Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Astros County Roundtable: May 21

We at AC have decided to give any readers out there small a window into the inner-workings of the AC offices.  Once a week, we meet in the AC Boardroom, get Betty and Cynthia to hold all calls, and discuss pressing issues, such as How Many Altuves between the boardroom and carpark, and why the Constable keeps mucking up the donut orders.  We sometimes even get to talking about the Pressing Issue of the Week.  The results of the discussion for this week are below.

The Pressing Issue:  What happens to the first base / part-time DH platoon of Chris Carter, Marc Krauss and Jesus Guzman between now and August 1??

The Batguy:  I shake my crystal ball (which looks a lot like a magic 8-ball for some reason) and get the response of "cannot predict now." So much is up in the air with the 1B position. If Marc Krauss continues to hit as he has in May (.273/.415/.424 as of this email) I think we keep the status quo until July or August, allowing Singleton to pass the Super 2 deadline. I DON'T see Guzman sticking around much longer if he continues to not produce. Even as a platoon player he's just not getting it done and Luhnow seems to have a shorter leash with dead weight this year. Carter is safe at DH. So many people focus on his batting average (which is coming up. .263 in May) and strikeouts (which are going down. Just 13 in his last 15 games) that they dismiss the fact that his power adds more value than those two deficiencies subtract.

Ultimately, though, given that both Krauss and Singleton are left-handed hitters, I think Singleton's promotion hinges on Krauss' production. Both players probably aren't on the roster together for long unless Krauss shifts to the outfield. Guzman is probably not on the roster August 1. Carter is here at least until he reaches arbitration next year.

Masked:  Clearly, Jon Singleton is knocking on the door, and is likely to force a move sooner, rather than later, but still shortly after the projected super-two cutoff.  I imagine that the Astros will call him up no later than early August, injuries notwithstanding.  Singleton, being a lefty, matches well in a platoon with Chris Carter and Jesus Guzman, but I can't imagine that the Astros call him up to be a platoon bat.

Krauss has done enough recently to warrant a further look.  Batguy presented his triple-slash line for May, and I would like to add that he has exhibited a BABIP of .364 over that time, but is making better contact in May (26.1% line-drive percentage, versus 8.6% in April).  He also seems to be seeing fewer strikes in May (53% versus 61% in April), which is helping fuel his OBP.  At 26, his time is now, and the Astros seem to be intent on having a good, hard look at him.  I imagine that he would spend some time in the outfield should there be less playing time at first base, so an injury/DFA in the outfield may well mean more of a look.

Jesus Guzman has just hit the 1000-plate appearance threshold for his career, and has an overall triple-slash of .255/.320/.410.  He is hitting more line-drives in 2014 (28%, versus a 21% career mark) and keeping the ball on the ground more often (1.73 GB:FB ratio, career 1.21).  However, his .217/.278/.328 rates for 2014 are dragged down by a slow May (.179/.281/.214).  He hasn't been good - even in part-time duty - since 2011, with only 0.8 WAR accumulated over 729 PA since then.  A near 30% strikeout rate is what is holding him back, and he may find himself cut loose when Singleton is called up.

Chris Carter has compelling RH pull power.  He also strikes out a ton.  The various Astros commentary teams have mentioned him hitting up-the-middle and to the opposite field more recently, something when anecdotally seems to have been the case.  But I have noticed him seemingly missing fat pitches recently, and popping up more, which is also supported by his lower line drive rate and higher infield fly-ball rate in May versus career (LD: 13.6% v 21.2%, IFFB 28.6% v 13.1%).  So Carter, like Guzman, is not making great contact, but has the advantage of being a better player to start with, and being 2 years younger.

Briefly put - the chances of Krauss or Carter being effective Major League talents are higher by virtue of both age and career, so they stay.  Carter may slide more toward Guzman's platoon-bat role, but that would be a misuse of his talents.  Guzman is on the hot seat.

Il Constable:  This is the most frustrating position for me as a fan. If I check my licensed BIG BOARD against my ESPN Bracketology Bracket, I see that Guzman is the First Man Out. His OPS is .583 (61 OPS+) and he's had one extra-base hit this month. Two of his seven walks on the season came in the same game (May 18). Krauss, despite the dream I had in which he tried to kill my daughter, has begrudgingly done enough to warrant some extra time. I agree that Singleton isn't going to come up and platoon, and it's not like Krauss is "blocking" Singleton, anyway. So I see Carter going to full-time DH (or at least one large piece of a revolving door at DH), with Krauss serving as a utility player. So, once that Super Two cutoff is passed, Guzman probably needs to have a Go-Bag ready.

(Not Hank):  I think Singleton is up soon, first couple weeks of June at the latest. He has cooled off a bit, but is still getting on base at an impressive clip, and seems to have gotten the strikeouts under control. When he is up, I'm not sure what will happen. Carter is the DH, and will be just fine. Krauss seems to be at a disadvantage because he bats left, as does Singleton. They won't call Singleton up to platoon, but I think they would like to be able to get the bat out of his hand against really tough lefty relievers. Guzman hasn't shown the same success against lefties that he has in the past, and in fact has shown a pretty intense reverse split. However, at just under 100 at bats, that's probably just noise. Plus, Guzman can serve as an emergency 3B, something I would not like to see Krauss try. On the other hand, the team has more invested in Krauss, who arguably has more upside. Lot of words, which taken together, mean...I don't know. 

Cockroach:  ... has been sent out for more donuts, because Il Constable again got too many glazed donuts, and not enough filled ones...

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