Spring is about to spring, so let’s review


A week from today, the Astros will be prettying up Minute Maid Park, Dallas Keuchel will be spiffying up his beard, and some players will be prepping for their first opening day in Houston.

Most fans and even media onlookers would suggest that the Astros have had a successful spring. The sentiment is largely upbeat with a dash of holding your breath and crossing your fingers, but presently, optimists outweigh pessimists.

As first-year manager A.J. Hinch makes the final whittles to his first Astros’ roster, we’re taking the pulse of fans and others who follow the blog. Some of the answers will be obvious and there may even be consensus on others. But, I’ve intentionally included some tougher questions to encourage diversity.

Let’s roll…

  • From your perspective, who has been the biggest surprise of the spring?
  • Biggest disappointment?
  • Watch this guy, he’s going to have a breakout season!
  • Oh yeah? Watch this guy, he could really bomb as early as April or May!
  • These will require some homework, so here’s the stats from last year.
    • With the excitement of this spring, I’d already forgotten about …
    • Now that I’ve seen the 2015 roster, Houston won’t miss this guy as much as I originally thought.
  • Other than Jose Altuve, name the player who will have the biggest impact on the 2015 team.
  • Name the player most likely to be added to the long-term Dallas Keuchel/Altuve/George Springer nucleus in 2015.
  • A.J. Hinch will be better than (former Astros’ manager), but not as good as (former Astros’ manager).

And, some either/or…

  • He’s not necessarily projected as such, but which player is most likely to play in Houston in 2015: Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Colin Moran, Joe Sclafani or Preston Tucker?
  • If the Astros lose this player for a lengthy time, it could doom the season: Keuchel, Altuve, Springer, Chris Carter or someone else.
  • As much as I hate to say it, I believe this guy’s days as an Astro are almost done: Matt Dominguez, Jon Singleton, Alex White or Villar?
  • Other than Correa, which player are you most anxious to see playing in Houston, whether this year or next: Appel, Tucker, Asher Wojciechowski, Moran, Teoscar Hernandez or someone else?

 

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35 comments on “Spring is about to spring, so let’s review

  1. * Biggest [Positive] Surprises of the Spring *

    It’s a seven-way tie in my mind:
    1. Wojo
    2. Valbuena
    3. Grossman
    4. Marisnick
    5. Hoyt
    6. Hernandez
    7. Villar

    * Biggest Disappointments [in order] *
    1. Singleton
    2. Straily
    3. MarGo
    4. Buchanan
    5. Feldman
    6. Rasmus [not really a disappointment, more a sad confirmation of expectation];
    7. Carter [when he’s bad, he’s still really bad].

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  2. * Watch this guy, he’s going to have a breakout season! *

    With my heart I vote for either Fields or Hoyt, or both. I am just really, really hoping we’ll find our 2016-2017 closer from within the ranks without trading away Kemp, Sclafani, Tucker, Hader, Shirley, Reed, Davis, Gregor, Velazquez, and Stassi.

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  3. *For me, the biggest surprise has been Valbuena and his bat.
    *For me, the biggest disappointment has been Dan Straily’s arm.
    * Watch Valbuena to break out.
    * I gotta go with Singleton bombing early. After all, he’s got last year’s history and this spring’s slump.
    *With the excitement of this spring, I’d already forgotten about Bob Porter
    * Now that I’ve seen the roster Houston won’t miss Jose Veras
    *Other than Altuve, Carter will have the biggest impact.
    *Player “most likely” added to long term nucleus in 2015 is Collin McHugh
    *Player I would be most excited to be playing in Houston this year or next would be Preston Tucker.
    *Minor league player I would love to see have his reputation soar this year? Mitchell Lambson. Check out his career minor league stats and his AFL stats from last fall.

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  4. From the bottom set of questions:
    The player most likely to make it to Houston in 2015, I still think is Tucker.
    If the Astros lose Altuve for a length of time it could doom the season.
    As much as I hate to say it, I think White’s Astro days are done
    Other than Correa, the player I am most anxious to get to Houston is AJ Reed, because I don’t believe we have a long term solution to the 1B problem yet.

