It’s September right? The time when teams are making their stretch runs. Well, at least most teams. Today, Brian Todd skips ahead a few months to take an in-depth look at the 2014 Astros.
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I’ve always been a daydreamer. Not the “I’m an astronaut flying around the moons of Epsilon Eridani Three” kind of daydreamer, but the “Someday I’ll ask that cute redhead to go out with me, then we’ll date for awhile and eventually get married” sort.
My daydreams were often about an attainable future … even if the chances were somewhat slim.
So with less than two weeks left in the baseball season, my mind has become untethered from the reality of 100-plus losses, and it is slowly drifting toward 2014 when the Astros open against the Yankees (spit) at the Juice Box.
Will that Astros’ team be better than the current version? Will George Springer finally be free? Will Mark Appel make the team out of Spring Training? Do we have to see Cosart start in AAA again, or does he make the team right away? Will Luhnow spend a little of Crane’s money on a decent hitter or a bullpen?
All these questions and more will be pondered during this ALL TOO SOON 2014 ASTROS OUTLOOK!
Ground rules: I am being optimistic here. I am looking for silver linings while ignoring the fact that those linings often come attached to storm clouds. So don’t tell me I’m an unrealistic dreamer, because I married that cute redhead. And maybe things will be better in 2014.
First Base: AL Rank (by OPS) 11th, OPS .735, SO 204, BB 65, HR 27, RBI 70
I don’t think we start the season with Jonathan Singleton in Houston, so look for more of either Brett Wallace or Chris Carter. Both put in the most ABs at the position in 2013. The big question on Wallace is which guy shows up? The one with an OPS over .800 for July and August, or the guy who couldn’t find a hit with a treasure map in April. Carter meanwhile needs to do two things: Cut down on the Ks and improve his batting average from about .220 to the .270-.280 range he showed in the minors.
Second Base: AL Rank (by OPS) 9th, OPS .682, SO 89, BB 31, HR 5, RBI 52
It’s all about Altuve. Oh, sure, we had some Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Elmore filling in, but we’re at about 600 ABs from the little guy at second base. But as long as he’s not getting run over by Jimmy Paredes or trying to play through a pulled muscle, I think we’re going to see a better version of Altuve than we’ve seen in 2013.
Third Base: AL Rank (by OPS) 9th, OPS .686, SO 104, BB 29, HR 22, RBI 80
Most of this is Matty D, and that’s OK. Unfortunately, I think we’re looking at a guy who hits with an OPS of just about .700 and brings a bit of power. But, oh that glove. And, frankly, we’re not going to replace him with anyone else. Brandon Laird is a better hitter, but his glove is not in the same league. Rio Ruiz is two years away—minimum. So embrace Matty D. If he can learn to walk a bit, we’re looking at a decent hitter.
Shortstop: AL Rank (by OPS) 11th, OPS .652, SO 133, BB 39, HR 7, RBI 35
2013 has been the Tale of Two Shortstops. The Marwin Gonzalez-Ronnie Cedeno experiment was a failure. But Jonathan Villar—errant throws aside—has been an unqualified success. We’re talking a .150 difference in OPS. Add to that the, uh, excitement on the base paths and I think we’re looking at much better performance in 2014.
Catcher: AL Rank (by OPS) 3rd, OPS .782, SO 162, BB 53, HR 23, RBI 66
The numbers here would be even better without 40-plus ABs from Pagnozzi and Clark. I think it’s easy to say this is our best position in 2013, and it could be one of the best in 2014. We’ll do well here, and I don’t see a reason for this to diminish, even if we lose Corporan and have to install Stassi as the backup.
Left Field: AL Rank (by OPS) 3rd, OPS .747, SO 175, BB 43, HR 24, RBI 80
Left and right field (or wherever Springer isn’t playing) will be a kind of mixed bag when comparing next year to this year. That said, we had a lot of quality play from the left field position with the exception of J.D. Martinez (LF OPS .627). He’s a favorite of mine, but the fact is if his 157 ABs in left were given to Crowe (LF OPS .919), Grossman (LF OPS .784), Carter (LF OPS .810) or Barnes (LF OPS .717), we’d be looking at our highest-ranked position in the AL.
Center Field: AL Rank (by OPS) 15th, OPS .605, SO 165, BB 35, HR 7, RBI 37
Not one player for Houston had an OPS over .700 while playing CF. Wow! Not JMax. Not Barnes. Not Grossman. Not Crowe. So, what do you think we can get from Springer here? If we can get an OPS of .750 from Springer, we’d go from the worst CF production to one of the top five.
Right Field: AL Rank (by OPS) 15th, OPS .667, SO 149, BB 36, HR 9, RBI 49
If this spot is held by Hoes, we’d be doing better in 2014. Probably not the HRs, but we’d get a plus-.700 OPS. Barnes would probably be an offensive downgrade, but on defense it’d be like having two centerfielders out there compared to Hoes and his questionable route running for the ball (that guy was not a wide receiver in high school).
Designated Hitter: AL Rank (by OPS) 14th, OPS .627, SO 183, BB 49, HR 15, RBI 56
Like 2013, this will probably be a revolving door in 2014. But if we can keep it to second-time-up Wallace or Carter, we’re probably going to do better than in 2013.
OK, so the pitching staff discussion will have to wait for another day. But by jettisoning some of the dead weight the organization started the season with (I’m looking at you Ronnie Cedeno and J.D. Martinez) and replacing it with players who performed well in the second half … or with George Springer in the outfield, we can improve our offensive output from second-worst in the AL to, well, maybe the lower part of the middle of the pack. And that’d be a step in the right direction.
And none of this takes into account any free agents (I mean real hitters, not the Carlos Pena kind) we might sign this offseason.
So, what say you?