Astros’ Offseason: Questions of the day…part deux

Whether it was the quality of the questions or the fact that Spring Training has begun, there was a good response to the last post, so it’s time to double down. Here are 10 more questions for our good readers to address.

1) Will Lance McCullers ever stay healthy for a full regular season and post-season? And does it matter?

2) If Lance is not able to start the season, Hunter Brown would appear to be the Next Man Up in a 5 man rotation. Who then steps up to the Next Man Up spot? Forrest Whitley? Shawn Dubin? Jayden Murray? Seth Martinez? Brandon Bielak? Other?

3) Martin Maldonado stopped drinking sodas and eating candy and showed up at Spring Training, having lost 17 pounds in the offseason. (Note – as one who has battled losing weight I respect him saying 17 pounds rather than more than 15 pounds. Every pound counts.) He also healed his broken hand and has recovered from sports hernia surgery. Will any of those things help him with his miserable below-the-Mendoza line hitting?

4) Who do you think will be on the Astros bench, and how do you rank them? This is likely a 4 person bench, and it could include – David Hensley, Jake Meyers, Mauricio Dubon, Yainer Diaz, Korey Lee, J.J. Matijevic, Pedro Leon, Joe Perez, and/or fill-in-the-blank.

5) Dusty Baker was quoted as saying that Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers are in a competition for the CF spot in the field.  Latest On The Astros’ Outfielders – MLB Trade Rumors. Do you think this is true, and should it be? Do you think this might tie into doubts that Michael Brantley will be ready when the team breaks camp?

6) Are you more worried about Luis Garcia being affected by the No Cha-Cha-Cha rule or Framber Valdez being affected by the Time Clock and the No Shift rules?

7) Who has a better shot at hitting .300 BA for the first time in their MLB careers? Alex Bregman or Kyle Tucker?

8) It’s late in the game, and the Astros absolutely must have a strikeout. Who would you like to see on the mound – Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, or Rafael Montero?

9) New GM Dana Brown comes here from Atlanta, where they have lately been on a roll in extending their homegrown talent. The Astros just signed Cristian Javier to a 5-year extension and have publicly stated their interest in extending Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and in the last couple of days, Framber Valdez. Who would you like them to extend next? Who do you think they will extend next?

10) The last time the Astros came back from a World Series win, they had a very successful 2018 season  (103-59) that was shanghaied in the ALCS by the Red Sox, who, except for one video assistant, were not cheating. Sure. How many wins will earn the Astros the AL West title again? What will give them the best record in the AL?

Your turn……

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56 comments on “Astros’ Offseason: Questions of the day…part deux

  1. 1. I’m sure LMJ will at least make it through at least one season healthy, but I’m not sure when it will be.
    2. I will stick to my original answer to this question from a couple of months ago. I think JP France would be my choice. He is a starter, not a reliever and the club chose him over Murray to add to the 40-man roster at the end of 2022. I think that says a lot about what the pecking order is for starting pitchers.

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  2. 3. I think all the things Machete did over the off season will help him in his 2023 over 2022. I think he will surprise some people. I’ve had that injury and surgery in my late teens and I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to not work with a hernia.
    Losing the weight will also help his stamina.

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  3. 4. I am going to eliminate JJ, Leon and Perez from the opening day mix.
    I could possibly see both Lee and Diaz on the opening day roster if Brantley isn’t ready. Thinking Hensley and Chas are in, Not sure about Dubon, but if his ST goes better with the bat than last season I think he makes the team.

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  4. 1. I don’t know if we’ll ever get a full season of starts ( 5 or 6 man rotation) out of McCullers. This is when we start paying him 17.7 million a year for the next 4 years. If he can’t throw next week, there is legitimate reason for concern. But we do have options.

    2. France might be the guy. And maybe the is Whitleys now or never moment. But there is plenty of time to stretch out Abreu. Is that too radical a move? Does it diminish the pen too much?

    3. Dropping 17 pounds can’t hurt. I also want him to catch a max of 100 regular season games. That keeps him fresh and helps next years development at the catcher position.

