Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Villar ’

Midday notes from the farm: Goebbert, Villar and learning how to be a Major League player.

Third baseman Jimmy Paredes and Hooks manager Tom Lawless

One thing that intrigues me about the Minor Leagues is how the players are coached and managed at this level.

To state the obvious, in the big leagues, the only thing that matters is winning. That means doing the little things to generate runs in addition to the long balls and extra-base hits. Situational hitting. Moving runners over. Driving in a run by hitting that ground ball in the perfect spot that lets the runner on third score easily.

Minor League rosters are loaded with players whose main goal is getting to the Major Leagues. Not everyone will make it. Most will not, in fact. Individual stats become hugely important, and it’s understandable if players in the farm system are more concerned with how they fared at the end of the night over whether or not the team won.

I imagine it would be hard for a Minor League coaching staff to find that perfect balance between teaching these players the importance of doing the little things to win games and tempering their desire to try to knock every ball out of the park while scouts and team execs watch and judge from the seats behind home plate.

This has to be a challenge for Minor League managers. In speaking with Hooks manager Tom Lawless yesterday, it’s obvious that he has to handle different players in different ways, depending on the position they play.

To his middle infielders, he stresses defense, defense, defense. You don’t have to tear the cover off every ball, he tells them. You cannot, and will not, play in the Major Leagues if you cannot catch the ball. You must be able to make every routine play, and if you can’t, there won’t be a place for you in the Majors.

At the more traditionally offensive positions — corner outfield, first base, third base, catcher — Lawless stresses hitting. He has told Hooks left fielder J.D. Martinez — by far the Astros’ top hitting prospect — “You can’t play left field and be a singles hitter in the big leagues.” (Go ahead, Astros fans, get the snarky comments out of your system. I’ll wait.) “You have to drive the ball to the gaps and hit home runs.”

“I think he understands that now,” Lawless added.


Mid-day notes from Corpus:

* He wasn’t on my target list when I arrived to town yesterday, but it bears noting that outfielder/first baseman Jacob Goebbert is receiving rave reviews from the people who work for and cover the Hooks. The 23-year-old is hitting .308 (60-for-195) with 15 doubles, three triples and four home runs with 24 RBIs. He also was named Hooks Player of the Month after compiling a .984 fielding percentage with six outfield assists.

Last night, Corpus Christi Caller-Times beat writer Greg Rajan sent out this tweet: “Jacob Goebbert drew an 11-pitch walk and scored. Dude is a player for @cchooks, but doesn’t get enough respect from #Astros brass.”

* Shortstop Jonathan Villar, obtained from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade last year, has, according to Lawless, “talent oozing out of him.” Villar is just 20 years old, however, and has some maturing to do. “He can make the defensive plays that have the ‘wow’ thing,” Lawless said. “He has to understand that you have to make the routine plays, too. He has plenty of arm, plenty of range.”

During Thursday’s game, Villar made a spectacular off-kilter play that showed that above-average range. An inning later, he fielded a simple grounder and threw wide to first base. So I understand where Lawless is coming from on that one.

* Here’s something I didn’t know: in the Minors, the players often coach first base. Apparently, when the hitting coach prefers to be in the dugout when his team is batting, a player not in the game can serve as the base coach. Jimmy VanOstrand coached a few innings at first Thursday night. Interesting.

* The rules in Corpus dictate that players are not allowed to talk on their cell phones inside the clubhouse. Lawless made one exception to that rule, the day Jose Altuve learned he’d be playing in the Futures Game on All-Star Sunday in Phoenix.

“I said, ‘I figure your phone’s going to blow up today, so you don’t have to go outside every time someone calls,'” Lawless recalled.

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The Phillies trade got a lot more interesting when the Blue Jays jumped in.

Got this tweet from @comahan13:

“Wow they flipped Gose for Wallace? That’s a great move if it’s true, and almost single-handedly changes my opinion of all this.”

That was exactly my reaction when I heard the Astros traded one of the Phillies prospects they acquired for Roy Oswalt for a 6-foot-2, 205-pound first baseman — a former No. 1 draft pick whose future is at first base.

My original reaction to the players the Astros acquired in the Oswalt trade wasn’t so enthusiastic. I was glad they received J.A. (pronounced “Jay”) Happ, a bona fide Major League ready pitcher, but when I looked at outfielder Anthony Gose’s credentials, he seemed so much like Michael Bourn and Minor League outfielder Jay Austin and I was wholly disappointed that the Astros did not go for a slugging infielder, something sorely lacking in the upper levels of their farm system.

Then the Astros flipped Gose to Toronto for infielder Brett Wallace, a power-hitting corner infielder. He appears to be a blue-chip offensive player who hasn’t established himself at a particular position, and he’ll report to Round Rock immediately to begin honing his skills at first base.

