Check In: Astros prospects, today and tomorrow


Sure, we know the Astros’ prospects are good for 2018 and beyond, but how are their “prospects”? You know the guys who can rise up and be cheap major league help in a few years or can even be packaged with others to bring in a Justin Verlander.

Well, prospect lists are liquid things. From the 2016 list, fine young players like Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, Jake Rogers and Teoscar Hernandez have been traded off to bring back the aforementioned JV and Francisco Liriano. Players like James Hoyt, Derek Fisher and Francis Martes spent enough time in the majors to fall off the lists. Also, folks can fall off the list due to injury or performance or age like Brady Rodgers, Riley Ferrell, Brendan McCurry and others.

The chore for today is to put the 30 prospects from the mlb.com Prospect Watch list into reasonable categories.

Cream of the Crop. The two top rated prospects are the two top prospects in the system.

  • #1 Kyle Tucker OF. 20 years old, first round (#5) 2015. Kyle was terrific at A+ Buise Creek (.288 BA/.379 OBP/.932 OPS/9 HR/43 RBIs/13 SB) where he was 2 1/2 years younger than the average player and solid at AA Corpus (.265/.325/.837/16 HR/47 RBIs/8 SBs) where he was four years younger than the average in the league. Can’t wait for this kid to hit the bigs.
  • #2 Forrest Whitley RHP. 20, first round (#17) 2016. Between A+ and AA ball he was 5-4. 2.83 ERA, 1.213 WHIP in 92.1 IP with a terrific 13.9 K/9 IP and a decent 3.3 BB/9 IP. He looks like the real deal so far.

Rule 5 Eligible. These four players could be lost if they are not placed on the 40 man by this Monday ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

  • #7 Cionel Perez LHP. 21 years old Cuban FA. He played at three levels in 2017 from A (Quad Cities) thru A+ to AA ball with his stint at A+ Buies Creek being the best. Overall he was 6-4 with a 4.61 ERA and a 1.292 WHIP. With the bonus they paid him and his quick rise he would seem to be a natural fit for the 40 man. What does the front office think of him striking out less than 7/9 IP at A+ and AA ball?
  • #11 Ramon Laureano OF. 23 years old, 16th round 2014. He had terrific numbers at the Lancaster wind tunnel in 2016, but at CC sea level in 2017 his .227 BA/.298 OBP/.668 OPS slash would seem to keep him from the 40 man even with his 11 HR/55 RBIs and 24 SBs.
  • #16 Jason Martin OF. 22 years old eighth round 2013. He had very good numbers at A+ ball and after promotion had almost as good numbers at AA Corpus. His overall slash was .278/.332/.819 with 72 R/18 HR/66 RBIs/ 16 SBs and if a 40 man spot came down between him and Laureano, you would think he would take it.
  • #26 Dean Deetz RHP. 23 years old, 11th round 2014. As good as he was at AA (4-2, 1.82 ERA, .908 WHIP, in 39.2 IP), he was that bad at AAA (3-4, 6.40 ERA, 1.933 WHIP in 45.1 IP). His God awful 8.2 BB/9 IP at Fresno makes you hope he was working on a new pitch. Would seem to be a light risk if the F.O. exposes him to the draft.

Ones to Watch

  • #22 Rogelio Armenteros RHP. 23 years old, Cuban FA. Of the younger pitchers that made it to AAA for the Astros last year, this young man would seem to be the closest to make the leap to the big club. At AA & AAA combined he put up sparkling numbers – 10-4, 2.04 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 IP, 2.8 BB/9 IP in 123.2 IP.
  • #4 Yordan Alvarez 1B. 20 years old, (Trade from Dodgers for Josh Fields, the gift who just keeps giving) Not sure why he suddenly disappeared from the AFL roster, but he had a strong 2017 at both A and A+ – .314/.379/.859 with 12 HR and 69 RBIs.
  • #3 J.B. Bukaukas RHP. 21 years old, first round 2017. Small sample, but nice start between rookie and A- with a 2.70 ERA and 1.200 WHIP in 10 IP.
  • #15 Corbin Martin RHP. 21 years old, second round 2016. Between Rookie and A- the Aggie was excellent with a 2.20 ERA, 0.888 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 IP, 2.5 BB/9 IP.
  • #21 Jorge Alcala RHP 22 years old, Dominican FA. His combined numbers at A and A+ were solid (7-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.061 WHIP in 109.1 IP) and he could be a real climber in the next couple of years.
  • #30 Cristian Javier RHP. 20 years old, Dominican FA. He had excellent numbers while rising thru 3 levels in 2017 (3-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.083 WHIP, and 12 K/9 IP). Best bet is he is a lot higher in the rankings the next time this list is updated.

At the Crossroads – Players sometimes reach that point where based on age, performance or other things (read David Paulino) they are either going to make it or fall by the wayside or move on.

