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.
reliever who closed out high Class A Lancaster's California League
championship is a tribute to the new methods of player evaluation in the
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.
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,
"I'm more of a junkballer than throwing fastballs," the 6-foot-1, 155 pound Long said. "I just hit them with the offspeed."
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.
• 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.