2014 Astros: Time to move forward, at a faster pace


Okay, so the season’s over (for Houston) with a 19-game improvement. The Astros have a new manager, so that question has now been answered. Jim Crane seems to believe he’ll have a new TV deal in place by opening day.

And, Jeff Luhnow can now turn his full attention to giving A.J. Hinch a winning roster for 2015.

What does that look like? Well, here are a few suggestions of how that process might play out. Not a prediction, mind you, only a possible scenario or two of what may lie ahead.

Trades.

  • Luhnow has already proven he doesn’t mind trading bonafide prospects and even major league talent to upgrade the lineup or position for the future. Jordan Lyles, Jarred Cosart or even Kike Hernandez or Brandon Barnes might have fit into the future for Houston, but Luhnow saw opportunities to upgrade for the near future and took them. Now, don’t think for a minute that a Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Collin Moran, Dallas Keuchel or even Collin McHugh are going anywhere. But it wouldn’t be surprising if names like Jason Castro, Brad Peacock, Jake Buchanan or Domingo Santana are tossed around this winter. Perhaps even Delino Deshields or even Nolan Fontana.
  • Some people called the Hinch hiring bold. Remember, Luhnow is facing some challenges with the 40-man roster, so his bold moves may not be done. Prediction: Get ready to bite your lip, there will be surprise moves this winter.

Thorn in the left side.

  • Yes, the Astros could use help at first base. Of course, a middle-of-the-order hitter in one of the corner outfield spots would be great. But with the pitching staff improving — and more improvement likely to come next year — the left side of the infield has to get better. Lots better. Maybe Correa and/or Moran are the answers for the future, but Houston can ill afford to find itself with Matt Dominguez and Jonathan Villar manning the left side come next July.
  • Question: If you can only have one, which position would you rather resolve for opening day, shortstop or third base?
  • The main thing going for Villar and Dominguez is that they aren’t arb-eligible and the Astros can spend the money on other positions.
  • Prediction: The Astros are still banking on Matty D (he did play in 157 games and apparently discussed a long-term extension in spring training), so Villar may be gone for a temporary upgrade while the organization waits for Correa. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking if neither player is in the opening day lineup.

The time is now.

  • No matter what you think of the Luhnow Plan, there is no better time than now. Maybe for Luhnow, there is no other time than now. Clearly, fans are frustrated. It seems that ownership recognizes wins are the way to put butts in the seats. And even Luhnow must recognize that, even if he isn’t on the hot seat today, it’s probably warming up. When the 2015 season starts, bank on it: Luhnow’s name will appear on a few “hot seat” lists.  Let there be no doubt: This is the most critical winter of his Astros’ career to date.
  • That doesn’t mean The Plan isn’t working and it doesn’t mean that Crane is second-guessing his GM. It does mean the Astros have reached a tipping point and the expectations are growing.

81 may not be enough.

  • A 30-game improvement over two seasons sounds good (51 wins in 2013 to 81 in 2015), but that may not be good enough for weary fans in a city that still remembers the days of Bagwell, Biggio, Clemens, Pettitte and even Kent. Sure, a .500 season may be what the doctor ordered, but it may not be good enough. A 15-game improvement over 2014 and 85 wins would put the Astros in Wild Card territory and be more of a salve on a long-standing wound than .500.
  • Question: Is .500 a good enough improvement for 2015?
  • Prediction: Adding a solid closer and a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat could position the Astros for a run — a run — at 85 wins. Barring major injuries. Barring regression by Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve et al. And, banking on another prospect or two (perhaps Michael Foltynewicz, Jon Singleton, Moran or even Correa or Appel) contributing at some point in 2015.
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72 comments on “2014 Astros: Time to move forward, at a faster pace

  1. If you can only have one, which position would you rather resolve for opening day, shortstop or third base?

    Third base would be my choice. I am leaving Villar out of the equation – since surely his flag has flown Both Marwin Gonzales [.277/.327] and Gregorio Petit [.278/.300] at short produced significantly better offensively than Matty D’s atrocious .215/256. And Gonzales, next year’s probable regular if we do not upgrade, struck out less frequently than Matty, and ran a little better. Matty provided good defense, but at a corner infield position we need offensive production. He was not only a K machine in an offense full of same, he gave us only 16 HR [we need at least 25 from 3rd base] and 57 RBI [we need at least 75 from our corner infielders.

