Three areas of concern for Astros: Rookies, McHugh, Altuve

So, 64 games in the Astros are 36-28. In those first 64 games, there have been some good runs (late April through mid-May) and some not-so-good runs (the most recent East Coast road trip). But, with just under 100 games to go, if this is who the Astros are, that’s a 91-win team. Warts and all.

Frankly, I’d feel more comfortable with another big three-week run that shows some of that early success wasn’t a fluke.

But I’m not here today to worry about winning streaks, losing skids and how they balance out over the course of a long season. Nope, I have bigger concerns. Such as …

1. Do the Astros have too many hot rookies?

Last season, Collin McHugh and George Springer both earned AL Rookie of the Year votes. McHugh finished fourth, and Springer finished tenth with one third-place tally. This year, there could easily be three ROY candidates on the Astros squad. Maybe four.

The obvious choice right now is probably Carlos Correa. With the caveat that his numbers right now are boosted by the small sample size mirage, Correa will be the talk of Houston all summer. He’ll be the talk of the AL as long as he keeps producing. In six games and 25 ABs, Correa is hitting .240 with a .789 OPS. He’s stolen a base. He’s hit two home runs. He’s driven in four runs. And he’s struck out too often (eight Ks) for my taste, though he’ll slowly get it together on the Ks.

To me, Correa might not even be the best choice. That honor goes to Lance McCullers Jr. The 21-year-old son of a major leaguer is pitching with some amazing maturity. Six games into his MLB career, LMJ has pitched 36 innings with just a 2.00 ERA, 40 Ks and just a 0.889 WHIP. Add in a complete game (such an impressive night by LMJ) and the no-hitter through five Sunday to go along with that 1.0 WAR, and McCullers might be a better choice than the guy picked 40 spots before him.

But even this outstanding pair may not be the best Astros rookie by the end of the season. In 101 plate appearances, Preston Tucker has a .733 OPS, has whiffed just 20 times in that span, walked 9 times and has totaled 10 extra-base hits. With his advanced hit tool, Tucker brings a lot of value to this lineup.

Oh, and don’t forget Vincent Velasquez. He’s pitched only one game, going five innings, but he’s got an ERA of 0.00 despite his WHIP of 1.400. Four walks will kill you. But that’s just ViVe’s first outing. I’m betting that WHIP goes down and that ERA goes up. Still, I’m guessing there will be some impressive results by the season’s end.

And this doesn’t even count Asher Wojciechowski, who could easily make a comeback, or Michael Feliz, who has pitched one very solid inning.

But with so many good ROY candidates on one team, will Houston’s best candidate lose out to a split vote?

2. Collin McHugh’s no good, very bad outing.

Eight runs over three innings has bumped McHugh’s ERA to a tad above 5.00. Are you worried? I am, a bit. He’s still 6-3. He’s still got a WHIP of 1.33. But he’s struck out only 62 in 79.2 innings pitched, which is pretty low for the quality version of McHugh. The Astros have won 8 of his 13 starts, so if the team can keep that up, he’s still a pretty effective pitcher, but the slide has been bad since he gave up seven ER to the Giants on May 12.

That said, the loss to the Giants and Saturday’s game are the only times he’s given up more than four earned runs and gone less then six innings. So maybe what he really needs is what all the Astros’ pitchers need: a little run support.

Does McHugh’s recent outing concern you, or do you see it as a small bump in the road?

3. Jose Altuve may never get 3,000 hits

El Gigante topped the 700-hit mark the other night. It happened June 8 on a single against Chris Sale.

Altuve currently sits at 702 hits, 72 for the season.

I think we can all agree 225 hits was a monster number last year. But, even with his sub-.300 batting average right now, Altuve is on track to collect 188 hits this season, moving his MLB total to 818, and leaving him in good position to reach 1,000 some time near the end of 2016, his age-26 season. By comparison, Craig Biggio had just 624 hits at the end of his age-26 season.

If Altuve averaged 188 hits a year for the next six years, he’d reach 2,000 hits some time in his age-32 season. Then it’s just a matter of durability.

So, other than wins/loses and the length of Dallas Keuchel‘s beard, what questions keep you up at night?

1. The strikeout total?

2. The Jon Singleton question?

3. What Luhnow has up his sleeve for when Lowrie comes back, and suddenly we have too many infielders at third and short?

