Tagged: Houston Astros

2010 Houston Astros Preview

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houston logo.png.gifHouston Astros

 

2009 Record: 74-88, 5th NL Central

2009 Prediction: 74-88, 5th NL Central

2010 Prediction: 5th NL central

 

Impact Player: Carlos Lee

Impact Pitcher: Roy Oswalt

Top Prospect Player:
C Jason Castro

Top Prospect Pitcher:
RHP Jordan Lyles

 

Manager: Brad Mills, 1st Season

 

Significant
Acquisitions
: 3B Pedro Feliz, RHP
Brett Myers, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Brandon Lyon

Significant Losses: SS Miguel Tejada, UTIL Darin Erstad,
RHP Russ Ortiz, RHP Jose Valverde, RHP LaTroy Hawkins

 

Not to toot my own horn, but beep, beep.  Notice the 2009 prediction and 2009 record at
the top of this page.  Dead on.  Wins and
division standing.  Athlon Sports; I’m waiting
for my job offer.  Many people had the
Astros finishing with a winning record last season, but not this guy, I knew
their team was too old and lacked depth, and guess what; this year won’t be any
better.  The Astros are slightly younger
than last year, but not much, and their rotation still lacks depth, as does
their lineup.  It won’t be a fun year in
Houston.

 

Pitching

RoyOswalt_2006_006.jpg

Is Roy Oswalt‘s
small stature finally catching up with him? 
Back problems led to the perennial All-Star’s worst season in the majors
in 2009.  He still started 30 games, but
his health prevented him from going deep into them and he was left with only 14
decisions.  His 4.12 ERA was by far the highest
of his career and it was the very first time he finished with less than 10 wins
in a season (8).  He’ll look to prove the
critics wrong in 2010 (something he’s very good at) and reassert himself atop
of this rotation.  Wandy Rodriguez finally had his long-awaited breakout season in
2009; the lefty posted a 14-12 record with a 3.02 ERA.  A word of caution: he’s 31; not exactly the
age most pitchers have breakout years, don’t expect it to last.  The ‘Stros signed former Phillie Brett Myers to a contract in the
offseason and he hopes to remain healthy; something he hasn’t been able to do
very well the last few years.  The last
two spots in the rotation will likely go to youngsters Bud Norris (25) and Felipe
Paulino
(26).  Norris was 6-3 in 55.2
innings last year, while Paulino struggled going 3-11 and has a career ERA of
6.40.  Young lefthander Wesley Wright could also have a shot at
making the rotation, but his ability to get lefties out might be needed more in
the bullpen, while veteran Brian Moehler
is still around and will be given a chance to make the team.

 

All-Star closer Jose
Valverde
signed with the Tigers so the Astros acquired two pitchers to
anchor the back end of the ‘pen for 2010. 
Matt Lindstrom is likely to
have the best shot at the closer job with his electric arm; he struggled in
that role last season in Florida and if he struggles again, veteran setup man Brandon Lyon could step in.  Lyon had a 2.86 ERA last season in Detroit
and has experience closing.  Righthanders
Jeff Fulchino, Alberto Arias, and Chris
Sampson
are expected to pitch the middle innings while veteran Tim Byrdak will be the team’s main
lefthanded option.  Moehler could be the
long-man if he’s not starting and Wright could also be in the mix as well.

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

Roy Oswalt

32/3

R/R

Wandy Rodriguez

31

R/L

Brett Myers*

29/0

R/R

Bud Norris

25

R/R

Felipe Paulino

26

R/R

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Matt Lindstrom*

30

R/R

Brandon Lyon*

30/1

R/R

Jeff Fulchino

30

R/R

Alberto Arias

26

R/R

Tim Byrdak

36

L/L

Chris Sampson

31/2

R/R

Wesley Wright

25

L/L

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Brian Moehler

38

R/R

Samuel Gervacio

25

R/R

Gary Majewski

30

R/R

Casey Daigle

29

R/R

Gustavo Chacin

29

L/L

Josh Banks

27/8

R/R

Shane Loux

30/1

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

 

Lineup

carlos-lee.jpg

The Astros were 3rd last in the NL in runs scored
last year and only 12th in homeruns in sprite of being in one of the
best homeruns hitter’s parks in baseball. 
They didn’t do much in the offseason to remedy the situation by gaining
only Pedro Feliz who had just a .386
slugging percentage last year in Philadelphia, while losing Miguel Tejada.

 

The outfield features the team’s three best players.  In leftfield, Carlos Lee continues to battle weight and conditioning problems
which will eventually force him to DH on an AL team, but is coming off a
.300/26/102 season, while rightfielder Hunter
Pence
is the team’s present and
future.  Pence was an All-Star last
season and finished hitting .282 with 25 homeruns.  Michael
Bourn
is one of the fastest players in baseball, proving it with an NL
leading 61 stolen bases and also winning a Gold Glove in centerfield.  He also broke out with the bat, hitting .285.

