Hank Aaron, MLB’s RBI Leader!!! Simply put, no player in the history of the game has provided more run production than Hank Aaron. Perched at the top of the leader-board as the All-Time leader in RBI, Hank Aaron has no … Continue reading →
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Former Astros backstop Chris Snyder finally found a new home, agreeing to a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. Snyder played in 76 games for the Astros last season, hitting .176/.295/.308 with seven home runs and a 12.8 percent walk rate.
The former University of Houston product never hit much in Houston, but did a good job handling the pitching staff and provided some punch to an otherwise punchless Astros staff. He hit a couple of big home runs to win some games or put the Astros ahead, but became a lightning rod later in the season after Carlos Corporan hit the cover off the ball, but was still demoted to the minors in favor of Snyder.
The Astros didn't feel like bringing Snyder back this season, failing to exercise a $4 million option on Snyder for the 2013 season that would have made him the highest-paid player on the team. Snyder will compete with Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos for time with the Nationals, and he could provide some minor league depth in case of an injury at the big league level.
While it was clear since they bought out his option, I'm going to miss Snyder around the clubhouse. One of my favorite anecdotes from last season involved Snyder. Before a game with the Pirates when Wandy Rodriguez would be throwing against his former team, Snyder went over Wandy's pitch signals with J.D. Martinez.
He patiently explained the order in which Wandy liked getting his signals and J.D. tried to grasp how he could use that to his advantage. It was a nice little give-and-take that I'm sure happens all the time. But, it's also a nice reminder of what an advantage veterans in a clubhouse can be.
Hank Aaron & The ’3000 Hits Club’ It has been well documented that Hank’s main personal goal in baseball was to collect 3,000 hits, just like his boyhood idol – Stan Musial. Aaron’s 3,000th hit (a single) came in the … Continue reading →
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For the past few seasons, the Braves have maintained one of the best bullpens in baseball, and over the past two seasons, they?ve been a truly elite bullpen thanks to Craig Kimbrel, Eric O?Flaherty, and the merry band of other very capable relievers. The Braves return all the key cogs from those bullpens (and added [...]
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Collecting baseball cards is one of my fondest memories of my childhood. To this day, certain smells, sights and even sounds (particularly, 90's gangster rap, crappy alternative and the Gin Blossoms) bring me back to the days of spending hours ripping packs and sorting cards by team.
Of course, there are good memories and bad ones. The good: pulling a 1995 Fleer Ultra Ken Griffey Jr. Gold Medallion Home Run Kings card from a pack -- on my 12th birthday, even. The bad: the many, many times boxes of cards yielded less value than what I paid for them, which sucked because I had to work my ass off mowing lawns, pulling weeds and shoveling snow to earn that money. However, looking back, I realized that the whole experience wasn't about getting "good" cards or "bad" cards in packs and boxes. That realization happened recently when, while shuffling through a box of old cards, I stumbled upon a couple that brought a smile to my face.More: 1st pitch strikes: What do they mean? O'Dowd and Monfort answer questions from Purple Row Rockies Retro hub
I've always been a fan of the Rockies. Well, almost always; I watched with great interest when the team's first games were broadcast on local TV here in Salt Lake City, but I was still clinging on to my Toronto Blue Jays fandom at the start of the season. That is, until I took a trip with my brother, dad and uncle to Denver to see the Rockies play the eventual NL-champion Philadelphia Phillies at Mile High Stadium in late-May/early-June of 1993.
Even though the Rockies lost both games we attended by a combined score of 24-1, the experience left my 9-year-old self wanting to bleed purple forever (which, while some would say that's a curse, I consider it one of the great blessings I've received in life). The reason? Not only were the two games the first MLB contests I had ever seen, but it was also just the second time I had been out of the state of Utah. The exciting experience was made even better when my dad and uncle allowed my brother and I to walk to a baseball card shop that was down the street from our hotel.
I don't remember the name or location of the shop, but I do remember making three purchases. My memory is foggy on the first one, but I'm pretty sure it was a 1993 Upper Deck card featuring David Nied, Andres Galarraga and Dante Bichette:
Unfortunately, my attempts to locate this card within my collection have been unsuccessful, although I plan on continuing to try to dig it up. Regardless, while it's a very cool card, it doesn't quite hold the significance of the other two that I purchased.
