It’s something you keep hearing, over and over – the Astros Organization made a terrible mistake letting Santana get away.
You know the story – he was signed by a Venezuelan scout in ’95, stayed in the Astros Organization for 3 years, then was, for some mysterious reason, left unprotected in the Rule V draft, was immediately snapped up by the Twins and became a sensation.
Well, sort of but not quite.
You want to know why on EARTH the Astros left such an outstanding prospect unprotected, and for, like WHO???
OK, here’s the timeline: He spent age 15-18 in the Venezuelan Academy and then entered the Rookie League at age 18, threw 36.1 innings over 4 games started and 5 in relief, with a 7.93 ERA/1.84 WHIP: 4.5 BB/9; 5.2 K/9.
Those aren’t exactly good numbers, but for some reason, he was promoted to low A at age 19 (in ’98) and he started 15 games over 46.2 IP: 4.36 ERA/1.18 WHIP: 2.2 BB/9; 8.1 K/9
Now THOSE were good numbers, and he earned a promotion to A ball for his age 20 season, in which he started 26 games over 160 IP: 4.66 ERA/1.35 WHIP: 3.1 BB/9; 8.1 K/9
Those are reasonable numbers for a 20 year old A ball pitcher. Not exactly eye-popping, though, to say the least. So the Astros decided not to add him to the 40 man roster. Now he was the FIRST guy picked in the Rule V draft, so obviously, there must have been SOMEthing about the guy that was obvious to other scouts.
Let’s check (or TRY to check) the Astros 40 man from 2000 (and this is tougher than you think because the 2000 Astros media guide isn’t available on line and I can’t find any other listing. I am serious. The Astros official site doesn’t list 40 man rosters from the past and neither does Baseball Cube or BBref. Interesting…)
This list, incomplete, is the best I can do:
Pitchers: Jose Cabrera, Octavio Dotel, Scott Elarton, Wayne Franklin, Jason Green, Chris Holt, Jose Lima, Scott Linebrink, Rusty Meacham, Tony McKnight, Wade Miller, Brian Powell, Jay Powell, Wade Miller, Shane Reynolds, Joe Slusarski, Billy Wagner, Marc Valdes (and WHERE is Roy Oswalt???)
Catchers: Frank Charles, Tony Eusebio, Raul Chavez, Mitch Melusky
Position Players: Bagwell, Biggio, Bogar, Caminiti (round 2), Tripp Cromer (Ido NOT remember this guy), Julio Lugo, Bill Speiers, Chris Truby, Eddie Zosky, Moises Alou, Glen Barker, Lance Berkman, Roger Cedeno, Richard Hidalgo, Daryle Ward
And yes, I know it doesn’t add up to 40, and I don’t know which minor leaguers are missing.
Anyway, back to Johan,
because he was a Rule V, he had to be kept in the majors all year, and he started 5 games and relieved in 25 others over 86 IP with a 6.49 ERA/1.81 WHIP; 5.7 BB/9; 6.7 K/9; 1.2 HR/9
Amazing that a 21 year old guy who had only been through A ball could do even THAT well, hunh.
In 01, he started 4 games and relieved in 11 over 43 IP: 4.74 ERA/1.51 WHIP: 3.3 BB/9; 5.8 K/9
Nothing exactly real too particularly good, right? But THEN he was sent to AAA to start 02 and they taught him how to throw an effective changeup and THEN it was curtains for hitters.
Perhaps someone in the Astros Organization might could have taught him to throw that self same change, or some other effective pitch, but fact is that is was someone in ANOTHER Organization who did so, after Johan had pitched 2 barely passable years in the majors.
And yes, I know that he didn’t look like anyone special, based on his numbers, but still, I wonder why he WAS grabbed, and grabbed first in that Rule V…
I have said before that perhaps it would be better to have differing views/scouting reports/pitching coaches/hitting coaches. Perhaps someone has an idea that someone else doesn’t, perhaps the exact same methods don’t work effectively with all people, perhaps it is wasteful to insist that you want only one kind of player who can be approached one way and all others who fall by the wayside are those who wouldn’t “fit” in the Organization.
I guess it is the, I don’t know what to call it, ?militaristic? thinking coming through. Like the Army has to function as a cohesive unit and there is no room whatsoever for variation or personality. Which is true, but when you have any, say commando unit, you don’t tell the explosives guy that he has to be the communications guy too.
There are incredible numbers of “can’t miss” prospects who missed and incredible numbers of “he’s nothing much” minor leaguers who excelled when they just almost accidentally were given a chance. You can project all you want to, but in the end, youneverknow…
And speaking of projecting the future, hows about that Carlos The Jackal? The guy WANTED to play in New York City, let’s be real here. He would have stayed in Houston if he couldn’t get a good contract anywhere else, but he didn’t want to (and yes, I know that Drayton made a serious mistake in his negotiation tactics with Carlos and Boras. And I mean Drayton, not poor ol Timmy Purpuppet neither.)
I hear tell that Carlos didn’t want to be The STAR!!! and he certainly wouldn’t have been here in Houston, not with Baggy and Biggio and Berkman. But The Mets fans expected him to be more than he was and they really seriously had a problem with his batting average and the fact that he wasn’t, I guess you’d call it “gritty” ala Edmonds/Rowand. They complain that he’s always HURT, doesn’t hustle (??????) doesn’t hit like Pujols, doesn’t have a personality like Jeter, whatever. He started off slowly his first year, eventually hitting .266/.330/.414 and heard PLENTY of boos from his own “fans” and his failure against Wainwright in the 06 playoffs just cemented his status as “choker.”
That and the fact that his batting average has never been over .300 until this year. Because it is natural and reasonable to ignore a ballplayer’s OTHER accomplishments if his BA is not even .300, don’tchu know.
He’s on the DL now, and the guy has played hurt for most of his 5 years there, but of course, the kicker to being a team guy and playing hurt is that playing hurt has no effect on your own play, let alone the team’s. I’ve mentioned for years that I go out just to booooooo that Jackal, but you know, I’ve got to where I almost feel sorry for the fool. You GOT to be careful what you wish for because you gotta take the good with the bad.
I don’t know what it is that Carlos wanted from playing in NY, but it would be interesting to know if whatever he got was worth it, seeing as how the payment has been discontented (isn’t that a nice, polite word???) fans and contemptuous media.
Mike Hampton is going to try to win against a non-Pirates team. The Mets haven’t been playing well, to say the least, but Johan has had a very good year, so I’m not holding my breath.