Saturday, March 16, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Houston Astros

2012 Record: 55-107 (6th in NL Central)

Key Additions: 
SP Philip Humber (FA)
1B/LF Chris Carter (3-way trade from Oakland)
1B Carlos Pena (FA)
SP Alex White (trade w/ Rockies)

Key Losses:
SS Jed Lowrie (trade w/ Oakland)
CF Jordan Schafer (ATL claimed off waivers)
RP Wilton Lopez (trade w/ Rockies)

Which New Guy Will Help the Most? 
Although the Astros have had a fairly eventful off-season to date, they really haven’t acquired a big name piece that could help them out significantly this year. Sure they have added Carlos Pena to add some pop to the lineup and Philip Humber to help bolster a lacklustre rotation, but no one really stands out to me as a person where you can say “Yes, this guy is going to breakout and help this team win 60 games.” Of the players acquired since last October, I have to go with SP Philip Humber as the man that will help out the most. Again, do I expect another perfect game or 15 wins out of Humber? No, but I expect him to eat up some innings and contribute a reliable arm in the middle of the Astros’ starting rotation.

One young player that I really like coming up for the Astros is SP Alex White. He was also acquired this offseason in a trade with the Rockies that saw Houston ship out former closer Wilton Lopez for the promising young arm. This twenty four year old right-hander from North Carolina excites me a lot, and could lead the Astros’ rotation in the not-to-distant future, but for 2013, Philip Humber gets the nod.

Spring Training Battles:
This 2013 version of the Astros is a much different one than my first two teams  I previewed (Reds, Braves) as both of those teams are expected to make the postseason after both winning 90+ games last season, so there really weren’t to many positional battles to look at heading into the spring, but with this Astros team, Spring Training is much more than exhibition games as there are really no positions set in stone as Houston is in the midst of a massive rebuild and would rather see development of players than 55 wins. So basically, if you come out of Kissimmee, Florida hitting .400 or with an ERA of 1.00, chances are you’re going to make the big club, but even if you were on the team last year and you hit .100 or have a 7.00 ERA you’ll likely be finding yourself heading to the minor leagues. There really are so many spots available to be won in ST that if I had to list them all in this article, I would run out of room. If you want to see just how much the Houston roster is in flux, just go check out their depth chart. From the outfield with the J.D. and Fernando Martinez at the corners with Justin Maxwell “anchoring” CF to an infield of Matt Dominguez, Tyler Greene, Jose Altuve, and Brett Wallace as your starters can worry a lot of fans in East Texas as with a move to the much tougher AL West, this team is expected to win somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45-50 games. With a lacklustre rotation, suspect bullpen, and paltry outfield, Alan Ashby has a chance to make this team if he put his cleats back on.

Questions Heading into 2013: 
Many of the Houston Astros’ questions heading into this season in about the future and rightfully so as this team has no chance of being 2013's version of the Baltimore Orioles as play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball to boot. So, questions like “Can Jonathan Singleton comeback after his suspension and pair with Carlos Correa to build the next great Astros team?” and “What are we going to do about our starting pitching going forward?” are the types of questions that Astros fans have heading into 2013.

 Prospect who could have the Biggest Impact Heading into 2013: 
The reason why there isn’t much hope in Houston for the next few years is because of two things. The Colts simply don’t have the Major League roster to compete with the likes of the Angels, Blue Jays, and Tigers in the American League and their minor league talent is so far away (we're talking 2015 at the earliest) that the next few years in Houston look pretty bleak. When your best hitter is Jose Altuve (.290 AVG/ 7 HR/ 37 RBI) followed by Carlos Pena (.197 AVG/ 19 HR/ 61 RBI) (the Greek god of K’s) your offense isn’t going to do well, when your staff ace is Lucas Harrell (11-11, 3.76 ERA), your pitching isn’t going to do well, and when your bullpen is anchored by Jose Veras (5-4, 3.63 ERA), you bullpen isn’t going to be very good either. Couple that with your top prospects being suspended 50 games for smoking Marijuana and the other being at Low-A ball, you farm system is going to help you out anytime soon as well.

Projected Roster: 
 Starting Lineup (Projected 2013 Slash Line)

1. SS Tylor Greene (.245 AVG, 9 HR, 28 RBI)
2. 2B Jose Altuve (.300 AVG, 13 HR, 55 RBI)
3. 1B Brett Wallace (.285 AVG, 23 HR, 67 RBI)
4. DH Carlos Pena (.210 AVG, 22 HR, 63 RBI)
5. CF Justin Maxwell (.250 AVG, 28 HR, 75 RBI)
6. LF J.D. Martinez (.235 AVG, 16 HR, 55 RBI)
7. 3B Matt Dominguez (.275 AVG, 14 HR, 48 RBI)
8. RF Fernando Martinez (.255 AVG, 12 HR, 34 RBI)
9. C Jason Castro (.250 AVG, 11 HR, 43 RBI)

1B/ OF Chris Carter (.255 AVG, 18 HR, 58 RBI)
C Carlos Corporan (.260 AVG, 9 HR, 22 RBI)
OF Brandon Barnes (.260 AVG, 8 HR, 35 RBI)
UTIL Jake Elmore (.235 AVG, 2 HR, 12 RBI)

Starting Rotation 
 1. Lucas Harrell (14-9, 3.45 ERA)
 2. Bud Norris (9-12, 4.25 ERA)
 3. Jordan Lyles (13-6, 3.25 ERA)
 4. Philip Humber (10-10, 4.65 ERA)
 5. Alex White (11-10, 3.65 ERA)

Jose Veras (CL) (2-4, 3.70 ERA, 25 SV)
Wesley Wright (SU) (3-4, 3.95 ERA, 4 SV)
Rhiner Cruz (SU) (4-2, 3.50 ERA, 2 SV)
Xavier Cedeno (MR) (5-1, 3.15 ERA, 8 SV)
Joshua Fields (MR) (2-5, 4.35 ERA)
Hector Ambriz (MR) (3-3, 3.85 ERA)
Chia-Jen Lo (LR) (4-4, 4.10 ERA)

Top 5 Prospects Heading into 2013:
1. SS Carlos Correa (.315 AVG, 18 HR, 65 RBI) (APP/ Short)
2. 1B Jonathan Singleton (.295 AVG, 16 HR, 70 RBI) (AA/AAA)
3. OF George Springer (.280 AVG, 23 HR, 78 RBI) (AA)
4. RHP Jared Cosart (13-8, 3.55 ERA, 135.0 IP) (AAA/MLB)
5. RHP Lance McCullers (7-5, 3.45 ERA, 105.0 IP) (APP)

2013 Record: 55-107 (30th in the MLB...) 
Things are going to change in Houston in the somewhat near future as Jonathan Singleton and Carlos Correa should be everyday Big Leaguers by 2016, but until then, we will have to wait and watch Houston (along with Miami) be the laughing stock of baseball for the next few years.

 Nicholas Bell

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