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Posted on: April 6, 2010 1:49 pm
 

2010 Astros Organizational Preview Part 2: A+/A

Welcome to Part 2 of my Astros Organizational Preview. You can find Part 1 by either scrolling down or clicking this link... http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5918557/20751099
, Part 1 details the minor league affiliates at the AAA and AA level. This, Part 2, discusses the players at the high A, Lancaster and A, Lexington, levels.

Lancaster JetHawks (A+)

Lancaster graduated a great class of hitters to AA Corpus Christi, who I discussed in part 1, and they'll receive a great class of pitchers from Lexington in 2010 (although both Jordan Lyles and Henry Villar will skip Lancaster to move straight to AA). Perhaps the best of this class is Ross Seaton , the Astros' #6 prospect according to BA. Taken by the Astros in the 2008 draft, signing of slot in the third round, Seaton has a ton of upside. He's projectable and athletic, with good stuff when he came out of high school. However, he didn't stand out in a terrific Lexington rotation, although I don't know if that's his fault, he had to pitch along side Jordan Lyles afterall. I was not impressed with Seaton's strikeout rate, although overall his numbers were solid. He's still young, but will be tested in the hitter's league of California, the best wy to get outs here: keep the ball on the ground, or even better, strike guys out! I'd love to see Seaton put things together at this level this year, while showing his plus fastball and breaking ball, he has top of the rotation potential, but he's a long way from that at the major league level.

Joining Seaton in Lancaster are 2009 Lexington pitchers, Brad Dydalewicz , Kyle (Jeff) Greenwalt and Kyle Godfrey . Dydalewicz, a lefty and 2008 draft pick, probably has the most potential of the bunch, he has the best stuff. However, Greenwalt had the best 2009 season. Godfrey was a little behind the first two and could be used as a starter or reliever. All may have a hard time continuing the success they had in A ball in Lancaster though. We'll have to be patient with them, as their A+ stats may not immediately reflect their true potential. Ashton Mowdy, owener of the organization's best cruveball, according to BA, will also pitch in high A Lancaster.

Leanadro Cespedes pitched all of 2009 in Lancaster, and will return their again in 2010. His ERA last season was 5.06, however, he was Houston's best starter! He also improved as the season wore on and sported a good strikeout rate. He's an undersized righty, at 5'11 160, but has had good results in the past. He'll be expected to lead this young rotation.

Dallas Keuchel makes the jump from short season A, Try-City, to full season ball. He's perhaps the most interesting name of the bunch. He's an '09 draftee out of Arkansas, who pitched spectacularly last summer in the New York-Penn League. He's a pitchability lefty, with a good enough stuff to be a starter in the majors, even if it's only as a 4th or 5th starter. I think Keuchel is smart enough and advanced enough to lead Lancaster's stellar rotation in stats--as it may take Seaton and Dydalewicz some time to adjust. I fully expect to see Keuchel starting in Corpus Christi by early August.

The infield consists of Mark Ori, Albert Cartwright , Ebert Rosario and Brandon Wikoff . Ori was demoted from AA, playing there all of last season. With Koby Clemens and others moving up to AA, the Astros had to do something with Ori, move him up to Round Rock (where Chris Shelton and Drew Locke are) or move him down, where there isn't a useful 1B prospect. Ori should be the big run producer in the Lancaster lineup. He'll hit 20-30 homeruns and could battle for the league RBI title, but he's older and should not be regarded as a serious prospect. Cartwright and Rosario are coming from Lexington. They had some mild success there. Rosario is a very raw product, he strikes out a lot and has yet to fill out his 6-3 frame. He is getting old for the level though, he'll turn 23 in May. Brandon Wickoff was drafted in the top ten rounds in 2009 out of a small college in Illinois. He shows off some on-base skills and has some plate discipline, but he isn't a top prospect either. He could do well in Lancaster though, although he has no power to speak of.

The outfield, like in 2009, is where the offense should come from in Lancaster. Josh Flores was once considered a top 10 prospect, but that hasn't been true for a number of years. He, like Ori, was sent down from Corpus Christi do to Gaston, Steele and Shuck moving up, he's old for the league at 24. Flores, again like Ori, should provide some major offense here. He has amazing speed and could lead off. His career stats will get a boost in California, but it's unlikely he makes himself a prospect to truly watch again. Brandon Barnes is an intriguing name, with some tools, I think of him in the same way I thought of Jordan Parraz. However, he will turn 24 in May and is still very raw, striking out 133 times compared to 28 walks in 2009. He should help to replace Jon Gaston in the lineup, but he isn't likely a serious top prospect either. Jay Austin is a serious prospect, the 2008 second rounder,was rated eighth among Astros prospects by BA. I was encouraged by his 2009 performance in Lexington, particularly in the second half. He has tools, speed and defense mostly. However, there is little power in his bat and I am unsure of how much he'll hit at higher levels, since he hasn't even tore the cover off the ball in Lexington. I am hoping to see him take a step forward with the bat though, if he does we could be talking about a real good prospect next year.

