Houston Astros: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Callis

Houston Astros: Chat




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2008.

Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Why no love for Mitch Einertson? He seems to have turned the corner and only 21 years old I belive. MVP of the Carolina league this year. I've seen where scouts rated him as pretty decent outfielder as well.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Just because a guy doesn't make a Top 10 list doesn't mean we don't like him or that he has no potential. Einertson tore up the Appy League too in his pro debut, then did little in 2005-06. I just couldn't find any consensus that his bat made him Top 10 worthy, and his bat is going to have to pretty much carry him. If he can put up solid years back to back, then he'll probably make next year's Top 10. I'm just not sold on him.

 Q:  Alex P Keaton from asks:
Clearly Houston had a very weak Amatuer draft in 07. however Collin Delome looked impressive in the NY-Penn League. Where is his ceiling, and how far out of the top 10 did he slide?
 A: 

Jim Callis: As with Einerston, DeLome just missed. Both will fall in the 11-15 range in the Prospect Handbook—buy yours today! DeLome was one of the best college athletes available in the draft, albeit still raw in all phases of the game. He showed more polish than the Astros expected, and they're happy with him. As most of you know, he was their top 2007 signee despite being only a fifth-rounder.

 Q:  John from Harrisonburg, VA asks:
Tommy Manzella: will he ever hit enough to have a shot at a major league career?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He'll play in the majors, but whether he'll hit enough to be a regular for very long remains to be seen. He's very similar offensively and defensively to Adam Everett.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Would you rate Houston dead last overall organization-wise on your Top 30, and how many years are they from becoming a more viable system?
 A: 

Jim Callis: We haven't ranked the farm systems yet for the Prospect Handbook, but the Astros are the favorite to be ranked No. 30. The White Sox are probably their closest challenger. A farm system can't be rebuilt overnight. It's going to take at least three years of solid work in the draft and internationally, unless they make a bunch of trades for prospects like the Indians did a few years ago.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
Will either Max Sapp or Ralph Henriquez pan out as Major League Catchers?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Henriquez, no. There's still some hope for Sapp, though he may just be too big to make it work behind the plate. He got off to a nice start wtiht he bat last year but fell apart after May.

 Q:  The Eye In The Sky from Everywhere asks:
Jim, Beware: Your good friend JP might come protest outside your office for not ranking Mitch Einertson in the top 10. You should probably take a day off or something. Signed, Concerned BA Reader.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I work out of my home, so if I see any dangerous-looking individuals outside, I'll notify the local authorities. I'm more worried about what he might do to my driving record since he works for the Illinois Secretary of State.

 Q:  Jake from Bartlett, IL asks:
Hi Jim, no question, just some comments. All I can say about the Astros farm system is YUCK! Who caused this mess? Their top pitching prospect has #3 starter upside, and no one outside of Towles appears to be even a solid big league regular. They have to have the worst system, don't you agree? Definitely no future Berkmans in this group.
 A: 

Jim Callis: There are some questions in there! I think blame has to start at the top. The Astros haven't drafted well or found much talent in Latin America in recent years, and a big part of the reason is that owner Drayton McLane just hasn't spent the money in those areas. This year's draft was a disaster, and the scouting department isn't blameless. But not offering arbitration to free agents Aubrey Huff, Andy Pettitte and Russ Springer was silly, costing the team as many as six draft picks. Not waiting to sign Woody Williams cost the Astros another. And not allowing his team to go over slot when it didn't pick until the third round was another miscalculation.

 Q:  Gustavo Gonzalez from Caracas, Venezuela asks:
I'd like to get your opinion about Jimmy Barthmaeir? What is the problem with him? Why The Astros do have not protected on a 40-man roster? and Is Devon Torrence a real prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Bathmaier's stuff went backwards this year, and his dedication also was in question. The reason he's not on the 40-man is that the Astros removed him and the Pirates claimed him on waivers. Torrence is a real athlete, but whether he'll commit to baseball long term and be able to hone his baseball skills remains to be seen. He's currently playing football at Ohio State.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Do you see Samuel Gervacio as someone who could make a push for the closers role mid season next year if things don't quite work out with whoever wins the job in spring training?
 A: 

