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, 2007.

Moderator: Jim Callis will answer questions about the Astros farm system at 12:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Tim from Proctorville, Ohio asks:
Hard-working Josh Anderson is easy to root for. Will he improve his defense and plate discipline enough to make it as a major leaguer?

Jim Callis: Hi, everyone. I'm back again to discuss Astros prospects this time. If I don't get to your question today, you can always send it to me at askba@baseballamerica.com. I'll also be at the Astros FanFest in Houston on Saturday, so if you're there, look me up. And I'll be at the Minute Maid tournament on Friday--looking forward to seeing David Price pitch and to seeing some non-subzero temperatures . . . I'm not sold on Anderson as a regular. He has a lot of speed and he did make some strides in 2007, but I don't think he's going to provide enough OBP or power to be a regular. More of a fourth outfielder who can provide speed off the bench.

 Q:  John from Bloomington, Illinois asks:
I have heard Hunter Pence's power compared to Pat Burrell's in the past. Is this a fair comparison or is his power ceiling not quite that high?

Jim Callis: When both of them came out of college, I don't think anyone would have made that comparison. But Burrell hasn't quite lived up to expectations, while Pence continues to exceed them. I think that's a fair comp.

 Q:  Mikey from Troy, NY asks:
Hey Jim, no love for Jordan Parraz? He dominated the NY-P while top picks like Moresi, Johnson, and even Sapp for the most part had mediocre years at best. he seemed like a 5-tool guy and definitely the best position player at Tri-City

Jim Callis: I like him well enough. He's in the 16-20 range in the Handbook. While he had a great statistical year, he was repeating the New York-Penn League and hasn't made it to a full-season league in three years of pro ball. So while he has some intriguing ability, I'm tempering my enthusiasm a bit.

 Q:  Bernie from Watertown, Mass asks:
Does 2B Jonny Ash fall in the top 20 ??

Jim Callis: He didn't make my Top 30 list. I respect him as a player and he did hit .314 in Double-A last year, but he has very little power, doesn't walk and isn't a great defender at second base. He doesn't profile better anywhere else, either.

 Q:  Jaypers from IL asks:
Would Hirsh have taken the # 1 spot had he remained with Houston? Would it have been close between him and Pence?

Jim Callis: Pence would have been No. 1, with Hirsh a close No. 2. On my personal Top 50 Prospects list in the Prospect Handbook, I ranked Pence No. 41 and Hirsh No. 48.

 Q:  Anthony from L.A. asks:
How would the departed Zobrist and Talbot rank in this system -- will they make the 'stros regret their having been traded?

Jim Callis: The trade made sense at the time, but given that Aubrey Huff didn't help them make the playoffs and has left as a free agent, I'm sure the Astros wish they hadn't done the deal now. Good question. Talbot really came on in 2006, and I might have put him fifth, between Jimmy Barthmaier and Juan Gutierrez. Zobrist would have been in the 11-15 range.

 Q:  John from Harrisonburg, VA asks:
Jim, what does Tommy Manzella's ceiling look like? Could he someday supplant Adam Everett in Houston?

Jim Callis: His ceiling looks like, well, Adam Everett's. Manzella stands out most for his glove and has more pop than Everett. Everett is such a good defender, though, that he's safe for a few more years.

 Q:  Lester Cummings from Dallas asks:
1B Ole Sheldon hit for average and was tremendous at drawing walks this past year but still showed diddly in the power department. Any hope that he's ever gonna start muscling some balls out?

Jim Callis: Probably not, because he was the same type of player in college as well. He's kind of the new Todd Self in the Astros system.

 Q:  Browning Nagle from Louisville, KY asks:
What are your thoughts on Max Sapp? What kind of numbers could he put up and who would you compare him to?

Jim Callis: I think his year in the NY-P looks a lot better when you consider he came straight out of high school. Good power, strong arm, and he's showing the willingness to put in the work to get better behind the plate. Looking at numbers from last year, I could see Sapp putting up a Ramon Hernandez-type performance.