Lexington Legends (A)

The Legends graduate six great pitchers from last year's staff. However, there is still some talent left there and some more moving in from short season and the 2009 draft. The cream of Lexington's 2010 crop is Tanner Bushue , Houston's 2009 second rounder. He reminds me a lot of Jordan Lyles: projectable, athletic, with an advanced approach for a high school pitcher. He had a great debut last summer, but was slowed down by a pre-existing back injury, one that won't affect him moving forward. He's too young to really be able to project in the future, but he has top of the rotation potential, depending on how his pitches develp.

Joining, Bushue in the 2010 will be pitchers: David Duncan, Jose Cisnero, Michael Schurz and Brandt Walker . Duncan was taken in the top ten rounds in 2008, out of Georgia Tech. He's a big lefty, but has had inconsistant results thus far, pitching in Lancaster and Tri-City last year before settling in Lexington. He's got a good repitoire, but will be 24 in June, he simply hasn't progressed since being drafted. I don't know much about Cisnero actually, I don't know anything about his stuff at least. However, he's 21 years old (or will be on Sunday) and has a good frame, 6-3 185. He also threw well in short season Greenville last summer. Striking out 64 and giving up only 32 hits in 55.2 innings, he started 13 games. I can't wait to see how this guy does over a full season's worth of starts and better competition than in rookie ball. Schurz and Walker are both relievers (Walker will likely be long term, even though he started in Tri-City last summer). Walker has electric stuff, but doesn't have the comman you'd like to see out of a college pitcher (he comes from Stanford). He did not perform well in his debut, despite being taken in the top 10 rounds in 2009. Schurz excelled in his debut, he struck out 37 in 29.2 innings of relief, his ERA was 1.52. He'll look to keep up his success in 2010.

Lexington's lineup is highlighted by 2009 first round pick, Jiovanni Mier . He has the potential to provide special defense from shortstop. He also has a pretty advanced bat, which he showed off in his debut, hitting 7 homeruns and walking 30 times. His OBP was .380 and his SLG% was a .484... not bad for a high school guy, who wasn't touted highly for his bat. I'd love to see him continue to hit to start the season. His defense will get him to Houston, but his bat will need to continue to grow for him to become an all-star.

Joining Mier in the infield is fellow 2009 draft pick, Jonathan Meyer . He is very raw with the bat, and lacks power, but will draw a lot of walks and plays good defense, with a great arm from third. His batting average has to improve this season, though. The second basemen will be Jose Altuve . He was a hitting machine in rookie ball last summer, and will look to keep up the success as he moves into full season ball. He's only 5-9 and the success rate for prospects of that stature isn't good, but he has some ability and will look to prove doubters wrong.

The big bat in the outfield will come from J.D. Martinez , another 2009 draftee. He surprised everyone last summer by hitting for a .400 OBP and nearly .600 SLG%. This was likely a simple matter of advanced hitter against weak competition, but he is a big name to watch coming into his full season debut, like the former Lancaster hitters, he'll look to keep up his strong numbers. I also like Brian Kemp . He provides some on-base skills and speed, but otherwise isn't very valuable and won't likely ever contribute in the majors.




Posted on: April 5, 2010 6:56 pm
 

Astros: Week 1 Preview

Post four on the day! Thirty minutes to gametime. I feel a little accomplished.

I got this idea last night to do a weekly preview of the games ahead. It would be simple, discuss the pitching matchups a little, predict a winner and so forth. Today, I am really started to get bored of writing, but in the future it may be more comprehensive, although it will likely be dropped, who knows? Anyways, let's take a look at the Astros' first week:

Monday:

Houston vs. San Francisco
Roy Oswalt vs. Tim Lincecum

What a draw! I have been anticipating this marquee matchup for awhile. Plus, thanks to reigning CY Lincecum, ESPN2 picked up the game... SO I GET TO WATCH! This matchup brings so much intrique because Lincecum was often compared to Oswalt when he was first breaking into the league. Oswalt has pitched extremely well this spring and despite the foreshadowing of some back trouble, he should be in top form for tonights opener. I think this game could be even 2-2 into the seventh and I like the Astros' bullpen. Chalk this one up as a surprise (surprise? it's at home, so maybe not surprise) win. 5-3

