CHIPALATTA

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Free Blog Weekend: Do Astros already have the pieces in house?


Jeff Luhnow is desperately trying to determine the answer to one question: Does he already have the pieces in-house to make a run at the playoffs, or does he need to look outside the organization?

It would be a boon for his tenure if the Astros didn’t need to trade prospects or others currently on the roster and maintain their current course as the first place team in the American League West.

But it would be a huge gamble to try to make that run.

Let’s take a look at some possibilities for Houston to play the hold card at the trade deadline, keep the powder dry and still be a serious playoff contender.

Jed Lowrie and Luis Valbuena.

These two players are keys. Crucial keys. If Valbuena picks up his average and Lowrie returns even close to where he was when he was injured, the Astros may have settled the corner infield spots. To be sure, Valbuena is on pace for over 40 home runs, but he’s hovered around .200 most of the year. Not good enough, and A.J. Hinch will have to waste Lowrie at third base if Valbuena can’t pick up the pace.

Get them both on track next month, however, and the infield is suddenly very, very strong.

The rotation.

Mark Appel was promoted to Fresno this week and it’s clear the Astros are wondering if he can have an impact for the Astros this summer. With rookies Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez already up, adding Appel would signal the Astros have a number of options: tandem pitching, adding one or more to the bullpen and trading a bullpen piece, or saving one or more in the bullpen and adding them to the rotation late summer when the innings’ count rises for the other.

If Brett Oberholtzer is the Collin McHugh of 2015 and, with the return of Scott Feldman soon, Luhnow and Hinch may feel they can piece together the rotation through the summer and into September without having to give up a Domingo Santana, Preston Tucker or perhaps even a Valesquez to get a front line pitcher.

Jon Singleton, the ace in the hole?

It shouldn’t be surprising if Singleton joins the Astros any day now. If Luhnow wants to know what he, Singleton is at the top of the list. Can he adequately replace Chris Carter‘s anemic bat? Is he even the short-term answer while waiting for others in the system to incubate and mature? Expect to find out soon.

The other hold out possibility is that Carter returns to his second half of 2014. Not a real good bet, but if the Astros’ saber metric guys are on the job, they may have seen something we don’t see from afar. Waiting on Carter, however, is probably the biggest gamble Luhnow could make this summer.

There are plenty of other options in the minors, but few who show the seasoning and readiness that Carlos Correa and McCullers have shown. That makes any other moves from the minors either a gamble, a hunch or risky at best.

Remember how first-round pick Chris Burke was jerked around? Many onlookers say he was doomed because of the back-and-forth, up-and-down moves from position to position, saying he never had a chance to settle in. Obviously, Luhnow would not want to push Appel or others similarly.

So…here are you questions for your assignment:

  • Can the Astros fix their problems from within in 2015, without going outside for a trade?
  • Can the Astros seriously contend without a major trade?
  • If Houston acquires only one player before the deadline, what should that be: top of rotation starter, solid middle rotation starter, first base, third base, catcher? Something else?
  • Who have you seen enough of? In other words, who needs to go today? Remember, you have to replace them, so you’ll need to specify how to handle that replacement!
  • Other than those I’ve mentioned, what other minor league piece — if any — do you believe may be able to contribute in 2015?
  • Finally, how do you see the Astros proceeding: Making a big trade or perhaps a trade, but nothing significant?
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, and wakes up each morning to the tallest spot in the region, Pikes Peak. He is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 50 years. A native of another picturesque city, Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. Pastor Bosman came up with Chipalatta, and it has stuck.

97 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Do Astros already have the pieces in house?

  1. Dan P
    June 26, 2015

    Gee, Chip you ask really tough questions. Good!
    – Do they have the pieces without going outside for a trade? Because of the up and down performance of Feldman before the injury, because of the fact that LMJ and VV will not likely avoid being shut down before the end of the season and because Mark Appel needs to continue proving something – I think the piece they are lacking is that “other” starting pitcher.
    – They can contend without a major trade. But can they hold on when one of the teams behind them (look at what the Angels did last half last year) makes an inevitable charge…that is tough to say.
    – I think they need a solid starting pitcher added to the rotation.
    – I think I’ve seen enough of Chris Carter – I would trade him, roll the dice with Singleton and if he is not the guy – put Lowrie there when he returns.
    – The wild card is Appel. He could give this team a real boost. Of course, this may lead to questions about inning limits on him too.
    – I think they are more likely to go forward with a minor trade – bringing in an OK starting pitcher

    Like

  2. Mr. Bill
    June 26, 2015

    The problem I have is the assumption that a trade is going to be an upgrade – either immediate [for the 2015 AL West pennant] or long term [for the hoped for 2017 WS Championship]. Trades are ‘iffy’ at best. There is an adjustment period to the new team and regime. There is the always present risk of injury – heightened in many instances due to the instinctual drive to overachieve for the new team. And then, of course, you have to decide if what you are getting – best case scenario and worst – is really worth what you have to give up. In other words, trades most certainly do not always – or even frequently – work out to be as much of an upgrade as the fan-base naively hoped.

