The old Carlos Lee congratulates the new faces of the Astro Franchise JD Martinez and Jose Altuve (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The Astro's broke a four game losing streak last night pasting the league leading Nationals, and Edwin Jackson. They come into the series 5 - 8 and not in last place but tied with the Reds for fourth place.
No longer playing for mediocrity the Astro's moved every asset over 28 that they could leaving them with only Carlos Lee to remind them of days past. All is not lost,
Chris Jonathan Singleton is an excellent prospect that might prove dividends down the road. Jose Altuve and JD Martinez were both thrown into the fire last year and not only tread water but did better then expectations.
No one has been busier then the Astro's in remaking their team for the future.
Traded Roy Oswalt to Phillies for Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, and JA. Happ. That probably might have worked out if they had not then flipped Anthony Gose for Brett Wallace. Wallace is another failed 3rd base prospect who was turned into a 1st baseman in 2011. Wallace is back in AAA trying to became a 3rd baseman again. Whatever his position it appears he won't hit enough to have much of an impact. Anthony Gose has yet to get the chance to succeed or fail but the speedy Gose has become one of the Blue Jays top prospects.
Traded possible future HOF Lance Berkman to the New York Yankee's for reliever Mark Melencon and 3rd baseman Jimmy Paredes. Mark Melancon become the Astro's closer in 2011 while Paredes was given a lat season shot at 3rd base. Melancon was then flipped to the Red Sox where they received starting shortstop(when healthy) Jed Lowrie and Saturday's starting pitcher Kyle Weiland. Nice bit of work for an expensive aging Berkman.
Traded Felipe Paulino to the Rockies for SS Clint Barmes. I think this was a terrible trade for the Astros. Paulio is the type of young arm you want to build with and Barmes was only here for one year before bolting for free agency. The Astros got a good year from Barmes but now he's gone while Paulino showed off his live arm for the Royals last year
The big trade was moving Hunter Pence for a boatload of prospects. Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana. Hunter Pence was a big time talent but this was a trade that had to be done, and the Astro's might have struck some gold. You might not see any of these players in 2012 but if things fall into place you can envision them starting to have an impact by 2013.
Oh, one other minor trade with Boston netted them their other starting shortstop when Lowrie is hurt. Marwin Gonzalez
The Astros did what they had to do. The only question is did they execute the plan as best they could. Maybe. Their top prospects are littered with players acquired in these deals. Using Fangraphs you can find
Number one - Jonathan Singleton - via Phillies /Pence
Number three - Jarred Cossart - via Phillies/Pence
Number four - Brett Oberhholtzer - via Braves / Bourn
Number five - Paul Clemens - via Braves / Bourn
Number seven - Domingo Santana - via Phillies / Pence
Number fifteen - Kyle Weiland - Via Red Sox / Melancon
So while they may have whiffed on the Oswalt deal they seem to have done an excellent job securing returns for Pence/Bourn/Melancon.
Season Series: 2011(5 - 4)
Manager: Brad Mills (56 - 106) - Yikes
Key Additions: Mentioned in the trades above
Key Subtractions: Humberto Quintero, Clint Barmes, Michael Bourn, Jason Bourgeois
1st Base-Carlos Lee was finally moved from LF to 1st base. If anyone wonders why people question even today's most sophisticated defensive metrics they only need to know that Carlos Lee was a plus 11 as a left fielder in 2011. Right
2nd Base- Jose Altuve was plucked from AA ball year and made the starting second baseman. Headed into 2011 the short speedy Altuve made nobody's prospect lists and never will because he is already a major league starting second baseman. Altuve started hitting in 2011 and has not stopped. His A ball OPS was 1.057, his AA OPS was .958, and his current OPS is .902. I'm skipping his .654 major league OPS in 2011:) You have to love the Jose Altuve's, no thinks much of them but they just keep on hitting until the mind set is changed. At 5'5 no one believes in you except yourself. The last great Astro 2nd baseman who was the smallest player in baseball was HOF Joe Morgan.
