11/07: The 2008 Astros’ So-Called Farm

First, transaction news –

Hector Giminez is no longer an Astro – he signed a minor league contract with the Orioles.

Also, the Astros have officially given up on Jimmy Barthmaier, one of the top 10 prospects from last year. He was put on waivers after sucking at both AA (ERA of 6.20 and WHIP of 1.78) and in the AFL this fall, and taken by the Pirates, who don’t have a great record with young pitchers who seem to be resistant to coaching…

Ed Wade has signed yet another middle reliever, 40 year old (41 in May) righty Doug Brocail. Good grief. I guess this is trying to rectify one of Purpura’s biggest mistakes – letting Russ Springer go. Need the Veteran Presence, 2.5 mill worth. He missed all of 01, 02 and 03. And here are his numbers for 04 (Rangers) 52 IP, 4.13 ERA, 122 ERA+, 1.41 WHIP; 05 (Rangers) 73.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, 84 ERA+, 1.69 WHIP; 06 (Padres) and he was out most of the year because of needing coronary angioplasty – 28.3 IP, 4.76 ERA, 85 ERA+, 1.24 WHIP; 07 (Padres) 76.2 IP, 3.05 ERA, 132 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP. He’s only pitched 6 innings at the Box in his career, so THAT wasn’t a factor. At least it is only a 1 year contract.

But I guess I’d better get down to the heart of the matter – the Astros have almost no one worth as much as a bucket of warm spit in the farm. We’re ranked dead last of all the ML teams, especially after last year’s debacle. But let’s be real here – as I’ve pointed out for the last 3 years, the Astros haven’t had much of a farm and have only produced 4 position players since the 2001 draft. This is not good.

Click here to read Jim Callis’ entire article from Baseball America.
Check this:
                  “…Houston has had to invest heavily on free agents to keep winning. That approach has proved costly, not only in terms of big league salaries but also in its affect on the club’s drafts.
In three of the last five drafts, the Astros have forfeited their first-round pick as free-agent compensation. McLane has become more reluctant to offer arbitration to his own free agents, so only once during that period has Houston received bonus choices of its own. He also has been increasing unwilling to buck MLB’s slot recommendations. All three of these factors resulted in a disastrous draft in 2007.

                  By signing Carlos Lee and Woody Williams as Type A free agents, the Astros surrendered their first two draft choices. Offering arbitration to three of their own Type A free agents Aubrey Huff, Andy Pettitte and Russ Springer was a low-risk proposition that could have yielded three first-round picks and three supplemental first-rounders, but Houston declined to do so. The Astros couldn’t try to compensate by drafting players with high price tags because McLane refused to exceed MLB’s guidelines.
           …Wade’s new scouting director is Bobby Heck, formerly the Eastern crosschecker for the Brewers. Heck contributed to a run of productive drafts in Milwaukee, but it’s doubtful the Astros farm system or major league club will rebound without a shift in philosophy.”

Well, yall been hearing this from me for over a year, and here is a well known expert in minor league baseball saying bout the same thing. Or you could say – you get what you pay for, and when you want Walmart prices, you get Walmart quality, and that ain’t winnin you no championship, Drayton!!!

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 prospects list:

The first 5 guys will start the year on the ML club, far as I can tell.

And as Troy Patton was called up last year to start in the rotation back in early August, I would say that putting him on this list as a “prospect” is really stretching it.

Costanzo, I’ve already talked about a few entries ago.

Bud Norris, will be 23 to start the year, was a 6th round pick in 06, just finished the year at A-ball with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

Brad James, age 23, a 29th rounder in 04, RHP, split the year between A and AA – threw 49 innings at AA, ended up with a 5.17 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP and a 4.21 K/9 IP.

Chad Reinicke, RHP, will be 26 at the start of the year, threw 100 innings at AAA, with a 4.68 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP – 4.68 BB/9 and 8.55 K/9.