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  5. 4. I think Hensley, Jake, Frenchy and one of the catchers are the four.

    5. I’ve said this before. Dusty will use Jake and Chas in the same manner he has in the past. I think that’s doing both guys a disservice, especially if Chas has a significantly better spring. If Jake has a much better spring, well then my argument goes out the window.

    6. I’m not concerned about Garcia. Framber maybe. He does need to regroup from time to time. The grounders getting through? Some will. Maybe they’re already working on different pitch selection to some guys. But when he’s pitching to a righty, Altuve will be standing pretty close to behind the bag at second. And we’ve got a kid with range at short. It’ll be interesting.

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  6. 7. I’m pretty sure Tucker has his best years ahead of him. And if he’s a bit insulted over that 5 million he had to accept, maybe he’ll come out on a mission. I know he won’t come out moping. That’s not him. But I’d rather see both guys come up with a .900 plus OPS than a .300 BA.

    8. If Abreu has not already thrown 6 nice innings, he might be the guy I’d want out there to get that big strikeout! But you know, he might be our next Reptile!

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  7. Good morning everyone. Dan, I like this Q and A concept because we can all throw our opinions in the pot and then hopefully get some gentle difference of opinion conversation going!

    9. I think Framber is a logical next step. He’s supposed to be the anchor now, for several years. Boras complicates other matters. If Bregman and Altuve are willing to explore the market, as their agent certainly will try to convince them to do, then it gets hard.

    10. I think the Astros win 100 plus. Anyone else in the American League going to match them?

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  8. Regarding LMJ

    Lance is a very gifted fellow, and when he is both healthy and focused he is an elite pitcher – and a true pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, all too often, at least in his major league career, is either not healthy or not focused [mentally/emotionally unstable], and, alas, has been shelled mercilessly [latest example, Game 3 of the WS vs. Philly – lead-off walk to Schwarber followed by homer by Harper, 20 batters total faced, a WS record five home runs allowed, seven runs total surrendered].

    Lance has to improve his fastball location – and use it to set the tone and set batters up to be fooled by his breaking stuff. If he doesn’t, teams will do to him what the Phillies did – anticipate the 83-84 mph breaking stuff.

    Will we see him healthy for a whole year? At this point he has given us zero reason to expect that.

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  9. 3. Sad to read M. Maldonado’s story in this morning’s paper and, yes, I know it’s a business. Catchers are the hardest working, most concerned for others, least selfish players. While I’m sure there’s a mean one somewhere, I don’t know about him/her. If you must marry a baseball player, marry a catcher.

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    • I see the article is on chron.com (Spit!!) but I can’t see more than the headline and a few words from the article.
      I interpret it that he was not happy the team was kicking the tires on other catchers.
      Martin gave his all last year while really hurting. Still he never has been a good offensive C even when fully healthy and he’s getting up there in age.
      I hope he hits the ground healthy and in good shape and rips it up. In the end the team stuck with him whether that was their first choice or not.

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      • I could not read the story either. If he was really not happy with the “kicking of the tires”, then I’d say he’s not being realistic or is overvaluing his value to the team. His days are numbered, as any 36 year old catchers days would be. The club needs to continually improve, and let’s face it, improving the backstop position is a glaring need. We can only continue with the theme of his value to the pitching staff for so long. It’s time now to start weaning the pitching staff away from Martin Maldonado.

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  10. 5. I can’t worry myself about a competition between Jake or Chas or Baker’s particular plans for it. There are lots of other things to think about playing all 29 teams in 162 games coming up.
    Most likely we will see them both play this season.
    6. I would not worry myself about Garcia or Valdez with the new rule changes. Every pitcher in baseball will have to make changes. Hell, Alvarado took 10 minutes between pitches pitching to Alvarez. Smoltz was reciting from the Pitcher’s Bible in-between Alvarado’s pitches.

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  11. 7. I love this question. I don’t believe Alex or Kyle have ever hit .300 before. I will go with Tucker because he will no longer have 12 fielders on the left side.
    Truly, if both Bregman and Tucker were to hit .280 this season, the Astros would have an awesome offense to deal with.
    8. I have to go with Pressly because his K rate was slightly higher, his BB rate was considerably lower and because he was always put in the hardest predicaments due to his position as closer.

