Houston, at this moment, we do not have a problem.
The Astros’ roster is taking shape.
A.J. Hinch seems to have settled into a groove already. There’s peace in the clubhouse and order on the field.
The batting order and rotation are coming into focus, and they appear stronger than a year ago.
Though television is still a work in progress, more fans will see Astros’ baseball this year than last.
Playoffs? No one seems concerned at this moment. Winning record? Hasn’t been among the topics of conversation lately.
Why? Things are good. It is evident that the team and organization are moving in the right direction. The fodder for detractors and naysayers is less today than at anytime in the last several years.
So, yes, fans — yes, me too — are happy right now. Enthusiastic. Anticipating. Eager. What would make me absolutely giddy? Glad you asked!
The cavalry arrives early.
Yes, prospects are prospects, but it’s quite clear Houston has some of the best in the game. If Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and/or Domingo Santana were to join Asher Wojciechowski in Houston this season, you could possibly see videos of me dancing on Facebook. Okay, so let’s not get carried away.
Still, if Jeff Luhnow had to sell off Marwin Gonzalez, Robbie Grossman or Roberto Hernandez and shift Jed Lowrie to super sub around July or even August to make room for the cavalry, fans would be flocking into Minute Maid.
Luhnow has banked on the Astros scoring a lot of runs. Potentially — yes, potentially — Houston is lining up one of its most potent batting lineups in the organization’s history. It starts with Jose Altuve and George Springer and follows up with Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, Jason Castro and Luis Valbuena. The Astros were 21-29 in blowout games (5+ runs) in 2014, but Houston could enjoy a turnaround in that department in 2015.
Forget the Ks. How many 30 home run hitters can a team have? How many players could hit the 100 RBI plateau?
A big mid-season trade for an ace.
Cole Hamels is still available and others will be as the season progresses. One of the missing pieces for a contender is a true ace to plug in ahead of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Whether it’s Hamels or someone else, if Luhnow were able to acquire an ace at the break, it would send a message to fans, media and other teams as well. It would energize a team and perhaps catapult it into immediate contention. Frankly, it’s not likely Houston will ever enter that $175 million to $200 million free agent sweepstakes, so the deal would have to be shrewd and it would likely cost prime prospects too.
Any one of these could turn Houston on its collective ear. Let two of them occur and there could be dancing in the streets. What would absolutely make you giddy for the Astros in 2015?
Quoting Jose Altuve about Correa, from a KRISTV.com article from yesterday:
“He’s going to be a superstar and I know he’s ready to play in the big leagues. He’s way better than me already”
What would make me giddy in 2015? Top Astros prospects dominating in high levels of the minor leagues. Stassi, Folty, Tropeano, Wojo Santana, Singleton and Tucker haven’t done it yet. Springer did.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about hitters hitting for high average. You can’t translate a .280 AAA hitter to a .280 MLB hitter. When Springer got to AAA he hit way over .300. Even then he had some trouble adjusting to major league pitching.
Folty had over a 5.00 ERA at AAA. There is no way he is going to dominate major league hitters if he can’t dominate AAA hitters. What I want to see is a guy like Tucker or Santana or both come in and hit over .300 right off the bat at Fresno. That tells me they may be ready to make a move to the majors. And I want to see Appel mow down batters consistently in the minors before I think he can mow down the Mariners or the Angels.
Folty? Trop? You are aware that we don’t have them any longer?
Hi Syd, and welcome. Yes, I’m guessing OP knows that. However, if those guys did succeed, it’s a feather in the Astros’ cap. It means they got it right, if that makes sense. Now…if they turn out to be the next Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens, then we may want to re-evaluate…just sayin’.
But, if they succeed, it validates the program and the draft process.
Of course, if they don’t, then it could certainly validate Luhnow’s evaluation of them as they moved through the minor league system and he was simply selling high. 🙂
OP was just pointing out they were two of several top prospects who did not dominate at the higher levels while members of our farm system. I am 100% certain OP knows they are no longer members of the Astros organization.
Syd, I am aware of it and that is my point. Neither of those pitchers dominated at the higher levels. Guys who are supposed to be top prospects in one of the top systems should be able to do it at AAA. and Neither of those players did it and they were traded because someone else was giving to give us some players we valued.
