An Astros’ OF question for 2021

This post was inspired by good friend of the blog – Sarge H.

Here is a question to gnaw on for the next post season based on there actually being a 2020 season.

What will the Astros outfield look like in 2021?

The three men who started the most games in the outfield for the Astros in 2019 are all free agents after the coming season.  Michael Brantley made his third All-Star team in a row with a sparkling .311 BA/ .875 OPS / 88 runs / 22 HR / 90 RBI season. George Springer frankly was on a pace for MVP contention with a .292 BA / .975 OPS / 96 runs / 39 HRs / 96 RBIs season in only 122 games with injuries cutting into that run. Josh Reddick had a very ineffective season (possibly due to a shoulder that required surgery) where it is hard to recall his 57 runs scored or his 56 RBIs. In 2020 the three are making $21 MM (Springer), $16 MM (Brantley) and $13 MM (Reddick) with Springer likely lined up for a huge payday in 2021, Brantley probably dropping a bit due to age and Reddick scraping around for a spot in the majors (unless he turns it around in 2020).

So what will the outfield look like in 2021? Well, it is highly unlikely they will pursue Reddick in the off-season and in fact may try mightily to trade him during the season when it starts back up. Brantley will be getting to an age where they are not likely to chase him unless he is willing to take a discount contract.

Springer is the interesting one here. Under the Luhnow regime they would likely have chased him but ultimately would have lost out. The question here is whether Jim Crane will step in with the new GM James Click and make a PR rather than Moneyball type decision to hold onto someone the fans want so badly to be a career Astro.

Those waiting in the wings for a spot include the following:

  • Kyle Tucker. The youngster, who has been a high prospect for a number of years would seem to be a shoo-in to displace Josh Reddick in the outfield and one of the “three” come 2021. He looked completely lost in a 2018 call-up, but showed well in his 2019 call-up (22 games – .269 BA/ .857 OPS/ 15 runs/ 4 HRs/ 11 RBIs/ 5 SBs). He could be one of the three when 2020 starts, much less in 2021.
  • Myles Straw. In 2020 he will likely fill the 4th OF spot that new Met Jake Marisnick has filled for a number of years. If he can continue the .380 on base percentage he has shown to date, along with tremendous base running and outfield coverage, he might move into the top three spots in 2021.
  • Yordan Alvarez. This one seems tied to whether Yordan ever recovers from knee maladies that do not bode well in a person his age. We know after his Rookie of the year performance in only 87 games in 2019 (.313 BA/ .412 OBP/ 1.067 OPS/ 58 runs/ 27 RBIs/ 78 RBIs) that he certainly has the bat to fill an OF spot. They may not even chance playing him in the field and let him be the Big Papi of the next decade for the team.
  • Abraham Toro / Aledmys Diaz. Both players may see some outfield time heading forward, but will they get beyond the point of being the next Swiss Army knife for this team? Not likely, but perhaps one could be like Marwin Gonzalez and fill an OF spot for a couple seasons.
  • Chas McCormick. One of the top 30 prospects, though admittedly one of the older ones (24 y.o.), he has hit well with below-average power in his journey up to AAA. He showed a bit more power in 2019, but he will need to do a lot more in 2020 to be in line for a spot in the bigs in 2021.
  • Taylor Jones. He certainly has played more 1B than the outfield and maybe in line to take Yuli Gurriel‘s spot when and if he moves on, but a lot can change between now and the 2021 season. The team likes his quick, short swing (unusual for someone 6’-7″) and his improved power. Stranger things have happened.
  • Pedro Leon. If, there are international signings this season and if the Astros are able to sign the Cuban phenom and if he instantly shows he belongs…..oh never mind.
  • Player To Be Named Later. If the Astros lose the current three starting OFs – that would leave them with (hypothetically) $50 MM to spend on new OFs. Hah – OK they will more likely move that to other areas, but could use a chunk of it to bring in another solid OF.

So, if I’m betting money I think the opening outfield in 2021 will be Springer, Tucker and Straw. If I were you, I would not bet based on that statement…

Anyway, what do y’all think?

