Minor Setback For DeShields





HOUSTON—With a minor league front office and field staff still in flux at the time, the Astros headed to instructional league with little in the way of concrete goals.

The one goal they did discuss didn't work out, but the organization was making the best of it as the camp in Kissimmee, Fla., neared its end. First-round pick Delino DeShields was drafted with the intention of using instructional league to begin his move from the outfield to second base. However, elbow soreness prevented a full transition from taking place.

DeShields worked on his footwork around the base and fielded grounders, and he was able to get into games as a DH, but he couldn't throw. The injury is not considered serious.

"He's not afraid to work and he's certainly made progress," new farm director Fred Nelson said.

DeShields was drafted No. 8 overall out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga. Because he played outfield during his prep career, the Astros eased his transition to pro ball by keeping him in his comfort zone. He played in 18 minor league games after signing—15 in center field and three as a DH. The 18-year-old hit .289/.337/.395 with five steals, playing mostly for Rookie-level Greeneville.

The intention remains to move him to second base, where the Astros lack players on a clear path to major league stardom. Both Jose Altuve and Albert Cartwright enjoyed strong 2010 seasons, and Jimmy Paredes, who came over in the Lance Berkman trade, has shown potential. But none is seen as the high-ceiling prospect that DeShields could be.

DeShields will likely be on his own for the rest of the winter, with the potential of an invitation to a pre-spring training camp, if the Astros hold one.

"With his baseball background and his father (longtime major league second baseman Delino DeShields), I'm sure he'll be in a position to do some work in the offseason," Nelson said.

SPACE SHOTS

• Nelson's overall assessment of instructional league was heavy on praise for the pitching. "I'm very impressed by the pitching corps and the ability to pound the zone with low strikes," he said.

• J.B. Shuck, who finished the season at Triple-A Round Rock, was batting a lot of leadoff for the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas. Shuck, a left fielder, recorded four hits and four runs in the Javelinas' first three games.