An end-of-year smorgasbord of Astros’ thoughts


Out with the old, in with the new, right? As the “4” becomes a “5”, here are a few random thoughts looking back and looking ahead.

Go get Ben Zobrist. Why not?

  • The Astros are said to be way down on the list of teams interested in Zobrist, who actually began his career in the Houston organization. Why not? The only hold up would be the one-year deal he’s currently on ($7 million). No problem, give him a two-year extension and make him part of the 2017 World Series team. He can play everywhere in the field (third base in ’15?), will hit his .270, gets on base at an above average clip and walks almost as often as he strikes out. Yeah, he’s 33, but he’s played full seasons since 2009. He would be an upgrade and he would help the Astros in 2015 and the veteran the team so badly needs.

Don’t get ahead of ourselves.

  • Remember, 2015 isn’t the championship season. Doesn’t necessarily mean the Astros can’t or won’t contend next season, but it is another mile marker in the ultimate progression to be the champion Drayton McLane always inquired about. That said, expect frustrations and detours along the way, just not as many as in previous seasons. Expect progress, just perhaps not at the pace you’re hoping or expecting (meaning no Max Scherzer or the like). That 90-win season some have postulated with recent signings and other rumors is perhaps out of reach. Even an 85-win season would be a huge jump. Think about it: A 34-game swing in two seasons. Not impossible, perhaps not even improbable, but certainly a tall order in a league whose teams rise and fall on injuries and slumps and streaks.

Someone needs to be next.

  • The Astros tied up Jon Singleton this year. Dallas Keuchel will be arbitration eligible next winter and Jeff Luhnow should consider that contract that will keep him in Houston through his first big paydays and perhaps even into free agency. What would get it done? At 27 (January 1), Keuchel could be dealing for the biggest contract of his career if he’s able to talk Houston into a 5-year deal. Team friendly? Perhaps somewhat, but Keuchel may never have a bigger payday since he could be entering his prime in such a deal. With only one great season under his belt, it would be a gamble worth taking if the Astros could swing a Singleton-like deal, but Luhnow would likely have to ante up a bit in order to convince Keuchel.

A little hindsight.

  • A few years ago, Jeff Bagwell left the Astros’ organization. At the time, it was said he wanted to attend to some personal matters and be a little closer to his family. Now, it appears he was disgruntled with the direction of the Astros and just walked. Houston would do well to get him back in the fold, wearing the #5 at spring training alongside Craig Biggio. Bagwell says he wants a meaningful role and does not just want to be a figurehead.

Most likely to succeed unexpectedly.

  • There are always players (read: J.D. Martinez) who will succeed despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Obviously, some players on the current Astros’ 40-man roster will pan out, some wearing other uniforms. My picks for players to watch and be wary or trading: Asher Wojciechowski, Alex White, Singleton, Domingo Santana. Some would even put (gulp!) Jonathan Villar on that list due to his skill set and age.

Correa! Correa! Correa!

  • There isn’t an Astros’ fan out there who isn’t drooling, hoping, praying, wishing for an early arrival by Carlos Correa. If it hadn’t been for a season-ending injury in 2014, he could have seen Houston late in 2015. Unlike Mark Appel, Correa hasn’t lost any of the glitz and appeal from fans or scouts. Bernie Pleskoff ranks the future Astros’ shortstop as the second best prospect in the majors. One other note: The player ranked ahead of Correa is Kris Bryant, the soon-to-be Cubs’ third baseman. Big deal? Maybe, since the Astros chose Appel just before the Cubs picked Bryant. Just sayin’.

 

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24 comments on “An end-of-year smorgasbord of Astros’ thoughts

  1. Great stuff Chip and Happy New Year. I for one would love Zobrist at 3rd the next 2 years and then either Ruiz or Moran. I hope Bags comes back to the family. His person life was a mess there for a while. If I was Gm I would wait till about oh June and if Keuchel looks solid , lock him up for 2016-18.

