Jason Grey Loves The Astros

Apparently, I made the list of “Latest Leaders” at MLBlogosphere today.  Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what that means, but in honor of my debut at #47, I’ll dedicate today’s post to one of the many great #47s that the Astros have had, Joaquin Andujar:

Joaquin Andujar.jpg

Over at ESPN, fantasy expert Jason Grey has unveiled his list of the top prospects in baseball, based on potential contributions to their Major League teams this season.

It begs the question: What in the world makes someone a fantasy expert?

Rather than answer that question, though, I’d like to talk about the article.  Inclusion in this list is something of a double-edged sword.  While it means that you have some young players that have at least one baseball (ish) writer excited, it must be remembered that this is a list of players expected to contribute this year.

Which means your Major League roster can’t be all that solid, now, can it?

Be that as it may, we Astros fans are ravenous to see our few prospects show up on lists that have numbers next to their names, so even if this was a list of the best fifty minor league baseball players at spelling “dichotomous,” we’d be pleased as punch to see four of our youngsters on the list.

Never mind that one of the guys, Lou Palmisano, may not actually be an Astro this year, since he was a Rule 5 selection.

The names aren’t necessarily new to Astros fans.  In fact, all four players are currently in Spring Training and doing just fine, thank you very much.

Drew Sutton2.jpgTopping the list at #46 is infielder Drew Sutton.  At the moment, Sutton may be best known to Astros fans as the guy with the really embarrassing error in the really embarrassing Spring Training loss to the Mets.  To be fair, he was playing first base – a position where he has spent all of two games since his professional career began in 2004.  In real life, he’s a second baseman who plays some third as well, and has experience at shortstop and, in theory, the aforementioned first base.

Which begs the question: Why in the world would Drew Sutton play first base in a Spring Training game?  The only answer I can come up with is that Cecil Cooper is strongly considering him for a utility infielder role, and wants to see how he does at each infield position.  With Lance Berkman at first base, there’s no hole to fill; Geoff Blum and Darin Erstad are 25-man roster guys who also play the position, and Mark Saccomanno is the minor leaguer most likely to fill in if needed.  So it seems to be purely a matter of seeing how Sutton responds, and getting him as many at-bats as possible this spring.

Bud Norris.jpgNext on Mr. Grey’s list, at #50, is our good friend, pitcher Bud Norris.  Norris is high on management’s list of prospects, and for good reason.  His single inning in Spring Training yielded no hits, no walks, no runs, and two strikeouts.  The article, however, mentions that Norris is largely a sleeper because “Here is the projected Astros rotation behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez as of this writing: Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler and Brandon Backe . And LaTroy Hawkins is Jose Valverde’s primary set-up man.”

He says this as a means of maligning the Astros’ pitching situation.  Normally, I would be all for maligning them, but Hampton is very good when he’s healthy, Moehler pitched very well in 2008, and Backe will probably not be the fifth starter.  And LaTroy Hawkins?  Well, as much as people like to downplay Hawkins as a set-up man, since 2000, he’s only had one season where his ERA+ was under 100.  Even in 2008, after his tumultuous run with the Yankees, he came to Houston and posted the following line:

21.0 IP, 2-0, 0.43 ERA (992 ERA+), 0.762 WHIP, 25 K, 5 BB

Admittedly, a tiny sample size, but it hardly makes one run screaming to the phone to look for Norris as an emergency set-up man.  Hawkins’ career numbers are skewed because he was terrible as a starter and terrible as a closer, but as a set-up man he’s actually been pretty darned good.  His line from 2000-2008 with the Twins, Cubs, Giants, Orioles, Rockies, Yankees, and Astros(which does include some stints as a closer):

612.7 IP, 33-33, 76 SV, 3.35, 1.267 WHIP, 449 K, 192 BB

Not really all that shabby, honestly.  Certainly nothing that means that Bud Norris is likely to replace him as the primary set-up guy.

Christopher Johnson.jpgNext on the list, at #61, is 3B Chris Johnson.  Had you asked me a month ago (and many people did,) I would have told you that Chris needed at least half a year in AAA before he was ready to see action at the major league level.  Then came Spring Training, and so far, he’s looked very comfortable:

6 G, .500/.500/1.000, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 5 RBI

Still very early, but his confidence at the plate – combined with his glove at third base – is likely to keep him in the conversation.

Of course, the article also cited Geoff Blum as the “incumbent at third base” (Blum, though technically an incumbent, was never a full-time starter in Houston… he was a utility infielder while Ty Wigginton was the starter) and Aaron Boone as the backup (Boone is auditioning for a spot, and wasn’t even really considered a favorite coming into camp). 

