The Astros are a clear example of what happens to a team that doesn’t keep their foundation solid. They didn’t sign draft choices because they preferred to sign over the hill free agents that kept their slim playoff hopes alive, or the free agents were asking for too much money over slot. They were the loyal soldier to Bud Selig, never going over slot for their draft choices. That quickly dropped them to the basement of the league. Myworld will be spending 30 days in Kissimmee, Florida in March so if you tune in you can learn a lot about the Astros. Others sights will be reporting on the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies, but we will be spending our time getting to know the Astros. We think they are heading in the right direction. Unfortunately it may take a couple years to restock their farm system.
General Overview:They are probably one of a handful of teams that go into this spring training with no realistic ambitions of making the playoffs. The Athletics, Padres, Cubs and White Sox are the other teams that appear to be tearing it down to start over again. It will be competetive in spring training as they try to identify those players who will fill their starting lineup in 2012.
Why They Will Win: No team in the history of baseball has gone 0-162, so just for showing up at the ballpark they should win at least 50 games. They will have the big bat and big, well other things of Carlos Lee in the outfield or at first base, that is until they can find a team that would be willing to trade for him in a playoff run. His position will be determined by how well Brett Wallace takes to first. Brett’s bat has been a big disappointment based on the hype after he was drafted in the first round in 2008. Wandy Rodriguez should not be the ace of any rotation, but he will be for the Astros. He still has enough stuff to win ball games, but the Astros will probably trade him by midyear. A keeper is Jordan Lyles, who should not go 2-8 in 2012 unless the Astros do not give him any offensive support. Brett Myers and Bud Norris, with J.A. Happ should give them a rotation that is five deep, until Brett and Wandy are traded. The starting rotatin and the bat of Carlos Lee is about the only certainty that exists for the Astros.
Why They Won’t Win: Very young. The only real veteran on the team is Carlos Lee. After that the lineup will be stocked with first and second year players. Those that have potential to perform are the dimunitive Jose Altuve, who has hit .300 almost everywhere he plays. He needs to continue to hit .300 with the Astros because he has Delino Deshields gaining on him in his rear view mirror. J.D. Martinez will be the other power source in the Astros lineup. He is another player that has always hit over .300 in the minor leagues. Chris Johnson needs to bounce back to replicate his numbers from 2010. In 94 games he had an OPS over 800. They traded their young closer Mark Melancon and now have to decide who will take his place. The alternatives are not promising, though Brandon Lyon did the job before the emergence of Melancon. While the starting rotation will be solid, the bullpen will have difficulty protecting leads. Brett Wallace must show more pop than ping.
Prospects to make the Roster: We could name a Krispy Kreme dozen that have a shot to make the opening day roster. Most of the cream of the crop will not come up until mid-season at the earliest as they try to gain a little more development time in the minors. the triple digit fastball Rule V Rhiner Cruz will be hidden somewhere in the bullpen so they can have him on their roster in future years. The also have to try to keep another Rule V pick middle infielder Marwin Gonzalez. They will try to keep him in a utility role. J.B. Schuck should be fighting for a fourth outfielder spot, though if Lee moves to left field that will lesson his opportunities for playing time and he would be best suited getting at bats in the minor leagues.
Long Range Prospects to Make Roster: Don’t be surprised if Delino Deshields is playing second base before the September callups are announced. He has a lot more tools than last year’s version Jose Altuve. The same can be said for Jarred Cosart, who needs some time pitching in AA before his mid-season callup. They really have no certainty at shortstop, so with a hot bat in AA or AAA will result in a callup for Jonathan Villar, who can start his reign of shortstop in September 2012. Kyle Weiland was acquired in the Mark Melacon trade so at some point before the season is over the Astros will need to showcase him to the fan base.
Significant Transactions: The Astros signed a number of veteran 6-year minor league free agents they signed to one year contracts. They will be used as organizational depth in case injuries occur in their starting roster and they do not want an unprepared prospect to take over the position. The most promising of those would be Scott Moore and Joe Thurston, who with a good spring could make the bench in a utility role. With Clint Barmes departing via free agency they traded their closer Mark Melancon to get their shortstop Jed Lowrie. We’ve seen a lot of Jed Lowrie in spring training and in AA and we are not impressed with his shortstop tools. They traded one of the minor league Rule V picks to get the Red Sox selection in the Rule v draft, Marwin Gonzalez.
Overall Finish: This division will have a number of weak teams in 2012 but no team is weaker than the Astros. Next year they will move to the AL West where they will be in the same division as the Athletics. This year they will battle with the Athletics to see who gets the number one pick in the 2013 draft, the first year after the collective bargaining agreement. As much as the Cubs are making an effort to surpass them, the Astros will finish sixth.a0d