The next card I present to you is a bonus card from the 1992 Donruss baseball set:
Note the old logo, which features a silver arch, sans serif typography and the tiny baseball in the middle of the mountains, as opposed to where it sits in the updated version. It's a beautiful card, not only because of its appearance, but also because it holds the distinction of being the first Colorado Rockies baseball card ever made.
Check out the back:
Doesn't it seem crazy to think that more than 21 years ago, Coors Field was known as Coors Field, even four years before it was built? Maybe it's just me, but that's kind of surreal.
Anyway, while card-collecting Rockies fans now had a piece of history to call their own, they were still without a face to grace the cardboard along with the team's logo. That is, until Series 2 of the 1992 Upper Deck set was released. Behold, the first face of the Rockies, Ryan Turner:
Those Upper Deck cards had a great look, but this card was extra-special, in that Rockies fans and card collectors everywhere now had someone to, perhaps unfairly, pin their dreams on.
Turner was signed by the Rockies during the 1991 winter meetings after hitting .315/.413/.427 as a 22-year-old with independent Bend of the Northwest League. A year later, Turner, along with five other Rockies prospects, spent a season in Visalia, the Cal League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Turner hit a respectable .266/.343/.400 on a team that featured nine future big leaguers, including 1995 American League rookie of the year Marty Cordova.
Turner had another solid season in the Cal League in 1993, posting an .834 OPS for the Central Valley Rockies, but would flame out a year later after a getting off to a poor start at Double-A New Haven.
Clay Latimer wrote about Turner, who returned to school after retiring from baseball and now works in finance, in the Rocky Mountain News leading up to the 2007 World Series.
In the article, Turner told Latimer that "it was an exciting time back then, but it's an exciting time again. What they're doing is extraordinary. Just amazing. I'll certainly be rooting for them."
While that time seems thousands of miles away now, going through my baseball card collection reminded me of something. Just look at those two cards. They are worthless in terms of value. However, it's not about that; it's about the joy that pursuing and obtaining the cards gave me -- a lesson I learned that I plan to instill in my newborn son if he ends up taking an interest in the same things.
The same lesson can be learned from baseball and sports as a whole, as well as from life in general: it's not always about enjoying the end result, but rather cherishing the ride that you take along the way.
I think Turner would agree.
Oakland, under general manager Billy Beane, has become known for their rapid roster turnover and constant wheeling and dealing. However, one player who has managed to stick around in green and gold for a few seasons now is Chris Carter, a slugging first baseman who has followed a bit of a roller coaster path through professional baseball.
Carter was drafted out of California high school in the 2005 baseball draft by the Chicago White Sox, lasting until the 11th round. He was seen as a player who had big time power projection and many thought he could handle the outfield, but wasn't seen as a top prospect right away. He quickly became a sought after commodity, posting 41 home runs between his first two pro seasons across short season and class-A ball. During the 2007 offseason, Carter was traded from the White Sox to the Diamondbacks organization for Carlos Quentin. Two weeks later, the Athletics acquired Carter in the Dan Haren to Arizona trade.
The following season, 2008, Carter erupted, hitting 39 homeruns with a .259/.361/.569 line at Oakland's high A affiliate Stockton in the California League. He struck out in 26.2% of his at bats, which was a red flag, but one that people were willing to overlook considering the power he displayed. After the massive home run output, even in the friendly conditions of the Cal league, Carter was seen as one of the best prospects in the Oakland farm system, but questions about his ability to hit for contact and his lack of positional value at first base made some evaluators question his potential.
Building on a successful 2008 campaign, Carter moved up to AA in 2009 and had his best season yet, crushing the ball to the tune of a .337/.435/.576 slash line with 24 more home runs in 125 AA contests. In addition, his K rate dropped all the way to 20.1%. At that point there very few evaluators who weren't on the Carter bandwagon, he consistently ranked as a top 30 prospect following the 2009 season. The A's were sitting pretty at this point, with Carter and Daric Barton both seen as very promising young first basemen. Carter was seen as the superior prospect, however, and was expected to take over on the right side of the infield for the A's at some point in 2010.