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  2. Happy (soon to be) new Year, Chip – though my son on the other side of the world is already celebrating it.
    Zobrist – Two questions on him – What would you give up in a trade to get him? How would you use him? He is certainly flexible playing middle infield and outfield though really does not play 3B. Are you thinking just move him around like the supersub he is between 2B, SS and OF? Would you play him a bit more at SS and move Lowrie to 3B on those times? Interesting person who puts up very solid numbers.
    Ahead of ourselves – The Astros are not a sure fire playoff team – but I think if they regressed as a team without a firestorm of injuries that the castle gate would be stormed a bit. Steady improvement is expected.
    Keuchel and new Kontract – I’m not clear how Luhnow is going to address these situations as players come up for extensions or new contracts – but I sure would like to see good play rewarded.
    Most likely to succeed – Asher W could easily turn into a good pitcher here or elsewhere. With Santana he is so young that he has a huge potential upside. White has to stay healthy for 5 minutes and prove something. Villar is an enigma – can he overcome himself and be a top notch player.
    Corea Corea Corea – For a minute I thought this was the extension of the “Interview” movie controversy – wrong Corea.
    Hey we need him to be the guy – big time and soon.

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  3. Dan, I’d just take Zobrist, then worry about finding a place to play him. He’s somewhat like Biggio, just a real gamer and throwback old school. He’s also one of those players that doesn’t seem to be affected by not having a real position.

    He gives you depth, he gives you a fall back plan in several spots and he adds versatility. Yeah, you’d probably have to give up too much to get him, but would love to have him back in Houston.

    And the frustrating part? Houston got a half season of Aubrey Huff for him back in ’06.

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  4. Zobrist has played a lot of games and every position in the field except P and C. Of all the positions he has played he has had exactly 4 chances to field a ball at 3B and has 1 error in those four chances.
    Seriously, can’t we long for a real third baseman? If you want to give up players for him and then give him an extension, do it for the outfield and put him in LF and keep Fowler in CF and then you are adding pop to the lineup. But we would still need a 3B, which could be manned by Marwin or Sclafani if Zobrist was in the lineup. That would probably be better than what the Astros have now.

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    • This sounds like the only reasonable suggestion to me. Alternately, you could offer the Rays Altuve for Zobrist AND Longoria. That sounds like a Luhnow trade offer, right?

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  5. Zobrist is interesting. I had rather have 8 position players that “can play.” Than only 4-5 or 6. To add to Devin’s comment, maybe we can trade 2-3 catchers for Zobrist. One can argue that moving Biggio to the Outfield was not great, but putting Kent at 2nd WAS. 2015: I would take 81 wins right now and not even play the games. Keuchel: Anyone that logs 200 innings means he is healthy and pitched deep into most games. He is worth a shot. Much more so that Singleton or Matty or Grossman. DK EARNED his contract. Bagwell: Loved him as a player. Not sure there is a spot for him if he is not interested in “glad handing” all of Crane’s cronies. Correa: Please excuse me for putting this out in cyberspace, but many a “can’t miss prospect” – MISSED. Lets hope and pray he is not one. Also let’s hope a few of our “also ran” prospects turn out to be much better than expected. I would love to see added one more bat and one more relief pitcher. They may only be insurance adds – but if history tells us anything – guys now get hurt A LOT. Maybe we need to bring back the ‘roids.

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  6. Looking at Correa the same way everyone looks at a minor league prospect, you try to find holes in his game.
    Hits for Average? Yep, .308 career in milb, despite being the youngest in the league two years running
    Hits for power? Yep, .465 career slg w/.510 last season
    Walks? yep, over 12%
    Strikes out? Nope, career 17%
    Can Run? Yep, stole 20 bases w/only 4 CS in just 62 games last year.
    Prone to injury? Only when stretching doubles into triples and getting hit in the hand by fastballs
    Lazy? Nope, works like a demon in the offseason.
    Can he field? Yep, .965 flding % on the hardest infield in the minor leagues and a 5.32 RF/G
    All about me? Nope, flew all the way across America to be with his team in their championship game last fall in the middle of his rehab. Teammates think he hung the moon
    Overrated? Nope, passed up Buxton in the rankings even after breaking his ankle.
    Too young? Nope, Luhnow has invited him to the Major League Spring training next year.
    Ready to Dominate? Nope, but don’t bet against him being the starting SS in April 2016 for the Astros.