The other prospect in the deal, shortstop Jonathan Villar, will go to Class A Lancaster. He was described by general manager Ed Wade as having “very significant tools — speed, good hands, above average arm. Good instincts to hit.” Villar is a step behind ’09 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier, who’s playing at Class A Lexington.

I received a lot of questions from you throughout the day on Thursday, so let’s get cracking…

Q: Looking at the season Wallace is having at AAA it looks like a great trade. Any idea why Jays would trade Wallace for Gose?

My take: It comes down to the individual needs of an organization. Some teams have a surplus of players at one position and can use that to replenish another area that isn’t so strong. I’m not an expert on the strengths and deficiencies of very Major League team, but it appears the Jays had a need for a speedy top-of-the-order outfielder, and the Astros already have that in Bourn and Austin.

Q: If Wallace is all that, why is he on his fourth organization?

My take: Valid concern. But if you look at the transactions, he’s been in the middle of some pretty big deals. The Cardinals drafted Wallace as their first-rounder in ’08 as a third baseman, but over the course of his first season, it became pretty obvious he didn’t have much of a future at that position. First base better suited him, but he was obviously blocked by the best hitter in the game and one who isn’t going anywhere for a long, long, time in Albert Pujols. So Wallace became both expendable and a huge trading chip for the Cardinals, who included him in a package to get Matt Holliday from the Athletics.

Wallace was then traded to the Blue Jays for Michael Taylor, who had just been traded to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay trade.

So, in essence, Wallace isn’t so much someone that teams want to get rid of as much as someone who helps them fill important needs elsewhere. From what I’ve been told by friends who cover some of the other organizations Wallace has played for, he’s the real deal offensively. Projects to hit for a high average and most importantly, he has power. The knock on him is his defense, which Wade acknowledged during Thursday’s press conference: “There’s some finishing school left to be attended on Brett’s part. There are some rough edges to clean up. This is a pretty special bat as far as we’re concerned. He needs to learn his position. That’s why we have player development system, to help these guys in all phases of the game.”

Q: What does this mean for Lance Berkman? Are the Astros going to try to move him for prospects?

My take: While I do not believe this necessarily pushes Lance out the door this season, this definitely protects them for 2011 and beyond. Berkman has a $15 million club option for ’11 (with a $2 million buyout), and judging from his offensive production this year, it would be hard to imagine the Astros picking up that option. In fact, you can pretty much bet they won’t. So either they try to re-sign Berkman at a lower cost after this season, or they find someone more economical to take over at first base. Wallace gives them that option.

There has been speculation that now that they have Wallace, the Astros will try to trade Berkman between now and Saturday’s trade deadline in an effort to get something, anything, for him. There is a report that the White Sox might be interested. We’ll see. Like Oswalt, Berkman has a full no-trade clause and I haven’t been given any indication he’s anxious to get out of here just yet. That said, there’s plenty of time between now and Saturday at 3 CT, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

Q: I know it’s part of the business, but how do you deal with the trade of someone you’ve covered for years?

My take: It depends on the player to be honest. This one is sad for me because I’ve known Oswalt since the day he was called up nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been close friends for most of that stretch. At the same time, this trade was inevitable and I’ve had it in my mind for so long that he’ll eventually be moving on — longer than anyone can imagine — that as I sit here in the press box a couple of hours after the trade was finalized, I’m kind of numb to it. It wasn’t a matter of “if” on Roy, it was a matter of “when.”

Over the years, saying goodbye to players gets easier, because you learn it’s just part of the business. I remember being pretty upset when the Astros traded Mike Hampton after the ’99 season and Jose Lima in 2001 and really, really bummed when the offseason of 2003 produced trades of two of my all-time favorites in Billy Wagner and Geoff Blum. And obviously, Craig Biggio’s last game in ’07 and Brad Ausmus’ last game in ’08 were sad, sad, sad. But for the most part, you get used to the revolving door of players that come in and out of the organization and if you stick around as long as I have, your favorite players eventually reappear as coaches and broadcasters, so there’s always that to look forward to.

Q: So does Milo call J.A. Happ “Happie?”

My take: After consulting with Baggy, Millsie, Keppie, Blummy and Bournie, put me down for “yes.”



* Happ finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting by the baseball writers in 2009 after posting a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA over 35 appearances (24 starts).

* Happ, a former Phillies third-round pick, was on the disabled list this season with a flexor strain, but was activated about a week ago after making five rehab starts.

* Happ will start Friday’s game against the Brewers at Minute Maid Park.

* Villar hit .272 over 100 games at Class A this season with 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 38 stolen bases. He was signed by the Phillies as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 and has tallied 82 stolen bases over 204 career games, mostly as a shortstop.

* Wallace played in the Futures Game during All-Star Week in 2009 and was named to the Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team in ’08. He played college baseball at Arizona State University and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in both 2007 and 2008. In ’07, he captured the conference’s Triple Crown, hitting .423 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs while leading his club to the College World Series.