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Untouchables: Ranking the Astros’ core and nucleus


Most valuable? Most difficult to replace? Most sought after? Untouchables? Available?

Houston has a long list of players that other teams covet. There are some that could be pried loose and others who aren’t going anywhere. But which players are the most coveted and which ones might be available are probably in the eye of the particular beholder or evaluator.

For example, would George Springer be easier to replace than Jose Altuve? Will Alex Bregman eventually be better than all the current Astros’ stars? Would the Astros still be a major contender if Carlos Correa was traded?

Some of these issues have been discussed or at least danced around in recent weeks, but here’s an exercise for you today. Without trying to name an MVP for Houston, let’s look at it a different way. Who is the most integral and important to the team? That also involves how easy it would be to replace that player, who perhaps is waiting in the wings and what would that player bring to the organization five years from now?

With those criteria, let’s rank the most integral position players. I’ve given several player profiles here who are considered part of the Astros’ core or nucleus. For this exercise, we’ll use only players who have touched the major leagues and whose names have been bandied about to one degree or another this winter.

Let’s play.

Springer. 27. Under team control through 2021.

Most oft spoken of as the odd man out or first mentioned in trade rumors. He’s rarely considered by fans as untouchable. Rather, many say they’d be okay giving him up for a TOR pitcher. In many respects, he is the reincarnation of Hunter Pence. Speedy, good bat, some power and good glove. While he’s probably never really received the respect due him, he may well be one of the key keys to the Astros’ success in the next few years.

Yes, he would be easier to replace than the so-called skill positions that Altuve and Correa play, but his versatility and consistent production is also among the elite in the American League.

Question: Now that he is moving to his “home” in center field, will his production increase, much like Evan Gattis when he catches?

Correa. 22. First eligible for arbitration after 2019 season.

There is no ceiling for this #1 draft choice. However, because expectations and predictions have been so high, if he doesn’t hit .300 with 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases, he may be considered an under achiever.

In only a year and a half, he has become perhaps the best all around shortstop in the game and should develop into a regular 20/20 player and perhaps even touch 30/30 occasionally. He plays quietly enough that he could play in Altuve’s shadow for a few more years.

Question: Will he become the elite shortstop a la Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra or Alex Rodriguez?

Altuve. 26. Signed through 2019.

Altuve is arguably the most valuable player for the Astros. He’s been with the team longer, he’s won more awards, he hits for power and average and he’s held down a critical up-the-middle position for nearly six years (yes, six years, can you believe it?). The four-time All Star and regular mention in MVP voting is signed through 2019 at ridiculous club-friendly numbers, but it’s reasonable to conclude he’ll test free agency since Scott Boras is at the helm of his stardom.

With Correa, Gurriel and Bregman not entirely established and Springer often the brunt of trade rumors, Altuve is clearly the face of the organization and the most entrenched. For now.

But there are other options, though you can argue Altuve would be the most difficult to replace. Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez are behind Altuve on the depth chart, but Bregman would be the likely replacement if Altuve were moved or moved on.

Question: Do the Astros eventually trade him for a haul at the right time or run the risk of losing him with Scott Boras running the show?

Bregman. 22. First eligible for arbitration after 2020 season.

Bregman can be considered the ace in the hole or the unknown quantity. Every sign — from college to his meteoric rise through the minors — points to stardom. He adjusted to a new position seamlessly and hit for average and power at every level along the way. With Altuve and Bregman hitting 1-2 (yes, yes, I know), they would provide one of the best OBP tandems in the game.

But while is still largely unproven at the MLB level, he has been the most-often mentioned name in trade efforts this winter. Teams apparently have insisted on the talented former LSU shortstop more often than even Springer in trade scenarios.

Frankly, he could surpass all of the above and become the face of the organization by the end of the decade.

Question: Can the Astros resist the trade calls long enough for Bregman to develop into the league elite like that Springer and Altuve have become?

Yulieski Gurriel. 32. Signed through 2020.

I include him only because of the long-term contract and he appears to be important to the immediate future of the Astros. He hit for power and average pre-MLB, and he may be the first base answer the Astros have been searching for since Lance Berkman left.

However, in this group, it’s likely he would be the first to go if Luhnow had to put a trade together.

Question: At 32, can Gurriel settle into a lineup where he isn’t the star in a position he’s unaccustomed to?

Okay, enjoy the exercise. Just to be clear, here are some questions to help you reach conclusions. Rank the above in the order per each question.

  1. Which player would be missed most if they were traded?
  2. Which player would be the most difficult to replace?
  3. Production notwithstanding, which player is most integral to the success of the team in 2017?
  4. Which player is most likely to have a Hall of Fame career?
  5. Which of the above players has the highest ceiling?
  6. Which is most likely to be traded first?
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of 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. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

96 comments on “Untouchables: Ranking the Astros’ core and nucleus

  1. Dan P
    December 12, 2016

    Maybe I am alone, but I would add Lance McCullers Jr. to this list and remove Gurriel.
    Missed most if traded
    1) Correa
    2) Altuve
    3) LMJ
    4) Springer
    5) Bregman

    Most difficult to replace
    Same as above

    Most integral
    1) Altuve
    2) LMJ
    3) Correa
    4) Springer
    5) Bregman

    Most likely to have H of F career
    1) Altuve
    2) Correa
    and after that – not much chance (at this point)
    Tied for 3) Springer, LMJ, Bregman

    Highest ceiling
    1) Correa
    2) Altuve (but he is close to it)
    3) LMJ
    4) Bregman
    5) Springer

    Most likely to be trade first
    1) LMJ
    2) Springer
    3) Bregman
    4) Altuve (I think they will work something out with him after this coming season)
    5) Correa

    Like

  2. daveb7
    December 12, 2016

    Tough questions.

    1. Today, I’d say Altuve is the guy that would be most missed if traded. Next year it mght be Correa.

    2. Since I think Bregman could step in and be an excellent second baseman immediately, Correa would be the toughest guy to replace.

