Looking ahead at Astros’ 2015: Second base


With pitchers and catchers set to report in about five weeks, Chip, Dan and Brian will take a look at each position to see who the Astros starters will be, what options the team has in case of injury or poor performance, and what pieces from Houston’s vaunted farm system might be able to step in and make an impact (or at least hold down the fort in case of emergency).

Today, Brian T takes a look at the Astros’ options at second base.

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Second base: What to do, what to do.

Since Kaz Matsui is not on the 40-man roster, I think we should give that Altuve kid one more try.

I kid, of course. Jose Altuve in 2014 was about the best version of himself I think anyone could have imagined. All at the ripe old age of 24. Frankly, as awesome as he was, it is possible Altuve might get better.

Might not, too. There’s always a chance Altuve will have a bit of regression. After all, what goes up must come down. Unless that thing is in a stable orbit. So, what should we expect from Altuve?

Well, I’m guessing if there is regression we’ll see something closer to Silver Slugger-winning, All-Star, batting champion Jose Altuve. And I’m fairly confident on that because while Altuve has always had the skills—the potential—to do what he did last year, it was his approach at the plate and his preparation, something that has been written about extensively in the Chron (spit!) and other places, that changed thanks to his diet, exercise and coaching.

And that version of Altuve shows up in more than just batting average and a massive number of base hits. Take for example his stole base rate. Altuve was caught stealing just 13 percent of the time in 2014. Previously, Altuve was caught 25 percent of the time. It’s not like he got faster. That’s study and coaching pure and simple. It’s also Altuve showing a willingness to listen and learn. Tony Gwynn once said the ability to hit was much more mental than physical. I think that’s where Altuve is.

Another good example is his strikeout rate. In 2014, Altuve struck out only 7.5 percent of the time. In this day and age, that’s just amazing. And while his previous K rate—a career number just over 13 percent—was not horrible, it’s his dedication to contact that shows study and coaching.
I’m not saying we should clear out a trophy case for all the batting titles, but to think he’s going to hit .300-plus and approach 200 hits each season is pretty reasonable.

 

Other Options

On the off chance Altuve gets injured or decides to leave baseball for a life as a dolphin trainer, the Astros’ depth chart shows Marwin Gonzalez as the Astros second baseman. While MarGo is an able fill-in on those few occasions when Altuve is out, he will probably be too busy at third base or short stop to play much on the right side of the infield.

The other option that’s already on the 40-man roster would be Ronald Torreyes who has a .302 career MiLB average and a .785 OPS while only striking out 6.5 percent of the time. Torreyes might not have any power, but neither does Altuve. So in a pinch I’d take him. Oh, and Torreyes hit .298  in AAA last season, striking out just 25 times in 460 ABs.

Other long-term solution at second include one of three options from AAA or AA.

Gregorio Petit: A career .271 hitter in the minors, Petit spent a couple of months in Houston last season hitting .278 with a .723 OPS. He strikes out a bit much, but if the unthinkable happens–unthinkable unless you’re a dolphin–Petit has MLB experience.

Joe Sclafani: In 2014, Sclafani combined for a .315 BA in AA and AAA. He also posted a .789 combined OPS and whiffed 40 times in 336 ABs. While a little over 10 percent, those aren’t bad numbers.

Tony Kemp: The last option will likely start the year in Corpus Christi where his .416 OPS from 2014 looks very enticing. Kemp might not hit .325 in Houston like he did in Lancaster last season, but his walk rate is almost 15 percent. I’m not buying Kemp’s Hanger-aided 2014 SLG of .510, but the little second baseman profiles fairly close to Jose Altuve.

 

Questions to Ponder

1. Does Altuve regress some in 2015?  If so, how far? Or is the best yet to come from Gigante?

2. Other than an occasional fill in, do you expect to see much of MarGo at second base this season?

3. If the Astros need to call up a minor leaguer for second base, which one–Sclafani, Kemp, Torreyes or Petit–gets your call to the bullpen? And why?

