August and September about Astros’ improvement


Just two wins shy of the entire 2013 total, the primary question now for the Astros is how much improvement the team will realize over the next 44 games. With the talent on the roster now, the team should avoid a repeat of the horrific August/September (15-41) from last year.

And that will be the ultimate tell-tale of the 2014 season, the overall improvement and how big a step the organization will take.

The outfield.

When George Springer and Dexter Fowler return, just where will they fit in the lineup and in the outfield? Apparently, Bo Porter plans to plant Fowler back in center, flanked by Springer and newly acquired Jake Marisnick. No more Robbie Grossman and no more Chris Carter in the outfield. Not to mention Alex Presley who should also return soon from the DL. In other words, logjam outfield. The Springer/Fowler/Marisnick OF might be refreshing, especially when you consider that they are three center fielders covering the spacious Minute Maid Park. If everyone returns healthy soon, the Astros’ lineup suddenly becomes a little more potent, if not consistent.

How’s that trade looking now?

On February 4, 2013, the Astros traded Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the A’s for Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. Until recently, the trade was even at best, though most Astros’ fans believed the A’s had won the deal. But with the recent breakthrough by Carter, the trade is suddenly swinging back at least toward the middle and perhaps to the Astros’ side if Carter finishes the season on his current path.

Remember back when…

Sometime during the off-season I posited that Michael Foltynewicz might be a future closer for the Astros a la Brad Ridge or Billy Wagner. As I recall, I was shot down. Any takers on that thought at this point?

Playing for his Astros’ career?

To be sure, Jason Castro hasn’t lived up to his first round potential and his future as an Astro could be dependent in part on how he plays the rest of the season. The tenth pick of the 2008 draft (yes, 2008!) has hit .249/.323/.409 over 367 games with the Astros. He’ll be due another significant raise in arbitration this spring, but could also be a huge trade target at the winter meetings. The big question: Who catches for Houston in 2015? No one is waiting in the wings.

Anything left in the tank?

The Mets signed Chris Young this off-season hoping he could revive his career in New York. Didn’t happen, but many teams still feel he can turn it around. Yes, he’s a Houston native and some wanted to see the Astros bring him in over the past couple of years. Since the Mets DFA’d him last week, he could be had on the cheap. A $50,000 audition in August and September might be worth it.

Manager for a day.

With Fowler, Springer and perhaps others returning soon, what lineup would you like to see the rest of the way? Here’s the 40-man roster, so you can take your pick. Try this one:

And, while we’re at it, wouldn’t mind seeing this rotation one time around before the year is out: Dallas Keuchel, Michael Foltynewicz, Nick Tropeano, Scott Feldman, Brett Oberholtzer.

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26 comments on “August and September about Astros’ improvement

  1. I have no interest in Chris Young and, as you pointed out in this article, we already have a logjam in the OF. I would rather see Fowler/Springer/Marisnick with Grossman as the 4th OFer.

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  2. 1. On the 40 – we need to trade or DFA about 7-10 in order to protect our better prospects in the Rule 5 draft. 2. Pass on Chris Young. 3. The Trade – still not sold we won mainly because we did not have a replacement at short. 4. Castro – from what I read last Winter, he and Altuve had the same agent. The FO was willing to tie up Altuve on a long term deal along with mentioning several others. Never heard a rumor that they were willing to tie up Castro long term. 5. We have too many OFers that CAN’T hit. See #1 above.

