Meetings adjourned: Where Houston stands


Well, that was interesting.

I have a brother who lives in Phoenix and is a big D-Backs fan. All I heard all week was Tony La Russa this and Tony La Russa that. You’d think La Russa was his prom date.

Seeing the Winter Meetings through the eyes of fans from other teams is interesting. One Philly blog speculated that the fourth player in the deal to get Ken Giles was none other than John Singleton. (It was pitcher Thomas Eschelman.)

My D-Backs loving brother was all in on Zach Greinke. Hey, it’s only money (six years, $206 million). And he boasted of the trade that brought Shelby Miller to the desert. Any suggestion that giving up No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson plus Aaron Blair (D-Backs No. 3 prospect at the time) and outfielder Ender Inciarte would come back to haunt ‘Zona was blasphemy on my part … and met with ridicule when Houston sent four players to Philly for Giles. (“Houston did the same thing, only worse!”)

Well, we’ll see. No amount of me explaining the irrelevance of Brett Oberholtzer, the redundancy in our system of Derek Fisher (Hello Daz and the “other” Tucker!), or how Eschelman projects as a middle innings reliever helped make my case.

Oh well. That’s my brother.

So, how are we all feeling after everyone has boarded their flights out of Nashville international Airport?

Here’s what happened in Astros Land:

1. Luhnow sent Vincent Velasquez (the piece of the deal that hurt), Oberholtzer, Fisher and Eschelman to Philadelphia for five controllable years of closer Ken Giles.

2. Luhnow opened up Jim Crane’s wallet and paid (thank goodness!) Tony Sipp $16 million over three years.

3. And no Astros were harmed in the making of the 2015 Rule V draft.

So my question to you is this: How do you feel after the Winter meetings are done?

I read somewhere that Luhnow’s offseason list included a closer (check) a lefty reliever (check) and a starting pitcher (what?). Do the Astros need another starter? Right now, A.J. Hinch can trot out on successive days (I explained to my brother that Greinke and Miller still didn’t make the D-Backs’ rotation as good as Houston’s, but did he listen? No.) Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman.

I’ll ask again: Does Houston need another starter?

Before the meetings started, Houston gave away Hank Conger, waived goodbye to Chris Carter and traded Jed Lowrie for a AA reliever (albeit a good one). That pretty much sums up Jeff’s winter.

Is he done? Do we hope the messes at first and third base just sort themselves out with what Houston has on hand? Who would you start at the corners right now?

Anyway, now I’m just waiting on the Hall of Fame vote and praying Jeff Bagwell hits 75 percent.

Sigh.

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162 comments on “Meetings adjourned: Where Houston stands

  1. I said at the beginning of the year that the Astros needed power arms in the bullpen, better BOR starting pitching, and higher BA leading to more obp and RBIs
    Now the season is over and the results are in and the Astros are looking for those three things.
    They got one this weekend: a power arm for the bullpen.
    They have chucked Villar, Grossman, Carter and Conger, so they are working on that hitting.
    They have much better BOR pitchers than they had to start last season and are trying for more. Any other #5 throw a no-hitter against the Dodgers?
    I’ve read every article I can find on the internet on this trade and they all start with “the Astros got what they needed and wanted, but….”. As far as I’m concerned, if the Astros got what they needed and didn’t give up anyone from their team, I’m good with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Somebody please just remind me how strong we still are in pitching up and down the system. I’m having real trouble seeing more than two potential TORs left anywhere in our system, so all help would be appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I partially agree with your assessment. But to use one ranking of the Top 30 by club, we have 12 above average prospects with 4 being pitchers. But the key is look at the current club and see how many pitchers are under contract for at least 2 years and team control even longer. The Astros are not a team that needs to be rebuilt in the next couple years. We have time for those in low A to work through the system. But to address your point, they BETTER work through the system.

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      • That’s the point I was trying to make on an earlier post, but clearly not as well as you just stated. With several years of team control for our entire rotation, and I’m assuming Kazmir or another SP will be signed soon, we have time to allow these pitchers to work through the system.