  • #5 Colin Moran 3B/1B. 25 years old, (Traded for Jarred Cosart). One of the saddest images in the Astros’ happiest season was when Mr. Moran went down in a freak incident where he fouled a ball off his own face. Outside of that he had easily his best season at AAA with a .304/.369/.901 slash and 18 HR and 65 RBIs in only 82 games.
  • #6 David Paulino RHP. 23 years old, Dominican FA. He has to overcome his 80 game suspension for PEDs, the fact that he let his team and his organization down and a bad 29 innings at the MLB level. His 6.52 ERA, 1.483 WHIP were poor, while his 10.6 K/9 IP and 2.2 BB/9 IP were actually quite good. His 8 HRs in 29 innings is the stat he needs to work on the most along with his off-field issue.
  • #10 J. D. Davis 3B. 24 years old, third round 2014. He showed power, little speed and a lot of Ks in his short stint in Houston. But he had a very good season between AA and AAA with a .282/.345/.872 slash and 26 HRs and 78 RBIs in only 103 games. Will he develop into a DH, or a big bat off the bench, because he is blocked-blocked-blocked by Alex Bregman at the MLB level? Or will he turn into a trading chip?
  • #25 Jandel Gustave RHP. 25 years old, Dominican FA. He was good (not great) at AAA with a 3.79 ERA and 1.211 WHIP. He had trouble finding the plate in a short call-up with the big club. He needs to improve or be passed.
  • #28 Drew Ferguson OF. 25 years old, 19th Rd 2015. He was solid at AA ball, but after his promotion to AAA (.223/.304/.625 with 1 HR and 9 RBIs) he needs to show something quickly in 2018 to have a shot at the top.
  • #29 Trent Thornton RHP. 24 years old, fifth round 2015. He was a bit better at AAA than AA, but overall he was quite below average his 9-6 record not matching his 5.21 ERA, 1.409 WHIP and especially 11.1 hits/9 IP. He needs to step it up in 2018.

Check Back in a Few Years – It is really hard to judge teen and near teen age prospects…..

  • #12 Freudis Nova SS/3B. 17 years old, Dominican FA. For a guy who is barely shaving his year in the Dominican rookie league, his .247/.342/.698 and 4 HR/ 16 RBIs was good. His 12 errors in 31 games – not so much.
  • #13 Elian Rodriguez RHP. 20 years old, Cuba FA. In 9 appearances with the same Dom. rookie league team, his 0-3, 7.46 ERA, 2.211 WHIP in 25.1 IP were a bit disappointing.
  • #17 Miguelangel Sierra SS. 19 years old, VZ FA. His .178/.260/.557 slash needs to improve big time.
  • #18 Gilberto Celestino OF. 18 years old, Dominican FA. Good numbers over 59 games – .268/.331/.789 with 38 runs/4 HRs/24 RBIs and 10 SBs in the rookie league.
  • #24 Jonathan Arauz SS. 19 years old, who came over in the Ken Giles trade. At A- and A ball he continued to show a backup middle infield bat – .242/.336/.654 with 1 HR and 15 RBIs in 69 games.

Could be Something or Nothing – These guys all have some pluses and minuses to their games

  • #8 Hector Perez RHP. 21 years old, Dominican FA. Between A and A+ ball he had above average stats – 7-6 and 3.44 ERA, but his 6.44 BB/9 IPs is the one thing holding him back.
  • #9 Garrett Stubbs C. 24 years old, eighth Rd 2015. His hitting was very catcher-like (or catcher-light) with a .232/.328/.649 slash. He threw out a strong 39% of base stealers at AA and a weak 16% at AAA. The lack of young catching in the organization helps him more than anything.
  • #14 Framber Valdez LHP. 23 years old, Dominican FA. His 2.79 ERA at A+ ball fell to a 5.88 ERA at AA ball. 2018 may well show a lot about where he is headed in the future.
  • #19 J.J. Matisevic OF. 21 years old, second round 2017. After signing out of college in 59 games at A- and A ball, he had a so-so debut. His .228/.293/.674 slash was below average, while his 36 runs, 7 HRs, 31 RBIs and 11 SBs were good.
  • #20 Joe Perez 3B. 18 years old, second round 2017. The Astros thought so highly of the young man that they drafted him knowing he was having TJ surgery. He will debut (hopefully) in the minors in 2018.
  • #23 Myles Straw OF. 23 years old, 12th round 2015. His numbers at A+ and AA bring to mind an Austin Wates or similar solid hitter with little power. In 2017 he totaled .290/.405/.766 with 1 HR and 44 RBIs in 90 games. Does a Punch and Judy hitter have a chance in this organization?
  • #27 Brett Adcock LHP. 22 years old, fourth round 2016. He had solid numbers that were much better at A than A+ ball. His overall numbers were 5-4, 3.93 ERA, 1.276 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 IP. In an organization that lacks left handers he could rise in a hurry.

It will be fun to see which of these folks are still on the list through 2018 and who, if any of them, make it to the bigs.