Eli Iorg, age 25, was our first rounder in 05, is an OF who had 162 AB at high A last year – he hit fine, had an .862 OPS before he was injured.

All yall notice that Sergio Perez, Brian Bogusevic and Max Sapp didn’t crack this list (our top 3 guys from the last 3 years.)

And here is the list of BA’s top Tools:
Some of the guys, like Jonny Ash and Tommy Manzella and Jordan Parraz aren’t even in the list of top 10 prospects.

Jonny Ash is a 26 year old second baseman who just finished repeating AA – his numbers were pretty much the same – an OPS of 778.

Tommy Manzella is a 25 year old SS who just finished AA with the line .289/.343/.372/.725 (sounds better than Iorg.)

Jordan Parraz, age 22, was a 3rd round pick in 04. His line at A-ball was .281/.364/..446/.810. Also sounds better than any of the pitchers as well as Iorg.

It’s pretty sad that there are exactly zero prospects at AAA. Of course, last year, there weren’t really any prospects at AAA either, except for Hunter Pence, the first month.

As for the MLE (major league equivalent) projections of both the major leaguers as well as minor league prospects, click here to read Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projections. An remember he is always, um, a bit pessimistic when it comes to the Astros.

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34 Responses to “11/07: The 2008 Astros’ So-Called Farm”

  1. Joel B. says:

    well. nothing new, but that was depressing.

  2. Lisa Gray says:

    yeh, i know. trust me i LOOKED for something not depressing.
    drayton had better wise his ass unless he wants this team to be bad for the rest of his life

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m a little optimistic about some of our minor-leaguers, but am also realistic. I suppose the poor state of the Astros farm system necessitated hiring Wade. This team needs lots of love and careful attention. All I can say is this – if the hiring of Wade and placing Cecil as coach does not work, Drayton will need to seriously reevaluate himself and his organization from top to bottom. He needs to remove himself from day-to-day dealings and let people do their job. He is too meddlesome and any owner I can reference may show short-term success, but always clubs that provide more issues than results in the long run. It makes people afraid to do their jobs!

  4. Austin says:

    I can’t believe our middle infielders at AA are 25 and 26. That’s too old to still be at AA. Maybe this is why our AAA team is stocked to the gills with guys over 28.

  5. Austin says:

    And now I see that we’ve signed four players today to minor league contracts, including Stephen Randolph and Jose Cruz, Jr. Great. Two more 30-somethings taking up space on our minor league roster. Sadly, the best thing I can say is, at least we’re not paying them millions of dollars. But why do we keep wasting our time on these guys? Every day, my knowledge becomes more and more certain that our past moves had more to do with McLane than Garner and Pupura.

  6. Austin says:

    Yeah, just took the time to look up the other two guys. Kevin Hooper, a second baseman who will be 31 in December, had 8 major league at-bats. Another career minor league infielder precisely what we needed.
    Tomas Perez is a shortstop who will be 34 by New Year’s Eve. At least he’s compiled a decent amount of major league ABs (1,886). On the other hand, he’s a career .240 hitter in those ABs, with an OBP of .291 and .634 OPS. Wnat more? Since his breakout season of 2001 (.784 OPS in 62 games), he’s batting .238. His fielding numbers aren’t anything to write home about, and he doesn’t move like you’d hope a shortstop would, with only 6 steals in his career (7 CS). You saw that right – he’s only attempted 13 stolen bases and only been successful six times in 781 major league games spanning 11 years!
    We’re definitely moving in the wrong direction. I’d hoped to stop stocking our minor leagues with old men, but it seems I’m gonna have to wait a little longer to see that day.

  7. Steve Schramm says:

    Austin, I don’t mind bringing in these cheap 30-something players because we have to fill out our minor league rosters somehow. But obviously, if the entire roster is full of career minor leaguers, then we’re in big trouble. Oops. We’re in big trouble.