 

First baseman Lance
Berkman
is very slowly starting to show his age, but is still one of the
most powerful switch hitters in the league. 
His .399 OBP doesn’t hurt either. 
Feliz is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball, but his
bat continues to be his weakness.  Don’t
let his 12 HR and 82 RBI from 2009 fool you. 
He did that in a stacked Phillies lineup (which Houston’s is not) and he
had only a .692 OPS, simply not good enough for a corner infielder.  Kazuo
Matsui
is back at second base, but at 34, is well past his best days while
the shortstop job will likely end up in the hands of rookie Tommy Manzella who’s 27.  Manzella is only ranked 11th on
the organization’s prospect list (according to Baseball America) which isn’t great considering the Astros rank
dead last in the majors in minor-league talent. 
The catcher’s job will be a Spring battle between J.R. Towles and Humberto
Quintero
.  Towles has been handed the
job a few times before and has failed miserably every time; this may be his
last chance.

 

On the bench will be the backup catcher along with
outfielder Jason Michaels who can
play all three outfield positions. 
Veteran infielders Jeff Keppinger
(who might start at short if Manzella struggles) and Geoff Blum are back and so is infielder Edwin Maysonet and all are expected to make the team.  Cory
Sullivan
could be the fifth outfielder if the Astros decide they need one.

 

 

CF

Michael Bourn

27

L/R

2B

Kazuo Matsui

34

S/R

LF

Carlos Lee

33/4

R/R

1B

Lance Berkman

34

S/L

RF

Hunter Pence

27

R/R

3B

Pedro Feliz*

35

R/R

C

J.R. Towles

26

R/R

SS

Tommy Manzella

27

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

C

Humberto Quintero

30/1

R/R

INF

Geoff Blum (3B, 1B)

37

S/R

INF

Jeff Keppinger (SS, 2B, 3B)

30

R/R

OF

Jason Michaels (LF, RF, CF)

33/4

R/R

INF

Edwin Maysonet (2B, SS, 3B)

28

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

3B

Chris Johnson

25

R/R

INF

Chris Shelton

29/0

R/R

OF

Cory Sullivan

30/1

L/L

C

Kevin Cash

32

R/R

*=newly
acquired

 

I doubt I’ll be exactly right on the Astros two years
running, but bet on them being as bad or worse than they were last season.  Their rotation is thin and injury-prone (even
if Oswalt returns to form) and the lineup is filled with aging vets well beyond
their most productive years.  The bench
is also thin and if you think a youth movement will save the franchise; think
again.  The ‘Stros have the least
talented farm system in all of baseball and will likely have to trade away veterans
like Berkman, Lee, Oswalt, and others to replenish it to the point of
respectability.

Final Prediction:
68-94, 5th NL Central

’09 Preview — Houston Astros

astros.jpg2008 Record: 86-75, 3rd NL Central
2009 Prediction: 5th NL Central

Impact Player: Lance Berkman
Impact Pitcher: Roy Oswalt
Top Prospect: Jason Castro, C

Significant Acquisitions: OF Jason Michaels, INF Aaron Boone, P Mike Hampton, P Russ Ortiz, P Clay Hensley
Significant Losses: C Brad Ausmus, INF Ty Wigginton, INF Mark Loretta, OF Jose Cruz Jr., P Shawn Chacon, P Randy Wolf, P Oscar Villareal

The Astros may have surprised some people in ’08 when they went 86-75 and made a concerted run at the post-season.  The ‘Stros were supposed to be an old team who was on the verge of rebuilding.  Well, this year, they are another year older, in fact, they are the oldest team in all of baseball.  The opening day roster might include as little as 5 players under the age of 30.  They still have some pieces of a contender but in reality, many of their older players started showing their age last year and will only get worse in ’09.  Their bullpen was heavily-worked last season which means you can expect some arm-drag from its oldest members and the starting rotation has no depth to speak of.  This could be a long year in Houston.

Pitching
One thing the Astros do have is a true ace.  Roy Oswalt showed again last year why he is one of the most respected pitchers in the league going 17-10 with a 3.54 ERA in a hitter-friendly ballpark.  Outside of him, however, there is a shocking lack of depth and a lot of pitchers with a high risk of injury.  Lefthander Wandy Rodriguez is coming off a solid year where he posted a 3.54 ERA but has never proven to be durable and is likely to see time on the DL.  Brandon Backe’s ’08 ERA was higher than Michael Phelps at his last house party and is sadly penciled in as the #3 starter for ’09.  37-year-old Brian Moehler was 11-8 last year but his age would signify a further decline from his 4.56 ERA in ’08 and he will battle with injury risks Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton for the final two spots.  Hampton hasn’t pitched more than 13 starts since 2004 and was very recently diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and Ortiz hasn’t pitched at all since his 12 starts with the Giants in 2007.