    Like

  3. 1oldpro
    June 26, 2015

    *I don’t think they have all the pieces to contend for the World Series in house because of the format of days off in the playoffs. I do think they have the pieces to contend for the AL West.
    *I don’t think they can seriously contend without a trade, but I dispute the notion that Luhnow is desperate about anything. Of any GM in baseball, he is playing with house money because nobody, NOBODY, thought the Astros would be 5 games up in the AL West today. Desperate GMs better not be making trades! The Astros have trade chips that other teams desperately want because none of the Astros assets are making big money, and everybody else’s chips are making big bucks.
    From what I see, the Yankees are throwing 3 more RH pitchers against us, am I right? That may give other teams a real good look at our lefty hitters, for a change. I will say this: the Astros beat the Yankees with small ball last night and that is something that we have seen little of this season. Will the Astros show the national media our power side this weekend, too?
    *I don’t know who we should trade for. I do know we should be trading one of our high strikeout, one(or no)defensive position players and try to have a productive offensive player who could play multiple positions put in his place. It’s hard to believe that Evan Gattis is still a negative WAR player at the almost halfway point.
    * Who needs to go today? Noone. Nobody needs to go today. Nobody needs to go, unless it is to put Deduno on the DL for the rest of the season and give his 40-man slot to Kemp. Nobody else needs to go until Feldman or Lowrie are ready to return.
    Luhnow needs to listen to every offer, make offers to others and make moves that don’t disrupt the team like Oakland did last year and make sure the moves make us a better team next year.
    *Minor league pieces that might make sense could be one or more relief pitchers we drafted who might make the playoff roster, replacing relief pitchers we might have in our bullpen now, that you might have to put out there to face one of the All Stars from the Royals in the ALCS or face one of the National’s All Stars in the fifth game of the World Series. Do I want Qualls or Thatcher/Sipp out there in that situation?
    *Finally, I see the Astros making trades that fill current weak spots and relieve future 40-man crunches.

    Like

  4. Steven
    June 26, 2015

    Valbuena’s BABIP is .179, and this isn’t is a guy who is a rookie with no track record. His K rate is slightly elevated from his career norm, but nothing concerning. For his career he swings 27% out of the zone, this year 28%, again nothing concerning.

    What does concern me is that he had generally seen a lot of fastballs in his career – upwards of 60%, and this year, 52%. After a full year last year and a starting gig this year – do they have a book on him? Small uptick in K’s, small downturn in BB’s, lower BABIP – maybe he just can’t handle the offspeed stuff as well as we thought he would as a starter.

    I do believe the Astros can stay within and be fine. It’s possible Kemp can be an answer in CF. I compared him to Willie Harris before, I’ll stick to that. He won’t repeat those incredible OBP’s in the majors, but even a 100 point drop, which is hard to see happening, is still a plus leadoff hitter. Can he handle CF in Houston is the question, because he won’t be on 2B, and he doesn’t present the offensive option you would like to see at 3B or LF. He would be a noticeable upgrade over Marisnick. McCulllers and Velasquez are just the start of the rotation pieces, and I think that Oberholtzer is line for that second half breakout that many of us thought he was going to have this year.

    They can contend without a major trade – they already are – but a trade will make them better. I don’t think they have to do it – even if it looks like someone like Hamels may end up in Texas – but I think it can be an opportunity to put space between you and them. Because I don’t think it’s necessary though I wouldn’t go outside the bounds of reason on prospect return. I generally don’t trust prospects, Chris Burke is part of the reason why, but we are doing fine without him.

    Keuchel-McHugh-McCullers-Velasquez-Oberholtzer is fine. The answer has been within the whole time. If anyone, pick up a middle of the rotation piece and start lightening the load on the youngsters, or even send Velasquez down to AAA to work on his command. Don’t think it’s necessary though. VV is a guy capable of showing up tomorrow and pitching 7 lights out innings. He is for real, but I’ll admit for real maybe 2017.

    The only person that needs to go isn’t even on the active roster. I think the only thing they can do with Feldman at this point though is bring him back and stick him in the rotation.

    Leaving out how I would do business – and just flatly stating what I think the Astros will do – it will be a good, not great starter. No Hamels. No Price. I think it will be a Samardzija or Harang type. I don’t see Appel in the majors before mid August if not September, if at all.

    Like

  5. drbill14
    June 26, 2015

    Something that would be huge is if Altuve becomes the guy he was last night. Loved seeing him using his legs to create opportunity and havoc. I think we need Jose to be the guy you want at bat when it matters. I don’t think Springer/Correa/Tucker are quite ready for that mantle. I’m almost certain Singleton is not although he had a 2 HR/4 RBI game yesterday with one of the bombs off Matt Cain. Lowrie is another dependable veteran who will help.

    I really do not expect Carter to repeat his 2014 surge for the same reason I suspect Altuve has had a sub-par (for him) season. With the Astros winning getting Carter out becomes much more important and teams know that he will get himself out more often than not on pitches out of the strike zone. Why throw him a strike? He will take a walk but I’ve always thought that was a passive skill and Carter on the bases is not a real threat to cause problems. If he gets traded to a non-contender he will probably explode but I don’t see him doing that here or for any other legitimate contender.

    I have some optimism regarding Feldman. He had a short DL stint last year and then pitched very well in the second half. That kind of repeat would be huge but it may be hard to ascertain how good he will be before the trade deadline and if he is found wanting the price of even a MOR pitcher could get steep. A high performing Appel would be really nice. With him I could see Velasquez going to the bullpen. It would be nice to see his high octane gas in the late innings.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Devin_
    June 26, 2015

    My only concern is the load on the bullpen. I hope someone is taking Keuchel and McHugh out for dinner, because we would be in trouble without those last two efforts. I would trade for another bullpen piece at the expense of Hernandez and/or Thatcher. I couldn’t begin to say whom though…let’s see who is shipped in the coming weeks. Obviously we would have to part with prospects.