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103 comments on “Check In: Astros prospects, today and tomorrow

  1. Thanks – this is one that takes a lot of research time, but once I have that the actual writing flows fast.
    Note – there is a formatting problem in the post – Rule 5 Eligible should be a Heading – not a bullet – those four guys Cionel Perez, Ramon Laureano, Jason Martin and Dean Deetz are under the Rule 5 heading – not the cream of the crop heading – which is only Tucker and Whitley

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My favorite “sleeper” is Corbin Martin, and not because I have any ties to him or his school.
    I like him because of his “stuff”. Two above average pitches and two average pitches and big strikeout numbers. At 6’2″ and 200 lbs he seems like he has room to get stronger and get better with his delivery.
    If Deetz’s troubles moving up can be attributed to new pitches or techniques, so can Framber Valdez’s. I will start believing in any pitcher’s prospects of being good enough to pitch in the majors, when I hear Jeff Luhnow mention them in an interview. That has always been my barometer when hoping on a prospect.
    Even though he is no longer a prospect, I still consider Frances Martes to be the Astros #1 prospect.
    Finally, I want to point out that after all the years in the Astros system, Colin Moran is still the Astros #5 prospect, according to Mayo and Callis. Those two do not generally keep older prospects that high up unless their fellow scouts rate them that high. And I believe that Moran was the player mentioned in the Zach Britton trade because Moran was the guy Baltimore wanted, not the guy the Astros were pushing.

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  3. Jason Martin is an interesting prospect. Unlike some who burst on the scene and then flame out or others who burst on the scene and develop fast, Martin is a guy who started slowly and has improved every year, both offensively and defensively. His numbers in the Carolina league in 2017 are as good as his 2016 stint in Lancaster, and those two leagues are drastically different.
    His jump to AA showed that league was not a difficult one for him, as his numbers were similar to his High A numbers.
    Whether he gets protected by the Astros will probably tell us what we need to know about his future with the club. His best tool is his speed and his weakest is his arm. But his bat is the tool that will determine his future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some other thoughts
    – Sometimes guys who are not on this list do make it to the bigs because they are doing “OK” at AAA and maybe the best player at their position is too far away from making it
    – One of the best bats at AAA this season was Jon Kemmer (who I assume missed about a 1/3 of the season due to injury). He is older (26) will he get a shot?
    – What about pitchers like Jacob Dorris (24)who pitched solid but not spectacular at Fresno?
    – How about Kyle Smith (24) who was on this list previously, missed all of 2015, pitched well at AA last season and badly at AAA.
    – And I still think Ronnie Dawson will return to this list next time it is published – In 129 games at A and A+ (at 22 y.o.) he had a .278/.363/.800 slash with 88 runs scored, 14 HRs, 67 RBIs and 18 SBs

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  5. Kemmer has had a steady rise, and will be in a heated battle with Jake and Derek for that coveted 4th OF spot in the Spring.

    Can’t sleep on Tony Kemp hitting .329 in 504 AB’s at Fresno. The guy will see more playing time next season, count on it!

    Straw has elite speed. Cionel, Yordan Alvarez, Stubbs, Framber, Corbin Martin and Jason Martin, Armenteros, Garcia, Tucker should all see some playing time in the Spring with a chance to impress

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see all the San Diego boys come in hot and ready to go (Devo, Musgrove and Hoyt), but they’d better be because we’ll have plenty of arms pushing them!

    Gustave surely won’t be full speed til mid season?

    Are we really going to pass on Luke Gregerson? Maybe we’re in good enough hands to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If Jake is not traded, Kemmer has almost no shot. He’s a DH quality outfielder on a team that has enough offense. As long as Marwin plays his present role, there is no place for Tony Kemp on the roster unless there is an injury. Both guys should hope to be traded.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As of the present time, with the exception [hopefully] of Moran, Martes, Whitley, and MAYBE KTuck, Armenteros, Yordan Alvarez, and C. Perez, I personally view our system as being bereft of any players who have a significant likelihood of any significant success in the major leagues. Of course, being a homer, I have hopes of being surprised by the 2018 performances of guys like Birk, Straw, Quiala, Framber Valdez, Nick Hernandez, Jason Martin, Abraham Toro-Hernandez, and Drew Ferguson, but the reality is we are WEAK, WEAK, WEAK at the lower levels, and have exactly one player with star quality in the entire minor league system – that being Forrest Whitley. We have ZERO shortstops or catchers who even look passable at this point. We have ZERO Top of Rotation pitching prospects in the entire system outside of Whitley.

    Summary: We need to go all out to win big in 2018. Another long drought is not far down the horizon.

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    • My take is that so far A.J.’s bat speed has been way too slow, and his swing far too long and loopy, to be successful against major league quality pitching. Right now he’s looking like a AAAA guy -and a guy who will strikeout over 200 times a season and hit maybe 20 -25 mostly meaningless bombs against the worst pitchers on some team with a losing record’s helpless bullpen. That is the ‘old’ Astros model; not the new one.

      I am sure our hitting coaches have been trying to find a way to at least shorten A.J.’s swing a bit -though its unlikely, at his age, that he can do anything to increase bat speed.