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  3. It sounds to me like Springer is out for a while. Fowler may return soon, so I go with Grossman in left, Fowler in CF and Marisnick in RF. That is not my preferred OF, it is what I think will happen.
    Please, no Chris Young.
    I don’t think that anything I have seen in the last ten days makes me want to make Folty a closer over a starter.
    Our bullpen is terrible.
    I’m hoping that Castro’s down year is reflected in his artbitration. A raise, yes. A huge raise, no. I think another year in AAA will do Stassi some good and Heineman isn’t pushing him. Neither of them has mastered their present level yet. The Astros’ youth and inexperience at catcher is showing, but that’s ok. Castro and Corp are fine with me for another year. Remember, it’s only 2015.
    I wish to see Villar at SS when he is done at OKC in September. I’d like to see Chapman in the bullpen in September and I’d like to see Stassi catch some in September. I’d like to se Folty make a start after getting into some more relief appearances to get him accustomed to the crowds and the pressure. I’d like to see Wojo and Nitro and White in the bullpen and get them into a few games.

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    • Old Pro I saw a Blurb from Rosenthal that between some questionable signings, lack of that much improvement, and the handling of Aiken, other internal stuff in the organization, Lunhole is on the start of a Hot Seat.

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    • oldpro, Castro will likely get $5 million+ in arbitration this winter. You good with that? Unfortunately, it’s not entirely about his performance, it’s about his performance versus others in his “class” and at his position.

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  4. The Outfield – I am excited to see a full at strength outfield and especially how good it would be defensively.

    The Trade – Need a little more time and distance on this trade – Lowrie is way down this year – F-Rod actually has pitched well this season – but if Carter could become a .260 BA / .850 OPS / 40 HR / 90 RBI guy – that would swing this trade to us – no matter what Peacock and Stassi do or don’t do.

    Remember Back When – I don’t care where they use Folty – just glad he got the call-up and the opportunity to show something. I always value pitchers as starters above being in the pen – but short term this team is surely lacking in the pen.

    Playing for his Astros career – The funny thing about Castro is that even with the “crappy” year he is having – he is on pace (if he plays 35 of the remaining 44 games) to hit 15 HRs and drive in 60 runs. The Astros club records for a catcher is 16 HRs and 68 RBIs. I’m not saying he is not playing poorly – but don’t expect to get rid of him and replace him with a better producer.

    Skip Chris Young

    Lineup

    Fowler
    Altuve
    Springer
    Carter
    Singleton
    Dominguez
    Castro
    Gonzalez
    Marisnick

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  5. If the outfield includes Springer, Fowler and Marisnick for the balance of the year, we’ll have one of the best defensive groups in the league. I have to wonder if Fowler was guaranteed center as a part of his deal. I think it’s pretty clear that he’s the third best fielder in the group. That being the case, he should be in left. Of course it remains to be seen if the new guy can hit major league pitching, but it looks like he’ll get the rest of the year to prove something. I just hate seeing Santana, our third highest rated prospect, rusting on the bench. What’s he going to do in September when OKC is done, go home?

    From what little we’ve seen of Foltynewicz, he can certainly throw the ball, but I don’t see a whole lot of movement. He will get hit in this league. I’d like to see him get a few starts and see what happens. I like the rotation as noted above, that also includes Tropeano.

    Stassi has made the decision on Castro an easier one. As oldpro notes, Castro keeps the job because we don’t have anyone else to do it. And yes, his stats are not all that bad when considered independently of lasts years promising numbers. I can’t expect Castro to regress further in 2015. And maybe by July of next year, Stassi or Heineman or Perez will force the issue.

    I’d sign Young. Lefties do not grow on trees.

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  6. I would rather see Fowler/Springer/Grossman with Marisnick and Krauss on the bench, but I am guessing since Marisnick is not the old bad prospect, but the new bad prospect, the organization (along with most fans desire if this blog is any indication) will see him. Honestly, if you just evaluate the numbers, Grossman is probably the better prospect, but we haven’t watched Marisnick fail yet – that luxury belongs to Marlin fans.

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  7. Sub zero interest in Chris Young.

    Lineup:
    Fowler LF
    Altuve 2B
    Springer RF
    Carter DH
    Singleton 1B
    Dominguez 3B
    Castro C
    Marisnick CF
    Gonzalez SS

    Even if Castro puts up some good numbers the rest of the way its too little too late. I would like to see Luhnow use some of his prospect currency to trade for a top catching prospect, preferably a guy ready to make the step now. Keep Corporan as the backup/mentor and package Castro for SS help. By late 2015 Luhnow’s draftees should start making their presence felt and at that point I’m, hoping the days of high K, low average hitters start to dwindle significantly.