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  12. Next man up ….

    Unlike most teams, we have some really good options. Abreu [Brian, not Jose’], Brown, France, and more. It would certainly be nice to add Forrest Whitley to that list – but he’s going to have to show us a lot in the next three weeks [and beyond] for that to happen.

    Both Jayden Murray and Shawn Dubin are both intriguing as well. Dubin at 27, and with four full seasons in the milb under his belt, is probably ready to come up and sink or swin. But Murray, at 25, with only 3 seasons of work, and only one game pitched at AAA (in which he was shelled), probably needs to see some time at Sugar Land before his baptism of fire.

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      • Bill, as reigning CC from the 2022 campaign, I think the by-laws state that you are charged with nominating the Chief Cynic for 2013. I’d volunteer, but I’m just not feeling very cynical right now. Do you have any suspects in mind?

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      • Dave, I am not sure if there actually be a chief cynic in a year like this -I mean, hey … the Chiefs won the SuperBowl?

        [Somebody hit the high hat one time please].

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      • I did note, however, that your question was directed to the year 2013. We were all chief cynics back then [record 55-111, finished 45 games out of first; Keuchel went 6-10 and had a 5.15 ERA -and we still had Josh Fields instead of that new guy we traded for him].

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  13. I am sure at some point LMJ makes 30 starts. I don’t know when. Could be this year.

    I think its the reason they made sure to protect France by putting him on the 40 man. He registers alot of Ks. Like a lot of minor leaguers that K’s people he walks alot of people. I don’t ever see him being a successful starter – probably a bullpen piece in the end that can focus on his best pitches – but right now, he is likely number 7. But I will say this – if he puts it together in the zone he can be a plus major league starter – he has the stuff.

    Martin has been around a long time. At this point he is who he is. Repeating last year with maybe 15 less games played is what I expect.

    I would think Dubon, Hensley, Meyers and one of Lee/Diaz. I tell you this teams bench and lack of depth behind the stars is concerning. This is the most injury susceptible team we have had in that many of the starters are a bit older or dealt with injury and the man up to replace them is not even with 2 grades. One or two injuries probably won’t change the trajectory, 4-5 is going to have Chas McCormick batting 6th.

    I am not sure which Meyers Dusty watched. Guy was overmatched. It’s not he hit a lot of screamers that just found gloves. Still, what do you want him say “yea Meyers sucks, Chas isn’t an all star but heck I got to play somebody in CF.”

    Framber and the no shift. I don’t think the issue with Garcia will be him, I think he will have the same stuff. The issue will be 1) hitters will get back on their timing and 2) he can’t surprise them ever so often by cutting it short like he did a few times last year. But a ground ball pitcher that can’t rely on the shift that could cause his 2Bs shrinking range to be even more evident could be an issue.

    Tucker. Conflicting numbers based on the source but some have him at 14-16 hits lost last year. He has to avoid the month long slumps he has been prone to as well.

    If it needs to be specifically a K – Abreu. Just an out, I’ll still take the King.

    That depends on what the players want, and we don’t have that information. My guess is Altuve and Bregman because they aren’t motivated to test the waters for 250M plus.

    The Astros win if all 6 starters make 90% of the starts. If they have a catastrophic injury to one of the big 5 in the rotation – it puts Brown in. I love Brown, but he has a minor league career mired in good start/bad starts. I don’t have wild expectations his first year in town (lets give it a few years before he is a backbone). And after that, you are going from A/A- starters to just hoping you can get 5 innings from someone.

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  14. Regarding Martin Maldonado …

    Especially with the new ‘pitch clock’ rules, and with the guys we are counting on being aces for us [Framber and LMJ] being high-strung guys who need sure, veteran handling, Martin is the guy I want behind the plate 5 out of every 7 games. Will losing 17 pounds and eliminating intense pain through surgical intervention make him a better hitter this year? Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer to that. He’s been in the league 12 years, and his lifetime slash line is .209/.285/.634. He actually wasn’t that much below his expected production level last year.