    Out of curiosity, however, is there any chance Tony Kemp can play either SS or 3B?

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    • Tony Kemp is not even a minor league shortstop, much less a major league one. My guess is if he has the arm. He can play third base. How well he plays it is another story.

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    • And, therein one of the facets of the possible biting your lip when Luhnow has to start making hard decisions. Deshields has already been moved from his “normal” position. Is it possible that Luhnow will need to trade players like Kemp (just a thought, don’t get your dander up!) since he’s clearly blocked at 2B?

      Obviously, I’d guess the team would try Kemp at other positions before a last-resort trade, but if the Astros are going to fill the empty spots on the left side or maybe at first base, they may have to get creative.

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    • Regarding Kemp, he is capable of playing LF , DH and 2B. Jonathan Mayo rates his arm as average and said Kemp’s weakness was his defense at second base, because he played OF in college. Kemp has obviously gotten the defense part down, as the Gold Glove now attests to.
      If Tony Kemp projects as a major league leadoff hitter, you don’t think about him replacing Altuve, you think about him hitting first in front of Altuve and using LF, DH and 2B as the means to do that. Apparently, letting Jose DH once a week to rest him, is not going to hurt you defensively with Kemp out there and Kemp could be a leadoff DH other times.
      Kemp is showing better BB skills than Altuve, and low strikeouts, too. Kemp is probably a step faster than Altuve to first base because he bats from the left side.If Kemp continues to hit in AA and AAA this year, having him and Altuve at the top of the lineup to open 2016, with Correa hitting third is a possibility. That is some dynamite hitting in front of Springer.

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      • It would be interesting for 2016 to start with a line-up of:
        Kemp [OF],
        Altuve [2B]
        Correa [SS]
        Springer [OF]
        the Good Chris Carter [DH] and/or Preston Tucker;
        a Living-Up-to-Potential Version of Singleton [1B],
        An impressive Moran or Ruiz [3B]
        Stassi or upgrade [C], and
        Dominguez, Marisnick or upgrade [OF].

        if Kemp just matched Fowler’s OBP, but stayed healthy; and if Stassi even slightly beat Castro’s numbers and defense; well if those things happened I would think we would have the potential to have quite an offensive machine.

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      • Bill, if the Astros’ projections truly do match up with Fangraph’s projections, then Carter starts the year as our DH and gets traded at the deadline. Here is why: Carter gets a healthy raise in arbitration and his projections peak in 2015 and then start to fall thereafter. If he mimmicks 2014 next year his raise would be huge for 2016 and that’s why Houston would conceivably move him. By the 2016 the Astros start getting Luhnow-guys coming to the majors, that is, high OBP, lower strikeout, run production oriented offense like the Cards. I see the Astros trying to make the jump in 2016 to that offense type team with a batting average of .270 and an OBP of .350, with lots of speed, good gloves, average power and tons of doubles and RBIs, matching with a rotation of groundball pitchers and strikeout relievers.
        They put up with a power/strikeout guy like Springer because of his defense, speed and potential to hit .270 with walks, but they don’t want a .225 power/strikeout/no defense/no speed guy like Carter making tons of money hitting right behind him.

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      • The financials make me suspect you are right, but there is something overlooked. You don’t want the opponent pitching to contact. There is no stat I am aware of, yet, but you want pitchers to work. It’s more than just throwing a high pitch count, but rather being in higher stress matchups and trying not to make a mistake.

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    • I am not sure Petit or Gonzalez are better than Dominguez offensively. If you are honing in batting average only – I would probably be better.

      Bottom line is they all need to be replaced. Petit drew 1 walk in 100 plate appearances. One. Wow. Marwin cannot be expected to contribute positively if he can’t get his K rate down below 16% – he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to have consistently high BABIP’s – he is, at his current K rate, just as likely to hit .220 as .270.

