Well, we came within one win of the World Series. If that was indeed Jeff Kent's last home AB in front of the crowds that began going Astro crazy in the 2nd half of the year, it was a mighty good one.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I get as excited (maybe even more so) about the offseason than the actual baseball season. With that in mind, here's my Astro Offseason Overview:
2004-2005 Free Agents
Astros have: Brad Ausmus, 248/306/325, 5 HR, 20 XBH, 33 BB in 403 AB.
Considered Free Agents:
Jason Varitek, 296/390/482, 18 HR, 49 XBH, 62 BB in 463 AB.
Doug Mirabelli, 281/368/525, 9 HR, 21 XBH, 19 BB in 160 AB.
Damian Miller, 272/339/403, 9 HR, 34 XBH, 39 BB in 397 AB.
Varitek will re-sign with Boston, and probably Mirabelli also. I’d really like to see us at least try to sign Miller, simply because Ausmus is now beyond terrible and should be relegated to backup catcher duty for the rest of his natural life. Miller has had patience beaten into him since he played for the A’s, and he’s capable defensively. Sign him up!
Jeff Bagwell, 266/377/465, 27 HR, 58 XBH, 96 BB in 572 AB. The end nears. He’s not there yet, and he can still be a valuable player, but he’s no longer worth what he makes.
Olmedo Saenz, 279/352/504, 8 HR, 9 XBH, 12 BB in 111 AB. Might make a nice pickup - anytime you're running Everett/Ausmus/P in the bottom 3rd of the lineup, it doesn't hurt to have good pinch hitters in close games.
Jeff Kent, 289/348/531, 27 HR, 69 XBH, 49 BB in 540 AB. The Astros declined his option, and I think he's probably done. He's definitely on the downside of his career, and he wasn't truly spectacular for us, and he's crap in the field, but he had some big hits, and I'll never forget the look on his face as he flipped his helmet off in Game 5 of the NLCS in 2004.
Chris Burke (see waaaay below, Astros minor league stars)
Craig Biggio? (see below, under Astros OFs) Jason Lane deserves a major league job even more than Chris Burke does (Lane is 28!), so I think it's a likelihood that Biggio moves back to 2B and Lane takes over in LF.
Morgan Ensberg, 275/330/411, 10 HR, 33 XBH in 411 ABB. What happened? If you believe in conspiracy theories, the final insult in Jimy Williams' time as Astros manager may have been convincing Ensberg to play more small ball, advance the runner, hit the ball the other way, and bunt more often, instead or crushing 25 HR and drawing 48 BB in 385 AB like he did last year. Or maybe those back spasms were more serious than he let on. Either way, it was a lost year for Ensberg.
Mike Lamb, 288/356/511, 14 HR, 31 XBH in 278 AB. This Gerry Hunsicker trade right before the year started didn't get much press, but it worked out great. Lamb had a fine year, and seemed to come through in the clutch more often than not. Pretty much terrible in the field, but he makes a great platoon partner or bat off the bunch. Nice signing, and I hope to see him back in '05.
Mike Coolbaugh (see Astros Minor League Stars)
Adam Everett, 273/317/385, 8 HR, 25 XBH, 17 BB, 13 SB, 2 CS in 384 AB. NEED. MORE. WALKS. Someone needs to tell AE that he’s a little guy, and he needs to stop swinging for the fences and start drawing more walks. He’s a great baserunner, and does damage when he gets aboard, but a 317 OBP ain’t cutting it.
Jose Vizcaino, 274/311/374, 3 HR, 25 XBH, 20 BB in 358 AB. SET HIM FREEEEEEEEEEEE. Please, no more Viz. He actually didn't do terribly, but he's overpaid, old, subpar offensively, defensively, and is basically the symbol for everything that I think is wrong sometimes with baseball teams preferring old, 'proven', more expensive veterans to young, cheap players with potential (Alfaro, Conrad!, Chris Burke if Biggio plays 2b!) Please let the 2005 'Stros be Viz-free.
*Note - I'm tired, so that's all for now. I'll finish up the OF next time.*
Craig Biggio. He'll be back - the Astros picked up his 3 million option.
Ben Grieve, 260/361/424, 8 HR, 25 XBH, 39 BB in 250 AB. The patience from the A’s organization hasn’t completely worn off, and he’s not a disaster in the field. A 785 OPS from a LH bat off the bench wouldn’t hurt.
Roy Oswalt, SP
Andy Pettitte, SP
Wade Miller, SP
Brandon Backe, SP
Brad Lidge, CL
Chad Qualls, RP
Dan Wheeler, RP
Mike Burns, RP
Pete Munro, RP
Ezequiel Astacio / D.J. Houlton, RP
Steve Reed (option declined)
2005 Astros Minor League Stars
AAA New Orleans
Chris Burke, 2B, , 315/396/507, 16 HR, 55 XBH, 55 BB, 37 SB, 14 CS in 483 AB.
He’s ready. Postseason heroics aside, we should ignore sentimentality and let Jeff Kent ride his motorcycle off into the sunset. Burke put up a 903 OPS in a pitcher’s park, showed good patience and surprising power, and didn’t embarrass himself in the field (11 errors, compared to Kent’s ). Meet the newest Killer B.