    3. I am expecting a big year out of Springer. I said the same thing last year too, but I keep waiting for him to take his offensive game to the next level. I know he’ll be an outstanding centefielder.

    4. Altuve is an automatic for the Hall, unless he’s somehow derailed by serious injury. I think Correa will eventually have a HOF career too.

    5. Bregman showed us just a hint of what he can do. He’ll be all over the bases in 2017. But Springer will be developing a reputation as one of the best center fielders in the game. And there is so much more that Correa and Altuve will do, but can Altuve keep taking his game to a new level? If he gave us a 2016 season for the next. 8 or 10 years, how could we expect more?

    6. The guy that will be traded is the one that we have a reliable replacement for, the one that would cost the most money to keep and would bring the biggest haul. Today that’s probably Altuve, but in a year or two it might be Springer or Correa.

    Like

  3. sargeh
    December 12, 2016

    In my humble opinion…

    1.Which player would be missed most if they were traded? Altuve

    2.Which player would be the most difficult to replace? Altuve

    3.Production notwithstanding, which player is most integral to the success of the team in 2017? Altuve. As he goes, the team goes.

    4.Which player is most likely to have a Hall of Fame career? Again, Altuve

    5.Which of the above players has the highest ceiling? Bregman

    6.Which is most likely to be traded first? Gurriel

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Diane
    December 12, 2016

    1. Altuve
    2. Altuve
    3. Altuve
    4. Altuve
    I’ll try not to say this again, but if they let Altuve go, I’m outta here. Jose Altuve is Craig Biggio all over again, only more so. A lifelong Astro. Let’s do this right, front office.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kevin
      December 12, 2016

      Here here!

      Like

    • Devin
      December 12, 2016

      I agree 100% If Altuve wants to remain in Houston they should do everything possible to make that happen. Sell a golf course or two if you need the extra cash.

      Like

    • Tim
      December 12, 2016

      Please allow me to be against the grain from the rest here. I love Altuve and would like to have him stay his entire career with the Astros if it works financially, but I always value the name on the front of the jersey more than I do on the back of the jersey. What I mean by this is I’m an Astros fan first and foremost and then a fan of the player 2nd. I did not want the Astros to keep Biggio after the 2004 season because I knew it meant we would lose Jeff Kent and, at that time, Kent was the better player. I don’t get emotionally attached to players. It didn’t bother me one iota when Hakeem Olajuwon went to play for Toronto his last season. He was well past his prime and it was time to move on from him. The same with Biggio compared to Kent.

      Granted, Altuve will only be turning 30 early in his first free agency year. If some team comes along and offers him a 10/$300M contract I absolutely want the Astros to walk away and allow him to leave. A mid-market team like the Astros can’t tie up a large portion of their budget into one player, no matter how great he is. Currently, he is under a very team-friendly contract, but he was under no obligation to accept that contract when it was offered to him. He took the peace of mind and security of the contract instead of betting on his future. It hasn’t worked out for him, but he is still a multi-millionaire that can easily provide for his immediate family, both here and back in Venezuela. One of the major reasons the Astros are able to spend this off-season is in large part to the team-friendly contract for Altuve. Imagine if he was getting paid $25M this year. The Astros wouldn’t have the resources to upgrade the roster the way they have.

      I’m not sure what the Astros plan is for Altuve going forward, but I’m guessing they recognize these next 3 years as their window to win it all and you will probably see some painful decisions/trades coming at the end of 2019. One of those decisions very well may be to allow Altuve to walk in free agency.

      Like

      • Devin
        December 12, 2016

        Tim, letting Altuve walk is a bit different than trading him away because he’s nearing free agency. When I say do everything possible to keep him it means offering a contract that’s more than fair to Altuve. If the Yankees offered him something ridiculous I hope Luhnow helps him pack his bags. I’d hate to lose him over a small difference in salary…especially when he’s had the team friendly contract he currently plays under.

        Like

      • Tim
        December 12, 2016

        What type of contract would you feel is a fair offer to Altuve now? Keep in mind Boras is his agent and it is rare for any of his clients to sign a below market value contract before hitting free agency. Depending on what happens this year I could see the Astros reaching out to Boras on a contract that buys out his 2 option years, but I don’t see the Astros approaching a contract around the 10/$300M range, which is what I think Boras will want, especially considering how much money Altuve has lost from his current contract (when I say ‘lost’ I mean he could have probably earned in free agency 4-5x what he is making now.).

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        December 12, 2016

        Tim, I also believe they have a unique three-year “window” to discuss/talk with Boras and Altuve to build that relationship and instill a LOT of reasons for Altuve to stay in Houston. I realize it’s unlikely, but signing a long-term deal before he ever hits free agency would be the best option.

        I think it would be a crime for the Astros to actually allow Altuve to hit free agency, especially if he continues at his consistent current pace. In other words, get an extension or trade him before he hits free agency if it becomes clear you can’t re-sign him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tim
        December 12, 2016

        Chip,

        I am in agreement with what you’re saying, but I think much depends on what happens in these next 2 years. Let’s say the Astros get to the ALCS next year, but lose and then in 2018 get to the WS, but lose again, and they can’t get close to an agreement with Boras for an Altuve extension. Do you then trade Altuve at the end of 2018 knowing the team is on the cusp of its first WS? If this scenario plays out, or something similar, I am guessing they just keep Altuve for 2019 and let him walk in free agency. I agree that they will probably reach out to Boras at the end of this season about a possible extension, but I have my doubts they will reach an agreement. If the rumors are true that Boras was asking for a 10/$400M contract for a Bryce Harper extension I am confident he will, at least, want 10/$300M for Altuve and I don’t see Crane ever dipping into those waters.

        Now, if the Astros do win the WS in 2017 or 2018 then Crane may be more open to a large extension for Altuve since he would probably be integral in delivering the city of Houston its first WS championship. It may cost the Astros from strengthening the team via free agency, but if they continue to keep the farm system in the top 10 of baseball I think most fans will understand not spending in free agency. I think we all agree that there will be some tough decisions forthcoming in the next 2-3 years.