49 comments on “An Astros’ OF question for 2021

  1. I think George is gone for more money and more years than we’ll be prepared to give him. The outfield could end up being our weak spot again, as it was a few years ago. Straw might start in center, but he’s a number 4, unless he keeps getting on at that .380 clip. Small sample so far. It’s really essential that Tucker finally establishes himself in right. 2020 will be a light load on Brantley. I could see him back in left for 2021.

    Dan, I agree that Alvarez might end up being too brittle to play in the field. I’m hoping we can get 6 or 8 years of offense out of him. Again, I’m no expert on the minor league system but we really don’t have a real head turner in the minors do we? I hope we still have access to the Cuban kid. I also think honest Abe could become a left fielder, assuming he produces from both sides of the plate. Beyond that, our GM is going to have to show his ability to find outfield talent.

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  2. I predict the 2021 outfield is Tucker + two guys playing in 2020 for other teams. Sprnger will be too expensive for his year. However, a ton of money would come off the books when it is Correa’s turn. (Altuve and Bregman are signed through 2024.

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  3. And if we attempt to predict the line up in 5 years, we can look back 5 to Opening Day 2015. Altuve, Springer, Valbuena, Gattis, Chris Carter, Castro, Lowrie, Rasmus, and Jake. And pitching Keuchel, Sipp, and Gregerson.

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  4. Daveb and AC – I know I’m probably thinking about Springer with my heart not my head but I am hoping two things give us a shot.
    1) Crane is facing a fan base being devastated by the fallout from “IT” (coronavirus) and “it” (cheating scandal and needing to rebuild trust and good will.
    2) George (who is not represented by Scott Boras) may feels he owes this fan base something in return for being part of the scandal.
    Hopefully these two points might give them common ground to reach agreement.

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  5. Yes, it would be an awful young OF if Tucker and Straw were starters. But neither have had a chance to start everyday, and until that happens, there’s no reason to negate some of their higher projections without seeing where we are a full year from now.

    Yes, the team is elite with Springer and Brantley in the lineup. It’s also older and slower with them. I’d personally spend the money in pitching, and not “worry” as much about 3rd and 4th OF.

    There are a few names that may surprise some folks by then. Bryan De la Cruz and Chas McCormick will be ready next Spring. Jordan Brewer has 100 mph exit velo, and fastest guy in the system — faster than Straw. He and Pedro Leon expected in 2022. “The best OF prospect in the sysem,” Colin Barber in 2023. I’ve thought Toro could workout in the Outfield, but there’s just no evidence of it anywhere. Speaking of Big Arms, a few others I’d like to see out there are Joe Perez, and CJ Stubbs by late-2022.

    *If Jake Meyers can hit ML pitching, I think he’s the best defensive OF on the team. Several people have said he’s made the greatest catch they’ve ever seen. He’ll be 24 in Corpus this year.

    Wonder if Mariners would think about trading Haniger’s last season, which would give us a bridge to shoring it up from within? When Trevor Larnach comes of age by the end of this season, the Twins will have a logjam with Buxton, Rosario and Kepler — maybe they would blockbuster trade us Eddie Rosario?!

    I doubt the Rays are real pleased with Kiermaier offensively at $12M. They have a 2.5M buyout in 2023, which would coincide with our coming of age. Rays would be willing to “give him away plus a prospect,” and Click knows this. They have a kid ready to jump in named Arozarena this year already; and Josh Lowe next year.

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  6. The people buying tickets to see this team won’t take lightly to losing a player like Springer because “we’ll you know, he’s going to be too expensive to keep plus he’s getting older”. THAT IS TOTAL BULL! Crane will soon find out how many fans want to shell out $500.00 to take a family of 5 to see his Astros without the heart and soul of this team in centerfield. Watch how empty those golden seats get if Springer is gone. Click should do everything he can to keep George here, or do you want him to be a repeat of Garrit Cole when he met the media after the world series loss. “I’m not an employee of the organization anymore”. The Astros would lose me in a New York minute if they do that.