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  5. * As much as I hate to say it, I believe this guy’s days as an Astro are almost done*

    1. Alex White
    2. Matt Dominguez
    3. Scott Feldman [likely to be turned into trade bait by Appel, Wojo, Obie, and young guns];
    4. Robbie Grossman [Despite his good spring, does he really have a future with our organization?]
    5. Marwin Gonzalez [between Carlos Correa getting close and some really good-looking,higher up-side utility guys coming along in the pipeline, he’s likely gone soon; especially concerning a. his own miserable 2015 spring, b. his salary vis-a-vis the young guys like Sclafani, and c. the likelihood he’ll see minimal playing time this year unless we have a serious infield injury, meaning I expect him to have minimal chance to ‘earn’ even another year, much less permanency.

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  6. Chip, what a great lineup of questions! Lots of research to do but I am up for the job.

    From your perspective, who has been the biggest surprise of the spring?

    I am amazed at the outcome that Villar has produced. He has hit all spring and has agreed to play other positions to help him make the big club. I was certain that he would be sent to the minors but he has proven me wrong. I am still not convinced about his glove work though.

    Biggest disappointment?

    I thought for certain that Singleton was going to have a super camp and show that his trend of catching up at the higher levels will continue to hold true. To see his regressing as he has this week is disappointing. A close second is Feldman. I watch the games via Gameday on MLB.com and to see his ERA balloon like it has against the better hitters this late in camp causes me to take a pause with him.

    Watch this guy, he’s going to have a breakout season!

    Valbuena! He has taken to the Astros well and has played a great third base all the while hitting the ball at a high batting average. Perhaps he will like the Crawford Boxes like Berkman did.

    Oh yeah? Watch this guy, he could really bomb as early as April or May!

    Carter is the candidate here. The last two years he has proven to be a notoriously slow starter and I can see the same happening again. Hopefully, he can keep his batting average above .220 through the first of the season then catch fire with a vengeance as he has in the past.

    These will require some homework, so here’s the stats from last year.

    With the excitement of this spring, I’d already forgotten about …

    How much the team has struck out last season. I look over the RBI stats for camp and see a lot of RBIs in there.

    Now that I’ve seen the 2015 roster, Houston won’t miss this guy as much as I originally thought.

    Cosart? Who is that? His attitude with management is the reason he was traded. Shades of Billy, The Kid, Wagner! But with the allegations of gambling, it seems Luhnow dodged a potential dodgeball.

    Other than Jose Altuve, name the player who will have the biggest impact on the 2015 team.

    Layup drill here, Springer brings fun and excitement to the club, both in regards to his teammates catching his enthusiasm and the fans as we watch him blossom into an all-star before our eyes.

    Name the player most likely to be added to the long-term Dallas Keuchel/Altuve/George Springer nucleus in 2015.

    Two days ago I heard an interview with a player on the radio and was pleased with the playful banter and unassuming nature that the player showed. He is young and cheap so he can be here for a few years. The name to add to the nucleus…. Gattis.

    A.J. Hinch will be better than (former Astros’ manager), but not as good as (former Astros’ manager).

    Hinch will be better than Bill Virdon 544-522 (.510) but not as good as Larry Dierker 448-365 (.556). I feel the team, as it is made up, is good enough to play at .500 if Hinch is not the real deal and no injuries arise and I will keep the jury out on being better than Dierker until I see how he handles the bullpen. Dierker was a master at that.

    And, some either/or…

    He’s not necessarily projected as such, but which player is most likely to play in Houston in 2015: Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Colin Moran, Joe Sclafani or Preston Tucker?

    Appel will make his major league debut this season, especially if the club is in the race as August grows near. Wojo will have the leg up because he is among the last to be cut from camp. If Feldman is traded at the deadline, Appel will be the replacement.

    If the Astros lose this player for a lengthy time, it could doom the season: Keuchel, Altuve, Springer, Chris Carter or someone else.