      My guess is if Carter can’t hit .250 next season he will be out regardless. For all the improvement of the second half – he still needs to get his K rate below 30% or the Astros should explore other options. Even from 1 July forward, the basic halfway point, he was still at 30.6%. 27-28% is still VERY high for any player, but if Carter can get there and stay there he should hit .250-.275 given BABIP variation and be a real offensive force at 30+ homers. I think we should just let the year play out and see where he is in mid July before exploring options.

      P.S. Lowrie is a FA. Of course he may have grumbled a little about the Astros style when he left – or at least I read an article that suggested he did – but money fixes a lot of woes.

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      • His contract rates were consistent. He is still drawing walks.

        Every guy, unless they are a hall of fame type talent, has ebbs and flows through a career. The only thing you can do as a GM is try to evaluate the talent by watching him and analyzing statistics that would tell if the player truly is in decline, or just had a bad season – and if its the latter, you can even get him cheaper for that bad season. I really don’t know if Lowrie is in a decline mode or not, but if we can get him cheap enough to risk it, well, as a GM risk is the name of the game.

        One thing I do know, a 1-2 year deal to watch Lowrie play is better than watching Villar no field/high strikeout self trot out there again.

        We aren’t going to get better standing on the sidelines.

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  2. I’m looking to upgrade third base. If rather see Marwin or Petit at short than Matty D at third base.

    You mention trades and the 40-man roster crunch. The two go hand in hand. Trade a couple of 40-man pieces for one upgrade player, and you’re solving two problems at once. I think we will see more than one of those kinds of trades, such as DDJ (who is not on the 40, but is part of this winter’s crunch) and a AAA pitcher plus a guy like Aplin for a third baseman or a closer. Think we could get Papelbon for that? Maybe one more piece from us and we also get a lottery ticket at low A. That’s the kind of deal to expect.

    The TV deal has long been an embarrassment for Crane. He cannot go into April without coverage in 75-80 percent of the Astros’ territory, and more than 90 percent in the greater Houston area.

    I don’t think 81 wins is enough. But 82 or 83 might do it. Personally, I think a healthy Springer, a real closer and an OPS at first base approaching .700 gets us to 81 wins. Then an upgrade at third moves the Astros to a winning team.

    While some regression is likely, I don’t expect big drop offs for Altuve, Keuchel or McHugh. A better bullpen makes those pitchers better. A better offense makes them better. And more bats protecting Altuve will make his job easier.

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  3. – I would rather have the improvement at 3B – which is a position that needs to have a better offensive bat than Matty D has provided. Is there any chance that Matt Duffy could fill the bill temporarily? He knocked in 84 runs last season between AA and AAA. He had the weird stat that he played 35 games at AA 3B and had 7 errors and then played 35 games at AAA 3B and had 0 errors. Maybe a better groomed infield at AAA?
    – 51 wins was such a black hole that it would have been almost impossible not to have decent improvement this season. I keep bouncing back and forth between the thought that it was pretty amazing to get 70 wins out of such a non-hitting crappy lineup to the thought that even an average bullpen effort (they were a league worse 4.80 ERA – the next worse was 4.38 and average would be around 3.50) would have easily won 5 -10 more games. Bottomline – they need to bust through the .500 mark next season and 85 games is a noble goal.

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  4. Trades: I would be surprised to see Singleton on the move. Starlin Castro and Jason Heyward would be on my list. I don’t mean to imply Singleton brings either of those back – two separate thoughts. Glen Perkins is a good closer to target.

    Left Side: See Castro, Starlin. Also, Josh Donaldson is probably getting traded this offseason.

    Wins: Sure, they need to be a .500 team, but as I’ve explained before, that doesn’t translate necessarily to 81 wins. So I’ll refrain from measuring success in terms of wins.

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    • Flash, I too think that Castro may be an off-season target. The Cubs are said to be asking for young pitching, which means MLB-ready pitching. One of the other options would be to shoot for one of the Cubs’ SS prospects such as Addison Russell.

      But if you invest in that type of long-term commitment, what do you do when Correa arrives…perhaps as early as 2015?

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      • The Cubs are going to want Keuchel or McHugh for Russell. With Correa, and Moran coming in by 2016 you have done nothing to cover the awful dilemma that 1B has been since Berkman left and you created a hole at the top of the rotation that we don’t have anyone to fill this year or in 2016.
        I’d rather keep my young TOR pitchers and wait a year for Correa at SS and fill in there in 2015.