    Like

  7. rj
    June 26, 2015

    singleton called up. another possible piece to the puzzle.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 26, 2015

      Qualls to DL. Singleton comes up to face those RH pitchers, against whom he has been raking.

      Like

  8. daveb
    June 26, 2015

    This club might sneak into the playoffs in 2015 without making an outside move. Heck, what they are doing right now might be enough. But I’d sure like to see another starter. I’ve said this already. Even a middle of the rotation guy would solve the McCullers/Velasquez innings riddle. Those two kids could add depth to the pen if no longer starting and contribute late into the season. Qualls being an early example, the pen will need help. And at some point, someone in that group will miss time due to an injury. Yes, we’ll lose some prospects if we add a starter. But one of the reasons for building a great farm system is to use excess talent for player acquisition. We simply can’t find a place to play all of our kids everyday, even now. Some quality ballplayers, guys we’ve grown fond of, will have to go.

    Who needs to go now? I don’t know about now, but I don’t think we’d miss Qualls. He’s already been relegated to last man out of the pen. But we do need to replace him. If we get a starter, maybe McCullers. Marwin Gonzalez has been a good guy to have on a bad team, willing to do anything, steady if unremarkable in the field, but just does not have a heck of a lot of talent. If we’ve got to have a guy on the 25 man with a .270 OBP, it needs to be Gattis , not Marwin. Speaking of Gattis, and Carter too, I hope they are both gone before the 2016 season starts. I’m willing to give up some long balls for a couple of young guys with more tools and most importantly, an ability to get on base consistently. I think we’ve already got those guys in the system. It will just make the squad a deeper, more versitile one. Heck, right now, we don’t really have a pinch runner on our bench.

    If Valbuena keeps on that 40 homer pace, he’ll be playing most nights, even if still hitting .200. I think he plays a better third base than Lowrie too, which might mean Lowrie is the guy that makes Carter obsolete. I’d rather see Singleton get traded. I just don’t think he’s the answer.

    And since this is Free Blog weekend, 21st round pick Jon Kemmer hit clean up in CC last night, raising his average to .321 with a very healthy .920 something OPS. I love an underdog!

    Like

    • Becky
      June 26, 2015

      You’re ready to give up on Gattis…..why??? If that happens that would make the Folty to Atlanta hurt REAL bad.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        June 26, 2015

        Becky, in yesterday’s blog you asked the difficult question “Who’s next up?”
        I waited to answer it this morning and the name I came up with was Jon singleton, but I did not see it happening soon. Of course, who knew Qualls was hurt? So I think I gave you the correct answer.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        June 26, 2015

        And to answer your question about Gattis, the Astros have three players who have played for them this year with a negative offensive WAR. Two of them, Grossman and Villar, are in the minors and the third one is Gattis who has hit in the middle of our lineup all season and has contributed to below replacement player rates.
        It’s one thing to make a trade that turns out badly. All teams do that.
        It’s another thing to keep running out a player who is hurting your team, in order to keep trying to make that trade look better. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.
        Disregarding a trade, a platoon at first base with Singleton/Carter might pan out, thus allowing the Astros to use Lowrie as a DH. Amazing as it may seem Lowrie has the fourth highest accumulated WAR of any position player on this team, at 1.0 according to Fangraphs, on this team. That is despite only playing 18 games.
        Gattis has played 71 games and has a -0.2 accumulated WAR.
        The Astros are a stat driven team. Gattis has contributed in certain targeted spots, but has failed very badly the large majority of the time.

        Like

      • Steven
        June 26, 2015

        The stat driven team also realizes Gattis is providing some pop at minimum costs. I agree that overall his season has been bleh. When his costs increase, if his production does not, he will likely be gone.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        June 26, 2015

        Becky, I can’t speak for daveb, but I’m not ready to give up on Gattis, But if the right offer comes for a power DH, I’m ready to take it and change philosophies totally, opting for OBP and RBI potential combined [i.e. a Tucker, Sclafani, Kemp style player] at DH as opposed to continuing Gattis’ one-dimensional, albeit sometimes very helpful, approach. Gattis, Santana, Carter, Rasmus, and MarGo are all ‘make me an offer I can’t refuse’ guys in my view.

        Like

      • daveb
        June 26, 2015

        First of all, I never wanted Gattis, so I’m admittedly prejudiced. I think we can be a better club tomorrow with a combination of Tucker, Santana and Kemp taking over the DH role while also giving us outfielders and a guy that can play second base for when Altuve pulls his hammy. That .270 Gattis OBP contributes to the negative war OP made mention of. But really, we do become a deeper, more versatile (thank you for the second chance at spelling it correctly) club with Gattis gone. And we even get a pinch runner.

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    • Mr. Bill
      June 26, 2015

      Kemmer has become the ‘next man up’ for Corpus, in the sense of when others get promoted, and for the sake of the team someone has to step out of their shadows and fill the hole the other guy has left in the offense, he has done it. I really like guys like that!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. daveb
    June 26, 2015

    After taking what might have been an hour pecking out my long winded opinions, I just noticed that Qualls has gotten the nod for “who needs to go now”! Chip, flawless timing on that question! And Singleton is back in town. We might as well find out now if he can contribute.

