While Astro fans wait with bated breath for the release of the team's ZIPS projection next week, CHONE has given us a morsel of clairvoyant thought to nibble on in the mean time. The results are not what you would call good. Or even "ok". I'll stop beating around the metaphorical bush and just come out with it...every team that is supposed to have a better record than the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, raise your hand. Not so fast, Houston Astros. A 73-89 record is worse than Baseball Prospectus' prediction of 76-86 and a whole lot worse than my optimistic 85-77 record that I threw out earlier in the week.
Breaking the list down player by player, it's clear that CHONE isn't all that high on either Felipe Paulino or Brett Myers. That's to be expected in a way. Myers is coming off an injury plagued 2009 season, and gives up an inordinate amount of home runs. Paulino is a young guy with very few major league innings, and less than stellar minor league credentials.
Still, both have the ability to out produce their projected lines. For instance, I look at Brett Myers projection and think, If Brett gives up 21 home runs in only 126 innings pitched, good for a home run every 16.66 innings he pitches I will type a thousand words about my love for Jim Edmonds. It's well known that Myers has a propensity to allow the home run ball (that's a nice way to put it!), but it's not like he's trending upward in that category. 70.2 innings of work last season aren't really a fair representation of his talents. I realize that the Projectatron 3000xi or whatever is used to spit out these numbers doesn't know that, but we do. So beware the low balling of our record, or least as far as Myers is concerned.
The other side of the coin doesn't have the same upside as the pitching staff. Our offense by and large is a very fair representation of what could happen in 2010. Definitely on the low end of what I think will happen, but there were no egregious projections in my estimation.
What is really lacking with the offense is power hitting. A patient approach at the plate, high contact rates, avoiding the dreaded ground ball double play and savvy base running are all important characteristics that a hitter should strive to exude. Above and beyond these traits, the ability to hit for extra bases can do wonders for a club's propensity to score more runs than they allow on a night to night basis. Outside of purely statistical reasons, just think about how much a double down the line, or an out of nowhere three run homer can swing games around, forcing the manager's hand in utilizing his bullpen. In the war of attrition that is a 162 game baseball season, extra base hits are the heavy artillery.
Help, perhaps, is on the way. Kellen Clemens and Collin DeLome have made proven themselves to be proficient power threats while minor leaguers. Caveats abound though, as both have played in either the hitter friendly California League or the hitter friendly Texas League.
DeLome's opposite field power stroke is promising if only because recognition of pitches, patience and strength are all crucial to the ability to hit to the opposite field. He isn't going to be knocking on the door of the majors in 2010, but a steady ISO% from High A to AA is promising nonetheless.
With Jonathan Gaston and Jay Austin making their way into at least one top ten Astros' prospects list, there is definite power potential down low on the organizational totem pole. As with all minor leaguers, it's a fine line between potential major leaguer and career minor leaguer. What really interests me, is the supposed "lowish ceiling, high floor" prospects at the top of the Astros' prospects pecking order such as Jio Mier, Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles, and the perhaps higher ceiling, lower floor outfield prospects like Austin, Gaston, and TJ Steele. Combine these players with the aforementioned DeLome and Clemens, and our other offensive draftees from 2008 and 2009, and more pop may be in the offering sooner than we think.