Dan Peschong is back today with the second part of his look at age and how it may affect the Astros.
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OK – in the last blog we looked at top youngsters in the system age 18 to 21. Today we are looking for slightly older youngsters 22-23 many of whom have shown their faces in the majors. Anybody who watched the Cardinals winning game 2 of the World Series saw them win that game using two 22 year old pitchers (Wacha and Martinez) and one 23 year old (Rosenthal).
So here are some of the folks of that age in the Astros’ system.
Made the Big Show
Jordan Lyles – Lyles, a first round supplemental pick from 2008 in my mind will be a critical player going forward in figuring out what Jeff Luhnow’s philosophy is. He has had three shots at the big time and has ended up with ERA’s at the wrong side of 5, an inability to pitch deep into games tied to an inability to close hitters out with a K pitch. Does Luhnow see him as someone who has been promoted too quickly, needs to be sent down, needs time to mature or needs to be sent packing if someone else wants him? He turned 23 last week – but even at his age his time may be running short.
Jonathan Villar – Villar’s rise to the majors may be more a testament to the badness of the high level minor league middle infielders in the organization than to his own value. In the minors, this SS picked up in the Roy O trade has had decent offensive numbers – scores runs, walks some, steals bases has a little pop. In the minors his fielding has been consistent. Consistently terrible. He would make an error approximately every 3.5 games whether he was playing SS or 2B. He got called up to the majors and guess what – he was making errors approximately every 3.5 games. Watching him in the field and on the bases – you would think his nickname is Brain F@%t. Is it all due to being 22? I don’t know, but I hope Pat Listach can figure it out because there is some talent under there.
Max Stassi – He did not have a cup of coffee at the majors – he had a tiny 3 game espresso before taking a pitch flush in the face. Part of the Jed Lowrie trade – Stassi began the year injured, but it was no wonder he got the call when Jason Castro was hurt. He had 17 HR and 60 RBIs in only 76 games at CC and was throwing out 37% of base stealers. Here is hoping he comes back 100% and can push Castro over to first base with this club.
Top 22 year olds in the minors
Nolan Fontana – The poster boy for Luhnow’s Money Ball tendencies – 2012 2nd rounder Fontana has had more walks than hits in both of his first two seasons and has a combined .430 OBP. He is also a run scoring machine 88 runs in 100 games in 2013 at Lancaster and has a little power. He will hopefully make it to the majors ahead of Correa and then it may be a coin flip for who plays SS and who moves to 2B or 3B – once Carlos joins him.
Nick Tropeano – This 2011 5th round pick and native New Yawkah (OK – Yorker) has risen fairly quickly through the system – hitting his first snag last season with an average year at AA. His WHIP has been decent and he has had good walk and K rates. I’m guessing they give him another go-round at AA hoping he earns an early promotion.
Andrew Aplin – Another 5th rounder – this time in 2012 – Aplin had a great 2013 at High A Lancaster. I don’t care if it is a good hitter’s league, 102 runs scored and 107 RBIs in 128 games is truly impressive. AA or AAA ball in 2014 may tell the tale for Aplin.
Tyler Heineman – After being drafted in the 8th round out of UCLA in 2012 – this young catcher has been very impressive at stops at Tri-City (A-) and Lancaster (A+).
Both seasons his OPS has been well over .800, he’s been a good run producer (71 RBI in 2013) and most impressively has thrown out over 40% of base stealers both seasons.
Others of Note – Preston Tucker (Insanely good at Lancaster / above average at CC),
Carlos Perez (Catcher in the Happ trade – average offensively but gunning down ½ the runners who test him), Luis Cruz (High K pitcher who looked a lot better at Corpus than at Lancaster). Brian Holmes (13th rounder in 2012) – this lefty has put up great numbers at 3 stops so far.
