I’m traveling this week, but the Astros continue to baffle with — as some have noted — a “new hero” everyday. Just when you think a huge losing streak has doomed the season and calls into questions early moves, the Astros now appear to be in somewhat of a portion of the season that will be tell-tale. They are successfully bridging the gap of injuries to Jed Lowrie, Scott Feldman, not to mention a bevy of .200 hitters, some of whom are now contributing to the approach to stability.
Here are a few thoughts on the goings-on from recent days and weeks.
First Matt Dominguez, who’s next?
Dominguez was a Luhnow guy, acquired in the Carlos Lee trade along with Rob Rasmussen. Lost on a waiver claim at age 24, the Astros had given up on Dominguez, the former first rounder who was also highly projected on several lists. There will be other tough decisions ahead and the Astros are bound to make a mistake on a prospect who hasn’t had the time to mature or is a late bloomer. Prospects like Max Stassi and Nolan Fontana, who many would like to see in Houston, may face uphill battles to stay in the organization. There are others of course, but the Astros clearly have less chaff in 2015 than they did in 2012-13 and the decisions are more difficult. And, also, more of a gamble.
Other than Stassi and Fontana, which players are next up on the bubble if roster spots are needed between now and the end of the year.
Thank you St. Louis.
With the Cardinals now under FBI investigation, it’s likely that the relationship with the team and Jeff Luhnow is a bit fragile. It’s obvious that the Astros have taken quite a bit from St. Louis in the way of personnel, style and even philosophy, but if the Cardinals did indeed hack into the Astros’ system, in a weird way, it will bolster Luhnow’s credibility, if not his swagger with other GMs. While it may not directly impact his relationship with his peers, incidents like this tend to cement a person’s role and legitimacy.
Luhnow and the Astros will gain from this if the charges are proven. But if high-level Cardinals executives are involved, it would certainly open a new era as those officials might leak other information that may not paint Luhnow in a good light.
How do you see this incident affecting Luhnow’s position in the league and the relationships with the Cardinals and other organizations?
The 2015 season.
Obviously, this season will be up and down and very streaky, both for players and the team as a whole. For fans — and even for the media and the front office and on-field leadership — it could be excruciatingly painful at times. Whether or not the season is successful may not depend on whether Luhnow picks up a top of rotation pitcher or whether Vincent Velasquez or Lance McCullers Jr pitch a full season.
In fact, the tale of the season may depend on how manager A.J. Hinch handles the roster that Luhnow does give him. Hinch, in fact, may not have received enough of the credit for the success thus far, but if the Astros finish with 85 wins, he will have solidified his top candidacy for Manger of the Year honors.
Regardless, however, fans will have to be content with the streaky team for the remainder of this year.
What do you see as the key to success for the rest of 2015?