4. How Luhnow will ever sign Daz Cameron when he needs serious cash for Bregman and Tucker-2?

5. Something else completely different?


46 comments on “Three areas of concern for Astros: Rookies, McHugh, Altuve

  1. I also wish to see another month of above average winning for the club, somewhere along the duplication of the 10 game win streak. The Rangers and the Angels are still too close for my comfort. The club has to avoid prolonged losing streaks.

    As for the rookie question, I can see McCullers being the bigger star. He has shown the bulldog toughness needed to get big league batters out and he does not break a sweat on the mound. Correa can be right there at the end but Tucker, on the other hand, seems to be unsettled, not on his own accord but on the manager’s choice on playing him. VV is still a closed book thus far because of his small sample.

    Hopefully, McHugh’s tipping of his pitches is what is ailing him and he returns to dominance once again. Him with Keuchal and McCullers is a very quality first three.

    If Altuve can remain injury free for his career, he will garner 3000 hits. Now the question becomes, will he reach that milestone as an Astro?

    What question remains on my mind? Can the team keep its momentum going upward enough to reach the playoffs?


  2. * Do the Astros have too many hot rookies *

    Does anybody have any napkins? Paper towels? I just laughed so hard I spit coffee all over my keyboard. It’s all on you, Brian.


  3. Dan’s concerns:
    – I am concerned that I am so wound around the axle about their struggles and concerns that I am forgetting to enjoy their 36-28 record and their 2-1/2 game lead in the division.
    – I am concerned that Jeff Luhnow may make a trade that derails things.
    – I am concerned that Jeff Luhnow may not make a trade and they fall just short this season
    – I am concerned that a 5′-4″ guy who plays at 110% is not going to last long enough to get to 2000 hits much less 1000
    – I am concerned that Collin McHugh does not have the confidence or guidance to right his ship
    – I am concerned that the team might over-use LMJ and/or VV and hurt them long term
    – I am concerned that concerns over using LMJ and VV may keep them from being used enough to help us win this division
    – I am concerned that I may be a baseball schizophrenic


      • Dan, Bro – it’s all just a horrible misunderstanding. You weren’t being ‘released’ from the Spiers Center. What the men in white were telling you is that they were going to have to ‘re’new or ‘re’-up your lease at the padded cell – er, I mean tastefully pastel dorm. You are considered AMI, AWOL,confused and dangerous. They are looking for you right now, you know. Was that a knock at the door? It was, wasn’t it?


      • Arnold Schwarznegger is the Astronator as he comes back in time and hunts down Dan P, Sarah Connor and Carlos Correa to assure that the Astros do not become the 2017 World Champion.


  4. I want to do more than just win more games than we lose this year. I predicted 86 wins before the season, but, like everyone else, I never expected the terrific start the Astros have enjoyed. The seven game losing streak tempered my expectations somewhat, but I think we need to make every effort to take advantage of the great start, shifting the goal to making the playoffs. You just can’t count being in this position, even when you enter the season expecting to win (looking at you Seattle).

    McHugh’s recent performances are troubling. If, in fact, Strom can get his mechanical issues straightened out, great. If not, we’re going to need more than one more pitcher in the rotation. I’m not sure how possible picking up two might be.

    Altuve is still swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone – it’s just what he does. But he is not making the same solid contact he did last year, and unless that changes, I believe he’s going to have a hard time getting 200 hits this year.

    Hopefully, another winning streak and a solid winning month is just around the corner. I think the rotation will tell that tale.


  5. – Rookies: no concerns
    – McHugh: minimally concerned. His location is off. Is there a minor injury? Seattle is built to hit him. Toronto is another scary offense. He’ll bounce back.
    – Altuve: Not concerned. He will go through some major hot stretch and make us all forget a short stretch where he was league average.

    1. Always concerns me
    2. I think Carter is doing OK. He is at least swinging at strikes. Rasmus worries me more during ABs. There is no lineup spot available for Singleton, so let him continue thumping in Fresno.
    4. I am not concerned with this. Look, if Bregman was worth losing your 2014 pick then you have to get him signed. If he wasn’t worth that, then why pick him at 1.2? They should still have money for Daz ($3 million minimum), but if he wants to hardball us you have to question whether he will be an organizational fit.