    Altuve is the sparkplug of the engine. As he goes, so does the team. Kemp should be the one to be called up to take his place but I can see the club playing Villar at short and Lowrie at second to begin with.

    As much as I hate to say it, I believe this guy’s days as an Astro are almost done: Matt Dominguez, Jon Singleton, Alex White or Villar?

    Wow, this one is difficult. All of these players are still young. Dominguez has a steady glove at third and a power bat. White is still a project for the near future. Villar is an enigma but if he can corral his erratic glove work, he could be a stud. Singleton… he has shown that he can hit for average and power but he is overwhelmed in the big leagues. If I HAD to choose, I would say Singleton because he has not proven anything with the big club and there are a number of prospects directly behind him.

    Other than Correa, which player are you most anxious to see playing in Houston, whether this year or next: Appel, Tucker, Asher Wojciechowski, Moran, Teoscar Hernandez or someone else?

    A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis. Both have powerful bats and can hit for average. Reed plays 1st and can be the heir apparent after Carter is priced too high for the club. Reed will be stopped by Moran but could make the club as a DH or he could leap over Moran.

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  7. -If the Astros lose this player…doom…:
    OK, maybe I’m feeling optimistic, but I don’t actually think any player is unexpendable this year. It would crush me to not see 500+ AB from Altuve or Springer, but I think the depth is there across the board to weather an injury. The pessimistic side of that would be that I don’t think we have enough to win the division, but maybe Springer and Carter can stay consistent all year long and prove me wrong.

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  8. Biggest Surprise – Marisnick maintaining a 100 point difference from his BA to OBP through most of the Spring. Got that its short sample but he could be turning a corner in plate discipline. Once the season starts and we can start seeing some pitch trax numbers we will know more. Earned the opportunity to show us though.

    Disappointment – Straily. Also Singleton from my perspective, but its not over for him yet.

    Breakout – Springer becomes a top 5 RF’er. Maybe not fair since Astros fans already know it, the rest of the world will be playing catch up on who this guy is, so I’ll take, opportunity permitting, Grossman. He doesn’t swing at pitches out of the zone that often (5% below ML average last year), yes, he might need to swing at a few more IN it, which he has done. He came in bigger (as I had mentioned a few months back could help him), and looking more aggressive.

    Bomber man award, I am picking Rasmus. Has been on a severe decline since some good seasons in St. Louis. The way the Cards dumped him I have to think there is some issues, maybe in work ethic. It’s very hard to get as good as he got for a time, and he is proving it’s even harder to stay good.

    I’ll take Fowler on the won’t miss as much as I thought list.

    Besides Altuve – you make it too easy Chip, you should have said besides Altuve and Springer.

    I don’t know about anyone on the 2015 roster that is new getting added to the nucleus. Gattis is young enough and a good enough hitter, but can he stay on the field? The 2016 class looks to give us 2 that have a good chance in Correa and Appel. I’ll take, for the sake of answering it, Marisnick – because I think the geeks will show us that we can’t pay every position huge money, and Marisnick isn’t destined to be an offensive monster, but contribute in a ton of other ways – keeping his costs down. I think Luhnow will like the idea of the cost control for a great defender in a critical spot that can at least hit decently from the bottom.

    Don’t think we will see any due to 40 man considerations. They all might see some time depending on trades. Appel and Correa are two guys the team will be playing cost control games with, which I think will actually make them the LEAST likely. I’ll take Sclafani.

    If the Astros lose Keuchel – it could be bad. Rotation seems to be the place with the least amount of quality depth. Springer can’t be replaced by any one guy either though the Astros do appear to have some OF options if it happened.

    Singleton’s not done, even if he opens at Fresno. I am not surprised any of the other three would be.

    The future is all about Correa and Appel.

