Thursday thoughts as Astros prep to restart season


A few Thursday scattershots while we wait for baseball to begin again.

If the Jose Altuve signing and last week’s Jarred Cosart start weren’t good enough news for you, here’s more.

Only a few years ago, the Astros didn’t have five players ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100. Now, they have five in the 2013 mid-season Top 50. But it is of interest to note that a few players from the 2012 draft are ranked ahead of the Astros #1 pick, Carlos Correa. Two pitchers and a catcher chosen after Correa are already in the majors.

In its recently released rankings, BA points to some negatives in some of the Astros’ prospects, but overall, the skills demonstrate plenty of hope for Astros’ fans desperate for good news on the way to a seemingly third straight 100-loss season.

Correa “doesn’t run all that well”, George Springer “gets caught on his front foot at times” and Lance McCullers’ changeup “has a long ways to go”. Still, the upside his sky high, BA notes.

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Further good news: The fact that college pitchers Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Michael Wacha (Cardinals) are already in the majors bodes well for this year’s top three picks of the Astros.  In addition to top pick Mark Appel, #40 pick Andrew Thurman and #74 Kent Emmanuel also experienced college pitchers.

Is it reasonable to expect that one or more of these pitchers will be close to major-league ready by this time next year?

• •• ••• •• •

Earlier in the season, I suggested that the success of the 2013 season didn’t necessarily hinge on how many games the Astros won or lost. Yes, the team should target an improvement over last year’s 55-107 record, but the benchmark barometer for the long-term reconstruction project was elsewhere.

If you recall, Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow identified Altuve as the “only everyday player” when the season started. Success would come, I wrote, if the Astros could find even 2-3 other players during this season to play “everyday” with Altuve.

With 68 games to go in the season — and this may sound odd — the Astros aren’t that far off. If you include starting pitchers in those “2-3 players”, the pool from which that prediction could be satisfied is significant. Here’s the group of players who could establish themselves between now and October and enter 2014 “alongside” Altuve as the foundation of the team:

  • Jordan Lyles.
  • Jason Castro.
  • Brett Wallace. Can he keep up the pace since his last call up?
  • George Springer. He should get at least 100 ABs in Houston to make his case.
  • Jarred Cosart. 8-10 starts could put him close to a shoo-in for 2014 rotation.
  • Matt Dominguez. Still the odds-on candidate at 3B, but needs to make his move.

Who do you see as the 2-3 players in the best position to establish themselves in the second half as an “everyday” player (pitcher or position player)?

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11 comments on “Thursday thoughts as Astros prep to restart season

  1. Scatterthoughts back at you Chip
    – Correa is like the youngest player (18) in his lower A ball league, already has about 50 runs scored and about 50 RBIs, and most importantly has a .418 OBP while playing decent SS (11 errors). I don’t expect 6’4″ shortstops to be speedsters when they do all those other things.
    – Pretty clear that Luhnow went High school in his first draft and college in the second to try and get the calvary here closer to the same time….
    – Springer – yeah he strikes out a lot, but when he puts it in play good things happen. After a strong 1/2 season at AA – he has started off super hot at AAA – 7 HR and 17 RBI in 17 games and an OBP over .500. I already get to watch a bunch of guys who strike out a lot – would not mind seeing one that balances that out with great hitting when he does connect.
    – Lyles – Did not let the disappointment of not making the team out of ST slow him down – has shown more stuff this season (and a lot more internal stuff than Lucas Harrell).
    – Wallace – Same thing – went down to AAA after blowing his chance in the early season and has done good things (against righty pitchers) and played well at 1B and 3B since coming up.
    – Castro – For all his faults, at least we don’t look at the C spot as an automatic out – in fact we see it as an extra base haven.
    – Cosart – Don’t want to dump ice water on the coronation – but his first start is an almost impossible debut to follow. But good to see someone show up with plus stuff.
    – Dominguez – Sorry I don’t think he has proven anything yet. He is only 23 – so he could develop. He is painfully slow on the basepaths, has an OBP after April of only about .240, had a hot power streak in May (8 dingers) and only 3 homers in his other 75% of his ABs and though he has shown a fine glove at times – he does not have much range.
    Any ways – looking for more youngsters to show up between now and the end of the season. Still wondering what the trade deadline will bring – if anything.

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  2. This time last year Baseball America described Correa as “…an above average runner.” BA completely whiffed on Altuve, and had this 18 year old, .352/.419/.486 (Mike Trout) barely crack their top 100. I am not a big fan of BA. John Sickels watches more baseball and has a more first hand knowledge.

    That said, I can’t wait to read about these guys as major leaguers.