Young guns in the majors
Jarred Cosart – Cosart is another good young player from the Hunter Pence trade. Cosart’s 2013 season, where he put up solid numbers at OKC and then had a fine 1.95 ERA in 10 starts with the big club might be the biggest highlight of the year. He was walking too many and striking out too few with the Astros, but with a bit of a Oswalt bulldoggedness kept the scoring to a minimum. Will he continue to develop into a top of the rotation starter? Well, he has certainly earned the opportunity.
Brett Oberholtzer – Oberholtzer was obtained in the Michael Bourn trade with the Braves and last season may have been one of the most unexpected surprises of the year. Looking at his minor league stats the last couple of seasons would lead one to expect a very middle of the road pitcher, OK ERA, OK walk rate, OK K rate. Last season once he was put into the rotation – he excelled – his ERA in his 10 starts was an excellent 2.23 with a WHIP just above 1. He showed great control and had a knack for making the hitters swing at his pitch. It would be exciting if he is the real deal.
Matt Dominguez – Matty D came to the Astros in the Carlos Lee trade with the Marlins – which was amazing considering we thought we might to have to send more players along with El Caballo just to get someone to take on the rest of his contract. Dominguez has shown enough in his 1+ years in the majors for everyone to want more. Positives are his good consistent glove and a solid run producer with power – 21 HR and 77 RBIs. If he could raise that BA and miserable OBP by about .40 to .50 – he might be the long term solution at the hot corner.
Robbie Grossman – The Pirates sent Grossman along with a couple other prospects for long time Astro Wandy Rodriguez. Grossman showed enough in a second half call-up (shortened by an early September injury) to leave the fan base intrigued. It was mostly flashes but he showed a quick bat and in a small sample the switch hitter batted better against lefties than righties. 2014 will show whether he is a backup or a starter until the cavalry makes it to the majors.
LJ Hoes – Hoes did a decent job after coming over as the only MLB ready piece in the Bud Norris trade (.287 BA/.337 OBP/.708 OPS). In the minors he tended to walk about twice as often as he did in his 46 game tryout with the Astros. The impression I got is that he will be a likely 4th outfielder down the line – but again he is young and may develop.
Jose Altuve – Weird to think about – Altuve is younger than Hoes, Grossman, Dominguez, Oberholtzer and even George Springer. He’s only about 3 weeks older than Cosart. The hope with Jose is that the slump in stats he experienced in 2013 from his All-Star 2012 was due to how he was used, the lack of protection in the lineup and plain old trying too hard to lead a putrid offense. He will never be a Fontana OBP machine, but they really need him to do a better job of choosing which pitches to attack, or he may become expendable when and if Correa/Fontana make it to the majors.
23 year old top guns in the minors
George Springer – My wife and I have 4 kids, so I’m used to the process of waiting for the baby to be born, but this is really ridiculous. That the 2011 first rounder had 106 R, 37 HR, 108 RBI and 45 SB in only 135 games and could not be brought up to a team whose leaders in each of those categories was 64 R, 29 HR, 82 RBI and 35 SB was preposterous. Bring him up put him in CF and third in the lineup and fuggettaboutit…..
Jake Buchanan – An 8th rounder from the 2010 draft – Buchanan has moved up steadily thru the minors and split the 2013 season between AA Corpus and AAA OKC. He was brilliant at CC and average at OKC. He does not strike out a high rate, but his extremely low walk rate (1.5/9 IP) kept his WHIP around the 1.0 mark last year. He should be given a chance to earn a mlb spot in the next spring training.
Others of note – Two draft choices Brandon Meredith and MP Cokinos put up strong 2013 stats, especially OBPs near .400. Now can they do it when they leave the friendly confines of Lancaster? David Rollins another asset from the JA Happ trade had a solid year pitching mostly at Lancaster. He will probably spend 2013 at AA and see if he gets in the mix by 2014.
So, this part of the review featured some guys who have made it to the big show and other guys who are (age-wise) either closing in on mlb careers or closing in on career minor league status. How do you look at these folks and are there others you think should be featured?