Saturday scatter shots: Thoughts, notes and day dreams


It’s the weekend and plenty of baseball in the air. With only a few days left in Kissimmee, manager A.J. Hinch says he’d like to clear up his roster questions by Wednesday. If that’s the case, those decisions could go right up to the deadline given some of the remaining battles and the injuries to some players.

Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder on your weekend.

Breakout star status

Dan O’Dowd identifies two Astros who could have breakout seasons in 2015. Yes, two. No, it’s not Jon Singleton or Jason Castro. The obvious pick is George Springer, who O’Dowd believes will be “…one of the most exciting players to watch all season.”

Then, in a surprise, the MLB columnist selects — are you ready for this? — Luis Valbuena as his sleeper pick to break out this season. In all the conversations on this blog, Valbuena is probably one of the least-mentioned names. Could it be Colin Moran is not actually the third baseman of the future for Houston?

Just day dreaming…

The Astros chose Mark Appel with the first pick in the 2013 draft. Appel seems to have pulled his act together and many project him to arrive as early as June 2015.

But what if the Astros had taken third baseman Kris Bryant instead? Bryant appears to be a huge, long-term asset (in Chicago) and could have answered a lot of questions at third base for Houston. As a side note, it is interesting that the Springer question of last season has now moved to Chicago relative to starting Bryant’s clock.

But here’s the day dreaming thought: Assume that Singleton becomes an above average first baseman. Imagine the infield of Singleton, Altuve, Carlos Correa and Bryant. For the next 10 years.

Sorta reminds you — and yes, it would be early to make comparisons — of the old Dodger infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey, who played together for nearly a decade. Just dreaming…

Working the bubble…

Early this month, I identified the locks, probables and bubble guys. Unlike previous seasons, this was a much easier process. And, as we near Hinch’s deadline for naming his roster, the bubble guys are, well, still bubble guys.

Revisiting with quick predictions:

The Rule 5 picks

Looks like Delino DeShields Jr. will be staying with the Rangers for a while longer. Obviously, the Rangers could need a spot on the 40-man roster at any point and offer the former Astros’ draftee back to Houston.

David Rollins, who was tagged with that 80-game suspension for PED use, will likely stick with the Mariners, at least through the suspension. He’ll have a lengthy opportunity after serving his time for extended spring training, etc. so Seattle will keep its options open.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Jandel Gustave is with his fourth team since early December. He was grabbed by the Red Sox in the draft, then immediately traded to Kansas City, who waived him last week. The Padres picked him up, but likely won’t have a place for him on their roster.

There are three options:

  1. Offer him back to the Houston. I’m guessing the Astros would welcome that move.
  2. Put him on waivers again. He could be claimed by another club.
  3. Work out a trade with the Astros and assign him to their minor league system. This is not an uncommon move, though Gustave could prove to be an uncommon player.

As a reminder, Rule 5 draftees must stick on the club’s 25-man roster for the entire season or the team must offer him back to his original team.

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33 comments on “Saturday scatter shots: Thoughts, notes and day dreams

  1. Considering where the Astros top pitching prospects are in their minor league journeys, and their status regarding the 40-man roster, this could easily be a five man rotation at CC:
    Appel
    Velasquez
    Hader
    McCullers
    Feliz
    Can you Imagine?
    Now imagine that you have a first baseman who just turned 23 and in less than 1000 MILB PAs has a .303 BA, .395 OBP, .463 SLG, .857 OPS. His career fielding percentage is a super high .995 and his career K rate is a low 14.5%, but he cannot crack the top 30 in Houston’s MLB prospect list. I think Conrad Gregor is going to surprise some people.

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    • OP, I’m not sure that will be the CC rotation. Some of those guys, I believe, may be ticketed to Fresno.

      That said, consider the pool of pitchers from which the organization could pull for the rotations at the top end (AA and AAA) of the system.

      * Appel.
      * Hader.
      * Velasquez.
      * McCullers.
      * Brady Rodgers.
      * Kyle Smith.
      * Michael Feliz.
      * James Hoyt.
      * Dan Straily.
      * Thomas Shirley.

      Not to mention possibly Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski and one or two others.

      Good stuff. I will say this: Since Texans will not see anyone play in Fresno, it’s possible — if not likely — that Houston will ensure its key players (e.g. Correa, Appel, etc) will spend some time in Corpus just so the “local” fans get a chance to see them on the way up.

