Looking Ahead to Astros’ 2015: CF a cornucopia of choices


Dexter Fowler has been a polarizing figure for the fans of the Astros. He put up solid offensive stats. He missed too many games. He fit well in the top of the lineup with Jose Altuve. He made too much money. He was a better center fielder than the flotsam and jetsam of 2013. He was a worse-fielding CF than two of the other guys on the roster in 2014. He was a very good OBP guy. He seemed to lose interest towards the end of the season.

But there is one over-riding fact with Fowler. He is gone, off to the Chicago Cubs in a trade for 3B Luis Valbuena and fifth starter candidate Dan Straily.

So what did Fowler mean when he was here? Well here is what the Astros’ cumulative CFs produced offensively (which is a good adjective for it) in 2013 and what they did cumulatively in 2014 for major categories along with their rank in the AL.

Season

BA OBP OPS RUNS HR RBI

2013

.218/15th .270/15th .584/15th 59/15th 8/T13th

48/14th

2014 .281/3rd .363/2nd .790/2nd 83/8th 18/4th

62/5th

The team improved from the worst CF in 2013 to a top 5 CF offensively in 2014.

But that was then and this is now. So what are the prospects for 2015?

Colby Rasmus
Rasmus was signed to a one-year $8 million contract as the last move in a few weeks of frenetic moves by Jeff Luhnow. He is a lefty who has played in 732 games in CF in his career and only 15 games at RF and LF combined. It is a good bet that with the money involved and his previous history that Rasmus will be the starting CF coming out of spring training. What does a quick glance at his history show?

  • Good power, averaging 24 HRs per 162 games
  • Had a very good 2013 (OPS – .840) and a decent 2014 (OPS – .735)
  • Much better against RHP (.257 BA/.323, OBP/.788 OPS) than LHP (.213/.287/.648)
  • Pretty big K guy. 25% for his career, but 29.5 and 33% the last two seasons
  • Minimal errors (averages about 4.5/season) not too many assists (3/season)
  • His range number Rtot is slightly below average
  • Normally bats best around 5th in the lineup.

Best guess is that he gets the majority of the starts in CF, but could be platooned a bit with one of the right hand options and would then serve as a left handed power bat off the bench.

Jake Marisnick.

Just in case people missed the nickname given to Jake by Chip’s bloggers, it is JFSF, which stands for Jake from State Farm, a commercial running in heavy rotation when he was picked up from the Marlins in the Jarred Cosart trade.

JFSF in a couple months with the Astros flashed a great glove and a so-so bat. One thing that stands out with him is that he has 11 outfield assists in 94 major league games. That is a very strong number.

He has not shown a lot of power, yet but he just turned 24 and at 6′-4″ he certainly could develop more power over time.

Two things that stand out about JFSF:

  1. He has 8 outfield assists and 0 errors in 64 games in centerfield.
  2. In 2014 against LHP he was .327/.370/.738 and against RHP he was .227/.254/.568.

If the Astros are hoping Hinch does a bit more statistical mix and match than Porter did, it would seem that Marisnick would be a good bet to play CF against LHPs and be the late inning defensive specialist to fill in where needed in the OF.

Alex Presley

Presley, who signed a bit of a surprising $1 million contract in the off-season missed a big chunk of 2014 with an injury. He played OK, but nothing special for the Astros in 2014. There is nothing in his fielding background that would have you put him in CF, but as one of our loyal bloggers pointed out (old pro?) for some reason he hits like a Mike Trout wannabee when he plays CF.

In 204 career ABs when playing CF he has put up .338/.373 /.893.

Overall in his career he hits only RHP slightly better than LHP.

  • Vs. RHP  .255/.299/.701
  • Vs. LHP .277/.299/.665

You would not think he will get much of a shot at CF based on poor fielding numbers, but who knows what the computer will spit out.

George Springer

Though the young man has all the talent to play CF, the best guess here is that the Astros brought in Rasmus to be the CF (much like they brought in Fowler last season) and that they don’t want to move Springer around a bunch. If Rasmus does not get hurt or does not crash and burn production wise, the Astros will likely send Springer back out to RF and leave him there.

Help from Below

Though he has played a little CF in the minors, the assumption here is that when and if Domingo Santana returns to the majors it will be as a corner outfield. So, who is next in line if needed?

