training winds down is who Houston's backup catcher will be with Max Stassi on the disabled list. I am extremely high on Tyler Heineman, but after much thought, it would probably make more sense for Roberto Pena (I just can't call him Bert!) to get the job IF the Astros decide not to go outside the system. Pena has profiled more as a backup catcher to this point with his bat lagging behind his strong defensive abilities so it would make sense for him to break in to the major leagues in that role. Heineman, on the other hand, has shown a strong enough bat over the years (along with solid defensive abilities) that he should be capable of earning a front line catching position at some point. I think Heineman would benefit from a little more time at AAA to further develop his offense. Then again, I think it is more likely that the Astros go outside the system for a backup backstop, but I believe that they have two very good options in-house.

In other news ...

The ValleyCats crew catches up with Jon Kemmer at Spring Training and brings us this fun interview.

And the love for Tyler White just kept coming with Evan Drellich penning one of his last pieces before moving on. He also weighed in on the backup catcher race.

And this piece just confused me since it was posted last week, but the video (and the story) appeared to be from 2014. Still a good piece on Tyson Perez's roping heritage.

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Nothing but 5-star reviews and this was the best one yet!
How someone can take all this information and keep it organized, let alone readable, is worthy of our admiration. The stats are out there for any of us to find, but few take the time. Luckily, the author, Jayne Hansen, is one of the few. But then she takes the stats and smooths out the edges off with her observations, interviews, and intuition. Like a great general manager, she combines the science and human element into a winning combination. If you are an Astros fan, it's a look into the future. If you are a fan of the Grizzlies, Hooks, et.al., it's what is coming to your town, in some cases in a matter of days. Enjoy!
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