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    • I second that.
      Sometimes it’s more than talent that makes a team. George Springer and Jose Altuve have the hearts of the Houston fans.
      After the scandal and the the shortened season the Astros need these guys to keep the momentum.
      They’re the glue that holds this team together.

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  7. I wonder if Springer, Correa, or anybody else would take a differed deal or if Bregman or Altuve would rework their contract to keep Springer. After all it’s only money and what’s a few million here or there when your making $30MM per year.

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    • It is interesting that they do re-work contracts in football to move money around, but not in baseball. That is because not all football money is guaranteed, whereas in baseball it is. They can re-work football contracts to give them a little less per season, but more money guaranteed over a longer period.
      Baseball union would never let them give back money already signed for…. nice idea but they want those salaries to spiral up and based on the amount of money pouring into the teams that makes sense…..but how this will work out with a partial season and less TV revenue and less fannies in the seats revenue – who knows

      Liked by 1 person

      • In 2019, the average salary for a minor leaguer in Single-A was $6,000 a year. The US poverty line for an individual was $12,490 in 2019.

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      • GS1 – I agree that the $$ paid to the minor leaguers is a scandal, but let’s not forget that a lot of those kids banked 6 and 7-figure bonuses. And this talk of the major leaguers taking care of the minor league guys – it would be nice if the MLBPA funded a trust to pay supplemental benefits in cases like this, but ultimately those minor leaguers are the assets of the TEAM, and that is where the economic interest lies as to the well-being of those players.

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      • No doubt, RT, as mentioned below.

        My buddy’s son who was the “throw-in” in the Betts trade, banked 750K drafted in 2nd round from UH. He bought a house in Friendswood near his parents (his girlfriend lives in now), and he’s in process of moving to Red Sox AAA affiliate. Conner Wong is a “good kid,” and doesn’t spend frivolously.

        The ones I feel for certainly aren’t playing for the money, but the dream of developing.

        I’ve started following Kyle Boddy who started Driveline for pitchers, and who was handed the keys to the Reds pitching coordination job. So many pitchers came through that program testify they were terrible before they got his instruction.

        There really is a Strom magic method; it’s just some believe it is because of some kind of foreign substance (looking at you Trevor Bauer). If fact it has to do with mechanical efficiencies that many pitching coaches were formerly behind the times. They are starting to catch up!

        Along the lines of what you are saying, Jim Crane is worth $2.5 Billion dollars. He’s probably taking a huge hit in his portfolio, which is weighted in Houston in high-end restaurants, Real Estate — having made his money in logistics and war profits (as has been noted in Forbes, etc.) Hard to say he needs to shell out more, but it’s really a leaguewide issue. And those billionaires didn’t get all that money giving away what they worked hard to accrue. It’s a sticky subject, and no easy answers except taking personal responsibility for ourselves first, I suppose.

        Keep strong & safe, All!

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  8. I am sure there are a few others but Kent Hrbek is the only “hometown discount” that comes to mind. And George is not from Houston or even Texas. We have to be realistic. These are 300 gifted people out of 300 million. They have one chance in a lifetime to make all the money in the world. I can not fault anyone that seizes that opportunity. (I know I would.)

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    • Maybe I live in another world AC but being a “middle class” guy I just can’t fathom making that kind of money. I also can’t understand how much is enough. At some point we go from sublime to ridiculous. Maybe if I were 29 years old and making $20MM+ a year I would think differently but I’m substantially older and have an entirely different perspective on it. I can see some of the players are donating some of their salary to helping others and I salute them. I think it would be a good idea to make it known those who are helping others. Bregman and Springer come to mind but I’d like to see more.

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      • An example of that, Z, is Marisnick bought a tux for White last year before the gala. Cuban players help each other a lot.

        The guys who really *really* need help are not the minor leaguers who were 1-3rd rounders, who got $500K, but guys like ALEX DE GOTI, who got $2,000 signing bonus. That guy has done nothing but fly through the system, but will never really make our team. That’s who I feel for, working his tail off, like Mayfield McCormick Tanielu. That’s who I root for!

        One cool story is Tyler Ivey has a business with a friend (side hussle) that he does in the off season up in Dallas suburb. He’s a pitcher I have very high hopes for in 2021.

