The Astros’ off-season and even more stuff

As Spring Training seems to move farther away, rather than closer – here are some other items to chew on:


Buddy of the blog, old pro had a very astute observation relative to the Astros sustaining their success through a huge 2019 off-season when tons of top-notch players will be free agents. We won’t list them all here (check out the comment section towards the bottom of this link for some of the biggest names available next offseason – Along with the Clayton Kershaws and Bryce Harpers are the Astros’ own Dallas Keuchel, Evan Gattis and Charlie Morton. Old pro’s point is that the Astros have quite a bit of flexibility and can attempt to fill these spots from within, but also can wait until the big boys blow out their budgets on the biggest FAs and slide in and grab solid major leaguers at more reasonable numbers to fill in spots for a couple of years until the younger folks come up.

One of the great things with the Astros is that they are solid all over the diamond and deep. They will have to fill in as they lose players, but the plus is that they do not have holes to fill heading into the next few seasons. They have a great opportunity to keep this peak going for a number of years if they play things right,like they played things right leading into their WS victory.

Speaking of Youth

The MLB pipeline folks announced their Top 100 prospects heading into the 2018 season and the Astros have three players on there, including two in the top 20. Forrest Whitley is #9 on the list, Kyle Tucker is #17 and J.B. Bukauskas is #76. A few comments and thoughts:

  • Tucker is #17 and just for comparison – heading into the 2016 season #17 was……..Aaron Judge.
  • Two other players you might recognize on the list are #39 Franklin Perez, who headed to the Tigers for Justin Verlander and #74 Albert Abreu, who went to the Yankees for Brian McCann.
  • The three on the 2o18 top 100 list are the least in the last few seasons.
    • Heading into 2017 – the Astros had Francis Martes (29), Tucker (50), Whitley (69), David Paulino (70) and Derek Fisher (84). They obviously did not lose Martes, Paulino and Fisher, who all spent time on the 2017 MLB roster (and one on the PED suspension list) but they are no longer considered “prospects”.
    • Heading into 2016, the list included Alex Bregman (21), Daz Cameron (53), Tucker (56) and A.J. Reed (91)

The key here is not just having Tucker and Whitley becoming top-notch major leaguers, but having Martes, Fisher and others become solid major leaguers also.

Statistics 101

Following on from last post, we will cover a few more basic hitting statistics that we write about often. If you remember, plate appearances (PA) were how many times a hitter went to the plate. At Bats (ABs) were total plate appearances not including walks, hit by pitch, sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts. Batting average was number of hits divided by at bats.

OBP – On base percentage is the Holy Grail of the Moneyball promoters. This is basically the percentage of the time a hitter gets on base without making an out. It is a little more complicated a calculation – it is hits + walks + hit by pitch divided by plate appearances minus sacrifice bunts. The AL League average was .324, which meant hitters reached a little more than 32% of the time. The Astros were number one in this category with a OBP of .346 – reaching base 34.6% of the time. Mike Trout led the league with a .442 OBP and Jose Altuve was third in the league with a .410 OBP. Getting on base over 40% of the time is terrific.

SLG – Slugging percentage – This is a measurement of how big a slugger a hitter is – how many of his hits count for more than just singles. It is a fairly simple calculation. You add up his hits as follows – Each single worth one, each double worth two, each triple worth three and home runs worth four. You add those up and divide them by at bats. The AL average was .429, while the Astros were all world with a fantastic .478 SLG percentage. Mike Trout again led the league with a .629 SLG, while Altuve led the Astros with a .547 SLG. An example of a non-slugger would have been Nori Aoki‘s time with the Astros where his SLG was a tiny .371.

So… a few questions for the day.

  • Can the Astros fill in from their prospects?
  • Do they need to trade a few veterans to stock up on prospects?
  • Will they chase any of the very top free agents next off-season, even their own?
  • When do you think Tucker and/or Whitley will arrive?
  • Of the young guys who have made it to the majors already (Fisher, Paulino, Michael Feliz, Martes, others), who do you think will become the real deal over time?

