So, right now we’re all looking over the National League, trying to figure out who the Astros will play in the World Series and checking Trip Advisor to get an early look at hotel prices in San Francisco, New York and Chicago (just kidding) for late October.
Yeah, the times they are a changin’.
I remember last year saying the Astros would win 81-85 games, finish third in the division and miss the playoffs but give it a good run. Obviously, my predictions will aim a little higher in 2016.
So, what were we looking at this time last year … and the year before that?
Well, as we wait for breathless reports of pitchers and catchers unpacking their toiletries in their lockers, high fiving old teammates and making reservations at a steakhouse before hitting the field to stretch tomorrow, here’s a look back.
Feb. 18, 2015. Chip wrote a rather prescient piece on the depth of our minor leagues at each position.
* His top first baseman? A guy named A.J. Reed that most of us knew only as the Golden Spikes winner who could also pitch.
* Preston Tucker was the fourth-best outfielder. Two of the ones higher on the list are now with the Brewers. The best guys on this list are now younger — Kyle Tucker and Daz Cameron — but I’m pretty sure we all miss Brett Phillips.
- Even with the graduation of Carlos Correa, Nolan Fontana is still the second-best shortstop in the Astros’ minor league system.
- The list of pitchers has been decimated. So long Mark Appel and Vincent Velasquez. That said, with the emergence of Joe Musgrove and Frances Martes … plus the return of Michael Feliz, do we miss them that much?
The whole article has nary a mention of Tyler White or Matt Duffy. Or Chris Devenski for that matter.
Of course looking over the article from 2015 doesn’t seem all that out of place. A few names have changed, but we’re talking about many of the same guys. Preston Tucker, Lance McCullers and Carlos Correa are still hot topics. Many of the same minor leaguers would make a similar list this year.
A few days later, Chip again gave us a post about decisions facing Jeff Luhnow. First base was on the agenda, with Chip suggesting the ball was in John Singleton’s court.
Starter options looked like Roberto Hernandez, Dan Straily, Brad Peacock and Sam Deduno.
But looking back to Feb. 18, 2014, we have an interesting look at Carlos Correa coming out of his low A season at Quad Cities and how a big spring in 2014 just might catapult him past Jonathan Villar in 2015.
Interesting, yes. But for my money, I’ll go back an extra day to Dan’s tragic look at how a revamped bullpen can catapult a team to respectability.
Tragic? Well, the point he makes about the 2011 Diamondbacks bullpen (an improved unit from the 2010 version) and the 2008 Rays bullpen (vs. the bad version in 2007) and how those pens changed the complexion of their teams is spot on.
He then goes on to write about how Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain (yikes!) will alter the landscape of the Astros’ fortunes. This was so bad, Crain was seen as the closer, and he never pitched again in the majors after that article was written. He did pitch in the AFL for the White Sox last year, but his Baseball Reference page still shows him in an Astros cap.
Like I said. Yikes.
Go a day later on Feb. 19, 2014, and you have a cringe-worthy piece by Chip (believe me, my “What The Heck Was He Thinking” stories are littered across the landscape a couple of years ago) that takes a look at potential diamonds in the rough.
Peter Moylan — the Aussie with the down-under motion — is now providing pitching depth in the Royals’ system. He actually logged 10.1 decent IP for Atlanta last year.
The other gem in hiding was Alex White, who looks to be out of baseball.
The point here isn’t to pick on Chip — or Alex White or Peter Moylan — but to look at how far we’ve come.
Today, our diamonds in the rough story would be about which excellent first base prospect we send out to the pillow at Yankees (spit!) Stadium on opening day. Our biggest worry in the rotation is which major leaguer with a proven track record will start the season in the Astros bullpen. Our biggest concern in the outfield is whether Preston Tucker — a guy with an OPS above .730 — will make the squad.
Rejoice Astros fans.
So, what did you worry about in 2014 or 2013 (or even this time last year) that doesn’t concern you anymore?
What do you think will be less worrisome in 2017? Is there anything that will keep you up nights this time next year? Contract extensions? How those World Series rings are messing with everyone’s grip on the bat?