Free Blog Weekend: Astros’ future may not be now, but by 2017…

With the discussion about Carlos Correa on Thursday and expectations seemingly on the rise, this Free Blog Weekend, let’s take a look in the future.

Obviously, much will change over the next three springs, but even with pieces of the puzzle that are now in place or in the pipeline, the Astros may be setting Sports Illustrated up to look like prophets. Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but even the worst cynic among us must drool to think of a lineup that includes Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, a productive Jon Singleton among others.

So, let’s a look forward today. It is a Free Blog Weekend, so the only rule is that if you quibble with my lineups and rosters — and you will — you must provide your own.

The depth chart in 2017.

You’ll notice there are no L.J. Hoes, Alex Presleys or other gap fillers on this roster. To be sure, it won’t fill out like this, but add in a couple of veterans and your roster is top-heavy with production unlike any time in recent history. And, don’t shout me down because your guy isn’t on my roster. The good news is that, by 2017, the Astros should have graduated to multiple choice instead of eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

You’ll notice that Chris Carter and Jason Castro aren’t on my long-term roster. Remember the bottleneck issues I presented last year. The Astros will be there by 2017, and players like Springer, Gattis, Keuchel, McHugh and others should be taking up salary room.

And, your starting lineup for opening day 2017.

Okay, you figure it out. Like this year, the Astros could still be searching for that penultimate leadoff hitter when 2017 comes around. Yes, I’m counting on Singleton figuring it out and prospects like Tucker and Santana living up to expectations.

  • Correa SS.
  • Altuve 2B.
  • Springer CF.
  • Gattis DH.
  • Singleton 1B.
  • Tucker RF.
  • Moran 3B.
  • Santana LF.
  • Stassi C.

Roster flexibility means roster movement.

As many stood by in shock and watched, it only takes a few days to jumble and shuffle a roster, much less a lineup. Many players on the 2015 roster won’t be here in 2017. Heck, some won’t even last through 2015 and others will be gone by the 2016 trade deadline. Here’s a prediction of some of those players on the front lines of the current 40-man roster who won’t be part of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros.

And, a few questions about the future.

  • Will Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch still be around in 2017?
  • Which is the prospect most likely to bomb at the big league level: Singleton, Santana, Tucker, Appel or Moran?
  • Who will be the ace of the pitching staff in 2017?
  • Despite the SI cover story, what are the Astros’ chances of appearing in the 2017 World Series?
  • Correa should clearly be the face of the Astros by 2017. Which other players will be in the “class” just below him?
  • The Astros have three of the first 31 picks in this summer’s draft. Should or will they draft a college pitcher who could be in Houston’s rotation by 2017?

32 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Astros’ future may not be now, but by 2017…

  1. Well, I’m going out on a small limb here because I think if Luhnow is here in 2017 the team will be made up of his “type” of players. Lower Ks, higher OBP, power with OBP. lower salaries, better outfielders, speed. Of particular note is not having Correa leading off. He is just too good an RBI guy to bat first.
    Kemp DH
    Altuve 2B
    Correa SS
    Springer RF
    Tucker LF
    Moran 3B
    Gregor 1B
    Hernandez CF
    Stassi C
    I have to apologize for eliminating a lot of players that are here now that I like playing for us in 2015 and 2016. I haven’t picked the 2017 team to win the WS. I picked the 2018 team to do that. In 2018 I have Fisher as the DH and Phillips in the OF, replacing Kemp and Tucker and possibly Davis replacing Moran at 3B.
    In 2017 I have the rotation as McHugh, Keuchel, Appel, Velasquez and either Sims, Straily as #5. Yeah, I know, Sims. By 2017 he is either out of baseball or is one good knuckleballer. I think Daniel Mengden is a starter on the 2018 Astros.
    The main reason I’m going with Moran and Gregor is because of their contact rates. Playing 81 games in MMP adds power to their games without sacrificing OBP and I think they will each hit 15-20 dingers in a full season with their line drive and contact rates.


    • OP,

      I noticed big Jon Singleton is not in your projection for 2017. I have some concerns with him as well, but curious if you think he will be traded or a bench player? My concern with him is not his talent level or ability to figure out big league pitching, but his addiction issues have me concerned. How does a guy with his top level projection sign such an under-value contract? It was even lower than Altuve’s contract, which was signed over a year earlier. Is it so he can grab the money while it is available knowing he won’t be around in 5 years?