      • If they really want to spend every penny, the Astros have an additional $850,000 to spend that they’d have to pay luxury tax on. The tax is 75% of whatever the Astros spend over the pool amount of $17 million.

        But that would mean only saving about $1.5 million on other signees.


    • Here’s the thing about Daz. A year ago he was one of the top 2. Then he gets drafted 37th. Next year he will be a freshman facing college junior #1s . He could slip big time and end up being a $200,000 player three years from now. I believe if they offer him $3.7 he had better jump at it and if I were the Stros, that would be my offer.


  6. * Jose Altuve may never get 3,000 hits *

    Omigosh. Now you have done it, you Astroholics-Anonymous dropout you!

    Yeah, all you did was drop the bombshell about Altuve’s mortality. But you knew darn well that would that just start all our paranoid delusions firing up again, didn’t you Brian! What’s next? Are you going to ask:

    – What if George Springer never hits 500 home runs?
    – What if Chris Carter never hits another dinger – or for that matter even gets another hit [okay, I confess I had doubts about that before your post]?
    – What if neither Evan Gattis nor Colby Rasmus nor Luis Valbuena ever get put on the ballot for MVP honors? What if Kike Hernandez, Dexter Fowler, or Rio Ruiz DOES!
    – What if Jonathan Villar shows up again in an Astros’ line-up before Jed Lowrie?
    – What if the hair of Dallas Keuchel’s beard all falls out and it turns out he looks just like Lucas Harrell?
    – What if Lex Luthor slips through security and puts drops of Kryptonite into Carlos Correa’s bowl of wheaties?

    Meds! Where are my meds? No, please, please, do not put me in that straight jac . . . . . . . . . .


  7. The Houston Astros’ No. 3 prospect Domingo Santana was just awarded the Pacific Coast League’s Player of the Week for the period of June 8-14. Domingo Santana’s .545 batting average, .643 on-base percentage, and 1.506 OPS were the tops in the PCL this week. He also had a league-high nine RBIs, and was second in the league in slugging percentage (.864), hits (12), and total bases (19).

    Last week Santana also reached base in all six games he played, extending his league-best on-base streak to 34 games. Santana started the week by recording three hits against Reno, including his 11th home run of the season. He tied his season-high in RBIs with four Friday, to help the Grizzlies to a 9-2 victory at Salt Lake. Santana also owns a .444 on-base percentage this season, which stands as the second-best mark in the PCL.


  8. Top concerns:

    1) Mark Appel’s development. Luhnow can say what he wants but the ‘What if’ of having Correa and Bryant as a potential next generation Biggio/Bagwell combo stings (and might sting for many years).

    2) McHugh’s recent troubles. I’m always skeptical of the pitch-tipping explanation. For the longest time that was the explanation on Brad Lidge. If it were that simple to fix we might have won the 2005 WS.

    3) Signing Daz Cameron as well as Tucker and Bregman. I would really like a drama-less signing of our draftees this year.


  9. 1) Mark Appel’s development – Luhnow can say what he wants about not regretting Appel over Bryant, but if Appel doesn’t turn out to be something special the ‘What if?’ of having Bryant/Correa as our next generation Biggio/Bagwell is going to sting for a loooooong time.

    2) McHugh’s struggles – I’m always skeptical of the pitch-tipping explanation. Back in the day that was frequently thrown out as a possible reason for Lidge’s sudden struggles in the 2005 WS and 2006 season. It seems like wishful thinking that the issue is a quick-fix thing like pitch tipping and not a more serious issue with mechanics or command.

    3) Signing Daz Cameron – I would love to have a drama-less signing of our draft picks after last year’s fiasco.


  10. That .444 OBP by Santana is pretty remarkable considering that he’s struck out 69 times in 56 games. Lester, yes, I’d include him in a trade for a quality starter. But if he’s still with us come the summer, we’ll see him at some point, especially if Jake does not hit.

    Altuve is stuck in a pretty tough slump but still hitting .290. I would like it if someone could convince him to work a count though. He’d be guaranteed 200 hits a year and high OBP’s. Regardless, he’ll get his 3000 somewhere. Speaking of trades, you never know with Luhnow.