    Like

  10. Mr. Bill
    June 26, 2015

    Let’s see: Tucker, McCullers, Vasquez, Correa . . . and now Singleton. it’s beginning to look a lot like 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Becky
    June 26, 2015

    If you’re Kris Karter…………what is going through your mind right now. I would be
    like “uh oh”………….this might be the end for me”. The guy is as nice as can be, but nice can’t hit the ball. He gone!
    Chad Qualls just found out he has a pinched nerve in his neck, and his reply was…
    “I do”?? Oh yeah, I forgot I suck when I pitch, so this is a good way to get me away
    from the ball!!
    Let’s hope Singelton can right his ship up here with the big club, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 26, 2015

      I believe that Qualls does have a pinched neck nerve. It was caused by his head jerking around all the time trying to see if the ball would stay in the park.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. sydboone
    June 26, 2015

    I hope that we do with Singleton what we’ve done with call-ups so far. “Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play!!” Keep his stroke alive!

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 26, 2015

      Sorry, Syd, no such luck. Mr. Hinch has Chris Carter slotted in at 1B tonight. Jon Singleton will apparently have to wait at least another night for his first start for the 2015 Astros.

      Like

  13. sydboone
    June 26, 2015

    Singleton not in lineup. Carter playing 1B. Gattis DH.

    Like

  14. Becky
    June 26, 2015

    Can you tell I’m just a little bit cynical today?

    Like

    • BrianT
      June 26, 2015

      He might not make the game in time.

      Like

  15. Mr. Bill
    June 26, 2015

    Worried about 1B? Down at Lancaster A.J. Reed is hitting .336, with 18 HRs and 66 RBIs, for a 1.053 OPS

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 26, 2015

      To put AJ’s numbers in perspective, consider that during his minor league career Jon Singleton hit above .300 only in one partial season [an abbreviated 35 game stint at Lancaster]. Jon’s career milb BA is just .279 and his career milb OPS is just .864. Moreover, Singleton only hit above 18 HRs once, when he hit 21 in an entire year at Corpus.

      I am hopeful that offensively Jon Singleton will constitute a significant – indeed dramatic improvement over Chris Carter – and hopefully over Evan Gattis too. But that is in the short term. For the long term I suspect we are looking at A.J. Reed replacing – or at the very least platooning with – Jon at first base. That’s one reason I see no place at all for Chris Carter in our future.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        June 27, 2015

        Let’s further put AJ’s numbers in perspective. Through 70 games in Lancaster, Reed has a higher BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, more home runs, more RBIs, More doubles, more walks and lots fewer strikeouts than George Springer had after 70 games in Lancaster at the same age. Springer had more triples and lots more stolen bases.
        While Springer was becoming a legend, some people say that Reed’s numbers should be put in some perspective, considering it’s Lancaster. Springer became a legend, because the Astros were 30 games under .500 at the time. Now that the Astros are 10 games over .500, we don’t seem as appreciative of what Reed is doing in Lancaster.
        I personally don’t care if Reed is just a first baseman. I would just like him to end up in Houston and play first base every day and hit better than Springer has. At this stage of their careers Reed is actually a more polished hitter than Springer was.

        Like

      • daveb
        June 27, 2015

        It’s time to get Conrad Gregor out of the way and find out how much the “Lancaster Effect” has had on the Reed stats.

        Like

      • Steven
        June 27, 2015

        Well you can’t deny the Lancaster effect. Kody Hinze looked like an allstar. It does exist. AJ is probably heading to a major league career, but I wouldn’t be making decisions at the major league level based on what AJ might be 2 years from now.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. BrianT
    June 26, 2015

    Singleton can really make a difference here. If he can hit and field decently, that just leaves the offensive hole at 3B and maybe DH. (Yes, the guy who has hit 19 homers is a liability. Gattis less so.)

    Of course, then Lowrie can play 3B and we can have MarGo DH from time to time. Him and Tucker.

    Yep, it’s all coming together.

    Like

    • daveb
      June 28, 2015

      Come on Brian. Margo as a DH? What stat, any stat of his, gives crediblity to his being a DH, or really even having any slot in a line up on a good team?

      Like

  17. BrianT
    June 26, 2015

    Reports have the TCU pitcher signing for $1 million. What was his slot value?

    Like

    • BrianT
      June 26, 2015

      Never mind, I found it. It’s $765,000. So $1 million would be a $230,000 dip into Daz Cameron’s money.

      Like

  18. astrocolt45
    June 26, 2015

    I sure hope that Singleton can put it together this time. I am not from Missouri, but he does need to show me and others something. He was definitely NOT ready last year. However, neither is Carter in 2015.

    Like

  19. sydboone
    June 26, 2015

    Singleton landing in Houston around 5 or 5:30 – thus not in starting lineup. Available.

    Like

  20. 1oldpro
    June 26, 2015

    Riley Ferrell becomes the first Astros draftee to sign over slot. He is a junior RH relief pitcher and he becomes the second draftee to be sent to full season Quad Cities. This draft and it’s signings is way different than Luhnow’s previous three drafts, with different types of targets and assessments and assignments.
    The plan is developing and flowering.
    I’m wondering if July is full of surprises, too.

    Like

    • daveb
      June 27, 2015

      I’m hoping July is full of surprises.

