MLB.com sits down with Jeff Bagwell
Astros great talks prospects with beat reporter Alyson Footer
ROUND ROCK, Texas -- As special assistant to general manager Ed Wade, Jeff Bagwell has a myriad of responsibilities, including signing autographs, making a few caravan stops and -- most importantly -- evaluating the young talent the Astros have in the Minor League system.
During the Astros' three-day caravan trip to Waco and Round Rock that began on Monday, Bagwell took some time with MLB.com to talk about the young players, many of whom will be with the Major League club during Spring Training this year.
MLB.com: Right-hander Bud Norris, who will compete for a bullpen job this spring, is getting the most hype of all of the Minor League pitchers. Is that warranted?
Bagwell: Yes, and he should be getting the hype. He's got a chance to really help us. I'm hoping he has a great Spring Training and can help us this year. He's got an above-average fastball and an above-average breaking ball. It's a fun to watch him. He's got a good presence out there. He got hurt last year, or otherwise people would be talking about him even more. He'll get an opportunity in Spring Training to show what he can do, and I hope he does real well.
You're also going to see guys like Sergio Perez -- a young kid who has a good arm. I think people will be happy to see him.
He's another kid who got hurt. You've heard about a lot of these kids -- about Brad James and Sergio Perez and Bud Norris, but they all got hurt last year. It's a tough thing. It's tough to get hurt in the Minor Leagues because you kind of get either forgotten or somebody goes right past you. This is our wave of kids that we have to look forward to this year and next year.
MLB.com: What about the position players? Who should we keep our eye on?
Bagwell: Brian Bogusevic, our first-round Draft pick [in 2005] out of Tulane, was a pitcher for a while and that didn't go real well for him. They changed him back into a hitter, and he looks fresh. He's got a nice eye at the plate, he's got a good approach, he runs real well, he's a center fielder. I'm very excited to have people see him play. I really enjoyed watching him.
You're also going to see Chris Johnson, who's in the mix for a third-base job, if not this year then possibly next year. He's a kid out of college that has a lot of power and he just looks like a baseball player. I think people are going to be really excited about him, too.
Drew Sutton's coming up, too. He had a great year playing second base for us last year in the Minor Leagues. I saw the kids in Instructional League, also, the kids we just drafted last year. We had a nice Draft. We've got some kids that can really, really run. I didn't see the pitchers who were taken high in the Draft, but those guys are supposed to be above average in every sense of the word.
MLB.com: What do you think about the club's No. 1 pick last year, catcher Jason Castro, who received an invitation to Major League camp?
Bagwell: Castro was the only kid that wasn't in Instructional League, because he was playing in Hawaii. I am really looking forward to watching him, to see how he hits. I think he's ready for big league Spring Training, because he's a college kid, and college kids are a little further along than some of the younger kids we drafted. I was very happy with what [assistant GM] Bobby Heck did, with the Draft that we had. I think we've got some good kids that down the road can really help us.
MLB.com: The Astros' farm system isn't highly regarded by the publications that rank organizational talent. How hard is it for the club and the fans to exercise patience while they wait for the young players to develop?
Bagwell: Not every kid can just be rushed to the big leagues. Usually, the kids who can be rushed are the first 10 picks in the Draft, and they're above everybody else talent-wise. Well, the Astros have been winning for so long, we don't get those high picks. We get the 25th or the 23rd pick, and some years, we haven't even had a first-round pick. So it's been hard for us to get those types of guys.
But in this market, and in today's game, with how much pitching costs, you have to develop your own guys. You have to keep them under your control, otherwise you're going out spending $15 million for a 10-10 guy. You just can't do that. That's going to kill your organization. Like I said, we had a good Draft last year and we're building on that.
MLB.com: Let's talk about you. Will you be at Spring Training this year?
Bagwell: I'm going to come for the first week of games, on Feb 25. Then, when the Minor League mini-camp starts, I'll see those guys for about a week. Then I'll leave and come back after two or three weeks and watch them again. That way, I can watch them play and when they have their meetings to decide where these kids are going to be assigned to play, I can have an input in that.
MLB.com: And what about the regular season?
Bagwell: I'll be traveling around to see most of the Minor League teams -- [Triple-A] Round Rock, [Double-A] Corpus, [Class A] Lancaster, [Class A] Lexington. I'm going to travel a lot more this year to watch these kids play and see how their development goes.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.