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Astros Chat

Moderator: Jim Callis compiled the Astros list, and will field any questions about the organization at 1 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Keno Leighty from Vancouver, WA asks:
Hello Jim and thanks for the chat. My question is reguarding Brad Lidge. Is he 100% going into spring training? What's his chances at grabbing the 5th rotation spot or will he be a setup man ala Dotel?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'm here a few minutes early after getting the latest Ask BA completed and loaded on the website. So go enjoy that after this. Lidge had some minor cartilage damage in his knee repaired with arthroscopic surgery last fall and I believe he's good to go for spring training. Long term, the Astros think Lidge will fit better as a super setup man like Dotel. With Hernandez hurt, I still think he's behind guys like Tim Redding, Kirk Saarloos and Peter Munro to make the Opening Day rotation.

 Q:  Keno Leighty from Vancouver, WA asks:
Jason Lane....another Ward or is he the real deal?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Real deal. He's a much better athlete than Ward and might even surface as the center fielder Houston keeps looking for. I think Lane will find a way to get 300 at-bats this year and hit about .275-15-50.

 Q:  ralph from berks pa asks:
After his struggles in double AA, what is now the ceiling for Chris Burke? Is he the next Craig Biggio or a utility player?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Burke really needed to go to high Class A last year, but the Astros system didn't have that option. To me, Biggio is a Hall of Famer (though I'm not sure he'll get voted in), and I'm not going to put Burke on that pedestal. He's more than a utilityman though. He should be Houston's leadoff man and second baseman for several years, though probably not before mid-2004 at the earliest.

 Q:  donnie from kutztown pa asks:
Why the hype on Jason Lane? Given the age at which he's played in the minors, Aren't his numbers deceptive? I guess what I'm asking is, Why does he project as an above average player (25-30 hrs) when any other player his age at that level would be seen as a utility player or a major league regular. What qualities make him different?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Lane was signed as a college senior and move through the system one level at a time (not counting high Class A, because Houston didn't have a high Class A team). Until he reached Double-A in 2001, he wasn't regarded as a top prospect, so his development wasn't expedited. Lane is a legitimate hitter for average and power, and he has worked hard to transform himself from a first baseman to a left fielder to a right fielder and maybe even a center fielder.

 Q:  William from Raleigh, NC asks:
What are your thoughts on Adam Everett? I played with Adam at N.C. State in '96 and never thought he was worth all the hype that scouts made him out to be. Granted, he has improved since then and can play defense with anybody, but in this day and age you have to be able to hit as a shortstop. At 160 pounds, will Adam Everett ever hit in the Big Leagues?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think he'll ever hit much in the majors because he never has hit in Triple-A. The Astros like his bat control, but his plate discipline slipped last year and he never has shown power. On an offensive-minded club, he's good enough defensively to maybe merit a starting job and bat eighth. If a team needs him to produce offensively, I just don't see it.

 Q:  Ryan Baker from Cleveland, OH asks:
Jim, When will Hunsicker, McLane, and Bagwell end their lova affair with the "no-hit caddy" Brad Ausmus and give Buck a chance? Are they being so patient because they fell they can contend or is Buck not ready yet?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Buck didn't have a great year in Double-A last year, and despite catching in the heat of the Texas League, somehow managed to put on weight over the course of the season. By the end of the season and in the Arizona Fall League, his bat looked lethargic. Buck is Houston's top prospect and catcher of the future, but he's not ready yet. He needs a full year in Triple-A.

 Q:  Ben from Houston asks:
Can you provide any more info on Charlton Jimerson? He had such a dynamic performance in the CWS for Miami a couple years ago and seemed like a real sleeper in the 5th round, but I've heard next to nothing about him since. Is he struggling that badly? What's the outlook for him, and where will he be playing this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jimerson still has Eric Davis potential. His ceiling is that high. But he's also very raw, too aggressive at the plate and needs to learn the strike zone. He might go back to low Class A in an attempt to get him going.

 Q:  Shad from Frostburg St. University asks:
What are your thoughts on Jimmy Barrett. His numbers were about as impressive as you can get last year in the Sally league. What are your projections for him this year and when is his ETA for the Majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Barrett had a nice bounce-back year in low Class A, regaining some velocity and getting better command of his curveball. With Lidge projecting as a reliever, Barrett is the best starting pitching prospect in the system. He's at least 2.5 years from Houston, though.

