For nearly a decade of winters, Astros’ fans have held out hope of turning a corner, only to turn the corner and run smack dab into another solid wall. From Woody Williams, Shawn Chacon, Mike Hampton, Ivan Rodriguez and Kaz Matsui to the throw-in-the-towel trades of Michael Bourn, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence, fans have witnessed cold winter after cold winter.
Now, however, there is a different smell in the air.
Here are three reasons for optimism.
- The propsects. For the first time in a decade, more homegrown prospects will play in Houston for a full season. George Springer, Jon Singleton, Michael Foltynewicz, Jason Castro, Nick Tropeano, Robbie Grossman and perhaps others may be on the roster April 6 and October 4. Yes, Grossman and Singleton came from other organizations, but they’ve grown up in Houston’s. Players like Mark Appel, Carlos Correa, Delino Deshields Jr. or Nolan Fontana could also get a cup of coffee at some point in 2015.
- Right time, right place. With the number of front office and managerial changes, movement could be at an apex this winter, making more players available, possibly even at better deals. There are 3-4 significant pitching prospects, which means the Tier 1A pitchers (read: Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel et al) might be more plenteous and more affordable. Add in the additional $20 million the Astros will have and Jeff Luhnow should be able to find solid major leaguers to fill the gaps and holes in the lineup.
- It’s just time, stupid! Remember the ol’ phrase in the 90s when Bill Clinton was running for president? It’s the economy stupid! Well, friends, it’s just time the trend upward leaves the steady incline and spikes a little. The 2015 winter, spring training and season are primed for that little spike. It’s been a decade since the Astros saw the playoffs and, while the organization broke the string of 100-loss seasons, it isn’t enough. What’s more, with so many ’14 challenges from the Appel bullpens and mismanagement to the Porter firing, the Astros need a hassle-free spring and season.
To be sure, the Astros aren’t guaranteed a .500 season in 2015. Injuries and missteps this winter and during the season come at a huge price, especially when the MLB roster is paper thin with replacements. That problem, however, should also change a little with more players moving into the ready-to-step-in position.
You may point to all the warts, shake your head at all the history, keep your powder dry until proof presents itself, but there is a reason for optimism. Moreso this winter than any perhaps in the last 5-6 years.
No questions today. No predictions. Only a recognition that it could be a new day in Houston-land. Call me glass-half-full-guy for today. Anyone care to join me?