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Youth is Served (It’s a Cookbook!)


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.

Rookie soon-to-be-sensation George Springer is 24 years old. So is L.J. Hoes.

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?
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About BrianT

Brian Todd is a freelance writer working and living in Rochester, Minn.

20 comments on “Youth is Served (It’s a Cookbook!)

  1. 1oldpro
    May 7, 2014

    The hole in the system is in the knowledge of baseball. We know how to assess young talent and acquire it. We don’t know what to do with it. From the beginning it was obvious that Mills and Brocail didn’t know pitching and Porter doesn’t either.
    But the reason they were here is that Luhnow doesn’t know baseball.He’s a slick Willy who knows how to BS his way and con non-baseball people. But he doesn’t know baseball. He knows computers and figures and money and words. He does not know how to run a major league baseball team. Most of all, he doesn’t have the ability to hire the right people to get the players to play their best.
    We haven’t ruined any young players except Paredes. We’ve just delayed their careers until they get moved to another team where they will understand what playing the game means.
    The reason the Astros of the future are in trouble is because they won’t really want to play for this guy or his groupies. The day of freedom for Astros prospects is the day they get traded or the day Luhnow gets fired.
    Pedro Martinez came the closest to saying what real baseball think about the Astros and he shut his mouth just in time to keep the rest of us from finding out what the rest of baseball thinks about Jeff Luhnow and his circus.
    All of them say something without opening their mouths. What did Bagwell do? What did Ausmus do? What has Biggio done.
    Most importantly, what are the current Astros players doing? Nothing. They say nothing and they do nothing. They are waiting for freedom.

    Like

  2. kevin
    May 7, 2014

    Once again well said Old Pro.. I’m sure JD, Lyles and Barnes are loving life why we have to watch this uninspired high school team. Is it to soon for Crane to sell man oh man , Uncle Drayton in the end really screwed us over from about 2004 on. I’m old school so I’m not big on overpaying for these big time free agents ( Tigers are going to hate the Miggy deal). However a nice mix the last 3 years would have been nice, some still serviceable vets mixed in not a bunch of old re-treads . If that meant a payroll of 50-60 million to have a team vs a bunch of AAAA guys I’m in.

    I’ve been an Astro due since 1976 when my folks moved to a dirt patch called The Woodlands. I will always be a an Astro dude, just wish i could wear all my Astro gear again. I’m hoping The Ryan’s and Biggio get more involved and at least Crane sees the light, see you Lunhow and Porter.

    Like

  3. daveb
    May 7, 2014

    Give it time. If this disfunction continues under Crane, the other owners will get restless. And so will MLB. The other owners did not envision a system that rewards continued failure by giving out the top pick to the same club for half a decade.

    Like

    • Devin
      May 7, 2014

      I think its more a competitive balance thing. When the Yankees or Red Sox miss the playoffs by a game and the A’s / Angels / Rangers beat them thanks in part to dominating the Astros…

      Like

  4. Mr. Bill
    May 7, 2014

    No one in their twenties has been or will be ruined by playing baseball – at any level. Maturity may or may not bring improvement – it is up to each individual. Some of the variables the player can control [e.g. effort, focus, game prep, work ethic, attitude, harnessing of emotions, keeping free of substances and personal drama], and some of them he cannot [e.g. his skill set, his eye and hand quickness, unavoidable injuries, and the situations in which he will be called upon]. When any professional baseball player gets the chance, however, it is up to him and him alone to make the most of his chance. He knows the game – or he should. He knows the rules. He knows the risks. He has always stood alone in the batter’s box or on the pitching rubber, and that is not new to him. While he is drinking his cup of coffee – for however long he is there – he can either rise to the occasion and show sparks of potential greatness at the highest level – or not.

    For a baseball player, the greatest tragedy is not to have a chance and fail; the greatest tragedy is to never be given the chance.

    Look, we are the Bad News Bears. We are the Mighty Ducks. We are the gang of no-and-low-talent losers no one expects to accomplish anything. And we will stay that way until one, two and then twenty-five – plus a manager and a couple of coaches – quit playing the blame game and step up and do something in real time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Devin
    May 7, 2014

    Stop it. I don’t want to defend Luhnow in the midst of this depressing baseball. But here is the thing…when I played Little League I thought I knew more about baseball than anyone else on the field. When I got to high school I found out I was wrong – I didn’t even have the fundamentals down let alone a mastery of the strategy. I tried to soak it all up, and man if I wasn’t the smartest player in Texas my senior year… But then I got to college and found out the vast amount I knew about baseball was only eclipsed by the amount I DIDN’T know.