Springer hit something like .350 in the short time he was in AAA and dominated at AA. I am waiting for Astros prospects to do that.
Joe Sclafani dominated at AAA last year. That is what is supposed to happen. Let’s see who does it this year.
I must be the lone wolf here, I still am not convinced that Santana will ever be a major league player, However i would like to see Tucker get a shot to see if he is real? Appel for sure this year, Wojo,, Scalafini,SP.
I’m convinced Santana will eventually be a major league player. I am convinced he won’t be a long term player for the Astros. I think he will be traded eventually because, despite what you see on the field this year, Luhnow is not going to put his stamp on the type of team you will see this year. He has always been a high OBP, low strikeout type of guy when it comes to position players, and low BB, high K/GO type of pitchers.
I’m absolutely convinced that you will see the flyball pitchers associated with the Astros weeded out and the high strike out batters associated with the Astros weeded out, with Springer possibly being the exception to that rule. But Springer is a free agent at age 30 and if he establishes himself as a player who strikes out 28% of the time in his prime years, I doubt he is going to get a bombshell contract from Luhnow to cover his 30-35 year old seasons. If he gets his K’s down below 25% and keeps the power and high OBP up he might stay.
The team I see in the future includes the players in our minor league system who excel in not striking out. And that future lineup is with Correa and Moran and Altuve as a core.
Kevin, I wouldn’t disagree on Santana, so that’s one reason I’d be giddy! If he shows up in Houston, there’s a good chance he’ll have put his act together!
Santana has a chance. He definitely has to cut down his K’s. It’s not really a diagnosis you can make by just stats though – are the K’s from taking too many strikes, from swing and missing? One you can fix, the other is more difficult.
If he had 400 major league plate appearances and had seen 2000-2200 pitches, we could have pitch trax tell us some stuff that would be useful. His minor league K number is very alarming, but in of itself not condemning. Given his walk rates, which are very good, I suspect he just isn’t aggressive enough and spends a lot of time “Grossmaning”, that is, waiting on the perfect pitch, which never comes. If that is the case, and he gets the right hitting coach, i.e. a Jeff Bagwell, a lot could change.
You know what would make me happy? I’d be thrilled if Lowrie, Valbuena, Hernandez, Castro/Conger, Marisnick, and friends play so well it blocks the prospects until September, regardless of the milb numbers they put up.
What I fear is someone stinking it up or getting injured that forces a rushed promotion. That’s not good for anyone. And Kevin, you are certainly not alone with your fear on Santana. He is overmatched right now. With his athletic ability and strength, we should see him resemble Justin Upton in the box. Instead, he has looked more like Melvin (BJ) Upton thus far…swinging at the bad pitches and watching the good ones.
So Thatcher and Hernandez make the team who comes of the 40?
I think you may see a trade.
My giddy moment would be the Astros making a serious run at a playoff position in late September.
Giddy does not come easy any more. Giddy takes winning – and winning a whole LOT more serieses than we lose. It takes winning the division convincingly, being the team with the pitching and the line-up nobody wants to face in the playoffs, and knowing the pipeline of talent is still overflowing. It takes thoroughly dominating all the mediocre teams and consistently playing our best highlight-reel style of baseball against the outrageously good teams – even on the days we lose. And it takes being able to watch it all on TV.
That’s what giddy takes for me. Smiles, on the other hand, they come much more easily these days.
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If there is one thing I absolutely do not understand about what Mr. Hinch [or whoever is calling the line-up shots this spring] is doing, it is consistently slotting in Chris Carter at clean-up. Once every blue moon CC gets hot for a month and lets a string of 450 feet dingers fly. Most of the time however he’s totally out-manned, and guaranteed to give us 2 to 3 strike-outs per game. If he’s our first baseman, slot him in at 7 or 8 and leave him there until the dingers start flying. Even when they are flying, though, why would anyone ever put him higher than 5?
I would rather see anybody – including guys in whom I have very little confidence like Presley, Marwin, Rasmus, Lowrie and Villar – as constituting an improvement at clean up.