        Like

      • Devin
        December 12, 2016

        Let’s see how the Cano contract with Seattle looks in another year or two. It looked terrible until last year when he somehow was rejuvenated.

        Like

      • Bo Weaver
        December 13, 2016

        Altuve is good.

        Like

  5. Dan P
    December 12, 2016

    It was really hard for me to choose between Correa and Altuve as missed most if traded or most difficult to replace. They are basically 1A and 1B. If either one were traded or hurt, Bregman would likely be the next man up at those positions. It is so hard to find middle infielders who can hit and here you have SS and 2B who can hit, hit for power and steal bases. I feel like SS is the tougher position defensively, which is why I put Correa first, but it could be argued that Altuve is a better infielder, so harder to replace.

    Like

  6. Tim
    December 12, 2016

    http://www.spotrac.com shows Springer is only under team control through the 2020 season.

    1.Which player would be missed most if they were traded? Altuve is the best hitter on this team and the most important so it is definitely him.

    2.Which player would be the most difficult to replace? A 2B that gives you 20+ HRs, 35+ SBs and an OBP around .400 cannot be replaced. He is the most important player for the Astros success going forward.

    3.Production notwithstanding, which player is most integral to the success of the team in 2017? I hate to keep repeating myself, but Altuve is the key.

    4.Which player is most likely to have a Hall of Fame career? Altuve is definitely on pace for a HOF career and Correa will probably be on track as well.

    5.Which of the above players has the highest ceiling? The highest ceiling player is Correa. He is only 22 and he hasn’t really come close to what he can achieve in the next 5 years.

    6.Which is most likely to be traded first? This is a bit more difficult to answer. They only have Altuve under contract for 3 more years and if things fall apart before his contract expires I can see the Astros trading him to keep the farm system flowing. Even with only1 year of control (at the end of 2018) I bet they could get quite a haul if they decide to trade him. I can see the Astros also trading Springer at the end of 2018 if they need to replenish the farm system. Much of this will depend on how the Astros fare over the next 2 years.

    Like

    • Dan P
      December 12, 2016

      Baseball-reference.com shows Springer as Earliest Free Agent 2021 – but this could mean the same as sportrac (after 2020).

      Like

      • Tim
        December 12, 2016

        I think that is the case as baseball-reference.com shows Altuve as a free agent in 2018 with an asterisk by his name and then showing club options for 2018 and 2019. Thus, they are saying if the Astros don’t pick up the club options (of course, we all realize picking up the options is the biggest no-brainer in Astros history) he would be a free agent starting in 2018.

        Like

    • 1oldpro
      December 12, 2016

      I am going to save a lot of keyboard work because you answered these questions exactly as I would have.
      I will add one phrase to your last sentence: and how their top prospects fare in those same two years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kevin
    December 12, 2016

    Reading all this makes me glad I am not a baseball GM in todays game. To me Altuve is the heart and soul of this group, not to mention 2 time batting Champ, and would have been an MVP in a high profile market and great kid. I think Bregman has a chance at being the same kind of player. I guess if I had to make a deal Springer, love the kid but, their could be another Springer type on the farm. LMJ has a ton of upside, but a lot of what could have been, maybe sell high.

    Seeing the crazy price of paying a FO or trading for a TOR guy WOW

    I can’t remember if it is Mr. Bill Or OP that is always talking about this when it comes to pitching, maybe draft better, develop better, and kill that tandem BS. Then maybe we have TOR always coming up through the system, and we can be completive the next 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steven
      December 12, 2016

      We are 15 years removed from the debut of Roy Oswalt – the last TOR ace pitcher we developed ourselves. It’s about time another shows up – LMJ can be that guy but he has to throw more strikes. Oswalt in his rookie season – 1.52 BB/9. He was laser beam sharp at 23.

      I got all the talk about Martes and Paulino – but to me Musgrove is your best shot at a TOR guy in your organization right now, because he has command of everything and has some pop – though not as much as a 23 year old Oswalt or anywhere near either Martes or Paulino.

      I think its also fully possible, maybe likely, that there isn’t a bona fide, clear number 1 starter in the organization, top to bottom, right now. The best pitcher on this team is the guy with a piece of hardware, but he has to be 100% healthy to be effective because 2 ticks off his fastball is doom. He doesn’t have the stuff to compensate losing even a little. If he is healthy though, Keuchel is one of the top 10 starters in the league.

      So many question marks, so many. If things go right, this could be a top 5 staff in the league. If some things don’t go right, it could be a bottom 5 staff in the league. It’s possible that our bullpen could lead the AL in innings pitched when this thing is over.

      Like

  8. 1oldpro
    December 12, 2016

    Entering the name of Jose Altuve to the top of the list in answering these questions. makes the most sense to me. At this point in his career he is the Astros best player, and still hast the highest ceiling.
    The HOF question is still the most telling. Biggio’s election has vaulted the Astros’ organization into a new place in baseball which could be added to with Bagwell this year. Altuve signing a big deal with Houston helps seal the Astros’ place as a team that finds, develops and secures players that are a big part of baseball’s future. He advances the scope of the franchise from a local one to a national one and his future with the team is probably as important as a World Series win.
    Boras or no Boras, Altuve as an Astro for the next phase of his career is the biggest factor in the success of this ball club moving forward. They may not be able to keep all of the young stars they have, but keeping Altuve will lead to the ability to keep some of the others. If they can sign him they can keep from falling back into their version of the Dark Ages, from whence they have come.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Diane
    December 12, 2016

    I certainly respect Tim’s comment but one more reason I want Altuve to stay is OP’s comment above: Altuve ATTRACTS other quality players, and the loss of him would likewise dishearten players already here who look up to him. What price do you put on that?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Steven
    December 12, 2016

    First, your list – Correa and Altuve are my only untouchables. The only way I would have moved Bregman would be for a top notch, bonafide number 1 – Sale or Verlander, and it doesn’t look like either is possible. Springer would have to be a deal that knocks my socks off – like Archer.