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  9. It’s like filling out the list in Kamer vs Kramer.
    On the Pro side – it’s that we love him, and that usually trumps all.

    On the Con side, there are many, but the biggest two are; tax threshold 2 years in a row leaves us further financially hamstrung at deadline, and what’s best for the future of the team.

    The question unanswered is how will the league deal with this if there is No Baseball Season? I’ve found agreement with others on a late-June start. How in the world does the league “pro-rate those salaries” without making a stir?

    But let’s say the season somehow goes along as planned in terms of contracts. It will take 5-yrs/$125M to keep George. The likelihood that he turns into last few years of Rasmus or Reddick is high, so let’s say we have to pay him an extra year just to keep him. So what?, many might say. Ok, maybe so what. The heart and soul, the glue, DJ of Club Astros, the pace setter. All that is worth it, no doubt about it, if it doesn’t effect the future too much.

    Some think it will. And really, we have a CF and RF right now we’ve been banking on, simple as that. The answer is never Yes, or No, til we see what the alternative is. I stand by putting that money in Top Shelf pitching.

    If there was a Springer Brantley Correa choice the Owner gave Click — yes, I’d take Springer! If I knew Carlos Correa was going to stay healthy and play to his potential, that would be a very difficult decision. But at least we have Jeremy Pena who should be ready late-2021. He won’t hit as far as Correa, but he will be $100M cheaper; where we still have to fill-in 39 other positions, and have money for International draft (having lost Amateur draft picks).

    Already a long post, but along these lines — Click’s job now is to start building sustainably. In order to have a championship team to play with Tucker Alvarez and Whitley, we will need homegrown pitching to come through. I have a huge amount of confidence in that. Even if #18 Shawn Dubin doesn’t make the Astros rotation, he is a potential trade candidate for a seasoned reliever, for example. Austin Pruitt is the type of move; or trading Marisnick to save $3M, are the type of mode we are in. We can’t make it with a bunch of 20+ million dollar salaries on the books every year. We are already going to have several prospects pushing Altuve his last 2 yrs in-house, and here’s a guy on Pete Rose pace. Does anyone believe he will have that kind of longevity?

    Just kicking around ideas that various Astros departments debate every day. Enjoy your day be safe and we’ll get thru this together.

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  10. Then again, you see this and fall back in love with George. I think Lance Berkman talked about this exchange on-air last year. Hope they are grooming Lance to help coach up the team.

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    • Lance would be a good coach and he already has the chops by being a head coach at Second Baptist School and leading them to a state championship, and coaching at Rice University.

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    • It’s important to remember our farm system was awful at the time of that draft. People focus on the star players, but you need enough warm bodies to fill out all of your teams. Everyone needs time to mature and develop. If your team can’t compete you end up hindering development as well as decreasing the trade value for most assets. If you look at that list you see a lot of guys with low upside but high floors. Nolan Fontana was never going to hit well enough to play major league ball, but was competent in the field and was going to get on base enough to be someone you could elevate through the system. Don’t forget some of our other favorites from that draft like Joe Sclafani. Anyhow, if I recall, these guys hit the ground running and we had 3 or 4 minor league teams either win their league or make their playoffs that summer. Unfortunately, most of them peaked.

      But for fun, here is one ranking posted in Dec 2010 on minorleaguebaseball.com projecting our 2011 minor league top prospects at the time:
      1. Jordan Lyles
      2. Delino DeShields, Jr
      3. Folty
      4. Austin Wates
      5. JDM
      6. Tanner Bushue
      7. Aneury Rodriguez
      8. Mark Melancon
      9. Villar
      10. Parades
      11. Mike Kvasnicka
      12. Jio Mier
      13. ALTUVE
      14. KEUCHEL
      15. Jay Austin
      16. Ariel Ovando
      17. Douglas Arguello
      18. Bogusevic
      19. Telvin Nash
      20. Carlos Quevedo

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      • I haven’t read the ’12 draft piece at CB yet, but you’re exactly right, Devin.