60 comments on “The Astros’ off-season and even more stuff

  1. Fill in: If Margo comes back to earth, Tony Kemp might be an adequate replacement.
    Trade Veterans: If you mean 4A players Yes. Others, no unless the team implodes the first half of the season.
    FAs: That is dependent on how 2018 turns out.
    Both: Arrive NLT September 1st but will probably be held out the first 6 weeks of 2019.
    Real Deal: We can find out about Martes this season.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. * Can the Astros fill in from their prospects? In 2018 I think they can, and when you think about it, the use of Fisher and Stassi is doing that.
    In 2019, I think they might have to go outside the organization for help and utilize current prospects like Martes, Armenteros, Valdez and Ferrell on their pitching staff. 2019 is when they could spend money for a free agent or two, whereas 2020 is when they need to spend money on Altuve.
    I don’t believe Kemp can replace Marwin because he can’t play 3B, SS or 1B.
    * I think they will sign a couple of free agents in 2019. I think they will make a concerted effort to sign one of the big bullpen guys and a starting pitcher.
    *They might trade a veteran for prospects, but I think they like their team.
    *I think Tucker will arrive in the summer of 2019, unless he does something amazing this spring. I look for Whitley to come up to the majors in the fall of 2019 and contribute in 2020, unless he does something absolutely amazing this summer.
    * I think Martes has a chance to be the real deal, if they would give him the opportunity to grow into his capabilities by letting him start in AAA and get his rhythm. His confidence in his stuff and his ability, is the key to him becoming what he was projected to become.
    * AC45’s statement about how everything turns out in 2018 determining the future is gold! How our players in the majors and the minors perform this year determines so much of what happens next. Especially behind the plate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes i believe they can fill in from the minor leagues, still have a pretty good system and i have to believe there will be an influx of prospects from a trade or two by this summer’s deadline.
    yes they will sign some of their own. and perhaps one or two FA’s if they fit a need.
    Both will see time this year (late or injury driven) but not much until 2019
    all those guys have a shot at it, fisher and martes have the best chance at this point.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think they will do some fill in from inside and some strategic fills from outside.
    I do really agree with this ac45 point about how 2018 turns out being a key to what they do. We saw that the front office has come out of the last two seasons with a plan to address their weaknesses and they did it – bringing in better contact low K veteran guys after 2016, chasing some better veteran relievers after 2017 and a starter who might bridge them from Keuchel to Whitley.
    They have stayed focused and I’m betting they will continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have complete confidence at this point. Luhnow got it done. Over the past five years there were so many moving parts, so many decisions to make. Most were correct, at least the essential ones. When you look around the field, you see excellence all over. You think about the way the pitchers were used in the post season, it was unique. I’m just not smart enough to keep up with what Luhnow and his geeky guys are doing, but I’m pretty sure he’s already got a good idea of what his 25 man roster will look like in 2019 and even beyond. I’ll be shocked if we are not in a position to win it all again in 2018, and surprised if the 2019 team does not do the same. And I don’t expect any mediocre teams beyond that point either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think ac45 hit it – move the guys like Davis who are blocked but show at least one major league skill for high risk, high ceiling youngsters. Luhnow’s guys need to scout and draft well this year – picking last is effectively the same as not picking in the first round, but there are still good players on the board at that point.


  7. The biggest challenge today is in giving prospects a shot. There are very few opportunities at the ML level when you’ve got an intact WS roster. If Luhnow does not make a move in left, I think we can give Fisher a shot until the break. And I think we can carry Stassi as long as his work behind the plate is solid and he keeps an OPS of .650 plus. I don’t think Kemp does enough things well to have a job on this club, but we haven’t seen enough to know for sure. We also don’t know enough about White and Reed. I do think White will hit somewhere, but I don’t see 34 homers from Reed. But it’s all guesswork without some real ML stats.

    We’ve got the luxury of not having to rush Tucker or Whitley, at least the way things look now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. daveb’s point is key to me. Absent injuries, where are the ABs for White, Reed, Kemp, Fisher, et al going to come from? And there’s a logjam of ML talent at the pitching level as well. Between the AAAA hitters and the back of the rotation and the bullpen and this being DK’s walk year, there ought to be multiple opportunities to continue injecting the system with young talent. I still worry about catching past this season. The next step for Luhnow as a GM is being able to pull the trigger on one of “his guys” and moving a beloved player if it means helping the team in the long run.