 Q:  Bernie from Watertown, Mass asks:
Any update on Derick Grigsby and his off field battle with depression ? I know he hasn't pitched since 2004, but he's still only 24 years old. With his potential it would be a shame for him not to give it another shot.

Jim Callis: Grigsby didn't come up in my Astros discussions, and I think he's done. He's been through a lot, and here's hoping he has a happy and successful life. But I don't think his future includes baseball.

 Q:  Tim from Proctorville, Ohio asks:
The Astros often seem to do in Texas what the Braves do in Georgia -- secure as many players as possible from their home state. Last year, though, Houston selected just a half-dozen players or so from Texas. Was it a change in philosophy or just a year when players from elsewhere were more attractive, a better fit, etc.?

Jim Callis: I think the Astros have broadened their horizons a little bit under scouting director Paul Ricciarini. But most clubs do focus a little more intently on their own backyard, and there's a lot of talent in Texas. The Astros will continue to have more than their share of Lone Star State talent, I would think.

 Q:  Al from Port Chester, NY asks:
How close was it between Pence and Patton for the top spot? Considering the lack of depth in the big league rotation, how much time do you think Patton will need in AAA before making his big league debut? Thanks!

Jim Callis: Close, though not as close and Pence and Hirsh would have been. I would have put Hirsh ahead of Patton. I think Patton is probably a year and a half away from the majors at this point.

 Q:  Ghostface from Screwed up click asks:
Where did Brian Bogusevic rank in the top 30 and what are the Astros' thoughts on him?

Jim Callis: In the 11-15 range (BA enforcers prohibit me from being more specific--you'll have to buy the Handbook). Bogusevic struggled for more than a year after the Astros took him in 2005's first round, but he took some time off to get over some elbow tendinitis and looked like his old self in August. The Astros were encouraged by that rebound.

 Q:  Ben from Illinois asks:
I was a big fan of Einertson when he made his initial splash in '04, but since then, he's gone steadily downhill, and is now no longer in the Top 30. What's been the biggest reason for his regression, and is there anything he can do to turn it around?

Jim Callis: It's starting to look like his Appy League dominance was a fluke. He hasn't made consistent contact and he has had off-field issues as well. He has to close some significant holes in his swing to get going.

 Q:  Dan Williams from Sutton, MA asks:
Who do you like better to emerge as a solid set up man in the next year or two; Paul Estrada or Juan Gutierrez?

Jim Callis: Dan has a few good questions, but I'll try to space them off. Estrada is one of my favorite sleeper prospects and though I ranked him behind Gutierrez, I think Estrada will help Houston as a setup man first because 1) he's closer to being ready and 2) Gutierrez will continue to pitch as a starter for now. Estrada could make the club out of spring training, as he has legitimate wipeout stuff. His curveball, sinker and splitter all can put hitters away.

 Q:  Matt from DeKalb, IL asks:
If Hunter Pence wins the starting centerfield job out of spring training, does he play an adequate centerfield? What kind of line would you expect this year?

Jim Callis: Adequate would be a good way to describe Pence in center field. He could get the job done and would be better than Lance Berkman was a few years back. But Pence fits best in right field. If Pence was an everyday player in the majors this year, I would envision him hitting .270 with 18 homers.

 Q:  Charlie from Houston asks:
Can you explain to me why Charlton Jimerson is even still on the 40 man roster? His strikeouts are just " notroius " in the minor leagues. Can't they give someone else a shot at the big league club? Or can they trade him for someone? Thanks for your time. Go Astros All The Way!!!

Jim Callis: I have no idea what "notroius" means. As for Jimerson, it's a tough call. He's the best athlete in the system, just an unbelievable defenderrunnerpower hitter. His makeup is through the charts, too. But he doesn't make very good contact at all. To be honest, if the rules didn't change and give players an extra year before they had to be protected on the 40-man, Jimerson probably wouldn't be on the roster.