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      • That was my initial take on Reed, but I’ve changed my mind. His opposite field power is legit. He still strikes out too much, but does have a decent eye. I’d be working on his pitch selection and specifically asking him to take the approach at the plate that Justin Turner uses quite often – home in on one quadrant of the zone and just spoil any pitch not in it. When you get a pitch in that zone try to blast it into the opposite field gap.

        Unless he comes to spring training about 30 lbs lighter I don’t see him with a shot in Houston. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him traded away at the winter meetings. Marwin + Yuri + Moran + White are all options that seem more attractive at 1B right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reed reminds me of Chris Johnson with more power and worse bat control. He’s incredibly strong but absolutely no bat control, a long swing, and very poor bat speed. The worst part for him is the swing itself, in that much of the time he doesn’t seem to be using his hips or lower body at all when he swings.

        Best outcome for him is to be a poor man’s Steve Balboni, and that’s only if he improves. I can’t see him reaching Adam Dunn or even Rob Deer levels.

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  7. Been thinking along those same lines. Can’t stock pile the minors without those high draft picks or trading away the star players.
    Surely Luhnow’s plan provides for these times.

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  8. Mr. Bill – I am not going to argue about your premise on the minors. They have pulled some darn good players out of there (including the big four) – traded quite a few – and this created a WS team.
    I suspect that they will attempt to build it up a bit by trading the other way (vets for prospects) over the next couple years.
    Bottomline – I just don’t care. The Astros spent decades chasing the golden ring and I am not going to lose sleep over what may or may not happen a few years down the road. They were the kings this year and have a great shot at doing it again over the next few seasons. That is my focus.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan, the lack of super talent in the minors just heightens the need to lock up the talent we have – fab four [Springer, Altuve, Correa, and and beyond – for as long as Crane & Company’s money holds out. There does not appear to be any more magic in the pipeline – so let’s get as much out of the present crop as we possibly can.

      The only way to stock the minors by trade is to let go of at least two players at the top of their value due to the WS, and do it NOW. Those that come to mind [not including any of the ‘fab five’] are DK, Morton, Peacock, McCullers, Yuli, and McCann. Which of these ‘expendable six’ is anyone willing to see go, and for what kind of return?

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      • Drafting at the top and being a winning franchise concurrently are not attainable. Tanking for the top pick hasn’t really worked for many people. Houston could have just as easily blown it – imagine if we picked Appel insted of Correa and did sign Aiken at the reduced contract. We wouldn’t have LMJ or Bregman either.

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    • Becky, Brady and Mike are both 27 years old. This Spring is likely to be both’s last shot with the Astros. Their window is closing. It was unfortunate for Brady that his 2017 got shut down by injury/surgery. It is unfortunate for Mike that the Rangers gave him back to us, and when they did, he couldn’t throw strikes for us at Fresno [53 BBs given up in only 90 innings].

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  9. I too am not blown away by our minor league talent. Whitley is probably the one guy I’d hate to lose. Armenteros does not seem have that one big pitch everyone is looking for, but he keeps getting guys out at every level, with a good K rate. I think he’ll find success as a major leaguer. He’s a pitcher.

    Mr. Bill, I’m with you. Let’s try to keep the big four. Losing Keuchel might help make that happen and also give us a couple of solid prospects. I think we have enough pitching to help absorb the loss. I don’t want to pick on Keuchel but the ERA was 4.24 in the second half, the WHIP 1.386, the SO/W ratio way down. I don’t think we’ll see a better return for him at any other point. I can’t say that about our four offensive guys.

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  10. Jose is sooooo overrated – if he didn’t play in Houston he would never win the MVP.
    Now where is that sarcasm font button?

    Congrats Jose – you make every game a joy to watch

    Liked by 2 people

    • On the banner running along the bottom of the screen on ESPN they noted that Jose is the shortest MVP winner since Bobby Shantz won 24 games for the Philadelphia……A’s back in 1952.
      In a remarkable bit of symmetry that ESPN did not mention – Bobby Shantz was part of the Colt .45’s original expansion draft and pitched in 3 games for the Colt .45s INCLUDING THEIR VERY FIRST GAME, THAT HE WON. He was traded to the Cards for Carl Warwick a short time into that initial season.

      You aren’t going to find that information in just any blog you know…..

      Liked by 3 people

  11. I know this is supposed to be about our prospects but I have to defend myself. I don’t care how many old posts that OP drags in, you will not ever find me ever complaining. I took it at the kneecaps when Sandy decided to knock me down a couple notches because of my age, but I just read the last few comments in the last post. And sweet Diane now claims that I was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. And how come nobody is talking about how Judge is such a good player despite his extraordinary height?
    In an era where everything said is an insult to somebody, how come it’s just short people who aren’t supposed to be great players?
    I am so sick of Jose Altuve’s height being something that every sports writer wants to point out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Should “It’s a Small, Small World” now be Jose Altuve’s theme song when he comes to the plate? “Super sarcasm font here!
      Congratulations to Jose, you deserve it!