Tuesday:

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Matt Cain

Wandy Rodriguez at home, this game should be a lock right? Not so fast, Cain is one of the five best pitchers in the NL. My heart wants to mark this as an Astros win, but I can't believe they go 2-0. So, I'm going to say Wandy gets shelled in the first two innings and is out by the fourth. Matt Cain goes into the eighth. Giants win it, 7-1

Wednesday:

Brett Myers vs. Barry Zito

I want to say that I liked seeing Zito have a decent year in '09, he may not be back, back, but it's good to see him relevant again. That said, I am amped for this game! Chris Johnson should be getting the start against the lefty, I'm expecting him to swing a hot bat--and hopefully earn himself some more playing time, I do not want him sent down when Berkman comes back! Hunter Pence can also mash against lefties, expect both to go yard in a 6-4 victory.

Friday:

Houston vs. Philadelphia

Bud Norris vs. Jamie Moyer

I think it will be Moyer at least (Moyer 4th, Kendrick 5th, right?). Another series at home, but this time against the NL favorite. I like the 25 year old man against the 65 year old man. Astros win, 6-5

Saturday:

Roy Oswalt vs. Roy Halladay

This is where things get tricky, but I'm going to assume both teams throw out their aces. Oswalt faces two of the toughest opponents in the NL in his first two starts, and unlike the first one (the one in 8 min!) I don't think he'll be able to keep up. Phillies win 8-3.

Sunday:

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cole Hamels

Another tough draw for Wandy too. Wandy at home two times in the same week, he's going to win at least one. Hamels is a lefty against a right handed hitting team (Carlos Lee, Pence, Johnson, Feliz), so I like the Astros to finish the week strong, 4-3.

Week 1 record: 4-2

I would be absolutely thrilled if the Astros could pull this off in week one. Here's to hoping I'm not completely dellusional... and we'll find out very, very, soon.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:22 pm
 

2010 Astros Organizational Preview Part 1: AAA/AA

...On to my third post today. I absolutely love looking at a team's prospects, glare into the future and be optimistic. I check minor league box scores on, at least, a bi-daily basis. So, this post is devoted to previewing the four full-season minor league team's in the Astros organization. I will touch on all the key guys at each level. I'm especially excited about this Astros organization, which is already on the rise, because they have three of this year's drafts top thirty-three picks (8th, 19th and 33rd). Giving the Astros a big chance at rising even further. Here's a breakdown of Houston's AAA and AA affiliates. A breakdown of Houston's high A and A ball team's, Lancaster and Lexington, are forthcoming.
Round Rock Express (AAA)

The big name in Round Rock is Jason Castro, the Astros' top prospect and number ten pick overall in 2008. He had a terrific spring, just losing the major league starting catcher job to the older J.R. Towles. I fully expect, however, Castro to hold that position by the middle of June. Castro is an elite defensive catcher with good on-base skills, many people are done on his ability to hit for power, but I bet he's able to hit plenty of doubles with maybe 15-20 HRs annually (sounds a little like Biggio in that regard, without the speed though).

The Round Rock infield consists of Chris Shelton 1B, Edwin Matsonet UTIL, Drew Meyer 2B, among others. Maysonet got plenty of looks in Houston last season and in spring training this year. He's a utility infielder at the major league level. Due to his ability to play SS, there is a chance he could become more valuable to Houston than Jeff Keppinger. Shelton is older, not a prospect, has some power, but has already had his chances with the Tigers. Drew Meyer is interesting. He had a good season with Corpus Christi last season, gets on base, but is an older prospect.

The RR outfield draws more intigue than the infield. It consists of former pitcher and first round pick, Brian Bogusevic, Colin DeLome and (An)Drew Locke. Locke, like Meyer, is an older prospect, he was picked up from the Dodgers during the minor league phase of the rule V draft before last season. He absolutely crushed the ball in AA in 2009. He hit .338 with a .920 OPS (20 HRs/31doubles). He'll also play first base. Bogusevic will repeat AAA after having a mediocre 2009, his first full season as an outfielder. He has the potential to be an average to above-average defender in CF/RF and could provide some average on-base skills and speed. His power isn't great, however. DeLome is the guy with the most upside, due to ample supplies of both power and speed. In AA last season he hit 20 HRs and stole 15 bases, but struck out 141 times and only hit for a .255 ave. and .323 OBP. If he can improve his pitch recognition and patience he could develop into a special player. He's not extremely old for a prospect (he'll be 24 all of this season), but he still has a very raw hit tool. He'll also be only be able to play LF.