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    • We have 5 major league starters
      We have Wojo, Shirley, Buchanan, Feliz, Musgrove, Straily, Hauschild, Jankowski, Devenski, Brady Rodgers and Peacock in AAA.
      We have Martes, Paulino, Kyle Smith, Kent Emanuel, Brian Holmes Keegan Yuhl Kyle Westwood, Edison Frias all at AA or High A.
      Pretty much, every one of those guys have been starting in the Astros system.
      How many potential TORs does any system have?
      The Astros also have Albert Abreu who was a top pitcher in the GCL and for Greenville last season who is 19 and opening some eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Some pitchers can turn on a dime and give you change in return. Dallas Kuechel three years ago… who would have thought? Collin McHugh two years ago at the beginning of the season in the minors… who would have thought? Scott Kazmir early last season… who would have thought? Be patient for awhile.

      Liked by 2 people

    • That may be true but at the same time how many people saw DK as a #1 or a CY winner in the minors let alone after his first year in the majors?

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      • The consensus of this blog was that he would challenge for the fifth spot in the 2014 rotation and likely get the long reliever role instead. I’m glad we were wrong.

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    • A great many starters that become TOR guys are not seen as TOR prospects. A great many TOR prospects don’t become TOR guys. Our team is riddled with examples (Keuchel and McHugh are the top of that list). Generally hitters tell you who they are before they even get to the majors, pitchers generally don’t.

      Besides, our current rotation outside of Feldman, years of control. Sure, you want depth, and we have a little, but these dogs aren’t going anywhere for a while. I think, if they are healthy and you are looking at Fiers and Feldman as the BOR guys, you have the best rotation possibly in all of baseball.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just to complete the above thoughts, we have no position player that is 30+ years old. This is a very, very young team. (Cheap and under team control)

    Now if my pal Bopert were on here, he would remind me of the 1950 Phillies Whiz Kids that were going to be great for years to come.

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  4. Minor league player I am pulling for to turn it around- Teoscar Hernandez. So much talent and a terrific work ethic. An easy guy to pull for.
    Possibly THE most important minor leaguer we need to have a good year- Colin Moran
    Minor leaguer with the most to gain-AJ Reed. All three LH bats in the 2016 Astros lineup are free agents after the year ends, Castro, Valbuena and Rasmus. First base is an open door waiting for AJ Reed to walk through and slam it closed behind him.
    Most under rated pitcher- Joe Musgrove. If you have a 60 fastball, a 55 curve, a 50
    changeup and 60 control, how can your overall grade be a 50? Incredible K/BB rate and GO/AO rate. I guess he has to dominate in AAA to get noticed.
    Minor league player who has shown the ability, but has to do it even better to make it to the Astros: Tony Kemp. Hitting over .300 w/ the high OBP in Fresno is the only way he will overcome his size. The glove is there. Has to make it as an outfielder to break into the Astros lineup because …Altuve.
    Most important arm- Michael Feliz. With the trades the Astros have made, Feliz needs to be gold.

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    • Don’t disagree with any of that OP. But I sure would like to see three or four of our young pitchers – one of whom should be left-handed, and hopefully at several levels – have breakout years from the get go. What are the odds all of Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers, Fiers, and Kazmir/Feldman stay healthy all year in 2016? Unless we get more production – especially OBP and BARISP – from 1B, 3B, and CF, we just don’t have enough offense away from the HR friendly confines of MMP to compensate for anything but domination from our starters.

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    • Don’t disagree with any of that. One thing I would like to see in addition is three or four of our young pitchers – one of whom should be left-handed, and hopefully at levels above A ball – have breakout years from the get-go. What are the odds all of Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers, Fiers, and Kazmir/Feldman stay healthy all year in 2016?

      And I am a little concerned, based upon last year’s away record, that unless the major league teams get a lot more production – especially OBP and BARISP – from 1B, 3B, CF, and DH – we just don’t have enough offense away from the HR friendly confines of MMP to compensate for anything but domination from our starters.

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    • If Steven is right in his comments above, and hitters tell you who they are before they get to the majors, Tyler White is screaming at us. He hit over .300 at AA with more BBs than Ks, then got promoted to AAA and hit over .360 with more BBs than Ks and a .559 SLG. I’m hoping he is starting for Houston on opening day.