    As for Folty, I would like to see him get a start. I would also like to see Tropeano but since he is not on the 40 man I don’t see that happening, especially if he will not be Rule V eligible this winter. There is a lot of dead weight on the 40 man but I don’t see that getting trimmed until the Rule V deadline approaches.

    I think Carter is going to make the trade swing our way although it has taken a long time to play out. Peacock is one who I hope is gone but that is my personal prejudice against pitchers who can’t get out of innings with less than 20 pitches. He strikes me as Bud Norris/Jared Cosart without the stuff. At this point I would prefer Jake Buchanan. Perhaps Peacock will respond tonight but my expectations are pretty low.

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  8. How do feel about the progress made about the following pitchers versus how you felt about them this spring
    AAA- Owens, Wojo, Martinez, Seaton, Tropeano, White, Clemens, Stoffel. Bass, De Leon, Chapman, Urkfitz, Cruz, Shirley, Rodriguez. How many of these guys do you think have met or surpassed your expectations this year. My answer is Shirley, Cruz and Nitro. 3 out of 15.
    AA-Alaniz, Appel, Cain, Devenski, Hader, Hauschild, Jankowski, Lambson, Perez, Rodgers, Rollins, West, Weiland, Smith. How many of these guys have met or exceeded your expectations this year? My answer is Hader, Smith, Devenski.
    High A- Brunneman, Christensen, Cotton, Emanual, Grills, Heidenreich, Holmes McCullers, Manaya, Minor, Morton, Sanudo, Velasquez.How many of these guys have met or exceeded your expectations this year? My answer is Cotton, because I had no expectations, Emanual, and Holmes. Velasquez has only pitched 40 innings in an entire year of A ball. That is a huge disappointment to me.
    So, out of 42 pitchers currently in our top 3 affiliates 8 of them have met or exceeded my expectations and I consider Hader to have done that under the stupidest conditions you could have ever put a 20 year-old prospect under.
    I consider this to be a huge failure on the part of the Astros organization.

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    • Prospects have always been a gamble – take a minor league career like Paul Clemens – he had seasons in the Atlanta system that I am sure some Braves fan blogger raved about not waiting until he is here – and we Astro fans get the truth. This time last year people couldn’t shutup about Wojo, Folty, and McCullers, and only a few mentioned Tropeano and Buchanan, but it looks like those 2 could be the better prospects, if only because they more strikes.

      Pitchers are a hard lot to figure out. My guess is most GM’s would love 20% of their prospects showing growth a level higher given that farm systems have way more Tim Reddings/Carlos Hernandez types than Roy Oswalts.

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    • Good points oldpro but I do wonder what the success rates are across organizations when it comes to developing pitchers. Off the top of my head you would have to think the Braves have some kind of formula for drafting/developing pitchers as they seem to always have a strong pitching staff. You obviously follow the minors more closely than most so I would value your opinion on the value of the tandem system with regard to injury prevention. I know you oppose the tandem system in the minors and for the most part I agree but compared to other organizations it seems we have suffered fewer injuries to the pitching staff on the MLB and MiLB rosters. I don’t count Albers and Crain as marks against the Astros other than with their selection in the first place. Of the guys who have been with the club and played significant roles only Feldman and Bass have spent any time on the DL and I really don’t count Bass as a significant cog in the machine.