    As long as the rest of the line-up is healthy and hitting, our catcher’s offensive production (or lack thereof) should not be a problem.

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    • Including the post season, Maldy caught 141 games in 2021 and 124 more in 2022. That’s too many. At 36, coming off significant injuries, he should be used more carefully, especially early in the season. We want him healthy and rested in October. And as I said yesterday, it’s also time to start preparing the pitching staff for 2024. They are all professionals, having worked though World Series pressure. And unless it is determined that the kids we have in house won’t be doing the catching next year, they need more than 45 or so starts this year. All that said, Dusty Baker may well send Maldonado out there just as he has over the past couple of years.

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  15. How do I rank the bench?

    From what I have seen so far [minors + late 2022 cup of coffee in majors], David Hensley looks the most likely of the candidates you named to be a real asset to the team. JJ is a last-resort space-filler. Meyers appears to be damaged goods, with the baseball equivalent of PTSD. Frenchy provides nothing but an expensive source of frustration. [Ah, but doesn’t he have a nice smile?]. Perez leads my list of DFA candidates. Perdro Leon strikes me as a Jonathan Singleton level scouting ‘bust’ (without the munchy complication, of course). The catchers? Korey certainly did not impress me in his first cup of coffee – but he was still so green I am hopeful he’ll improve a bit. Diaz looks like he could contribute offensively right now – but the question is can he catch major league pitchers?

    In short, I sure hope our horses stay healthy.

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  16. Combining the context of Dan’s question #1 with Dan’s reference to my use of the English language above, did Dusty Baker just say that LMJ’s sore arm is “to be expected” or that LMJ’s sore arm is to be expected?
    Put this Dustyism under the category of things that Dusty probably should have not even talked about!

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  17. The ‘Center Field Controversy’.

    In ST, I suspect that Jake Meyers will see some playing time -indeed, probably a lot more than Chaz McCormick. There is a reason for that – this is Jake’s last chance to show he has – or can – come back from the physical and emotional trauma that apparently went with his shoulder injury. I think he has to believe he has a shot to be the centerfielder in order to have any shot at all at getting back to the major leagues – hence Dusty’s hesitance to declare Chaz what we all (besides Jake) believe him to be. Moreover, uncertainty over Uncle Mike’s readiness to play on opening day means we may need another outfielder on our opening day roster – so keeping the hope of a place to play on our team open to Jake suits the team’s interest as well as Jake’s.

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    • I think Jake is an automatic to make the opening day roster unless he has a really bad spring, regardless of Brantley’s readiness. And Dubon because he’s experienced and plays the best defensive shortstop off the bench and is reliable in center. Hensley because he’s the most versatile bench guy at this point. The only up in the air job is back up catcher. But Diaz has a couple of advantages. He’s much more versatile than Lee. He hits. He played 36 games at first last year. And he can DH against lefties when Brantley should be sitting. He might be a real DH weapon. One big question remains. Can he catch?

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    • Darn it, Forrest Whitley seems to live in an alternative universe. If I was charged with interviewing the guy for a job, he would not move on to the next round. What a wasted God given talent. Please prove me wrong son.

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    • A bit of a contrast between this article and the article about Brantley putting the team first with his work at first base or the article about Altuve wanting to spend the rest of his career here.

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    • I don’t want to turn into the Forrest Whitley defense attorney here but I didn’t take that as a we/them article. I took “them” meaning the showing of the organization this is what I can do.

      Now, I did feel like like he did a lot of hand wringing in that interview – that the way things have gone isn’t his “fault” – and that concerns me. If you are beginning your 6th full year in an organization and you haven’t seen the field for the major league team yet – and your minor league numbers just suck – the question isn’t injuries or suspensions – it’s what have I done to captain my own ship and why am I not using my 97MPH fastball to compete for Cy Youngs?