Jim Callis: We're not getting a lot of Astros questions, and Chad has sent in a ton, so get ready for a heavy dose of Chad . . . I like Gervacio's arm but I don't see him as a big league closer. He's show three plus pitches at times with his fastball, changeup and slider. If he was bigger and projected more durability, it would be worth exploring him as a starter.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Where would Josh Anderson have figured into the Top 30 if he hadn't been traded?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I had Josh Anderson at No. 17 on my rough working list. I've never been a big fan. His speed has declined, and while it's still above-average, that's his only standout tool. I don't believe in the bat and he's not as good in the outfield as his speed might lead you to believe.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Why does the Stros' organization give John Ash no love? The dude hit .316 with an OB% of .370+ in 06 and was asked to repeat the league? Will he ever get a fair shot?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Ash is the best pure hitter in the system — and he barely will crack the Top 30. The problem with Ash is that every other aspect of his game is below average. He has no power, little speed and he's a subpar defender at second base, so he doesn't really profile as any kind of big leaguer. At least he'll always have memories of his classic College World Series homer off Chad Cordero.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
System depth aside, where would Towles rank on a team like the Red Sox?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'm working on the Red Sox list also, and Towles would check in at No. 5 or 6, behind guys like Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lars Anderson, Justin Masterson and maybe Jed Lowrie. Towles is a legit prospect, an athletic catcher with all-around tools. I'm sure he'll make our overall Top 100 Prospects list.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Would Bourn & Costanzo been in the top 10 prospects on the Phillies list?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes. In fact, our NL East issue went to press before the Brad Lidge trade and had Bourn at No. 7 and Costanzo at No. 8 on that incarnation of our Phillies Top 10.

 Q:  Glenn from New Jersey asks:
What's the future hold for Yordany Ramirez? The Astros seemed to think it was a coup signing him and adding him to the 40-man roster.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's very interesting. He still has a ways to go with the bat, but he has shown some improvement. And he has a reputation as one of the best defensive outfielders in the minors. I saw where Astros GM Ed Wade said he wouldn't have dealt Anderson without signing Ramirez. I'd rather have Anderson, but there isn't a big dropoff to Ramirez.

 Q:  Dave H from Glenfield asks:
Where does Towles fall among the best catching prospects in the game like, Conger, Wieters, Anderson, Clement?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I wouldn't put him with Wieters or Clement, though he's clearly a better defender than Clement. I'd take Towles over Bryan Anderson of the Cardinals. And there's still a lot of question as to whether Hank Conger can stay behind the plate.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Sergio Perez was considered a steal by the Astros when they drafted him. They even sent him straight to A ball in Lexington. What are your thoughts on him as a prospect.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like him and he has one of the better arms in the system. He narrowly missed the Top 10 . . . I'll digress for a second. This isn't a good system, and Perez, like DeLome or Einertson, can stake a claim to the Top 10. There's not a big difference among the guys from 6-15 on this list.

 Q:  Ghost of Bob Abreu from Caracas asks:
What happened to the Astros' dominance in Venezuela? Did other teams catch up or did the loss of Andres Reiner set them back so much? It seems their overall Latin program has flagged in recent years.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think it was both of those things. I also think Drayton McLane has been a lot more willing to spend on the big league club than amateur talent in the draft or Latin America. That's great when you have a contender, but they need to rethink that approach now.

 Q:  ScottAz from Phx, AZ asks:
Devon Torrence- will he be like Ricky Manning, Ricky Williams, and all the rest of the college football players that play a summer or two of rookie ball but never devote time or take it seriously, or is there hope he canwill make a run at it?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Too early to tell, but the Astros are encouraged that he has taken the initiative to stay in touch with them this fall and already is talking about playing baseball again next year.

 Q:  MJ from Valpo asks:
Greetings. How about Josh Flores? He seemed to be progressing along nicely up until a little hiccup in AA last year. But at still only 22, and a ton of AB's already racked up, what do the Astros think of him? The guy seems like a gamer; solid in all areas...decent powerspeed combo, no? Is he a poor man's Hunter Pence? Thanks...
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's another guy in that 11-15 mix but Flores in no way belongs in the same sentence with Hunter Pence. Flores can do a little of everything, but outside of speed he doesn't do anything tremendously well and his bat isn't nearly close to being as potent as Pence's.

 Q:  Mike from Chicago asks:
Jim, Soto or J.R. over the next few years?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hmmm, good question. Towles has been on the prospect radar longer, but Soto's huge year and more present power are hard to ignore. I'd go Soto, but it's very close.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
What is your opinion of Heck? Do you see him making an impact in next years draft?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's hard to know how much to read into a crosschecker's track record, because it's really his scouting director's track record. That said, the Brewers have drafted very well recently, and Bobby Heck was a big part of that. The people I've asked about him respect him as a scout. And with that said, if Drayton McLane makes his team stay conservative in the draft, there's only going to be so much Heck and his scouts can do.

