I have to write a Red Sox at Astros preview piece tonight and I don't know how I'm gonna do that without typing "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" for hours
— Brett Cowett (@BACowett) August 5, 2013
The struggle is real.
HOUSTON ASTROS – 36-74, 5th place in the AL West (27.5[!!] GB)
The Astros are in full-on rebuilding mode. They’re letting any and all of their players play in the hopes of finding a viable option for each position, selling what assets they have left, getting the first draft pick overall, etc. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are unceremoniously bad. They’ve got a good catcher and second baseman, but beyond that…yeesh. I don’t even want to look, but it’s my job to do so.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
1 – Jonathan Villar – SS – .184/.286/.245 (in 60 PA)
- All speed and nothing else. If he had over 200 PA during a season in the minors, rest assured he will have 10 or more steals.
- Strikeout rate is a big problem, as it never went below 20% in the minors. Hacks away enough to be a lumberjack.
- I don’t think we can ever judge this guy on his BABIP. Yeah, small sample sizes and such, but he’s also extremely quick, so that boosts the number too.
2 – Jose Altuve – 2B – .283/.322/.361
- The most popular Astro, and looks to hold that title for the next few years. But the real question is: How many Altuves tall are you?
- Not as good with the bat as he is on the bases. He’s got 28 steals so far, and he’ll easily break his career-high of 33 from last year.
- Not the best fielder at second. He’s been worth -22 Defensive Runs Saved from 2012 to the present.
3 – Jason Castro – C – .263/.330/.454
- With a 2.5 fWAR, Castro is by far the best player on the Astros. He’s made huge strides this year as well – his slugging is up over 50 points from last year.
- Sacrificed some of his walk rate to add some power. Resulted in a strikeout rate that jumped about five percentage points.
- The Astros have shown an effort to keep him healthy, so he’s been switching between catching and being the DH throughout the season.
4 – Chris Carter – DH – .213/.314/.426
- Another great example of a Three True Outcomes player: Carter will either strikeout, walk, or hit a home run. So, basically, exactly what they traded for!
- Awful defense at first, so it’s best if he’s a DH for most of the time. Hasn’t had above average defensive metrics no matter how big the sample size.
- All Carter really is good for is a source of power. Anything else and you’re stretching for whatever you’re trying to get.
5 – Brett Wallace – 1B – .222/.281/.459 (in 146 PA)
- Corner infielder who’s looking more and more like a Quad-A guy the more playing time he gets. Ridiculously high strikeout rate.
- Doesn’t walk enough to offset that strikeout rate, nor did he hit for a lot of power until this season.
- Below-average fielder. There’s really not a reason to keep him at the major league level, but then again, it’s the Astros.
6 – Matt Dominguez – 3B – .239/.271/.401
- For a guy with a glove-first reputation, Dominguez has shown a healthy amount of power in his first full season as a major leaguer.
- The next step for Dominguez would be to work on that walk rate. It’s just below 4%, and that’s borderline replacement level.
- BABIP looks to be pretty low, so we could see his hitting numbers rebound in the last few weeks or so.
7 – Robbie Grossman – LF – .250/.350/.324 (in 160 PA)
- Grossman has a interesting penchant for hitting doubles, but few homers. His ISO is good in the minors, but the homers just aren’t there.
- A low-key target for rapid growth in the majors. Walks & strikes out a lot, but his MiLB stats suggest the K-rate will come down quite a bit.
- Mediocre fielder and just average on the base paths. With all those doubles, however, Grossman could develop power very quickly.
8 – Brandon Barnes – CF – .245/.298/.356
- Add to the list of Astros players who strikeout a lot and don’t really walk all that much. Barnes just has a better glove than most of them.
- Barnes at least has positive metrics across the board. Above-average in fielding & baserunning, and he’s worth roughly a win via fWAR
- Not particularly fast or powerful. He’s pretty average when it comes to his counting stats.
9 – L.J. Hoes – RF – .158/.158/.158 (in 19 PA)
- Recently acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Bud Norris. Had a grand total of 1 PA in the majors before 2013.
- He’s got fantastic on-base skills, but not much else after that. Light on both power and speed.
- Doesn’t strike out a lot but walks a ton. The Astros are banking on his power developing sometime soon.
Who’s hot? – Last 14 games
- Robbie Grossman: .480 AVG, .200 ISO, 243 wRC
- Jose Altuve: .395 OBP, 7 SB, 130 wRC
Who’s not? – Last 14 games
- Chris Carter: .111 AVG, .067 ISO, .182 wOBA
- Jonathan Villar: .184 AVG, .249 wOBA, 53 wRC
I’ve gone over how Lackey is The Greatest Starting Pitcher In The History Of Baseball(tm) too many times it seems, so let’s look at Oberholzer. 14 innings in the majors, hasn’t walked a soul, but has a bit of a homer problem. Same trent persists in the minors as well, so I’d be expecting a lot of hits, especially in that park. I mean, have you seen that left field wall? And people hate Fenway for stuff like that…
The Legacy of Tim Wakefield lives on. Wright’s gonna knuckle his way through this start, while the Sox offense will face Jordan Lyles. Lyles does a good job of limiting homers, but can’t strand runners well or strike a lot of them out. He’s a groundball pitcher, so we’re gonna see a lot of contact made on Tuesday.
This might be the game the Red Sox inexplicably end up losing. Dempster and his home run problems might not play well in Minute Maid, while Cosart has played the groundball game to perfection over his four starts, averaging seven innings over those games. Of course he’s due for regression, but it won’t all happen in one game, right? …Right?