The Houston Astros have won only 38 games making them by far the worst team in baseball in 2011 thus assuring them of having the 1st pick in the 2012 draft. Over the last two years they have traded away any asset they could get a return on (Berkman, Oswalt, Keppinger, Bourn, Pence) as they build toward the future.
Unlike another last place team they have jettisoned most of the veterans and pulled up player after player from their minor leagues. Heck they have even demoted young players who needed work and given their jobs to other prospects. Good bet most of the names being mentioned below are being heard about for the first time.
Future and present 24 year old 1st baseman Brett Wallace was sent back to AAA to "work on things" so the Astros moved Carlos Lee from LF to 1st base.
At 2nd base they released Bill Hall, sent Jeff Keppinger packing to the Giants and called up line drive hitting machine Jose Altuve. Altuve was not on anyone's radar entering 2011, yet the 21 year old destroyed two levels of minor league ball, making the unusual jump of starting the year in the Cal League, and ending up in the major leagues by July. Many felt he'd quickly be overmatched in the major leagues but after 21 games he's sporting a 117 OPS+ from the 2nd base position. Regression is due, since most of that is batting average driven but still nice to see the kid performing when brought up instead of doing the Sands/Gordon Mendoza dance.
Just like 1st base, the Astro's sent the guy they thought was the future and present 3rd baseman Chris Johnson back to AAA to "work on things" and called up 22 year old switch hitting Jimmy Paredes to man the hot corner. Paredes came over in the Lance Berkman deal last year and so far in limited at bats he's got a smoking .870 OPS. Given that he has a career minor league OPS of .717, this mirage should dissipate quickly.
Just like the Dodgers, none of their catchers are anyone of note so we will not make any notes about them.
With Carlos Lee moving to 1st base, left field now belongs to J.D. Martinez who is their version of Jerry Sands. Martinez was drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 draft and is already their starting left fielder. Another of the young kids who has been brought up and immediately produced. In limited at bats he has an OPS of .970. Martinez like Altuve might be the real thing, he had a .958 OPS in the Texas League before his promotion but this is still a big jump for guy who was drafted a mere two years ago.
CF now belongs to the speedy Jason Bourgeois who replaced the speedy Bourn. Bourgeois was drafted in the second round by Texas way back in 2000. The 29 year old is trying to have a Pod like career with his late start.
RF is manned by two more kids brought up. Brian Bogusevic and Jack Shuck. Both are place holders for whoever eventually mans RF. Jordan Schafer who came over in the Bourn deal will either be the Astros CF or RF of the future, but he's currently hurt.
Bud Norris , Wandy Rodriguez, and Jordan Lyles will toe the rubber against us. Everyone should be familiar with Wandy Rodriguez, the soft tossing lefty has made a career out of out performing his skill set. They tried to trade him this summer but his contract kept the bidding low so he's still an Astro. He's got a consistent line of 3.52 / 3.97 /3.67.
Bud Norris has been the best starter for the Astro's and probably gives them their best shot for a win going against Eovaldi. His TSL is 3.73 / 3.86 / 3.58, augmented by his 8.49 K/9 rate.
20 year old Jordan Lyles has made 13 starts this year and has done a decent job. His TSL is 4.88 / 4.12 /3.95. Lyles has made a bit of meteoric climb given the fact he drafted at age 17 with the 38th pick in 2008. He's got a five pitch arsenal but barely touches 90 with his fastball.
Baseball HQ Report on him:
Lyles has reached the majors quickly after being selected in the supplemental first round of the '08 draft. He possesses a clean, smooth arm and repeats his delivery consistently, giving him plus command and outstanding control of a four pitch arsenal. He pitches off his 88-94 mph fastball that he keeps low in the strike zone, though he often overthrows it, leaving it flat and susceptible to hard hit balls. His cutter can be tough to square up and his slider and change-up are above average offerings. While he doesn't project to a dominant strikeout artist, Lyles can register Ks with his secondary pitches. He prefers to hit his spots and force hitters to make contact early in the count. Lyles bypassed High-A in '10 and has a career 3.49 ERA, 2.5 Ctl, and 8.9 Dom.
Henry Sosa was the prize in the Jeff Keppinger trade and if he can become a regular member of the rotation, you'd have to like the return. Wouldn't take much imagination to figure that Henry Sosa will have a better major league career then J Happ who was the centerpiece of the Oswalt deal. Sosa made his major league debut this week so his start against us will be only his 2nd start. Course that probably won't happen, Sosa is strictly a two pitch pitcher, with a 92 MPH fastball and a 82 MPH slider. He throws those two pitches 99% of the time. Or did in his 1st start.
Baseball HQ Report on him:
Henry Sosa (RHP, HOU)
The Astros recalled the 26-year-old from Triple-A and he'll start on Wednesday, August 11. Sosa, once a promising prospect in the Giants organization, was acquired in mid-July '11. He has spent most of his career as a starter, though some scouts believe a full-time move to the bullpen would be ideal for his pure arm strength. Sosa is athletic and succeeds when he's able to command his plus 90-96 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. His second pitch is a hard curveball that serves as his strikeout offering. Sosa has effort in his high 3/4 delivery and often has significant command issues, especially when he overthrows his heater. His arm remains intriguing, but it may take awhile to fully develop the intricate parts of his pitching repertoire. He owns a career 3.53 ERA, 3.7 Ctl, and 8.1 Dom.
The Astros have enough mediocre pitching they might be able to keep the pathetic Dodger offense grounded but our threesome should prove to be too much for the Astro kiddy attack. Eovaldi will feel like he's still in AA facing the Astro lineup, Kershaw should have a field day, and maybe Kuroda can find a win on Sunday. A sweep is not out of the question but every team must feel they have a shot at a sweep when the Astros come to town.
As heartbreaking as the Dodger loss on Wednesday was, the Astros did them one better Thursday Night, losing 8 -5 in a game they led 5 - 3 in the bottom of the 9th when their closer Mark Melancon gave up a mammoth two-run blast to Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game. Then three more in the bottom of the 10th on Chris Young's shot sealed the deal. Suffice to say, the Dodgers should never feel out of any game this weekend.