Astros' Long Backs Up The Numbers





HOUSTON—The last man to throw a pitch in the Astros farm system this year is nobody's scouting dream. Kenny Long is listed at 155 pounds, and the undersized lefty was 23 at the time he was drafted, which hardly gives much room for projection.

But the reliever who closed out high Class A Lancaster's California League championship is a tribute to the new methods of player evaluation in the organization.

Put simply, he was a stats pick, somebody off the general scouting radar who was selected on the basis of data from Sig Mejdal and the decision sciences department. Long went in the 22nd round after a successful career at Illinois State, and his performance against lefties is what makes the Astros think he can move quickly.

"Going into the draft, I knew that I'd be coming in as a lefty specialist, so I knew that the splits against lefties were really big and helping me get drafted," Long said. "I'm sure the way I pitch and all the sabermetrics really helped me out."

The results have been staggering, even for an older player. On either side of a promotion from short-season ball to high Class A, Long allowed just seven hits in 221⁄3 innings on the way to a 1.61 ERA. He walked seven and struck out 38, giving him 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Of course, he was used carefully, averaging less than an inning in his 29 outings. Whereas some players end up in the role, Long has been pegged as a specialist from the start. He gets lefties out by changing arm angles and working off a big, sweeping slider.

"I'm more of a junkballer than throwing fastballs," the 6-foot-1, 155 pound Long said. "I just hit them with the offspeed."

The two-step promotion, while a shock to Long, wasn't surprising to the front office, which drafted in part because of his age and sophistication in a specialized role.

"Sig told us that if he was having success, he's a guy who could be moved quickly," farm director Fred Nelson said.

Space Shots

Delino DeShelds Jr. was named the MVP of the California League championship series, topping off a season he finished with 101 stolen bases, a new Astros organization record.

• Reliever Josh Zeid and infielder Ben Orloff were on Israel's team for the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in September, while lefty Alex Sogard pitched for the Czech Republic before an Arizona Fall League stint.