 Q:  Ben from Taylorville asks:
I was surprised to see Koby ranked as low as he was. Did the apple fall far from the tree? Could he be Houston's future 1B, or do you see him staying at 3B? Who has a higher ceiling at the hot corner - him, or Chris Johnson?

Jim Callis: Koby doesn't have nearly as much raw talent as his famous father, but he's a hard worker who may will his way to the majors somehow. He has a shorter, thicker frame, and he likely will have to move off third base at some point. Johnson has a better chance to stick at the hot corner, though he was mostly a first baseman at Stetson.

 Q:  Joe from Lexington asks:
I see Josh Flores is out of your top ten. Do stats for a 20 year old first year full season guy play that much into your evaluations or have his tools changed that dramatically?

Jim Callis: It's a blend of stats and tools, really a mix of both. He has good tools, but you also can't ignore a .684 OPS in low A. He needs to make a lot of strides with plate discipline, center-field defense and aggression on the basepaths. The raw tools are there, but he needs a lot of polishing, hence his ranking in the 16-20 range.

 Q:  Kyle from Houston asks:
Sergio Perez, second rounder out of Tampa, is he a legitimate prospect for the rotation, or were the Astros reaching on this small school guy that high in the draft?

Jim Callis: Legitimate prospect. The Astros will turn him loose in the rotation in 2007 after taking it easy with him last summer, after he had helped pitch Tampa to the Division II College World Series title. Tampa is a D-II program, but they could easily compete at the D-I level.

 Q:  Dan Williams from Sutton, MA asks:
Does Pence win the CF with a big Spring, leaving Burke in a utility role?

Jim Callis: My guess is Pence starts the year in Triple-A for a month or two. After Craig Biggio gets to 3,000 hits, Burke sees more time at second base and Pence comes up and sees more time in center. Any kind of outfield injury elsewhere, or a slump by Luke Scott, also would get Pence some big league playing time.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
How would you rank the following lefties: Patton, Lofgren, Danks, Veal, Perkins, and Harrison? Who has the highest ceiling?

Jim Callis: Donald Veal (Cubs), Troy Patton (Astros), John Danks (White Sox), Chuck Lofgren (Indians), Glen Perkins (Twins), Matt Harrison (Braves). Veal has the highest ceiling.

 Q:  Ben from Chatham asks:
Better overall tools and ceiling behind the plate - Towles or Sapp?

Jim Callis: Towles is a more well-rounded catcher, while Sapp has more power. I'd give Towles the nod at this point.

 Q:  Eric Anthony from Houston, TX asks:
What's your take on Wladimir Sutil? He seems to be a nice player with some Major League Talent. Thanks!

Jim Callis: Has some tools and the Astros like him some, but he hasn't hit enough in the lower minors to get me excited. He's not on the Top 30 list.

 Q:  Bobby from Arlington, TX asks:
It looks like the same scout signed the top three prospects on your list. Is he a family friend of yours or is he the next GM of the Astros?

Jim Callis: Neither, but Rusty Pendergass did good work on all three guys. When the Astros took Hunter Pence in the second round, most clubs didn't rate him nearly that high. Troy Patton was a steal in the ninth round because other clubs thought he was unsignable. And Matt Albers was a 23rd-round draft-and-follow.

 Q:  Michael from Houston asks:
6'7" righty Raymar Diaz hasn't been pitching all that many years, having been converted from the outfield. He had a nice year for Lexington this past season and did well when promoted to Salem. His fine work out of the starting rotation continued in Puerto Rico this winter. What's your take on him?

Jim Callis: Diaz made the Prospect Handbook a couple of years ago but didn't this year because his stuff has dipped. He's worth keeping an eye on, though, because he has some upside.

 Q:  Joe R. from Newport News, VA asks:
How high is Chris Sampson's ceiling?

