Fans, city could use a Rookie of the Year chase

If Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow want to infuse some excitement for fans this season, let Bo Porter write the name George Springer on the opening day lineup.

Against the Yankees. In Minute Maid Park. April 1.

It doesn’t seem likely the Astros will be chasing a pennant or even the playoffs in 2014. But if one of their players is in the Rookie of the Year chase, fans would pay attention. In April and in September.

The Astros haven’t had a legitimate ROY candidate in quite some time, but they’ve “stolen” more opportunities in recent years from potential candidates.  Here are a few:

  • Jarred Cosart. Debut July 12, 2013. He was the top pitching prospect in the system since coming over in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. ROY: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay.
  • Jose Altuve. Debut July 20, 2011. He was an All Star in his first full season (2012), but played only 57 games after making the jump from Corpus Christi in his rookie season. ROY: Bryce Harper, Washington.
  • Jason Castro. Debut June 22, 2010. Actually, probably made the jump to the majors a half-season too early. Didn’t light it up in the half season in 2010, but would have been tough to make his mark then. Perhaps waiting until 2011 would have been better to get a full season.  ROY: Buster Posey, San Diego.
  • Hunter Pence. Debut April 28, 2007. Didn’t play a full season in his first year up, but finished third in the voting. ROY: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee.
  • Craig Biggio. Debut June 26, 1988. Mid-season callup in 1988 and won a Silver Slugger in his first full season in 1989. ROY: Chris Sabo, Cincinnati.

There are some other mid-season call ups who may have had a chance in a full season. In fact, the Astros have had countless rookies over the past few seasons, most of whom wouldn’t warrant any consideration as a ROY prospect.

Springer, on the other hand, will have all types of pressure and expectations, if only because he’s ranked high on every prospect list and because he hit the lights out of the baseball at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City in 2013.

But, as the organization continues it reformation project and Houston fans continue to be patient — okay, some fans continue to be patient — getting the 24-year-old (yes, 24!) on the field Day 1 of 2014 could be a huge PR bonus for the Astros.

Tell me, what else can he improve at AAA? Of course, he could learn to cut down on Ks or continue to hone his plate skills or learn how to read the ball off the bat from center field even better. Yet, most of the those things, he can learn with a major league hitting instructor while playing against major league pitching.

Where would he hit? That would depend on how well he plays in spring training. Third in the order shouldn’t surprise anyone. If the Astros want to take the slow path, hit him sixth. Just hit him!

Is there anyone among us — anyone in Houston for that matter — who can make any sort of case to leave Springer in OKC for even one more day?

Where should he hit in the order? Where in the field should he play? Would you DH Springer and flank Dexter Fowler with L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman?

One last thought: If the Astros play their cards right and plan promotions accordingly, Houston could have rookie of the year candidates for the next several years. Think about it:


8 comments on “Fans, city could use a Rookie of the Year chase

  1. It is pretty simple Chip. As I wrote earlier this week – Springer would have been the best OF on the team last season even with a big drop in production from the minors to the majors. He needs to open the season here – period.
    I think he should hit between 3rd and 5th. I’m assuming he can take the pressure or would not have shown at every level – so I pick 3rd.
    Having not seen him play at all – I will let the suits and Bo decide where he plays in the OF. But I would play him in the OF and DH other guys, like Carter.
    Not worried about future ROY chases yet – just the one sitting in front of us in 2014.


  2. I know that I am in the minority on this one – I would start, assuming spring training shows enough from all 3 – Springer in RF, Fowler in CF, and Krauss in LF. Seems to be the best offensive potential you can put out there – and use Hoes to spell Krauss against lefties, or a defensive/baserunning solution to a tight spot.

    I do think Springer has a great chance to win ROY. The media will push him as the early season favorite.

    I don’t think there is anyway that the Astros send him to AAA. Why give Feldman 10 mil, or bring in Crain/Albers/Qualls if you are not trying to win more games this year? Or even trade for Fowler? I think they have sent an indicator that while they aren’t going to win a division, they are tired of being whipping boys. I still look at this pitching staff and think this is likely another 100 loss team, but I think they will try and pull out all the stops to prevent that, and that will include playing Springer from day 1.


  3. I’ll add that I wouldn’t take Grossman out of ST – the guy has a ton of potential – but he has so far demonstrated one thing in his professional career – that he can take a walk. He strikes out a lot for a guy with no power, his BABIP was a very good .353 – yet he still hit only .268. His strength is his ability to work counts, but that is not so much a strength coming off the bench every other day. In the end Robbie only has 70 games at AAA so far, starting there is not a bad thing for him.

    Hoes gives you the defensive flexibility to carry just the 4 outfielders, leaving you space for the defensive vacuum space of our 1B/DH trio. Carter can serve as the emergency answer in LF, but it better be 911 type emergency.


  4. I’ve long said a Rookie of the Year run would do wonders for the fan base. Springer would have that instant national support from sportswriters. He would be the strength of the Astros outfield. And if the team wins more than 65 games, He’ll be seen as a big part of the Astros “turnaround.”

    If they keep him in OKC until April 11 or whatever, it’s not the end of the world. But if he’s in OKC past tax day, I’ll be screaming at more than just the IRS.


  5. I leave out the ROY reason completely. Just put him in RF because he belongs there and let the other stuff take care of itself. I like Grossman, Fowler, Springer, Hoes and Krauss as our five OF because Krauss can also play 1B as a LHB. spelling Guzman or Carter against tough righties


  6. Chip, would you seriously consider taking arguably the most talented guy on the roster and making him the DH? Or was that comment simply one create a bit of controversy? Springer would be far better served demoted to AA ball, than sitting on the bench all night, waiting for an at bat.

    Steven. I agree. You are in the minority with Krauss. He’s a crappy outfielder. And although Grossman’s limited ML stats are unremarkable, Krauss was far worse at the plate in his short stint. Let’s see which guy wins a job in ST. But right now, I’d much rather have Grossman running around in left than Krauss lumbering around out there. And I think the guys on the mound would too.


    • Both have too small of a sample in the majors to get a fix on them. The only honest evaluation of both is minor league production, and Krauss is far better in most areas. My point on Grossman is really only this – he doesn’t help you alot if he isn’t getting 4 at bats a game, he doesn’t provide much as a situational player, not exceptionally gifted hitter, little power, not recognized for his defense, not a fast or solid baserunner, but if you give him 500 at bats he will walk 100 times, and hit some to make a very solid OBP. Not enough to help in parttime though.

      If he beats Kruass, so be it, neither one serve us well off the bench, only one should make the roster.


  7. In 2011 they projected Springer as a potential gold glove center fielder with a cannon for an arm. As daveb said…you don’t keep those kind of guys on the bench during the defensive halves.

    I don’t think any of the guys you listed could have approached winning ROY. I wanted to stretch a bit and say Cosart could have won…but in 10 starts he threw 60 innings, had a 1.95 ERA, walked 35, and struck out 33 last year. He also went 1-1…which probably matters in the voting. He would have had to be even better in another 15 starts and perhaps won 9 more games without losing any to get consideration.

    I’ll keep saying it – I’m hoping they pick Carlos Rodon in June. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he could be in the rotation in 2016 rather than 2017.


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