 Q:  Ryan Baker from Cleveland, OH asks:
Jim, Do you have any insight as to why the Astros would sign Scuffy Moehler and Shane Reynolds? I can understand 1, and with his history and the contract he agreed to, I would definitely bring back Reynolds, but why Moehler? Where they already aware the Hernandez's injury was this bad? Even so, They already had Saarloos and journeyman Munro, not to mention Lidge and Roberston to vie for those last 2 spots. Is this an indictment of their faith in htese young guys, or was this just a savvy business move to add veteran depth?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I won't say this is definitely "savvy," but I think the Astros wanted some veteran options. They have a lot of intriguing young arms, but to throw several of them into the rotation at the same time that they try to contend probably made them a little skittish.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from Brewerfan.net asks:
Would recently acquired RHP Ruddy Lugo (Ward trade) have merited Top 30 consideration? Did he rank among the Dodger Top 30? Did the Astros give Keith Ginter ample time, or was it a matter of simply being bypassed by several? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hi, Jim. Brewerfan.net is a fine site. The trade happened in time to move Lugo from the Dodgers Top 30 to the Astros Top 30 in our Prospect Handbook. As for Ginter, he's severely limited defensively and I think he had his career year in Double-A in 2000. I see him as more of a bench player than a regular in the majors.

 Q:  Ryan Baker from Cleveland, OH asks:
Jim, Does Mike Hill make the top 30? I know he's not a true prospect at 26 in AA, but his AFL stats looked good and he seems to have a decently balanced toolset, except for maybe plate discipline. Is this the weakness holding him back? For a team that is always so cost conscious, wouldn't Land and Hill be a financially viable replacement set for "FastSkinny" Brian Hunter and geriatric Orlando Merced?
 A: 

Jim Callis: After making our Top 30 in 2001 and 2002, Hill missed the cut in the new Prospect Handbook. He does have some tools and he's a decent prospect, but he's old and I wanted to get some other names on the list. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some time in the majors, however.

 Q:  James from The Southwest asks:
Thanks for you time today. I am interested in your thoughts on a the following pitchers: Manny Santillan, and the once highly touted Anthony Pluta. Also how high of ceiling do you project for Charlton Jimerson, and Henri Stanley in the outfield. Thanks B.A. is the Best.
 A: 

Jim Callis: A converted catcher, Santillan hit 96 mph last year before coming down with a sore elbow that didn't require surgery. He projects as a reliever because his secondary pitches are well behind his fastball. Pluta and Lidge have the best arms in the system, but Pluta was awful last year in low Class A. This is a big year to see if he can group. I touched on Jimerson a couple of questions ago; he may never reach his ceiling, but he could be Eric Davis if he does. Stanley is a former nondrafted free agent who worked to make himself into a prospect like Lane did. With Lane moving to Houston this year, Stanley will be the best hitter in the system. His big weakness is an arm that will limit him to left field.

 Q:  Eddy from Lachine, Quebec asks:
Thanks for taking my question. Though no longer a prospect, what do you think the future holds for Kirk Saarloos? I suspect he'll go into spring training battling with Munro for the fifth spot in the rotation. Does he project as a starter? If so, as a good one?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Saarloos has terrific command and two plus pitches in his changeup and slider. he lacks velocity on his fastball, however, and his results were mixed in the majors last year. He's a tough call, because I think he has the finesse and moxie to succeed as a starter. But given the Astros' pitching depth, if I have to make a call right now, I think he'll be a reliever long term. This year, he could be a decent fifth starter.

 Q:  Brian from Milwaukee, WI asks:
I do not see Wilfredo Rodriguez anywhere in your discussion. Can you tell me what happened to this once #1 organization prospect
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rodriguez was designated for assignment and released last July. The Cubs picked him up, but I'm not sure they still have him. He just didn't develop as hoped and was a tremedous disappointment to the Astros.

