Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Houston Astros

2013: 51-111 
2012 Season Recap
2013 Season Preview

Houston's inaugural season in the American League ended about as well as their last season in the National League....in last place.  We told you that the 2013 version could literally go no where but up...

Then Houston promptly goes out and proves us wrong by somehow finishing last year worst than their just as woeful 2012.  How bad was it?  A game in September drew a 0.0 rating in the Houston area, which means that there was no statistical way that Nielsen could prove that anyone actually watched the game.  Nielsen stats were probably unnecessary too since the only way to catch an Astros game in Houston is if you happen to be a Comcast subscriber.  It was a pretty bad 2013 in Space City.  



Et tu, Olympics? 
But that doesn't mean that all hope is lost. The biggest moves and improvement that the Astros made weren't as much on the field as in the General Manager's office.  In the time since taking over their reins of the front office in late 2011, GM Jeff Luhnow has built up the Astros farm system to arguably a top five organization.  


What Houston found out the hard way is that being perennially awful also leads to high draft picks. The Astros top five prospects are all former first round picks including the top picks from 2012 (SS Carlos Correa) and 2013 (RHP Mark Appel).

Those picks with a new collective bargaining agreement that provides significant advantages to teams with lower records allowed Luhnow to make shrewd signings for prospects like Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz along with trades for guys like Jonathan Singleton, Asher Wojciechowski, and Domingo Santana.  The future for Houston is looking up.    


In the meantime, who's left to compete in Minute Maid Park until the kids are ready is the remnants of a complete overhaul and dismantling of anything that resembled a Major League team from the previous ownership/management.  That's not to say there isn't any fresh, young, talent in the Big Leagues.  Top pitching prospects Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer made the ascent to Space City during last season, landed in the rotation, stayed there, and showed flashes of their potential along with occasional brilliance.

Catcher Jason Castro established himself as a bona fide major leaguer as the Astros lone ASG representative; mighty midget 2B Jose Altuve is only 23

The offseason brought in veterans like OF Dexter Fowler to help bring youngsters like J.D. Martinez, Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes along.  Perennial journeyman/midseason trade bait Scott Feldman brings his veteran presence along with a friendly contract to the rotations to help increase his trade value as much as possible before the deadline provide his veteran leadership to the young throwers.  In the bullpen, vets Chad Qualls and Matt Albers were signed along with a trade for Anthony Bass to join an injured-but-recovering Jesse Crain to stop-the-bleeding-as-much-as-possible if the starters run into trouble (or try to hold on for dear life if they somehow are provided with a lead).



TOP STORYLINES FOR THE 2014 HOUSTON ASTROS

1.  Can this team possible be any worse than last year's squad?  (hint: the answer is NO)

2.  If the answer to Question 1 is "no", how much better can this team be from last year (hint: the answer is "not a lot.")


3.  So if you guys have already spoiled, questions #1 and #2, what other questions are there?  


4 - 10: How good can prospect ________________ be and when will we see him in Houston?

(answers for #4 - #10: pick any of the following)  




BONUS QUESTIONS:

X.  Dexter Fowler: the spark the Astros need or just another Coors Field hitter?
X.  Will Scott Feldman be gone by the trade deadline?
X.  Can Jesse Crain be healthy enough to be another trade chip too?
X.  Who will the Astros draft with their 3rd consecutive #1 overall pick in the draft?
X.  Will anyone be able to watch them?


Any of these above prospects have the talent and potential to be in the Big Leagues by the end of this year.  With the growing trend of teams not being afraid to push youngsters to reach The Show when they're still legally unable to rent a car, you can probably expect to see some of these guys in Minute Maid Park by the end of the year.
Hey, trust me Houston fans.  I feel your pain.  I know what it's like to support a losing baseball team.  I am a Tiger's fan that had to watch my team from literally the entire 1990s and early 2000s suck really, really, hard.  We lost 119 games one year.  Even the Astros haven't done that.  But every summer, we'd still hit up the park.  Tickets were cheap, food was cheap, and you got to see future stars before they were famous.

It was disheartening to see the poor attendance and overall lack of enthusiasm for the home team living in Houston last year (outside of a few die-hards, whose sarcasm and honest-till-it-hurts-analysis makes me respect the loyal Astros fans) .  I can't say that I blame the fans but trust me...this will be an exciting team in the near future and the future for many of these exciting young players is now.

Watch the dynamic, youthful talent in Houston and support your home team and do it this year before the team gets competitive, tickets get expensive, and everyone you hate jumps on the bandwagon faster than a Texans playoff season.  You'll be happy you did.