    I think the 2013 draft was evidence the organization knows there is a severe lack of knowledge of the game in the system. There is a reason they took Appel, Thurman, Emanual, Kemp, and Gregor.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      May 7, 2014

      They drafted smart players in the 2013 draft because they knew there weren’t smart players in the system?
      OMG!

      Like

      • Devin
        May 7, 2014

        I specifically meant experienced, but based on some of the goofy plays we have seen you may be right. Then again, when the manager doesn’t know the rule book…

        Like

  6. Astro45
    May 7, 2014

    Yes they are young, but our history of how we treat young players is not good. Thought you might want to look at this and realize these two (2) guys were about 23 and 21 when the photo was taken.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/featured/7976/index.htm

    Like

  7. Becky
    May 7, 2014

    Why we can’t put our finger on the *real* problem with the Astros is puzzling.
    Why has the atmosphere playing for the Astros been so toxic, and not just today….
    it’s been that was for a loooooong time. We changed owner’s, we have run through managers more than some people take baths……and STILL this team has under
    performed. We HAVE good players, and we can slice and dice all day long, but I
    really don’t put the blame on the players. One of the things I’ve noticed, is the “rah-rah-ree” attitude Bo Porter brought to this club, has worn thin. I promise you that Jim Crane and his fellow investors are REALLY unhappy about a club who has won only 10 games, and it’s nearly the middle of May. Again……this is not a bad team,
    but for some reason they’ve lost any direction to play for this organization. I’d like to know how they are talked to on a daily basis…….

    Like

  8. 1oldpro
    May 7, 2014

    Let’s take Mark Appel as a great example of how to handle a 1.1 prospect:
    You draft him in June and get him to sign.
    You send him to Florida for his orientation in late June.
    You send him to New York in July for a few weeks and put him in a 5 man rotation.
    You send him to Iowa in late July and insert him into another 5-man rotation.
    Then, when the team is nearing the playoffs, you shut him down completely and he gets to watch the playoffs from the bench.
    He comes home to Houston, gets sick and has an operation.
    He shows up for spring training but can’t pitch.
    He gets almost no work but you send him to Pitcher’s Hellhole all the way out in California, where you put him in a 4-day rotation as a starter one time and supposedly a reliever the next time. But he doesn’t have any stregnth, looks bad and is screwed up in a screwed up tandem rotation that no other team in baseball uses.
    Then, when he gets bombed in a place you know everybody gets bombed, you say he’s not ready, so you send him thousands of miles all the way back to where he started last June. Florida
    After you ship your #2 prospect back to Florida to start over, you promote a 21 year old Kyle Smith after 3 starts and four relief appearances to Corpus Christi just one month into the season. There, he gets pounded in his first start because he should be back in Lancaster where he belongs. You have a legitimate prospect in Lefty Hader at Lancaster and he is wild as hell. So, to help cure that problem you pitch him in relief today and as a starter four days later and then a reliever four days later and then as a starter. That gives him a real consistent diet of nothing, nada!
    In all, you have 32 starting pitchers in four different leagues who are going to start one turn in a 4-man rotation and then in relief the next. No rythym, no flow, no chance to extend yourself in any game. The best five starters on each team get no chance to improve because they are getting pulled for another 12 guys who are in the rotation, who have no business being there. And all of the other pitchers in the system just sit there and wait for an inning here or there while the tandem guys pitch around good hitters because they know they they are on a pitch limit anyway, which is why none of our teams are lowest in walk rates this year.
    But nobody says anything because they saw what happened to Springer when he chose not to sacrifice himself for nothing. They also saw how Appel got handled by the Ringmaster.

    Like

    • tedf1948
      May 7, 2014

      Good job Oldpro. The one thing that all of these sabremetric guys seem to overlook is that Luhnow did not run the show in St. Louis. He was only in charge of finding the talent. He never had complete authority to manage an MLB club. We have taken everything he has said as the absolute truth and yet it is as new to him as it was to Jimmy Paredes. Luhnow is unproven. Crane, for all of his warts, understands the bottom line. He knows the Astros are not winning and he will eventually focus on the GM as the problem. Just because the Astros are doing a bunch of things differently does not mean what we are doing is right.

      Like

  9. kevin
    May 7, 2014

    OkKOld pro you just got my vote as the next GM

    Like

  10. BrianT
    May 7, 2014

    To me, the youth of our team is a two-fold problem.