Andrew Aplin

The fifth round pick from 2012 had a great year in 2013 at Lancaster (A+) with 102 runs scored and 107 RBIs in 128 games. He followed that up with an OK year at Corpus (AA) that ended up with a call-up and a decent showing at OKC (AAA).

To date he has not shown a lot of power, but is typical of a Luhnow draft pick with a high OBP (.377 cumulative) and has drawn more walks than strikeouts in both 2013 and 2014. If somebody falters or injuries hit with the big club – he could be in line for a mid-season call-up.

Teoscar Hernandez

The trade-off of Austin Wates opened up room for Aplin, while the Rule 5 loss of Delino Deshields Jr opened up space for this 22 year old who was already quickly climbing the minor league ladder.

He had great numbers at Lancaster (.294/.376/.925) followed up by decent numbers at Corpus (.284/.299/.773) in 2014 and had a combined 84 R/21 HR/85 RBI between the two stops. He seemed to have forgotten how to take walks between A+ and AA and I am sure the Astros will want to see him work on that this season.

Brett Phillips

Taken one round after Aplin in the 2012 draft, Phillips had a very impressive 2014 season. Combined between Quad Cities (A) and Lancaster he put up (.310/.375/.905) and totaled 17 HR and 68 RBI in 130 games. And he was not a Lancaster high altitude stat freak as he spent 80% of the season at sea level at QC.

He is obviously a few seasons away from the bigs, but it is nice to see talent filling in behind other talent in the system.

Questions

  1. Are we going to be wondering (again) why the third best fielding CF — Rasmus — is getting all the starts?
  2. How do you think percentage-wise the CF starts will be split between Rasmus, Marisnick, Springer and Presley?
  3. Who is next CF up from Fresn: Santana or Aplin?
  4. Who will be the Astros CF in 2017?
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65 comments on “Looking Ahead to Astros’ 2015: CF a cornucopia of choices

  1. If the Astros are committed to winning in 2015 they will put Springer in CF, platoon Rasmus and Marisnick in RF and start Gattis in LF, with a platoon w/Presly against power RH flyball pitchers, which Gattis does not do well against.
    If the Astros were still in rebuild mode, I would send Marisnick to CF in Fresno and throw Grossman into the OF mix in Houston, to see if Marisnick can work on his BBs and his swing.
    If I were the Astros I do the first one because it gives more room for Aplin, Teoscar , Santana, Phillips, Tucker and all the rest of the MILB outfielders time to play and grow as players. You are probably sacrificing Jake’s development some here, but that is a sacrifice you make if you want to win now at the major league level.
    If Rasmus performs well and you are in the playoff chase you may keep him all year and lose him to FA in the end. If he plays well but Tucker is killing it in Fresno, you have a decision to make if someone comes calling in July for Colby’s services. If Rasmus is just ok platooning in RF , what you do with him becomes a last minute decision at the trade deadline. If you are out of the chase, you get what you can for him and you have bought another year for all your OF prospect to move up a notch.

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    • old pro – I agree with your premise of putting Springer in CF, but I just don’t think that is the club’s intent. Perhaps they want to take the physical strain of playing CF off of Springer, who of course missed the home stretch last season with an injury.
      I could be totally off-base here – but I’m betting Rasmus is in CF most of the time this season. (At least until the trade deadline).

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      • Do you realize what you just said there? That the guy who has been our future CF for the last four years is suddenly moved out of CF because they are afraid it will be too much of a physical strain on him?
        That would mean a huge misjudgment on their part for years. This guy is the perfect center fielder. Range, speed, glove, arm, acceleration and routes.
        Springer hurt himself crashing into a wall to rob a guy of a triple and reinjured it stealing third base during rehab. They have to teach the thoroughbred to stay away from the fence and let him run all over out there. Teach him, don’t hobble him!
        You may be spot on about their intent, but that doesn’t make it right. The time to move Springer is when we get another career CF and Babe becomes our career RF

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      • old pro I know exactly what I said and if I hadn’t spent most of last season frustrated by the wrong guy playing CF I would not believe me either. All I’m saying is that if your intent was to put Springer in CF – why would you pay $8 million next season to a guy who basically never plays the corner OF spots. Not that he can’t but why pick him?