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  9. ■ Biggest surprise of the spring? Tie between JFSF and Roberto Hernandez
    ■ Biggest disappointment? I think Singleton declining after a fast start though Feldman has done pretty poor.
    ■ Watch this guy, he’s going to have a breakout season! – Dare I say Robbie Grossman?Valbuena has to be up there too.
    ■ Oh yeah? Watch this guy, he could really bomb as early as April or May! Feldman followed by Marisnick.
    ■ With the excitement of this spring, I’d already forgotten about …that I don’t get excited when the owner shmoozes with the POTUS.
    ■ Now that I’ve seen the 2015 roster, Houston won’t miss this guy as much as I originally thought – Dexter Fowler
    ■ Other than Jose Altuve, name the player who will have the biggest impact on the 2015 team – Evan Gattis (hey I can dream about 50 pop flies into the Crawford Boxes can’t I?)
    ■Name the player most likely to be added to the long-term Dallas Keuchel / Altuve / George Springer nucleus in 2015. – Collin McHugh
    ■A.J. Hinch will be better than (former Astros’ manager), but not as good as (former Astros’ manager). Porter and Mills – not as good as Dierker

    And, some either/or…
    ■He’s not necessarily projected as such, but which player is most likely to play in Houston in 2015: Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Colin Moran, Joe Sclafani or Preston Tucker? Appel
    ■If the Astros lose this player for a lengthy time, it could doom the season: Keuchel, Altuve, Springer, Chris Carter or someone else. Keuchel – I don’t like their pitching depth.
    ■As much as I hate to say it, I believe this guy’s days as an Astro are almost done: Matt Dominguez, Jon Singleton, Alex White or Villar? Dominguez
    ■Other than Correa, which player are you most anxious to see playing in Houston, whether this year or next: Appel, Tucker, Asher Wojciechowski, Moran, Teoscar Hernandez or someone else? Wojo

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      • You guys are fearless. Personally, until I see how Hinch handles the pitching staff, line-ups, and inevitable bad days in the months of April and May, how he deals with hot tempers in the month of June, and how the players respond to him in those situations – not to mention how he handles himself with the media on days when there are legitimate issues to address – it is just way too early for me to feel comfortable trying to project where this manager will settle in related to previous ones.

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      • Mr. Bill, true, but there is just a different feel with Hinch than some of the others. There is “peace” in camp and from every account, everyone is pulling in the same direction. Jeff also seems to be more low-key and easy going. FWIW.

        But, yes, the proof will be in the days ahead to see how he reacts and deals with questionable on-field decisions (base-running, hitting cutoff men, etc.). I think he’ll lean heavily on Strom…B-U-T, consider this…he can certainly be more confident going to the bullpen in the sixth than previous managers could be.

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      • That much is true Chip. The bullpen should be good for 10 – 15 more by not blowing the games like they did last year.

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  10. * What I would like to see happen in the last week of ST *
    [you know you meant to ask and just forgot!]

    As we complete the last week of ST, I would like to see:

    1. Obie, Peacock and Fields each make big strides towards readiness to contribute;
    2. All our SPs keeping their WHIPs below 1.25, keeping the BAA down to .240 or lower, and increasing their K/9 and GO/AO ratios;
    3. All pitchers significantly reduce their BB/9 [Okay, I realize it will be difficult for Qualls to improve on his 0.00 B/9, but you know what I mean; and Hernandez, Sipp, Deduno and Feldman really need to get with it on this stat];
    4. Have Marisnick and Grossman both get a ‘Hunter Pence’ level of hot so as to make cutting either of them impossible;
    5. Gattis and Carter getting comfortable playing in the field – and improving their performance there substantially;
    6. New acquisitions Lowrie and Rasmus start looking like they belong and want to be here the way Valbuena has proven he does on both counts;
    7. See Altuve start smacking singles and doubles and Springer start crushing doubles and dingers like they are going out of style.

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    • Okay – but who are the folks named Booth, Moon, Fisher, Hernandez & Melendez whoare mentioned in today’s line-up as ‘also available’? And I am a little bit curious, since this is a ‘home’ game, why Valbuena, Gonzalez, and Conger are not listed among the ‘available’?