Jim Callis: It's not huge, because he's 28 and doesn't have a true out pitch. But he throws strikes with four offerings and keeps hitters off balance, so he can help the Astros as a back-of-the-rotation starter or as a reliever this year, just like he did a year ago.

 Q:  Matt from Dekalb, IL asks:
Why does everyone waste their time asking where so and so ranks when they could just spend the best thirty dollars of their year and pick up the handbook?

Jim Callis: Well said! Buy those Handbooks. But I'll be nice and assume they just ordered theirs late and haven't gotten them quite yet.

 Q:  James K. from Pearland asks:
Southpaw David Qualben was taken in the 7th round this past June and opened his career in spectacular fashion, notching a 2.25 ERA and 1.03 WHIP for Tri-City. On top of that, he may already have the best pickoff move in the system. Hard to believe he doesn't even rate a mention in the depth chart in the Prospect Handbook. Where's the love?

Jim Callis: He's a finesse lefty, and at the lower levels, stuff matters more than stats. He's off to a good start, and he'll have to prove himself again this year.

 Q:  Steven from New York, New York asks:
Whats up no Garate or Qualben on your top 30?

Jim Callis: Victor Garate just missed the list. He has most stuff than Qualben but isn't nearly as polished. It's harder to make the Top 30, in general, as a reliever. Most of your big league relievers were starters in the minors.

 Q:  Jon from Duluth, GA asks:
What is your take on Jimmy Barthmeier. Do you see him making it to the show in 2-3 years ?

Jim Callis: I do. The raw ability is there. He just needs some more polish, command and maturity.

 Q:  Matt from Dekalb, IL asks:
Does Albers crack the rotation out of spring training? What would you expect from him if he does? If he doesn't win a rotation spot can you see him winning a spot in the pen?

Jim Callis: Looking at their options, Albers has a good chance to do so. The only three locks are Roy Oswalt, Jason Jennings and Woody Williams. Rookie pitchers aren't the most reliable, so I'd expect an ERA in the high 4s in 2007 for Albers. If he doesn't win a rotation spot, I'd suspect he'd go to Triple-A as a starter and be on call.

 Q:  dave from atlanta asks:
Why no Ryan Mitchell in the top 30?

Jim Callis: He regressed this year, has a long ways to go.

 Q:  Ead from Houston, TX asks:
Hey Jim, I was wondering on who will be the better centerfielder in the NL Central: Pie or Pence?

Jim Callis: I ranked Pence No. 41 and Pie No. 42 on my personal Top 50--not sure that helps you too much!

 Q:  Greg from Austin asks:
Tip Fairchild and Brad James both had breakthrough seasons in 2006. The Astros thought enough of both to bring 'em to the Nolan Ryan camp last week, 2 of just 23 players so invited. So in checking the Prospect Handbook, how come Fairchild doesn't even show up in your Top 30 (though he is in the depth chart) and James fails to show up absolutely anywhere?

Jim Callis: From a stuff standpoint, they just don't stack up to other arms in the organization. Pitching is the strength of the Astros system.

 Q:  Dave from Connecticut asks:
Does Estrada have closer potential?

Jim Callis: His stuff is certainly good enough to close. He obviously won't be thrust into that role this year, but that's an interesting thought.

 Q:  Karl of Delaware from Georgetown, Delaware asks:
Does speedy outfielder Moresi get a promotion based on his potential, or does his .181 batting average have him repeating short season league?

Jim Callis: Nick Moresi had a wrist injury that ruined his 2006 season in college and pro ball. He'll be healthy this year and starting in center field at low Class A Lexington.

 Q:  todd from chicago, il asks:
Overunder on L.Scott hitting 25hrs this year? Thanks!

Jim Callis: If he plays every day, Luke Scott will hit 25 homers. I'll take the under on him repeating his .336 average, though.

Moderator: That's it for today. Jim is headed for an ESPN.com chat at 2 p.m. ET, and we'll be back Friday with another Top 10 chat on Friday.