Wesley Wright and Polin Trinidad (both LH starters) are the two pitchers to watch. Wright's transition as a starter has been well documented and he is no longer a prospect, obviously. However, Trinidad has always been a bit of an underrated prospect, being a LH pitchability guy. He's had success at pretty much every level though. Casey Daigle made some noise in spring training and Wilton Lopez and Evan Engelbrook are a pair of reliever (Lopez will be one at the ML level) who could make their way to Houston at some point.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)

AA also seems to be the place for top prospects. Strasburg was sent to AA rather than AAA. Jason Castro started last season in AA. AAA is for veterans who are already to be placed on a ML bench. AA is where top prospects mash and throw filthy pitches. This is certainly the case for The Hooks in 2010. The big name is Jordan Lyles. Lyles is a RH SP and won't turn 20 until October. The Astros brass has decided to have him skip the launching pad of Lancaster. It's a risky move. AA hitting is much MUCH better than high A batting, but if anyone is up to it, it's Lyles. Lyles struck out 167 batters in Lexington last season, walking only 38 in 144.2 innings. He also only gave up five homeruns all year. Lyles is a very advanced pitcher for his age, his success is mostly due to his fastball command. He throws both a 4 and 2-seam fastball in the low 90s, along with a cutter, curveball and a changeup which BA describes as the best in the organization. His upside looks to be in the #3/#4 starter range right now, but he's only 19 and could still improve his stuff and add a few ticks to his fastball. Don't be too afraid if he struggles this year, he's 19 and could repeat AA next year no matter what, but he's got a very bright future. He could also come out and dominate, which means he could be knocking on the door this time next year at 20.

Fernadno Abad, Henry Villar, Chia Jen-Lo and Matt Nevarez are four other pitchers to watch. Abad is the only starter among them and pitched well in high A and AA last year. He'll start the season in AA, but would likely be the first to move up, he's left handed with a good fastball. Villar, Nevarez and Lo are all relievers. They all had great succes last season, Villar and Nevarez in Lexington, Lo split between Lancaster and Corpus Christi, like Abad. Villar struck out 109 in 90 innings in 2009, walking only 18! All three could be in Houston by season's end. (Houston has a ton of relievers! Lindstrom, Lyon, Gervacio, Fulchino, Arias, Lo, Nevarez and Villar.)

All the big bats from Lancaster move up to Corpus Christi to start 2010, they will all be looking to prove they aren't a product of the ballpark. Among them are Koby Clemens, Jon Gaston, T.J. Steele and Jack Shuck. My favorite of the bunch is T.J. Steele, a 2008 fourth rounder (if memory serves me correct) out of Arizona. His tools, all five of them, are the best of any from this group. He has had trouble staying healthy and could struggle with his plate discipline (Ks and BBs). However, he could easily put it all together and become a top prospect. Gaston and Clemens I fear are both products of Lancaster. Both led the minors in a statistical category in 2009 (HRs and RBIs respectively). However, hopefully they prove me and everyone else wrong. Shuck is an intereting guy. He was very successful in Lancaster, but has no power, so his numbers couldn't have been inflated! He has excellent plate discipline, walking as much as he struck out and can steal bases, it'll be interesting to see if he can keep up his succes, or if he'll flame out in AA.

Wladimir Sutil is repeating AA, he's older, but a defensive wizard--I've heard, more so than Tommy Manzella. However, he's lacking on the offensive side, more so than Adam Everett of Tommy Manzella.

Posted on: April 5, 2010 11:37 am
 

2010 Baseball Playoff Predictions

As usual, if you disgree with my picks below, please let me know in the comments section. What do you disagree with? Who did I leave off? Who am I too optimistic about? Why do you feel this way? I'd love to get some back-and-forth with you about this. It's baseball season! I want as much baseball discussion as I can get. So, please comment.

American League

East: New York Yankees

I absolutely love the Rays (see below), however, I'm still going to pick the Yankees over 162 games... even if they're starting 0-1. They're rotation is great, again. C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are all held over from last year's championship team and they've added Javier Vazquez and Phil Hughes at the back-end. Hughes is at least, at the very least equal to Joba, who was the third starter at the start of last season. Hughes features more upside in the rotation than Joba though... and I think he'll live up to it, this year. Vazquez was fourth or fifth in the NL CY Young voting last season (thank you Keith Law), this is his second time putting on pin stripes, hopefully they'll suit him better this time around, they should. The bullpen, as evidenced last night, could be messy. They've lost Hughes and Phil Coke from last year. However, Rivera and Joba are the 8th and 9th guys, 'nough said. The lineup is lightly weaker than last year. Question to those reading: Which set of hitters would you prefer? A) Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Johnson, or B) Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees of course have a great team. However, I don't like that they aren't clearly an definitively better than last year... they might be slightly worse.

