The Astros have turned the corner — maybe even .500 in the near future — but the straightaway ahead may still be littered with potholes and some detours.
Even though the Astros may have transitioned from a crawl to a walk, it’s quite clear that the growing pains will continue into the next phase. You could argue that phase one — the house-cleaning and re-stocking — was the easy part. Now that the foundation has been laid, the real growth begins.
Most Houston fans have been craving so long for decent players that it will be hard to part with the average or even above average player in an effort to take the next step.
With the pipeline full of talent and the major league roster already beginning to block some players, Houston’s first moment of truth may come next month. Who is untouchable? Which positions need upgrades? Which players have — or nearly have — run their course?
There are more untouchables on the major league roster today than in any recent season, but it’s still a short list.
The next list — those players who may have run their course — is the most challenging. Most of these could arguably be included on the first list above. But some of these, along with many prospects, could become the trade bait at some point over the next six months to upgrade the major league roster.
- This one is hard. Fowler should be on the untouchables list, but with a significant arbitration raise looming and Austin Wates, Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker prepping at OKC, Fowler may be the most marketable Astro available the deadline.
- The former first round product of the Carlos Lee trade will turn 25 in August. His glove has always been his forte and he was never projected as a heavy producer at the MLB level. But he may be serviceable and provide 20/80/.250 guy. Then again, there are only a handful of significant upgrades, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre and perhaps David Wright among them. With no one near ready in the system, moving him is a huge risk.
- The Astros took the catcher ahead of Justin Smoak and Brett Wallace, but that may be where the success story ends. Whether the Astros decide to pull the plug or extend their starting catcher may come down to which Castro they believe is the Castro of the future: The All Star from 2013 or the somewhat flailing catcher of 2014.
- Tough to pull the plug on a 30 HR player. A little easier when you consider he may always be among the league leaders in Ks and among the league bottom in hitting. Still, if there’s an upgrade that hits .250+ with 20 HR power and .330 OBP, you’d take it. The question now: Is this the time to throw in the towel? Or is the winter or next year’s deadline more appropriate?
- May be too late to sell high here, but McHugh seems to be coming back to earth after a stellar start.
- He’s pitched into the seventh only twice this season, but he did start the season in the bullpen. It might be too early to give up on him and a huge risk to trade him at this point unless the return was significant.
- With a trio of possibilities warming up at Oklahoma City, one has to wonder if Jeff Luhnow is happy he didn’t sign Grossman to the long-term deal earlier this year.
This next list consists of a group of place holders. They are here only until someone in the minors is ready to take their spot. Some will be gone by the All Star break. Others may hit a hot streak or bounce back and forth between OKC and Houston. I can start this list, but you can easily add to it.
So, now, I’ll let you place these names on the appropriate list and allow you to mix and match my lists as well. Where do these go?