 Q:  Rick from Holbrook, NY asks:
It seems that a lot of Astros minor leaguers had trouble adjusting to Double A this year. I don't recall seeing this problem in previous years. Do you think the addition of a high A affiliate will solve this problem and why was it more pronounced this year as compared to other years?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Astros got away without having a high Class A affiliate in 2001 and paid for it in 2002. I think adding the Salem affiliate will solve the problem. It's just a case where Houston could get around it for one year but two years proved to be too many.

 Q:  Andy from Ithaca asks:
Is there anyone in the organization that could move Lance Berkman out of center? Do you think the Astros will keep him in center for this season? The future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I guess the current plan is to play Craig Biggio, which may or may not work. From what I hear, Jason Lane would be a better center fielder than Berkman. If there's an injury or the Astros figure out how to dump Richard Hidalgo, I think we could see Lane in center.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin asks:
Where do you rate Gerry Hunsicker among GM's. I think he'd be Beane with a less meddlesome owner.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Hunsicker is one of the more underrated GMs in baseball. The Astros contend year in and year out without spending oodles of money.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
What's the health status of Robert Stiehl?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Stiehl had rotator-cuff surgery in 2001, didn't pitch in 2002 and may not be ready to start 2003. It's hard to bank on him right now.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
Does Henri Stanley have enough tools to find a job as a regular outfielder, or is he relegated to fourth or 5th outfielder duty?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He does. Stanley has the bat and he could play center field if not for his arm. The problem is that he's not a true slugger if he has to play on the corner, though he does offer a lot of leadoff skills.

 Q:  Andy T. from Austin, Texas asks:
Given the crowded Astros outfield and Victor Hall's limited experience above A ball, what are his chances of remaining with the major league club? Are you aware of any agreement with the Rockes and Diamondbacks that would enable him to remain with Houston even if he should end up at Round Rock or New Orleans (despite the Rule 5 requirement that he remain with the big club all year)?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think the Astros will try to keep Hall because he's as good a bet as they have for a true center fielder in the future. I don't think there's any agreement between the two clubs, though a trade could be worked out. However, there's no reason Hall couldn't fill the role Glen Barker filled as a pinch-runner and defensive specialist from 1999-2001.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
Should we expect any new sudden aging revelations about any Astros prospects, or have they all come to light?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think we've only seen the first wave of age changes throughout baseball. A lot of players are on multiyear visas and didn't have to have their information verified after the 2001 season. With the INS saying that anyone caught lying will be kept out of the United States, I think we'll see a lot of players come clean this year.

 Q:  David Mark from Maplewood, NJ asks:
Since the Astros lack a full complement of affiliates, are they giving their pitchers an unfair hoop to jump through? It seems they have given up on the Mike Nanninis of the world because they couldn't jump two levels.
 A: 

Jim Callis: To clarify, the Astros now have a high Class A affiliate. With Nannini, he pitched well in high Class A at the end of 2000, so he should have been able to handle Double-A in 2002. His stuff leveled off, which is why his prospect status dimmed.

 Q:  Stephanie from Lafayette, LA asks:
Lane is a better corner outfielder than center...henri stanley doesn't have the arm...what about gavin wright or jimerson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Wright is still 1-2 years away, and Jimerson is way too raw at this point. The best hope for a center fielder in 2002 may be Jason Lane.

 Q:  Mark L. Peel from Arlington Heights, IL asks:
FYI for Jim: Wilfredo Rodriguez was injured again some time in September; the Cubs didn't offer him a 2003 contract.
 A: 

Jim Callis: See, that's why we love Mark Peel. Thanks, Mark.

 Q:  Andy T. from Austin, Texas asks:
Mike Rodriguez, the Astros 2001 2nd round pick from Miami, appeared to have reasonable numbers at Pittfield but is not frequently discussed as an outstanding Major League prospect in most publications on the Astros farm system. Is this simply an oversight, or are there potential issues with his development as a player?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rodriguez isn't quite the burner the Astros thought he would be, and they'd like to see him be more aggressive on the bases and in the outfield. He has some tools, but he looks like a corner guy who's going to hit for a little average and not much power, which isn't exciting.

