Friday, March 16, 2012

A Few Short Thoughts On Our Baby 'Stros

MAR 16th, 2012-While my time was limited in Kissimmee, and most of that time was behind a camera, I did notice just a few details concerning some of our minor leaguers. Some are more minor than others, so take it for what it's worth:

David Martinez, RHP
2011-Class A Lexington

-Fastball was a tick below normal (to be expected; early in camp), and seemed to have gained a little weight. Shouldn't be an issue, as long as he doesn't gain much more.

Telvin Nash, 1B-DH
2011-Class A Lexington

-Has definitely gained weight. He's a big guy to begin with, but I have a feeling that last year's listed weight of 230 may be about 15 pounds less than he weighs now. Same issues that Frank Thomas faced when he played; it could be that he can play at a heavier weight, but I'd be careful about that if I were him. Better he be mindful of it now than to play with bum knees at age 30.

Mike Kvasnicka, 3B
2011-Class A Lexington

-For the time I was able to see him, he worked exclusively at catcher. Never once saw him without the gear on. I'm thinking that Houston has accepted that he won't ever hit for enough power for a corner infielder, so moving him back behind the plate (C experience from his days at U of Minn.) takes full advantage of that strong arm of his. If he handles the transition well, he'll probably stay there for the time being.

Jason Chowning, RHP
2011-Class A Lexington

-From my talks with him, his arm seems to be feeling better than he expected. There was some concern over a possible torn labrum (see WTH, Bobby post from Sept 28th, 2011) but thus far he says he's feeling much better. From my point of view, he seems to have lost weight; I would be very surprised if his 2011 weight of 178 wasn't a bit high, maybe by around 8 pounds. Dude looks THIN. I'd be concerned about his endurance, through a full season. (ed. note-He and I talked about the "dude looks THIN" observation on the evening of the 15th, I believe. He says he worked out intensively to decrease his body fat percentage this past off-season and actually was a fair sight heavier than I had thought. Seeing him during and after camp drills in person really gives you the impression that his time in the gym will pay significant dividends this year. I told him my concern was that his being underweight for his height/frame could make getting through the long season a little tougher, but I think I may have missed the mark on that assessment. I'm just glad his arm is feeling better.)

Ruben Sosa, OF
2011-Class A Lexington, Rookie-League Greeneville

-Not that it matters, but there is NO WAY Sosa is 5'7". Just saying. Anyway, swing looked a little long in limited time I saw him. He's got time to work that out, of course.

Vincent Velasquez, RHP
2011-DNP (Injured)

-Vince tells me his arm feels great now, and that he's throwing free and easy since his surgery. I imagine he'll start the year in Greeneville for a short time, although rumor has it that he could go straight to Lexington. More on that, later.

Adrian Houser, RHP

-Houser strikes me as somewhat advanced on the mound, in terms of the mental aspects of pitching. He's certainly got the stuff to go along with it. With Archie Bradley and Dylan Bundy coming in the same draft, it may have been easy for some to forget Houser has some pretty wicked stuff, too. Once he has a full season under his belt, I doubt it will be so easy.

Mitchell Lambson, LHP
2011-Short-Season Tri-City

-The one thing that stuck out for me about Lambson, besides the fact that I never saw him without a smile on  his face (I'd be enjoying myself, too), was the changeup. Wicked. Looked to be about 15 MPH less than the FB, but same arm motion, same slot, same release point. Very nice tail and sink on that pitch; with a solid breaking ball, he could definitely be one to watch. While he reported to camp with hair down to his shoulders, Houston was not having it. He got rid of it, and in a hurry. Looks like a different person, altogether. Seems like a nice kid; will be interesting to watch his progress.

Brandon Culbreth, RHP
2011-GSL Astros

-This 8th round pick throws a FB that peaks around 95, plus a slider/cutter type pitch (his words) he relies on extensively. Working on control that was shaky coming into camp, but making progress. Development of a reliable breaking ball (according to him, one of his greatest deficits) will determine how quickly he progresses in the system. Has good, projectable frame; FB may top out around 97 at his peak, if he's used in the 'pen. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mission Kissimmee: Reflections On A Modestly Successful Trip

MAR 13th, 2012-Well...sigh.

I'd like to think that the trip to Kissimmee was well worth the time and money, but there are a few things that didn't quite go the way I had expected. A lot of things, actually.

Where do I start?

1. Timing is everything-My whole reason for making this trip was to get as many good shots of the Astros in training as I could, and the first real access to the Osceola Complex I had was on the day I left Florida. If I had known that they wouldn't be opening things up for the rest of us until then I would never have gone down until the first week of March at the earliest. That one you can blame on my pride; if I had bothered to call the Astros front office to find out how things were going to be, none of this would have been an issue. Which brings me to...

2. Why did I go?-This one is a little cloudy for me. I felt like I wanted to share the pics I got with my fellow Astros fans, and I guess I thought I would be able to make some contacts while there. Finding work as a freelance photographer is not as hard as it sounds; you just have to work your butt off and put yourself out there. In my mind, I felt like it was worth making the trip just for the experience, but part of me thought it would mean more than it did. Does that make sense? Probably not. Let's just say that I was hoping to pick up a little work in the process, but I should have put that idea aside and just enjoyed myself. As it was, I spent 90 percent of my time stuck in my hotel room, editing pics of players I've never met, hoping that I could make some of those pics available to the players themselves. The thing is, only a few of them even acknowledged that I was there (thank you, Brandon Culbreth, Adrian Houser, Rene Garcia, Vincent Velasquez and Jason Chowning). Why should I expect anything different? They don't know me from Adam. I should have just enjoyed the process and the fact that HELLO I'M IN FLORIDA, but I took it way too seriously. What I didn't think about was that...

3. Baseball is a Game-And games are supposed to be fun. When I got too focused on business, I forgot that this should have been fun for me. I can't really say it was as fun as I had hoped. And that was my fault.

I did make a new connection with one of last year's draft picks (Mitchell Lambson) and also got to hang out with Brandon on a few occasions, had dinner with him and Adrian, went to a tattoo shop with Brandon and Vince to see Vince's new tat (good GOD, it's a big one), got to talk to Rene a few times in the hotel lounge, and talked to Jason about his arm and his feelings about the progress he's made. That was the part that meant the most to me. These guys are living the dream, and I take a great interest in the experiences they have off the field while adjusting to a new life with new possibilities.

But I didn't go for that. It was just a bonus. I love photography. I would have gone only for the pics. I picked up a little work from a local paper covering one of the hopefuls in camp, so there's that, and got a couple of shots for a player's family (who were so hyped about it). Some of these kids will land in Lexington this year, and we'll be here when they do. I'll be doing my best to give them the best shots I can get.

Only thing is, I have to remember to have fun. For 9 days in Florida, I almost forgot that part.