In the bullpen, the Astros were solid last year but are also not young.  On top of that, seven of them threw more than 50 innings; four of them more than 60.  There is a significant downward performance spiral from pitchers who throw a lot of innings out of the bullpen the previous year and the Astros will be no exception to this rule.  Jose Valverde was solid as the ’08 closer notching more saves than anyone else in the NL with 44, but also had 7 blown saves and his ERA was a middle-of-the-road 3.38.  Geoff Geary was very good in setup and returns there this year.  Aging vet LaTroy Hawkins (36) and positively ancient Doug Brocail (42) are back in middle relief and are joined by Tim Byrdak and long-reliever Chris Sampson (who could also start).  The final spot will likely go to lefty Wesley Wright who is the lone young pitcher on the team at only 24.  Minor league contracts were handed out to Clay Hensley, Chad Paronto, Jose Capellan and the Baby-Faced Assassin Danny Graves who will try and crack the team.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • Roy Oswalt (R/31)
  • Wandy Rodriguez (L/30)
  • Brandon Backe (R/31)
  • Mike Hampton (L/36)
  • Brian Moehler (R/37)

Bullpen

  • Jose Valverde (R/30)
  • Geoff Geary (R/32)
  • LaTroy Hawkins (R/36)
  • Doug Brocail (R/42)
  • Wesley Wright (L/24)
  • Tim Byrdak (L/35)
  • Chris Sampson (R/31)


Lineup

The Astros won’t finish last in the NL in hitting, but they certainly won’t finish in first either.  In spite of the fact that they play in a very hitter-friendly park, the Astros had a shocking lack of power in ’08, finishing only 8th in home runs.  Outside of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, the lineup is aging and should expect a decline this season.  In the outfield, Pence should start in Right and is an up-and-coming star at only 26.  Last season he hit 25 HR and tallied 83 RBI and he could be a 20-20 threat once he gains better instincts on the basepaths; he had only 11 stolen bases in 21 attempts last year.  Bourn will leadoff and start in Center.  He is a plus baserunner and fielder but hit just .229 with only 29 RBI in ’08.  In Left will be Carlos Lee who has been as solid as anyone and should be the team’s primary clean-up hitter; he hit .314 with 100 RBI last season.  In the infield, Lance Berkman returns at First and remains one of the better switch-hitters in baseball.  He can also substitute in any of the outfield positions and steals his fair share of bases.  Kazuo Matsui returns at Second and even though he’s 33, has seen his average increase with every year of major-league service.  On the left side of the infield is nothing but questions.  Geoff Blum is expected to be the Third Baseman, but at 36 isn’t considered by many to be starting-caliber anymore, and at Short is Miguel Tejada who has seen decreased production in the past few years and has been involved in the steroid scandal all winter.  Catching duties could belong to either J.R. Towles (who struggled in ’08) or Humberto Quintero.

The bench is one area where the Astros have some depth.  Veteran Darin Erstad can play all three outfield positions and First at very high levels and can still contribute some offensively.  Outfielder Jason Michaels was signed in the off-season to be the fourth outfielder and could even start if Bourn struggles like he did last year.  Infielder Aaron Boone could start at Third if Blum struggles but is more valuable off the bench because of his ability to play anywhere in the infield, and utility-man David Newhan is back on a minor-league deal.  Quintero or Towles will also warm the bench depending on who the ‘Stros decide to go with at Catcher.

Lineup

  • CF  Michael Bourn (L/26)
  • 2B  Kazuo Matsui (S/33)
  • 1B  Lance Berkman (S/33)
  • LF  Carlos Lee (R/33)
  • RF  Hunter Pence (R/26)
  • SS  Miguel Tejada (R/35)
  • 3B  Geoff Blum (S/36)
  • C    Humberto Quintero (R/29)

Bench

  • OF/1B Darin Erstad (L/35)
  • OF  Jason Michaels (R/33)
  • INF Aaron Boone (R/36)
  • INF David Newhan (L/35)
  • C    J.R. Towles (R/25)

Outlook
This team has some talent but is old…very old.  On paper they look top-heavy with stars like Oswalt, Berkman, and Lee but lack real depth.  Expect a big step back for the Astros this year and expect that to spurn a rebuilding stint starting in 2010.  Final Prediction: 74-88, 5th NL Central