Saturday scatter shots: No surprises, no frills spring training

It’s Saturday and the regular season is only days away. Let the count down begin to A.J. Hinch’s official tenure with the Astros. You may not remember how many games his first spring training team won, but you will certainly recall how many games his first regular season team wins…or loses.

As spring training generally does, players have already begun to separate themselves. Are you surprised that Asher Wojciechowski or Marwin Gonzalez or Jake Marisnick or Robbie Grossman look to be either playing themselves onto the roster or at least pushing their way to the final cuts?

And, likewise, you’re not surprised I’m sure that Domingo Santana, Michael Feliz or Alex White are all headed to minor league camp. Forty four players remain in the big league camp and some of those will start the season on the DL, be traded, released or sent packing to Fresno as well.

Honestly, not much suspense left. Right?

Dallas Keuchel will start opening day followed by Scott Feldman. Jose Altuve will start at second across from Jed Lowrie. Sometime in the next week to ten days, Jon Singleton should get the nod at first. Wojo is turning heads (finally!) and Grossman is putting together his annual good spring impression.

So, here are a few thoughts about your thoughts…

Maybe Jeff Luhnow is right all along.

To be sure, the Astros’ GM does things differently. If nothing else, he acts on his beliefs and those of his team. And, he acts decisively. The Brady Aiken jury is still out, but know this: GMs around the look are watching carefully after Aiken left his first start since the draft after 13 pitches. No vindication yet, but the earlier rumors of possible injury and his early departure no doubt has dropped his 2015 draft stock.

Only a year ago, the Astros were apparently talking long-term deal with Robbie Grossman. A .423/.484/.615 line in half a spring doesn’t vindicate Luhnow entirely, but it does demonstrate what the Astros’ GM saw in the still-young outfielder. Yes, he’s still 24.

You can argue Luhnow mishandled Mark Appel. Talk tandem, talk rushing through spring last season after the appendectomy. That said, you must admit, Luhnow has either adapted, listened to critics or adjusted his approach (the sign of a good leader) as Appel now appears to be on track. Whether or not he’s an actual #1 pick is still debatable, but he now is on his way to Houston sooner than later.

Does anyone remember Nate Freiman?

Fans were all atwitter only a couple of years ago when the Astros kept Chris Carter and let Nate Freiman go on waivers. Yes, at the time — and even into the first year of that decision — it looked ominous. Anyone care to reassess their comments now that Carter seems to be establishing himself and Freiman may be headed for the DL or even AAA?

Six weeks ago…

Who might have thought — realistically — that it might be Evan Gattis who is the ultimate odd man out? With Jon Singleton settling in at 1B and Chris Carter unlikely to go away as the consistent power threat (and healthy), Gattis may be stuck in left field for the foreseeable future…when he isn’t on the DL. Carter’s salary will continue to rise in arbitration, but if he reprises his 2014 second half, he may be the who gets the last chair in the musical chairs game.

No cameo here…

You may have thought Carlos Correa would be banished to the back fields, but he actually is making more appearances than many Astros. Only Andrew Aplin and Jonathan Villar have appeared in more spring games than Correa and the former #1 pick is in the upper echelon of Astros’ at bats as well. His spiffy play portends living up to all expectations when he reaches Minute Maid. This year? He’ll likely start in Corpus Christi, but could jump to Fresno soon. Of course, the Astros will want fans at all levels of the organization to get a chance they saw Correa when …


23 comments on “Saturday scatter shots: No surprises, no frills spring training

  1. Chip, if I may, I would like to address something that happened yesterday. Max Scherzer’s control was impeccable yesterday except for one pitch. That was when he threw at Colby Rasmus on purpose.
    That was retaliation for Rasmus sliding hard into Omar Infante last season and ending his season. Scherzer was livid and even talked about the possibility of getting back at Rasmus, but he said he could not afford a suspension.
    Whether that plunking puts an end to it remains to be seen.
    We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.


  2. oldpro, responding to a couple of your last points: So far, Rasmus is making Luhnow look dumb again. We might end up with him and Presley on the 25 man simply because they account for 9 million. I hope not. Right now, Wojo just about controls his own destiny. Call him the fifth man if Oberholtzer is ready to pitch when the season starts.

    Right now i’d have to argue that Grossman should be in left, if we want to put stock in ST stats. As op has already pointed out, Grossman has far outplayed and out hustled Rasmus.

    i still like Nate, and hope he gets a chance to play on a regular basis someday. But he’ll never hit 37 dingers.

    Gattis still remains the big head scratcher to me. Maybe he’ll stay healthy, settle into left and hit 30 homers without butchering the position too badly. But did we already have a guy in house that might well do a quality job in left? Without having to send off a trio of pretty good prospects?

    Would be great to see Carlos in 2015. He looks the part.