Mr. Bill, scratching my head a little. Carter struck out four times yesterday. Prior to that, he’d struck out only six times all spring. So, for the spring, he’s Kd 10 times now in 40 PAs…that’s 25%. Before yesterday, the number 6 Ks in 36 PAs…
He was better down the stretch last season, so plugging him in at 4 isn’t a bad option. Granted, if he’s going to strike out more often than not, then move him down…but that’s the trade off with this roster. Most guys can give you huge upside with a HR or hard hit into the gap, but they may also strike out with runners at second and third the next time up.
With this lineup, it could require accommodation for some streakiness, which may mean Hinch has to adjust throughout the season…
It would make me giddy if:
– The Astros did not repeat this version of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”
– George Springer and Evan Gattis and Chris Carter averaged about 35 HR and 90 RBIs apiece.
– Jason Castro 2013 returned from sabbatical
– McHugh and Keuchel never missed a beat
– The Astros drafted two guys from their first three picks (two first rounders and a supplemental) who are beating on the mlb door in a couple years
– The Astros back end of the bullpen gave me flashbacks to Qualls, Wheeler and Lidge…
– Correa gets here soon and stays here long
– Appel becomes a beast in the minors and is ready by the end of 2015
– The Astros do so well that we don’t replace the manager or GM for 10 years and we only have to replace the hitting or pitching coaches after they are given manager jobs elsewhere (I am so sick of the constrant churning – even when it is deserved).
Oh, but wouldn’t a flashback of Lidge/Dotel/Wagner be better?
Both were great – but Qualls/Wheeler/Lidge will always remind me of playoff success
Dan, I’m not sure how that si story was overlooked, but the important facts are:
1. Nix did not sign waiver allowing Astros to select him
2. Nix holds a grudge.
Ultimately, I think this reflects more poorly on Nix than the Astros. Luhnow’s folks could have handled things differently, but once they made the decision not to sign Aiken, it was all academic for Nix. He was lucky to get the grievance payout and should command a seven figure signing bonus from another team this year…so I think he’ll be just fine, but I’m sure whichever team does pick him will put him through a PR / social media boot camp to help him learn the PC things to say.
Chip, I apologize for making your scalp itch. I completely discount the first two weeks of ST in determining a known entity like Carter’s proper place in the line-up. As you know, in the first two weeks of games pitchers are still just working on getting their velocity up and trying to establish some semblance of command over their stuff.
In 2012 Chris struck out 32.3% of his at bats and hit a whopping .239 for the As. In 2013 he struck out 37.7 % of his at bats and hit an even less exciting .223 for us. In 2014 it was 33.3% and .227. Yes, the big man occasionally wakes up, gets hot, and for a little while is fun to watch. But those exceedingly rare ‘hot’ times are just tater- teases. He’s 28 years old, has a track record of 3 years in the league, and can be expected to be nothing more than what he has been.
Witness the last two games. As the opposing pitching has drawn nearer to season level we have seen CC’s strikeout totals soar as expected based upon his history. The last two games in which he has played are much more in line with his history in real-time games than his output in the earlier games of spring training.
Will Chris still hit 37 dingers if the team improves to the point we are not consistently two or more runs down by the seventh inning and the bases are empty when he comes to the plate? I for one seriously doubt it. I think his high dinger totals the last two years are primarily a factor of being on a really bad team, against which relievers’ job in the late innings was just to throw strikes, challenge every hitter, and get the game over with.
And CC is 0-2 with 2 Ks so far today.
What would make me “giddy”? Being able to watch the games on TV.
AND……not ANY of our starting pitchers go down with uh…..you know
that ugly operation………I won’t write it down because that would jinx them.
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I would say something about Chris Carter’s first at bat in today’s game, but I confess I am at a loss for words.
On the positive side – loved the back-to-back doubles by Altuve and Villar and the RBI single by Valbuena to start off the game.
5 in a row looking strong , needs to open his eyes works better.
My bad 6 in row hasn’t even fouled a pitch off Oh MY
16 Ks for Braves pitchers against our side tonight – Carter most definitely was not the only one looking foolish. He’s just the only starter who didn’t even put the ball in play,
Mr. Bill, the big still unanswered question is how much the K-guys are going to impact this team. With Springer, Gattis, Carter and Singleton (if he sticks) it could be ugly at times…but Luhnow is counting on more key big hits will outweigh the impact of the Ks. (Fingers crossed. Praying. Holding my breath.)