    First, these are players who have not reached their peak performance years. Take, for example, the player who is arguably the best young player we’ve ever had: Jeff Bagwell. (Arguably because he won the Rookie of the Year award.) Bagwell’s best years, measured by OPS, came from his age 25 season to his age 34 season. The year he was 25, 1993, was his first with an OPS over .900. And other than 1995’s .894 OPS — he was recovering from that broken hand in 1994 — he never dipped below .900 again until 2003 with an OPS of .894. During that time period he topped 1.000 with his OPS five times. Obviously, the best years for Bagwell came from 25-35.

    Biggio first topped the .800 OPS mark at age 27, and other than his 2000 season at age 34, kept his OPS above .800 until, well, age 36 (2002) when it slipped into the .700s until, well, 2004 when it went back up to .806.

    But let’s not pick a future Hall of Famer. Let’s just pick your average Astros icon. Jimmy Wynn had a great OPS at age 23 (.841) a good OPS at age 24 (.761) and then, other than a VERY uncharacteristic year in 1971 (age 29, OPS .596) and a fairly uncharacteristic year in 1973 (age 31, OPS .742) never saw the south side of an .800 OPS until he was 34 in in 1976.

    How about guys whose numbers aren’t retired by the team? Terry Puhl: One great full season at age 23 then he doesn’t sustain excellence until he’s 26-28. Cesar Cedeno doesn’t really make my point with his great rookies season at age 19, but he faltered his second year then sustained his great hitting from ages 23-29. Enos Cabell (middle name Milton!) put together his best hitting seasons at ages 27-28 and 33-34.

    The point is, peak performance often comes later in age than most of these guys.

    The second point is this, we don’t have one young guy. We have a team full of them. Altuve JUST turned 24. Villar is a pup. Heck, Castro is just now entering his prime (and better soon start acting like it!). Dominguez is 24. Springer is 24.

    How old is Carter? 27?

    I could do the same analysis for the pitching staff, but you see my point.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dan P
    May 7, 2014

    I do get your point Brian T – young guys are inconsistent and a lineup of young guys can feed off each other in a negative way.
    If you look at the 9 starters last night – they entered the 2014 season with an average of 811 ABs – which considering that a major league season is in the 500-600 AB range shows they had barely more than a season worth of ABs on the average. Drop Fowler out of that equation and you are talking about 632 ABs experience per player for the other 8.
    Some of these guys will fall by the way side as we go along – but if we want to see whether they will improve with experience – we cannot pull the plugs on them after 5 weeks of the season.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Becky
    May 7, 2014

    I was right……….Fields was sent down, and Zeid brought up. Maybe Josh can find that magic while he’s in OKC. *sigh*.

    Like

  13. kevin
    May 7, 2014

    Revolving door continues with the same parts. I’m with you Becky something is Toxic with this organization. I think we have some good kids but something is making The Astro’s a joke in the eyes of baseball that bothers me as much as loosing!

    Like

  14. Becky
    May 7, 2014

    Tell me something fellas. WHY is it that NO manager in the last 10yrs. has lasted more than 2yrs.? WHY can’t we find a GM that can please all of us? Below is a list of GM’s and managers that have lasted for a looong time. I’m sure there are more.
    Bobby Cox- 25yrs.
    Brian Cashman- at least 10yrs.
    Dave Dombrowski / Leeland at least 7-8 yrs. (Jim Leeland was begged to stay)
    Tommy Lasorda- 20yrs.
    That’s just a sample of guys who have stuck with their clubs, through thick and thin.
    WHERE does this leave the Astros? We give the manager 12-18mos. and were are calling for his head………the same for our GM’s.
    Do you see a pattern here? I do, and I don’t like the way this organization is ready to
    pull the plug before we even see how they can improve this club! Jeff Luhnow was given the toughest task a GM could have………rebuild this team from the bottom up.
    He was given a first year manager, who had never been in command of a team, and players that would NOT be on any other MLB team. I’m frustrated, and sad because I had such high hopes for these guys this year. I think we need to let this year play out, before we impose the death penalty on Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow, AND Jim Crane.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. kevin
    May 7, 2014

    Just my quick hit here, new owner, first time ever GM, Maybe instead of hiring a manager with no experience, we had gotten a proven tack record Mgr, just saying. Three newbies in a train wreck organization that Crane bought Yikes! Seems like they were looking for a polite yes guy in Porter, over a proven Mgr.

    Like

    • Becky
      May 7, 2014

      Kevin……..something is VERY wrong in Astros land, and we are getting a bad reputation through out MLB. It’s mind boggling.

      Like

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2014 by in Astros.
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