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Thursday, February 14, 2013

College Baseball Chat with Jim Callis

Jim Callis
Hi, everyone. Glad to be here and take some college/draft questions. We've had a ton of college and draft (and high school) preview content over at recently, so check that out.

farmstros: Welcome, Jim, thanks for taking time to talk to the Farmstros Village

Ryan: Jim, would you prefer to go with an established college arm like Mark Appel over a high upside highschooler such as Austin Meadows?

Jim Callis: 
Glad to be here, Mike ... Ryan, I think, you have to evaluate the players for who you are and not worry about the demographic. If you're picking at the top of the draft, you're usually a dreadful team that's not going to contend in a year or so. So to me, you have to take whoever the better player is in the long run. Appel vs. Meadows is a tossup at the moment, I'd lean toward Meadows.

Ryan: Who do you view as the best college arm? Appel, Stanek or Manaea?

farmstros: Jim, did we lose you?

Jim Callis: 
I'd say Appel. Those are the top three arms in the draft right now. Appel gets the edge for me because he's got the deepest repertoire.

Jim Callis
Sorry, working from home and had an unexpected delivery of a rug I had to go deal with. Back now.

farmstros: I'm curious if you have any thoughts on who the 8 players the Astros are looking at might be? Hope the rug is the right color and size.

Jim Callis
Rug is being stored here by my father-in-law, not anything we have space to use ... I talked to the Astros and wasn't told individual names but got the impression it was the same guys at the top of everyone's list (in no order: Appel, Manaea, Stanek, Meadows, Frazier, Moran and a couple of others). Also got the impression that they will expand the search as needed.

Ryan: From the Astros standpoint, do you think they are in greater need of an arm or a bat at the top of the draft?

Jim Callis: 
They really need everything. Their outfield is dreadful so Austin Meadows would be a nice fit. But their rotation is dreadful, too, so Mark Appel would make sense too. They should take whomever they think is the best player.

Ryan: Do you see Houston going the unconventional route again at the top of the draft to better utilize their money? If so, who could it be?

Jim Callis
I don't think the Astros took Correa just so they could save money. I think they took him because he was in the group at the top of their draft board (he was our No. 2 prospect) and he allowed them to save money. It's too early to say who might fit that profile of being a legitimate top-of-the-draft talent and allow them to use money elsewhere.

Darin: Jim, when you say "their outfield is dreadful" are you referring to their MLB roster or minor league depth?  

Jim Callis
Their MLB roster. They have some prospects, but it's not like Springer, Santana, Grossman and Phillips guarantee they're going to have three quality outfielders a couple of years down the road.

Ryan: Beyond picking 1-1 this year, is the draft deep enough that Houston could pick up some impact talent through the later rounds?

Jim Callis
Even in a mediocre draft--and this is a mediocre draft--there's talent throughout. Last year's draft was nothing special either, and the Astros got Correa, McCullers, Fontana, Rodgers, Ruiz, Phillips, etc.

Joker: Who should I be looking for if I go see Stanford and Rice? Also who are the best players to go see in the Astros College Classic in a couple of weeks?

Jim Callis
Besides Appel, Stanford has two other first-team All-Americans who will figure prominently in the draft in first baseman Brian Ragira and outfielder Austin Wilson. Righthander A.J. Vanegas could pitch his way into the first round, too. Rice's best prospects for 2013 are pitchers Austin Kubitza and John Simms, who both have something to prove after so-so summers in the Cape Cod League. As for the College Classic, North Carolina has the best hitter in the draft (Colin Moran), California has the best catcher in the draft (Andrew Knapp) and Texas A&M may have the fastest player in the draft (Krey Bratsen).

Joker: I was thinking of going to see the SWAC teams at the Urban Invitational. Any prospects there? Does Southern have another Rickie Weeks or Fred Lewis?

Jim Callis
Southern has righthander Jose DeLeon, who owns a 90-93 mph fastball and is the best prospect in the SWAC this year.

Guest: With the current regime's history with Austin Wilson, do you think that he could be in the mix for 1/1? What do you think he needs to show to prove worthy of that kind of pick?

farmstros: Can you shed some light on this regime's history with Austin Wilson?

Jim Callis
I think that would be a stretch. He's huge and very athletic for his size, but he strikes out way too much for me to consider taking him at 1-1. To me, he's an even bigger risk to hit than George Springer was. Springer went 11th, that's about the same area where Wilson should go ... Jeff Luhnow and Co. drafted him in the 12th round out of high school, when he was considered unsignable.

Ryan: Jim, sorry if you've answered this elsewhere previously, do you rate prospects using the 20-80 scale? 

Jim Callis: 
We do in the Prospect Handbook, based on realistic ceiling (and ask a factor). We don't elsewhere -- I think for our purposes, scouting reports get too jargony if you start throwing 55s and 60s and 65s all over the place.

Dan: What role do you see Marc Krauss filling with the Astros in 2013? Does the Carter trade essentially keep Krauss in AAA all season (barring injury, of course)? Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
I don't think any of the Astros' options for the outfield or DH are sure things, so if Krauss hits, I think he could become a regular for Houston this year. Have always liked him a little bit.

Ryan: With the Astros minors increasing in depth, where could you see Appel or Meadows slot into their top 10?