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      • Oh, and for what it is worth, if anybody cares, why aren’t Colby Rasmus – who is hitting all of .208 this Spring – or Alex Presley – hitting just .212 – listed as ‘available also’? Are those guys being held out due to pending trade talks [HOPE], or are they just considered ‘ready’ no matter what because of the contracts they signed?

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      • Those are some of the younger minor league guys…they list them in groups: Catchers at the top, then infielders, then outfielders. Mr. Bill, I’m guessing it’s just an opportunity to give certain guys days off, etc. Or it could be they’re nursing a little hang nail, working extra in the batting cages or just wanting to get another look at a guy like Villar at 3B.

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  11. Okay, since it really isn’t fair to ask the questions without answering, I wandering out onto the limb…

    * From your perspective, who has been the biggest surprise of the spring?
    Villar. I thought he was done, but he stepped up where others did not.
    Biggest disappointment?
    Singleton, pretty obvious to me. I had high(er) hopes.
    Watch this guy, he’s going to have a breakout season!
    I’ll change it up for you. The obvious guys are Springer and Valbuena, but look out for…Castro
    Oh yeah? Watch this guy, he could really bomb as early as April or May!
    Hope I’m wrong, but wondering how Lowrie will/can keep up.
    These will require some homework, so here’s the stats from last year.
    With the excitement of this spring, I’d already forgotten about … Dexter Fowler, Jordan Lyles and Jarred Cosart.
    Now that I’ve seen the 2015 roster, Houston won’t miss this guy as much as I originally thought. Fowler
    Other than Jose Altuve, name the player who will have the biggest impact on the 2015 team. Obviously Springer, but Valbuena will be a pleasant surprise and welcome addition
    Name the player most likely to be added to the long-term Dallas Keuchel/Altuve/George Springer nucleus in 2015. Ah, Castro
    A.J. Hinch will be better than (former Astros’ manager), but not as good as (former Astros’ manager).
    Better than Mills and Cooper, not quite as good (close) as Dierker
    And, some either/or…

    He’s not necessarily projected as such, but which player is most likely to play in Houston in 2015: Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Colin Moran, Joe Sclafani or Preston Tucker?
    Appel
    If the Astros lose this player for a lengthy time, it could doom the season: Keuchel, Altuve, Springer, Chris Carter or someone else.
    Any one of Altuve, Keuchel or Springer
    As much as I hate to say it, I believe this guy’s days as an Astro are almost done: Matt Dominguez, Jon Singleton, Alex White or Villar?
    Dominguez will be gone by the All Star break, if not sooner
    Other than Correa, which player are you most anxious to see playing in Houston, whether this year or next: Appel, Tucker, Asher Wojciechowski, Moran, Teoscar Hernandez or someone else?
    It’s good to finally see some of the “wealth” of talent coming up the pipeline. Wojo has waited a while, though, and will be fun to watch him beat the odds.

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    • Actually, Kevin, he seems to have improved. Other than Sunday when he Kd three times, he hasn’t more than one strikeout in ANY game this spring. He’d still be on track for 150+ Ks, but he’s actually cutting down just a tad.

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  12. DANG…….Oberholtzer was hit HARD in the first two innings. Think they might DL him for a few weeks, and keep Wojo up? We need another lefty in the rotation……

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  13. The Astros committed no errors today and continue to lead all teams in fielding percentage this spring at .988.
    Being one of the worst fielding teams in baseball last season, this has to look like a huge improvement on the team’s part, going into the season.

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  14. Roberto Hernandez and Joe Thatcher have been told they have made the club. The 40-man roster is full, so that means two moves are forthcoming to open up spots.

    Hoes? Presley? Dominguez?

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    • Unless there is a trade, I’d also throw Alex White into the mix. I imagine they would gamble that other teams see him as not recovered / ready and expect they could pass him through waivers and then assign to Fresno.

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    • Hoes would be an obvious choice, in my opinion. I think they will have to try and find a trade partner for either Presley or Dominguez. I would just DFA Hoes.

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