 Q:  lon from Houston asks:
With all of the good young arms (Nannini, Rohlicek, Anderson, Shearn, Mann, Jamison) the Astros have lost out of their system in past year or so, where do they stack up with other systems today as far as depth of pitching prospects?
 A: 

Jim Callis: They've also promoted a lot of them to the majors in guys like Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller, Carlos Hernandez, Tim Redding, Brad Lidge, Kirk Saarloos, Brandon Puffer and Ricky Stone. They're more middle of the pack now than out in front, where they used to be.

 Q:  Andy from Austin asks:
Given Charlton Jimerson's tremendous strikeout rate is tremendous. What chance do you think he has a chance of harnessing his physical skills and becoming a legit major league outfielder?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jimerson's chances aren't good, because he's so unrefined. But because of his ceiling, he'll get plenty of opportunities.

 Q:  David Mark from Maplewood, NJ asks:
Can Tim Redding be a 15-game winner in the bigs? Do you see 2003 being his breakout year? And if it isn't, is there a chance he'll be passed by the Astros other fine young pitchers?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes and good chance. But don't tell anyone in my NL Scoresheet League. With slightly better control, he could take off.

 Q:  lon from Houston asks:
I thought Mike Burns had a tremendous year last year, but do not hear anyone else, including Astros talking about it, what do you think of him?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He did, and he just missed making my Top 30 list. The strikes against him are that he was 24 in low Class A last year and he doesn't have great stuff. He relies on fastball command and a four-pitch mix. The Astros aren't overlooking him, but he does need to prove himself at higher levels.

 Q:  Tony from Houston, TX asks:
Why do the Astros never seem to have any position players that are under 22 and are highly rated prospects? I know they tend to go after college players in the early rounds of the draft, but come on. Who was their last teenage position player that got any hype?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Astros have had more success with college players, especially college seniors. They did have 19-year-old Venezuelan catcher Hector Gimenez emerge last year, and he made my Top 10 list. Some in the organization think he's better defensively than John Buck.

 Q:  Brian Oakes from Battle Creek, MI asks:
Jim, a few years ago, Gavin Wright almost broke the minor league hitting streak when he was in low A Michigan. He was then injury prone, but had a good year last year, and came up strong in AA Texas League Playoffs. WHat do you see his future as?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Wright took a big step forward in 2002, finally staying healthy and getting past low Class A. He's not quite as fast as he used to be, but he's stronger. He'll play in Double-A this year and could get a look in center field by Houston in the near future.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
Will Greg Miller ever be healthy?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He hasn't recently. Bothered by shoulder tendinitis and a strained lower back in 2001, he had arthroscopic shoulder surgery that October to address a bone spur underneath his labrum. He began 2002 in extended spring and didn't make it to Double-A until mid-June. Then his back flared up again during winter ball. He's one of the few lefthanded starting prospects in the system, so the Astros are hoping he can put in a full Triple-A season in 2003.

 Q:  Greg D from Austin,TX asks:
At 26, Royce Huffman is too old for prospect status. However, I really liked the what he did for Round Rock last year. Do you see him sticking in the bigs as a utility guy?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Maybe. What holds Huffman back is that for all his athleticism (he was a punter, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner at TCU and Sports Illustrated named him one of college football's 10 best special teamers in 1999), he doesn't play any position particularly well. He had a solid year in Double-A in 2002, but he was also 25.

 Q:  Tom K. from Tampa, FL asks:
Was wondering about the status of the W. Michigan Starters from last season. They had a pretty good run and I was wondering what the Astros have plans of leaving them behind another season or will they be bringing them along a little faster. Particularly, Cory Doyne, what is this flame thrower's ETA for the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Doyne has one of the best arms in the system but is very raw. I wouldn't be surprised if he went back to low Class A this year. As for the other West Michigan starters, we've touched on Burns and Pluta. Russ Rohlicek is a decent prospect who got traded to the Cubs. D.J. Houlton is more in the Burns mold, while Mansfield is in the great armvery raw mold of Doyne and Pluta.

 Q:  Ben from Arizona asks:
Talk about Tim Purpura. He seems to be one of the top candidates for future GM roles. How is he viewed around the game. The farm system has always been very good and he has been in charge for quite a few years now. What do they focus on most in developing players? It seems they do a great job of not just developing players, but also winning at the minor league level.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Much like Hunsicker is underrated among GMs, Purpura is underrated among GM candidates. He's not a self-promoter, so that may be part of the reason for his low profile. He's very well respected in baseball. I think one of the reasons Houston has had success developing players is that their scouting and development departments work very well together. The Astros do a good job of identifying talent that can be refined.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
What's your ceiling for D.J. Houlton?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's a finesse guy, so more back of the rotation or middle relief. But he has done very well thus far as a pro. He made the Top 30.

