Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Astros are Checking the Readiness of their Pasta, according to Jonah Keri

In the latest "The 30", a weekly power-rankings column written by Jonah Keri, he thinks that the Astros are checking the readiness of their pasta.  To wit:

"While McHugh’s surprising success might be a case of exploiting a weak Mariners offense and catching the A’s on a bad day, it’s also indicative of what teams need to do when they’re all but mathematically eliminated by the start of spring training: throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks."

This is what I like about the 2014 Astros.  While the results may not be much better than 2013 and 2012, the 2014 Astros have young, interesting players at every position.  In 2011 and 2012, what ML pieces the Astros did have got shipped out, mainly for depth and numbers back.  They acquired a number of players in 4-1 and 3-1 trades, and most to the players acquired were guys who were most likely not going to make it, but had one or two potentially useful skills that could make then productive Major Leaguers.  Which speaks as much to what they were trading away, as opposed to whom they were trading for.

In 2013, the Astros took fliers on some Veteran Goodness, such as Erik Bedard, Rick Ankiel and Carlos Pena.  None of that in 2014, with the major veteran signing being on a three-year deal, and the other one year deals being restricted to pitchers in the bullpen.

The oldest position player on the 2014 squad is Carlos Corporan, at 30.  Jesus Guzman is this years version of Carlos Pena - a mostly-platoon bat with power and a reasonable chance of having a good season.  He is next oldest, at 29.  Out of the regular starters, Dexter Fowler is 28, and Chris Carter is 27.

The Dexter Fowler trade also signalled a bit of a change in direction.  That was the first trade that the Astros have made in a considerable while where they sent twice the number of players that they got back (although the PTBNL sounds intriguing, and would balance up that trade in terms of numbers if it eventuates).  For once, it was the Astros sending a number of players away to get one main player back.  I think it also indicated that 40-man spots are getting tight at the upper minors as well.

So at the moment, a number of potentially disposable players are being auditioned for either (i) trades or (ii) ML usefulness.  Those guys mostly have one decent skill.  Think about Grossman and Hoes (OBP), Presley and Krauss (hit tool), Guzman (RH power), Dominguez (glove and power) and Fields (velocity).  The core of the team is either in the Majors (Castro, Springer, Altuve, Villar) or coming, on the 40-man and will see the majors later this year (Singleton, Santana).  Or lower down the minor-league ladder.

Stashed in Triple-A and not on the 40-man are some interesting guys who can bat (Torreyes, Meyer, Wates, Chambers, Erik Castro) and pitch (Buchanan, Seaton, Stoffel, Doran) and who could all get looks at some stage.

That that is without even mentioning the Preston Tuckers, Nolan Fontanas and Andrew Aplins currently stashed at Double-A, and not on the 40-man.

So, although the early results may not be too different to 2013, this season is shaping up to be much more interesting than what we have seen out of the Astros for a while.  And Jonah Keri seems to agree with the strategy, given what the Astros currently have in player assets.

I also like what he says about BABIP and RISP, and how the offence cannot continue to be this poor.

But I don't like the jab at the CSN Houston situation at the end.  Like Keri himself said at the beginning...
"Piling on the Astros is getting old, though. They stink, and that’s obvious."
Yawn.  Just get the cable deal sorted, and we can all move on.