        In those years too, we signed guys to minor league contracts, like Danny Worth and Reid Brignac. We weren’t 10 middle infielders deep!

        I’m already signalling which guys are viable, and which are not. A kid like Freudis Nova is still ranked #8 because he has 5-tool “potential” at age 20, but not only is he quickly getting weeded out, like the other hi dollar guys (A Sierra, M Sierra, D Carrasco, Osvaldo Duarte), there are ample reserves in Pena, Dauri Lorenzo, Yohander Martinez, or even Jack Mayfield. What’s the point of hanging it all on a prospect in the first few years, if you already have a steady guy not getting time in Diaz, or even Straw?

        This farm has so much depth, it’s really odd how fans don’t see it. it doiesn’t matter that are farm isn’t rated so highly — those have to do with How Much Money is invested in San Diego, or Atlanta or NYY. Want an example?

        Yankees #7 vs Astros #13
        Vizcaino (tops 92, 4+ ERA) vs Enoli Paredes (tops 100, tore up AA). It’s not even close…

        Fangraphs had this to say in System Overview: “This is a good farm system even though there are some clear potential long-term pitfalls from having narrow criteria for the players the org targets.. One day, there might be repercussions for having a staff full of very similar pitchers, but there’s no way of knowing that. The Astros are clearly ahead of other teams around the league in some other areas, too. In some ways, it’s becoming easier for those lagging behind to catch up because they can also look to Baltimore and Atlanta, both of which have former Houston employees in prominent roles, to spot trends. In other ways, it’s getting harder to learn about Houston from the outside, as paranoia and acrimony have begun to impact industry discourse about the Astros in a way that makes it difficult to know which rumors about them are true and which are BS. Some of the things that have been mentioned consistently, and which seem plausible and interesting, include experimentation with visual machine learning and work with topical substances to improve pitch spin/movement. Of course, all the Rapsodo and Motus sleeve stuff is already widely known or knowable with quick use of Google.

        Expect the 40-man crunch to continue apace here as teams gobble up the overflow of Astros pitching that can’t quite crack their roster.”

        Sounds to me like we are doing the little stuff, like communication and being on the same page in development. Let’s hope Click replaces Ocampo, and keeps excellent instruction at minor league level.

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  11. This is really tough to answer – partially since my crystal ball is in the shop and partially because my current attitude is clouded by some banging noise. A lot has been written about financial trouble for the NBA and huge implications from cancelling the season, but baseball has largely escaped the speculation so far. We’ll see whether our businesses can get the medical supplies out fast enough to create a safe environment which allows for baseball this summer. The problem is there are two scenarios here. The first is an abbreviated season. This would require writing some updates to service time on the fly and what not. The second is we hit the pause button and start over next February. In scenario one, George Springer has a chance to come out and prove his stats are all legit. He has a chance to show Click that despite his increasing age he is worthy of a long term deal at high dollar amounts. Then, he has to want to sign in Houston. In the second scenario, everyone gets older. People retire opening spots on major league rosters. Minor league players retire and spots along the chain get opened up. People get promoted without having proved it at lower levels. Assuming no service time is granted there is no winter free agency period like we’ve experienced before and teams will scramble to make crazy trades to fill spots next December. We’ll have to see how Click/Crane approach this scenario. Altuve/Bregman/Correa/Alvarez provides a core to the lineup like few other teams can match. If we still have Springer, the offense should remain potent and likely will be asked to survive the experiments of Straw/Tucker/etc to fill out those final spots. The pitching staff worries me a bit more since we’ll be counting on players who most of us have never seen.

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  12. Our old friend, Joe Musgrove, back to his community ways, giving back to the Docs and Nurses in Pittsburgh. If pizza dough is your thing, but hey, it’s Italian!

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  13. An example of an Outfielder I was touting over 4th round Alex McKenna for a year to emerge from Fayettville, Bryan De la Cruz. ()He’s left McKenna in the dust, and now flying right alongside Meyers, “light tower power” Taylor Chandler and McCormick.

    Fangraphs had this to say in January: “We think De La Cruz has a shot to be in someone’s outfield mix eventually, just probably not Houston’s. He mashes lefties and plays an above-average corner, but he could use a swing change to get to more of his average raw power.”