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    • 1OP, does not bother me because I don’t think it bothers Altuve. Bottom line is that he was the best baseball player in the AL in 2017. And he was correctly recognized for it. That he happens to be shorter than everyone else is relevant to the conversation, although I sure don’t think about it and I’m guessing most of us regulars here don’t think about it. I simply see a great five tool baseball player. I feel so darn fortunate to have been able to follow his every rise, alll the way from A ball.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. -The year that Charlie Morton had is probably the best thing that could have happened to Tyler Chatwood.
    -Jose Altuve won the 2017 MVP because of what he has done for his entire career. The success of the Astros was the last jewel on the the MVP crown.
    – I wonder how many voters would have liked to redo their vote for AL Manager of the Year after Hinch’s performance in the playoffs.
    – I think the Red Sox and the Yankees are going to spend money and make moves to get better and challenge Houston. I think the Astros should take advantage of their newfound momentum, popularity and cash inflow and do something spectacular to counter them.
    -I know the Yankees want to get it right, but finding a manager seems to be taking too long.
    -Altuve and Correa are the two Astros I would like to see spending their careers in Houston. I like all the Astros, but keeping those two on the club is what my heart longs for.
    – The Braves front office messed up big-time and it cost them their jobs and will cost the team a lot of talent.
    – Talk of the Astros being interested in Jonathan Lucroy is fascinating to me. That is a name I did not expect to hear.
    – The battle for the NL MVP was incredible. What is going through Joey Votto’s mind today?
    – The only thing more upsetting to me than being thought of as old is the reality that it is true. I wake up in as much pain as I had when I went to bed, but tomorrow morning I am going to be deep in the country with my .270 and I am looking for meat. My son took me to sight in my rifle Wednesday and he was bragging that he only needed two shots to be convinced he was ready. It took me five minutes to get comfortable in the blind before I fired and he looked through his binoculars at the target and said that I only needed one.
    – Rob Manfred is not one of my favorite people. But, if he truly does what he says to shorten the game by getting the players to play baseball instead of head games, I would be so grateful.
    – We may joke about Wal-Mart, but going there for me is like going to the dentist. I dread the thought of it almost as much as I dread the thought of my money going into their cash registers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • – Hinch lost 2015 AL manager of the year because of a late season swoon. I wouldn’t quibble about Moliter winning in 2017…it was an amazing feat getting that team into the WC. If we have a manager of the playoffs award it has to go to Hinch though.

      – It surprised me that Stanton won. I don’t see how he was more important to his team (that finished 20 games out) than Joey Votto was to his (finished 24 games out). I would have picked Paul Goldschmidt, but I certainly agree the other two guys had superior stat lines. Of the three, Votto had the worst support around him.

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  14. I think most know this but but we now have the earliest pick in the second round because we won the World Series. And our bonus pool is reduced. So getting later picks signed (like LMJ) will be much more difficult. Also can’t imagine us having a QO and getting back a draft pick. So JL better be a genius going forward. More High School and taking more chances. Or the proverbial “diamond in the rough”. Don’t think 2018 draft info will be settled for a while but here is a review of 2017.

    https://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/2017-mlb-draft-slots-bonus-pools/#OXRMOuPO2eHxCATC.97

    .

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  15. I am struggling with worrying about the Astros future right now, though I know this is a special team and it will be very hard to sustain this. But hey this front office has gotten players like Marwin Gonzalez, Collin McHugh and Will Harris for practically nothing. They aggressively went for Charlie Morton when his stats would say – stay away. They have earned my trust that they can find value where others might miss it. There are other great players in the minors who may not show it for a couple years. Just hang in there folks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your perspective on this 100%. The Astros spent a lot of international bonus pool money in the last two years on players most of us are not too familiar with. Several of them will develop and become known to us in the years to come. We spent a lot less time on them this season for a good reason. 2017 was the year of The Astros and they have a great shot at doing the same thing in 2018.

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  16. Look, the Astros took a flyer on Altuve when 7 other majors said no thanks. I am not currently worried either. I am still processing that we are World Series champs. I have a compartment in my brain for the Astros and a compartment for World Series champs. And no synapse between. I wake up giddy in the middy of the night. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  17. There is love on this team. Love for the game. And love among players for each other. You cannot put a price on that. No metrics, no money can measure it or put a calculus on how far it will take you. You just look in wonder and give thanks.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Diane, I believe that too. Whether or not that translates into a willingness from the players to sign creative contracts, perhaps with a bit of a hometown discount in a state that does not collect income tax, I don’t know. One can hope though.

