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 – https://chipalatta.com/2018/01/25/chipalatta-off-season-stuff/). 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.
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?