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  5. Matty D needs to go, I would put Duffy there for now , maybe not A+ glove but I think he can hit. He also was playing some First. The off season and spring is huge for Singleton, I’m not a fan of his , but man if he has any real big league potential he needs to get his ass fired up. Castro could be tough to move with his money and the fact he looks like he would rather be somewhere else. If he does go i wouldn’t cry maybe Stassi would step up.

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  6. Marwin: .277/.327/.400/.727

    I’ve never been a Marwin guy, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that his stats are better than quite a few teams get out of the shortstop position. Can he do it over 150 games? Don’t know, but I think he’s provided a more than serviceable performance at short. I’d focus on other, far more glaring problems going into 2015.

    We simply can’t ignore the .256 OBP and the .586 OPS out of Dominguez at third though.

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  7. I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. .500 or better should be a target for aany, average club. The difficulty in predicting the Astros will achieve that, or even break through, is predicting which clubs in their division fall off. Is Seattle a fluke? Will age/injuries submarine the Angels? What about the Rangers? They were putrid, but if we focus on our improved SP we have to consider what they threw out there on non-Darvish days.

    I would like to see a LH hitter who can play 3B added this winter. I think Dominguez is exposed against RH pitching. Sure, he hits a HR off a Felix Hernandez from time to time, but overall he had a .242 OBP against them. That’s not to say he was too much better against LH pitching, but he is young, has power, and I believe provides more defensive value thanks to the Luhnow shifts than is given credit.

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      • In 2014, the only player keeping Dominguez (#145) from last place in OPS amongst qualified batters was Zack Cozart (.568). Jeter was #142. Jason Castro was #134 at .651. Jed Lowrie was #125…so he’s likely not an option considering the declining defense.

        In other words, I agree.

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  8. One thing nobody is talking about regarding 3B is our extreme shifting. We do it twice as much as any other team. If we leave a 3B as the only fielder on the left side of the diamond, we have to know he is going to field that position better than almost anyone else. That is a reason to keep Dominguez there that the Astros see. I don’t agree with it, but it is surely a good reason. If they replace Dominguez with a good bat, they have to really spend a lot of money and get that bat attached to a guy who can field well, too, so we are talking MONEY. If I’m spending MONEY for bats to fill in for a year or two till our prospects are here, I’m spending it at SS and 1B and sending Singleton’s butt back to Fresno or trading him.
    Going from a .170 hitter with good power at 1B to a .250 hitter with average power at 1B is going to produce a lot more runs for this team and sabremetrics is ALL about producing runs. Getting a SS who can be an average hitter and play good defense is going to be better than what we had this past year, especially with Correa getting close. And an outfield of Fowler in LF and leading off, Marisnick hitting ninth in CF and Springer hitting third or fourth in RF is just fine with me for 2015. I think that might be an 85 win club, (with a bullpen, of course).

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    • OP1, I was thinking the same thing about rather having the option of changing either 1B or SS vs changing 3B or SS. Mr. Singleton has a ton of potential, but after the dismal performance of his rookie year, I think he had better have one heck of a Spring, or Fresno, California, and a date with a bunch of millipedes, is calling his highly-paid name. Jon, baseball is NOT a no-contact sport.

      In the immortal words of James Joseph Croce [slightly modified for the occasion, I confess]:
      “Your tomorrow’s a dream away
      but your today is uninspired
      Your monster bat has turned to spit
      And you just look bored and tired.
      If that’s the way that you want it
      Well, that’s the way we want it more
      let there be one less set of footsteps
      on our floor in the mornin””

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    • I will go out on the limb and say that Singleton will not be a .170 hitter next year (of course he might be a .150 hitter). I think he could give you the .250 BA with power – with more exposure to mlb pitchers.

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      • Heck if we get .250 and power out of Singleton, I’d take that for the next 5 years. But Dan, .250 is a real reach based on what I witnessed from the guy. And Bill, I don’t think Singleton is even worthy of a butcher job on a Croce song! But I would like to see the kid take on more of a Leroy Brown persona in 2015.

