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For the frequent readers and commenters of my weekly installments of Scouting the Unknown, I am retiring them until this spring. Now, it’s time for the Minor League Reviews.  For those of you who had Grey’s articles and advice to keep your attention away from my articles, during this fall and winter, I will have your undivided attention on Wednesday; well, almost undivided attention – you could always scroll down to Grey’s article, or ask Grey in my article too.

Furthermore, I’m a year wiser hopefully, and this year’s Minor League Review column should hopefully be as helpful as last year (2009 Reds Minor League Review has a pitcher some people rode for a while, as does the Cardinals 2009 Minor League Review). These are definitely worth your time, even if you’re playing in 12 team 5×5 redraft leagues. With that said, I am not Grey, and I will miss a few things from time to time, if not from minute to minute. If you see (or don’t see?) a player that received undue treatment, give it to me in the comments. If a player is unfairly omitted, let me know. I have the resources to give you a quick summary or scouting report still. Without anymore rambling, I give you the first Minor League Review of the 2010-2011 offseason.

Houston Astros 2010 Minor League Review
Overall farm talent ranking via Baseball America (2010)
2010 (30) | 2009 (30) | 2008 (30) | 2007 (22) | 2006 (20) | 2005 (22) | 2004 (29)

Record of Major and Minor League Teams
Majors: [76 – 86] NL Central
AAA: [57 – 87] Pacific Coast League – Round Rock
AA: [63 – 77] Texas League – Corpus Christi
A+: [54 – 86] California League – Lancaster
A: [71– 68] South Atlantic League – Lexington
A(ss): [36– 38] New York Pennsylvania League – Tri-City Vally
R: [31 – 35] Appalachian League – Greenville
R: [20-36] Gulf Coast League – GCL

The Run Down
Another year finished, another year for Houston fans to be disappointed with only a few glimmering hopes amongst the rubble. The trading of Lance Berkman for pitching (Mark Melacon) and infielder prospect (Jimmy Paredes) and Roy Oswalt for essentially Brett Wallace were exactly what this team needed to build again. The team’s first round pick of Delino DeShields Jr. is going to be a long project; he’s fast, and has tools, but people have said that about quite a few high school prospects. Veterans like Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, and Michael Bourn hope that these young(er) prospects can learn quickly. Otherwise, the Astros will be toiling away in the bottom of the NL Central for a couple of years.

Digging back into the Razzball vault, you can see from the 2009 Astros Minor League Review that the Astros farm system has been ranked the worst in baseball two years running, without few positives, even when you include the acquisition of Brett Wallace (which was a good grab). Chris Johnson graduated to the majors unannounced to the mainstream media and became a deep league staple (beware his strikeouts; 91 strikeouts in 341 at-bats) and Bud Norris capitalized on his opportunity and looks poised to be the 2011 Jonathan Sanchez. Jason Castro was nothing more than disappointing while conjuring up images of J.R. Towles. Tommy Manzella was only in the majors because he could play defense (See: Adam Everett), and Sammy Gervacio looked like he could have been a stellar MR.B before getting hurt early (rotators cuff strains). Those are the prospects that affected the majors, while Jiovanni Mier disappointed in the low minors, Jordan Lyles looks like a solid fantasy pitcher in a couple of years (See: Scouting the Unknown), Koby Clemens continued to give the bird to the nay-sayers, and Jose Altuve looks like he may start proving to be a valuable prospect at second. There isn’t much to be excited about. Some talent already in the majors (Wallace, Johnson, possibly Castro), some talent knocking on the doorsteps (Lyles, Clemens and Fernando Abad) and other talent that still needs to prove themselves (Jay Austin, Jiovanni Mier, Altuve, Jon Gaston, and Tanner Bushue)

Graduating Prospects
Hitters: #16 (3B) Chris Johnson, #11 (SS) Tommy Manzella, (OAK #2) (1B) Brett Wallace, #1 (C) Jason Castro
Pitchers: #22 (RHP) Wilton Lopez

Arizona Fall League Players – Peoria Javelinas
AFL Rosters
Hitters: Koby Clemens (1B), T.J. Steele (CF), J.B. Shuck (CF)
Pitchers: Kyle Greenwalt (RHP), Matt Nevarez (RHP), Sergio Perez (RHP), Patrick Urckfitz (LHP),

Players of Interest
Hitters
#21 Brian Bogusevic | LF | D.o.B: 2-18-84 | Stats (AAA): .277/.364/.414 | 502 AB | 41 XBH | 13 Hr | .137 ISO | 23/1 SB/CS | 108:67 K:BB
Got his chance in the majors this year during a September call-up that didn’t fare too positively. However, a redeeming note is that Chris Johnson didn’t fare well in his 2009 September call-up. Bogusevic is a converted pitcher (happened in 2008), who has a quiet swing and a good feel for the strike zone. His power is still developing, his speed plays well in the field, and has a strong arm. His value is in his speed and slight power. Think something a .275 average with 15 home runs and 25 steal over a full season, which is his ceiling in 2011 if given full playing time. Granted with Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence manning the outfield, he’ll have to fill-in if there is an injury – never know when Lee might go on the Disgraceful List.