Agreed, Chip. I confess that when I saw the promo piece put out by the FO yesterday about how strikeouts in bundles won’t ‘shift the philosophy’, I threw up a little in my mouth. “Just wait”, I thought. Yesterday, you see, we saw 15 Ks racked up against us by a rebuilding team, with not one superstar pitcher in the mix. Not a single hurler they threw out there failed to record at least one K against us. Our division, on the other hand, features some much, much better pitching. Just wait til our guys record 12 or more Ks in 95% of the games we play against the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland As and the California Angels, and wind up losing strings of those crucial games because while we hit a home run or two, so do they – and they can get people on base, and move them into scoring position, before their bombers tee off, while we regularly don’t even make contact with runners on base, much less RISP
That said, I hope to be surprised. I think we can expect really good OBP from two players -Altuve and Valbuena. Perhaps we’ll get that this year as well from Grossman, who I presume will be filling a 4th outfielder role. I think we can expect significantly lower OBP from Springer and Lowrie. And I think we can expect really poor OBP from Carter, from both our catchers, from Marisnick, from Rasmus, and our subs & pinch-hitters other than Grossman. That means against the really good pitchers in our division, I have my doubts about our ability to improve our division record much over last year. And as our division record goes, so goes the season.
It should not surprise us that seeing good pitching brings out the best in guys like Altuve [now hitting .341], Valbuena [now hitting .409], and Lowrie [now hitting .343] and reveals the gaping holes that exist in the swings of guys like Carter, Singleton, and Grossman,
Wojo pitched fairly well………the BIG blemish was the two run error by Singelton.
Rasmus got a good pitch and shot one over left field wall for a three run dinger!
Glad I was wrong about Hernandez getting let go because of his significant salary. I’m not sure how good he’s going to be, but for right now, he provides depth. We’re going to lose some starts to injury at some point. I also hope I continue to be wrong and that Grossman gets a job over Presley. As a last hope for this evening, Wojo should not be sent packing because of tonights fifth inning. I was hoping they’d give him a chance to get out of it. I want to see him get a start or two while they count, at least while Oberholtzer gets up to full strength out in Fresno..
dave, I’ve been a proponent for a few weeks of keeping Hernandez. I wonder if he’ll make the entire season, but he could certainly buiild a bridge to getting Peacock back and Obie healthy or perhaps longer if somone else falters or is injured.
His stats are actually fairly decent in the past few years, so he could provide some strong outings, especially with good run support…
Chip, I’m not convinced Peacock is an answer for this rotation, now, or down the road.
File this under “There is no use crying over spilt milk, it only makes it salty for the kitty” – but I watched Rodon pitch against the Dodgers today. Need I say more.
But I am happy that we have stopped shopping the waiver wire and decided to settle on our own prospects. Everyone that is a long time fan enjoys the memories of when they got to watch a kid mature into a major leaguers. We have several that could bring us “giddy” memories.
Oh…Matt Albers made the cut with the White Sox (not too surprising), but Jesse Crain didn’t throw one pitch this spring while continuing the rehab he began last year in Houston. The White Sox paid Crain $100,000 retention bonus so he could start in the minors… Hmmmm.
Crain. ..man…I’m wondering about that guy. Sounds like he enjoyed that free paycheck last year and is shooting for another one.
I wish Albers and Crain the best. But I am “giddy” over the White Sox having them.
Justin Maxwell has apparently made the Giant’s team.
Let’s talk a little more about Chris Carter.