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      • Maybe because the $8mil guy said he would be willing to play COF, whereas the $9.5mil guy you got rid of wouldn’t? I don’t know, you make a good point. Gosh, could the Astros just be dumb? You’d think Springer would have a better chance of getting hurt crashing into that short RF wall in MMP(or running over his second baseman on a short fly ball). I just had a nightmare.

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      • Maybe they think with his speed and range he will be the first guy to do a header into the flag pole in center. I don’t know really. Maybe they want to ease him back out there – letting Rasmus take the reps this season.
        Maybe you are right – maybe Rasmus told them no problem with playing the corner OF. I would prefer that – but I just have this odd feeling about this….

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      • I’d love to get at the Astros defensive statistics. I’d like to probe whether corner outfielders have a chance to impact the game more than a CF in terms of preventing runs. I question this based on Alex Gordan and the tendencies other clubs had on the bases on balls hit to LF.

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      • Interesting thought Devin. I always picture the impact a CF plays in coming in on balls, cutting off the alleys – helping out the lame and slow (Carter / Carlos Lee). But a lot of balls get hit to LF – not sure what is the most critical OF position, but betting it is CF.

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  2. Great banter guys thanks. So lets presume that the Astros think Springer, like a Pence, is their RF for the next 5 years. Rasmus is holding the spot for a year. Is there that guy down on the farm solid CF 2016?

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    • It is a very good question Kevin. I think that old pro and I would agree that Springer (who should be our CF this season) would also be the best choice for 2016. Maybe Andrew Aplin goes nuts at AAA and makes Rasmus expendable, but I think that more likely is Preston Tucker or Santana coming up as a Corner OF and pushing Springer back to CF for 2016.

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    • Aplin and Marisnick are the only ones who could play CF in 2016 besides Springer. Teoscar probably 2 years away and Phillips probably 3 at the least. Tucker and Santana are COF only.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Answers to questions:
    1. Maybe-our third best CF plays CF again
    2.Surely Hinch will be able to reason w/ JL and convince him Springer should get the majority of CF starts.
    3. Aplin will play CF before Santana does, because if you thought Fowler took bad routes, you ought to see Santana play OF.
    4. Fowler will be the Astros CF in 2017. Signs a 1-year $8mil FA contract and says he never wanted to leave his true home. Reunites w/ Jed Lowrie, his teammate for two weeks and Mark Melancon the new Astros closer and new Astros 3B Chris Johnson.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Teoscar had already displaced Deshields to LF/DH…which is likely a reason he was left unprotected.
    1. In a perfect world we would see a strong def CF next to Gattis.
    2. 75% Rasmus, 25% JFSF and Presley (if not cut)
    3. Aplin. Santana would be brought up to play RF…shifting Springer into CF. This only occurs in case of major injury or lack of perf issues in 2015…prior to Sept callups.
    4. I suspect Phillips ends up passing Aplin and Teoscar. Ultimately, I think it’s all a crap shoot at this point because we don’t know whether Tucker and Santana will handle MLB pitching and prevent openings for the other guys (Aplin/Teoscar/Phillips/Fisher/etc.).

    Also, CF looks to be an organizational strength in the minors. We likely will have the luxary of moving guys to fill other needs. Based on the jettison of Cosart and Nitro, I believe this is a certainty.

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    • Devin – good input . Yes – who can handle mlb pitching and who falls by the wayside and as you say who gets traded to make room will be the story in the future for the whole OF.

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  5. B+ Just fyi guys

    Boston Red Sox: They swooped in to corner a thin market on hitters, spending big — but not wildly — on Pablo Sandoval ($95 million) and Hanley Ramirez ($88 million) after an aggressive makeover at the July 31 trade deadline. Boston now has depth, trade chips and a solid rotation with little long-term liability. But can it win the East with Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson leading the way?

    Houston Astros: They look more and more like a major league team each year and will trot out a lineup reinforced by Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus and Jed Lowrie. Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek give the Astros a legitimate bullpen. Is the lineup too strikeout-prone? Will the prospects traded — most notably infielder Rio Ruiz — come back to haunt them? The Astros seem confident both answers are no.

