|Wednesday, January 8
Updated: March 13, 5:44 PM ET
Astros minor-league report
By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com
All the guys brought to the majors in the past few years have left the system relatively depleted at the upper levels, though there are still guys available who can help. The Astros have a proven track record of quickly recharging. They tend to be rather conservative in the draft, though unlike most teams they aren't afraid to take a risk on short pitchers with live arms. Houston has the most extensive scouting operation in Venezuela of any team, though we'll have to see if political unrest in that troubled nation impacts player acquisition. One oddity of recent seasons, having two low-level A-ball teams but no advanced Class A club, has been rectified for 2003. This will make it easier to evaluate guys at the lower level of the system.
2002 amateur draft
First-round pick Derick Grigsby, a fireballing right-hander from Northeast Texas Community College, could develop into a dominating closer. His slider is evil. Mitch Talbot, a high school right-hander from Utah, also throws very hard, but is a bit behind Grigsby on the development curve. Third-round pick Rory Shortell, a right-hander from San Diego State, also throws hard (see a pattern here?). College lefties Mark McLemore (4th round, Oregon State) and Pat Misch (5th round, Western Michigan) are finesse guys who balance out the hard-throwers. Sixth-rounder J.P. Duran, a right-hander from a small college in Texas, has a great breaking ball.
Few interesting position players were added. But if you like velocity, this draft is for you. The Astros have had good luck drafting and developing pitchers in recent years, and this class should continue that trend.
WILL HELP SOON
Brad Lidge, RHP: In a system loaded with fastballs, Lidge may have the best. But he's never been able to stay healthy for any length of time. He pitched well in Triple-A, and should see lots of action for Houston in '03. He will pitch very well if kept within his workload limits.
WILL HELP SOMEDAY
Henri Stanley, OF: Like Lane, Stanley isn't a super tools guy, but he knows how to play and has forced his way into respectability. Hit .314 with 36 doubles, 10 triples, 16 homers, 72 walks, and 14 steals in Double-A last year.
Rodrigo Rosario, RHP: Went 11-6, 3.11 in Double-A. Another very live arm, Rosario hits 94 and has a wicked breaking ball.
Tom Whiteman, SS: Hit .303 with 10 homers in the Sally League. Toolsy, has good defensive skills and hit well last year, though he's had strike zone problems in the past.
Other names to know
John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com.