  3. dave, I don’t know who Nate is.
    Gattis would be a head scratcher except for the fact he is Tom Hanks’s Larry Crowne when it comes to baseball. He’s a ball player with a lot of power and not much development. But he is like a 29 year old third-year player. He has been injured because he has been squatting. Once he figures out how to get in shape to play in the outfield and/or run the bases for 145 games I think he could be a very productive hitter. If this guy can really get some continuity on the baseball field I think he could have 3-4 really good years, and that is what we have him for.
    Financially he is perfect for the Astros. He will be at league minimum this year and it could be the year he starts to find that groove. Seriously, how many years did we pay league minimum to bums the last three years and gotten nothing out of them. Now we have a guy like Gattis and we have him this year for the minimum to get him ready for his next three years of arbitration. If he hits 20-25 HRs this year and gets 70 rbis he will have done better than Brett Wallace ever did and, still, Gattis will probably get only a million next year, when he could replace carter as the DH. Carter is going to make 4.1mil this year and he has yet to hit over .230 as the DH, so we have some room to improve there, too. When Gattis played last year, he hit good!


  4. daveb said most of what I was thinking. I guess GMs always look smart and dumb as they go along, but the Gattis pickup was a tough one based on who they already had. You did not need him to DH. You could argue you might need him at 1B, if Singleton did not come around – but he had never played it. You could argue that he might be a better bat as a catcher, but they plainly said they did not bring him in to catch. And they have too many OFs to begin with.
    I will be hacked if Presley gets the spot over Grossman, who I have supported as at least a 4th OF simply because of a contract worth. $1 million.
    I’ve been plain that I was not excited by all the trade offs of young pitchers, but hopefully Wojo will help knock that concern down.
    Man I would love to have Correa and Appel up by September – that would be good.


  5. Commenting on Correa, I think one of the reasons he has stayed longer in camp is because they want to look at him closely following his injury and the fact that this coaching staff was not familiar with him and wants to see as much of him as they can.
    How far is he from being ready?
    How has the foot injury affected his fielding footwork?
    How much base stealing do we want to see from him early in the year?
    What do we want him to work on at the plate based on what we’ve seen so far?
    Can we keep him, Daddy, please, can we keep him?


  6. Absolutely fascinating article about Giancarlo Stanton on ESPN’s website. The heart of the matter is that when Stanton was negotiating with the Marlins for his “forever” contract. he made the Marlins promise that they were no longer the Marlins of the past and would be a different Marlins organization, starting right away.
    He said he was tired of losing and the way the Marlins ran their club and the object of his “opt out clause” is that if the Marlins don’t keep their promises to him regarding the team, he can go somewhere else, leaving over $200mil on the table.
    Worth reading!


  7. Quoting Evan Drellich on Twitter this AM: “Astros tandem pitching system will be changed somewhat this year. More regular routine at upper levels”.


  8. Hernandez is starting today, and (my opinion only)……this might be a very important start for him. Wojo has pitched great so far, and Strailey has been hit pretty hard, so
    this might be where they (Luhnow and Hinch) start weeding out the guys they see as the 5th. starter. Wojo has options left so if Hernandez shows better stuff today, it might be hard to not include him in the mix.
    Kevin—-THANK YOU for your reporting back from your seat in Florida! We greatly appreciate your effort!! By the way, Appel pitched three innings yesterday……no runs given up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, what’s even better is Appel didn’t give up a hit.
      Astros just bombing the Pirates this afternoon. Hernandez and Straily both looking pretty good on the hill. 13-1 in the fifth(I’ve changed that score three times so far).
      Conger, Rasmus and Carter with terrific at-bats early in the game when it really mattered.


    • Hate to say it but good at bats by Villar also – knocked in 3 runs including the first two of the game on a rope triple to right center.


  9. Yea Conger and Rasmus looked like major leaguers today (-:. Becky don’t shot me but the last 7-10 days Villar looks like he woke up from a years sleep!


  10. I have to swallow my pride……..but Villar played VERY well today. AND…….*no* errors! Don’t think I’m all “in” for the kid, but maybe putting him at 3rd. was a better move. He has a cannon of an arm, and throwing bullets to first base was nice to see today. Guys…….we have to start talking about Hoyt. This kid is *AWESOME*!
    Hoyt is going to make it hard for Luhnow not to put him in the bull pen this year.
    Fourteen runs today…….I’ll take it even if it IS a spring training game! Folty will face off with Feldman tomorrow……..I wish him luck, I want to see him FINALLY get to start.


    • Let’s see, who was it that said they might want to try Villar at third base because it’s a place where he doesn’t have time to react? Oh yeah, now I remember. Of course, that was before they traded for Valbuena who has sewed up 3B, for now.


  11. I was at the game today and agree Conger and Villar looked very good. Carter had 3 great hits including a deep bomb and Rasmus even looked good with a HR and a hit off a LHP. Hernandez was impressive in his 4 IPs and looks to be the front runner for that last rotation spot.

    I agree with Becky on Hoyt. I really think he deserves a spot in the bullpen, but since he has options may lose out to Harris, who hasn’t looked as good. A bullpen of Gregerson, Neshek, Qualls, Fields and Hoyt could be one of the best in baseball. Man, I am excited for the season to start. Only 2 weeks to go!


  12. I don’t see any way Matt Dominguez makes the team. Also, why is Dan Johnson still on the team? We already have a logjam at 1B and I don’t see how he fits. They should go ahead and let him pursue other options as he won’t make the Astros.


  13. Tim…..Johnson was a NRI and at the age of 35? he’s probably in this next cut, unless he gets DFA’d to Fresno.
    Heads up you guys—–tomorrow is the last game that will be on Root sports this spring. It ought to be a good one!
    Tim—once again we thank you for your eyes on the game for us!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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