      Like

  21. 1oldpro
    June 26, 2015

    Thomas Lindauer played his last game as a member of the Astros organization last night and had 3 hits. After the game Lindauer was released to make room for Alex Bregman.
    Lindauer was the first native of Quad Cities area to play a position on Quad Cities team since 1984. You might remember him moving up last year from Tri City and hitting a grand slam winning home run in his debut. A couple of weeks later he hit another slam. But he had a .200 batting average and had no place to go with the Astros. He said he would always be an Astros fan and appreciated the Astros giving him a chance to do what he loved for a living.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. astrocolt45
    June 26, 2015

    To answer the above, “Contend – Yes” but go far “probably not in 2015.” As to trades, when we look at previous JL trades, he apparently looks for a specific ability in his stats. So I could see him trading “a Conger” or “a Margo” or “a Carter” when their stats do not line up. I could actually see him trading Feldman + 1 for Hamels, but a true block buster trade from him will be new territory. I would be shocked if he traded Castro, Altuve & Tucker to get Posey or S Perez. He appears to like to “tinker” with a lineup.

    Like

  23. md57
    June 26, 2015

    And they lose by one run! Plenty of opportunities. VV did his job.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Dan P
    June 26, 2015

    Tonight Hinch pulled his pitcher and it cost him though Harris has been so good this year

    Like

  25. Devin_
    June 26, 2015

    9/19/1991 – 2573 milb PA, 362 MLB PA
    5/10/1993 – 609 milb PA

    Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves on Reed over Singleton. They are closer in age than you might expect – those are birthdays above – and JS is miles ahead in experience. Also, Conrad Gregor hit 14 HR in 47 games at Lancaster.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 27, 2015

      Reed hit his 19th tonight in Bakersfield. Wind was light and game time temp was 106 degrees. Two run shot over the CF fence. He also has a walk tonight and a strikeout.

      Like

    • uncleknuckle
      June 27, 2015

      Yes, Lancaster stats create optimsm, but don’t neccessarily provide answers.

      Like

  26. 1oldpro
    June 27, 2015

    Rangers lose and are 5 back
    Angels lose and are 5 back
    A’s lose and are 9 back
    Mariners win and are 8.5 back

    Like

  27. 1oldpro
    June 27, 2015

    I wish I could add up all the curveballs we took that were right over the heart of the plate tonight. I would bet that we had ten batters take first pitch strike curves right over the middle of the plate.

    Like

  28. Roger
    June 27, 2015

    While I hope Singleton can make a difference I don’t believe he will. He may have some initial success, but I fear it will be short lived. Hitting .270-.280 at Fresno might translate into .220 in Houston. We shouldn’t be mesmerized by potential power, as we have enough of that, along with .220 averages. When I watched Singleton in ST I kept seeing a player who, to quote a friend, is “half a bubble off”. Something about his timing is just not right, whether it is hitting or fielding.
    To get a MOR pitcher or better you need to trade players who actually have some value. Most of us don’t seem too interested in seeing really high quality minor leaguers traded. Trading Singleton is one possibility, and doing it now, before he becomes another Carter, might appeal, as is the possibility of trading Rasmus, who is having a pretty good year. Trading Valbuenna, as much as I hate to put that in writing, is another.
    I would also bring up Kemp. If he actually can play CF, alternate him with Marisnick. And, if he can throw from CF, why can’t he throw from 3rd?
    I see the team making the playoffs, but not too much more than that, without changes. My position might change, but at the moment they are a bit too erratic.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 27, 2015

      The playoffs generally go to the teams who have:
      1. the best ‘big three’ starting pitcher tandems [i.e. the tandems that lead the league, at least the last half of the season, in WHIP, HR/9, K/9, and BB/9],
      2. a low WHIP, low HR/9 bullpen;
      3. two consistent top-of-the-lineup table setters [OBP, SB, R stat leaders];
      4. two consistent clutch offensive producers [BARISP, RBI, and OPS leaders] in the middle of the order; and
      5. at least one guy at the bottom of the order who steps up and surprises everybody with a flurry of extra base hits.

      The 2015 Astros, as presently configured, are not like that yet – but we are close. McCullers, Velasquez or McHugh would have to join Keuchel as stars at the TOR or we’d have to add a TOR [at what cost?].

      The bullpen is close – especially with Qualls now out of the way in rehab mode.

      We do yet have two consistent top-of-the-lineup table setters – but Kemp is ready and Altuve should eventually return to that role in the two-hole.

      We do not yet have two clutch offensive producers in the middle of the line up – but Correa should become one and either Springer or Tucker should become the other.

      We do have the potential, in Valbuena and/or Lowrie – and even Rasmus – to have the surprise guy at the bottom of the order.

      2016 looks to be much better than 2015 – if we stay the course.

      Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 27, 2015

      All I expect/hope from Jon Singleton at this point is to be a little better than Chris Carter. Considering how horrible Chris’ offensive production has been, that is not asking much. The good news is that these two guys will now go head to head – and only one tin soldier will walk away. When Lowrie comes back, one of those two guys is on his way out. Eventually A.J. Reed will get the same chance vis-a-vis whichever turns out to be the tin soldier in this years’s clash of wanna-be titans – but that is probably in late 2016 or in ST 2017.