#20 Koby Clemens | C/1B | D.o.B: 12-4-86 | Stats (AA): .241/.350/.476 | 452 AB | 51 XBH | 26 Hr | .235 ISO | 9/3 SB/CS | 143:69 K:BB
Continues to hit, and hit, and … read his Scouting the Unknown for more.

#9 Jon Gaston | LF | D.o.B: 10-13-86 | Stats (AA): .245/.320/.399 | 461 AB | 37 XBH | 13 Hr | .154 ISO | 13/5 SB/CS | 105:47 K:BB
I used the lame Beauty and the Beast quote last year. This year, Gaston didn’t produce anywhere near what he did in 2009. Blame the California League for getting my hopes raised (did the same thing for Clemens though), even Baseball America became really excited. A year at Double-A proved to suck the wind from his sails. The excellent power that was on display in 2009 dwindled, the strikeouts remained but were reduced while the walk rate also fell, and there isn’t even luck to blame (.288 BABIP). There is still hope, but he may be nothing more than a fourth outfielder at this point.

Julio “J.D.” Martinez | LF/RF | D.o.B: 8-21-87 | Stats (A/AA): .341/.407/.531 | 537 AB | 62 XBH | 18 Hr | .184 ISO | 5/2 SB/CS | 97:48 K:BB
My sleeper candidate in 2009 during this same article. Little did I know that his stats have been inflated by crazy high BABIP (.372 BABIP Double-A and .398 BABIP at Single-A in 2010, and roughly .390 last year). Has great gap power, moderate home run power (think 25 homer potential), and decent control of the strike zone. John Sickels think the Astros “have a potential sleeper,” in Martinez. As do I. Could replace Carlos Lee in a couple of years, maybe even putting up a line of .275 with 25 home runs too.

Pitchers
#3 Jordan Lyles | RHP-SP | D.o.B: 10-19-90 | Stats (AA/AAA): 7.8 K/9 | 2.6 BB/9 | 158 2/3 IP | 3.57 1.43 WHIP | .7 Hr/9 | 10.3 H/9
Triple-A was rough for Lyles, but this Scouting the Unknown outlines his potential well.

#14 Fernando Abad | LHP-RP | D.o.B: 12-17-85 | Stats (AA/AAA): 8.2 K/9 | 1.6 BB/9 | 46 IP | 2.35 ERA | 1.33 WHIP | .8 Hr/9 | 10.4 H/9
Was called up in late August to help the bullpen. Struggled with allowing hits in the minors, but his value comes from being a lefty reliever. Hopefully he doesn’t become a LOOGY, but that might be his upside. I’d rather have Sammy Gervacio than Abad if you’re running the MR.B philosophy. Wasn’t anywhere near as good last year (in regards to ratios) while strikeouts and walk rates remained relatively stable.

#27 Henry Villar | RHP-SP | D.o.B: 5-24-87 | Stats (AA): 6.0 K/9 | 3.7 BB/9 | 102 IP | 4.15 ERA | 1.34 WHIP | 1.0 Hr/9 | 8.4 H/9
Didn’t strikeout out enough batters to become excited when he was promoted. Pitched decent in limited appearances. Nothing more than bullpen fodder unless he can regain his strikeouts.

Honorable Mentions
Hitters
Jose Altuve | 2B | D.o.B: 2-20-88 | Stats (A/A+): .301/.357/.448 | 509 AB | 40 XBH | 15 Hr | .147 ISO | 42/18 SB/CS | 66:42 K:BB
Thank your deity of choice for John Sickels and his vast handbook. Altuve is athletic, possess great speed, and controls the strike zone well, according to his 2010 scouting report. Looks like his 2009 season wasn’t quite as fluky as it seemed due to a small sample size (look at last year’s Minor League review). He didn’t have a high BABIP at either stop (.332 BABIP @A and .295 BABIP @A+) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is great for a young player. Next year will be a real test while playing at High-A and Double-A, with the more advanced pitching at Double-A should be a more determining factor if his fantasy value will be deemed necessary to project.