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  18. The good news – other than the fact that the Houston Astros are World Champions in 2017 – is that, with regard to 2018:

    1. Carlos Correa is still improving, and should be in the MVP race with Altuve for 2018 and years to come;
    2. Jose Altuve is made of steel and sleeps in a blue cape; Carlos Correa wears Jose Altuve pajamas;
    3. Yuli Gurriel is just now coming into his own;
    4. Alex Bregman looks like a legitimate superstar ready to blossom;
    5. A projected 2018 rotation of Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, and Peacock/McHugh looks like one of the best in the league;
    6. George Springer is just now approaching his prime;
    7. Josh Reddick is much better than he looked in the WS vs. the Dodgers’ extremely tough LH pitching crew;
    8. We have a potential Spring training battle brewing for the LF position – with left-handed hitters Fisher, Kemmer, and Kemp, as well as switch-hitter Marwin Gonzales, in the hunt;
    9. We have a potentially much improved DH situation with Moran [LH] and White [RH], both of whom can actually play a position every once in awhile when needed;
    10. The front end of our bullpen should be solid with Devenski, Feliz, Musgrove, and Martes;
    11. The back end of our bullpen could stand improvement, and needs a lefty, but is still pretty good [Harris, Hoyt, Giles];
    12. McCann is still a very solid backstop, with occasional offensive outbursts; and then we have Evan Gattis and/or Max Stassi if something goes wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can I add to your list?
      -Houston pitchers are going to Spring training with Justin Verlander for the first time. I’m anxious to see if he can help big young pitchers with power arms like Musgrove, Paulino, Giles, Martes, and even Morton and Peacock. Sharing what makes him better could really help our young guys to be better.
      -All of the things that weren’t ready in spring training as far as the facilities go, will be ready this season and the facilities will be more like a home than a road park.
      – Jake Marisnick will be recovered from his injury.
      – After struggling to hit as well at home as they did on the road, the Astros overcame that in the playoffs. Whether it was the changes in CF or something else, the Astros will be better at home this coming season.
      -Verlander will probably replace Fiers in the Houston rotation for more than one month.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stay away from there, Dan. That isn’t your happy place. Find a better place. See Mr. Bills happy place three comments up from here.

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    • Bill, I’m with you on 1 through 7, with the possible exception of Keuchel in the rotation.

      Re #8, I don’t think Kemmer will play enough defense and I don’t think Kemp will hit enough. Fisher has a shot if he hits. Marwin is too valuable during the regular season in his utility role keeping guys rested at 5 positions. If Jake hits like he did in 2017, we’ll see a fair amount of Reddick in left.

      Re #9, if Gattis does not get traded and gets paid, I think he’s our primary DH and emergency catcher. So yes, I think we do have someone else sharing the backstop job with McCann. Speaking of McCann, he might be the slowest guy in MLB. That’s another reason why I don’t see both Moran and White on the same roster.

      Re # 10, 11, I think Luhnow will make a splash in this area, at the same time setting free a couple of guys you mentioned that we just don’t have room for..

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  19. Essurance best major league player goes to Jose Altuve.
    Essurance best major league manager goes to AJ Hinch.
    Essurance Best postseason player: Jose Altuve and Justin Verlander.
    Essurance Best Postseason Moment: Alex Bregman’s walkoff.
    Essurance Best executive Jeff Luhnow

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  20. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys today! Bregman and McCullers held a wonderful day of playing baseball with a whole bunch of mentally and physically challenged young people at Minute Maid today❤! I love this team!!

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  21. Monday, the dominoes will start to fall.
    Teams will know what Ohtani will cost and his situation will become clear.
    He is the first domino that will start the others falling.
    Teams are waiting to find out where he will go and from then on teams will react to his decision by going out and signing guys they have been talking to.
    Teams will make signings based on where Ohtani signs because he is going to make a good team better and force other teams to adjust.
    That is why the parties involved set Monday as a deadline on the Ohtani situation. They want the hot stove season to get started and it won’t start until Ohtani is allowed into the game.
    After that happens, get out of the fast lane if you’re not ready to roll because the stampede is gonna start.

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  22. The Chronicle had the coolest book in the Sunday paper about the World Series!
    I was away from my computer today, or I would have posted about it earlier.
    OP….you’re soo right, as soon as that first domino falls things are about to get REAL interesting! I wonder if the price for Brad Hand has come down yet!

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    • When they do start to fall, Astros have a few “needs.” But this year we don’t need a catcher, a right fielder, and another starting pitcher. Those would be nice adds, not a requirement to compete. I expect Luhnow to attempt to add to the bullpen and I do expect another “head scratcher ” like that terrible mistake he made last year by adding Morton.

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      • I think we do need a catcher. Late yesterday a small comment was published in MLB Rumors attributed to Jake Kaplan (for what it’s worth) that Gattis would indeed be the primary DH and would be spending very little, if any time behind the plate in 2018. This remains one of my wishes for the coming season.

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      • Dave, that Kaplan comment about Gattis being the DH seems to have come from Luhnow.
        As far as a catcher goes, the Astros signed veteran RH hitting catcher from Cuba, Lorenzo Quintana. I mentioned before that you don’t give a 28 year old catcher with good hitting credentials a $200,000 signing bonus unless you plan on using him. This guy defected two years ago and the Astros have done their homework. It’s not like they don’t have a guy from Cuba already, who played for years against Quintana. Yuli knows a lot about this guy. I’m just saying that Jeff Luhnow and the entire Astros front office probably knows everything there is to know about Quintana and it would surprise me a lot if he doesn’t fit into their future catching plans. He is listed in Baseball Reference for all the info on him. He is not a huge guy either. He is a little on the small side with a pretty good bat.