      I don’t think he sees anything more than a smattering of time in the majors before he is just out of baseball. Professionals own their performances good or bad in all walks of life and he doesn’t sound like he has that understanding. “I am glad for the things I’ve learned” isn’t true unless your sentence starts with “look I have absolutely sucked when I’ve played, and I’m not entitled to this organization continuing to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars to my continued medical and developmental costs, but since they are I am going to show them I am worth it.” I get the idea that he thinks he can just get guys out, and it’s that simple, because my arm is serious biz. He has been eaten alive by minor league hitters so far with that attitude, major league hitters will wear his skin as a souvenir like its some lord of the flies movie.

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      • Steven – I think you are probably right in the “I” and “them” department, but it does bother me when a guy can use I that many times in an interview and not admit how bad he was (as you said). It also bothers me that he really doesn’t seem to talk about the team and his teammates (though he has pitched so little the last few years he probably has few links to teammates).
        He is lucky he has not been released based on his numbers to date. He can strike out guys, but he can’t keep them off the bases or from scoring.
        But the one thing I will say is that I don’t really care what he says. It is what he does that matters. If he goes to AAA and shows maturity and applies his talent and most importantly consistently clicks off innings, he will get a shot at the big club. If he does not he will follow Mark Appel off as a “name” tied to a multi-player trade.

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      • Man, those hands are pretty important. There are so many chronic hand issues that people from all walks of life deal with. Besides tendonitis, various types of arthritis, there are all kinds of named conditions, both rare and common. It’s got to be particularly worrisome to a home run hitter and his employer and his insurer too, not to mention his fans.

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    • So it sounds as if he’s out indefinitely. Lance starts making 17.7 million this year for the next 4 years. Oh well. Small muscle strain? That sounds dubious. Does it go back to his last start in Philly? Or maybe even in New York? Anyways, better we find out now. Lot’s of guys have a real chance to get on the opening day with this new news. Forrest, this really is your perfect opportunity. If you become the guy everyone promised of you, I’ll be your best fan. Alas, I’d like to see the club start work at stretching out Bryan Abreu.

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  18. McCullers’ absence from the rotation to start the year will be felt. We have 8 straight game days before our first day off; then five more without a break, then six more, then six more – and the competition over that perios includes quality opponents like the White Sox, the Twins, the Blue Jays, the Braves, the improved (?} Rangers, the Rays, and the Phillies.

    Start strong, Hunter Brown!

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  19. If LMJ can’t go and we need 6 I’d like to to see Seth Martinez get a crack at the starting slot. I have no problem with stretching out Bryan Abreu or to see if Forest Whitley can fill the bill but Seth’s been there before. Overall he’s been pretty decent.

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  20. It’s always the depth. Say Yordan ends up missing 40 games this year. Who is taking those at bats? In a single game there isn’t a big deal of having Jake Meyers (the likely candidate) taking those at bats. In 40 games, there is a discernible difference. We are like that all over the roster. The next person up isn’t just a step below the person they are replacing, they are a few steps below.

    Abreu has been durable, but he is 36. Altuve is 32 with a small history of leg issues. Don’t even start on Uncle Mike. Maldy is 36. Now Maldy’s next man up may actually be better, but that is not the case in most spots. I don’t feel like it’s a controversial position to say you can tell Yordan is a little injury prone just by looking at him. I can easily see Dubon playing 110 games and getting 450 PAs and we will be the worse for it.

    Now before I panic, I know, almost every team is like this. We are already looking at giving France or Martinez starts in April. I was hoping for June before we relied on a 7th or 8th guy up. But we are still in a better spot than 80% of franchises who have some non-roster invitee as their 7th man up.

    And I would 100% trust Bryan Abreu at this point with 4-5 innings. I don’t know that the Astros think that way. When a guy shows success at a role teams don’t normally change it. I think he is probably the future closer, but for now probably the 7th inning guy behind Montero and Pressley. The Astros would show me a lot by giving Abreu a lengthy extension right now before he is the closer – when they gave Pressley his dough he was still the 8th inning guy – and now they have a closer for 8th inning guy money.

    I feel like I’m all over the place.

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    • If Yordan were to miss 40 games because of injury, I think you would see those 40 games given to Yainer Diaz as the DH, Brantley in LF, and Meyers or Hensley spelling Brantley when he has to sit.

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