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    • I don’t disagree with you on this, except to say that Dominguez is really, really slow. Did I mention that he is slow? Perhaps we are better off with someone with more range. Do we know if Villar can play third? Settle down Becky, maybe he doesn’t think as much over there. How about leaving the SS on the left side and moving MattyD behind second?

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      • Flash, you are so right about Dominguez. I don’t like him in our lineup. I was just pointing to a reason the ASTROS might have for keeping him there until Moran is ready.
        But if I have to choose between the Singleton I saw this year at 1B and the Dominguez I saw this year at 3B I want that money spent to replace the miserable fielding/ miserable hitting Singleton, because there is not the prospects at 1B in the minors, like Moran and Ruiz at 3B, who could help you as soon as April 2016.

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    • I understand the rationale of why Dominguez played 157 games at third. No argument there. But only six shortstops in MLB with at least as many at bats as Marwin had a higher .OPS than his .727. Offensively, Marwin was well above average. Lowrie for example had a .676. I simply don’t know where we find a short term upgrade at shortstop. Shortstops do not grow on trees. But thankfully, they do grow in the minors.

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  9. I see a lot of dumping on Dominguez, for good reason. He had a lousy season. He knows it. We know it. The popcorn guy knows it. His K rate increased by 4%, his BABIP was almost 10 points lower. If he can recover, land in the middle on BABIP, and get his K rate back to 16%, he can hit .250. He isn’t going to get any better than that, but if he can repeat 2013 and not 2014 he can buy us one more season – so unless you are ready to hand Aramis Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval an expensive deal that will certainly go beyond their years in effectiveness, button up the chin straps, we are taking it another year.

    There are options at SS that may not break the bank – so I find it likely Luhnow will look there. I don’t think he addresses 1B because of both the contract that he gave Singleton, and knowledge that if Singleton bombs he can still put Carter there if he has too. Personally, although I’ve never really watched Grossman play the OF alot due to the CSN debacle – the stats look like he is the worst defensive OF’er we have – but he could be an option at 1B if he can improve his consistency. His second half tells me offensively he will never be a superstar – but hey they can’t all be superstars – but he may be a passable option at 1B for a season. That opens up Marisnick to play CF – I may not like Marisnick, but admittedly he has at least played himself into an opportunity. Who knows, maybe he grabs it, maybe he develops 20 HR power – that’s what its going to take to play everyday for him at his K rate, BB rates, etc., but maybe he does, and wins a gold glove to boot.

    At this point there are still enough holes in this team that you have to explore what might be passable options in one OF spot, SS, 3B, C, and 1B – way too many to think this team is on the verge of winning 85 games next season. Should repeat at least the 70, and maybe 75-77, but yes, the plan is still intact. It’s got holes, like the tandem pitching thing, but its still there. We’ll see how it goes.

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    • Steven, shortstop options that won’t break the bank? We’ve got one. I looked through the depth charts of every team. I did not find a more attractive option than Marwin. And again, I have never belonged to the Marwin fan club Maybe Sclafani becomes part of that equation next year. He gets written off everywhere he goes, but refuses to go home.

      My centerfielder going forward remains the guy named George Springer. I just don’t see where he’s lost his job. I don’t see him getting Wally Pipped by JFSF. At any point. When Fowler vacates center, I expect to see Springer there.

      I also don’t think Luhnow will hesitate to bring in a safety net at first either. Just a few months before Singleton got called up, our GM took a flyer on the fat guy. So obviously, Luhnow was not fully committed to Singleton in 2014. Maybe the boss got nudged by the big boss.

      And if Luhnow gets some money to work with, and still only produces 70 to 75 wins in 2015, that might not be enough for him. He sure better get the draft right.

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  10. If they do bring in someone to replace Dominguez, it needs to be a short term deal, as Moran will be ready by the following season (and may come up this year at some point). Villar can go jump off a roof for all I care (he’d probably miss the ground anyway). Gonzalez at SS with Petit backing him up is do-able, but we NEED better production at 3B. Dominguez will be back, but on a short leash.

    We *should* be at 82-85 wins next year but it will take a)a better bullpen b)better production at 1B,3B, C.