      • Tim, I’m not OP, but here’s a couple of thoughts.

        * The overall value — if you count team options — is actually higher for Singleton if he performs. He’ll be a bargain for Luhnow as well.
        * Singleton is not disimilar to Altuve in that he didn’t get a huge bonus when he signed as an 8th rounder ($200,000), so he probably leaned toward taking any offer.
        * Not to mention that Singleton can also earn $5 million in award bonuses, Altuve not nearly as much.
        * Singleton is also considered somewhat damaged goods, so any deal for him is a good one, but it does hedge his bets in the sense that he’ll have some $$$ regardless of his success.
        * Remember, Luhnow seems to want to hand out those Altuve and SIngleton-like deals (remember Matty D and Grossman?), so he figures he’ll spread the risk with these deals while helping with his upcoming bottleneck.
        * Yes, questions abound for Singleton and, as you say, those questions aren’t necessarily about his talent. I’m one who thinks — perhaps it’s just hope — that he’ll put it together. The early part of the season will tell the tale I’m guessing.

        OP, your thoughts?


      • Tim, I love the Astros and their prospects, so this is very emotional for me. I so want Singleton to be that guy we have been waiting for. But, if Singleton raises his batting average fifty points next year, which is a lofty goal, he is a .220 hitter. If he were to raise it fifty points in 2016, he would be a .278 hitter. That is the type of hitter Luhnow wants on his team. Can Singleton be a .278 hitter in 2016? Not the guy I saw. So I think eventually Luhnow is not going to be satisfied with a guy who hits below .250 and strikes out a ton, when he can find another for less money who has the contact rate to hit .278 in the majors with decent power, and right now Gregor lines up to be that guy in 2017, the way he is playing.
        I would describe Singleton as an all or nothing player right now. You know what I mean, a guy hitting .170, but flips the bat, watches his one hit fly out of the park, and then trots around the bases not smiling, and then gets the Golden Sombrero in his next AB. I just can’t see that guy sticking around when other “Luhnow” type guys are waiting for playing time.
        It’s just me. I see the team I laid out having one guy on it struggling to hit .270 in the majors and that guy is Stassi. And if every other guy in the lineup is a .275 or above hitter with a decent OBP, then I’m fine with my catcher hitting around .250 if he is THE MAN behind the plate, especially if he hits 15-20 dingers into the Crawford Boxes from the bottom of the order.


      • Good points, gentlemen. I love Singleton’s power and walk rate. I can live with the Ks if he can get his average up to around .240 with a .350. I don’t like his defense at 1B. If he wants to stay there he will have to improve on scooping balls in the dirt. There were some throws that barely missed reaching first that he couldn’t catch. We have some intriguing prospects who can play 1B and I really think part of the reason for the Gattis trade was to let Jon know he has to earn the starting job.


      • Singleton has done this at every level, struggled mightily the first time he got to it, and improved as time went on. Was like that when he first got to AA, and AAA. There is precedent for him getting better.

        There is also the small little fact that his K rate was astronimically bad though, so much so that improving it by 5-7% would still be very bad. I can see the guy bombing out completely, unable to adjust to the last, and most difficult, level. I would agree with the Astros decision to let it play out, but have traded for the 1B safeguard in Gattis.


  2. I think as well look at dealing people like Carter and Castro, we will be restocking the prospects that will keep this team going good past 2017 and even 2020. That’s the legacy we’re getting with Luhnow and his plan.

    I know he’s not perfect — far from it — but by stocking this system like he has, Luhnow has helped secure Houston’s future. Oh, sure, it’d be nice to have Brady Aiken. And obviously Carlos Rodon would have been a better choice, but when we get this No. 2 pick and the No. 5 pick and the pick from the Marlins, this will be a huge shot in the arm for our farm system.

    Combine that with the surplus MLB players we’ll be able to deal away, and this team should be stacked for years.


