Astros taking a beating

added 2/1/2008 by Scott Barzilla

It's a slow news cycle as far as the Astros are concerned. They are in the process of completing their Elite Hitters and Pitchers camp and all of the newsworthy folks showed up in the end. It's hard to say what comes out of these camps, but it's always good for a feature or two on up and coming players. Of course, it's easy to lose perspective when you are only looking at your own talent.

Larry Dobrow of CBS Sportsline posted the following article about our hometown Houston Astros. It makes one wonder what you have to do to get one of these gigs. If Dobrow's opinions are consistent with the rest of the baseball world then we have some serious issues.

ESPN's Keith Law has the Astros as having two of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The good news is that both should contribute at the ML level in 2008. The bad news is that there doesn't appear to be much below them. The article points to one thing that has merit. Drayton McLane has been getting in the way of the Astros having a strong farm system. Of course, this isn't to compare him to the Steinbrenners or Angelos of the world.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Bud Selig does not want teams to pay above slot for draftees. This is all well and good, but following Selig's policy is putting the Astros at a competitive disadvantage. The Astros could have had three good prospects if they had gone above slot in the last draft. Instead, it was clearly the worst draft in the majors. If this were an isolated event it would be okay, but the 2005 and 2006 drafts have netted very little fruit so far.

When he applied for the job, Ed Wade said it would take three years to recover from one bad draft. How long will it take to get over three bad drafts? The Astros are scouting in Asia for the first time and their Latin American connections are running dry. Kaz Matsui represents the first notable Japanese player the team has signed. Welcome to the 21st century. However, these changes represent progress and that's something we can hang our hat on.

Question the hiring of Wade all you want. Question the moves he made in Philadelphia and the moves he has made here so far. One thing is for sure, the guy can find some young talent. Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Pat Burrell were all Wade draftees. That's half a diamond full of star performers all from a couple of seasons of drafts. Maybe that's all it will take in Houston.

If anyone in the organization says they feel really good about the team's pitching then they are either expert public relations people or delusional. There is nothing wrong with optimism, but honesty is likely lurking away from the cameras and microphones. Still, the Astros lineup is as good if not better than any in the division and everyone in the division has their fair share of weaknesses. The Astros have put themselves in position to compete in a weak division. It's not enough for Executive of the Year consideration, but it is competent work.

To say that the Astros are doomed is woefully premature. Wade was brought in to rebuild the farm system. He hasn't even had one draft yet. If we see the same ol' failures to sign top draft picks or if we see other questionable selections then we can begin to go down that road. For right now, Astros fans can be wildly optimistic, cautiously optimistic, realistic, or pessimistic. Either one fits the bill at the moment. Doomed is word that should wait for another year or so.