    USA TODAY

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Guys, one thought, without support other than observation from the “fan” portion of left field. It appears that — for whatever reason — the Astros have determined that Springer is not a center fielder. At least not their center fielder. Didn’t play him there last year. Seem intent on not playing him there this year.

    Okay, so there are two thoughts. If the Astros believe they will be unable to sign him long term (after last year’s long-term deal flub and keeping him at AAA to start the season), might — just might — Springer be a trade possibility this year or next once he’s proven healthy? Not saying I would do that, just wondering out loud as he would indeed bring a huge haul of major-league ready players and prospects. Of course he won’t be arb-eligible until he’s 27 (after 2017 season), but because he started late (out of college), he’ll be looking for essentially one big contract whenever that comes.

    And, remember (okay, three thoughts), Springer is not a Luhnow guy and we’ve seen how he generally deals with players who he inherited. Just sayin’.

    One final question: Have we jumped the gun a bit? Has Hinch absolutely declared who his CF will be?

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    • Chip – ye grand poobah of the blog
      – The way Luhnow plays things – everyone including the peanut vendor behind home plate is fair game to be traded
      – I think if Springer puts up 40+ HR and 100+ RBIs he will become a Luhnow guy in a hurry
      – I absolutely jumped the gun with this – if you look back Luhnow only said that he expects him and Springer to start not what position it would be and he indicated that he was supplying Hinch with options. Rasmus indicated he would play anywhere and I could not find where Hinch chimed in on this one – though I suspect it would be a Bill Belichick non-committal answer.

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      • Dan, at this point, Luhnow has created such versatility and flexibility, I’m wary of predicting who will be where, thought I suspect that peanut vendor may be on the “safe” couch for the foreseeable future (I’m told he has pcitures).

        Is Luhnow holding Springer “hostage” again? if — IF — he ever did in the first place?

        And, if either Carter or Singleton aren’t around come April 1, the game may change for several players. Is Marisnick a Luhnow favorite? Sounds like, he did trade for him, no?

        On another subject, I’m leaning more into the camp that the Astros should look into James Shields, now that his asking price may be down to a few seasons and $50-$60 million. Could the Astros get him on the cheap through 2017? Yes, they’d have to give up that #31 pick. Again, just thinking out loud. Footnote: Shields does not play CF.

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    • Well done Chip – yes – we may have to talk about ranges of positions with this much flexibility.
      I’m totally in on spending more of Crane’s money on Shields if you can grab him for 4 years $60 million – I think you have made your team a lot better without crazy spending.

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      • Problem is, Dan, when the price for Shields drops for us, it drops for 29 other teams, too. Then the bidding starts and you’re right back up there again. Gee, I wonder who put it out there that the price had dropped, opening the door for tons of teams to jump back into the bidding. Certainly not his agent!

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      • Old pro – I think this idea came from mlb trade rumors web site that based it on the fact that really big contracts never occur now.
        So it is not an absolute sure thing.

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    • Yes – the Rays did trade Will Myers this winter. FWIW, I like Springer more, and the power potential between the two is miles apart, but if you know Springer won’t stick once he hits FA you should maximize your returns. I don’t think it is something you pursue, but if the right deal came along…

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      • I tell you what – Springer was must see TV for us that had Comcast last season. I want him to stick around awhile and maybe figure out that he can still hit HRs with 90% of that insane swing.

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      • This is certainly interesting, but Springer doesn’t get expensive until year two arbitration. So that’s a ways off. I figure we’ll find out how he feels about the Astros after he gets traded. That was pretty apparent a year ago, when he never said a word. Gosh, it feels weird to talk about anyone being cheap who owns a major league franchise. Just plain weird.

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      • I remember Marge Schott not wanting to pay for scouts because they just sat around watching games and did not want to pay a service to provide scores for other games to bed put on the scoreboard.

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  7. Tend to lean towards Springer being the CF’er.

    What I lean towards isn’t important to Luhnow or Hinch.

    I would agree with the general consensus that we will see Rasmus in CF 75-80% of the time, and that Marisnick will see the rest of the time. Presley will again be sprayed all over the place. The Rasmus/Marisnick combo will provide some offense if given the majority of their time against opposite handed pitchers, but will also probably cause us to lead the league in CF strikeouts.