Central: Minnesota Twins

The Twins are pretty consistently the best, of what I believe to be, the worst division in baseball. The Royals and Indians aren't going to compete (Royals=duh! but the Indians usually compete too). So, it could be any one of three teams, the Twins, the Tigers and the White Sox. Since I haven't gotten over the 2005 World Series, I threw out the White Sox. Finally, I flipped a coin. It turned up tails, which starts with a "T" and is five letters long. So, the Twins it is. I'm kidding, of course. The Twins have a good lineup, featuring reigning MVP, Joe Mauer and former MVP, Justin Morneau. Their pitching staff is also solid, even if they lack a big name starter. The Twins also always seem to get the most out of their roster, unlike the Tigers. So, I'll give them the division again, although, they'll be booted from the playoffs by the Rays in the first round.

West: Texas Rangers

The AL West is going to be competative, all four teams could finish above .500. However, I like the Rangers most of all. Perhaps, most because the other teams, although good, have some bigger questions. Mariners: Who is going to pitch well after Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee? Who is going to drive in Ichiro and Chone Figgins? Angels: Why would they lose all their free agents and do nothing about it? A's: Who is going to hit for power? Will Sheets and Duscherer (I'm too lazy to look up the spelling, I apologize) hold up? Be effective? The Rangers are super young. With a ton of talent. Names to watch: Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Julio Borbon, Justin Smoak, Elvis Andrus, etc. Not to mention verterans: Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Rich Harden. However, they too will likely fall to an AL East team in the playoffs.

Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays

My World Series winner. The Red Sox' lineup is just too weak, in my opinion. The Rays, like the Rangers, have way too much young talent to be ingnored. Evan Longoria is going to be the AL MVP. He is terrific at all facets of the game. He is a leader. He will have a ring by season's end. B.J. Upton will return to form. Carlos Pena simply mashes. Ben Zobrist (former Astros farmhand) was a terrific surprise and will look to silence any doubters. Jason Bartlett is there to solidify the defense--which is good too, with Longoria and Pena as well. Their rotation may be a little underwhelming when compared to the Yankees or Red Sox, but it's still young and has a ton of potential. They also have lot's of prospects knocking on the door, if they haven't already burst through. Guys to watch (rookies and not): David Price, Wade Davis, Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson.

National League

East: Phillies

I like the Braves in this division too, thus picking them to go to the World Series, but the Philles will be better over 162 games. Halladay makes them just a little bit better than last year. They're the favorites in the NL, even though they're mostly the same team... a lot like the Yankees.

Central: Cardinals

Holliday will be hitting behind Pujols for an entire season and they play in the NL Central (which I love, btw, obviously huge Astros fan here, getting pumped for 7pm, Oswalt v. Lincecum on ESPN2), 'nough said. They're pitching staff will be a little better with Jaime Garcia assuming fifth starter duties. Most everything else is the same as last year. If the Cubs--for once--live up to potential they could compete. Otherwise, the Reds have the best chance of taking it from the Cardinals, but that's a long long shot.

West: Rockies

I love this Rockies team and have for awhile. Why? Troy Tulowitski is one of the top 10-15 players in the game. Ian Stewart can mash. Can you believe Clint Barmes hit 23 homeruns last year? I love Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez at the top of the order... Gonzalez, one of the most underrated young players in the game could hit .300 with 25 HRs and 25 SBs this season. I still like Todd Helton as a little above average NL first basemen. Brad Hawpe's not too shabby with the bat either. Best part of this team: there are probably five or more above average bats I haven't named. The pitching could be an issue, but they have some talent on the farm in that area. I mean you Christian Friedrich and Jhoulys Chacin.

Wild Card: Braves

This team has a good fusion of young and veteran players. A legendary manager going into his final year. They make the best of their roster. I'm too tired to write anything else.

World Series

Rays defeat Braves
Posted on: April 5, 2010 9:56 am
 

NL Central Preview--And Other Introductions...

Today is Opening Day! The real Opening Day, not the day strictly reserved for Yanks and Sox fans. Seriously though, what kind of a score is 9-7 in a battle between the aces of the "two best teams in baseball"--they're not, I'll tell you who is later in the day with my playoff predictions post. Anyways, today is a great day for every baseball fan. Thirteen teams square off, including my beloved Houston Astros. The Astros open the season with Roy Oswalt on the mound for the eighth straight year. He'll face the two-time defending NL Cy Young, Tim Lincecum and the offense deprived Giants. To top it all off, the game will be NATIONALLY TELEVISED (7PM ESPN2). Meaning everyone, incluing those in central New York, can enjoy this marquee pitching matchup.