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    • I agree whole heartedly. White looks like Kruk, which is why he has never been on a radar. Luckily, he hits like him too (maybe even better). I look forward to seeing if he can duplicate even some of that success at the major league level.

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  5. About our AAA pitching – taking PAS out of the equation. We have all seen WOJO, and we all know what he is – a flyball pitcher with a flat fastball who is not cut out for a ground-ball, soft-contact pitcher’s park like MMP. Some of us have been hoping he would be one of the guys – along with either Evan Gattis or Luis Valbuena, or both – who got traded away this off-season. The fact that no one has gobbled him – or any of our other AAA starters other than Appel – up in any of the trades speaks volumes to me. Teams who have done their homework understandably preferred guys like Cosart, Tropiano, Mengden, Hader, Houser, Velasquez, and Appel to any pitcher left in our system not named Musgrove.

    We’ve seen several auditions already by Buchanan and Straily and Peacock. We have been underwhelmed – as has the league. Nobody’s holding their breath for any of those guys to get promoted. Devenski? Our F.O. did not even think enough of him to protect him from Rule 5 eligibility. I hope he proves them wrong in a big way – but that’s probably just my last traces of PAS speaking.

    Rodgers? Rodgers is a really nice guy who the misfortune of getting bombed out of the ballpark way too frequently. Tommy Shirley? He’s a lefty, and if he stays healthy I suspect he becomes our ace at Fresno this year. But he and Feliz are the only ones of the bunch who it presently looks like might one day become even a BOR on a contending MLB staff.

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    • I haven’t given up on Devenski. I think he wasn’t protected because the Astros did not believe he would be picked. Somehow, Devenski has to improve his fastball. He has to find a way to make it a pitch that can complement his changeup or else the hitters will ignore the changeup. Strom could be his only hope to make it to the majors. He has to get better, but he does have time.
      Chapman appears to only have a chance as a LOOGY. If he can’t get AAA RH batters out, he probably won’t make it in the majors.
      Rodgers has work to do and Shirley has to make it back from whatever he got DL’d for. Have more hope for Hauschild and Jankowski than Wojo because of those flyballs.

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      • OP1, I’ve always liked Jordan Jankowski, but his WHIP skyrocketed last year when he assumed a relief role. Do you see Strom as directing him back toward the rotation now that Appel and Velasquez, among all the others, are gone? Or do you see him more as middle-to-long reliever material?

        Hauschild’s a low strikeout, high ground ball guy who hardly ever walks anybody. Do you think he can make it to the bigs if he doesn’t substantially improve his K/9 ratio and substantially lower his BAA?

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      • I think Jankowski was concentrating on specific changes in his stuff per the club instructions because his walk rated skyrocketed from 26 walks in 108 innings in AA to 34 walks in 62 AAA innings. He had to be trying new pitches or a new delivery to do that.

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    • I think Shirley is a nice pitcher, but I would still put Martes ahead of him. Musgrove, Martes and Feliz are probably the best chances for pitchers to become TORs in the major leagues. I am not saying they will, but they have the best chance.

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    • All talk about minor league pitchers is great. I like Musgrove. I don’t have a lot of like for most the others. The only thing I really care about from minor leaguers is if they avoid walking a lot of people. The rest can be adjusted as they progress. Missing bats is great too, but you don’t have to miss bats to be successful in the majors. The idea is to throw unhittable hittable pitches, or pitches that don’t get squared up more often then the other guy. You won’t always see that in the minors.

      I liked Buchanan early just for that reason. He didn’t walk a lot of people, and his BABIP against was generally good. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that at the major league level. Pitchers are finicky creatures, sometimes they tell us they are going to be good, and then get here and are not, sometimes they never tell us they are going to be good and end winning a Cy Young award. If you told me 4 years ago that one or the other, Keuchel or Buchanan, would end up a Cy Young winner, I would have told you the wrong one.

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  6. If the 6 players the Astros have that are arb eligible get the salaries that MLBTR projects, the Astros payroll sits at $80million for 14 players.

