The Astros signed veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez to a minor league deal and he’ll get a look this spring. I like this deal and I think Livan will make the team. He’s an innings eater and while he’s not going to contend for a Cy Young, he’s just what the Astros need in this transition period.
Livan was 8-13 last year with a 4.47 ERA in 175 1/3 innings. He’s good for 200 innings in a season and he’s never been on the disabled list. Plus, he’s fun to watch with that big looping curverball he throws.
The Astros signed catcher Chris Snyder to a one year deal with a mutual option for 2013. The Astros needed some depth at catcher with Jason Castro most likely missing the first month of the season because of a foot injury so Snyder looks to fill that spot then take over as the backup once Castro returns.
Snyder’s never been a great hitter but he was solid in limited time with the Pirates last year. He had some back problems that resulted in just half of a season behind the plate but it looks like he’s healthy and ready to go for spring training.
Let’s just get this out of the way, but Jeff Bagwell got the shaft last year. He should make some gains but the fact that he may have used PEDs because he played during those times is a little ridiculous. Bagwell finished with a career .948 OPS, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs, and 1,401 walks.
He also had the MVP and his 1994 season was obscene. He had an OPS of 1.201 and 300 total bases in the strike shortened season. Tony Gwynn cost him the batting title and Bagwell finished with a 79.9 WAR. Five times he had an OPS over one and if you take away his final season, he had fourteen straight seasons of an OPS+ over 115. That’s some consistency.
Astros closer Mark Melancon was dealt to the Red Sox today for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. Melancon had 20 of the Astros 25 saves in 2011 and he also went 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. It’s safe to say the Astros don’t need a really good closer as they enter 2012 as one of the worst teams in baseball so it looks like this was a case of selling Melancon while his stock was still high.
Injuries have been a concern for Jed Lowrie and hopefully this is a way for him to get a fresh start. He’s a former first round pick and while he’s shown signs of life the last couple of years, injuries have also been a concern. He played in 88 games last year (a career high) and in 2010, he had his best season at the plate when he hit nine home runs in 171 at bats. One nice thing is, Lowrie can play every where on the infield.
Weiland was a rookie last year and he got shelled in his short time with the team. His minor league career has been solid though and he has 426 strikeouts and 171 walks in 449 1/3 innings. He’s also one of those rarer pitchers who’s moved up the ladder one year at a time. He just turned 25 so he could fill out the back end of the Astros rotation or be a swing man/sixth starter. He also has options so my bet is, he starts the season at Triple-A and is used as needed.
Left handed started J.A. Happ was tendered a contract so he’ll be one of the guys the Astros have to talk to or end up going to the arbitration table with. Happ had a rough year with a 6-15 record and a 5.35 ERA. Part of the Roy Oswalt trade, Happ’s last solid season was 2009 when he went 12-4 for the Phillies with a 2.93 ERA.
He did show some improvement last in the season. The Astros gave him a spell at Triple-A and when he came back, he went 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts. He’s still a lock for the rotation, but he also has to show us some stuff this year if the Astros are going to make him a long term option.
The Astros signed catcher Carlos Corporan to a minor league deal and he’ll get a chance to test his wares at spring training in 2012. Carlos was part of the Brewers organization before the Astros brought him on as a backup in 2011. The bat was really never there and he just .188 hence the minor league deal.
The Astros have been busy with the non-roster invitees. Now that Crane finally has the team, it’ll be interesting to see what approach he takes. My guess is the Astros are quiet this year and start building from the bottom up. but it would be nice if they made some moves and we had some more big league talent on this team. It’s also going to be hard signing someone if the team isn’t good and they’re going to have to pay a premium like the Nationals did with Jayson Werth.
It looks like the Astros farm system is getting some early coverage as John Sickels put out his top 20 Houston Astros prospect list. Topping his list is Jonathan Singleton as well. He gives him a B+ rating but he also talks about how he could have been an A-. George Springer, the outfielder, also got a B+ and he was second.
After that, it thins out pretty quick. Jarred Cosart (RHP), Jonathan Villar (SS) and Paul Clemens (RHP) round out the top five and all three of those guys were given B- ratings.
The Astros made some last minute roster moves ahead of the Rule 5 draft deadline. One of their top prospects, Paul Clemens was added to the 40 man roster. He was one of the guys who came over from the Braves system in the Michael Bourn trade. He was a Southern League All Star and he put up decent numbers splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.
The Astros also signed Lance Pendleton to a minor league deal and he’s going to get a spring training invite. Pendleton had a rough season in the big leagues and he split time between the Astros and the Yankees. Pendleton was a Rule 5 draft by the Astros but he got returned to the Yankees and then in September, the Astros picked him up off of waivers so he kind of bounced back and forth.
Baseball America put out its top ten Astros prospect list. Here are the guys.
1) Jonathan Singleton 1b/OF
2) Jarred Cosart RHP
3) George Springer OF
4) Jonathan Villar SS
5) Paul Clemens RHP
6) Domingo Santana OF
7) Brett Oberholtzer LHP
8) Delino DeShields, Jr. 2b
9) Mike Foltynewicz RHP
10) Telvin Nash 1b/OF
You’d think a team that had traded away all of their stars would have some blue chip prospects but you wouldn’t know it from Kevin Goldstein’s top eleven Astros prospect list. They do have three four star prospects but no five star guys. Too bad.
Topping the list is Jarred Cosart. He came over in the Hunter Pence deal and the right handed pitcher split time between High A and Double A. This power arm also gives up his share of walks and he’ll start the season in Double-A. He’s at least another year away.
Number two is George Springer, the Astros first round pick in 2011. The outfielder got into eight games at Low-A and this guy is a potential stud. He could start at Low-A but could be High-A and while he’s a couple of years away, this could be the team’s center fielder of the future.
Jonathan Singleton (1b), Brett Oberholtzer (LHP) and Jonathan Villar (SS) round out the top five. Oberholtzer is the only guy who’s close to major league ready with the rest more like two or three years out.
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