Random Astros’ thoughts: Roster, Luhnow and the up-and-down season

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?


23 comments on “Random Astros’ thoughts: Roster, Luhnow and the up-and-down season

  1. Some Random Thoughts related to your random thoughts, Chip.

    – The Bridge – For about a week (the 7 game losing streak), the bridge until Lowrie, Feldman and whoever, looked like the bridge in the movie Speed….missing about 100 feet of pavement. But the young team swallowed hard and played well after returning home and seemed to have kept their ship afloat.
    – Who’s next – This thought of who may be gone next certainly floated through my mind as I was wandering through the stats of the minor league teams. Where do folks like Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes, Thomas Shirley and Asher Wojciechowski and the often lamented Joe Sclafani end up? How about former 1st rounder Giovanni Mier?
    – The Cards – I think that if they are spying on you they are legitimizing you. I don’t buy it is some disgruntled employee. Disgruntled employees release your secrets they don’t go hacking others….
    – 2015 season…. They’ve done more than we could have dreamed up to now. The only problem is that the fans have a taste and they want more. The team has to balance out today with the future. They at least are in a position where they do have a lot of chips in their pocket if someone wants something from them….

    It is a fascinating time. A number of times up to now, I thought that the next month would be crucial. There is no doubt that the time leading up to the trade deadline – about 6 weeks – is crucial to the 2015 season and perhaps to the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Next on the bubble, I see, could be Grossman, because he has not rebounded in Fresno like he did last year. Also, Deduno could be in trouble, because I think the two young pitchers we moved up might have made him expendable.
    Luhnow’s status in the league probably will be a little better because of this, because it’s the Cardinals who were interested in hacking the Astros, not the other way around. I think if Luhnow’s relationship with Mozeliak is ok and if Mozeliak wasn’t involved at all, their relationship will be OK. If Mozeliak knew anything about this before his computers were seized, he’ll be gone anyway.
    If Luhnow’s relationship with Mozeliak wasn’t ok before this, it sure won’t get any better after this.
    The keys to success for this team that I see are several
    a. That this team indeed does have a #1,2,3,4 and 5 starter.. Two 4s or 2 5s aint gonna cut it. So McCullers, Ober and Feldman are truly important. An Ober that we saw Friday night would be a terrific #4 or a very adequate #3. Does he have the ability to do that, not that he is healthy?
    b. That this team continues to have it’s BA and OBP keep climbing all year and have it decent by the end of September. That means getting Lowrie back into that lineup somewhere, in place of somebody who isn’t producing, and getting Tucker decent ABs. If Carter is hitting .220 for the season, he’s probably going to hit .150 against playoff pitchers, if that.
    3. That we add some high heat guys to that bullpen in September and the playoffs. We can’t afford to have our bullpen bombed in the playoffs. Somebody with shut down stuff needs to be added to replace somebody who is living on the edge out there.


  3. The damage with the breach, and leaking some of that information last year really put Luhnow in a bad light of sorts. No player wants to see (public to see) what the GM thinks, of him…….or that that GM has said some unkind things about him. Leaking info to the press about this team was REALLY not cool. Luhnow could come outta this smelling like rose, and I doubt any of it goes any where.
    Pitching, pitching, pitching…….and MORE pitching. This team HAS to get the rotation settled, if they intend to stay in the race. I *love* the way the young guys have come up, and held their own, but you risk blowing out a talented arm if you push them too far. That is exactly why Luhnow is on the phone right now looking for a trade. I’m afraid you guys might be right, about Stassi, Grossman, Fontana, Hoes
    ect…. But what do you get in return for a package of a few of these guys??? By the way…..Wojo is doing pretty darn good in Fresno right now.
    I think I told you guys Reed and Phillips should be on an airplane to Texas……and
    the LAST time I checked Corpus Christi is still in Texas. These guys are killing it in Lancaster, it’s time now for them to move up……not at the AS break.
    I gotta bad feeling for the next two games………Coors Field is where good pitchers go to *die*.


    • Yes, correct, CC is in Texas. I wrongly assumed you were speaking of Houston, Texas. Which brings me to Conrad Gregor. For a first baseman, he’s hitting a pretty soft .270 something. He’ll never be a homerun guy. Do you move him out of the way to see what Reed can do?


