Back in the 1980’s when the oil bust hit Houston, I moved my family to Arkansas to work in the power industry. One year there was a referendum on the ballot for allowing casino gambling in the state. I vividly remember an extremely cheesy anti-gambling commercial showing a young dad at the craps table about to throw the dice and yelling out “Baby needs a new pair of shoes”. Well, he loses and baby never gets those shoes.
So what does that have to do with my Astros post today and the potential Astros lineup for 2015? Just this: if your kids or grand kids need a new pair of shoes do not use any of my predictions here as a basis for a Las Vegas betting spree.
Anyways, here is a look at the 2015 Astros by position, including the starting rotation.
These are players that should definitely be in the starting lineup/rotation in 2015.
2B Jose Altuve. Hey, I fully confess I was wondering if Altuve was worth more as a trade chip than as an Astro after a very shaky 2013 season. But with a couple of good bats around him (Fowler and Springer) – he has had a brilliant first half of 2014. He is leading the majors in hits (116), leading the AL in batting average (.344) and stolen bases (37) and more importantly after leading the league in getting caught last season – he has only been caught 3 times this season. He has struck out 23 times this season (a good week for Chris Carter) and only has 2 errors in the first half of 2014. He has moved from being a possible mover to an absolute keeper.
RF George Springer. I don’t know what OF position he will play in 2015, but if he is healthy Springer will be high up in the lineup. Yes, his BA (.245) is nothing to write home about and even with a mid-April call-up – he is leading the AL with 94 Ks. But he has been an impact player for the Astros. His 16 HRs are the most by an Astro rookie before the All Star break — ever. (Note – Jeff Bagwell had 15 HRs total in his ROY season of 1991). His .835 OPS is strong and his 43 RBIs (tied for most by an Astros rookie before the ASG with Mitch Meluskey) have come in many critical situations. Once he settles in at the plate and in the field, this guy should be a superstar.
1B Jonathan Singleton. Based on what we have seen so far I cannot bet on Singleton being “the man” at 1B long term. But at his young age and with his hitting background, I would bet he starts 2014 as the Astros’ first baseman (as long as he stays away from the state of Colorado before his next drug test).
SP Jarred Cosart. After a rough first 4 starts this season, Cosart has steadily developed into a very solid #2 or #3 type pitcher in his subsequent 12 starts. He has shown a propensity to remind me of Bud Norris (no, not due to snarky “the Astros hurt my feelings” remarks) in that he can head quickly towards 100 pitches without putting very many innings behind him. He has great stuff – but not always the best control. The last few starts he has been able to get deeper into games and those are the type of performances that might propel him towards the ace categroy.
SP Dallas Keuchel. Recent wrist swelling aside, Keuchel has been a pitcher not a thrower this season. He has cut his ERA almost in half from a tough 2013 and looks like he could be one of those long time clever leftys with good control and lots of ball movement.
3B Matt Dominguez. Yeah, I know that he is not a consistent offensive player and he may never be, but a team that values having the opposition pound it into the ground will want this guy protecting the left side and will gladly take his 20+ HR 70+ RBI projections at the plate. I don’t think anybody will bump him off from within the organization by 2015 and I don’t see them trading to shore up 3B at this point.
Better than 50/50
These players could easily be gone by the deadline or the off-season, but are ones who I believe will be in the starting lineup / rotation if they are here next season.
CF Dexter Fowler. Except for missing a little time with an illness and an injury – Fowler has been exactly what this team needed, solidifying the defense up the middle and filling in whatever role (leadoff, 3 hole) he has been asked to do offensively. The biggest concern with Fowler was that playing at sea level would deflate his Colorado numbers. So far – he has been almost exactly spot-on to last season (2013 .263 BA / .369 OBP / .776 OPS – 2014 .270 / .377 / .774). (Note: Fowler has been placed on the 15 day DL retroactive to Friday June 27. Does not really affect this evaluation).
C Jason Castro. He has been a disappointment this season, but he still has the 4th most RBIs among AL catchers and is throwing out runners at about league average. The biggest question with replacing Castro at this point would be with who? None of the catchers at AA or AAA (Max Stassi, Carlos Perez, Tyler Heineman, Rene Garcia) are hitting any better in the minors than Castro is in the majors. A trade? Good hitting catchers are so rare, who would be willing to part with any of the ones that produce better than he does?