    To me Bregman isn’t an A lister, but as long as the rest of baseball is talking about him being that, I will let them think I think that as well, and pull some teeth if they want him. I don’t really like mentioning the guy in the same breath as Altuve and Correa. So far he isn’t walking a lot and striking out a bit, but he did fly through the minors and was here in basically a little under one seasons worth of minor league play – so those things may change after he adjusts to the major league life. He is certainly a much better hitter than I thought he was when he was drafted.

    1- Altuve. Correa is more talented, but nobody works harder than mighty mouse.

    2 – Altuve. Sure Bregman could slide in and play 2B, or SS, if either left, but Altuve is also a table setter and an example. It’s like Biggio was reincarnated.

    3 – Of your list – Bregman, because we got a great season from Altuve and a good season from Correa and it still wasn’t enough, but if Bregman does what his 200 at bat projection of last year is, it could be the piece that finishes the puzzle. The actual most important performance on this team will be Dallas Keuchel though.

    4 – Correa. I think its likely that Altuve and Correa both do.

    5 – Highest ceiling is Correa. This isn’t even close. The guy is a born HOF’er all timer. He is the next A-Rod. Now comes the part where he stops drinking his own Kool-Aid and starts working really hard.

    6 – I don’t think any of them get traded. Springer is the most likely because he comes with the combination of talent, cheapness, and team control that other GM’s covet, so he is the likely centerpiece for a quality starter if there is one to be had. Despite reports I have to believe that if the right deal came along for Bregman, Luhnow would make it since he is a guy that isn’t married to his players, but he should treat Bregman like the White Sox treat their players, and make another team meet that impossible asking price.

    Like

  11. Zanuda
    December 12, 2016

    Just curious if there has been any word about Valbuena. Doubt that we will retain him but just thought I’d ask.
    1-4 Altuve
    5 Bregman
    6 Springer

    Like

    • Steven
      December 12, 2016

      I’m not sure where he fits. The signing of Beltran and claiming of Aoki, if they do retain Aoki, tells me the plan is Gurriel at 1B. Not sure where Valbuena would fit on the 25 man unless they are going without a 5th OFer or expect Marwin to get some at bats in LF.

      Like

    • Chip Bailey
      December 12, 2016

      Valbuena wants too many years, too much money and one key is that he’s demanding to have an everyday job. Don’t see that happening in Houston with the guys currently on the roster. The Yankees have even been turned off by his approach at this point.

      Like

      • daveb7
        December 12, 2016

        I had not seen that Chip. If I guy wants to play everyday, he should learn how to hit lefties and righties!

        I was in favor of having Valbuena over at first against the guys he can hit, but not facing lefhanders. I’ll go with Gurriel, Bregman at third and Aoki in left. And maybe White or Reed will make a case. That would be a good problem to have.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        December 12, 2016

        daveb, there are a few articles out there regarding Valbuena, but here’s one with a reference to more than a one-year deal:

        http://www.espn.com/blog/mlb/rumors/post/_/id/31947/mlb-rumor-central-yankees-pursuing-luis-valbuena

        Like

  12. rj
    December 12, 2016

    interesting article about crane and the 5 year plan and going forward. http://m.astros.mlb.com/news/article/210967330/astros-moves-set-team-up-for-competitive-2017/

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      December 12, 2016

      As an Astros fan, I appreciate him keeping his word on spending the money.
      The figure he uses tells me that, if they sign or trade for another starting pitcher, there will be a few subtractions from the payroll also.

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      December 12, 2016

      This also is a good time to point out that the Indians plan on boosting their payroll this season, because of the fact they had a lot of unplanned money pour into their organization from the 8 sold-out playoff games they had. I hope the Astros have that happen this year, too.

      Like

    • Steven
      December 12, 2016

      Yes, but be wary of the future. Rosters change a ton in 5 years. I doubt Springer is here in that time, but if Keuchel, Altuve, Correa are, along with what we hope the talents of Bregman, McCullers, Musgrove and others turn out to be, the team is unaffordable by anyone not in the AL East. How Luhnow and Crane handle that hot stove will be as interesting as any playoff games. Well, maybe not, but still pretty darn interesting.

      Like

  13. roadthriller
    December 12, 2016

    1-4 Altuve
    And even #5 Altuve. He’s the only one in the bunch that is at an MVP level, and we haven’t seen him stop improving yet. If Springer/Bregman/Correa get to Altuve’s current level then I’ll reconsider. A year ago I might have said Correa but he mildly disappointed me last year. This is a guy who started out at a Ted Williams level. But last year…compare his first full year at age 21 to A-Rod’s first full year at age 20. Not even close.
    6 Springer. But I hope they put him where he can best prosper, which in my opinion is CF and batting 5th or 6th.

    Like

  14. Larry Leach
    December 12, 2016

    I would not want the Astros to lose any of their top four, but if we just had to prioritize these players, I differ from everyone here in that my two keepers would be the two 22 year olds. Both Bregman and Correa have huge ceilings and I would like for both to retire as Astros. Bregman has intellectual smarts (high school chess champion and baseball instincts that will keep him from the baserunning gaffes that you see commonly from Altuve. He is a high energy natural clubhouse and field leader (Biggio). Altuve is great if we can keep him, but with Boras involved, he should not be kept in place of Correa or Bregman. If one of these players has to go it should be Springer first. He is a high strike out, but valuable player, but of the three, he is the one without HOF potential.

    Like

  15. 1oldpro
    December 12, 2016

    I want to list the Astros team batting averages for their nine spots in the batting order last season, where they fell in the league rankings and then plug in the players from my proposed batting order for this coming year and their batting averages last season:
    1. .279 (9th) Altuve-.338
    2. .269 (14th) Reddick-.281
    3. .300 (6th) Correa-.274
    4. .258 (17th) Beltran-.295
    5. .229 (27th) McCann-.242
    6. .208 (29th) Bregman-.264
    7. .202 (29th) Springer-.261
    8. .247 (13th) Gurriel-..262
    9. 214 (15th) Aoki-.283 Please notice that the Astros #9 spot was last in the AL but better than NL pitchers.
    What I see in this is that the Astros stand to improve in every spot in the order significantly except for the #3 hole, where I put Correa, the guy I figure might improve himself at the plate a lot this year.