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  7. Manfred continues the lifetime ban of Pete Rose from major league baseball, other than ceremonials.
    I can’t help but think that if Rose was a likeable person, things might be different. But he just doesn’t seem to be very likeable.

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    • And he keeps shooting himself in the foot. During the interview with Manfred he admitted he still legally bets on baseball, among other legal sports betting. Yes, he was being honest, but I am sure this concerns MLB.

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  8. Alright, if we consider what we’ve got at AA. Everybody knows about Musgrove. At Corpus last year in 7 starts he had a 2.20 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Plus he averages striking out one an inning, and walking absolutely no one. Gulp! He’s one of the guys I am definitely still counting on -and that obviously the F.O. likes too.

    Beyond Musgrove, we’ve got Brian Holmes, Kyle Westwood, and Frances Martes – oh wait, Kent Emmanuel might be back – and I think we still have Aaron West. The best of these might be Martes [although he did not do well at AAA upon his promotion (with a very small 3 game sample size)], that dude is, however, only 20 years old, and has some pretty good stats at the lower levels.

    Holmes started 14 games for CC last year and did not fare well at all, in any category. Too wild, too hittable, too many HRs allowed, and not nearly enough bat-missing stuff.

    Westwood started 19 games at CC and did not by any means earn a promotion. He gave up 160 hits and 26 BBs in 132 innings. He kept the ball in the park pretty well, but he didn’t keep the opponents from scoring on a barrage of singles and doubles.

    Emmanuel? Will surgery help his historically anemic K/9? Will he even start the year at Corpus, or will he return to Lancaster – where he has not fared well – to try and rehab? His biggest value right now seems to lie in the fact that he throws from the left side. But you still have to be able to strike people out to be a MLB quality loogy.

    West? Is he really still with us? Ah yes, he’s now a middle reliever. At age 25, Aaron’s downfall appears to be his inability to strike people out. Fortunately, he doesn’t walk many, so his WHIP is low. But he’d better build that K/9 up together this year, or his star will surely go out.

    And then there is Akeem Bostick, who we can hope will be at Corpus by at least mid-season. He looked great last year at Quad Cities – but the hi desert air at Lancaster ate his lunch, and he got his head handed to him on a platter. And again, he just doesn’t seem to strike many people out.

    If something doesn”t change, at Corpus they could be saying: Musgrove, Martes, then skip the ballpark and go to part-ays.

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      • I expect Smith will take the whole year to be better than he was, which was pretty good. I like Martes because he is super young and has the low walk rate. He could be terrific.
        I like Paulino because he is very young and has a low walk rate and got what everyone else gets in Lancaster: hit. Paulino is a real good prospect, which is why he got protected. Guys who are on the 40-man get moved up. He has good stuff.
        I think the Astros are not going to give up on anyone we have named who is at CC currently. They want every one of these pitchers to show them what David Martinez couldn’t: that they can move up to AAA and be effective. Some will hit the wall, some may climb over it and move to the next, higher wall.

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    • I’m not sure why they would demote Emmanuel to Lancaster. He’ll go to extended spring training / instructional ball in FLA until ready for Corpus, I expect. He actually finished 2014 strong at Lancaster. His best pitch is still the changeup. If he can come back from TJ surgery, you are probably looking at a BOR lefty. I don’t think the tandem system has done him any favors. I don’t want to throw out an unfair comparison, but I would say he is somewhere in between Oberholtzer and Keuchel in terms of future value. I’d be surprised if he didn’t provide at least as much as the former as a starter.

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  9. So can anyone picture a future Astros bullpen with
    James Hoyt
    Reymin Guduan
    Riley Ferrell
    Michael Freeman
    Jandel Gustave
    Luke Gregerson
    Kendall Giles
    Lotsa arms there. 2017?

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  10. I think we need to make one more trade. Aplin even up for Trout with LAA throwing in 1/2 the balance of Trout’s salary in cash. Or make the trade with the W’s for Bryce Harper provided they throw in Pap – whose only job will be to choke him if he starts dogging it again. 🙂

    Like

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