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    • The point of my exercise is that he doesn’t seem to have that hole in his game. The only thing that I could see holding him back is if his wall is AAA pitching. I seriously doubt it.
      It is going to be unreal if he and the younger Seager kid are in the majors together. That is going to be awesome.

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  7. Oh yeah!!!!!!! My teams are winning tonight! The Ducks handed Florida their butt,
    and Ohio State is headed to the BIG show!! I grew up in Southern Ohio, and remember my brothers and my dad rooting for them when I was little! Nick Saban
    is NOT happy. As far as Zobrist is concerned……it depends on “who” the Rays want
    in return. Don’t trade the farm for the guy….but yeah, I’d love to have him on the field this year! ******* HAPPY NEW YEAR *******!!

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  8. My player to succeed unexpectedly is Preston Tucker. Last summer his batting coach told him his stride was too long, too fast and too early. The knock on his fielding was taking bad routes on batted balls to the outfield.
    I wanted Tucker to work with Correa, who last offseason worked on his quickness at SS and baserunning, which were his critic’s biggest concerns about his game. Now, Tucker is specifically targeting his two problem areas in the offseason.
    Tucker needs 250 PAs in AAA to hit the target of 500 PAs that Luhnow has used to rate his progress and advance him. If Tucker can hit .300 and keep the SLG% he has averaged in his minor league career, he would be ready to help the Astros w/ his bat by the trade deadline.
    Forget Appel and Aiken. If Correa, Tucker, Aplin and Ruiz play well in 2015, wherever they are, they and a blossoming McHugh will be able to save Luhnow’s bacon and the 2012 draft will be his ticket to another year as GM.

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    • No real argument from me, but I still think he needs to send Heck/Wade a Christmas card every year and thank them for George Springer. Yeah, his k-rate could be a problem, but he showed in half a season that he is likely to provide more impact than any of the players Luhnow has drafted.

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      • Right now, Springer, Singleton and Lowrie are the only differences in the Astros batting order than what they started with last year on a terrible hitting team. Springer made a huge difference for about six weeks and then he was done. Singleton was a detriment to the team and Lowrie was down with the bat in 2014.
        Those three seem to be the ones who could make a big difference for Houston in 2015 if they hit. My hope is that Castro can rebound with a new manager and a contract looming in the air for him in 2016.

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      • I think the other thing that can help is not giving 500+ ABs to a guy with an OPS way under .600 like Matt D. Sometimes addition by subtraction works.

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  9. So what do you guys and gals think about this:
    The Astros have a total of six starting positions on their top three teams at SS and second base( 2 at Houston, 2 at Fresno and 2 at CC) Who starts where from the list of these players?
    Lowrie
    Altuve
    Gonzalez
    Villar
    Torreyes
    Mier
    Petit
    Sclafani
    Fontana
    Kemp
    Correa.
    If you start Correa/Kemp in CC, Lowrie,/Altuve in Houston and Villar/Torreyes in Fresno you have five guys left over at SS and 2B that you have to find a place for or sit them on the bench as utility guys. If you put Moran at 3B in Fresno and Ruiz at 3B in CC then you don’t have room for any of the five at 3B, either.
    You can move Kemp to the outfield but the guy just won the minor league Gold Glove at 2B, so that seems like a waste of talent.
    The Astros have some serious moves to make with middle infielders. I’m real surprised teams haven’t made some kind of deal with us for some of these players.

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    • Kevin we can hope that he uses his OBP to become a MVP in a World Series. Sort of an Astros version of maybe David Eckstein or Bucky Dent. We need to remember that someone needs to bat 9th. But I believe the correct answer is “not really.”

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