February 28th, 2012
Q: What is expected of a closer like Myers now? What was the main reason this was such a good move?
Jeff Luhnow: Myers will help our bullpen significantly. He has experience in that role and has the stuff and mentality to shut the door late in the game.
Q: How do you keep young players from making big mistakes?
JL: You don’t. You hope that when they make mistakes they learn from them. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Of course we prepare them as best we can but you can’t avoid them all together.
Q: With such a young team I have to imagine they are all in great shape — how will this work against other teams in the NL?
JL: One of the benefits of a young team is the upside potential as well as the general health. We are very healthy right now (knock on wood) and that will be an advantage for us this season.
Q: Where does the team need most improvement on the chart?
JL: We have talented players… we need to add to our depth, keep everyone healthy, and let them play.
Q: How much time do you have as a manager or coach to fix issues during Spring Training? Is 30 days enough?
JL: Spring Training is long enough to get ready for the season. We teach as much as we can and for most of these guys, it’s a refresher. Remember the teaching goes on all year, even during the season and in the off-season.
Q: What’s the weather like in Florida? Team Spirit?
JL: We had a bit of rain yesterday but it didn’t affect our work. The weather in Florida is PERFECT! The team spirit is very good. I’ve been most pleased with that aspect of camp. The veterans and young guys are mixing very well.
Q: Who is the offensive leader of the Astros this year?
JL: I believe we will get production from our entire lineup. Several of the new guys we added, Lowrie, Cust, Snyder, Ruggiano, Buck, have a history of hitting so that’s a help.
Q: Besides a lot of W’s – What are you looking for out Spring Training from your team?
JL: We have to make decisions on the 25 guys who start the seasons versus Colorado. That means properly evaluating everyone. That’s the priority, as well as staying healthy.
Q: What do the Astros have this year that they didn’t have in 2011?
JL: We have added some new players into the mix. We have a clean slate from which to start. We have a few new coaches. We have young players who are one year more experienced. We have prospects that are one year closer. All good elements that should lead to us performing well above expectations.
Q: What will it take to get the 2012 Pennant?
JL: We have to have a winning mindset and attitude. We need to expect to win every series, and every game. If we work hard and smart and get some breaks along the way, we will be a competitive team.
Q: If you could sum up the 2012 strategy in one word – what would you say?
JL: Build excitement and generate some momentum. Oops, too many words. How about “progress.”
Q: Last year we saw Altuve, Martinez, Paredes and Lyles (just to name a few) get called up and make big contributions. Are Cosart, Singleton, Foltynewicz, Springer or any other of our prospects ready to make that leap this season?
JL: I expect the guys who came up last year will be able to contribute more this year. There will be some new rookies this year, but only time will tell who they are. Those are all good names that you mention.
Q: As general manager, is there a timetable to when this team is not just competitive again, but winning divisions or thinking about the playoffs?
JL: I’m not a patient guy, but I’m also realistic about how difficult it is to contend year in and year out, which is our goal. We are in a tough division and we will be moving to a tough division next year. We will get there, I just can’t predict when because I would likely be wrong!
Q: Can you speak a bit about your own personal philosophy on drafting? I know most generally take the best player available, but all else being equal, do you look for guys who play premium positions, or do you tend to avoid prep players?
JL: Early in the draft, especially the first round, you want to get an impact player – regardless of age or position. When you pick 1-1, you have an opportunity to get a franchise type player. That is our goal.
Q: What is Brett Wallace’s future?
JL: Brett will be a run producer in the big leagues.
Q: If Singleton has a monster spring, will he get consideration to make the big club?
JL: I wouldn’t rule anything out, and he is a great-looking player. We do have a number of options for both outfield and first base, so whoever wins the job/s will need to perform this spring.
Q: Now that there’s an extra spot in the rotation open, who would you say might have an inside track? Is Aneury Rodriguez someone you would consider a strong rotation candidate at this point?
JL: One of the benefits of moving Brett into the bullpen was that it opens up another spot in the rotation. We have at least five candidates for that new spot. I can’t wait to see what emerges but we have some good choices.