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      • Considering Feliz is on the 40-man now, does he really need to spend time in the Lancaster meat grinder. McCullers spent the entire year in Lancaster, so he’s earned the AA team placement. Velasquez, Hader and Appel hardly spent any time at all in AA so that would be the “normal” place for them to start if they were “normal” prospects. That’s why I said these five really could be a rotation, because AA is probably where they all belong considering their current status in the organization.

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      • OP, I don’t believe anyone on my list above starts lower than AA. Just like the Astros’ roster, Fresno and CC rosters aren’t set yet. That said, Feliz, Hoyt and Velasquez are shown on the Grizzlies’ roster this morning. Meanwhile, Appel, Hader, Rodgers and Smith (along with Jankowski and Hauschild) are listed on the Hooks’ roster.

        Some of this may depend on how the Astros’ rotation shakes out. For example, if Houston moves Hernandez and keeps Wojo, or if it keeps both and DLs Obie, etc.

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  2. Chip, I referenced O’Dowd’s article about the two breakout players in my last comment of the post from yesterday and then saw it was the lead in your post this morning. Wouldn’t it be something if Valbuena really did break out and we got him because of Bryant moving up for the Cubs. So we take Appel and they take Bryant and everybody says that we probably chose the wrong guy, but then we end up with a good third baseman because of Bryant AND we have Appel.
    Oh, and the Cubs won’t have Appel for the next 6 or 7 years, so they went out and paid $155 million for a pitcher in his 30’s.

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    • OP, it was an interesting week for Luhnow. Lots of things “rolled” his way, tilting the tide of public opinion a little in his favor for now. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see on Valbuena, but if his numbers team saw something and it pays off, it could change the perspective of the Fowler for Valbuena and Straily trade. Ha, and many thought the big part of the trade was getting Straily, who will start the season in Fresno.

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  3. Does Luhnow have a list of people who have shown interest in Marwin?
    Does Luhnow have a list of people who have shown interest in Villar?
    The next ten days will be fun.

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    • I’ve said for a week or two that he’s ticketed for Fresno. First, he’s showing now that he isn’t ready for prime time (at least at the plate). He’s 3 for his last 22, primarily against front line pitching.

      Another month or two in Fresno with some things to work on out of the spotlight might do him well. Moreover, it solves some of the Astros’ roster issues by letting Carter start the season at 1B and Gattis DH.

      The next 2-3 games will be very telling. I’d guess he’d be in the starting lineup most every game between now and Wednesday, unless a decision comes earlier.

      The big question that may be answered by summer: Is Singleton another Brett Wallace or does he just need more seasoning at AAA?

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      • When I first learned to read – I read everything I could find about baseball. “Rocky Nelson” just messed up my young mind. So what was true 65 years ago, is still true today with “prospects.” Each one is different, but some turn out the same. I am not saying that Singleton or Villar are like him – but so many turn out to have a similar story. I thought some of you might enjoy the read. http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0a170be1

        Liked by 1 person

      • Everybody said it’s Singleton’s job to lose. Are we watching him lose it?
        If Singleton does get sent down, who is the backup 1B? Johnson got traded. Carter is then the starter, but does that give Dominguez a chance because nobody else has played first base all spring? or is that just one more place for Marwin to play?

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      • i think its a blessing in disguise if singleton goes to AAA. i really thought it was his job to lose, but i think he lost it – hopefully temporarily. But the blessing part is Gattis doesn’t have to play LF and can DH. Doesn’t mean he won’t get a start here and there in LF, but now they can pick and choose a bit more when they put him out there. being able to be ‘eased in’ to the outfield could be a big benefit for him. more at bats for rasmus and villar (ducks and covers) as well.

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    • OP, I believe going into ST, it was indeed Singleton’s job to win or lose. I wrote on March 3 that the real battle was between Marisnick and Singleton. One or the other would head to Fresno.

      I believe Singleton is still in the bubble position, but fighting for a spot between players like Grossman, Presley and perhaps Villar. Marisnick has obviously carved out a spot on the roster, probably as the starter in CF.

      Not a problem with the backup. If they make a decision by the end of camp as Hinch suggests, it still gives them a week to get Gattis up to speed at 1B. Bagwell learned the position in that length of time, shifting from 3B. Gattis could probably pick it up in a pinch, though he’d likely be ticketed most days at DH. IMO.

      Frankly, I don’t believe Dominguez has even a slim shot of breaking with the team.

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    • rj, another 0-for-3 for Singleton…with three Ks. The roster is beginning to fall into place. With Singleton in Fresno, it would clear the outfield for Springer, Marisnick and Rasmus/Grossman.

      Carter at 1B with Gattis as the backup. MarGo, Conger and perhaps Villar rounding out the bench.