    Like

  16. Mr. Bill
    December 12, 2016

    Good answers all. But what if we shifted lenses a little, and considered the ‘weakest link’ on the team the most important player? You know, under the maxim ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’ Offensively, who is our weakest link? Who, if they under-perform, will kill [or fail to start] a significant number of rallies? Whose low OPB, high K, low BARISP, high GIDP and AO numbers [specifically pop-ups] who could hurt us most? By definition, that is who, if he can overcame these deficiencies, could help us most.

    With low OBP, the likeliest ‘weakest link’ candidate is Yulieski Gurriel. He was the only projected starter who put up an OBP of under .300 last year. If he does not improve that, he will hurt our offense – even if he bats 7-8- or 9. BUT, if he can get his OBP up to .320 or better – he could provide a big spark to our offense.

    With regard to high Ks, we have four guys with high strike out rates – Springer, Gattis, McCann, and Bregman. Any one of them could hurt us if they continue to strikeout every 4th or 5th at bat, but Gattis and Bregman’s low OBP numbers combined with high K numbers and high flyball % numbers make either of them our weakest link in this area. Both offer occasional power [frequently solo HRs] but neither known for clutch or game-winning hits. If one of these guys [Bregman?] can overcome his high K numbers, up his OBP to .325 or better, and get some clutch hits, with this offense he could become a real hero.

    Like

    • Tim
      December 12, 2016

      Hey Bill,

      You make some great points. I do want to point out that McCann is projected to have a 19.3% K rate (probably a bit better than league average) and Bregman a 15.6% K rate with a .330 OBP. Granted, projections are no guarantees, but I think, especially in Bregman’s case considering he was a strong contact hitter throughout the minors, that he will come relatively close to his K rate projection. I bring all this up not to be argumentative, but to indicate there is a definite indication we will see improvements in Bregman’s K rate and OBP in 2017.

      Like

  17. Tim
    December 12, 2016

    Steven is correct that there is no doubt the player with the highest ceiling is Correa. Even in a ‘sophomore slump’ season he put up 122 wRC+, 4.9 WAR and .811 OPS all while playing the majority of the season at 21. Comparatively, Altuve in 2012 (same age season) put up 1.4 WAR, 102 wRC+ and .740 OPS. Altuve is probably at his ceiling now, but Correa is only going to improve. Although A-Rod had a monster rookie year he regressed to 115 wRC+ and 4.2 WAR his 2nd year. We also don’t know when A-Rod started using PEDs, but his HR numbers spiked starting in 1998 (from 23 to 42) so that could be when he started using.

    Also, I can lend some credence to what Larry is saying above. Correa and Bregman are probably the 2 players you don’t want to trade based upon age, years of control and future projected production. They should still be the catalyst for a very competitive team in 2020 even if Altuve leaves via free agency.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      December 13, 2016

      That ceiling thing is debatable. I don’t see Correa ever leading the league in steals as Altuve has done.
      I haven’t seen anything in Correa that leads me to believe he is going to win multiple batting titles.
      I don’t see Correa winning multiple Gold Gloves at SS. He might do it, but where has he showed us the ability to do it, so far. I’ve seen it from Altuve.
      The fact that Altuve has reached his ceiling does not mean he doesn’t have a higher ceiling than Correa. I could see Altuve doing the three things I mentioned multiple times more in his career.

      Like

      • Devin
        December 13, 2016

        I didn’t see Altuve leading the league in SB or winning gold gloves after his soph season either. What you do see with Correa is highlight reel plays on defense. If he can reign in the bobbles he will be in the discussion. The coaches voting on it don’t care about advanced defensive stats. They care about how you beat their team with the glove.

        As for batting titles, you and I differ on that as well. I think you want Correa to stop going the other way and I want him to do it more. The problem, I think, is when he makes up his mind to go opposite and then gets tied up inside. I would look to crush the inner pitch and poke line drives on out half pitches…like Miguel Cabrera has done. Every now and then he should crush a few outer half to keep them honest too.

        Like

      • Tim
        December 13, 2016

        Altuve probably had his career year in 2016 when he put up a 6.7 WAR and 150 wRC+. Correa put up a 137 wRC+ his rookie year and 4.9 WAR last year. Barring injury he definitely has the higher ceiling. Even his minor league numbers dwarf Altuve (226 wRC+ compared to 167 for Altuve-highest season) and Altuve put up his highest wRC+ in Lancaster while Correa did it in Corpus Christi.

        Like

      • Chip Bailey
        December 13, 2016

        OP, I tend to agree with you on Correa not attaining the heights that Altuve has in those areas. However, he could still develop into a power guy who is a regular 30/100 clutch-hitting shortstop. THAT may be how his ceiling develops. Last year he and Altuve were about equal in HRs and RBIs while Correa hit 64 points lower. Also, consider last year who was hitting behind Correa on a regular basis. Altuve always had decent hitter(s) behind him, so he likely saw better pitches. If for no other reason than Correa hasn’t had a chance to settle into the league like Altuve, I believe Correa will find a place/way to spread his wings, giving him more ceiling options if that makes any sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Steven
        December 13, 2016

        Gold gloves have always been a bit controversial since they almost always go to the decent defender that is an offensive juggernaut.

        Metrics suggest Altuve is a slightly below average fielder. I don’t make the metrics, I’m just reporting them.

        Those same metrics also suggest Correa is a below average fielder. Even worse below average than Altuve, who at least appears to be close to average.

        Derek Jeter’s zone ratings were always terrible. It’s just that he made spectacular plays within his range, but his range was so far below other shortstops that it was statistically noticeable as well as visually, yet he has some gold gloves. I suspect a lot of baseball people don’t put as much stock in that award as they used too.

        I think Altuve and Correa are both very good in their zones, but both, and especially Correa, are not very rangy – which is why a lot of people have suggested that the day will come where Carlos ends up a third baseman.