    Not sure I am ready to accept the tipping of pitches as McHugh’s problem. I’m more concerned that guys are not swinging at his stuff outside of the zone like they were last year. Steven, have you got a stat on that?

    To me, there is no Singleton question right now because he is blocked by Carter. The real question might be whether or not the club would include Carter in a trade right now with Singleton as the only viable option at first.

    I didn’t know this, but once on the temporary inactive list, it can be for the rest of the season, paid or unpaid. I wonder if Joe S. just said screw it and left. I wish we got explanations for this stuff.


  11. On the draft: as I said last week, I don’t think Luhnow would have taken Cameron without being pretty certain he could get all three signed. He’d end up looking dumb again, even though he’s not.


  12. I’m not worried about the draft picks signing. I think that has been addressed. I’m hoping they have money left to sign a pick that nobody thinks they have a chance at.(Their #11). They signed their tenth round pick for five grand, the same amount they gave to their 40th round pick. One of their top ten picks said the Astros called to tell him they had drafted him and made their offer right then, and he took it and it was well under the slot. I’m pretty confident that they will get their top 3 signed as soon as they are finished with the series.
    What worries me most about the Astros? Tonight’s game
    What worries me about Altuve? Is he available tonight?
    What worries me about the Astros rookies? That they can’t get here fast enough.
    What worries me about Singleton? Can a former #1 prospect even hit for as high a BA in AAA as Brett Wallace did? or Kike Hernandez? So far, he’s not even close.
    I’m worried that Feliz won’t get to the team in time for all the fun.


  13. There are few things that make me happier than having George Springer as my right fielder for years to come. One of the things that does make me happier is the fact that Shin Soo Choo will not be my right fielder for years to come. My gosh, what was I thinking?


  14. Akeem Bostic’s line for Quad Cities today so far: 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 Ks. 37 IP into the year his ERA is at 1.46 and his WHIP is under 0.80. He has handled himself pretty well so far, I’d say. The Carlos Corporan trade might just turn out alright for the Astros.


  15. Tonight’s line-up is out. We still have no Altuve, but we do now have a Tucker! And yes, Carlos Correa is playing SS and batting 2nd. Marisnick is out, Colby Rasmus is in CF. Some guy named Keuchel is pitching.


  16. MLB TV is on sale for 50% off this week. As a Father’s Day promotion you can get it for $49.99 for the rest of the year. For $20 extra you can add on MiLB TV subscription.

    Is it worth it? If you live in the Astros region you will have to wait until an hour after the game to stream it. If you live outside, like me, you can stream it live unless they are playing your region’s home team. One warning – the subscription will automatically renew next year on March 1st at full price ($129.99 for full season, $29.99 per month if no price increases) if you do not cancel first.

    Also, you generally can choose which broadcast you’ll get the audio for…but this weekend I had to endure the Seattle Mariners’ team. Let me put it this way, you can complain about Sparks all you want, but on Friday night they went the entire bottom of the fifth inning without supplying any play-by-play or color commentary. We got to hear the (quieter than I’d expect) MMP crowd and various other noises but no talking. On Sunday, they were duller than you can imagine. So, be thankful…it could always be worse!


  17. Let’s see – consecutive hits by Springer, Correa and Tucker. Then a 3 run dinger by Rasmus.
    Then a solo job by Springer in the 2nd.
    And Keuchel is loving this. And so am I.


  18. CC is letting Appel pitch. Because of a double header they are 7 inning games and he’s pitching in the seventh, ahead 15-1. He just gave up his second homer on his 100th pitch.


  19. Back from the game and settled an important question tonight; was it one of my hats or my wife that has caused the Astros to lose whenever we have gone to a game? The good news is it was the hat so I won’t have to go to games alone the rest of the season.

    Now as for the concerns one may be surprised that I’m more worried about Altuve than McHugh and more from a mental consideration than a physical one. But before I get into my rationale for saying so I’ll take on the rookie question and I’m also going to include Springer since he has played less than a full season in the majors. Springer, Correa, Tucker, McCullers and Velazquez besides being superior talents have grown up in a minor league culture where they have won at practically every level. I mentioned this at the end of an earlier thread that while the primary purpose of the minors is individual player development a guy can learn to enjoy winning as well. They have been teamed up with other high talent guys and have reaped team as well as individual success. I think we will see more of that and I’m hoping that Santana coming into a winning situation with few expectations placed on him will be able to relax and perform.