Shortstop-Jed Lowrie finally gets a full time gig to show if he is the guy who put up the .907 OPS for Boston in 2010 or the injury riddled mediocre middle infielder the rest of the time. Has already missed 1/2 the games so far this year but when he's played (6 games) he's gotten on base at over a .400 clip. Getting your starting shortstop and a body for the rotation for a run of the mill relief pitcher is one of those deals you need to make to build your team. Meanwhile Melancon has been so bad for Boston he's been shipped back to the minors.
3rd Base-Chris Johnson is currently manning the spot. Johnson had been a huge surprise in 2010 when he came up and took over the job posting a .818 OPS (121 OPS+) but his 2011 season was so bad he was sent back to the minors to get his swing going. Doubt he's the long term answer as they find if Wallace can make it back as a 3rd baseman or if Paredes is the long term answer.
Left Field -With Carlos Lee now at 1st base JD Martinez mans left field and will probably be there for the next ten years. Martinez is probably the Asto's best hitter and might be developing into one of the better hitting left fielders in the NL. The 24 year old is relatively unknown but that should not last long. JD was called up last year after the Pence / Bourn deals and held his own with a solid .742 OPS. His minor league numbers suggested he could do even better and so far in 2012 he is living upto that expectation with a robust 1.002 OPS. Martinez might be the steal of the 2009 draft, as the Astro's got him in the 20th round.
Right Field- Brian Bogusevic is a place holder. He would be no different then Trent Oltjen starting in RF. He can run a little, has a little pop, but is really suited to be a bench player not a starting right fielder. I may be undervaluing him, he did have some initial major league success in 2010.
Center Field-Jordan Schafer was once a heralded Atlanta Brave prospect who seemed on the fast track to major leagues success until he was suspended for minor league PED use. Now he's 25 and trying to hit enough to stay as the Astro's starting center fielder. He has plenty of speed, but can he hit enough? I have no idea.
Starting Pitching for our Series:
Game One: J.A. Happ
Happ uses a pretty standard rotation, throwing his 90mph fastball (65% of the time), 82mph changeup (5%), 84mph slider (18%) and 76mph curveball (11%). Occassionally, he'll turn his fastball over and give it some sink, but it maintains the same velocity as his four-seamer. When he does go with the two-seam fastball, it has an average of 10 inches of horizontal and vertical movement! It's really a wonder why he doesn't throw this pitch more. Happ will throw all of his pitches away from both right and left-handed hitters due to his lack of velocity. What's interesting here is how similar in velocity his offspeed pitches are. He should be able to generate some poor contact on his curveball because the velocity differential is high enough, but he needs to make sure he locates his other pitches to be successful.
Game 2: Kyle Weiland
Game 3 Wandy Rodriguez
Wandy throws a four and two seam fastball as well as a cutter which all check in at 89mph (50%). He also throws a curveball (30%) and changeup (20%). As you can see, he's VERY offspeed pitch oriented, which makes sense due to his lack of velocity. Wandy is consistently in the tier of pitchers who are better than league average, but not enough so that they warrant much consideration.
Bullpen:Brett Myers was moved from the rotation to the bullpen. Many suspect it was to build up his value. Honestly even I have no idea who the rest of t his group is. Left hander Wesley Wright is still many years after being plucked from the Dodgers in the Rule Five draft. After that we have Wilton Lopez, Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Rodriguez, David Carpenter, and lefty Fernando Abad. Oh, can't forget Brandon Lyon. I suspect by the end of this series we will be well acquainted with all of them except Brett Myers:)
Hard to sweep any team on the road but the Dodgers will give it a go. Best matchup for the Dodgers is of course Saturday with Cy Young going against the young Weiland. Friday might be the best Astro chance for a victory. I'm figuring two out of three but this is baseball and the Dodgers have proven this week you simply can't keep expecting to win every one run game.