So, let’s talk about that signing that got the Astros Nation (slightly larger than Luxembourg at this point) all atwitter last week. No, I’m not talking about the $3.25 million spent on Jesse Crain. I’m talking about the Rangers’ signing of Shin-Soo Choo.
There were two schools of thought on the Astros missing out on Choo. One group basically said, “Seven years and $130 million? In five years that deal will be the Rangers’ version of the Carlos Lee signing!” The second group said, “Another premium hitter in our rival’s lineup. Great, we’ve got THAT to look forward to for seven years. Thanks for nothin’, LoseNow!”
You can decide which group you fall into. (I’d have signed him for five years, but at seven I’m glad we passed.) But the real question then is, if we aren’t signing any more outfielders this winter, what does that mean for 2014 … and 2015 and 2016?
As of right now, here’s what we can expect over the next two seasons in the Astros outfield. I’m not talking opening day. I’m looking at the seasons as a whole.
Considering the Astros aren’t going to the playoffs this year or next with or without Choo, are you good with what the organization has in the system right now for 2016 and earlier? For comparative purposes, I’ll be looking solely at plate appearances (AB+BB+IBB) OPS, Ks, BBs, total extra base hits. The last stat is of my own devising, and shows more than just home runs as a player’s real power potential.
Oh, and I’ll list their age (on April 1, 2014) and highest level of competition.
THE 40-MAN ROSTER
Dexter Fowler: 28, MLB
471 PA, .776 OPS, 105 K, 65 BB, 30 TEBH
Robbie Grossman, 24, MLB
280 PA (MLB), .702 OPS, 70 K, 23 BB, 18 TEBH
303 PA (AAA), .760 OPS, 66 K, 48 BB, 15 TEBH
Jerome O’Bryan Hoes (I know, it makes me laugh too.): 24, MLB
183 PA (MLB), .692 OPS, 35 K, 12 BB, 10 TEBH
423 PA (AAA), .808 OPS, 56 K, 58 BB, 29 TEBH
Marc Krauss, 26, MLB
144 PA (MLB), .633 OPS, 45 K, 10 BB, 13 TEBH
309 PA (AAA), .880 OPS, 53 K, 52 BB, 28 TEBH
Domingo Santana (Yes, he’s on the 40-man Roster!): 21, AA
463 PA (AA), .842 OPS, 139 K, 46 BB, 50 TEBH
KNOCKING BY 2015
Delino DeShields Jr., 21, High A (Lancaster … where the hitters numbers are inflated)
508 PA (A+), .873 OPS, 91 K, 57 BB, 44 TEBH
Preston Tucker, 23, AA
591 PA (A+ and AA combined), .872 OPS, 91 K, 56 BB, 59 TEBH
Andrew Aplin, 23, High A Lancaster
583 PA (A+), .800 OPS, 63 K, 83 BB, 48 TEBH
I’m not going to get into the argument about whether Springer should start the season in AAA or Houston. If I was a finance guy, I’d say AAA. But the fan in me (and all of us) says Houston. So let’s look at what the starting outfield should look like on June 10 (a nice safe Super Two Status date). Also, I did not include Austin Wates as his numbers in AAA were not great and he’s not exactly a top prospect.
- Right Field: George Springer (he’s got a better arm than Fowler, though in MMP you could argue that means he should be in CF).
- Center Field: Dexter Fowler. Here’s hoping there’s no Coors hangover in his stats.
- Left Field: I think those first few months when Springer is languishing in OKC are when Luhnow and Porter see who will become the better hitter: Hoes or Grossman.
4th Outfielder: Well, Krauss is on the 40-man roster, but I would not be surprised to see J.D. Martinez vying for this spot again, at least early in 2014. He tore up the Venezuelan Winter League, which along with $6 will get you a seat at the matinee movie. He still needs to draw a walk. I’m guessing once Springer is called up, whoever isn’t starting between Hoes and Grossman has the inside track.
The interesting thing to watch this year will be DDJ’s and Aplin’s OPS once they leave hitter-friendly Lancaster. More than most teams, the Astros’ system jump from A+ to AA is where you separate the men from the boys.
I would not be surprised to see either Aplin or DDJ competing for an outfield spot by 2015. Both should spend 2014 in AA and, if things go well, could see a mid-season promotion to AAA.
So, here are a few questions to ponder:
- Are guys like Marc Krauss and J.D. Martinez part of the Astros future, or are they just placeholders until DDJ, Aplin, and Tucker, or even lower guys like Teoscar Hernandez or Danry Vasquez, come up?
- What outfield prospect (not including Springer) intrigues you the most?
- If Fowler can hit at MMP, and Springer can hit in the big leagues, do you have faith that either Hoes (183 MLB plate appearances) or Grossman (280 MLB plate appearances) can find their AAA form in a full season in Houston?
- Say the Astros get a .775 OPS from Fowler and an .800 OPS from Springer. Are you more interested in an offensive left fielder or someone who can play great defense to support our young rotation?
- Houston had, probably, the worst outfield in major league baseball in 2013. If the 2013 grade was an F, what do you expect the 2014 grade to be?