MMQB: The untouchables, the upgrades and the rest

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.

Dexter Fowler.

  • 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.

Matt Dominguez.

  • 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.

Jason Castro.

  • 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.

Chris Carter.

  • 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?

Collin McHugh.

  • May be too late to sell high here, but McHugh seems to be coming back to earth after a stellar start.

Brad Peacock.

  • 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.

Robbie Grossman.

  • 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?



21 comments on “MMQB: The untouchables, the upgrades and the rest

  1. Nice job Chip. Just back from a mini vacation and ready to get back to it. On your list – where I’d put guys:
    Feldman – he is expendable – you would have to listen on him.
    Sipp / Qualls – I like having what seems to be a good lefty in the pen in Sipp and the young guys in the pen need Qualls as an anchor – so hold ’em
    Downs I’m not sure about but if you could package him for a real need I think you have to consider it – the same with Oberholtzer.
    The schedule for July looks tougher – we may not be buying then but perhaps clearing a little space by trading flotsam for guys a long way from ready.


  2. I’d put Dominguez into the untouchable section for the reasons you cite. He is good enough offensively to hold a spot, but his defense brings much greater value. Although prone to some silly errors on routine balls, his presense isof great benefit to a staff getting the job done by making the batters hit it on the ground.

    All five of those guys fall into the place holders section for me. The bullpen guys are of interest, however. Qualls is probably not a long term option due to age. Downs and Sipp should be kept until they show enough long term consistency to force their way into another section, or regress considerably. I think both can be quite good and bristled at the jettison of Tim Byrdak for budgetary reasons…so I’m open to considering them for the long haul, but not ready to commit.


  3. Great post Chip should bean interesting next couple months. For now I would add Dominguez and Fowler to untouchables this year. and Sipp, Qualls, and Downs, I’m not sure that many upgrades out the over them. (except Beltre at 3rd for short term) Everyone else I would listen on including Castro. Another week or so Grossman will be hitting .140

    It it just me or is anyone else getting nervous on how many times Springer swings and misses on a major leagues fastball right down the middle. Hope someone can fix that!


    • It would be great if someone smart (like Steven_) would be able to give us a breakdown on Springer’s swing & contact rates. We have long heard that he completely lacked a two strike approach. I suspect that means he will be epicly streaky…either HOF worthy hot or Matt Pagnozzi level cold. There is an old saying that speed never slumps, but that assumes you can reasonably put the ball in play.


  4. George Springer is doing the same thing now that he did in AA and AAA: Adjusting. It will take longer because he is facing much better pitching. I say let him struggle because he’s always figured it out before. Springer is one of the main reasons we aren’t 20 games below .500. Cannot forget his HRs, RBIs and Game Saving catches. He is a rookie making a rookie salary. He is untouchable.
    Keuchel is untouchable.
    Altuve is untouchable
    Singleton is untouchable.
    Fowler would be untouchable on any team but ours and he should be untouchable on ours. The Astros are third in MLB in OBP at their CF position and second in all of MLB in OBP for a leadoff hitter. Fowler has been a huge, huge difference in our team.
    Everyone else is worth listening to great offers for.
    Some are worth listening to any offer for.


  5. Right now, there is no one on the horizon to replace Dominguez. Maybe Ruiz at some point, but I want to see what he does with the bat in CC before I get too excited. That said, he’s just a kid, and should not be expected to move along as quickly as we might like. In the meantime, Dominguez, a streaky hitter, sometimes frustrating to watch at the plate, continues his good defense. For a third baseman, we could do much worse. 2nd in the league in putouts, 3rd in assists, 4th in range factor and 3rd in double plays turned. Yeah I know our guys throw a lot of ground balls, but Dominguez makes most of the plays. So he remains on my short list for now.

    I’d also have to add both Castro and Corporan. Stassi is not getting on base at an acceptable rate. Catchers are hard to replace, and we’ve got two that at least function. What a bonus if Castro finally gets his act together at the plate. I think Stassi will benefit from more time in OKC. And yes, I was one of the guys preseason, clamoring to give Stassi the full time job behind the plate and let Castro DH and play a bit of first.

    I still fear Fowler will get shipped out, but as I’ve already said, I’ll withhold judgement until I see what we get, assuming it happens. Would be a real shame though, because with him on base, Springer benefits.

    I was one of the first guys to pan Collin McHugh, but I’m not quite so ready to let him go at this point. His ball moves, sometimes too much, but that 73 MPH curve makes the 90 – 92 fastball look faster. If Luhnow is able to send Feldman off somewhere, at a time where Tropeano or Foltynewicz are deemed ready for their shot, I’d nominate our GM for Executive of the Year. And actually, if the home team somehow plays .500 ball, Luhnow might be in the running.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Old Pro I don’t think any of us were saying trade Springer LOL Who cant Love Springer. I’m just a bit taken back on missing the fastball this much , sliders , spliters, change OK Fastball Yikes. I mean he is just flat out Missing it.


    • Springer looks like Carter looked last year at the plate. But Carter can’t add in the speed to steal and the glove and arm in the outfield, so those extra tools make Springer so valuable, plus the fact that Springer hasn’t seen near the pitching Carter had seen before last season. If Springer had been brought up last fall he would have known what he would be facing and would have had all offseason to prepare himself for the high level of pitching. The team’s refusal to give him a chance because of money is why he is looking lost at the plate right now. He never saw stuff like Price and company threw at him because he never had the chance. Now he’s seen it, it’s his turn, finally, to make the adjustments.
      I wonder if The Nationals will sit three of their best players tomorrow rather than have them face our ace because they don’t think their players can hit him or maybe their stars will just need two days in a row off because they are tired. We sat our All-Stars from the last two years and our bomber 22 yo 1B against the Ray’s ace yesterday and had the lead all day until the end. We lost a full game on half the league yesterday because we don’t want to play our best players in front of a home field Father’s Day crowd, with a day off the next day. How pathetic is that?


      • As a fan, I hate it too. However, bo Porter has been pretty consistent resting starters on Sunday. It seemed, from comments before the game, as if Altuve sat of his own volition.


      • If Springer had been brought up last all the league would have had a book on him from day 1 this season. As much as he’s adjusting to the pitching; other teams are having to figure him out as well.


  7. Maybe I missed discussion on this – but the Astros did not pay bucks to sign Veras in the off-season – let him fail with the Cubs and now have him as a backup in the minors for minimum. Smart or lucky?


  8. Interesting question or perhaps paradox. Provide me the deal, and I might deem none are untouchable. But looking at statistics, your top five make my list. Then if we look at OBP, Fowler is a lock. And we might complain about Dominguez, but he is 2nd in Total Bases to Altuve. He is almost a better DH candidate that Carter, without his glove. Castro has to be a great deal or nothing because he is a catcher. But the rest can be moved, and are about 3 promotions from be DFAd unless their career hits a miracle point. This is a cold business.


  9. I loved Joe Maddon’s comments in the Chron about “the shift.” “Is player comfort part of the Rays’ cocktail?” “Pitcher comfort, more than anything. If a pitcher really doesn’t want to do certain things, we will adjust based on that pitcher. Most of the time it’s a veteran pitcher. Young guys don’t really argue. And if they do, don’t listen to them any way, quite frankly.”


  10. The most boring offday of the year. And Williams is still on the team. We are Doomed!!!1111111111111111111111111111. Williams and Villar for Grizzly Adams and a bear to be named later or $2500 cash.


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