The 2010 season was Carter's first speed bump, as he started very slowly and struck out at an alarming rate early in the season. The questions about his contact, which had been quieted by his 2009 performance, returned and his bandwagon began to shrink. However, as the season wore on, Carter began to rebound and his final AAA totals looked quite solid by the end of the year- he finished having smacked 31 home runs while hitting for a .258/.365/.529 line with an acceptable 25.0% K rate. He got his call up in August of that year, memorably going hitless for his first several games and finishing with an ugly .186/.256/.329 slash and just 3 home runs in 78 plate appearances. 2011 followed a similar path for Carter- he spent most of the year raking in AAA before struggling through a 15 game stint in the majors. Last season was the first time that Carter had the opportunity to play in more than 24 major league games in a year, and the results (.239/.350/.519, 16 HR) were much better than his two previous runs in Oakland.
So what exactly can the Astros expect to get from Carter, going forward? It's tough to tell- although he's yet to show he can strike out at a workable rate in the major leagues, he has also never gotten consistent playing time for a full year and this may have prevented him from making the necessary adjustments. Though he was drafted almost eight full years ago, Carter is still just 26 and won't turn 27 until December of this year, meaning there's a good chance that his peak seasons are still ahead. An all-or-nothing power hitter, Carter was a poor fit in Oakland's spacious home park. As a right-hander in Minute Maid, he will obviously be in a much better situation in his new home. His home/road splits last season support this. He hit 11 of his 16 home runs away from Oakland in just 24 more road at bats. Even if he strikes out around 30% of the time again, he should be able to top 30 home runs with full playing time. He's actually quite reminiscent of fellow Astros' first baseman Carlos Pena of a few years ago, minus the top notch defense- both are players who rack up walks and homers to counteract their astronomical strikeout rates. It's unlikely that Carter will be trusted in left field for an extended period of time, so I would expect the Astros to deploy him mainly as a DH and at first on Carlos Pena's off days.
Carter's lefty/righty splits are important to note, as they're fairly wacky. In 109 plate appearances against left handers in the majors last year, Carter had a .404 OBP and 5 home runs- striking out in a very workable 23.9% of his PAs. His sterling 22.0% BB rate vs. 23.9% strikeouts vs. LHPs is a stark contrast to his ugly 9.9% BBs vs. 37.7% Ks vs. RHPs, but what's confusing is that his overall production was actually better against righties- his home run rates are much higher and he hit substantially more line drives, allowing him to hit for a higher batting average on balls in play in addition to the additional homers. Though his peripherals are all over the place across his splits, his overall production was similar against both groups, as he had a .386 wOBA vs. lefties last year and a still very solid .356 wOBA against right handers. Many see Carter as a platoon player long term, which is possible, but he shows potential as an every day player and hopefully he will get the opportunity to be one this year in Houston.
I've been a minor league baseball enthusiast for most of the ups and downs of Carter's career, and I've remained a fan of his the last few seasons. He has his limitations, but his consistently excellent AAA performance and his very encouraging on-base and power production last year has kept his hype train on the tracks for just a little while longer- he still has the upside of a poor man's Adam Dunn, and if nothing else he can provide the Astros' lineup with something it sorely needs- home run power.
It's not time to print World Series tickets, playoff tickets, or even above .500 tickets (if there was such a thing) but fans should take the recent Jed Lowrie trade as an encouraging sign that they're headed in the right direction. In the past the Astros were very reluctant to move veteran players in exchange for prospects when they were having a down season (see Jose Valverde in 2009). It has always been my belief that veteran players should be traded when a ballclub is in a rebuilding phase or doesn't have much hope of contending for several seasons.
In this case, Jed Lowrie will be 29 years old within the first week of the 2013 season. He's a valuable player and I enjoyed watching him play, but by the time the Astros are ready to contend, he'll be at least 32 years old so what is the point of hanging on to him? By the time the Astros are playing meaningful games in September and October he'll be past his prime; I'd rather add a couple of prospects that can contribute to their long term success. I'll miss Lowrie, he provided more power than I can remember the Astros ever having at the shortstop position, but he wasn't a cornerstone player. His 16 home runs in just 340 at bats was very good, but he also hit just .244 and missed 65 games. He was good, but nothing close to great.