#8 Jay Austin | CF | D.o.B: 8-10-90 | Stats (A+): .261/.314/.414 | 532 AB | 48 XBH | 10 Hr | .153 ISO | 54/20 SB/CS | 126:30 K:BB
Included in those 48 extra base hits: 13 triples and 25 doubles. Has blazing speed but lacks the contact to make him a constant threat. If he can refine his hitting and stealing percentage, he could be another young Michael Bourn or Willy Taveras. Don’t let his home runs fool you, the California League inflated his power more so than others.

Jacob Goebbert | LF | D.o.B: 9-24-87 | Stats (A): .291/.363/.445 | 519 AB | 59 XBH | 10 Hr | .154 ISO | 14/2 SB/CS | 78:52 K:BB
Hit a ton of doubles in the Sally League, 48 doubles to be exact. Put up good numbers in the low minors and will have to reproduce those type of numbers with more power in the next two years to move up the organization’s prospect ladder.

#2 Jiovanni Mier | SS | D.o.B: 8-26-90 | Stats (A): .235/.323/.314 | 493 AB | 34 XBH | 2 Hr | 15/7 SB/CS | 107:67 K:BB
Saving the best hitting prospect for last? Wrong! Everything that could go wrong for Mier did. The only true positives are his good strikeout-to-walk ratio and the fact he is still just barely 20. Good thing it was his defense that got him noticed originally and not his bat (it’s baseball’s equivalent to, “It isn’t the size of the ship but the motion of the ocean” performance issues) He’ll eventually get his own Scouting the Unknown, but not until Double-A has been reached. He’ll probably be toiling away in Low-A again to start the 2011 season.

Pitchers
#7 Tanner Bushue | RHP-SP | D.o.B: 6-20-91 | Stats (A): 7.7 K/9 | 3.2 BB/9 | 133 2/3 IP | 4.11 ERA | 1.33 WHIP | 1.2 Hr/9 | 8.7 H/9
Has a good feel for pitching and typically throws around 88 to 90 mph and can touch 94 mph. Still very raw. Might be another Lyles in the making. Middle (potential) to top (ceiling) of the rotation potential. The floor would be a bust or a bullpen fodder.

Pat Urckfitz | LHP-SP | D.o.B: 7-21-88 | Stats (A+/AA): 8.8 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 109 2/3 IP | 4.10 ERA | 1.42 WHIP | .7 Hr/9 | 10.1 H/9
5 IP at AA
I didn’t find any scouting reports on Urckfitz. He is a real player, promise. This isn’t a new Razzball term either nor a reference to something Super Troopers may say. A lefty with decent control, slightly above average strikeout rate, but was hit a bit too much to become a hype candidate. If he has a strong showing in 2011, could potentially surprise like Travis Wood.

From Around The Web

  1. Travis says:
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    Thanks for this analysis!

    FYI–Paredes is a second baseman, not a pitcher.

    One to keep an eye on is SS Jonathan Villar, part of the Oswalt trade. He has a ton of speed and if he gets on base enough, could be a nice SAGNOF option at SS in the future. Will probably be at AA next year, which will be a good litmus test for him.

    OF Austin Wates, like Deshields, was just drafted this year, but should move faster. Seems like he has some good speed and a bit of pop as well. Will probably start at A next year but if he hits like many think he can could move quickly.

  2. GopherDay says:
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    Thanks for the writeup Stephen!

    The Astros have a long way to go before competing again, but I like the way their minor leaguers are progressing. Hopefully by this time next year we won’t have the worst minor league system!

    Are you going to release any pre-season fantasy prospect rankings this year?

  3. bonk says:
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    Re: Koby Clemens, from his “Scouting the Unknown”:

    “John Sickels says he’ll be a .250/.340/.450 type player at Double-A. Well, Clemens is exceeding that expectation (seems like he is doing that quite a lot).”

    Clemens’ actual line in AA over 556 PAs: .241/.349/.467. Sickels was more or less bang on. I wonder if Clemens has hit his ceiling and won’t be improving much more?

  4. Stephen says:
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    written from my phone, so I apologize for any typos. I’m at work til 5 and can’t use their computer for baseball.

    @Travis: thanks for he correction.

    @GopherDay: there should be a preseason rankings in early january-Ish.

    @bonk: the scouting the unknow article was written back in june or july when he was hitting far better than his final slash line indicates. but yes, his potential ceiling is close to be reached.

  5. Chase says:
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    Steve

    This was a great read although it makes me cringe when I’m reminded of how bleak the future looks for my ‘stros.

    Keep up the good work

    Chase

  6. short blurb says:
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    Concerning Jonathan Gaston, he just had foot surgery, will be shutdown for 3months, The foot issue developed at the end of last yr in Lancaster and AFL.
    He was on the DL(month) from day 2 of spring training(cortizone shot)—-one of those nagging injuries that bothered him all yr–one tuff sun of a gun.

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