      Like

  29. uncleknuckle
    June 27, 2015

    High draft pick, Nolan Fontana, who gets to play everyday, is now hitting .199.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      June 27, 2015

      I do understand that angst of the .199 hitter (who still has a .341 OBP with that average). Not defending the high pick or his “…play everyday” at all, but trying to look at it objectively. Remember how many of us wanted Marwin to play everyday a year or so ago? Couldn’t imagine why the Astros just wouldn’t plug him in? Now, most realize he’s only a really good Super Sub at best.

      Most scouts and coaches know the projections of a player based on a number of things other than stats…sometimes they’re wrong, but they know early on in the minor league career whether a player is a core player, a marginal player (to make the majors or even the next level) or just a filler. They know if they are “everyday”, a reserve or not.

      For whatever reason, it seems the Astros have tagged Fontana with higher hopes than, say, Sclafani. He hasn’t hit, yes, but his glove and OBP are above average. A .346 OBP with a .199 average…that’s just crazy…So THAT is the reason he’s still getting chances…the Astros are holding out hope he can just hit .230-.240!

      Anyway, just a thought for the discussion…not an argument.

      Liked by 1 person

    • 1oldpro
      June 27, 2015

      You hear the expression “he’s got all the tools, but hasn’t put it together yet”. Yeah that’s not what they say about Fontana. He has no tools and hasn’t put it together yet. MLB. com says he sprays line drives to all fields, but he’s never done that.
      He’s has never hit in the minors. Never! He walks a lot because he takes a lot. He strikes out a lot because he takes a lot.
      He’s hitting .199 now because he can’t hit AAA pitching. Or AA pitching. Or High A pitching. He’s our “#16” prospect because somebody thinks a second round SS is supposed to be able to play. He’s the guy from the 2012 draft that is a miss. That’s all there is to it.
      OR, he’s like DDJ and just wants to be somewhere else and is hoping it’ll happen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • astrocolt45
        June 27, 2015

        You two remind me of those deep discussion in high school of “what a pretty girl looks like.” I love this blog.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        June 27, 2015

        ac45, I have a problem with a team drafting a guy very high, playing him every day for three years and he never develops, yet they still run off better players for him.
        Then you have a guy drafted much lower in the same draft and year after year he gets punted around and still hits everywhere he gets a chance to play. They face the same pitchers and one constantly hits better, even though he gets screwed around every season and the other one constantly gets the primo jobs.
        It’s crazy.
        One of them goes to the AFL and hits .111, and his job is waiting for him the next spring.
        One goes to the AFL and hits .378 and leads his championship team in batting and the next spring he gets moved from position to position and from league to league, all the while hitting .260 while the other prospect hits .199.
        I rest my case.

        Like

      • Larry Leach
        June 27, 2015

        Old Pro, I’ve felt this about Fontana since I saw him play at Florida. I thought then and feel now that he was drafted way to high. I really don’t see him getting to Minute Maid. I think that he will be traded. I like him of course with his connection to Lew Burdette. The second pitcher behind Spahn in 57-58. Won 3 games in the 57 series.

        Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 27, 2015

      Joe Sclafani, we hardly knew ye.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chip Bailey
      June 27, 2015

      I will say…it is difficult to “spray line drives to all fields” with a .199 average. Really not enough “line drives” to go around to all fields. Just sayin’. 🙂 It’s hard for a team to admit a mistake, we’ve seen that many times. So I’m assuming that his “high draft pick” status — right or wrong — will get him the extra reps and perhaps more “everyday” time that it should.

      I’m guessing you would say that Fontana doesn’t even rise to the level of a Adam Everett, who held his own in the majors solely due to his defensive skills? At this point, yes, I’d agree with that assessment.

      Just trying to look at it objectively and offer some insight into why the ASTROS might want to give him a shot at everyday rather than another player.

      Like

  30. astrocolt45
    June 27, 2015

    MLB Trade Rumors reports that about 12 players were dumped by other teams this week and the Astros picked up -0-. This year is different from the past couple years and we all should be glad.

    Like

  31. Becky
    June 27, 2015

    I don’t think the A’s are ready to chunk it all just yet…but they *could* deal a starting pitcher named Scott kazmir. Call it woman’s intuition….but I think we are about to get what we’ve wished for. But…it he ain’t gonna be cheap. Look for them to raid corpus Christi we may lose some *big* talent. My stupid phone won’t let me spell dev..en..ski. but you get the point. Hader and Chris d. *will* be in the deal. And…Ga. tt. Is. Is playing today..your dh. Is singleton!!!

    Like

  32. 1oldpro
    June 27, 2015

    That is one crazy lineup. Gattis in LF with Ober on the mound, meaning lots of RHB in the Yankee lineup. Why not Tucker in LF against Tanaka and let Gattis sit?
    Seems they want the world to see more of Gattis.

    Like

  33. rj
    June 27, 2015

    oh my! gattis in LF. we’ll see how it works out. it does allow gattis, singleton (DH) and carter (1B) to be in the lineup at the same time. add in springer, correa, valbueno, rasmus, castro and altuve thats a lot of power. if a few of these guys get hot together they will score a lot of runs.

    Like

  34. daveb
    June 27, 2015

    I had pretty much put Sclafani to bed and moved on to Jon Kemmer as my new undervalued long shot. Then the responses to my mention of Fontana’s .199 BA rejuvenated my spirits for Plain Old Joe.

    We know that Joe hit .339 with a .420 OBP and an 858 OPS in 62, pretty much everyday games with OKC last season.