      • I think you do what you did with Springer and Tucker. At 500 PAs in Lancaster, if he is still producing at this level, you move him up. That number of PAs falls into late July and the situation may have already been cleared up at 1B. If it hasn’t, as a GM you have to make a move for the good of the franchise and stick to your plan. Reed moves up.


      • I should have added that Gregor knows Reed is down there and what he’s doing. If Gregor wants to keep his job he has to turn it on. He hit his first homer last night, right? Reed has 16.

        Liked by 2 people

      • They can’t all be superstars. Gregor is doing fine, but likely is not destined for the 40 man roster. It would be different if he could play more positions. I think he eventually loses ABs to Reed, but he may make it to Fresno if a trade frees up a spot for Singleton.

        He has 3 HR for CC this year. I haven’t really seen him since college, but he has a big frame and good bat control, so he may be able to increase the power numbers as a non-prospect, organizational type guy.


  4. I’m a SEC baseball fan (LSU) and watched Kemp and Gregor in their Vanderbilt days on numerous occasions in the SEC tournament in Hoover Alabama. Kemp was a terror for everyone to face and Gregor was to me a player that might be drafted around the 12th round or so. I was surprised that Kemp lasted until the 5th round for the Astros,but was and am baffled as to what the Stros saw in Gregor to be their 4th round pick. I think Reed should be moved up as soon as possible and Gregor should be moved out of the system. I’m afraid that Kemp might be trade bait, but he would be a terrific utility player for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with OP about Grossman and the interesting point he made about adding heat to the bullpen. Possibly they already believe Fields is that person, but I understand the possible risks there.
    I also see Singleton being packaged. Carter, despite his potential power and his rather excellent fielding has, I believe, till after the AS break.
    I suspect the computer break-in will be limited to lower level individuals, Luhnow will come out of this looking good, and yes, Hinch deserves tremendous credit, for a calm demeanor, excellent comminication skills with players, and overall smarts.


    • Roger, I meant ADD to the bullpen. Fields is already there. I’m talking about somebody that isn’t in the bullpen now, such as Feliz, or Velasquez or somebody we get in trade to replace a bullpen arm that might not be trustworthy against big time hitters in playoff conditions.


  6. All *KINDS* of hero to night!! Oberholtzer appeared to do very well tonight, and the homerun hit parade was in full bloom! Bad news tho….Altuve re-injured his right hammy…….so will they HAVE to make a move before Friday? Please, Please…….
    NO Villerror. 😦 😦 😦 😦


    • That is what I am talking about. Getting yourself into trouble every time you come in to pitch. Tonight it was another home run. Yesterday Qualls walked two batters with two outs. He has been living on the edge for weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oberholtzer is my player of the game. He got two bunts down!

        Odd that Altuve did not go directly to the 15 day. Hammy problems do not go away without rest.

        It’s going to get tough for Correa at times, but he’s looking like a seasoned vet out there right now.

        Qualls is indeed a crapshoot. I guess that’s why he’s in there with a five run lead.


  7. Fresno was down 4-1 in the ninth inning tonight and got walks from Duffy and Hoes, but Singleton, Presley and Grossman all struck out and Fresno loses.


  8. 1st Who is next? What a difference a year or two make. We are talking about DFAs off the AAA roster. Not the MLB roster of 25. Now there are still a couple or three candidates on the MLB roster this year, but the minors are now blocking minors. #2 – St Louis. I can not believe anyone with a brain in the Cards did this. It makes no sense for anyone other than a low level nerd would hack and then post to an Anon site. I smarter thief would use the data if it had value. #3. Hinch is light years ahead of Porter. He does his job in the dugout and behind closed doors. He appears to be a professional manager. I don’t agree with all of his moves, but I don’t agree with everyone here. That’s life.


    • Also as to “showcase” time for Villar. Maybe they can send him to Lancaster or QC and call it “mental rehab.” Another team might try to trade and fix a flaw in a swing or throwing, but as Ron White says “You can’t fix stupid.”


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