Win 4/22 1 HR (solo) -> 3-0 lead
Loss 4/23 1 HR (solo) -> 3-0 lead
Win 4/26 1 HR (solo) -> 3-2 lead
Loss 5/03 1 HR (solo) -> 9-3 deficit
Loss 5/09 1 HR (solo) -> 2-2 tie
Win 5/18 1 HR (solo) -> 1-0 lead
Win 5/28 2 HR (solo) -> 6-1 lead,
(3run) -> 9-2 lead
Win 6/02 1 HR (solo) -> 7-2 lead
Win 6/08 1 HR (4run) -> 9-3 lead
Win 6/11 2 HR (solo) -> 3-1 lead,
(solo) -> 4-1 lead
Win 6/12 1 HR (solo) -> 5-4 lead*
Loss 7/04 1 HR (solo) -> 1-0 lead
Loss 7/05 1 HR (4run) -> 5-1 lead
Win 7/08 2 HR (solo) -> 4-2 lead,
(solo) -> 6-3 lead
Loss 7/11 2 HR (solo) -> 8-2 deficit
(solo) -> 8-3 deficit
Loss 7/24 1 HR (solo) -> 3-1 deficit
Win 7/28 1 HR (3run) -> 3-2 lead
Win 8/02 1 HR (solo) -> 4-2 lead
Loss 8/07 2 HR (2run) -> 2-0 lead
(solo) -> 5-1 lead
Win 8/08 1 HR (solo) -> 2-1 deficit
Loss 8/11 1 HR (solo) -> 2-2 tie
Win 8/12 2 HR (2run) -> 3-1 lead,
(solo) -> 7-1 lead
Loss 8/16 1 HR (solo) -> 6-3 lead
Win 8/19 1 HR (3run) -> 7-4 lead*
Loss 8/25 1 HR (2run) -> 3-2 deficit
Win 8/26 1 HR (3run) -> 4-2 lead+
Loss 8/27 1 HR (solo) -> 5-4 deficit
Win 9/03 1 HR (solo) -> 1-0 lead
(2run) -> 4-1 lead
Win 9/05 1 HR (2run) -> 4-3 lead
Win 9/20 1 HR (2run) -> 2-0 lead
* walk off in ninth or extra innings
+ go ahead, home half of eight
The Astros went 18-12 in games he homered. By my math of the 37 he hit:
3 padded comfortable leads
13 extended non-comfortable leads
2 tied the game
12 gave the Astros the lead
7 lessened deficits
I’ve long been a critic of the Astros seemingly breaking out the bats to pile on once they get a 6 or 7 run lead and then scoring 2 or fewer runs for about five games in a row. I don’t think Carter’s production last year came during meaningless at bats.
He did strike out a lot though. Someone else can analyze the team record in games which he had the golden sombrero.
Interesting stats Devin. Thanks for the review. I do believe fans are going to be very frustrated this season with all the Ks. There will likely be lots — read: L-O-T-S — of innings and situations where the Astros leave runners stranded with Ks. It’s the lineup that Luhnow has assembled and what Hinch has to work with.
That said, Hinch said today he likes the offense, even calling it “dangerous”. Indeed, it may be dangerous…hopefully there is enough dangerous to outweigh the frustrating…
Oh, and sorry, I won’t be the one researching when his Ks came. There were 182 of them last year, which was 30 fewer than the league-high 212 in 2013…in the same # at bats.
If they strike out a lot and win 8-5, I’ll be happy.
So, if I read this right, 10 of the 37 [more than a fourth of the total HRs] came when the game was already decided one way or another.
Not really. 3 came when it was effectively out of reach / decided. I would have put this higher, but we actually blew a couple of the leads that should have been out of reach.
Well, this is the day the roster gets set. Last season, Singleton was the worst player on the field and this Spring his OPS is way below .600 and he is the worst fielder on the team. If he makes the roster, how in the world is it justified? He looks worse than Wallace.
Alex Presley DFA’d. That looks good for Grossman. Stay tuned.
Fields, Ober, and Peacock to DL. Wojo and Fausto make the team.
Chapman, Hoes and Singleton sent to Fresno. I said Singleton would make the team a week ago, but he totally fell apart. I was wrong.
Even better news. Wojo and Grossman legitimately earned their spots
on the roster.
Harris makes the team replacing Fields. Villar makes the team. Grossman makes the team.
Looks like Carter is 1B, Gattis is DH, Rasnus is LF and Marisnick is in CF.
Astros’ bench has four players, all switch hitters.
We can nit pick the final roster, but it is really made up of the players that give the Astros the best chance to win – starting day one. Drellich is saying that if Presley opts for FA – he forfeits his $1 M.
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If that’s the case then his signing makes great sense now.