Houston Astros Roster In 2013: State Of The Union:

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Monday, February.11,  2013

houston_astros-9413By Nicholas Rossoletti (MLB Reports Trade Correspondent):

In 2005, the Houston Astros completed a run to the World Series. It was the culmination of the Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell teams in Houston. That team had players on it named Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt,Bagwell and Biggio. This Houston team is a far way from that National League Champion. Houston has failed at epic levels the last two seasons. The state of the current union of this team is summed up in one word: bad. With that said, there is a ray of hope in these dark days.

When I first learned of this assignment, I planned on doing a portion of a piece on the Astros most expensive and possibly most prominent offensive piece, Jed Lowrie. Houston, in an effort to aggressively proceed with rebuilding its roster, traded Lowrie for several pieces. The trade itself has been covered by this site and our Astros’ corespondent already so I’m going to focus on piece of it. Chris Carter, the First Baseman/Outfielder, acquired by the Astros. Carter has shown consistent power at the Minor League levels as he consistently posted well above league average ISO numbers. His brief stint in the Majors with the A’s prior to the 2012 season did not see those numbers translate. Finally in 2012, we got a look at what we hope is the real Chris Carter.

Carter posted 16 Home Runs in less than 300 Plate Appearances while posting a spectacular ISO. Carter is not the type of player who will hit for average as his Strike-Out rates are consistently well above league average, but he does so an excellent propensity for taking walks. Carter is an Adam Dunn - type player. Big power, good On Base Percentage, but a high Strike Out rate with a low Batting Average. Overall, I think he will make a fine number four hitter, but the pieces around him need to fit. The other issue is where does Carter play. He is traditionally a First Baseman, but Houston is currently playing 26-Year Old Brett Wallace at first in an effort to determine his value. More important than Wallace though is one of Houston’s top prospects, First Baseman Jonathan Singleton.

Bagwell and Biggio Mix of Highlights:  Who will be the next tandem of Astros greats?:

Chris  Carter, the Astros new 1B/OF, finally started to translate his Minor League power to the Major Leagues last year when he hit 16 home runs 260 Plate Appearances.

Chris Carter, the Astros new 1B/OF, finally started to translate his Minor League power to the Major Leagues last year when he hit 16 Home Runs in just 260 Plate Appearances.

Singleton and Carter could compliment each other quite well in the future. Singleton is not a traditional power hitting First Baseman. He generates his offensive value mostly through his On Base Percentage. His ISO has increased to .213 with Houston’s Double-A Ball Club, which is very encouraging as he hits his prime. The biggest problem for Singleton right now is that he is set to lose Plate Appearances at Double-A due to an upcoming suspension. These were key At – Bats that Singleton will need to make up, but once he does, I think we could be seeing a solid middle of the Astros line-up for several years with Carter and Singleton.

Besides Carter (and eventually Singleton, who should see action by the end of the season), the only consistent offensive force on the Astros is Jose Altuve. Altuve is a table setting presence for the Astros. He makes his living on an above the median BABIP and high contact rates, which translate into consistent Batting Average production from Altuve. Altuve provides nice production from second base, but Houston fans should be realistic about Altuve’s upside. In order for him to maximize his potential offensively, he needs to increase his walk rate significantly. Altuve’s ability to make contact makes him a good offensive piece with the potential to repeat his 2012 trip to the All-Star game in the future, but he walks at a below average rate. This isn’t as harmful to Altuve as to other players because of the good contact rates, but it is the issue that stands in his way to being one of the elite table setting players in the league. Altuve will never be a source of power, but an increase in On Base Percentage in front of Houston’s budding power hitters discussed above would greatly impact Houston’s ability to compete in the future.

Altuve is a key piece of the Astros future, but to maximize his potential, he needs to increase his On Base Percentage.

Altuve is a key piece of the Astros future, but to maximize his potential, he needs to increase his On Base Percentage.

The remainder of the Astros lineup is flushed with talent that needs to prove it belongs consistently in the Major Leagues. We could spend paragraphs discussing the strange amalgamation of talent that Houston has compiled, but truthfully, most of this years line-up are playing on a year to year basis as the Astros develop higher end talent or eventually begin spending on higher-ceiling Free Agents to assume these positions.

In the rotation, Houston has collected some young arms and will give many of them a shot at competing this spring. The veteran workhorse of this squad is Bud Norris, who is a solid strike out pitcher and can provide valuable innings. It seems as though Houston will look to trade Norris either before the season or at the trade deadline as the expense of maintaining his contract increases. I won’t spend a lot of time on Norris as I don’t realistically believe he is a piece for this organization long-term so I am generally not including him in my review of the staff. The new “ace” of this staff (at least for the moment) is Lucas Harrell. I’m using ace very liberally because Harrell’s statistics generally indicate that he is more of an innings eater than a true number one Starting Pitcher. It is hard to find young, cheap arms that can give a team 200 innings pitched of even league average baseball, but it speaks to Houston’s current state of affairs that Harrell is the closest it can come to a current ace. Harrell gets by on good command and keeping the ball in the park. He keeps his Strikeouts at about a league average level, but the strike out has never been Harrell’s forte, which is what holds him back from being an elite level pitcher on a consistent basis in the Major Leagues.

The "ace" of the Astros' staff, Houston will need to see more strike out of Lucas  Harrell.

The “ace” of the Astros’ staff, Houston will need to see more strike out of Lucas Harrell.

Following Harrell are Jordan Lyles, who is similar to Harrell except Lyles has a harder time keeping the ball in the ball park and even less success at having professional hitters strike out on his stuff. Jarred Cosart should be in the mix. He is a terrific talent, but his strike out numbers have decreased as he has moved up through the Minors. His strike out numbers finally bounced back and increased last year at Triple-A, but his BB/9 is still high at 4.23. We need to see that decrease significantly and his strike-outs to continue to rise for Cosart to live up to his potential. At the very least, he should provide another young arm for Houston to develop on the Major League level. The Astros will fill out the rotation with Phillip Humber, whose claim to fame remains last season’s perfect game, and a group of rotational pieces. They hope that Alex White will live up to his previous expectations, but nothing in his current Major League sample size suggests that this is likely.

The bullpen for the Astros will be a mix of low cost veterans like Jose Veras and Wesley Wright along with products from the Houston system. As with any team looking to shed costs in a re-building effort, Houston is doing the proper thing by keeping a low cost bullpen and trying to develop pieces to grow as the team begins its path towards future success.

Before wrapping, I think its important for Houston as a fan base to understand that 2013 will lead to more of the same losing experiences, but the extended future is so bright. Just three or so years ago, Houston’s farm system was considered a low man on totem pole. Now, thanks to smart trades, solid drafting and a couple of prospects bouncing back, Houston is set up as a deep system with talent at the top. Not the least of that is first overall pick from the 2012 draft, Carlos Correa. Correa is the Astros Shortstop of the future and the first of several top prospects. The Astros have a bright future. It just isn’t going to start in 2013.

If all goes well with the team this year, the Astros could improve on their 2012 year.  If all else fails, Houston might challenge the ALL-Time Loss Record.

If all goes well with the team this year, the Astros could improve on their 2012 year. If all else fails, Houston might challenge the ALL-Time Loss Record.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami.  He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter.  Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time.  He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.  He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships.  Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love.  The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching.   Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball

 “There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~Al Gallagher, 1971

a    nicholas rossoletti

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Posted on February 11, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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