        I think Correa’s ceiling is higher because I am pretty sure, when all is said and done, Altuve will have a higher BA, but Correa will have a higher lifetime OPS because he has only scratched the surface of what he can do power wise. He may not reach those heights, right now I see a guy that stands in the box and appears to be a little too much into himself (just my take from body language), while Altuve seems to realize that every single pitch of every single at bat is a pitch he needs to take seriously. I do think that Correa is the more gifted player, but right now Altuve, too me, is just out working him. If that changes, Correa is a bonafide, Trout/Harper talent.

        Like

      • Steven
        December 13, 2016

        So – in conclusion – I think Carlos Correa is the higher ceiling player.

        But I think Jose Altuve is not only the best Astro right now, I think he is the most valuable one not named Keuchel, and I think he demonstrates whats the best in all of us, the guy who is told you are too small, who is doubted his whole life, than shows up and becomes in at least one regard the best hitter in this game.

        Like

  18. Becky⚾
    December 12, 2016

    Unlike Tim I do get emotionally envolved with some of our guys. Maybe it’s a girl thing, but I’m not gonna apologize for it. Springer was literally the life blood on this team before Correa got here, and made this club better by just being on it, especially when his hand got broken. Losing Pence, Bourne, Oswalt and Berkman in a span of a month, nearly put me in the nut house! So…..here are my “emotionally envolved” guys I don’t want to part with under any circumstances:
    Springer
    Altuve
    Correa
    Bregman
    McCullers
    Where’s my excedrin…….

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1oldpro
      December 13, 2016

      It’s not just a girl thing. I don’t watch 160 Astros games a year for my health. It’s a torrid affair that has lasted for over 50 years.
      You speak of your love for the Astros with passion the same way we all do and you do it wonderfully.
      That’s really fine group of five you have picked out. I hope we can keep them all.
      But like they say on the Hallmark Channel: It might take a Christmas miracle to do it.
      Merry Christmas, Becky.
      Prayers for you, as always.

      Like

    • Divebomber108
      December 13, 2016

      It’s not a girl thing… I’m the same way. It’s called being human and not approaching everything like a number-crunching robot.

      Like

    • Tim
      December 13, 2016

      You definitely shouldn’t apologize. I’m probably among the minority in regards to emotional attachment. Hunter Pence was one of my favorite Astros ever, but I realized he had to be traded. At the time the Astros were a ship lost at sea with no direction and as much as I loved Hunter I was fine with the Astros trading him. Again, I am different than most, but it doesn’t make my way the right way. I love the players when they are wearing that “Astros” on the front, but the second they have another jersey on I quickly detach myself from that player. That’s just how I am .

      Like

      • Steven
        December 13, 2016

        What did we get for Pence that was worth trading him? I mean, he could still be in RF today, which would have put Springer in his natural position, and really helped this franchise. Maybe with Pence we don’t lose 100+ games 3 years in a row. Maybe that means we don’t have Correa, but Correa wasn’t a consensus number 1 anyway, we probably get him on pick 3. Maybe we don’t draft Appel or Aiken. So what? I guess in that weird 6 degrees theory we got Fiers and Gomez.

        I don’t prescribe to dumping players because it appears to be time. This game is fluid. A really bad team can be a really good one in 2-3 years. The Astros were 2 years removed from a 100 loss season when they made the playoffs.

        I think Pence should have been a career Astro. Just my take. I am also the first one to admit that I am also far too smitten with what becomes my favorite players, and Pence was one of them. The lunch pail guys always are – give me Biggio, Altuve, Pence any day.

        Like

      • Tim
        December 13, 2016

        Hindsight is always 20/20, but I am sure glad we traded Larry Andersen on July 31, 1990. There was no way to know that the prospects we acquired for Pence wouldn’t pan out, but as depleted as the farm system was at that time and as bad as the major league team was it was the right move, in my opinion. Cosart and Singleton were highly rated prospects when the trade was made, but it appears Santana may end up being the best player acquired in that trade. They don’t always work as planned, but, again, I was fine trading Pence considering the situation the Astros were facing.

        Like

      • Steven
        December 14, 2016

        Surely you are not comparing Larry Anderson to Hunter Pence?

        Like

      • Tim
        December 14, 2016

        Do I need to point out that Cosart was the centerpiece in the trade to get Marisnick, Martes and the pick that turned into Daz Cameron? Do I also need to point out that Martes may very well be the centerpiece in a trade to get Jose Quintana? Surely, you’re not dismissing the Hunter Pence trade as not being good for the Astros? Especially considering the Astros were going nowhere with or without Pence and even if we had Pence now, he is not the player he was and injuries are starting to take its toll on him.

        Like

      • Tim
        December 14, 2016

        Also, Pence became a free agent when Drayton was still owner and he would have been long gone by now. There would have been no justification in keeping Pence other than seeing him play one more year on a very bad Astros team.

        Like

      • Tim
        December 14, 2016

        Minor correction: Pence became a free agent the first year of Crane’s ownership, but you can be assured he would not have paid Pence what he got in free agency.

        Like

    • Kevin
      December 13, 2016

      I think we are all emotional Becky, that’s what makes us great fans and spend so much time on this blog. It’s just a fine line between winning and loyalty, passion and the business money side. Must be why I still love the LLWS. The purity of the game.

      Like

  19. rj
    December 13, 2016

    another pitcher related story, first i had seen of the royals being involved.
    http://www.espn.com/blog/mlb/rumors/post/_/id/32692/mlb-rumor-central-astros-eyeing-royals-starters

    Like

    • Tim
      December 13, 2016

      This was on MLBTR Sunday night. I wouldn’t mind Duffy, depending on the cost, but I have very little interest in Ventura. I’m concerned with a guy that has his arm having such a low K/9 number. Something is missing regarding Ventura.

      Like

  20. 1oldpro
    December 13, 2016
    • Mr. Bill
      December 13, 2016

      I would sure like to see at least a couple of A’s or at least A-‘s in that group of prospects. Not one Grade A prospect in the entire system!

