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Friday, February 15, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Houston Astros

Wild on Sports
MLB 2013 Team Preview: Houston Astros
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Houston Astros
2012 Record:
55-107
Everybody expected the Astros to be terrible, and they got worse as they traded away veterans, but the GM used trades and the draft to help restock the farm system.
 
NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Chris Carter, Carlos Pena
NOTABLE LOSSES: Jed Lowrie, Wilton Lopez
 
Keys to Success: Will the Astros clear the 50-win mark? What players will even be league average? The pitching offers some hope but the only position player who can be expected to perform well is Jose Altuve, and even he is not quite an all-star. Can Chris Carter or Carlos Pena hit enough home runs to offset their strikeouts and low batting average? Which of their prospects will come up this year? What veterans can they trade?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
 JONATHAN SINGLETON, 1B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
 
TBD
xx
x
 
Singleton, 21, is the best first base prospect in baseball. He’s been young for every level he’s played at and he’s excelled with the bat. Last year for AA-Corpus Christi he hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 HR and 79 RBI in 131 games. He also walked an impressive 88 times and his strikeout total is high (131) but not absurd for the kind of hitter he is. Singleton might have made Houston’s team immediately had he not failed a drug test (not steroids, however) and will now miss the first 50 games of the season. Add the presence of Carlos Pena and Chris Carter, and Singleton might have to mash for a few months in AAA before getting called up to Houston. When he arrives, he could be Houston’s best pure hitter since Lance Berkman.
GEORGE SPRINGER, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
TBD
x
Athletic Springer was Houston’s first-round pick in 2011, and he had a strong debut with High-A Lancaster, hitting .316/.398/.557 with 22 HR, 82 RBI, and 28 SB in 106 games there. Lancaster is a very good hitter’s park, however, and Springer struggled the last month in AA, hitting just .219/.228/.342 in 22 games. He will get plenty of time to adjust to the high minors, however, as he is only 23. He projects to be a 20/20 player annually, but his true hitting ability and batting eye have yet to be determined since pretty much everyone hits at Lancaster. His 156 strikeouts overall in 581 PA is a pretty high mark. A lower batting average will be tolerable if he can stick in center field.
DELINO DESHIELDS JR, 2B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
TBD
xx
x
x
x
 
Deshields, the son of the former big league regular of the same name, had a terrible first season in 2011, but he repeated low-A Lexington and looked like a different player. Including the last month at High-A Lancaster, Deshields hit .287/.389/.428 with 12 HR, 83 walks, and 113 RS. He also went nuts on the base-paths, stealing 101 SB (!!!) over the course of a season, a near-historic total which would have gotten more press had it not happened the same year that Reds’ OF Billy Hamilton broke the all-time record (with 155). Deshields will be just 20 years old next year, and his offensive potential is tantalizing when you consider the low offensive output from second basemen overall. He does strike out a lot (131 times) for a player with his lack of power, but at the same time, he’s not a slap hitter. He could put up respectable power numbers in addition to his strong leadoff profile.
CARLOS CORREA, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
TBD
x
 
x
x
Correa was the first pick in the draft overall, and at age 17, his .258/.305/.400 line in rookie-ball doesn’t say much about his abilities, other than the expected fact that he will have to work on plate discipline. Scouts praise his swing and overall presence at the plate, and they think he will be able to stick at shortstop as well. With a player this young and this far away there is a wide range of possibilities, but that includes the potential to be a star. Correa was not the consensus best player in the draft, but Houston signed him to save some money to sign prospects LANCE McCULLERS and RIO RUIZ later for more than what MLB “recommends” for those draft slots. It will be a while before they can attest to the success or failure of that strategy.
JON VILLAR, SS (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
TBD
xx
 
 
x
x
Villar is Houston’s shortstop of the present, especially after the Jed Lowrie trade. Villar has never hit much in the minors, but he is athletic and his numbers have improved over time to the point where he could be more than just a glove man. Last year he was hurt but hit .261/.336/.396 with 11 HR and 39 SB in 86 games with AA-Corpus Christi. That modest OPS is his highest total yet in the minors, but he is only 22. At the very least, he will provide speed and defense, and his plate discipline, while not good, is not so terrible as to be a major weakness (he’s cut down his strikeout rate a bit as he’s moved through the minors). Scouts have always liked him so there is also some breakout potential.
 
2012 Top Draft Pick: Correa
 
Sleeper MLB Contributor: OF ROBBIE GROSSMAN could get on base and play a competent center field.
 
2013 Outlook and Projection: At the major league level, the Astros will be very very very bad. However, thanks to some savvy trades and good drafting (including some high picks now), the Astros are on the right track. Their minor league system is overflowing with talent, and some of their top players might start showing up in Houston as early as this season. Still, it’s probable that any production rookies can muster will be offset by trades of ‘veterans’, as Houston continues to stockpile talent. Nobody on the major league roster right now should be untouchable as no one is good enough or young enough to be part of the next good Astros team. With the possible exception of catcher, Houston also has better prospects at almost every position than their big league counterparts. Jose Altuve could probably land a top prospect from a team that needs help up the middle, and pitchers Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris could also be useful in a trade. GM Jeff Luhnow has demonstrated an ability to make trades at the right time, buying low and selling high, unafraid to jettison talented players in the right deal. This is a sharp departure from the previous GM, Ed Wade, who watched stars Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt decline and yield paltry returns when they were eventually dealt.
Projection: REBUILDING (could contend by: 2016)
 
 

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