 Q:  Roger's Ghost from Not NY asks:
What role do you expect Paulino will wind up in down the line (is he a middle of the rotation starter or a reliever)? Same question for Gutierrez. Thank you.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think they're both going to be relievers down the line. Paulino could wind up as a closer, while Gutierrez' ceiling is more as a setup guy for me.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
What's your opinion on Wladimir Sutil? Prospect or Suspect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Good feel for the game but can't hit enough to be of value. I had someone describe him as a rake with arms.

 Q:  Roger's Ghost from Not NY asks:
Wandy Rodriguez actually had a halfway decent year. In your lineup projection, you have both Paulino and Patton ahead of him. Is it fair to say that they both have better upsides than Rodriguez? Also, Albers is listed as the #2. I know it's just for fun but do you think Albers is the best of that bunch? Thank you.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, that's fair to say. Rodriguez is what he is, and Paulino and Patton should eventually be better than Rodriguez is now. Albers does have the best starting stuff of that group, hence his slotting at No. 2.

 Q:  Matt from Cardiff, UK asks:
Hi Jim, the closer job seems pretty open right now in Houston. Do you see any way guys like Paulino or Gutierrez get a shot at the job?
 A: 

Jim Callis: They eventually could, but I believe the job is Chad Qualls' to lose and I think Qualls will be fine.

 Q:  Tulane fan from Nawlins asks:
What's the deal with Brian Bogusevic? I always thought he'd be a better hitter than pitcher, any thought to moving him to OF since he's moving so slowly as a pitcher?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He has only shown flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick. Hitters seem to pick up his fastball very well and he doesn't have a true out pitch. There's no talk of moving him to the outfield yet, however.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Billy Hart really turned it on the second part of last season. Did something click for him or did he just happen to get hot? What are your thoughts on him as a prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hart's main claim to fame is that he was a backup quarterback behind Matt Leinart at Southern California. He hit .305 this year in high Class A, but he was 24, doesn't have enough true power for third base and isn't much of a defender there either. He's more of a good org guy at this point.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Did Van Ostrand come anywhere near this list? I liked what I saw from him in the Futures game.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Van Ostrand did look good hitting a two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw in the Futures Game. But he wasn't close to the Top 10 and is on the fringes of the Top 30. He's 23, hasn't moved past low Class A and is a well below-average runner and athlete whose bat would really have to carry him.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
How long with the Astros keep Koby Clemens in the organization? Do you ever see him taking to a Major League Field (as a player)?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's a longshot to play in the majors, but he's not just a nepotism or charity case. Clemens has some pop in his bat but lacks athleticism. He's a tremendously hard worker, and that rubs off well on his teammates. I bet he becomes a coach when his playing days are over.

 Q:  concerned from Cypress Falls asks:
What happened to Brooks Conrad? Why do you think he never got a shot in Houston - Biggio?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, Biggio's chase for 3000 hits precluded Conrad from getting a true opportunity this year after he tore up Triple-A in 2006 (he led the minors in extra-base hits). Conrad is a scrapper with some pop in his bat, but he was limited as a runner and defender, too. He became a six-year minor league free agent in October, and I assume he looked for another opportunity elsewhere.

 Q:  Glenn from New Jersey asks:
Michael Bourn vs. Willy Taveras: What are the key differences?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not a whole lot offensively. I'd give the edge to Taveras defensively, though Bourn is a good center fielder, too.

 Q:  Jon from Tampa asks:
What's your take on Chris Johnson? Any chance he develops into a big leaguer?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's interesting, one of the better sleepers in the system. Has some power and better athleticism than you might think. He hasn't done as much as Mike Costanzo has in the minors, but I think Johnson could be a better player in the long run.

 Q:  Chad from Houston, TX asks:
Are Iorg's injury problems random or do you see him being plagued by more injuries in the future? He seems like he could be a good ball player.
 A: 

Jim Callis: More random than anything, as his latest came when he dove into a base. Iorg's all-around tools package is as good as any in the system.

 Q:  Karl of Delaware from Georgetown, Delaware asks:
Norris is a pitcher who supposedly has good stuff, but his numbers last year were sort of dismal. What's the story on him?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Bud Norris has one of the better arms in the system, but he has more stuff than feel right now, which is why he didn't post gaudy numbers. He's another guy who may wind up in the bullpen down the road.

Moderator: That's it for today . . . John Perrotto will be in the house tomorrow to talk about the Pirates system.