    The way rosters turn over in MLB I gave up trying to guess a teams roster 2-3 years in advance a long time ago. Just look at the Astros roster of 2012 and ask who is still here. For the sake of playing the game – I’ll say that Springer has shifted to CF by 2017.

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    • Steven, actually the Astros’ roster in 2012 was a AAA roster, with a major league All-Star-total-luckout second baseman on it. Where did that little guy come from?
      OMG-Chris Snyder!!!!

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      • Oh wow 2012!
        Chris Snyder, Brian Bogusevic, Jimmy Paredes, Travis Buck, Jordan Schaefer, Matt Downs, Brian Bixler, and Brandon Barnes – sucked up (and just played sucked) 1550 ABs (about the equivalent of 2-12/ guys – while putting up BAs ranging from .176 to .216 and OPS from .474 to .602.

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  8. For the first time in YEARS we have a good problem to have in the outfield…..and I *love* it! Center field will work it’s way out in spring training. BUT…….since I’m a gambler, my money is on Rasmus and Jake from state farm. NOW…..if either one of these two go down with an injury, I wanna see Springer out there. Been under the weather with an eye problem, but I’ve been trying to read your posts. As you know our oldest son is a Navy Commander, and a pilot…….today’s news about the pilot who was burned alive made me sick…..I just have no words.

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      • Thank you Dan……went back to the eye doctor again today……it’s getting better.
        Todays news was more than I could take. If you want to pray for anything pray for that young man’s family.

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  9. OK. So, Josh Hamilton is fixing to have surgery on the shoulder joint he injured in September. Be out 6-8 weeks. Yeah, right. Seems like this could have been done in late October? I’m just askin’. Oh, the drama!

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  10. Look out! Morosi now says the Yanks and the Cards are talking to Shields and the price is rising. The Yankees are never out. They are like the mob. They are in on everything.

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  11. It sure appears that our centerfielder of the future will not be our centerfield in 2015. I don’t get our organization. Instead of building a harmonious relationship with Springer, Luhnow seems to be setting the stage for an ugly divorce.

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    • Wow this is like saying Beetle juice 3 times and he appears – welcome back Bopert.
      Just remember that is just my interpretation of the situation – they have not made any definitive statements on this and maybe brought in Rasmus to play a corner OF.
      But yes if Springer is not in CF that is another negative message to him.

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      • Oops my bad – in the early morning haze of my mind I thought that was from video gadget not uncle knuckle – who is daveb – sorry about that

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  12. So, cutting to the chase and continuing the CF talk, If the team plans to do some platooning in the OF with Rasmus/JFSF and Gattis/Presley, wouldn’t it be much better off playing Springer in CF so that the other four guys who are rotating all have a constant figure next to them in CF? That way they would always know who the guy next to them is going to be. Also, if you are going to play someone in CF, shouldn’t it going to be the guy who is going to be here next year, too. Does anybody believe Rasmus or Presley is going to be here next year.
    The whole Springer deal is weird:
    *Keeping him in the minors when he could have helped.
    *Blackmailing him with a horrible contract offer
    *Exposing Springer to criticism by letting Rosenthal quote the incorrect terms of Springer’s offer only to have Rosenthal correct the figures two months later, after Springer was unjustly vilified in the media.
    *Sending Spring back to AAA and then Having Hoes in the OF to start the year.
    *Bringing him up and then making him play RF, where you never had him play that position in the minors and he starts off horribly in the field and at the plate.
    *Letting Jesse Crain’s and Matt Alber’s doctors check him out and send him to rehab when he’s hurt and not ready to come back.
    Keeping your CFer of the future listed as your starting RF all offseason on your depth chart in deference to a guy you are fixing to trade anyway.
    *Sign a one year FA outfielder to a contract and stick him at #1 CF on your depth chart instead of Springer.
    When you look at the entire picture, it is so similar to the Aiken fiasco, and the handling of Appel in the minors last season, that you have to wonder about the genius of a supposed genius who is the GM of our favorite team. Or you could do what a few Luhnow lovers do and blame it all on anything else but him.

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    • Yes – it is a strange way to treat your crown jewel of an outfielder. I work in engineering so I am used to people who are extemely smart and lacking people skills. That is what I can compare it to in my mind.

      Like

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