  3. Will Hinch be around in 2017. I’ll guess yes.
    Who might bomb? I’ll go with Moran because Appel has a high floor, Tucker has never been a top prospect so he would not qualify as a bomb, even if he bombs. Singleton is no longer a prospect and Santana has tools.
    Who might be the Ace in 2017? I’ll go with Keuchel because he has the nerves of a surgeon and a Golden Glove.
    I think their chances of appearing in the series is slim, but I think they are a young playoff team.
    In a class just below Correa in 2017: Keuchel, Springer, Altuve
    They should draft one of the best college pitchers in June, but I doubt that pitcher is in the rotation in 2017. Maybe by 2018.


  4. I would be mighty skeptical that the roster presented would even have a winning record in 2017. It sounds like you expect a bunch of youngsters to show up and on day 1 be all stars. I don’t think what would be, if that roster stays intact as dreamed, the youngest team in baseball to be a playoff contender.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love your roster, and it’s VERY similar to the route I would go, I just don’t hold the idea that it will be playoff, or WS competitive, by 2017. For a franchise that has never won it, well, it would be great, but highly unlikely.

    More likely, by 2017, we are talking about stepping up and being a competitor for the AL West and how can we push close to 90 wins. We will be in a better position, but we will not have seen the best yet of most of those players. Altuve should be entering his prime (it’s scary to think that Jose is still so young and should get BETTER), as should Keuchel, but the rest will still be growing. Unfortunately, I think we will just need to be even more patient. The future maybe bright for Stassi, Santana, Correa, Hernandez, Tucker, Appel, Hader, Moran, Wojo, and I am sure a few more I left out (and we know they won’t all make it, history tells us that), but to expect they will all be clicking and playing well enough to win it all, very brave suggestion.


    • Steven, I do believe Correa will be one of those players. That would be the fourth season for players like Springer and SIngleton, so they’d hardly be “kids” in that sense. Keuchel will be 28, McHugh 29.

      And, indeed, I suggested that Luhnow would probably sprinkle in some veteran presence as well. And, I’ll grant you, not all of those prospects will blossom and, frankly, not all of them will still be in this organization in 2017. Some will likely be traded for other talent, perhaps pitching.

      Nonetheless, the prospects for a better club are evident. Whether or not it’s a World Series-winning hand remains to be seen, but it’ll be a good hand nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I would agree with you, but it’s so hard to see the future with a rebuilding club, especially with the Astros and their financial situation. But, for the sake of building a team with what we have and what Crane has said about money, let’s build a better team for opening day 2017 with our imagination, some bold moves and a little explanation:
      Kemp 2B
      Correa SS
      Springer RF
      Donaldson 3B
      Gregor/Gattis 1B
      Altuve DH
      Tucker LF
      Hernandez CF
      Stassi/ Heineman C
      Your rotation is Cueto, McHugh, Appel, Velasquez and Hader/Feliz/McCullers
      So you have eliminated Valbuena, Carter, Conger, Castro, Keuchel and Feldman because of looming contracts. You traded Singleton and Ober and Moran and because they were blocking better players and the team got some assets in return. You traded for Donaldson with some of these players because Toronto is Toronto. Your big boss said he would spend money when the team was ready so he signed Cueto to a long term deal for moolah and your second round pick in 2016(or a first round if it is outside the Top 10 picks).
      Hernandez and #5 starter are the only first year players, because Appel, Correa, Stassi, Velasquez and Gregor made their Debuts in 2016 and Tucker and Kemp made their debuts in 2015.
      You still have Davis, Fisher, Reed, Phillips, Mengden and a couple of pitchers from the 2015 draft ready to go by 2018 in some capacity.


  5. 2017? I would not bet on both them.
    Bomb? Singleton is going to drop a lot of bombs.
    Ace in 2017 is not in the system yet.
    Appear in 2017 series? Slim. Appear in playoffs feels pretty good this far out, but I he prospects have to keep progressing and stay healthy.
    I’m not sold on Correa being the face. I think it will be a team concept more so than a single player defining the team. I vote for Altuve/Springer/Correa going full out in the image of their 2017 skipper…
    Draft the best players available. Trade surplus position players for pitching as possible.