  9. How do you make your way onto an intact WS roster? By playing better than the guy in front of you.

    Weren’t Bregman blocked at SS, Gurriel then without a position, Fisher blocked by Jake/Teoscar/Aoki, Marwin needing someone injured to get in? How did Davis Gustave Guduan Jankowski Centeno and Dayan Diaz ever find time with the WS champion?

    How was there a spot for Peacock? Because I sure remember McQ on the back fields pitching in the Spring. “Dead arm,” but he’s ok when we “need him”? Maybe Brad is just (a lot) better than Collin? And who said that before the Spring? [Who even knew the extent of McHugh’s issues?]. Should we call a 13-2 record, 3.2 WAR and 3.0 ERA a “fill-in for McHugh”?

    The way that personnel get sprinkled in is an art. I thought we shelved pitchers well, but the Dodgers led the league with the hook, and by so doing they lost no ground in the standing by staying fresh.

    “Your goal is to get here, whatever you have to do during the season,” Honeycutt said. “But at the same time, you’re preparing for this time of the year also…”

    There are a few guys who have nothing left to “prove” in the minors, but who can use the seasoning (or have options). Those names include Hoyt, Stassi, Martes, White and Kemp. None of these show up on a prospect list, but all are expected to make a mark this year. Don’t you think we will have done the same this season, setting up well by giving some guys a taste of their dream for display in 2019? Sleeper, Reed.

    We’ve discussed Kemp for a few years as a posssible utility guy, and while Marwin has spoiled us with more tools, the fact is that there are very few guys like him. And here’s the most important thing: it’s a luxury not every team needs. While Marwin is great in the dirt, he’s not an OF by calling.

    What does this mean?

    We can still win with White in the field. We’re not going to necessarily lose games just because Martes is inexperienced. We’re not going to slide in the standings if Paulino is pitching, instead of LMJ. Armenteros, or Stassi, or Fisher aren’t going to cost us the post season. We absolutely need to find guys who will own their time in the spotlight – and let’s not call them fill-ins. Baseball is ever-changing, the same as in our youth when we all reported back the next year.

    Certain guys are going to impress, nothing is the same until Hinch/Luhnow create it. Lots of work to be done with what we have now, opportunity for guys who have done nothing but perform at every level. Keeping an open mind.

    Trading Keuchel for prospects mid season, rather than waiting for a draft pick. That’s my biggest question going into 2018.

    I think Martes is the real deal, but I’d still like to see him take a que from Devo’s regimen or Whitley’s focus, and lose the double chin.


      • Curious-
        Would you trade Hernandez now, knowing the highlights for Liriano can be counted on a few fingers?
        Is your answer because we have nowhere to put Teoscar?


      • Too much to cover, so I won’t. Bergman was put at third because we did not have a third baseman and some other guy was playing his preferred position.
        The club thought he could make the adjustment. Some here did not. He did. Yuli, with his years of experience, was put at first because Bregman is far more mobile and it was determined that Yuli could adapt to first. He did. So in 2018, first and third are covered. Fisher and Stassi will get a shot if Luhnow does not seek to improve 2 and 7. The other guys will have to wait for an injury. That’s their only real shot.


    • Your point is well taken, but I doubt we will always enjoy the embarrassment of riches as we do now. If Fisher or White don’t hurt you, then how much does Kemmer or Reed or Davis hurt you? My point is that if there’s a chance to move a AAAA hitter or a blocked pitcher for value, then why not?

      Isn’t this a fun problem to have!


      • The closest to ML-ready have been plucked, mostly, except for those off limits and F Perez.

        But unfortunately Kemmer and Reed are worth more to us than we can get, and because we have to fill out those minor league rosters. Davis keeps getting mentioned. I bet instead the FO likes them.

        What I’ll contend after reading a number of other teams’ prospects (by Sickels and others) is that we have a pretty well known quantity, quality in-house. Enough that when one mechanism breaks down in the bigs, the whole machine still runs because of your heart and soul.