  8. Kris says:

    They’re in big trouble alright

  9. Kris says:

    Oops half a post there sorry …
    BLUM 35
    BROCAIL 40
    now CRUZ JR ?? ANOTHER OF and 33 yrs old ?
    What is Wade going for – the Oldster team record or something ?

  10. Brian says:

    Please tell me we’re not the new Pirates. I can’t face 2 decades of losing!

  11. Lisa Gray says:

    the most important paragraph is the one pointing out that mclane had refused to pay to sign draft picks
    you don’t make a championship team with a bunch of mediocre midle relievers and 30 something year old has beens, never was and utility guys
    it’s been a GOOD 5 years – probably more – that our AAA club has been mostly AAA lifers. and that is just sorry. it was just, what, 6 years ago that we had one of the 5 best farms in the majors???!!!
    and here we go with steve randolph again – they can’t believe that he’s good at AAA, sucks in the majors.
    hard to believe that junior cruz is bout the same age as lance. and i thought he was gonna be a STAR too. sigh
    once mclane signed roger, i KNOW he was sure he could be his own GM. sigh again. no offering arb, no signing good draft picks
    and in a few short years, it’s all gone – the ML team, the farm… and now the yankees/redsox/dodgers/angels got all the good prospects and they’ll be using them to buy the miggy cabreras and santanas…

  12. Lisa Gray says:

    i think the pirates just might could be better.

  13. Joel B. says:

    Matsui and Everette will be the nuts on defense. It should be a lot of fun watching those guys move like butter.
    If anything gets by they got Bourn backing them up.
    Since the a #2 isn’t coming where do they get a closer? Chad Cordero? maybe someone from the Rockies or A’s?

  14. Ryan says:

    I agree with ya Joel on the defensive end, but how are we going to contend with the Colorado’s and Milwaukee’s offensively? Everett and Matsui are not the answer – short term or long term. All they produce are sure outs and holes in the lineup offensively. Wade seems to be intent on building this team through defense and speed and that was cool back in the 80s but not now. Your guys have got to be able to hit and one-third of ours can’t. This team won’t succeed until those holes are plugged and we can produce the Tulowitzki’s and Braun’s. Maybe they can draft some more dud pitchers and go nowhere outfielders. I don’t know that the reason the farm system stinks is because of signing other players. I say it’s more poor talent evaluation than anything else. Who have we traded away recently that has actually been an elite talent or close to it? The answer is no one. The last elite talent that’s playing elsewhere is Santana. That is poor talent evaluation and thus the crappy farm system that’s home for minor-league lifers. I hope Ed brought his lunch pail to work cause he’s got lots of it to do.

  15. Austin says:

    “I agree with ya Joel on the defensive end, but how are we going to contend with the Colorado

  16. Austin says:

    Here’s the thing about Matsui being a hole in the lineup – he batted .249 outside of Colorado last year. Anyone take the time to look at his monthly splits? He batted below .225 every other month. Check it out:
    April – .361
    May – .219
    June – .309
    July – .219
    August – .354
    September and Oct – .224
    And now we’ve got a 32 year-old second baseman (who only played 104 games last year!) for three years. I don’t think this guy is the solution. Yet another dumb deal by the Astros as far as I’m concerned. But I like how they’re calling him a crucial piece of the Rockies’ World Series run. They really know how to spin it, don’t they?

  17. lisa gray says:

    this was just too silly for words.
    chris sampson must be pleased, but seems to me i recall just a few years back how we were all counting all the games roger and roy pitched where there gave up 2 or fewer runs and lost because of no offense
    i just do NOT get where all these incredibly optomistic offense numbers for bourn are coming from. and kaz matsui has (outside of coors) an on base of around .310.
    unless burke really does have permanent shoulder damage, this deal was too stupid for words. we ALREADY know that he’s a lousy pinch hitter and i can’t imagine why he would be brought into a game to substitute for kaz
    well, we COULD trade him and luke scott and pence for dontrelle willis. and his 5 something ERA. (or yet ANOTHER middle reliever. can’t never have real too many of those guys right?) then we could put reggie abercrombie in right and he’s REALLY REALLY fast. and a defensive whiz!!!
    but ed wade is just great for doing SOMEthing. we’ll have a great pitching and defense team just like back in the astrodome!!!