  6. Let’s see
    – Luhnow – is an 80% chance and Hinch a 70% chance to be here in 2017. I hope they both prove to be great and stay but I know that the owner is never to blame if there is any failure or regression – but these guys will be.
    – Prospect most likely to bomb at the majors. Singleton – because there is just something about him that worries me. He could also be the greatest success. I mean 44 RBIs in a little bit more than 1/2 a year while batting .160 or whatever. There could be something special or a total burnout inside the young man.
    – Ace in 2017? One of the two first rounders coming up???? That is too much to ask that fast – so I say Appel finally does what he is capable of. (Do not bet on this one even if you are betting pretzels)
    – Feel 2017 for the Astros in the WS is too soon – unless somehow they make the playoffs this year. So – 2018.
    – Funny – will Correa displace Altuve that quickly as the face of the franchise? If so that means he is a major stud quickly. I’d say Springer is nearby to that neighborhood too.
    – After doing the dirty to the pooch in the last draft – they have to make one of the first two a college stud pitcher. A really good catcher would be nice with the other pick.


  7. If Hinch is not here in 2017, neither will Luhnow. Keeping Mills and then jettisoning him in favor of Bo Porter were two HUGE mistakes early on. I don’t think he’ll survive a third poor managerial decision.

    For all the talk about Appel, remember he pitched much better once he got the hell out of Lancaster.

    The idea of Castro getting traded fills my heart with glee.

    i think Tucker is the most likely to ‘bomb’ just because I don’t think he’s going to get a shot here. It’ll come down to him v Santana, and the choice will be made to go with a younger player. Singleton doesn’t count because as of now, he already HAS bombed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes – things are shifted to the left.
    Yes – we are out here old pro – been a busy few days for me – not checking in that much.
    I thought your lineup was interesting because of the almost complete turnover (again) of the starting lineup. Not arguing with you – though perhaps someone like Moran will earn a spot and not necessitate the Donaldson trade.
    The best part is that the pump will not be dry after we bring up some kids – there are good prospects at every level.
    But we will have to trade off the Castros and others to refill the minors as we go along.


  9. Whew! Hey guys, spent the better part of the last couple hours trying to figure that cattywampus page thing out. Went through every bit of code in the entry and the comments and found the culprit. Won’t call any names since it’s obviously unintentional, but please be careful with your “/”, “>” and other special characters.

    You may now resume your regular programming! And I can now take my afternoon nap (yeah, right!).


  10. I don’t see Luhnow still here in 2017, because Crane wants this team to start winning, and Luhnow will be replaced by a GM that can pitch….hit homeruns, and steal bases. You see……I don’t think Crane understands that for every one guy who succeeds in MLB…..there are ten who don’t. If your lineup is 7 minor league guys and 2 veterans……..he’s banking on these guys going crazy, and win 95-100 games.
    That just not gonna be the case, and most of us know it. As for Hinch, who knows.
    This organization goes through managers more often than most people take a bath.
    I can’t speak for any of you but………..I can’t *WAIT* until the Super Bowl game is over. I’m sick of watching idiots on TV who have talked so much about this game….
    I’m at the point of kicking Fluffy (Chip you remember Fluffy!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Becky, these two teams are so unlikeable, have not watched one minute of SB programming. I plan to turn on the game tomorrow night and watch it for the commercials. I actually may record it and fast forward TO the commercials!


  12. Old pro………after listening to these players talk………I wonder how they got outta the 5th. grade, much LESS College. Yeah……the commercials are usually pretty good…….Doritos for SURE! Bring on baseball!!


  13. Concerning 2017, the Astros signed four (4) FAs this year. Their approximate rank are as follows: #23 24 37 47 out of 160 +/- Lowrie & Gregorson are 3 year deals so that includes them in some 2017 discussion. Altuve and Singleton are signed through 2017. I don’t see Crane eating $1 Million in salary much less $20 Million. It is wonderful that they signed some apparently decent FAs – but lets be honest – none of these guys (except perhaps Altuve) will ever get a free pass to SEE Cooperstown. They are good average ballplayers. But this is a long way from a WS team. I certainly hope it does not happen but we could be back in the cellar in 2015. I wish them the best and hope they exceed expectations – but we need to temper our hopes with at least the possibility of injuries or regression.


  14. I really think Luhnow will be here in 2017. I strongly believe Crane has bought into his analytics style of evaluating talent. With that being said, if there isn’t continual improvement with the major league team, and I think there will be, he and Hinch will both be gone by 2017.


