There will be changes. This time last year, few of us had heard of Evan Gattis. Colby Rasmus was on few Chipalatta fans’ radar. Carlos Correa was still mending from a broken leg. Lance McCullers Jr. was coming off a so-so year at Lancaster — at best.
So I’d expect some big changes for 2016.
Will all the changes be home runs? Doubtful. I’m sure Luhnow will swing and miss a few times. But learning to avoid the swings and misses is really what the changes for 2016 needs to be about.
The people who did the most swinging and missing were Colby Rasmus (154Ks/432ABs), Chris Carter (151/391), Evan Gattis (119/566), Jason Castro (115/337), George Springer (109/388), Luis Valbuena (106/434) and Jake Marisnick (105/339). A dishonorable mention goes to Hank Conger (63/201) who whiffed nearly a third of the time.
In all honesty, Gattis’ K numbers don’t look too bad. Frankly, he struck out less than 20 percent of the time, which is good considering his power numbers. Valbuena was under 25 percent as well, though his batting average doesn’t make up for not being the worst whiff offender. Of course he walked a lot more than Gattis, and both had idential .748 OPSs. Speaking of which, Springer, who whiffed 28 percent of the time, ended up with an OPS of .826. So Ks aren’t always a barometer of production.
Still, if cutting the useless Ks is the goal, it starts at first base. I am sure even Luhnow agrees with that. But where else? Do we replace Evan Gattis? He might not have been the worst whiffer, but his production wasn’t stellar for a guy who spent the middle of the lineup all season.
Between Rasmus and Marisnick, there’s a lot of whiffs even if there was also a lot of ground covered in the outfield. Rasmus is probably gone as a free agent, so does that mean Preston Tucker gets Rasmus’ end of the job?
Oh, and catcher, though a Gold Glove would go a long way to fixing that problem. Well, that and fixing the other spots.
I don’t know what Luhnow will find on the trade or free agent markets, but just like 2015, there will be options from the farm for 2016. But are those farmhands the answer when it comes to strikeouts?
A.J. Reed spent 2015 in Lancaster and Corpus. Between the two stops he racked up 122 Ks in 523 ABs. If he finds his way to Houston at some point in 2016, I’d guess his whiff rate goes up instead of down in the early going.
Tyler White, meanwhile, spent his year in Corpus and Fresno where he whiffed just 73 times in 403 ABs. Along the way he collected 99 RBIs and a .939 OPS.
Matt Duffy spent the year in Fresno earning an .850 OPS with just 90 Ks in 490 ABs.
Between those three — plus Colin Moran collected just 79 Ks in 366 ABs with an .840 OPS — the Astros seem to have some options at first and third.
As for the outfield, maybe John Kemmer is an option. He had 89 Ks in 364 ABs and a .988 OPS.
So, what farm options interest you. Reed and Duffy and White? Moran or Kemmer? Andrew Aplin? There are a few catchers in Fresno, but none look like the a real replacement for Castro. But one might be the replacement for Conger.
Should Houston focus on the farm?
Should Luhnow look for rentals again?
Which whiffer needs to be replaced the most? OK, which one after Carter?