 

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24 comments on “Looking ahead at Astros’ 2015: Second base

  1. Good job Mr. T (I pity the poor fool who has to write the next post) –
    First of all here is hoping that the only time we see someone other than Altuve at 2B is when they give him a day off every few weeks or when they are resting him for the playoffs (sorry – I know I should not have drunk that cherry Kool Aid Chip left on my porch).

    1. Regression – I keep bouncing around on this in my mind. How can he help from regress some? But… what is going to cause the regression? After watching him last season – it really does not matter how they work him – he seems to be able to hit everything as long as it is within reach. Up, down, in, out – the guy seems to be a base hit savant. And you would think that between Fowler, Carter, Springer all season and hopefully a better Singleton – they will have to pitch to him. So – maybe a little regression in BA – but maybe a little improvement elsewhere, including a little more power.
    2. I don’t expect to see much Marwin G at second this season – just that once every 2 or 3 weeks day off for Jose.
    3. Since he is on the 40 man – I say Ronald Torreyes is the next man up for the Astros. They could bring up Petit fairly easily – I mean the last time they took him off the 40 man he was not picked up by anyone. But I think they might give young Torreyes a go. Hopefully they won’t need him until September this year.

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  2. the regression thing is a tough question. if he had the exact same lineup around him everyday as he did last year, you’d have to expect some regression. however with a better lineup around him, he may do even more. he’s a hitting machine, so even if he does regress a bit, he’ll be better than most. i don’t see marwin as a second baseman except in emergency or those once in a blue moon days off for altuve. i’d go with foureyes, er uh i mean torreyes.

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  3. Barring a late spring acquisition of Jimmy Paredes, I feel good about Altuve performing like an All Star in 2015. To an outside observer, he appears to have a strong work ethic and desire to win. Couple that rare hand eye coordination and I think the only things that would trip him up are injuries.

    Don’t rule out Villar in the case of an Altuve injury. They seem to look for any opportunity to give him innings at SS, so I could see him being called up and Lowrie shifting to 2B if we are looking at a DL stint. Still, my preference is Torreyes.

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    • I agree that Torreyes is the second base callup in 2015 because Sclafani and Petit and Kemp are not on the 40-man. But Kemp is going to push people to make the team in April of 2016 because of his bat, his feet and his ability to play 2B or OF. SEC Player of the Year in 2013 was not a fluke.

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  4. We don’t have to buy Kemp’s .510 SLG% at Lancaster, because it was .468, followed by a very nice .425 at Corpus Christi. Remember that Kemp was facing pitchers of equal age at Lancaster and they walked him a ton there because high A pitchers have control issues. His OBP was a real good .381 in AA even though it’s a league where the avg pitcher is 2.2 years older than Kemp.
    I thought it was very interesting that Kemp had the same number of homers and triples in CC as he did in Lancaster, and did that in 90 less plate appearances. It’s also interesting that he won a Gold Glove on the same concrete infield in Lancaster that DDJ committed 24 errors on the year before. Kemp is the real deal.

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  5. Really? You had to go and bring up Kaz Matsui? The great fissure-man? What a pain in the tusches.

    Well, I’ll see you that Kaz Matsui and raise you two Rick Ankiels, a Woody Wilson, a Pedro Feliz, a Jesse Crain, three Jose Guzmans, a Tim Purpura, and a Brady Akin.

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  6. Well, let’s just say we have learned quite a bit over the past few years about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But at the big club, talent wise I think we are presently still a lot closer to Piglet than we are to Hamlet.

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  7. As Herm Edwards told the NFL Rookies – you need “1” of everything. I would hope that JL could parlay a couple of these and a catcher or two into filling some obvious holes in later posts. Also, due to Altuve’s ability to make contact – he will never walk much and will hit into many DPs. But he takes the lumber to home plate for a good reason. Love watching him and the way he plays.

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    • And also after Chip “called me out” on my letter to Luhnow — I attempted several writes and deleted them because I really do not know how much of his actions are dictated by the lack of money. So let me say “I come to praise Jeff, not to bury him.”

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