SP Scott Feldman. He’s obviously not the ace of the staff – but he has been solid and consistent for the team – in only 2 of his 14 starts has he given up more than 2 runs. The biggest complaint I have is that in his last 11 starts he has not thrown more than 6.1 innings in any game. My gut is that they will look to trade him at the 2015 deadline when he would have about $13 million owed for the 1-1/2 years to go at that point.
CL Chad Qualls. After getting ripped for 5 runs in his first 6 appearances – Qualls has given up 16 hits, 1 walk and 1 earned run in his last 23.1 IP and 25 appearances. That is strong and has given the bullpen an anchor at the back. They could trade him at the deadline, but unless someone comes off the DL soon I don’t see it.
Less than 50 / 50
These are players who will have to prove a lot in the second half to hold their spot.
SP Colin McHugh. In his 4 wins, McHugh has a 0.34 ERA. In his other 9 starts he has a 4.76 ERA. I like the movement on his pitches, but I’m just wondering McWho is the real McHugh. This would seem to be the best landing place for a Nick Tropeano or a Mike Foltynewicz.
SP Brad Peacock. Frankly, looking at Peacock’s stats since joining the starting rotation in late April, he has been good with a 2.88 ERA. He has yet to pitch past 6.2 IP but you can pencil in a solid 6 innings whenever his turn comes around. He would just seem to be a guy they could dangle out there in a trade offer.
SS Jonathan Villar. This kid who just turned 23 is a very polarizing figure. Gets to lots of balls. Makes too many errors. Has a lot of speed. Makes baserunning mistakes. Hot streaky hitter (.758 OPS in April with 11 extra base hits). Cold as Bud Selig’s heart hitter (.500 OPS in May and June). I think they will try to upgrade at this position possibly by trade or FA, but it is tough to find very many good SS’s period. With Correa’s injury, the cavalry is no where near the majors though they may bring up a guy like Petit to let Villar go down and get his head straight. (Note – it appears they are bringing up Enrique Hernandez to let Villar get his head straight or never see the light of day again)
Drawing to an inside straight
These guys have very small odds of staying and will be gone gone gone, either by cut, trade or mysterious accident……
DH Chris Carter. You know that Jersey Shore guy called The Situation? Carter is The Enigma. 58% of his hits are for extra bases! However, less than 19% of his ABs are for hits. He cut down his strikeout rate by 5% this season! He still strikes out 37% of the time. Last season his road OPS (.925) was way better than his home OPS (.605) so this year he has improved his home OPS to .719! Of course his road OPS is now at .617. They need a real DH and his name is not The Enigma. Unless someone like a Preston Tucker steps up big in the second half this might be a spot that is filled by FA or trade. But it needs to be filled.
LF – Grossman/Presley/Hoes – OK – maybe they won’t all be gone – but it is hard to see a scenario where any of these three is the starting LF going into 2015. With a combined BA of around .200 and a combined OPS below .600 – this has been a dark hole in the lineup. There is a good chance none of these guys will be the 4th OF either. Obviously Domingo Santana is the long term 3rd OF and Austin Wates has a shot on the shorter term to come grab a spot. (Note – Santana is being called up with Fowler going on the DL. Here is hoping he does so well that he stays up when Fowler returns).
So – here is my shot at who the main players will be starting the 2015 season.
Dan’s not-for-betting-purposes 2015 Astros’ lineup and rotation
|Everyday Starters||Rotation + Closer|
|CF – Dexter Fowler||SP – Dallas Keuchel|
|2B – Jose Altuve||SP – Jarred Cosart|
|RF – George Springer||SP – Scott Feldman|
|DH – Victor Martinez||SP – Nick Tropeano|
|LF – Domingo Santana||SP – Mike Foltynewicz|
|1B – Jonathan Singleton||CL – Jesse Crain|
|3B – Matt Dominguez|
|C – Jason Castro|
|SS – Enrique Hernandez|
Who are your main players for next season?