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    • It would surprise me if anyone other than Cionel Perez is added. I don’t see any names likely to get through Spring Training on another team’s 25 man. With only two spots available I would be shocked if Luhnow used up both.

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  23. Here is an interesting read about WAR.

    “For a few years now, Bill James has had a problem with WAR. He has mostly stayed quiet on this because, well, he knows that he’s Bill James. He remembers how the people who held the power in baseball punched down hard on him as a young analyst. He has some power now, being a legend and one of Time Magazine’s most influential people and the Godfather of Moneyball and a three-time World Series winner with the Boston Red Sox. He does not want to punch down hard at the young analysts today. He absolutely wants to encourage people to advance baseball thought.
    But, like I say, he has a real problem with WAR. And Thursday night, armed with strong feelings about the Jose Altuve-Aaron Judge MVP race, Bill let it rip.
    Now, that article is perfectly accessible — the most underrated part of Bill is that he really is a wonderful writer — so there’s no need for me to explain it here. But I want to make a couple of points about it, points that have been bothering me for a long time, and so I will explain what I see as Bill’s biggest beef with WAR and then get to my own thing.
    When Bill and I have discussed “Wins Above Replacement” the last few years, Bill has made clear that the problem he has with WAR is that it is not nearly as complex or elegant a statistic as he had assumed. He figured that because we have so much more data to work with today and the new analysts are so much more proficient at working with that data, that the new systems would be mind-blowing in their depth and breadth.
    I’ll include this quote from my story Vanguard After the Revolution.
    “My math skills are limited and my data-processing skills are essentially nonexistent. The younger guys are way, way beyond me in those areas. I’m fine with that, and I don’t struggle against it, and I hope that I don’t deny them credit for what they can do that I can’t.
    “But because that is true, I ASSUMED that these were complex, nuanced, sophisticated systems. I never really looked; I just assumed that the details were out of my depth. But sometime in the last year I was doing some research that relied on these WAR systems, so I took a look at them, and … they’re not very impressive. They’re not well thought through; they haven’t made a convincing effort to address many of the inherent difficulties that the undertaking presents. They tend to get so far into the data, throw up their arms and make a wild guess. I don’t know if I’m going to get the time to do better of it, or if it will be left to others, but … we’re not at anything like an end point here. I assumed that these systems were a lot better than they actually are.”
    There was some backlash when Bill said that five or so years ago, but even after the backlash Bill still wasn’t ready to go into detail. He now has and his big complaint — I hope I’m summing this up effectively — is that WAR does not connect directly to wins. The name “Wins Above Replacements” suggests that it is attached to wins but it is, in fact, attached to RUNS. The wins part is an afterthought.
    Many of us have known that WAR’s connection to actual wins is tenuous, but we never thought much about it. And now that Bill brings it up … yeah, it’s actually kind of jarring.
    Look: Baseball Reference WAR and Fangraphs WAR go to great care figuring out how many runs a player is worth. They calculate (in different ways) what a positional player’s value is as a hitter, as a base runner, as a fielder. They make a positional adjustment because, as mentioned here a couple of days ago, some positions are more valuable than others. They make ballpark adjustments. They make a league-wide adjustment, based on the run-scoring atmosphere of the league (1968 being very different from 1999, for example). Pitchers have their value translated to runs; Fangraphs and Baseball Reference take very different routes to the same goal of separating a pitcher from his defense. Then, yes, they again adjust for ballparks and the run-scoring atmosphere of the season.
    This all takes a great deal of calculation and thought and bold viewpoints. WAR is a wonderful formula in so many ways. And when the calculations are done, we are left with a number of runs a player/pitcher is worth, a number that can then be compared with the run value of a replacement player.
    And after all this very intense math, how do they get from RAR (Runs Above Replacement) to WAR (Wins Above Replacement)?
    They basically just divide the total by 10.
    Yep, that’s pretty much it. Well, it is a bit more complicated than that — “You simply take that sum and divide it by the runs per win value of that season to find WAR,” Fangraphs explains — but really, yeah, you mainly just divide by 10.
    Aaron Judge (Fangraphs): 82.9 Runs Above Replacement, 8.2 WAR.
    Jose Altuve (Fangraphs): 75.4 Runs Above Replacement, 7.5 WAR.
    Joey Votto (Baseball Reference): 77 Runs Above Replacement, 7.5 WAR
    Giancarlo Stanton (Baseball Reference): 78 Runs Above Replacement, 7.6 WAR
    I think this is what Bill meant when he said, “They tend to get so far into the data, throw up their arms and make a wild guess.” Both WAR systems work so hard to determine how many RUNS a player is worth. And then, after that, the work is pretty well done. “If you had to pick one number over the history of baseball to convert runs into wins,” Baseball Reference writes, “it would be 10.”