    If it were me, I’d package Half-Asstro and Villar and get whatever in return (addition by subtraction)…maybe a decent reliever or short term solution at 3B and go with Stassi/Corporan at C. Or….and I know some people here will not like it…see what Santana would bring you in a trade. Or Fowler. Bring JOE SCLAFANI up too.

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    • Um, what you are talking about is subtraction by subtraction.

      Billy, I’m not crazy about Castro’s season either, but the guy is one year removed from an All-star season. I think we should see how he does. And Stassi is no where near ready to put up 100+ wRC. Of our available options, Castro is still the most likely to do that.

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      • His Allstar year was a fluke..,.he was nothing special in the minors (except at Lancaster), and had two bad years out of 3 in college. The fact that he got *worse* after the ASB this year doesn’t give me any indication he’ll me any better last year. He’ll be lucky to repeat 2012, much less 2013.

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      • Uh yeah, I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you. Every minor league season he was 100+ wRC, except his last in AAA (91). His poor season is due primarily to a greatly reduced BB% and increase K%. If those two things normalize he should be the average offensive catcher we should expect from him. Bundling Castro with Villar for some generic reliever is foolish.

        Stassi has one good AA season and a lot of bad ones. I like okay as a prospect, but he is still just a prospect, that needs a lot of work.

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      • We shall see. Remember, we disagreed about him at the end of 2013, too, when i suggested trading him while his value was high, and that he wouldn’t come anywhere close to those numbers again. Or was that dave is disagreed with? If i got the wrong person i apologize!

        And as bad as his stats were, they’re even worse if you take out the month of July…

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  11. Maybe it is a product of years of watching Carlos Lee and Chris Carter in LF – but it is not like when Robbie Grossman is in LF I sit there and close my eyes when a ball was hit out that way. He is not in the league of Marisnick and Springer – he might be near as good as “I’m too cool to run full out” Dexter Fowler. I’m just saying we have had a lot worse LFs in recent year than Grossman and that is after actually watching him play a lot.
    Looking at 1B – if Singleton implodes or gets suspended after a trip to Colorado… Duffy has played 1B and Preston Tucker has played some (not very well) too.

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  12. Krauss is one of those people I’d almost leave unprotected. Or, better yet, offer him as a throw-in on any trade. Like when you get a free coffee gift card for buying some power tools.

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    • Krauss will be 27 in a few days, but not worth protecting IMO. Can’t imagine he’d be on the 40-man when it’s set next month. Think about some of the players that might have to be left off if he’s included! I tend to agree with Kevin, time to cut ties.

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    • I don’t know if its time to cut ties, but he will most certainly be left off the 40 man. If he resigns as a minor league free agent and is stowed away playing 1B or LF at AAA, I’m fine with that. He was much better in the second half offensively, but there is just too much young talent now eligible for the draft to use a 40 man spot for him.

      Krauss is starting too look like another one of those long line of 1B only talents that have some power but struggle against MLB pitching – and end up becoming stars in Japan.

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  13. Dan, Jim Croce died in my hometown: Natchitoches, Louisiana. My house (my mom and dad still live there) is about 5 miles from the airport where he crashed after leaving a concert at Prather Coliseum. Pretty eery, but we heard all the stories of what happened that night from those who were actually there, investigated and emergency workers, etc.

    Indeed, it was a sad day for the country, but sad for Natchitoches as well.

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    • Yeah – I remember it well – I thought he was kind of every man – not some glitzy rock and roller – just a simple straight forward pop folk guy with a guitar and a mustache.

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    • I was at SFA in Nacogdoches then. Had a couple of friends who had attended the concert. Another friend was at Austin College in Sherman and still has his tickets for the show Jim didn’t get to perform.
      It was very sad… great singer.