        This is about the fourth year in a row actually that we’ve had this embarrassment. Max Stassi has been graded out since 2010 as a good backup catcher, and by holding him in retrospect was good, I’m assuming McCann wants to work with him instead of Centeno. The guy could’ve been traded, but if we can calm him down offensively by giving him the reins and saying you’re going to start in 60 games, maybe that will slow him down – the knock being his aggressive approach. His no doubt homers have been opposite field, he’s got great blocking skills and presents a good view for umps. Here’s a guy the Rangers wanted.

        We’ve already proven we’ll let go of the excess, or blocked, like Moran and Teoscar. I’m just glad JL is known for coveting his prospects. There’s a reason we’re keeping them, and the type of stats (grades) that allow them to stay are probably lesser known outside the organization.

        The other thing to think about is the embarrassment of riches that we’re yet to realize from merchandise and attendance. The net worth of the team has surely doubled (Forbes 700 mil to 1.? bil now). Crane continues to go first class all the way at the ST facilities. I don’t see us turning back at this point to any of the old Astros mindset.


      • A GM has to offer fair value (or better) in return or the other GMs won’t trade with him. There are only so many times said GM can tell people that a blocked player is off limits before the other GMs know he is bluffing…or move on to another team with a comparable prospect.

        The big problem with all the guys whose names are being thrown out is that they have to make multiple leaps. First, they had to make it to AA and not hit the wall (like Teoscar did). Second, they either need to leapfrog to the MLB roster or spend some time proving it in AAA. Kemmer is an interesting name. He’s taken a bit to adjust to each level, but then done well enough to keep progressing. There are a few knocks on him though – he’s going to be 27 this year, he doesn’t hit a lot of HR, his home/away splits last year are worrisome, and his defense is uninspiring. He’s a good candidate to be the next Luke Scott, but could just as easily be the next Brett Wallace.


      • There is sufficient doubt and hope in the names being thrown about.

        But where do you draw the line in multiple leaps when our system continues to push through the Keuchels LMJ Bregmans and Altuves with no rhyme or reason as to simple stats; like IP, BA or AB’s, for example, compared to what a scout sees past the numbers; or the need of the team hard pressing them into service (Jordan Lyles v Forest Whitely).

        We already know the gap can sometimes be really wide between Reed being POY, and matching it elsewhere.

        You pointed out what a difference in Bregman learning on the job, until after he’d polished off an amazing season.

        Whose to say that Teoscar was a better release than Fisher? Maybe it was that Jake is a righty, and we needed LHH Fisher as a counter-part for a few years (as with signing Aoki). In retrospect, I’m still undecided on Liriano but to your point, who knew?

        Perhaps, Armenteros will follow in the shoes of others who don’t light up the radar gun, but who manage to get outs.


      • I think the big difference with guys like Bregman and Springer is that even though they struck out more than we would like they controlled the strike zone. Most of the questionable guys – Reed, Kemmer, Teoscar, Davis have trouble recognizing whether borderline pitches are strikes and have even more trouble laying off some pitches that have no chance at being strikes. We often here that this is a skill that’s either not teachable or tough to teach. I would say we should expect anyone showing a resistance to improving this part of there game is a prime target for Luhnow to move.


  10. Short answer is anything can happen, roadthriller. You’re right.

    To chew on the area of most need.

    I think between Sipp, Framber, Cionel, Gose, Guduan, Adcock and any reliever who dominates lefties (Morton, Devo, Harris), we should be okay.

    It’s a long season and there’s some good curveball potential here.

    Last June (a month we did well) after the Royals series, CTH ran a post on why we needed to add an effective lefty, because KC put four batters in a row in their lineup.

    Luhnow will definitely not be in that position again, but I think Sipp is on a very short leash. I predict we may carry two lefties in some series’.