Jim Callis: 
As high as No. 2, behind Correa, depending on how this season plays out. Either of those guys has the potential to have a greater impact than a first baseman (Jonathan Singleton, who was our Astros No. 2 prospect this offseason).

Guest: Is 1/1 rich for Moran? Sure, the hit tool is nice, but what kind of value do you get beyond that?

Jim Callis
I think that's a bit rich. He's a tremendous hitter, but it might not be more than average power and adequate third-base defense. I think you need more than that at 1-1. Not that you're worrying about having too much talent at one position at this point, but Moran isn't much different from what the Astros think Rio Ruiz can be.

Guest: Can you compare Austin Meadows to Byron Buxton from last year?

Jim Callis
Quick version: Meadows is more polished at the same stage, Buxton has a little more upside for me.

Joker: What are the chances of Rule 5 picks Nate Freiman and Joshua Fields sticking in Houston? Did you like those picks?

Jim Callis
Pretty high, because there's not much talent on the big league roster. I did like the picks. Fields was an obvious Rule 5 target, a Triple-A reliever who had a lot of success in the second half of 2012. Was kind of surprised the Red Sox didn't protect him. We'll see on Freiman, but his power made him worth taking.

Guest: Do you see Delino Deshields reaching AA this season and what kind of numbers do you see him putting up? Chance at Top 50 next year?

Jim Callis: 
I do see him reaching Double-A, maybe even to start the year if the Astros get aggressive. If he spent the whole year in Double-A, I'd say .275/.375/.400 with 85 steals. If he has the kind of season, he could make the Top 50.

farmstros: How do think Appel's being a senior will affect his draft status?

Jim Callis
I don't think much at all. How he performs this spring will matter much more. It's hard to fathom Appel turning down another team this summer and re-entering the 2014 draft, but he's also as talented as any prospect in this crop and advised by the Boras Corp., so he's not going to roll over and sign just because he's a senior. Unless he tanks, he'll get more than the $3.8 mil he turned down from the Pirates. I don't think that necessarily will mean he made the right decision. I think it will ultimately cost him money to have delayed his pro career by a year.

farmstros: Some readers are in Corpus...are there any prospects to keep an eye on at the tournament at Whataburger Field in a few weeks: TAMU-Corpus Christi, Iowa, Oklahoma and New Mexico?

Jim Callis: 
Yes. Oklahoma has potential first-rounders in LHP Dillon Overton and RHP Jonathan Gray, and another LHP to watch in Billy Waltrip. New Mexico has 3B D.J. Peterson, a likely first-rounder, and Mitch Garver, one of the best college catchers in a thin crop.

Ryan: If Carlos Rodon was eligible for the 2013 draft, would he be the clear choice to go #1 overall?

farmstros: We have about 10 more minutes until we wrap up.

Jim Callis: 
Not head and shoulders above everyone else, but Rodon would be the likely No. 1 pick. I'd take him over Appel and Meadows.

With Drew Ward entering the draft early, in what range do you see him going? How are the tools compared to the top guys (Meadows/Frazier/Smith)? 

Jim Callis
You know, we've never gotten definite confirmation that Ward will be eligible a year earlier than expected, though I did have a team tell me they expect he will. He offers a lot of power, but I've also been told he's been overhyped. Sounds like more of a second- or third-rounder than a top-10-pick type. I'll admit, I haven't beared down on him much yet because he's a 2014.

Ryan: Does next years draft project to better or still mediocre?

Jim Callis
I don't bear down on the HS guys until it gets closer. College crop doesn't seem noticeably better.

Guest: Any chance Clint Frazier ends up being taken before Austin Meadows? How close are they rated as of now?

Jim Callis
Sure. Frazier isn't as big as Meadows, but they're comparable talents. They're neck and neck as the best HS guys in the 2013 crop.

farmstros: I saw that you wrote somewhere about when those two guys are facing off in Loganville, Ga. When is that again?

Jim Callis
March 12.

Guest: Do you think more teams will follow the Rays lead and go over-budget with international signings? If so, do we lose the advantage MLB intended?

farmstros: We've got two more questions that have been submitted and then we'll close.

Jim Callis
I think the Rays did that because they liked the guys they landed and didn't love this year's crop. I don't think you'll see a lot of teams do this, but the penalties are far less severe than those for exceeding the draft pools. So I think you may see a team occasionally exceed the international pool, but I'm not sure we'll ever see a team exceed the draft pool. And I think we'll have an international draft sooner rather than later (maybe even for 2014) anyway.

Guest: How is this year's international crop? Who are some names to watch for?

Jim Callis: 
I'll have to take a pass on that one. I do almost nothing internationally. That's Ben Badler's domain for Baseball America, and he said there's no single overwhelming talent this year.

Guest: Barring free agency/trades, when do you think we'll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel? When do you think we'll be competitive again?

Jim Callis: 
I'll say 2015. It's going to take at least a couple of years. But if you want some cause for optimism, Jeff Luhnow and Co. have an impressive track record with the Cardinals, and they're making some nice moves in Houston.

farmstros: Many thanks, Jim for taking some time out of your schedule to chat. We appreciate it. Enjoy the baseball season.

farmstros: The replay of this chat will be available shortly, so tell your friends. And Follow the Astros of the Future with us.

Dan: Thanks, Jim!

Jim Callis
Thanks, guys. I enjoyed it.

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