    And we know Fontana hit .262/.418/.794 playing everyday in AA ball last year.

    Career wise in the minors, Sclafani is .286/.374/.761
    Career wise in the minors, Fontana is .243/.411/.783

    These are basic hitting stats for 2015:

    Sclafani 145 PA’s .264/.373/.679
    Fontana 235 PA’s .199/.341/.679

    Does Fontana sport a flashier glove? Seems the experts say it takes up to three years to determine a real feel for how good or bad a guy is defensively. So all I have is comparisons, and these are basic stats. I don’t have access to extended minor league defensive metrics. That’s where our GM has much better info than I do.

    Sclafani has a 4.54 range factor over 119 games at second base. He’s got a .975 fielding percentage there..
    Fontana has a 4.25 range factor over 60 games at second base. He’s got a .966 fielding percentage there..

    Scalfani has a 3.98 range range factor over 145 games at short and a .938 fielding percentage there.

    Fontana has a 4.06 range factor over 206 games at short and a .966 fielding percentage there, same as second.

    Stolen base stats:

    Sclafani 55/15 over his minor league career.
    Fontana 35/21 over his minor league career.

    So, these guys are relatively similar. Seems that Sclafani is a better base stealer. Both guys are very similar at second base defensively. It looks like Fontana has the edge at short. Both guys swing a pretty soft bat.

    But I will say this. I would have tried to build on what Sclafani accomplished in AAA ball last year. Fontana did nothing to impress in AA last year. So I would have given Sclafani every opportunity in 2015 to repeat his 2014 numbers. Instead, we went the other way and gave that nod to Fontana. Maybe OP is right. It’s much harder to give up on a #2 pick rather than a #14 pick. Or maybe Joe has smelly feet or something.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 27, 2015

      I hate it when I remember a story, but not who said, but….. I was watching various games a month ago on MLBTV. There was a color announcer for a team that was talking about draft picks. He was a #1 pick by the Padres, or some west coast team. He was given multiple opportunities but never panned out. When asked if a #1 pick was given the benefit of the doubt, he said No. And then added but you will get a lot more opportunities. I think that is true in all pro sports. If anybody drafts you high, you get chances and chances. Look at Tyler Greene or Brett Wallace. And speaking of Brett, he is batting .500 for the Padres. Now, before you SCREAM it is a small sample (2 for 4), any time after the 1st AB that he is hitting over .200 in MLB – that is a news story.

      Like

  35. 1oldpro
    June 27, 2015

    Well you could see this coming a mile away. All of a sudden Gattis is better against a righties than Tucker and actually playing a position for the first time in forever in front of a sellout crowd. Oberholtzer looks more scared than a first time dad in a labor waiting room. Altuve with a horrible at bat with a chance for us to get back in it. Obie doesn’t throw inside to Young, who needs to be knocked off the plate and grooves a homer pitch to him and then gets himself thrown out of the game by trying to hit a guy that he was too scared to throw a strike to in the first inning.
    Horrible performance by the team on the big stage.
    Let’s see if anybody has the heart to come back and try to win this game.

    Like

  36. Becky
    June 27, 2015

    *wow* rob drake had a quick temper and Obie had enough of the Yankees today. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Obie have a temper like that before!!! I hope our guys don’t let that rattle them. A *grand slam* by McCann will do it to you. Note to hinch:
    Do *not * pitch to Chris young!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • SargeH
      June 27, 2015

      Chris Young’s BA is probably something like .800+ against Houston in Houston.

      Like

      • Dan P
        June 27, 2015

        Hometown kid murders his hometown pitchers it seems.

        Like

  37. Dan P
    June 27, 2015

    Two thoughts after a few innings:
    – Jon Singleton reminds me of himself as he hits a ginormous pop-up and then strikes out on a pitch out of the strike zone.
    – Chris Carter realizes he better start hitting and hits a double and a homer in his first two at bats
    This feels like one of those games we come back but come up short…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan P
      June 27, 2015

      I knew if I wrote it that way we would tie it up…. Correa is absolutely wonderful!!!!

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        June 27, 2015

        Isn’t he amazing? How many times have we waited for a young guy to come up and shine and then he outdoes our hopes? Tied up 6-6. Let’s see what happens.

        Like

  38. Dan P
    June 27, 2015

    Do the Yankees ever lose a video review by New York?

    Like

  39. Mr. Bill
    June 27, 2015

    I am not seeing the game, just checking in. To anyone watching, is the home plate ump squeezing Astros pitchers, or do we deserve all those BBs?

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 27, 2015

      It’s hard to win when you give up 7 BBs and hit a batter. Way too many free bases.

      Like

    • Dan P
      June 27, 2015

      To me the ump has been all over the place – all I ask is consistency and he has not been that. Seems to have a small and moving strike zone. I would say he has called a lot more strikes on us.

      Like

      • Mr. Bill
        June 27, 2015

        Maybe he is still ticked at Oberholtzer, and taking it out on us.

        Like

  40. Dan P
    June 27, 2015

    I sure thought tossing Obie was an over-reaction. He did not hit A-Rod and he was not head hunting. However the way Obie was pitching he may have done us a favor.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      June 27, 2015

      You are right, Dan. Obie’s line today looks pretty gosh-awful. Hope he bounces back quickly, because we are going to need him.