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  14. Well I stuck my neck out and said we could field a team for reasonable money that would be capable of winning 85 games. So how do they get that roster
    1.Fowler, Marisnick, Springer- As far as I can remember, we never had that trio together in our outfield the entire year. Is that better than Kraus, Fowler Grossman, which is what we began 2014 with? Grossman is a good fourth outfielder because he switches, you can use him as a runner because he has speed and he also will take a walk as a pinch hitter. Last year our five opening day roster OF was Hoes, Presley, Carter, Fowler and Grossman, but Porter used 1B Kraus in LF. Sheesh! We had Fowler for two games before he got food poisoning. We had Springer for less than half a year.
    2. Free Agent acquisitions at 3B and 1B, with Dominguez and Singleton both back in AAA to find their groove. Dominguez is not a backup infielder because you can’t use him to run, you can’t use him to pinch hit, because he won’t take a walk, and he won’t find his swing sitting on the bench.
    We have a batting champion at 2B and a Catcher with a good defensive War behind the plate. Keep Villar and Sclafani as backup IF, behind Marwin at SS and Jose at second and your Free Agent 3B. Carter is your DH and backup 1B.
    3. Our rotation last year was in this order: Feldman, Cosart, Oberholtzer, Harrell and Keuchel. Please tell me this isn’t better: Keuchel, McHugh, Feldman, Ober, and Nitro.
    4. Now I’m going to give you last years BP on opening day and you can let your blind Uncle improve on it in April 2015: Albers, Bass, Chapman, Fields, Peacock Qualls and Williams. You cannot come up with a worse BP than that one and if somebody with any baseball knowledge looks under a rug, they can make a much better bullpen. You have to think Luhnow learned something from that garage sale bullpen job he pulled last year.
    Using this lineup I can find only one place I haven’t improved every position and that is Catcher. So I’m counting on a pro making a significant bounce back at the plate next year, Jason. I am counting SS with Marwin as an improvement over Villar and that doesn’t include Marwin increasing his production because of his age and experience bringing him to the prime of his career at 25. I think that group is capable of 85 wins, unless we just hired a dufus manager.
    At the end of 2015 you have Tucker, Santana, Folty, Shirley, Cruz, Aplin, Torreyes, Correa, Kemp, Moran, Appel, Perez, Sclafani, DDJ, Wojo, Singleton, all sitting there ready to be plucked and served up on platters. Feast and trade.

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    • Heck, I’d take that roster, especially the three guys in the outfield. But I’d tell Fowler that he’s playing left and I’d put Jake in right so that our centerfielder of the future finally ends up where he belongs.

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      • I’ll be honest with you, I like Springer in CF, too. But until they get rid of that hill and flagpole, I would like Cool Hand Jake slidin’ up that hill. I can just see Crazy George wrapping himself around that pole making a catch.

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    • Can’t meddle with most of your post. I would switch Marisnick and Grossman in playing time though – probably along the lines of 70/30. From 1 July on one had a .371 OBP, the other a .306. I don’t care how much better of a defender you are, 65 points is substantial. They both have warts, it will be up to Hinch on which warts he is going to accept that day.

      You really can’t turn it into a platoon situation either though – Marisnick in LF is a waste, Fowler in RF is a waste. If your goal is to put Springer in CF and leave him alone, Marisnick seems like the best option for RF, if you are of the mindset that Springer can handle RF then you can free up LF for Grossman, the better offensive option.

      Marisnick showed enough promise in September to be on the roster on opening day. I would think if you give the guy 600 plate appearances though, you will regret it, he is going to strike out 150 times, and that is a lot if you are only going to hit 10-15 homers (maybe), and walk only 35 times. He can’t steal first. His contact rates are also too awful to hope for anything better than a .270 avg, which would leave him around .300-.310 OBP. It’s like we signed Chris Johnson to play in the OF, except this version of CJ can play some D.

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      • But Steven, you only look at the Mr. Hyde-Grossman. The Dr Jekyll Grossman who has been an Astro on two consecutive Opening Days has sucked and had to be sent down. And if you project his plate appearances to 600 he is going to have 150 strikeouts because he had 105 Ks in 422 PAs this year.
        But you miss the boat the most by his negative defensive numbers, both standard and sabremetric. They are all decisively below average all across the board, whereas Marisnick’s are decisively above average across the board. That’s not a little difference. That’s the difference between a really good fielder and a really bad fielder. Now, why am I going to choose a really bad fielder with a weak arm who hit .233 over a really good fielder with a great arm who hit .270, even if the bad fielder walks a lot and the other doesn’t. I’m not. I’m sick of the Astros having one of the worst outfields fielding and hitting and it’s time to change that. Making Grossman a #4 is making a change for something better. They both have flaws at the plate, but one of them is an elite defender.