  18. Michael says:

    Folks take a look at BA’s list of Top 10 Astro prospects from 2001, when they annointed Houston as the best organization in baseball:
    Roy Oswalt, Wilfredo Rodriguez, Tim Redding, Tony McKnight, Robert Stiehl, Adam Everett, Greg Miller, John Buck, Mike Nannini and Keith Ginter.
    Outside of Oswalt, of course, is anyone going to get giddy about ANY of those guys? I didn’t think so. Six of ’em played for the Astros eventually but three of the six only got a cup of coffee.
    Five, maybe six, of this year’s top 10 BA list will likely play with the Astros this year with two or three already penciled in as starters (Towles, Patton, Bourn).
    Houston’s farm wasn’t as good in 2001 as Callis and crew painted it and it’s not as bad in 2007 as he’d lead you to believe.
    As for Drayton, he’d better let Wade offer Loretta arbitration because Loretta is going to sign with Colorado or the Yankees. Sure would be nice to add a supplemental first rounder to go with what we already have – I think it would ultimately give Houston 5 of the first 110 or so picks.

  19. Joel B. says:

    Buck is doing pretty well with the Royals.

  20. Joel B. says:

    This from Rosenthal
    “The addition of an offensively skilled second baseman virtually ensures that the team will retain Adam Everett, a weak hitter, at shortstop.”
    I don’t get it but maybe there is something we are missing.

  21. Michael says:

    Buck is doing pretty well? OK, I guess you made my point for me. :-)
    One might think that if BA is naming your organization the best in baseball that your farm system’s “top 10 prospects” should produce something a little more than one superstar, a defensive whiz of a shortstop and a couple of bit players.
    Really what it comes down to is people put far more value on these silly lists than they’re truly worth.

  22. Chris Rosenberger says:

    Here’s hoping that our improved defense up the middle will improve our pitcher’s performance … greatly.
    To tell the truth, Kaz isn’t the black hole that Ausmus was. So, we’re better in that part of the black hole equation. Also, I think that with having a manager that is able to adapt on a day to day basis unlike Garner could produce decent results.
    I’m cautiously optimistic. And hoping that the “good guys” are good at playing baseball this year.

  23. Joel B. says:

    interesting note
    the 40 man roster, with Matsui at 5MM, sits at 36 players. A total of $71,501,500. Add arbritration, some raises and the 4 missing men. That should still leave it around $80MM.
    Oswalt, Roy 13,000,000.00
    Backe, Brandon 545,000.00
    Williams, Woody 6,250,000.00
    Rodriguez, Wandy 406,000.00
    Patton, Troy 380,000.00
    Albers, Matt 380,000.00
    Brocail, Doug 2,500,000.00
    Qualls, Chad 441,000.00
    Villareal, Oscar 925,000.00
    Sarfate, Dennis 380,000.00
    Sampson, Chris K. 380,000.00
    Ausmus, Brad 2,000,000.00
    Towles, JR 380,000.00
    Berkman, Lance 14,500,000.00
    Blum, Geoff 1,100,000.00
    Burke, Chris 415,000.00
    Wigginton, Ty 2,700,000.00
    Everett, Adam 2,800,000.00
    Matsui, Kaz 5,000,000.00
    Ramirez, Yordany 380,000.00
    Bourn, Micheal 380,000.00
    Pence, Hunter 380,000.00
    Scott, Luke 382,000.00
    Lee, Carlos 12,000,000.00
    Gervacio, Samuel 380,000.00
    James, Brad 380,000.00
    Reineke, Chad 380,000.00
    Paulino, Felipe 380,000.00
    McLemore, Mark 380,000.00
    Gutierrez, Juan 380,000.00
    Estrada, Paul 380,000.00
    Geary, Geoff 837,500.00
    Nieve, Fernando 391,000.00
    Borkowski, Dave 575,000.00
    Abercrombie, Reggie 380,000.00
    Quintero, Humberto 385,000.00