The third base spot, like fifth starter and catcher, is very much up for grabs.  To label Boone and Blum as the odds-on favorites to play the position is reaching, at best.  Irresponsible at worst.

Lou Palmisano2.jpgLast on the list, at #92, is catcher Lou Palmisano, who the Orioles chose in the Rule 5 draft and gave to the Astros for cash money.  The only problem is that the Rule 5 draft forces a player into waivers if they don’t stay on the roster of the team that drafted them for the entire MLB season.  If they clear waivers, they are returned to the team.  With quite a few options at catcher, the likelihood of the Astros committing o
ne of only two spots to Palmisano, who hasn’t played catcher since 2007 because of a torn meniscus, seems unlikely.  Even with all of our question marks at the position.

His early Spring Training results, 0-for-5 in 3 games, aren’t helping him much.  Grey goes on to note that “even if he is sent back to Milwaukee, there’s a chance he could earn a backup role there.”  However, with Vinny Rottino, Angel Salome, and Mike Rivera – all good hitters – vying for the backup spot behind Jason Kendall in Milwaukee, the likelihood of Palmisano (who’s never played above AA) earning that spot seems far-fetched, at best.


  1. raysrenegade

    Geoff Blum.
    I always thought he had an Astros jersey with his name on it sitting in the Astros Spring Training locker room even if he was playing somewhere else that year.

    He has been a long time fixture with the Astros and hopefully will be with them as a utility guy or stater before he finally hangs up his cleats. Great guy in the clubhouse and loves the fans. What is not to like about the guy.

    Rays Renegade


  2. roundrock15

    Blum is one of my favorite players, but at this point in his career he really isn’t a great option as a starter. He hasn’t posted an OBP over .325 since 2002 (during his first stint as an Astro), and is such a valuable asset as a switch-hitting utility man that you almost hate to see him being eaten up as an everyday position player.

    That said, with his stellar glovework and great attitude, he’s not the worst option at third base in the entire world.


  3. juliasrants

    I think a lot of teams have a number of young players that they are excited about – but are probably looking at for late season call ups or to fill injury vacancies. For the Red Sox, Angel Chavez has looked great at 3rd base and pitcher Michael Bowden has done well. I think it is a good thing to have so many “hot” players – makes it more comfortable in September when bodies need a break before the playoffs.


  4. astrosfaninexile

    Congratulations on your “leaders” thing – I don’t know what it means either, but it’s clearly not an insult. Glad I found your blog. Alyson’s great, but some of the commenters on her blog (including the one by that name) are obnoxious or whiners or both. Some of the ones on the Houston Chronicle Astros blogs are worse. I’m thinking of starting a rumor that “commenter” is actually Richard Justice, posing as a curmudgeonly fan, and laughing his head off. For what it’s worth, I put a link to your blog on my Astros Fan in Exile website Links page. I doubt that anyone has EVERY looked at the link page (my friends/family are just interested in my baseball photos), but the intent was good. 🙂 I can’t wait to get to Kissimmee – by this time 3 weeks from now, I expect to be coming home with about 2500 new Astros photos to process – and post (just the good ones) on my site.

  5. astrosfaninexile

    One thing about looking at the prospects at Spring Training – you really can’t tell from the box score and (miniscule) game reports. A lot of time, especially in home games, they come in after the starters meet their inning/pitch/at-bat count, and then they’re playing against other prospects on the other team. It’s interesting to see how they do on a road trip, when they have a better chance of playing against the other team’s big league roster. On the other hand, it’s a hoot when you go back and look at your Spring Training pictures from a few years back and realize that one of the 3 guys wearing jersey number 91 was actually Hunter Pence up for a cup of coffee.

  6. roundrock15

    AFIE – “Commenter” isn’t just one person. It’s anyone who hasn’t entered a screenname and who comments on the boards. They’re usually jaded and cynical, which is fine. I generally ignore them and don’t challenge them unless there’s a statistical inaccuracy. Personally, I feel MLB.com should require a username before someone can comment.

    ST does give a good look at prospects, and while you can’t judge solely from box scores, there are a lot of things you CAN take a look at. Are they hitting the ball hard? Are they fielding cleanly? Are they working counts? These are skills that will translate to most successful players, no matter who they’re playing against. Contextually, it’s good to know who they got their hits against (or conversely for pitchers, who they faced), but it can be reasonably assumed that ST rosters are made of mostly 40-man roster guys, so the talent level isn’t exactly thin.


  7. astrosfaninexile

    Wish all the ST games were televised – sure would have been nice to have seen Bud Norris’ sweet appearance in that mess against the Rays today! Not quite the same on the radio.

  8. astrosfaninexile

    Wish all the ST games were televised – sure would have been nice to have seen Bud Norris’ sweet appearance in that mess against the Rays today! Not quite the same on the radio.

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