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  15. Here are some bullet-point thoughts from today’s conversation:

    * Marwin is somewhat like a Bill Spiers. Not an everyday player, though he can fill the gap during a short-term injury. At his best for 300-350 ABs a year.
    * No platoons please. The Astros need real answers, not a band aid.
    * Luhnow has to make some hard decisions. In other words, bold moves. Time to cut the chaff and make some real moves to improve the team. No more sticking your finger in the dam another season. Get ‘er done.
    * Time for the hard decision on Castro. IMO, there’s a reason he doesn’t already have an extended contract.
    * If you want to play with the big boys, it’s time to start shopping like them, as in here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2015-free-agent-power-rankings
    * …Or playing with a similar crowd in trade conversations.
    * Yes, agreed, with some of the comments on Carter. Is it time to sell high now? Or wait it out until mid-season 2015. Of course the risk there is if he regresses to early 2014, then you’re stuck…with a big salary.
    Okie dokey, good afternoon friends…from Jackson, MS.

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    • The Astros must start getting more hits than Ks from a number of positions. Corner infield spots need new blood. Singleton needs to have a massive spring or go to Cali for some additional grooming. Nothing he did this year said ‘Major League’ to me. A free-agent for 3rd, 1st, and corner OF spot could do wonders. Obviously, middle bullpen and a closer who can CLOSE.
      I think there is good talent in the pipeline, but that is more than one season away. With a new TV deal and (hopefully) some cash inflow, some free agents can spin the turnstiles.
      I’m OK with giving Marwin more starts at SS… Correa is likely more than a year away (unless he hits CC enfuego). Moran and Ruiz as well. Kemp might very well be a short-term DH possibility. Not sure if Gregor will continue to hit as he moves up the ranks, but Reed, Fisher, and Davis might start making some noise by 2016 as well.
      I agree the Astros need to make some hard decisions. Some will work well, while others might flop. Can’t make a splash if you don’t go off the high board.

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  16. *NO* Villar at 3rd.! GOOD LORD!!!!!! Josh Donaldson will be on the move this winter, but he ain’t gonna take a short term deal. If Luhnow wants to upgrade ANY position this winter, it’s gonna cost some scratch……..and that hinges on Crane’s wallet. We are going to get an “October surprise”, over the winter, and it better not be Jed Lowrie……..we’ve seen enough of him. Unlike Daveb, I’ve always been a Marwin fan. He rarely makes a error, and more often than not he get’s a hit.
    Give me a steady guy @short ANYTIME. I have a feeling Singelton, and Marisnick will be going south for winter ball, and maybe…….Jon will find that stroke we al know he has. If Preston Tucker keeps up his monster numbers, we might have a bonafide outfield going into 2016. Something tells me Fowler, andCastro are going to be dangled out there this winter………Baltimore comes to mind they need a catcher bad. Time to see what Stassi can do.

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    • Why do you expect Donaldson to be on the move? Oakland is thrifty, but he’s only in second arbitration year, right? Isn’t this one of those scenarios where Billy Beane dangles a player in hopes someone will vastly overpay, but really intends to move at the trade deadline?

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  17. Was anyone else here aware that another Astros minor leaguer won one of the other eight positional Gold Gloves?
    Astros Daily linked me to an article in the Corpus Christi Caller Times about Tony Kemp’s Rawlings MILB Gold Glove for second baseman. At the conclusion of the article they casually mentioned that Roberto Pena, catcher for Lancaster, had won the award for the position of catcher. Why has this not been made more public by the club?
    Apparently, out of more than 4000 eligible minor leaguers, the Astros garnered two of these nine awards.

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  18. Carlos Correa has been shopping around for a new agency to represent him and has settled on the Legacy Agency, which has clients in lots of sports and in broadcasting. Legacy represents George Springer and I’m glad to see Carlos pick a big, reputable agency who knows how to deal with all types of organizations, including those such as the Astros.

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  19. Good news for Bo – Billy C. He seemed to grow here as a manager and he showed a lot of class when he was let go and is going to a good organization in Atlanta. I think we wish him good luck there.

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  20. Been reading your blog daily for about 5 years now. Never posted before. Just wanted to say I love it. Look forward to it every day. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Like

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