      Like

      • Mr. Bill
        June 27, 2015

        Wow – he’s been optioned to Fresno.

        Like

  41. Dan P
    June 27, 2015

    Wow speaking of reactions – Obie was just optioned to Fresno. They will announce the call-up tomorrow.

    Like

    • Dan P
      June 27, 2015

      Appel? Wojo?

      Like

      • Roger
        June 27, 2015

        Watched the Yankee feed as my brother in law is a Yankee fan and was at his house. Their announcers said that it looked to them like Obie was so upset with his performance that he wanted to be thrown out of the game. They added that this would not go over well in the clubhouse. Looks like they were right.

        Like

      • Devin_
        June 27, 2015

        Good call Roger. Last year, Porter and Luhnow applauded Oberholtzer taking one for the team and grinding it out regardless the situation. Getting tossed was plain immature and senseless.

        Like

  42. Becky
    June 27, 2015

    Obie sent down. What or better who will full that spot. I doubt Scott feld. Man is ready to come back in the next two weeks.

    Like

  43. astrocolt45
    June 27, 2015

    $$Cole Hamels ‘open-minded’ to all potential trade destinations.$$

    I did not think quotation marks were appropriate. After past couple weeks, anyone want to trade Feldman and his $8 Million + someone for Hamels ???

    Like

    • Becky
      June 27, 2015

      Yeah..he changed his mind when he saw we were in first place in the west. But…I doubt luhnow.is giving this one much thought. They want a *ton* in return.

      Like

  44. 1oldpro
    June 27, 2015

    I know it’s crazy, but I would not be surprised if Joe Musgrove is called up to Houston. At 10-1 for the year, he fits the profile of the type of pitchers the Astros have been calling up. He is either going to have to be protected at the end of the year or he will be drafted in the Rule V. So this might be a good time to see him and what he has. Right now he seems to have the best command, the best stuff, and seems to be the kind of pitcher like LMJ and VV. He’s been in the system for years, he is a Luhnow kind of pitcher and at 22 he might fit in well with the team.
    He’s got the numbers to be a future Astros pitcher and who would we replace him on the 40-man and 25-man? A player or two who might not be in the future plans.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 27, 2015

      That said, tonight Evan Drellich is citing a source that says Michael Feliz has left Corpus Christi.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        June 28, 2015

        OP, it does seem Luhnow has a pecking order and Feliz is at the top right now. Of course, he’s on the 40-man and Musgrove is not…at the moment. The Feliz move is not a surprise, but it also may be a stop gap until Feldman returns, a move is made or something else happens.

        The innings question for McCullers, Velasquez and ultimately Feliz will be begging an answer very, very soon.

        Like

  45. Becky
    June 28, 2015

    I was sad to see Oberholtzer punished like that today. He is one of the most mild mannered guys on this team. Clearly that was his worst start, and he was in overload. Hinch and Luhnow sent a message loud and clear. I hope he’s not gone forever.

    Like

  46. daveb
    June 28, 2015

    Oberholtzer is not a very good pitcher. On a good team, he does not have a slot in the rotation. Sorry, not sad. We need better guys if we want to win.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 28, 2015

      Ober has not had a good year with 7 starts and lasting only 33 innings. His short career has a WHIP of 1.327. That compares to Feldman’s career.

      Like

      • daveb
        June 28, 2015

        Yes, Feldman is not very good either. Not the kind of guy you want to take into a short series. in the post season.

        Like

    • Chip Bailey
      June 28, 2015

      dave, I wouldn’t disagree to say Oberholtzer is not a long-term solution. He does show signs at times that he could stick, but the judgment in the Saturday night scenario is troubling. I’m wondering if Luhnow had a conversation with him after the incident and determined from that conversation (plus the incident itself) that he (Luhnow) couldn’t put up with it and made the decision to move him.

      Also wonder is this move signals his demise on the team and if Obie will ever again wear an Astros’ jersey.

      Like

  47. Roger
    June 28, 2015

    I disagree, Dave. I think with continued work, Oberholtzer will be a late bloomer and hopefuly successful with us. He’s not done, but I must admit I don’t fully understand what happened. He’s not new to the ML, to umpires with changing strike zones, or to suddenly being hit hard. This is more complicated.

    Like

  48. 1oldpro
    June 28, 2015

    Ober had nothing yesterday. His breaking pitch was flat, his fastball had no pop or movement and it topped out at 88. The grand slam was up in the Zone and I thought it was a fastball, but McCann and the announces said it was changeup. If you can’t tell the difference, that’s why it got hit..
    I mentioned yesterday that Young was the guy Ober needed to throw inside on because the last two days he had been leaning out over the plate to pull the outside half of the plate had he needed to be moved. Instead, Ober grooved a pitch to him and then threw at ARod.
    The scary part of yesterday’s performance was not that Ober didn’t attack the zone, it’s that he had nothing to attack the zone with. That is a better reason to send him down than punishing him. He did not have major league stuff yesterday and then blew up in front of a packed house and gave up.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 28, 2015

      I noticed in his June 22nd game that he got upset in the 2nd inning. Not sure if he was pissed about the shift or his own performance but he was upset as he went to back up third. He then plunked the next batter. His control was off so I am not saying it was on purpose. But his was obviously upset and Pujols did not help with a 2-run shot. You can see the condensed game on MLB TV Media center for Free (and any other game that is over a day old).

      Like

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