    And now this.

    https://therunnersports.com/houston-astros-prospect-bryan-de-la-cruz-comps-to-blue-jays-outfielder-teoscar-hernandez/

    What another darkhorse? The 2019 best JUCO hitter, James Nix.
    In the 35th round!!!

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  14. *If MLB doesn’t play this year, it could be possible that our outfield would be Springer, Brantley and Reddick and all of them would be a year older.
    *If we do end up playing this year, one of the 2021 outfielders has to be Tucker. The Astros have to find a way to get this guy on the field and be successful.
    I am convinced it will be a mistake for the Astros to put Yordan Alvarez in the outfield. This man was unanimous ROY as a DH. He is a massive force at the plate and DH was made for him. Why would anyone try to make this complicated and put a sub-par fielder into the outfield and take a chance on him injuring himself out there an lose his bat to a leg or shoulder injury?
    Having a bat like Alvarez in the middle of the order is like having JD Martinez there and would allow you to put someone like Myles Straw in CF and bat him in the 9-hole, putting him on base for an incredible top of the order.
    I would try like heck to get Springer to sign a 4-5 year deal for 100-120 million and, if he won’t, then I go find the best third outfielder I can find and I can afford.

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  15. The wife and I decided it was best to try to isolate ourselves to keep others safe. We decided to take a small boat and travel to an uninhabited island. We did not take a power boat because neither of us can lift a 5-gal gas can. We decided to row.
    Knowing how hard it would be, we hired a strong guy to sit at the front of the boat and beat on a big log to help us with the timing of our rowing. This worked well in one of our favorite old movies, but it did not work out well for us. The guy never stopped with the hammer and when he slept I decided it would be better for him to swim to our destination.
    When we arrived in Anarctica we spent a lot of time building a 3-person igloo, as we are still expecting our rhythm guy to show up any time now.
    The chain saw did not start in the 40 below temps, so Mrs.1op built our ice shelter with a hatchet, while I hunted for buffalo with a spear I carved from an oar which is an Oklahoma tribal thing. One oar means it will probably be even harder to row back home.
    Some advice for people who want to be as smart as we are:
    1. Do not hang the propane lantern too close to the roof of your igloo.
    2. Don’t make the entrance after you finish the igloo.
    3. It is easier to kill the polar bear first before you use him for a blanket.
    4. Don’t count on being rescued by a seal team. They spend all day eating fish.
    5. If you get a tweet from the POTUS in your igloo thanking you for doing your part, also expect Rachel Maddow to send you one to tell you the Pres is lying. It happened to us!
    6. Make a clear ring of yellow in the snow all around your igloo. My wife did this in the first few hours and we haven’t seen a snake yet.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Noah Syndergaard is the latest pitcher to go down with TJ surgery. Dang, I’ve lost count of how many guys have gone down in the last couple of months with that! JEEZE.😳
    I don’t expect baseball to begin before July at the earliest….if that, so maybe a short season will be helpful to these pitchers. I’m half way done cleaning closets….do I keep it, or nah I’m never going to be that skinny again!! Just ordered another 1,000 piece Jigsaw puzzle! Pray for each other🙏, I am.

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  17. It is going to be interesting to see what MLB does do about their “service time” after the game resumes and how it will affect the upcoming draft, international signings, and free agency in the future.

    Concerning the outfield, I have not followed the minors as I used to. I hope Luhnow has left us in good shape for the future and that Click will follow the plan to ensure a competitive team for a few more years. The Cardinals seem to always have such a team and that is what I liked about Luhnow’s musings.

    Beyond Tucker, I do not know of any outfielder who is a must watch prospect.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My own travel story has me feeling a bit gray around the gills today.
    Yesterday I went down to the beach for my almost daily swim. It was more deserted than usual, as it was cloudy and drizzling, almost chilly. When I got out of the water a half hour later, it felt downright cold. My buddy at his empty beach bar offered me a nice glass of rum. Never believe you are going to have just one glass of nice rum

    Liked by 2 people

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