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      • Well Velasquez and Appel didn’t fair well in the tandem and Hader, Folty and Tropeano can’t stand it. So that’s your top five pitching prospects who either hated or did terribly in it. if 34 of the 42 pitchers in your top 3 clubs are not faring well and you supposedly have one of the top-rated systems in baseball then you are failing your prospects. Look, we just traded the top prospect we had in our system Up until July of 2013. Now we have our top pitching prospect in the bullpen in Houston because we know he’s not ready to start, but he couldn’t wait to get out of our minor leagues. Wojo got hurt, Cruz got hurt, Velasquez got hurt, Thurman looks terrible and he was a top 20 prospect. Appel got pissed on from the moment he got in our system. Oh, and the two top prospects we drafted don’t want anything to do with this organization.
        The Astros just promoted one of their top pitching prospects from the best minor league club in baseball to a AA club, who isn’t going to make the playoffs and this guy is four years younger than the average guy he is facing. And even though he was fabulous in starting and lousy in the back of the tandem, he made his first appearance as a reliever and it’s August! Yep, they are still using the tandem and still pissing off their best pitching prospects, this late in the year.
        My problem is not with the Astros young pitchers. My problem is with the Astros not having a clue how to handle pitchers.

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      • It’s funny – I post all the time criticizing prospects for failing to make adjustments, but it sure looks like Luhnow has also not made many adjustments. Is this an example of stubbornly sticking to your guns regardless the results, or will it be a time where we look back and are thankful he stayed the course?

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  9. The problem with our line-up – even after Springer and Fowler return – is that we will have 4 1/2 below league average producers [the 1/2 being the ‘bad’ Chris Carter that we know so well, and the other four being Marisnick, Dominguez, Singleton, and Castro]. If we are ever going to climb back above .500, at least two of the latter four (we’ll give Singleton more time to develop, and Castro, for what he is worth, is the best we can hope for behind the dish for the foreseeable future) are going to have to be replaced/upgraded. So far we have not found either a catcher, a first baseman, or a left fielder who can hit major league pitching worth spit. We have not done much better at Shortstop or DH – and that, along with the bullpen mess, is why we are no more improved now than we are.

    I would love to trade Castro for an upgrade. The problem with trading Castro is that we would have to have a major league ready catcher back and the chances of getting an upgrade at that position are slim to none. The only way to get that done, I suspect, would be for us to package a high outfield/DH ‘prospect’ like Santana, Tucker, or Aplin AND a high pitching prospect like Folty, Feliz, or Hader along with him. NOT WORTH IT!

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  10. I have a question…..if Jesse Crain doesn’t pitch this season (which I highly doubt)
    are the Astros on the hook for the rest of his contract? Some where in my mind
    I thought he was signed to a two year deal. Oh, and Albers has said he “hopes” to pitch again this year, mighty nice of him………
    The Astros lost tonight but Peacock only gave up *1* run! BUT….he couldn’t go past the 4th. inning, because of a high pitch count. My line up would be:
    Fowler
    Altuve
    Springer
    Carter DH
    Springer
    Castro
    Marisnick
    Dominguez
    Gonzalez/Correa

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    • Becky, Crain signed a one-year deal ($3.25 million). The Astros have no obligation for 2015. I’m guessing that the Astros also have some type of insurance on him, which means — if true — they would get some type of relief.

      The Astros have a $3 million option on Albers next season with a $200,000 buyout. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them take the $200,000 option.

      Qualls will be around, probably until he’s traded at the 2015 deadline. He has the possible 3-year deal, which includes an option for 2016.

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    • Becky, I absolutely love your lineup. Allowing Springer to hit third and fifth is going to make this a powerful and speedy lineup. However, Bud Selig is not going to allow this. I would be so happy to have even one Springer back.
      Can you believe that Jake got four hits tonight in the #8 spot and we still lose? Now that we know Marisnick is capable of hitting and fielding, maybe he could also pitch in relief.

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  11. All of our lineups are pretty much what we have already……..I hope to God Crane open’s up his wallet and we see a couple of MUCH better hitters on this club. The few season ticket holders who are left are NOT going to re-up to watch the same
    lame baseball they are currently watching. SPEND SOME MONEY JIM CRANE.

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