This being baseball season, I am going to attempt something a little daring. I am going to publish four posts today commemorating the opening of the 2010 season--I am after all, somehow, still, the Astros' "official blogger," I've got the writing badge to prove it. Here's what I have tentatively scheduled for today:

  • NL Central Preview (the second part of this post!)
  • Playoff Predictions (even though this is an Astros blog...)
  • Previewing the first week of the Astros' season: April 5th-11th
  • Previewing the Astros' four full-season minor league teams: Round Rock, Corpus Christi, Lancaster and Lexington
  • Optional: This is very unlikely, but if I get around to it (today, later this week, to start off next week), I would like to devote a post to some general Astros in 2010 musings. We'll see how the first four things work out though.


Now, without any further outstanding business, is my brief, to the point, NL Central Preview:

(If you disagree with any ranking, please let me know in the comments section--and why. If someone was to disagree with my list, or questioned my thought process below, I would explain my ranking in the comments. Maybe I'll do that anyway.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

MVP: Andrew McCutchen
CY Young: Zach Duke
Unheralded Hero: Bobby Crosby
Breakout Player: Jeff Clement
Breakout Pitcher: Charlie Morton
Prospect to Watch: Pedro Alvarez

5. Chicago Cubs

MVP: Aramis Ramirez
CY Young: Carlos Zambrano
Unheralded Hero: Carlos Marmol
Breakout Player: Tyler Colvin
Breakout Pitcher: NA
Prospects to Watch: Colvin and Jeff Samardzija

4. Milwaukee Brewers

MVP: Ryan Braun
CY Young: Randy Wolf
Unheralded Here: Alcides Escobar
Breakout Player: Escobar
Breakout Pitcher: NA
Prospects to Watch: Excobar, Mat Gamel and Jonathan LuCroy



3. Houston Astros

MVP: Hunter Pence
CY Young: Roy Oswalt
Unheralded Hero: Jason Castro
Breakout Player: Chris Johnson
Breakout Pitcher: Bud Norris
Prospects to Watch: Tommy Manzella, Castro, Johnson, Samuel Gervacio and Chia Jen-Lo



2. Cincinnati Reds

MVP: Jay Bruce
CY Young: Homer Bailey
Unheralded Hero: Drew Stubbs
Breakout Player: Stubbs
Breakout Pitcher: Bailey
Prospects to Watch: Mike Leake, Drew Stubbs, Aroldis Champman, Juan Francisco and Travis Wood

1. St. Louis Cardinals

MVP: Albert Pujols
CY Young: Adam Wainwright
Unheralded Hero: Ryan Franklin
Breakout Player: Colby Rasmus
Breakout Pitcher: Jaime Garcia
Prospects to Watch: Garcia


Posted on: March 18, 2010 12:32 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2010 3:18 pm
 

Live Blogging Day 1 of The Tournament

I'm going to be watching the games anyway. So, I've decided why not jump onto this blog here--which I haven't looked at in months and jot down my thoughts. Worst case: I have some organized thoughts which I can share in discussions with my friends. We'll be arguing about these games and I'll be prepared. Best Case: Some college basketball fans come and join me at some point today and we begin an active. If you happen to drop by this page and read the above sentences, I urge you, please join me in discussion. This kind of comradery is what the tournament is all about.

Opening thoughts:

12:24
The Florida-BYU game is on with 16:30 left to go in the first. Florida is up 8 to 6. I've liked Florida's talent from the beginning. You can sift through my infrequent posts and read a quick blurb on the Gators, in which I penned them one of my underrated teams to watch. I love Chandler Parsons, Alex Tryus,  Macklin, Walker and Boynton, all of whom average double digit points. I have picked the Gators in my bracket--however, I don't have them going any further.

This is the game I'll likely stick with through the first series of games. Villanova-Robert Morris? No thank you. And I prefer this Gators matchup to Notre Dame-Old Dominion, in which I've picked the Big East team. Even with Harangody coming off the bench, I think the 'Irish have proven down the stretch in big east play, they have the drive to push forward. They're a team of perseverance, with momentum coming in. These types usually do well come Tourney time.

Your thoughts on the first series of games? Let me know.

3:11

After 2 computer crashes, I've determined that my (4-yo) laptop can't handle both streaming games and constant page updates and posting. So, all I can do i live blog what CBS shows me.