    What’s wrong with just dividing the runs by 10? Isn’t 10 runs about what a win is worth? Yes, I believe it is in a very general way. But this gets me to something that has frustrated me for years now but I’ve never had the words to explain my gripe. Let’s see if we can find the words here.
    Let’s begin by using Baseball Reference to compare the Houston Astros and New York Yankees..
    The Houston Astros players, added together, are worth 53.2 wins above replacement. The position players are worth 39.8 WAR; the pitchers are worth 13.4 WAR. The Astros won 101 games in 2017, so this suggests a team of replacement players would win 48 games — 101 minus 53. That’s reasonable.
    The New York Yankees players, added together, are worth, hey, what do you know, 53.2 wins above replacement. Amazing! The Yankees’ split is different though: 29.5 WAR for position players, 23.7 WAR for pitchers, but it adds up to the exactly the same WAR as the Astros.
    But the Yankees won only 91 games in 2017. So again, doing the math, 91 minus 53, huh, the Yankees replacement team only wins 38 games. This is not reasonable. Why are the Yankees replacement players so much worse than the Astros replacement players?*
    *If you want to do something similar with Fangraphs, you can look at the Yankees and Diamondbacks. The Yankees won 91 games and were 43 wins above replacement, meaning a replacement team would win 48 games. Arizona won 93 games but were just 34 wins above replacement, meaning their replacement team would win 59 games.
    The answer as Bill explains is that WAR does not have anything to do with actual wins. It is about runs. The Yankees’ expected record, their Pythagorean record, based on how many runs they scored and allowed, is 100–62. The Astros expected record, based on how many runs they scored and allowed, is 99–63. By runs, they were the same team. And so they have the same WAR.
    But they were NOT the same team. Why don’t the Astros players have more WAR when they so clearly won more games?
    This gets to the heart of my longstanding uneasiness with some of the advanced statistical thinking: I sometimes have wondered if maybe we’re so busy adjusting some stuff and dismissing other stuff as luck that we might be straying too far from what’s actually happening on the field. If we can adjust for the fact that Yankee Stadium was a great hitters park and Minute Maid was a great pitchers park, how can we not adjust for the fact that the Astros won 10 more games than the Yankees? How can we not find those 10 wins in our analysis?
    A few years ago, Bill James came up with his Win Shares system, and a lot of people didn’t like it for various reasons. I don’t like ever quoting Wikipedia, but in this case I think they do a nice job expressing one of the bigger complaints about Win Shares:
    “One criticism of this metric is that players who play for teams that win more games than expected, based on the Pythagorean expectation, receive more win shares than players whose team wins fewer games than expected. Since a team exceeding or falling short of its Pythagorean expectation is generally acknowledged as chance, some believe that credit should not be assigned purely based on team wins.”
    There it is: Is a team winning or losing more games than expectation “chance?” I’ve always thought that’s mostly true, but I will just say: It’s a copout to just stop there. The object of baseball is to win games. Scoring runs, preventing runs, that’s all well and good. But the object is to win. Are we really ready to concede here, ready to just throw away X number of wins every year without a fight?
    And even if we believe that the fight is over, even we believe that those extra wins are chance — how can we not include chance in our stats? Look, in the end EVERYTHING IN SPORTS AND LIFE has some chance involved. We would love to adjust chance out of our baseball stats, but at some point we are altering what really happened. Maybe the Yankees “should” have won 100 games. But they did not. And to give Aaron Judge 8.2/7.2 WAR on the assumption that they did isn’t good enough. We have to be better than this.
    This is especially true in this specific situation because Judge was not the same player in high leverage situations as he was the rest of the time. Again, maybe that’s chance, but it’s reality. He hit .215/.380/.380 in late and close situations — the exact situation where the Yankees underperformed in 2017. If you want to compare him to Altuve, it seems ridiculous not to point out that Altuve hit .441/.529/.661 in late and close situations. It seems ridiculous to not give Judge ANY of the culpability for the Yankees not winning as many games as the runs scored/allowed suggests they should have won. It seems ridiculous not to give Altuve any credit for the Astros outperforming their expectation.
    Joe Posnanski

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    • Little guy. Good WHIP’s. Gets strike outs, but is already 23 and is not building up innings. Someone must see something there. Maybe it’s the two different breaking ballls.

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      • Dave, I think it is his strikeouts and the fact that his fastball is 93-95 and could be higher if he goes to a reliever. Add in his wipeout slider and he has the tools to be a promising reliever. 12 Ks per nine innings is really, really good, especially coming as a starter. His WHIP is very good.
        I think he moves up fast.

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      • Concerning Mark Appel, I had always wondered if there was more to his ” private bullpen session ” that caused the turmoil at the time. Still just wondering if maybe that was not for him, but a way for all the Astros coaches to evaluate and give an opinion without them having to go see him in the minors. Again, just wondering if they may have given Luhnow their opinion. At the time, it was unusual for a minor league pitcher.

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