  11. Interestingly enough, this post by DanP is one of the lead articles linked to on Baseball References stat page for Clayton Kershaw this morning.
    I listed only 34 names of players who could make themselves available for free agency next year. There are many more than listed.
    Some of the othersscheduled to be FAs who could have good years and jump up in the eyes of beholders are:
    Wilson Ramos and Matt Harvey
    Jerry Blevins and Michael Brantley
    Joe Kelly and Lonnie Chisenhall
    David Phelps and Daniel Hudson
    Martin Maldanado and Adam Warren
    Alcides Escobar and Tyler Flowers
    It is no shame for the Astros to go get some veteran players who can help them replace the guys who we are going to lose in free agency next year if the front office sees value and our 21 year old prospects aren’t quite ready.


    • True.
      But Matt 💩Harvey? <— that's how the kids express horse dookie. I think we could find a cheaper guy to throw batting practice for us.


      • I know. But it is still wonderful to see this blog listed as a link on such as baseball reference and Clayton Kershaw.


      • Yeah Grayson, that reply was meant for Dan’s comment below.
        Out of 46 guys I listed, you cherry-picked one to dump on. Truth is, Matt Harvey has a world of potential with a teenager’s attitude. But I did reference that he had a chance to redeem himself with a good year.
        Horse dookie can be used for growing incredible tomatoes, if properly applied.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If I had to guess, I think Harvey might have a cocktail problem. He’ll either disappear, or become what he once was again.


      • dave b – Cocktail problem as in drinking too many of them or Cocktail problem as he spends too much time watching a 1980’s movie with Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown (where the heck did he go?)


      • I now know Bryan Brown’s name. Thanks, dan!

        Op, I just think physically Harvey is done. I’m very interested in growing juicy ‘maters also. Salt and peppered..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just sparking conversation until we get to Feb 23. Nobody knew Bregman would turn out the way he did on April 30, 2017. That’s the point – nobody knows if Kemmer, Framber, Reed or Kemp can stick yet. We only know they weren’t a No. 2 pick.

        Speaking of cocktail problem, they intimated on MLB network that when the Giants are in COL, “Bumgardner should stay in the hotel room,” suggesting he has hit the hash pipe before, but there is no mention on the internet of that. Aren’t they aware that California is recreationally legal now? Even so, I often wonder how one guy gets popped for drugs, while others only get snickers about their use?


      • Dan, you struck a raw nerve! I hated that bleeping movie. As one who spent a few years of my early life behind high volume bars, I cursed Cruise every time he hot dogged a drink order and wasted (fake) booze when he tried to pour from behind his back into a glass. That’s Hollywood though! Our rule was fast and clean.


      • Bregman showed enough in 2016 to tell me he was an excellent athlete. I was very confident that he would get the hang of third. I was pissed that he only got about 9 starts at third in the minors. That would have given him a bit of a head start. I was also a bit surprised that so many, mostly on other blogs, were calling for his benching early. He learned by fire. He’s a gamer.
        I’m looking for a year from him well beyond projections.


    • op –
      Chip has had it set up for quite awhile with reciprocal links between us and baseball reference. If you go up in our post and can click on a player’s name – the link will take you to that player’s baseball reference page and on that page should be a link back to this post, until it “times” out.


  12. The key thing is that there will be a ton of guys as free agents next season that are above average to great – even if some of them fall off next season or some come on next season. Matt Harvey could make himself a ton of money with a comeback season. Or….not


  13. Saw this note on mlbtraderumors
    “Trade speculation surrounding Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana has spiked ever since the team acquired Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain just minutes later. But although he slugged 30 homers last season and is just 25 years of age, his trade value may not be as high as one might think. Rosenthal quotes rival executives saying that Santana is “a bad defender” and “not a winning player.” Those comments come off a bit extreme, but it’s worth noting that he struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances last season while being worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield.”

    Jeez – maybe that is why the Brewers were so aggressively getting other OFs when they had a young guy with good looking numbers (when not K’ing)


    • I’ve seen worse defenders, but “not a winning player”? That’s a concern. Maybe that’s why we unloaded him without ever giving him a real shot. But on the flip side, if that means discount price, I think we’ve got a few guys here that might impact young Domingo in a positive way.