    I thought Castro had become an “everyday player” last year. I wanted Wallace, Maxwell, and Dominguez to achieve that this year. It looks like Lyles has. Who gets a deal first, Lyles or Castro? In two years which left side is more likely, Fontana/Correa, Correa/Dominguez, Correa/Wallace, or Stop gap/Stop gap.

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    • Yep, the draft is still not an exact science as we all know. But it is good to see Astros’ names in the top echelon for a change. Can’t call these guys “can’t miss” yet, but you’d have to admit that Springer, Singleton and others on this list will see significant time in the majors.

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  3. If we are talking of “the foundation”, I would include Altuve at this point. That’s it. And even then, we might well have a guy already in the system to challenge Altuve in a couple of years. I’m also encouraged by Lyles. Hard to believe he’s still only 22. Seems that he’s been around for a long time. One thing we don’t talk about is that he’s 6’4″ and 215. In another year or two, we might be looking at a guy that goes 230-235 and has added a couple more MPH to his fastball. One with a good head on his shoulders.

    I can’t even begin to consider Castro or Wallace as “foundation” guys though. They are both one dimensional players. Castro is proving that he can hit right handed pitching. But at 26, he does nothing else well. Pretty much the same deal with Wallace. He might end up hitting righties consistently, but he’ll be 27 next month. What we’ve got with both guys long term are potential designated hitters that will sit against lefties.

    Tough to say it, as much as like Dominguez, there are just too many holes in his game too. I don’t see a foundation guy, but rather a bridge until we get a third baseman that can do more things.

    With Springer, he might K close to 200 times a year, but he plays D, runs, hits with power and can throw. Refreshing to see a guy coming along, hopefully soon, with multiple tools.

    As Dan notes, way too early to pencil Cosart into the rotation, but we know he has good stuff. If he can throw strikes, he’ll be around for a long time.

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  4. Chip, your morning coffee must have been better than mine. I opted for the “light, morning blend” instead of a medium or dark. I don’t think we’re any closer to having an everyday lineup to be proud of. I still like Altuve, but no one else from the position players stands out. Altuve needs to make improvements to justify the contract he signed as well. An overall .667 OPS from your 2B isn’t fantastic. It actually ranks 16th among qualified second basemen at the MLB level. Ideally this is a down year for Altuve due largely to the surrounding cast.

    There is no reason, at this time, to believe Appel can’t be in the big leagues in the second half of 2014. My personal opinion is that there is no reason to rush him. What I want to avoid is overburdening his arm. I want him to be a full time contributor in 2015 and beyond. I don’t know anything about Thurman, but hope to see him in spring training.

    I’m very familiar with Emanual. You’ll want to update your spell checker to remove the second ‘m’ in his name. When he’s locating pitches he is tough. I think he’ll end up being a left-handed version of Kirk Saarloos.

    The decision to pick Correa was financially motivated. That might be a controversial statement, but Luhnow was going for quantity and knew he could get quality picks by doing so. I’m thrilled with his progress so far. Many of us believed from day one, however, that Correa would eventually be a third baseman. We’ll see what happens.

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  5. Regarding Altuve, I am a fan but only a qualified one. I believe he still gets too impatient at the plate and the longer he goes without a hit, the more impatient he becomes. However, being rated 16th among qualified 2nd basemen means he is better than 14 more qualified players. Lyles, I believe will only get better. His biggest attribute is his head. He can deal with adversity. As for Correa, Derrick Jeter has had a HOF career being one of the slower shortstops. I don’t see a big problem with Correa so far. Castro may have topped out on defense but his uptick with the bat is a pleasant surprise. Besides, who else do we have? With Cosart it is obviously too early too tell, but his mound presence, coupled with what is obviously exceptional stuff certainly warrants a longer look at him at the MLB level in my opinion. I am not a Wallace fan anymore. If he drops off and doesn’t quickly pull out of any slump, then I say we move on to the next guy. Dominguez is a pleasure to watch at third, but his hitting can’t be abided at this level. As far as Springer goes, I believe he needs to get his feet wet this year. Pena is no longer required to take up a roster spot and Springer can certainly not strike out more than Pena who is probably blocking him at this point.

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  6. There’s no doubt Altuve can hit but being in such a weak lineup puts a lot of pressure on. I’m glad they gave him an extension, as the lineup, improves I’m hoping he will too.

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  7. Altuve was on a nice run, when Paredes tried to *kill* him, after that hard hit to his
    jaw……he wasn’t the same. Signing Altuve gives the FEW of us still trying to hang
    with this club some hope. Correa can’t run?? Who needs to run if you hit homeruns!
    Personally, I think Matty D. will only get better…..his defense is AWESOME! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Springer will be up BEFORE September! The Braves are eyeing Wes Wright, who else can we send along with him? I’m up for ANY and ALL trades……..ASAP! Becky

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