 Q:  Michael from Austin, TX asks:
Jim, some words on the potential of Hector Gimenez?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Besides his sterling all-around defense, Gimenez also has power from both sides of the plate. Like many Astros farmhands, he needs more plate discipline.

 Q:  Tony from Houston asks:
What's the deal with Chance Douglass? He was supposed to be signed and delivered to Rice last year but sounded like some family issues prompted him to turn pro. How did he look in his brief stint last year and does the team like his potential? Sounded like he could have been a steal where he was drafted. Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Tony is accurate on all counts. Douglass is raw and will need time to develop. He has some shoulder problems that caused his velocity to dip to the mid-80s at times last spring. But he also touched 94 mph and could be a steal as a 12th-rounder.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
Why hasn't Chad Qualls been more dominant?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Qualls has a quality sinker-slider combination, but he has two things he needs to work out. He needs to do a better job of commanding his pitches (both in terms of throwing strikes and spotting his stuff in the zone) and he must stop relying too much on his slider.

 Q:  Mike from Toronto asks:
Do either Burke or Tommy Whiteman have the range to play short full time on Astroturf? Will Whiteman have the power to play at third?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The consensus is that Burke doesn't have the arm for shortstop. Whiteman's arm can be a little erratic, but the Astros believe he can play short. If not, they think he'll hit enough for third base.

 Q:  brian richard from dominican republic asks:
what ever happend to RAMON GERMAN and OSVALDO FERNANDO.
 A: 

Jim Callis: German has a lot of power and improved at third base last year, but he got pull-conscious and tried to hit every pitch he saw 500 feet. He's still on the Top 30. Fernando has a good glove, but a 21-year-old shortstop in Rookie ball has to have more than a .651 OPS to make my Top 30.

 Q:  Tommy from Round Rock, TX asks:
Is Morgan Ensberg done? What is his status? Are the rumore true that he rubbed Jimmy Williams the wrong way with 3-0, 3-1 count hacking last season? What do you see in his future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't know anything about the rumors. Geoff Blum is ensconced at third base for now, and Plan B would seem to be putting Jeff Kent at third base and returning Craig Biggio to second. I like Ensberg, but he better seize his next opportunity because it may be his last.

 Q:  lon from Houston asks:
Do you feel Qualls or Rosario have a legitimate shot of being in Houston this season or next, with all the other young guys like; Lidge, Miller, Redding, Munro, Saaloos, Robertson, etc. fighting for playing time?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rosario has a better chance because he's more polished, but I suspect he'll open the season in Triple-A. Both guys should be up by some point in 2004.

 Q:  Josh Hiller from Austin, Texas asks:
Hypothetical: If you wanted to, say, trade Wade Miller for Blaylock, who else would you be looking for from the Rangers to make it an even swap?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't see the Astros doing this. But if they did, I bet they'd ask for Colby Lewis.

 Q:  CJ Keller from Prattville, Al asks:
Do you think the Astros made a mistake by either losing or trading two very interesting left handed prospects in Russ Rohlicek and Wilfredo Rodriguez? And were would the two be in the Astros system?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rodriguez' career was in a nosedive, and I guess they could sign him as a free agent right now if they wanted. Rohlicek is a decent prospect but far from can't miss. I'm not really sure what a month of Tom Gordon was going to do for the Astros, but Rohlicek won't necessarily haunt them for years.

 Q:  lon from Houston asks:
Does the team still have a chance of signing as a Draft & Follow their #7 pick from 2002, Scott Robinson? He seems to look like a special hitter that could one day play in Houston. Where is their #1 pick from last year Grigsby going to play this season, and what do you think of his long-term potential?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, they'd still like to sign Robinson and will make every effort to do so. They really would like to get his bat into the system. Grigsby is very raw and inexperienced, so I bet he begins the season in extended spring training and reports to short-season or Rookie ball in June.

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