In return, they received good but not great prospects from Oakland. Chris Carter should provide them some pop at DH and first base depending on how they rotate him with Wallace and Pena. He received a meaningful amount of at bats for the first time last season (218 in 67 games) and responded with 16 home runs. Put that over a full season with roughly 520 at bats, and Carter could have hit 30 home runs. He has issues with a low batting average and too many strikeouts, but the Astros are desperate for power. The other guy in the trade that really interests me is Brad Peacock who was rated the A's second best prospect by Baseball America for 2012 and fourth coming into this season, and was on their top 100 list overall for 2012. Peacock struggled last year in Triple-A, but had a combined 2.39 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011. The Astros may not have hit a home run with this trade, but I think they at least hit a solid stand up double. They won't be contenders this year, they won't be contenders in 2014, but fans should be encouraged; they're on the right path.
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Hank Aaron’s Lone World Series Championship – 1957 The Atlanta Braves rode the wave of their very talented and powerful outfielder during the course of the 1957 baseball season. Hank took the team into the playoffs for the first time … Continue reading →
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Hank Aaron, The 1957 National League Most Valuable Player!!! Hank had a monster season by all accounts in 1957. Not only did he help lead his team to the World Series championship, but he took his game to another level … Continue reading →
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With all of the trades taking place this past season the depth in the Astros system has improved significantly. One of the few remaining areas in which the system stood a little thin was catching depth, which Luhnow addressed by acquiring catching prospect Max Stassi in the Jed Lowrie and Francisco Rodriguez trade yesterday. Stassi was ranked as the best defensive backstop in the Oakland A's system while also providing power potential behind the dish as well.
Stassi was drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the A's and signed for $1,500,000. He was rated as one of the top prep catching prospects going into the draft and was lauded for his strong makeup and well-rounded game behind the plate. He also possessed a decent amount of upside offensively which made him all the more intriguing. During his senior season in high school he played through shoulder soreness which raised a little concern among scouts, but his stock remained high and he signed for a large bonus.
Unfortunately for Stassi the shoulder issue did not disappear and plagued him on and off again until May 2011 when he had surgery. He suffered through other nagging injuries in 2012, but appears to have put the shoulder injury behind him finally.
Offensively Stassi hasn't quite lived up to his pre-draft potential thus far. In his first full season in 2010 he hit .229/.310/.380 with 13 homeruns while striking out 30% of the time. The following season Stassi was limited to only 139 plate appearances and posted a .231/.331/.331 slash line at the High-A level. He repeated High-A ball in 2012 and showed improvement at the plate while hitting .264 with 15 homeruns. He also had a successful showing in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .271/.314/.396 in 52 plate appearances. He's one that has yet to have a chance to get in a groove offensively due to the fact that he's always been slowed by injuries that has caused inconsistent playing time and at-bats up to this point. Here's what others have had to say about his offense.
Scouts like the pop in Stassi's bat and he's produced solid power when healthy, but his strike zone judgment is substandard and he simply swings-and-misses a lot. His swing is sound enough and his power is real, but he chases too many pitches outside the zone. Stassi should be expected to hit home runs, but his batting average and OBP have not been a strength to this point. - John Sickels
He has a simple swing with few moving parts and a short load and stride, and generates enough raw power to hit 15-20 homers. His pitch recognition has improved, but he still tends to press and is susceptible to chasing pitches outside the zone. - Jim Shonerd, Baseball America
Defensively Stassi still looks to be an above average catcher in spite of losing a year of development to injuries. His receiving and blocking ability is said to be strong, and he possesses a strong accurate arm although he may still be working back from his shoulder injury in that regard. Stassi has also received praise from scouts over his game calling ability, and how he handles a pitching staff. MLB.com had this profile on him prior to the 2009 draft that talked about his catching ability, and some of the intangibles that he possesses behind the plate.
In conclusion, there's little to question about Stassi's defensive abilities and his make up. His upside will depend on how his bat develops and his ability to stay healthy. As of now he projects to have above average power potential, but needs to improve his plate discipline and contact ability. If he's able to do this while staying healthy then he could be in for a breakout season this year.