Some quick hits:

Florida-BYU

Despite my disappointment, I have to admit, this was a terrific game. Florida came back down the stretch in regulation, had the lead at times and endured through overtime. However, BYU pulled off... well... they just pulled out a win. Florida was technically the underdog. I maintain, Florida was the better team today.

NOVA-Robert Morris

Game just ended in overtime 70-73. The Referees gave this game away to Scottie Reynolds and Villanova. They should not be celebrating as much as they are. They lost, everywhere but on the scoreboard...

Vanderbilt-Murray State

I've scene none of this game, but I see that Murray State has the lead. I'm going to assume I'm headed there next though. None of these current games interest me as much as the first round of games--or the later games--so, I'm taking a little break. I may even head to the gym for a couple hours. If/when I'm back full on live-blogging, it'll be on a new page. Enjoy the rest of today's games.

My picks for the current set:

Vanderbilt, Baylor, Kansas State... yep chalk. Nothing special. I do have UTEP over Baylor later though.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 6:47 pm
 

Pre Spring Training Notebook: Part 1

The Astros report--pitchers and catchers at least--to Kissimmee in eighteen days. This, along with some uninstigated optimism has my heart pounding for baseball season. My beloved Syracuse Orange[men] are up to #3 in the AP, they have only one loss, I have tickets to the 'Nova game and yet I cannot hold back my anticipation for spring training. That's right, not the actual baseball season, but SPRING TRAINING. Any of you baseball nuts, like me, will understand where I'm coming from. At the start of every season their is every reason to believe your team has a shot--I apologize for fans of: the Nationals, the Pirates, the Royals and the Blue Jays, for whom this is not true. I fully believe, despite a myriad of doubt coming from fans, experts and most everyone--other than the usually off-his-rocker Richard Justice (of the Houston Chronicle)--that the Astros will buck the consenus and prove to be a better than expected team. Essentially, my fellow Astros fans, there is reason to watch and follow along for the next seven+ months. It also occurs to me that I am still, undeservably so, in possession of the "writer's badge" for Astros coverage. So, I might as well begin chronicling the Astros' 2010 season, beginning on February 1st--one day before the LOST premiere.

I will begin with my "Pre Spring Training Notebook." This will be a quick sum up of the offseason and the names we can expect to see come actual Spring Training--which is again, EIGHTEEN days away. This will be done in four parts: The Subtractions, The Additions, The Prospects, The Holdovers. Today I bring you...

The Subtractions


Miguel Tejada SS - Perhaps the biggest loss for the Astros--certainly at the plate and in the clubhouse, at least--Tejada was not even offered a contract. We could debate whether Ed Wade should have made an attempt to sign Tejada back at a discounted price, but I think any conversation would be pointless. The fact remains, he was not resigned--an added bonus, he did not sign with Cardinals. The question I pose to you, the one I think matters, is: How much offense did we lose when we failed to even attempt to resign him. I would argue not much. In two seasons with the 'Stros Tejada averaged a .326 OBP and .435 SLG%. In comparison: Marlon Byrd OF (formerly of the Rangers) recorded a .329 OBP and .479 SLG% last year, Mark Teahen 3B (formerly of the Royals) recorded a .325 OBP and .408 SLG%, Cody Ross OF (Marlins) hit a .321 OBP and .469 SLG% and Melky Cabrera OF (formerly of the Yankees) hit for a .336 OBP and .416 SLG%. My point? Tejada put up solid numbers, NOT EXCEPTIONAL ONES. Not the kind of numbers you expect from one of your team's top offensive contributers. His numbers were merely good enough for average role players. Every team, of course, needs these players. However, they should be replaceable. Add to this fact his poor defensive ability--especially since he's being replaced by a good defensive reputation, Tommy Manzella--and we [the Astros illustrious fan base] don't have too much to worry about. How's that for optimism?

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins RP - I've decided to pair these two for two reasons 1. To save myself some time (I always get excited to start writing, then twenty minutes later, yawn...) 2. These two served the same role in 2009, co-closer. Both Valverde and Hawkins are big loses. My ideal plan heading into the offseason would have been to offer both arbitration. Allow Valverde to sign elsewhere and collect the draft picks and either keep Hawkins via arb. or collect a draft pick for him as well. Half of that came to fruition. However, seeing Hawkins sign with the Brewers hurt--not only because they are a division rival too. If the Astros are going to spend 15 million on Brandon Lyon, why couldn't they have spent half that on resigning Hawkins, who proved that he could be a more than effective closer in 2009. In my opinion, letting Hawkins walk was the biggest mistake of the offseason, however, he is old and his track record isn't great, so I could be wrong here. Ultimately thhough, the production of this pair will be very difficult to make up this season--eighth and ninth innings=DANGER!

