Astros camp extras
For your viewing pleasure, the video piece from camp as well:
Some good extras from my conversations, especially with GM Jeff Luhnow. I had one Q&A left over from my chat with George Springer:
Everyone talks about all the prospects in the Astros system. As a group, are you excited collectively to get to the big leagues and help turn things around?
Springer: As players and kids, the dream is to play professional baseball at the highest peak, to get there. At the same time, you still have to have the utmost respect for the guys who are in the clubhouse now, who have gone through the struggles, who’ve had success and not had success, guys like Castro, Altuve. That’s something to honor. As a player, it shows how they’re able to handle failure, adversity and success at the same time. I think for kids who are coming up, that’s something to look up to.
Now, on to my conversation with Luhnow. We’ll start with continuing on what he was saying in the story about wanting to maintain a top level system.
Luhnow: [We hope] we can consistently maintain it in the top 10-15. Obviously, as you graduate players to the big leagues, you lose some of that. I think we’re well-positioned to do that because we have an interesting system. We’ve got players that are top prospects that are both pitchers and position players. We also have players that are spread throughout the life cycle. We’ve got really good players in rookie ball, A ball, Double-A, Triple-A. They’re not all going to show up all at one time and then we’re going to have a barren system after that.
The other thing I think we’re counting on is our second tier prospects, if you will, being good major league players. When I was in charge of the Draft and player development in St. Louis, there were a lot of players that were considered second-tier prospects, like Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, Allan Craig, Lance Lynn, even. None of these guys ever made the Top 100 prospects. They were good players, performers in the Minor Leagues. Ultimately, those are the guys that created a ton of value when it came to the 2011 World Series and the last couple of years. I think we’re seeing a bunch of guys like that, that are sleepers in our mind. Guys like Preston Tucker, Nolan Fontana, guys that aren’t sexy because they don’t wow you with blinding speed or awesome power, but consistent performers that are going to go out and do the job. Brady Rodgers, Andrew Thurman, guys like that, who we feel are a big part of our system right now.
One of the biggest changes we’ve realized, in doing the Top 20, is how much more talent there is at 11-20. It used to be hard to come up with 20 guys, now players are being left off who are pretty good.
Luhnow: The depth is important to us. There are going to be injuries, there are going to be poor performances. That’s just part of the nature of what happens in baseball. Also, some guys are going to step up and surprise. Jonathan Meyer is a perfect example. He’s re-establishing himself. This is a big year for him. He’s either going to make himself into a Major League player or drop off people’s radar. Even those guys not on any list (he mentioned Jio Mier as one) still have the chance to bounce back. That’ll be fun to watch this year.
We talked about camp standouts and while I went with Preston Tucker in the story, Luhnow had a lot of good things to say about Mike Foltynewicz impressing in camp as well.
Luhnow: [Major League pitching coach Brent] Strom doesn’t have a lot of history with him and then you see a guy throwing 100, who’s got that good delivery and good mentality, it’s easy to be impressed with a guy like that. I do think he has the chance to break through that last barrier and get to the big leagues and be a pretty dominant pitcher. We balance the speed to the big leagues with role in the big leagues. He could probably get there quickly as a reliever, but we really feel we want to continue to give him the chance to be a starter. So far his outings have been pretty impressive.
He’s starting to develop a repertoire that’s effective. His curveball, you used to see it at times, it’s now becoming more consistent. He has a changeup that we spent a lot of time last year trying to convince him to throw it. When you throw 100, you don’t really want to throw a changeup that much, but he’s doing it and he’s having more success with it. As he develops the repertoire, he’s going to realize in Triple-A and in the big leagues that you need a full repertoire to get guys out. It’s not just about throwing gas.
And, finally, my One More Guy:
It has to be the guy who I listed as the camp standout, Preston Tucker. I really like the Allen Craig comp Luhnow made in terms of them both having been college senior signs, later in the Draft, who just went out and hit. Craig hit his way to the big leagues and an All-Star appearance. Whether Tucker can reach those heights remains to be seen, but his .303/.373/.506 so far as a pro is certainly a very good start.