      It’s possible the Astros would keep Presley, but just don’t see a route for that, unless you send Grossman down.

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  4. Maybe Marwin G will be the backup 1B?
    I have a question – if you get a Rule 5 like Gustave back – can he end up picked in the next Rule 5 if he is not on the 40 man after this season. If that is a possibility I don’t know why you would trade to get him back.

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    • Dan, yes, it’s my understanding that an eligible player must be on the 40-man roster or be exposed to the draft…even if he was taken the previous year.

      Because Gustave has never played above A ball, it is a bit unusual that he was taken. But, as they say, it is what it is.

      On your other thought: The Astros wouldn’t trade to get him back. The Padres might work out a trade with Houston to keep him in their system. If the Astros wanted to play hard ball, they could refuse a trade, which could force the Padres to eventually offer him back to Houston for the $25,000 fee.

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  5. Anybody know anything about newly-acquired Angel Boaz – other than the fact that he has the coolest name of any baseball player alive today?

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    • 23 year old RHP. Highest level reached is AA. Appears to be a high strikeout guy with some history of control issues. Was used exclusively in relief last year by the Angels’ NW Ark. Affiliate.

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    • Cash considerations is the rumor. BTW, he has apparently turned 24 now; and the organization from which we got him was the Royals, not the angels.

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    • The Astros traded for 24-year-old minor league pitcher Angel Baez on Saturday. The righthander comes over from the Royals for cash considerations. Baez pitched at Class AA last season, with a 4.65 ERA. He has a career strikeout rate of nine per nine innings, and a walk rate of 4.5. Baez has a plus slider and plus fastball when he’s going right. (all i could find)

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  6. Been at a crawfish boil all day……….other than the only run the guys got was a solo HR from Conger, how did Hernandez pitch? Anyone listen to the game?
    We cooked 650 pounds of mud bugs……I’m pooped!

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    • Hernandez pitched like a guy who deserves a job. 5 innings, three hits and 1 run. Lots of ground balls, two walks and 1 SO. Retired the last 10 he faced and he faced Miami’s starters.

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  7. Surprises taken from spring training:
    -The pop in Hank Conger’s bat
    -The lack of pop in Straily’s arm
    -How lost Alex White looked on the mound
    -Wojo taking the changes Strom suggested and running with them, and how he ends up pitching for the Astros and Folty and Troeano don’t.
    -I am surprised how much better a player Correa is as a #1 prospect at age 20 than Singleton is as a former #1 prospect at age 23. The difference is astounding.
    -That Kyle Weiland is still lost on an Eisland
    -How far Dallas Keuchel has come from when he was pitching for Mills and Brocail
    -How little the Astros lost in the Rule V draft
    -How I feel about Jeff Luhnow
    -How players who really need surgery put it off and lose more playing time.
    -How poor a first baseman Jon Singleton really is and how Luhnow and Co. could have missed that
    -How the Cubs, with all that money could even care about Bryant’s extra year of control. Start him in the bigs and if he’s the stud, give him the moon. You own the moon for heaven’s sake!
    -How hard it is to believe that the Astros are pretty good. I am so numb from the last four years.
    -How comfortable Valbuena and Lowrie make me feel in the lineup

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      • They aren’t sticking it to Boras, they are sticking it to their fans. Are there any fans in baseball who deserve to have a player like Bryant on their team. The Cubs have been so bad for so long, but they sell out almost every game and have forever.
        And they are so rich! Look at that Forbes list. Why would they deny their fans this guy on opening day?

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    • Re: Jon Singleton, I’m on board with giving him a train ticket to Fresno now. In the Houston lineup he should get a lot of pitches to hit. The key is to actually hit them. Prove he can maintain a high BB rate while dropping the K rate some before bringing him back up.

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    • “…How poor a first baseman Jon Singleton really is and how Luhnow and Co. could have missed that”
      —————————————————————————–
      OP, not sure if you mean when they traded for him or more recently. If more recently, I’d argue they did have their suspicions. And acted on it when they acquired Gattis. If Luhnow would provide a peek behind the veil, I think you’d find Carter at first base and Gattis at DH was Plan A2 all along.

      I do believe Luhnow has done well to “admit” his mistakes and team shortcomings and at least attempt to fix them. Matty D, Marisnick, Lowrie, Gattis, even Hernandez. Frankly, that is a good sign IMO.

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      • I meant how bad Singleton has fielded in the majors, including this spring. Luhnow once described Singleton as a very good fielding first baseman in an interview I heard.
        When I say how surprised I am about how I feel about Luhnow, I mean I feel better about him today than I ever have.

        Like

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