Darin Erstad 1B/OF - I know, I know, we shouldn't even have to mention him. However, is there a better guy in sports? It's sad to see the former Nebraska punter go. He was a good bench player in 2008--even if regulated to morale booster last season--and that production off the bench will have to come from somewhere. I do not like Houston's bench as it stands. His departure will open the door for Cory Sullivan or one of the prospects to become Houston's fifth outfielder.

Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz - Can you say addition by subtraction?

At first glance you may say that Houston lost too much between the trio of Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins. I will admit, all of those loses hurt, although some more than others. However, with their departures, the composition of this team will change. The team is getting younger, the team is getting better on defense. It will ultimately be tough to say which team ('09 or '10) seems better. However, I would make a case for the 2010 team's new look. Especially when you take into consideration all of the addition by subtraction--and I'm not talking about Hampton and Moehler...

Cecil Cooper - COME ON, it wouldn't be an Astros offseason post if I didn't mention the cancer that was Cecil Cooper (I am sure "Coop" is a lovely man if I ever had the pleasure to meet him). The players hated him and he was a terrible tactitian. His departure can only mean good things for the Astros in 2010, right?

Discuss these former 'Stros or anything else in the comments section.

Due Up: Additions

Posted on: November 18, 2009 11:45 am
 

Firing Up "The Bandwagon" 11/18/2009

As usual we’ll start with a review of the teams already apart of my bandwagon:

Florida State (ACC) 1-0

Connecticut (Big East) 3-0

As always, let me know what you think below.  Tell me what you think of teams already in my bandwagon.  Tell me which teams are apart of your bandwagon.  Try to guess which seven teams will round out my bandwagon.  Let’s get some interaction going. 

I’m moving onto the representative from the SEC.  The experts say the South East is much improved, but I’m not yet buying into that thought.  Kentucky is Memphis of the last several years, only in a tougher conference – so they’ll lose a few games.  After Kentucky its Tennessee, whom I like as well, they’ve got three or four possible All-SEC performers.  However, the team who is joining my bandwagon is neither of these teams, but it is a recent back-to-back champion. 

Florida (SEC) 1-0

The argument I’ve heard against Florida is that they lost their top player, their top scorer, their top playmaker – of course all of whom all Nick Calathes – how can they be better.  It was the same for Connecticut and partly the same with Florida State – with the loss of Toney Douglas.  Throw out all comparisons to last year.  It’s a new season anything can happen.   The talent as a whole is down, in my opinion.  Florida is one of the most solid team’s I’ve come across.  They return sophomore Alex Tyus, who will shift to hi natural power forward position this year, he will likely lead the team in rebounds and could lead them in scoring as well – he averaged 12.5 ppg his freshmen year.  Also returning is 5-8 sophomore guard Erving Walker , who averaged 10.1 ppg last year despite playing in Calathes’ shadow – and it was a literal shadow, Calathes is 6-6 to Walker’s 5-8, ha!  Junior Chandler Parsons is a personal favorite of mine.  He led the team with fourteen points in their season opener.  His emergence will be a key determinant in Florida’s season.  Joining the above three holdovers is top recruit Kenny Boynton, a 6-2 off guard who will immediately step in as one of the team’s top scoring threats, he scored twelve in the opener.  Helping out the front court is Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, who will step in at the five to provide defense, rebounds and some low post points; he scored thirteen and grabbed eight rebounds in the first game.  He’s an excellent complement to Tyus.  Senior forward Dan Werner will also contribute; he averaged 8.9 ppg and 4.9 rpg last season in a starting role.  Freshmen Erik Murphy, a 6-10 forward, whom rivals.com likens to former Gator Matt Bonner .  I really like this Gators team; they’re good in the frontcourt with depth there and they’re good in the backcourt, admittedly with less depth.  The question is, are they great anywhere?  I tend to think that frontcourt of Tyus, Macklin and Parsons is great.  Florida will get a couple of early tests as they take on Florida State November twenty-forth, they go to #2 Michigan State on November twenty-seventh and take on another “great” frontcourt in Syracuse, at home, December tenth.  Other than those three games they coast to SEC season, when they go to Vanderbilt on January ninth.  It’s my impression that they will lose all three early tests and go into SEC season 10-3, which isn’t bad, but they’ll be without a good win.  Stealing one of those games, most likely either Fla. St. or Syracuse at home, would go a long way to ensuring their March plans. 


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com