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Houston headed in right direction again

Houston headed in right direction again

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.

Reversing a free-fall is never easy. But the Astros took some big steps this season to stop what had been an unabated tumble in terms of drafting and developing premium talent.

Being able to grab a player of Jason Castro's caliber and actually signing him quickly was a big leap for Houston. The Astros had major issues with signing their top Draft picks in 2007 and the farm system took a hit as a result of the club's failure to go over the recommended slot bonuses.

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Having Castro in the fold gives the franchise a marquee star to which it can point, something Houston fans can be legitimately excited about. The Astros also picked a few other quality players, such as right-hander Jordan Lyles, in the Draft, so it would seem the trend is beginning to turn about.

It will be a slow process. There are no quick fixes for rebuilding a farm system. Time, patience and money are the key ingredients in the recipe and the Astros began to show, at least a little bit this year, that they are a tad more willing to spend the cash needed in order to sign upper-tier talent.

Here's a closer look at what Houston's farm system had going on this year.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com Preseason Picks

Jordan Parraz, OF: We went out on a bit of a limb in the spring, picking Parraz as the guy we thought would be the Organizational Player of the Year. While he had a nice enough season in the Carolina League -- .289, six homers, 42 RBIs, 21 steals -- the numbers were not comparable to the year he had in 2007 at Lexington of the South Atlantic League, where he hit 14 homers, drove in 76 runs and stole 33 bases.


•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Sam Gervacio, RHP: In what was a thin system to begin with, we stayed out on that limb and chose Gervacio as the preseason Pitcher of the Year. Like Parraz, he had a solid season, but was not overwhelming or noteworthy for any extended period of time. Gervacio appeared in 47 games at Double-A Corpus Christi, going 2-5 with five saves and a 4.13 ERA. He also made three appearances for Round Rock, posting a 2.25 ERA over eight innings.
Gervacio strikes out the side

MLB.com Postseason Selections

Drew Sutton, 2B: Sutton led the organization with a .317 batting average, collecting 165 hits at Corpus Christi. He stole 20 bases, scored 102 runs and had an on-base percentage of .408. He spent the bulk of the season batting leadoff, hitting .311 and scoring 24 first-inning runs.

Polin Trinidad, LHP: Trinidad split the season between the Carolina and Texas Leagues, tying for the organizational lead with 10 victories. He had a 3.14 ERA, which was tops among eligible full-season pitchers. Trinidad also finished third in the organization with 109 strikeouts.
Polin Trinidad strikes out the side

Climbed the Ladder

Drew Sutton, 2B: Sutton hit .335 after the All-Star break with an OPS of 1.011. The 25-year-old had 20 homers and collected 63 extra-base hits. While this was his second season at Corpus Christi, he clearly made great strides, and should be in position to play every day next season at Round Rock.
Sutton sets franchise doubles record

Mark Ori, 1B: Ori earned a berth on the Carolina League's postseason All-Star team ... and with good reason. The Northwestern University product hit .304 with 11 homers and an organization-best 89 RBIs. Ori, who also had 36 doubles, hit .327 with runners in scoring position.
Ori rips a two-run homer

Douglas Arguello, LHP: Arguello went 6-10 a year ago in the South Atlantic League and reversed it this season, going 10-6 with a 3.30 ERA in the Carolina League. He tied for the organizational lead in victories and was second only to Polin Trinidad in ERA among full-season pitchers who qualified. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his final 10 starts.
Arguello racks up his sixth strikeout

Kyle Greenwalt, RHP: Greenwalt had nowhere to go but up after a rookie season in 2007 that saw him go 0-7 with a 7.53 ERA in the Appy League. The former 20th-round pick returned to Greeneville this season where he went 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts. He then made a pair of New York-Penn League appearances and earned a victory while allowing one run over six total innings.
Greenwalt gets back-to-back strikeouts

Kept Their Footing

Jordan Parraz, OF: As we said, Parraz had a season that was just good enough in the Carolina League. He'll need to do better next year at Corpus Christi to hold his spot or move up.
Parraz drills a grand slam

Bud Norris, RHP: Norris was 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five April starts before coming down with a tender elbow in early May, an injury that kept him out of action for two months. He finished up by going 0-8 in his final 14 starts. While he seemed to pitch better in July (1.06 ERA in 17 innings) he was unimpressive in August (5.26 ERA in 25 2/3 innings). Still, the injury played a huge part in his season, as evidenced by how well he pitched when healthy. Norris got off to a strong start in the Arizona Fall League season and should be a factor come spring.
Norris notches his sixth strikeout

Brian Bogusevic, OF: Bogusevic would have been down a category had the Astros not decided to end his pitching career and return him to the outfield, where he starred while playing at Tulane. Bogie hit .371 in 124 at-bats at Corpus Christi, with three homers and 20 RBIs. He had a .447 on-base percentage and drew 16 walks while striking out 24 times. He'll likely split next season between Corpus Christi and Round Rock, and could turn out to be a pleasant surprise in the Houston outfield before season's end.
Bogusevic delivers a two-run triple