Q: Is there a lot of “testing” going on in Spring Training or are you pretty comfortable with everyone’s position and abilities?
JL: Generally speaking, we know the players well enough to know what position they should be playing to help us out. In some cases, like Singleton and Paredes, the player can do well at multiple positions so we might try them out at various spots.
Q: Do you think that it’s better to ease in a young potential starter by working him from the bullpen for a season, or do you favor keeping them as a starter until they’re ready for the big club?
JL: That’s a debate we had in St. Louis and will have here too. There is no perfect answer. Some of it depends on the pitcher and some on the team’s situation. I’ve seen it work both ways.
Q: Now that Michael Kvasnicka is moving back behind the plate, isn’t our depth at 3B in the minors nearly shot? Will you be looking to draft more third baseman this year to help compensate?
JL: No, we’ve got some third basemen. I haven’t seen him recently, but Jonathan Meyer is a very good defensive player at the hot corner. We will add to our depth at that position soon.
Q: Who has the inside shot of being the starting right fielder?
JL: Brad has talked about several options… Cust, Buck, Ruggiano, Bogusevic, Martinez… we have choices and we need to evaluate them over the coming month. We haven’t played any games yet so it’s wide open.
Q: How important to the future of this team is the trading of Myers, Lyon and/or Wandy this year?
JL: All three of those players are Astros and are valuable parts of our current team.
Q: You mentioned the other night that you didn’t see the elite starter arm in the Astros system. Do you see that kind of arm available in the draft this year?
JL: We have some very good pitching prospects, so I didn’t mean to talk them down. The “industry” doesn’t see an obvious top of the rotation guy in our system, and that is what I was referring to in my comment. That doesn’t mean someone won’t emerge as a top guy. We do see some possibilities in this draft.
Q: Which GMs (past and present) do you look to as examples of how to best run a baseball team?
JL: There are many excellent GMs in the game, and I try to watch them from afar (and close when I can) and figure out what they are doing and how well it’s working.
Q: How likely is it that you’ll be able to talk Mr. Crane into making a splash on Jorge Soler before the new spending cap hits? Speaking of which, your thoughts on the cap?
JL: Soler will be pursued by many teams, as he is a very good young player. Mr. Crane will support our efforts to sign top talent. I don’t think the cap will negatively affect our ability to find and sign good players.
Q: Why does there seem to be no interest in a trade for Wandy? He’s a great pitcher. Or is it just that the interest has been not reported/leaked?
JL: Wandy is a valuable pitcher and he would add value to any rotation in baseball. He helps us quite a bit.
Q: Thanks for doing this chat, Jeff. What are thoughts on Kyle Weiland’s shot at the rotation? With Myers moving to the closer’s role now, I’m excited to see Kyle compete for a spot in the starting five.
JL: You are welcome! Kyle has been fun to watch so far and I’m looking forward to seeing him in Spring games. Yes, he has a shot at the rotation along with several other guys.
Q: We had the worst record in MLB last year. No expects us to get to the World Series this year but how would you define a successful season for Astros?
JL: We would like to generate some enthusiasm for the club and make some real progress. I personally would like us to exceed everyone’s expectations and win many more ballgames.
Q: Do you have an opinion on the chances the Astros will finally get someone into the Hall of Fame as Astros players next year? Specifically, what do you think of Bagwell’s and Biggio’s chances?
JL: I will vote for both Biggio and Bagwell. Shoot, I guess I don’t get a vote. They are both deserving for sure.
Q: Have you had a chance to look at the uniform concepts being presented on the Astros.com message boards?
JL: Not yet but I will! I’m glad that fans will be able to weigh in on any possible changes. It should be exciting.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about FIELDf/x as an exciting upcoming system for measuring defensive success more accurately. What can you tell us about it and do you know if it will be (unfortunately) proprietary?
JL: I don’t know if it will be proprietary, but certainly having the information of where the defenders are before and during each play will allow the defensive metrics to evolve to new levels. I can’t wait.