  24. Steve Schramm says:

    Matsui hits .240 with barely .300 OBP outside of Coors. If he hits .240 at MMP, then he’ll be just as bad as Adam. The guy has averaged a pathetic 94 games per year in his four year career. Here are his OPS numbers at the Mets:
    2004: .727
    2005: .652
    2006: 504
    That’s very, very weak. That’s worse than Everett. That’s worse than Ausmus. That’s worse than, hell, if that’s worth $15M, maybe I need to try out for the team.

  25. Lisa Gray says:

    in that list, ALL of those guys in 2001 were not expected to start the year in the majors. and this year, the prospect list included bourn, who spent the ENTIRE year in the majors last year and is not a prospect by any definition of the word.
    “offensively skilled second baseman” and kaz matsui go together like “pregnant man”
    – i’m getting about the same total for the roster – the second year in a row that mclane has significantly reduced it.

  26. Michael says:

    I don’t get your point.
    From the 2001 list, judged the best in baseball by Baseball America, only one true superstar has emerged (Oswalt – who spent most of 2001 with the Astros). Other than that, we got a great defensive shortstop who does not hit and, well, a collection of disappointments. Only 6 of the 10 even stepped into a major league clubhouse and put on a uniform and 4 are completely out of baseball.
    From this year’s list, 3 will likely see significant time to start this year and another 2 or 3 are likely to be called up (Bourn is on the list because, per MLB rules regarding playing time, he still ranks as a rookie). If this happens, the 2007 Top 10 list will have produced the same number of major league players as the 2001 list. If two or three of them become regular major leaguers equivalent to Everett or Buck (which seems probable at this point) then I don’t see how anyone can say that the list ranks as putrid or the bottom of the barrel.
    BA’s lists are fun for hot stove jabbering but that’s about all they are worth. Swallow their hype with a rather large grain of salt.

  27. Lisa Gray says:

    let me try again
    the 2001 list was filled with 10 guys who were expected to be minor leaguers in 2001 who might could contribute to the big league club
    the 2007 list has, for its first 5 choices, guys who are ALREADY on the ML club, who are not true minor league prospects. in fact, they were SO desperate to find SOMEone to put on that list that they selected a guy, michael bourn, who had spent the ENTIRE year on the major league roster and is not a true prospect – they have to be tricky just to find SOMEone.
    you can call any ballplayer under 25 a “prospect” but it doesn’t mean you have a genuine prospect
    when you put guys who are already in the ML on the list, it is hardly a projection of who will make the majors.
    and by the way, it is not just BA that says that the Astros have a terrrible farm and virtually no prospects – it is also john sickels and mike emeigh, to mention just a few experts

  28. Michael says:

    Late August and September call-ups from AA or AAA ball should be disqualified from prospect lists? Why? It’s interesting to note that John Sickels also has Towles, Patton, Paulino, Gutierrez and Bourn on his list. (BTW, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion Patton, Gutierrez or Paulino will start the season in Houston.)
    Baseball America has been consistent about their qualifications for the Top Ten list for years. The player considered must still qualify as a rookie by major league standards. So I’m not sure how or why this criteria would constitute “desperation” or trickery.
    Before the start of the 2001 season, Tony McKnight already had more major league experience than Troy Patton and Felipe Paulino have combined and he made the 2001 list. Roy Oswalt would have been a September call-up in 2000 were he not allowed to play on the Olympic team and the same is true of Adam Everett. Oswalt was given a shot to make the major league club out of Spring Training and eventually made all of 5 starts in New Orleans before getting the permanent call up to Houston. Should those three have been disqualified from BA’s list in 2001?
    I’m not trying to be ugly, just making a point about how careful one should be in assigning weight to the prognostications of the so-called minor league “experts”. Callis, the guys at BA and Sickels are good people. They write well and are entertaining. The fodder they provide in the off-season for those starved for baseball info is fun. But they are far from true “experts” when it comes to the Astros minor league system, or most systems for that matter. The 2001 list did not turn out to be as wonderful as predicted and I’m reasonably confident there’s more in the current Astro pipeline than the “experts” claim.