Mitch Einertson, OF: A fifth-round selection in 2004, Einertson moved up to the Texas League this season and took a few statistical hits across the board compared to the Carolina League numbers he put up in 2007. Still, he had a solid season, hitting .262 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs while batting .448 (13-for-29) over his final 10 games.
Einertson launches a two-run shot

Eli Iorg, OF: Iorg, who was coming off an injury shortened 2007, hit a sluggish .245 over the first three months of the season. Considering that he appeared in only 44 games last year, the slow start wasn't all that surprising. What keeps him in this category is the fact that he hit .303 over the final two months, appearing to round back into form. Overall, he had 11 homers, 59 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Modest numbers that will have to improve to justify the first-round pick Houston expended on him in 2005.
Iorg drops in a single

Slipped a Rung

Koby Clemens, C: Clemens became a full-time catcher this season, spending his first season in the Carolina League after two lackluster campaigns as a third baseman in the Sally League. While he posted a career-best .268 batting average for Salem, his seven homers and 52 RBIs were not the stuff of a big-time power hitter. Clemens has proven to be an average hitter at best, putting up numbers that won't translate in the much more difficult Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues. His 31 passed balls led the Carolina League by a mile. Throw in the fact that Jason Castro was the club's top pick and figures to be the de facto catcher for years to come, and it leaves Clemens in a very unenviable spot.

Tommy Manzella, SS: Manzella was headed to the middle rung of the organizational ladder after a nice start in the Texas League, where he hit .299 with 34 RBIs through 54 games. But then he got bumped up to Round Rock and, well, things didn't go so well. Manzella hit .219 in 228 PCL at-bats and saw his on-base percentage drop 73 points to .273 over the second half. He had only 15 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .294 at the Triple-A stop.

Max Sapp, C: A first-rounder in 2006, Sapp may also be an afterthought following Castro's arrival. He didn't show much to warrant staying in the picture after an injury-plagued third full season limited him to 255 at-bats, in which he hit .200. It was also the second consecutive season in which Sapp saw his year come to a premature end because of injury. He has a .224 average in his three seasons.

Brad James, RHP: A back strain limited James to 18 starts at Corpus Christi. When he was on the mound, he was not very effective, going 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 93 innings. The opposition hit .300 against him.

Josh Flores, OF: Flores missed the entire season after tearing ligaments in his left knee while taking a fall during the offseason. Flores was quick before the injury -- he had 91 steals in three seasons -- but it remains to be seen how explosive he can be coming off surgery.

On the Radar

Jose Trinidad, RHP: This Trinidad, who turned 19 during the season, was the only eligible pitcher in the organization to post a sub-3.00 ERA. He was 3-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts for Greeneville of the Appalachian League. This year represented his first action in North America after he spent the summer of '07 playing in the Dominican Summer League.
Jose Trinidad sets down his sixth strikeout victim

Leandro Cespedes, RHP: Cespedes had a modest 4-6 record in 28 games (27 starts) at Lexington, but he led the organization with 137 strikeouts while walking 45 in 130 innings.
Cespedes strings together six strikeouts

2008 Draft Recap

1. Jason Castro, C: Castro represents one of the best Draft picks Houston has made in years. He was a no-brainer when the Astros expended the 10th overall pick on him, and will provide the club with a legitimate star quality catcher for the better part of the next decade. Castro, who hits left-handed, batted .275 with two homers and 12 RBIs in the New York-Penn League before getting off to a ripping start in Hawaii Winter Baseball.
Castro breaks the ice with a run-scoring double

2. Jordan Lyles, RHP: Lyles looked sharp in 49 2/3 Appalachian League innings (three wins, 64 strikeouts, 10 walks) before struggling in 5 2/3 New York-Penn League frames (6.35 ERA, seven walks).
Lyles locks up his third strikeout

3. Joseph Austin, OF: Austin hit .198 in 212 Appy League at-bats. He had 14 RBIs and 14 stolen bases, but struck out 69 times and posted a .277 OBP.
Austin hits the afterburners for a triple

Others of note: OF Thomas Steele (4th round) hit .283 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 159 New York-Penn League at-bats. He earned Defensive Player of the Month at Tri-City in June and would later miss time in the second half with a deep bone bruise in his left thumb. ... OF Jack Shuck (6th round) hit .300 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 263 at-bats for Tri-City. ... LHP Brad Dydalewicz (8th round) had a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings over four starts for Greeneville. ... DH Jacob Priday (11th round) hit .216 in 102 combined at-bats between the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues. He had a homer, 11 RBIs and 49 strikeouts. ... SS Jeff Hulett (12th round) hit .194 with 39 strikeouts over 103 at-bats for Tri-City.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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