Royce Huffman, 1B, 309/393/450, 10 HR, 52 XBH, 71 BB in 531 AB. Not too much pop for a 1B, although he showed good patience. However, we’ve got Bagwell entrenched, and by the time he’s done, hopefully Todd Self will be ready or Berkman will shift over.
Mike Coolbaugh, 3B, 295/368/592, 30 HR, 60 XBH, 47 BB in 404 AB. Check out that slugging percentage! 60 extra bases hits in 404 at-bats is damn good. This guy’s got some serious pop, although he’s probably not very fast, based on his 2 stolen bases and 0 triples. Had 11 errors, compared with Ensberg’s . I like this guy, and I’d love to see him get a long look in spring training. If nothing else, it makes either Ensberg or Lamb a little more expendable.
Jason Alfaro, UTIL, 325/363/477, 13 HR, 45 XBH, 26 BB in 465 AB. Not very patient, and most of his OBP is tied up in batting average. That said, he’s probably better than Jose Vizcaino as a utility guy (he played SS, 2B, 3B, and OF) and 750,000 cheaper.
Chris Enochs, SP, 112.2 IP, 114 H, 35 BB, 92 K, 11 HR allowed, 4.15 ERA. The best of a pretty thin lot at AAA. Not ready for The Show just yet.
AA Round Rock
Brooks Conrad, 2B, 290/365/475, 13 HR, 57 XBH, 63 BB in 480 AB. Showed good pop and excellent patience for a 2B; also is a switch hitter. I said Jason Alfaro could replace Viz, but I’d rather see this guy do it. A lot of potential here – just needs at-bats against major league pitching.
Todd Self, 1B, 315/420/460, 11 HR, 56 XBH, 89 BB in 476 AB. Not a lot of power for a young 1B in a hitter’s park, but check out the OBP! That’s damn good, AND he’s left-handed. Think along the lines of John Olerud or Lyle Overbay, although he’s not that good. Still, a definite prospect.
Willy Taveras, OF, 335/402/386, 2 HR, 16 XBH, 38 BB, 55 SB, 11 CS in 409 AB. Has mastered the art of having a higher OBP than SLG. That said, probably the most overrated Astros prospect. Yeah, he hit .335, but he didn’t walk and didn’t hit for power. Would be fine as a 5th OF/late-inning defensive (Biggio) replacement, pinch-runner. Does not deserve a starting job in the major leagues.
Luke Scott, OF. 298/401/654(!!), 19 HR, 36 XBH, 33 BB in 208 AB. He LED the team in HR…in only 208 AB!!!! Think that Jeriome Robertson trade worked out all right? His numbers may have been a bit flukey, but this guy has major-league power, bats lefty, and walked a lot. Deserves a long look in ST.
Tommy Whiteman, SS. 336/381/473, 8 HR, 22 XBH, 20 BB in 277 AB. Good batting average, but in a hitter’s park, and made 14 errors in only 68 games. Pass.
Ezequiel Astacio, SP. 176 IP, 155 H, 56 BB, 185 K, 12 HR, 3.89 ERA. Taylor Bucholz struggled, but this guy (the other big catch in the Wagner trade) sure didn’t. Over a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP just over 1, and only 12 HR allowed! Looking good. Should be ready soon.
Mike Burns, RP. 80.2 IP, 63 H, 15 BB, 94 K, 1 HR, 1.67 ERA. Those are Lidge numbers, people. This guy was lights out all year.
D.J. Houlton, SP. 159 IP, 141 H, 47 BB, 159 K, 14 HR, 2.94 ERA. Another surprisingly good season from a pitching prospect at AA. Good K/BB ratio, 3 CG. A stud.
Santiago Ramirez, RP. 78.2 IP, 71 H, 38 BB, 83 K, 2 HR, 2.63 ERA. A lot of walks, a lot strikeouts. Pass for now.
Chris Burke is ready for a starting major league job.
Mike Coolbaugh is our new 3B prospect.
Brooks Conrad would be great as a backup middle infielder.
Todd Self is a LH OBP machine at 1B. Test at AAA.
Luke Scott has the most power of any minor league Astro. Test at AAA.
Mike Burns should be in the 2005 Astros bullpen.
Ezequiel Astacio and D.J. Houlton are getting close. Test at AAA.
Jack’s 2005 Astros
C- Damian Miller (2/4?)
1B – Jeff Bagwell
2B – Chris Burke / Craig Biggio
SS – Adam Everett
3B – Morgan Ensberg / Mike Lamb / Mike Coolbaugh
LF – Craig Biggio / Jason Lane
CF – Carlos Beltran / Jason Lane (please, Beltran….6/80?)
RF – Lance Berkman (4/42….5/50?)
MI – Brooks Conrad
OF – Jason Lane (3/6?)
OF – Ben Grieve
C – Brad Ausmus
CI – Mike Coolbaugh
SP – Roy Oswalt (4/40)
SP – Andy Pettitte
SP – Wade Miller (1/5)
SP – Brandon Backe
RP – Brad Lidge
RP – Chad Qualls
RP – Dan Wheeler
RP – Mike Burns
RP – Steve Reed
RP – Any 2 of Pete Munro / Tim Redding / Brandon Duckworth / Ezequiel Astacio / D.J. Houlton