5 Reasons to Love the Houston Astros in 2014 and Beyond
Let’s get this out there: the Houston Astros are not going to be much better in 2014 than they were in 2013. Last season, they won only 51 games. To put some of their woes in perspective, the Pirates won their 51st game on June 30th. But there’s still plenty to look forward to in Houston. The Astros are adding talent in the same way the Tampa Bay Rays did a few years back. That worked out well for them.
1. Impact Starting Pitching Coming Soon
The Houston Astros have added young starters for fans to dream on. Headliners include Mark Appel (last year’s first overall pick), Jarred Cosart, and Mike Foltynewicz. Each will be a rotation mainstay, though none project as an ace. Appel pairs a plus fastball, strong slider and average change-up. He gets dinged for his athleticism, but being explosive doesn’t always translate to success. Further away from Houston are Lance McCullers Jr., Vince Velasquez, and Asher Wojciechowski. McCullers and Velasquez need a reliable third pitch to avoid the bullpen. Wojciechowski doesn’t have as high a ceiling, but has back-end starter potential.
2. First Pick Bonanza
This June, the Astros will become the first team to draft #1 three years in a row. The top pick in 2012, Carlos Correa hit .320 with 58 walks (against 83 Ks). His slugging percentage was .467 in Full Season-A. Defensively, Correa led the league in fielding percentage, despite a 6’4 frame. He showed the athleticism and arm strength to stay at shortstop. Expect a breakout age-19 season in the CAL.
If Appel is the de facto number one starter, then 2014 #1 pick will yield a strong #2. Carlos Rodon leads the way and is the best college lefty since David Price. Rodon flashes a mid-90s fastball and plus slider. If Rodon loses the throne, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman will be the one to overtake the left-hander. Hoffman brings a 97-mph heater and plus curveball to the table. Regardless of who’s #1, the top pick will move through the system quickly.
3. Outfielders Entering Their Prime
George Springer (24) is the headliner after pushing 40-40 in 2013. Springer will be an impact fantasy performer, he still needs to refine his approach to lay off of off-speed pitches. It’s All-Star upside if things break right. The Astros starting outfield was acquired via trade. Dexter Fowler (28) anchors the outfield in center. Robbie Grossman (24) became property of Houston via the Wandy Rodriguez deal mans left field. L.J. Hoes (24) came over from Baltimore for Bud Norris is in right field. Digging deeper, top-10 prospect Domingo Santana (21) was a key piece in the Hunter Pence deal.
4. Former Top-100’s Galore
The new regime has targeted post-hype players via trade. Dexter Fowler, Matt Dominguez and Chris Carter have become quality Major Leaguers after seeing their value take a hit. Called up for good in 2013, Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Jonathan Villar, Jarrod Cosart, Brad Peacock, Alex White and Josh Fields were also highly regarded prospects who stumbled along the way. That’s ten players (40% of the active roster) expected to make the team.
This doesn’t touch on Jonathan Singleton, considered the best first base prospect in baseball. 2013 was a lost year for him after being suspended for a drug of abuse and returning out of shape. He enters 2014 with plenty to prove.
Plus Jason Castro is a homegrown first round pick made good. Jose Altuve is the only other Astros lifer in the starting lineup. Both are in their 20’s. This group will mature and improve together. Fringe starters now will be valuable bench bats later once the Correa’s and Springer’s are ready.
5. Houston Astros Baseball Operations
The new regime, led by Jeff Luhnow, has not only added pieces on the field, but off the field as well. The baseball industry has lost many a successful analyst to the organization including Kevin Goldstein, Mike Fast and Amanda Rykoff, among others. Astros legends including Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan have also been involved in the rebuilding process.
With the amount of intel each team accumulates over the course of a season, teams have become very adept at disseminating information quickly to make the decision-making process much more efficient. Every team has some form of scouting database to keep track of reports and video, some built in-house. The Astros have done that much and more, if titles like “Director of Decision Sciences”, “Senior Technical Architect”, and “Analytics Developer” are any indication. The Houston Astros are in great shape with both scouting and quantitative evaluations.
13 Mar 2014 / Ben Flajole / 1
Categories: MLB Analysis
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