I was an idiot in my teens and early 20s. Without getting into details, I’ll have to be honest: I probably deserved a lot more speeding tickets than I actually received. And I received a lot of them.
The fact that I’m not dead is a miracle, especially considering the three months I drove a car that would (and did) hit 150 on a regular basis. Oh, and the couple of years I spent riding that motorcycle. And that’s just my driving.
My point: Young men at that age are mistakes waiting to happen. And confidence and competence only come with the experience that age can bring.
That brings us to the 2014 Astros.
Jose Altuve is one of the veterans of this team. He just turned 24 years old.
Of the top 10 second-base prospects according to MLB, three of those minor leaguers are 23, Altuve’s age just a few days ago. And this is Altuve’s third full year in the majors.
Jonathan Villar is 23 years old. Right now, he’s putting together amazing defense with a (as of Tuesday morning) .847 OPS. He’s 23.
All but one of the top 10 shortstop prospects is younger than Villar, but most are in A or AA … including Astros prospect Carlos Correa.
For a couple of more weeks, Jarred Cosart is just 23 years old, and Brett Oberholtzer is 24 until July 1. The 10 best right-handed pitching prospects are all either 21 or 22, and spread again from A-ball to AAA.
Other than a couple of 19-year-olds in low A ball, the rest of the top 10 outfielders range from 20-23.
Matt Dominguez won’t turn 25 until the end of August, but he got his first trip to The Show in 2011. And he’s been a non-stop major leaguer since coming over in the Carlos Lee deal in 2012. The top 10 third basemen range in age from 20-23.
In fact, Houston’s hitters currently have (by far) the lowest average age in the major leagues at 25.9, a whole 1.3 years younger than the next team on the list, and 2.9 years younger than the MLB average of 28.8. Houston’s pitchers, thanks in part to that reworked bullpen that is home to Jerome Williams and the Astros elder statesman Chad Qualls, is fourth at 27.6, which is 1.2 years younger than the league average.
OK, so we’ve got a young team. Nice factoid. So, what’s the point of all this?
Well, there are a couple of points, actually.
First, this is a team full of kids who were thrown onto a major league roster probably before they were ready. Matty D. should have spent the last couple of years tearing up AA and AAA to become a more consistent hitter. Instead, we’re looking at a young player who has been forced to find his way against the best pitching in the world (you know, because he isn’t hitting against our staff).
For every Jose Altuve—a kid who was forced onto a major league roster probably before he was ready, but has learned to survive—there’s a kid like Jimmy Paredes, who needed more time and didn’t get it.
Second, there’s a reason these kids have been promoted to Houston so quickly: This team had no storehouse of talent. Oh, sure, we could have hired a bunch of free agents, ran up the payroll and only stunk a little bit while Jonathan Villar took time to get his stuff together in OKC instead of Houston. But that was never going to happen here. Or we could have took a flier on a bunch of cheap veteran options … oh, wait, we did that. It didn’t work.
So instead we brought up the kids who we thought or at least hoped would and could handle it.
So, here’s my questions for you:
- Will maturity bring more success?
- If promoting some of these guys too soon can be detrimental to their careers, who did we ruin the most by promoting them and relying upon them too soon.
- We often call for this prospect or that prospect to get called up. Do we need to be more proactive promoting prospects, or should we sit back and take some precautions with Singleton or Wates or Santana or Folty?
- What should we name this Astros’ cookbook?