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        December 13, 2016

        The Astros had two A prospects and they are now playing 3B and SS for Houston. There are only 12 A prospects in all of baseball and one of them is Benintendi and he will be in Boston’s opening day lineup.
        How are the Astros supposed to come up with another one of those guys drafting 15th? I thought they did a great job getting Whitley at #15 and having him get a B+ grade in 11 innings. They came up with their #1 prospect in the Cosart trade and their #3 in the Veras trade. That is real good!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Bill
        December 13, 2016

        Call me greedy! I hate to see other teams’ prospects pass our guys by.

        By the way, is that A prospect Benintendi who will be starting for the Red Sox on opening day the same one we skipped over in 2015 in favor of Kyle Tucker [a B prospect]?

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        December 13, 2016

        I should point out that I am not intending to ‘diss’ KTuck, Martes, or anyone else in our system. As usual, my tongue-in-cheek font is on. I am just poking a little fun at the prospect rating system. [What is the real difference, in career statistics and team impact, between an A and a B/B+ prospect?] I just prefer to watch how guys actually perform in actual head-to-head, pressure-of-the-game situations, and then assign them value based on how well they do in real competition. That is why I pay close attention to the AFL, and the stretch run of the minor league season, to see who really shines when the competition is of high quality and/or the pressure is on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tim
        December 14, 2016

        Benintendi was not an ‘A’ prospect in advanced ‘A’ ball either.

        Like

  21. Diane
    December 13, 2016

    Becky, for me player attachment is the game. Just try to sing, “Where have you gone New York Yankees?” Not quite the same ring as Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Becky⚾
      December 13, 2016

      You’re the BEST Diane!!!

      Like

    • Dan P
      December 14, 2016

      Love that – so are you more a Simon or a Garfunkel gal?

      Like

      • Diane
        December 14, 2016

        For height, I would need Art, but for depth, Paul. 🙂

        Like

  22. rj
    December 13, 2016

    when you find a core player, you need to hold onto them. afterall what are you trying for? you want to have enough core players at one time to make you a contender year in and year out. are you really helping yourself if you trade one or two of them to bring in another piece? my opinion is no, unless you were gonna lose the ones you traded anyway (ie through free agency). so keep them all and try to improve through free agency or trading prospects and non core players or through promoting from your own farm system.
    springer is 27, from all i have read that age is when you begin your prime years. lets keep him at least till the end of his club control. all the others are younger, keep em all and add as you can. we have a pretty dang good team right now. lets keep it together.

    Like

    • Steven
      December 13, 2016

      rj – I’m with you. Sometimes salary gets in the way. I remember that 92 Astros team with Bagwell, Biggio, Caminiti, Cedeno, Gonzalez, Young, Taubensee, Harnisch, Kile, Reynolds, so many young players, and wondering can they keep it together. Well, they didn’t, as salaries were going to dictate, but they picked the right 2 to keep and build around – though making that 3 and keeping Gonzo would have been nice :).

      I have hopes that the Astros pick the right 2 or 3 for the long term, but I can’t see a way that when real salaries are paid to Keuchel, Springer, Correa, all around the same time that Altuve comes up, and McCullers, with Bregman right behind also entering arby, this is going to be a difficult core to keep together without approaching 200 million. And what happens if Reed becomes the star hitter that he was projected to be or Musgrove becomes a solid number 2 guy? The question becomes which ones are you going to build around, I don’t see a path to keeping them all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rj
        December 14, 2016

        i agree steven that you cant keep them all for ever, but you can for the next 3-4 years. after that contract expense and performance will be deciding factors. but to me its sorta like the braves keeping smoltz, maddox and glavin for so many years, expensive but worth it. and in those 3-4 years maybe we win a world series or two.

        Like

      • rj
        December 14, 2016

        op pointed out that due to extra money from playoff games cleveland is poised to spend money. if during those 3-4 years we get into the playoffs, go deep in the playoffs and possibly win a ws title. the budget could expand to allow these players or at least the hardcore core to remain for additional years.

        Like

  23. Mr. Bill
    December 13, 2016

    I know we are all waiting with bated breath to see if/when we upgrade our starting pitching. While we are waiting, consider that of the two front line starters we are being told might be traded for more pitching, Colin McHugh started 33 games for a pretty bad offensive team last year and we still won 21 of his 33 starts. And consider that Mike Fiers started 31 games for a team that was a whole lot worse offensively than the 2017 team looks to be and we still managed to win 18 of those 31. Not bad at all for a MOR [McHugh] and a BOR [Fiers]. Seeing as how neither of these guys is our ‘ace’, I am not sure how trading either or both for another MOR or another BOR is going to help us any. Could it be that all we need is a healthy ‘ace’ – not another equivalent MOR or BOR?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin
      December 13, 2016

      Mr Bill I admit being healthy would help DK and LMJ. LMJ could be that TOR. I have serious doubts that DK throwing at 89 will come close to 2015. I hope one of the kids Martes Paulino, Whitley, will be a TOR. The price to sign one or trade for one seems like a bad investment these day.

      Like

    • Tim
      December 13, 2016

      I’ve been saying since we signed Beltran that I was happy rolling with what we have as a team and re-evaluating around the 2017 trade deadline. I definitely don’t want to trade McHugh and I am fine if we keep Fiers, but I am confused how the rotation will play out with Keuchel, LMJ, McHugh, Morton, Musgrove and Fiers all slated for the rotation. Someone will have to go and I really don’t think sending Musgrove to the minors is the best move.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        December 13, 2016

        Tim, there are much worse things than to go into spring training with six viable starters. Those things often have a way of taking care of themselves. Heck, both Keuchel and LMJ finished the season injured and someone could always “perform” themselves into the bullpen long role. Start ST with six and see where it goes.

        Like

      • roadthriller
        December 13, 2016

        5 innings each once a week! Done!