    • I recall during a broadcast of a Brewers and Reds game last summer (don’t ask why I was watching this) they made a point of singling Santana out for stuffing the stat sheet without really helping his team win. Looking back his team was 14-14 in games where he hit a HR. He did hit 30 HR, but was only intentionally walked twice while playing for a team that competed well into August. I think the 178 strikeouts are pretty significant in shaping perceptions too.


  14. Less than a month from today, on Friday, February 23, at 1:o5 pm local time [12:05 pm CST], nine players wearing Astro uniforms will take the field to host a team wearing Washington Nationals uniforms in the Spring Training opener. The scene will be the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, at the intersection of 45th Street and Haverhill Road, in West Palm Beach, FL. Somebody in the Astros’ dugout will be listed on A.J.Hinch’s line-up card as the starting DH.

    Who will be the 9 Astros who take the field? Who will be standing on the mound – and what will be his pitch count? Who will be standing in the dugout, thinking about his first Spring Training at bat as DH?

    I can’t wait to find out!


    • I’m going out on a limb here and betting that none of the nine Astros fielders will be Bryce Harper. The Astros will be patient enough to wait until after the WS to get him. TeeHee.


  15. daveb – Raw nerve time on Cocktails huh? The 1980’s were great for unbelievable movie plots. Flashdance with the lady welder who was also a sort of exotic dancer trying to become a ballerina. Roadhouse where you have a bar bouncer/cleanser who is like a world wide celebrity. China Syndrome where a faked X-ray is going to cause a meltdown (I worked in the nuke industry and the real problem was from bad operation decisions not defects).
    I’m sure there are others. Folks – any favorite ridiculous plot movies from the ’80s?


    • So you don’t want me to bring up Howard the Duck (alien duck comes to earth and then saves it), Mannequin (where lonely guy has store mannequin come to life) or Weekend at Bernie’s (where nobody notices Bernie the rich beach house host is no longer with us)?

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Here I go again defending Domingo. He’s got some splits that are unremarkable but 2 outs RISP: 1.191 OPS.

    High leverage: 1.007 OPS.

    Those are not loser stats. He also stole 15 of 19. He goes first to third better than most guys.

    Maybe he does too much lollygagging around the outfield. If Springer is next to him it will not be allowed.


    • old pro that was a great read! A fanposter after my own heart – I loved the angle he took and can’t argue with his premise. Fun stuff.


  17. Dan,
    Here’s an excerpt for your stat comments.

    The 2017 Astros’ bullpen posted a 4.27 ERA during the regular season, good for 17th-best in the majors, and worse than the league average of 4.15. By the neutral stat FIP*, they performed much better; their 3.84 was 6th-best in the majors.

    *FIP = Fielding Independent Pitching: a pitching stat that attempts to remove factors outside of the pitcher’s control to quantify their performance on a scale that is comparable to ERA’s. FIP has proven to be far more predictive of future ERA than ERA itself, and so is always worth examining when discussing pitching performances.


  18. Above 1OP has the nerve to say the following “When I read that, I didn’t take it as gospel, but it was food for thought.”

    He was talking about the Great Ken Rosenthal. Talk about blasphemy, in Iran, it would be off with his head. Ken Rosenthal IS THE Gospel, at least in his own mind.


  19. *16* days before Verlander and company show up in Florida, but whose counting! Doesn’t it feel delicious going into Spring training not having to “need” anything!! Sure Hinch would like a seasoned left fielder, but if Luhnow doesn’t make anymore moves, this is ONE MULTI TALENTED TEAM!! It’s been interesting to see Darvish and J.D. Martinez just wait on the bench to see if someone will ask them to dance! I love where we stand right now…..and I can’t WAIT to follow these guys during Spring training! I’m probably the only person on this blog that actually listens to the Spring training games! Can’t help it……I’ve got the fever⚾!!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Altuve has already been working out in Florida, as I’m sure all know. The other night, as he picked up the MVP trophy, he was pretty funny. Probably everybody but me knows this but the way he told it, when his dad made him come back a second time to try out for the Astros, ‘Tuve said, “Dad, we can try another team.” His dad purportedly said, “No, no, you’ve got to be an Astro.”

    Liked by 1 person

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