  29. Brett Stevens says:

    What happened to Mike Lamb?

  30. Lisa Gray says:

    i know you are not trying to be ugly. i just have a problem with calling guys on the 25 man ML roster a prospect.
    i think that tony mcknight should not have been on the 01 list, but adam everett and roy owwalt, who wre not expected to start the season in the ML roster, should have been…
    2 guys on the list didn’t succeed because of injuries. don’t ask me what happened to tony mcknight after pittsburgh got hold of him.
    i remember when mike nannini was gonna be the Next Big Thing and stiehl never did get past A-ball, no idea whatever happened to him…
    but i would like to know why you think there is more in the current astros pipeline than the well known experts do. i’ve heard some fans talk about watching some minor leaguers and disagreeing about the scouts’ opinions and that is valuable to me…

  31. Lisa Gray says:

    mike lamb is a FA and i got no idea if he’s close to signing with any team. i wish we weren’t so eager to get rid of him

  32. Michael says:

    I had prepared a seriously long-winded justification for my views but, if you can believe it, I’m going to cut it down to this:
    Did Jim Callis or John Sickels really know anything about or see Bud Norris pitch an inning in 2006 or 2007? I seriously doubt it. Norris has gone from not a blip on the radar to a “breakthrough candidate” according to Sickels and Baseball Prospectus and #7 on the BA list in the space of one season.
    Norris is but one example. Roy Oswalt is another. He did not make BA’s Astro Top 10 list in 2000 and we all know what happened that year. Mitch Einertson is another example. After his incredible debut, BA ranked him the #4 prospect in the system. They had no idea about the personal issues he had to deal with (some of us who really follow the Astro system did and if BA knew they would have been more cautious). Now after straightening himself out and being named Carolina League MVP at age 21 with numbers virtually idential to those of Hunter Pence at the same level and 22 years of age, Einertson’s suddenly not worthy of Top 10 mention? The 21-year old Carolina League MVP cannot rate even a mention at BA and the system is among the weakest in baseball?
    Is it so improbable that Collin DeLome and Matt Cusick tear up Lexington or Jordan Parraz and Jimmy Van Ostrand terrorize the Carolina League or Sergio Perez, Josh Flores and Tommy Manzella make quick work of the Texas League next year? There are any number of other “breakout” candidates Callis, Sickels and the other “experts” don’t talk about or add to their top ten lists simply because they are dependent on statistical success to justify inclusion of players on the lists. Production IS important but player development often gets in the way of producing raw numbers touted in off-season lists and that’s a big reason why the lists are so limited in their importance.
    Should Houston have a good draft and a few kids already in the fold shake up the conventional wisdom, the reputation of Houston’s system could be restored virtually overnight. I’m not saying it will happen. But it’s in no way, shape or form out of the realm of possibility, hence my suggestion to take these off-season lists with a grain of salt.

  33. Michael says:

    Joel B,
    Players on the 40-man roster are not automatically guaranteed the major league minimum. In fact, a younger player who may have been in A-ball the previous year and is optioned to the minors for the whole year could earn as little at $30K. If he is called up to the bigs during the season, he’d then get a pro-rated share of the major league minimum.

  34. Anonymous says:


    This sure as heck beats reading Playboy in the dark wth a flashlight….