  15. Tim…I like your optimistic attitude! I too hope this team will continue to improve.
    BUT…….from what I can glean from Crane’s remarks, he want’s these guys to be
    A LOT better this year……..does that mean 80 wins, or 90 wins. I’m greedy, I want *90* wins this year!


  16. In order for the Astros to be that kind of team this year, they are going to have to use their analytics and apply them. I think not doing that particular thing is what got Porter axed.
    I don’t have all the computer genius the Astros do, but I have stats provided me on the internet and it appears to me that the Astros have a strategy based on the splits I see for player’s careers, combined with their splits for their best years. I am willing to bet Hinch will use these stats to formulate a plan with the FO on who to play where, when, at what position and where in the batting order.
    The info is there. It just takes forever for me to find it, but just a few seconds for them.
    Who is pitching and are they a power pitcher and who has shown the best tendencies to hit power pitchers vs hitting against finesse pitchers.
    -Who has shown their best numbers down in the order, despite the temptation to use their power higher in the order.
    Who is best over their career leading off, vs our current needs for them to lead off this year because of our power throughout the order.
    -We want this guy to play SS or that guy to play 3B, but how have they done throughout their careers hitting while playing that position.
    -These two guys have great career numbers batting cleanup, but which of them has great numbers batting in the 6-hole, also, where you need one of them to bat.
    That analytical strategy might have actually determined who the guys they went after in FA and with trades were. The analytics provide the blueprint and then plugs in the players that they needed to build the team.
    It seems cold, but when you get into the stats you can begin to see a lineup take shape right before your eyes for Right hand power pitcher, Right handed finesse pitcher and even mid level pitchers, based on what our guys have done in their careers and even in their best years and worst years. Same thing when hitting against lefties.
    There is some interesting stuff out there to be had.


  17. Oddly, I can’t reply to any specific posts. I did want to caution that over-managing by playing the statistics is a good way to alienate your players. Look, Brett Wallace knows he hits better against righties than lefties. You don’t need a computer, general manager, and manager all confirming that for him. Pulling him in the fifth inning of a game for a RHB to face a LOOGy may increase your odds of a better at bat, but may hurt you for the remaining four innings. If you always play the platoon, most players will resent it. Do happy players perform better than unhappy ones? I don’t know – but I do know that unhappy players will leave via FA or forced trade and influence players not to come here.


  18. Oddly enough, Devin, I wasn’t referring to platooning at all. I wasn’t even considering it. But there are times when platooning is reasonable and, I daresay, that platooning was in vogue long before sabrmetrics was a gleam in Mr. James’s eye.
    I was merely referring to using huge amounts of data to acquire a lineup composed of players who fit well and plug into places up and down the lineup where their tendencies have shown them to produce well, thus making them more productive, more apt to be better and, therefore to be more valuable to the team and for their futures, wherever that may be.
    Using that data to acquire players more suitable for Houston, and for this team at this particular moment, is part of Luhnow’s plan. That is undeniable. He is not going to tear this franchise down to the bare bones, and then throw his data out the window. He is going to use everything he has to put it together according to his plan and you can bet your cattywampus that he is using his database to build it back up, including his 2015 team.
    Hinch said yes to whatever Luhnow proposed, when he was hired and liked it, or he would not be here. Now if Luhnow is wrong, they are both gone, but I am sure that Hinch and Luhnow are going to be on the same page, even if the plan doesn’t work.


  19. The game is not played on a stat sheet. That’s what Strat-O-Matic is.

    That said, baseball trends are real. Stat trends are real. Teams do defensive shifts because certain players tend to always pull the ball. Focusing on OBP is important getting guys on base is important. We didn’t need Billy Bean to tell us that. Craig Biggio knew it. That’s why he crowded the plate and let himself get hit nearly 300 times.

    Taking stats even deeper, a good Line Drive Rate is important because it shows a guy is really stroking the ball. You could just sit there and watch. But the LD% proves that what you think is happening is really happening.

    And that’s what Sabermetrics is all about. It’s about proving what the scouts are seeing with their eyes, backing it up and having those numbers that tell the rest of the story.


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