    So what does this have to do with Altuve? Jose has never been in a winning program. Last year the emphasis was on his personal achievements and he was fabulous but the team was so bad that no one really expected anything from them and that’s essentially what we got. Jose could not carry the whole team and so subconsciously I think other teams would challenge him because even though he piled up a bunch of hits they probably didn’t hurt the opposing team all that much. Same thing happens at the start of this year. Jose starts off great and is even hitting some impressive bombs and leads the team in RBI from the leadoff spot. But then the Astros started winning. Every player will say they’re all about winning but when the big fish in the little pond is suddenly thrust into the spotlight of the big pond and the notice that comes to a division leader is shining on him things can get a little trying. I love Jose and thoroughly enjoyed his 2014 season BUT if he is about WINNING he will need to discipline himself at the plate and get on base more with walks and learn to take advantage of his small strike zone. I also wonder how he is going to react when he is eclipsed by Springer and Correa. He could be a terrific table setter but if he won’t provide the team what it needs to win then perhaps a guy like Kemp could.

    Finally, I want to eat a little crow regarding Springer. Not sure if it was here or at TCB but I mentioned that I was getting a little tired of an athlete as talented as Springer not harnessing his ability so that he could make more contact. Well he obviously has made the adjustments. I love how he played tonight on both sides of the ball and I was actually shocked when he didn’t make the play in right center that almost saved Keuchel from a lot of trouble. When he was placed in the leadoff spot he seemed to emphasize OBP. He did his part to help the team win. IF Jose will take on the same mindset this offense could actually become a lot more potent.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, this is exactly why I don’t want to trade Kemp yet. Some on here have expressed concern with Kemp’s lack of power, but it isn’t like Altuve is Joe Morgan or Ryne Sandberg. I am not as convinced as some that Altuve will turn it around and be the Altuve of last year. This very well could be the Altuve we get going forward, which isn’t bad, but isn’t the guaranteed 3000 hit club either. What if Altuve is a .280 BA with a .315 OBP for the rest of his career? Again, not bad, but is Kemp better? I don’t know, but I am not ready to trade Kemp and just assume Altuve is going to return to the guy he was last year.


  20. drbill14—Thanks for saying what we’ve all been thinking. Altuve is swinging at the very first pitch he sees, and unlike last year he doesn’t get a hit. Being patient at the plate is not his style……at least not so far this year. I love Springer leading off
    but I think he’s better suited for the three hole. What was your impression of our
    new short stop?? It’s been a joy to know he’s going to handle that position, and
    know exactly what to do with the ball! Can’t wait to see how Velasquez is going
    to do his second start tomorrow!!


    • Becky: Correa is really good, especially defensively. He knows how to meter his throws and his footwork is outstanding. On the game ending DP its a good thing he hit Carter’s target right on because that throw was a laser. Would really be curious what the velocity of that throw was. I’m anxious to see him make a play from the hole. His arm reminds me of Caminiti.


  21. I don’t agree with the Altuve assessments. His game is bat control and aggressiveness. His first two years he struggled because he was taking his pitch and then extending the zone and putting weak contact into play. He will never walk 100 times in a season. He needs to keep swinging, but needs to get back to more line drives and fewer GO/AO. That’s timing and has as much to do with pitchers varying their approach as anything else. He’ll get hot again.


    • Devin: I don’t have access to advanced metrics but I would bet a dollar to a donut that when Jose swings at first pitch STRIKES he does very well. I’m not sure how to post a link here but this is the video sequence of all of Altuve’s hits from last year. It is pretty rapid fire and he does get some hits on balls well out of the strike zone but I would bet over 200 of the 225 are on balls in the strike zone. Now just because he CAN hit balls out of the strike zone doesn’t mean he SHOULD. Certainly not when the count is in his favor. I’ve noticed this year and on a lesser scale last year that when he goes several at bats without a hit he gets even more impatient and unselective. Now that getting him out means a lot more to opposing pitchers they don’t have to throw him strikes and they will be content to let him make weak contact on balls off the plate. Until Jose forces them to come into the strike zone I expect he will stay mediocre.


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