        Like

      • Tim
        December 13, 2016

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that someone will have to removed from the 25-man roster when you consider the bullpen and bench. Do we think Hoyt starts in Fresno and Fiers is in the pen on opening day? Is Felix starting in Fresno. Without any more trades here are the locks for 25-man roster on April 3rd: Keuchel, McHugh, LMJ, Morton, Fiers, Giles, Harris, Gregerson, Sipp, Devo, McCann, Gattis, Gurriel, Altuve, Correa, Bregman, Aoki, Beltran, Springer, Reddick, Marwin and Marisnick. That leaves 2 spots between Hoyt, Musgrove, Felix, Reed, White, Teoscar and Kemp. They all have options, but what 2 make the team? I’m guessing Musgrove is almost a definite and then probably Felix. That means Hoyt starts in Fresno and I think he should be on the 25-man roster. This us why I think Fiers gets traded before ST starts, but I could be wrong.

        Now, I’m sure Dave will ask why Marisnick is a lock with his career OPS just above .620. When you consider Beltran and Aoki will get regular starts in the OF I think Marisnick is a must on this team. I don’t see Teoscar starting in Houston as a primary bench player. Marisnick is also the best baserunner on the team. His defense and baserunning are valuable bench assets, in my opinion.

        Like

      • Devin
        December 14, 2016

        Tim, I suspect they’ll go with 13 pitchers and 12 position players again. I think that means the competition would be between Hoyt, Feliz, and Musgrove for the final two spots. Luhnow is going to acquire a lefty for the bullpen before spring training as well, so throw that arm into the mix.

        I need about 67 days to think about how I want them to handle the starters. As of right now I want Musgrove to get 30 starts…which has him pushing 200 innings if he achieves it. There is no reason to waste any of that mileage on his arm at AAA. I want Feliz to work as a starter. Let’s plan for him in Fresno with the expectation he’d welcome a July/August promotion to Houston to take some spot starts and take some pressure off the bullpen that’s going to be gassed at that point (because Hinch/Luhnow) at that time.

        Like

      • daveb7
        December 14, 2016

        I certainly understand why Jake might have a job, but I don’t have to like it.

        Like

  24. daveb7
    December 13, 2016

    Assuming a healthy and rested Keuchel and McCullers, I still want a third shut down guy for post season play. Maybe that guy comes to us this summer.

    Like

    • Steven
      December 13, 2016

      Maybe that guy turns out to be Musgrove. He has the stuff, and he throws strikes, but I’m definitely on board with getting a guy that has the “done it” tag.

      Like

      • daveb7
        December 13, 2016

        Certainly Steven, maybe that guy shows himself during the season. If it’s someone like Musgrove though, same with McCullers, he’s going to have to be used sparingly at some point. Neither guy will be allowed to close in on 200 innings.

        Like

  25. Kevin
    December 13, 2016

    I tend to lean to the trade deadline unless ST injury , and see if we can pull off if needed.

    Like

  26. Becky⚾
    December 13, 2016

    Luhnow is in talks with the Tigers for a lefty reliever Justin Wilson. I wonder if he knows how famous that name is!!! LOL!!! Had the original Justin Wilson on my flights when I was still flying…..what a gas that guy was!
    Starting with 6 guys looking for a job in the rotation, is an awfully nice problem to have! I agree with you guys with seeing where the team is at the beginning of the season before Luhnow starts dealing a bunch of our best prospects for another pitcher. By the way…..there’s 68 days before the pitchers and catchers report, but whose counting!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • roadthriller
      December 13, 2016

      Justin was as consistent as a Cy Young winner. Everything he made: “Now what ya gotta did, ya gotta make a roux!”

      Like

  27. astrocolt45
    December 13, 2016

    Here comes Debbie Downer, but I don’t we fans are asking too much to match any offer from another team for Altuve. Just don’t think I could stand Nolan II being HofF Jose and wearing a Ranger hat.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. 1oldpro
    December 14, 2016

    This is a necessary comment. No one has commented today because they don’t want to follow Debbie Downer. Sincerely, 1OP Upper
    Now let’s get back to what we do best.

    Like

  29. daveb7
    December 14, 2016

    Well, our reality is that most guys don’t play for the same team throughout an entire career. It’s rare today. But what if Bregman turns into the second coming of Altuve? It’s not all bad. Jose is one of my all time favorite ball players. Right up with my childhood favorites like Mantle and a bit later, Seaver. I’ve followed him since low A ball. But if he gives Boras marching orders to get him the most valuable deal possible, we’ve got to be realistic. Let’s get what we can for him at the best possible time. That’s MLB in the 21st century.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      December 14, 2016

      Dave, the height of Altuve’s worth is probably right now – in this offseason. But who in the world – other than Mike Trout and a TOR pitcher of our choice – would you even consider accepting in trade for Jose Al-tuuuuuu- ve?

      Like

  30. daveb7
    December 14, 2016

    Not yet Bill, but if Bregman becomes the guy I think he can, then Altuve might be gone after 2018. Jose might not bring the big pitcher, he might bring three very talented inexpensive young guys that would ultimately help us keep three or four big salaries.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      December 14, 2016

      Yep, this is a possibility that I don’t like thinking about, but it could happen. We know how good Altuve is and that he would be immensely popular anywhere. It is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. I would bet on Altuve playing up to the standards of his contract.
      I admit it, he is my favorite Astros player today and I really would like to see him stay here.

      Like

      • daveb7
        December 15, 2016

        I feel the same way OP, I guess as time passes though, I become more and more a realist everyday. Altuve should be the face of the franchise.

        Like

  31. Becky⚾
    December 14, 2016

    Speaking of Altuuuuuuve, Bill Brown has a new book on him “Breathing Orange Fire”.
    I bought it for myself for Christmas…..a gift from me to me! I haven’t started it yet, because…..it’s not Christmas yet!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. sandy
    December 14, 2016

    Speaking of Bill Brown, has anyone heard who the new broadcast team will be?

    I’ve been moving and haven’t had time to do much reading lately. I spend a few minutes every night catching up with you guys though.

    Like

    • Becky⚾
      December 14, 2016

      I don’t think any announcement has been made yet, or even if Blum is getting retained. Merry Christmas Sandy!!

      Like

      • sandy
        December 15, 2016

        Merry Christmas back Becky.

        Like

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