Not in first place any longer. Check.
The offense is sputtering like that motorcycle I could never get running again. Check.
Chinks in the pitching staff’s armor seem to have appeared. Check.
Injuries have finally exposed the lack of depth at the top level of this system. Check.
Yeah, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Plenty of time to fuss about the slipping fortunes of the 2015 Astros once the All-Star break is done. No, today, the day after two top prospects helped the U.S. team to a win in the Futures Game. So, I’d like to take this break to talk about a couple of future Astros — particularly on the offensive side — who might be able to help with that 2017 World Series championship.
A.J. Reed: The Astros still haven’t found the answer at first base. It’s not Chris Carter. The guy seems like he’s earning a moral victory because he’s flying out instead of striking out. Yeah, and Jon Singleton is doing his best Brett Wallace impersonation.
Meanwhile Reed, a Golden Spikes winner, is an all-out hitter. He was just promoted to AA after spending half a season in Lancaster hitting .346/.449/.638. Power? He hit 23 homers and a total of 43 extra-base hits. Hit tool? Aside from that high average, he’s struck out just 73 times in 318 ABs. And he’s committed just six errors at first base. This is a guy who won 12 games as a pitcher his junior year at Kentucky.
The other spot that’s still a big disappointment is third base. Sure, if Jed Lowrie comes back he might make a good replacement for Luis Valbuena at third. But eventually the Astros need to grow their own third sacker.
The obvious choice is Colin Moran. He’s hitting .279/.337/.387 at Corpus. Not a lot of power, but he’s had an injury-plagued career thus far with the Astros. But by 2017 we all might be talking about J.D. Davis. At .277/.360/.464, he might be our real future third baseman. Well, at least until Alex Bregman pushes Carlos Correa to the hot corner when he takes over at short stop.
Yes, we still need to get a decent catcher. Apparently, pitch framing isn’t the hidden skill that is sweeping the sport after all. Here I would say don’t be fooled by Tyler Heineman‘s .314 BA in Fresno. The guy has a .679 OPS in Fresno and zero homers between AA and AAA this season. Yeah, I’m thinking no. Instead, we have Jacob Nottingham at Lancaster. Yes, Lancaster numbers can be deceiving, but this kid is batting .362 with a 1.114 OPS in 11 High-A games. And he’s in Lancaster because he equally made a fool of the pitching in the Midwest League at Quad Cities. Oh, and he’s 20 years old. Power, average, relatively low K numbers; if Nottingham can frame a pitch (gag!), he’ll probably make it to AAA by the end of 2016.
And, finally, we need another great outfielder. And what team from Texas wouldn’t do great with a kid named Brett Maverick Phillips. Currently at Corpus Christi, Phillips has a combined 2015 batting line of .319/.378/.567. Strikeouts? Just under 20 percent for the season thus far. And he has 15 homers. Oh, and he’s another center fielder.
1. So, with all the focus on the Major League club this season, what farm hand has impressed you thus far?
2. Is there enough pitching in Houston’s system to fill in those rotation and bullpen holes in 2016 and 2017?
3. Which slugger still in the minors has you checking our farm team box scores every day?
4. Are reinforcements getting close enough, fast enough to help this team in 2016? Any help available for 2015 other than the ones the Astros has plucked thus far?