FanPost

J.R. Towles-Time to Step Up, And a Few Other Things



So, Quintero is on the DL.  Robinson Cancel looks to be his replacement.  Cancel's numbers surprised me.  I'm wondering why he has not had a more legit shot at the big leagues, but I have not looked in to his playing history, just glanced over his stats.  He is a career minor league catcher.  He has somewhat erratic but overall decent hitting numbers, sometimes good ones.  He only has had a handful of games in the major leagues, and is 35.  From those numbers I'm concluding he's played this song before.  Which means one important thing.  Now, a young-ish catcher, Towles, must either prove he is made to play everyday, or become something closer to his new backup.  He gets two weeks at least, and I like Q, so I hope he is okay at the end of the day and makes it back.  Quintero gets beat up, that guy seems to have a knack for getting odd hits and injuries.  That one foul tip off the plate a few years ago that smashed the guy in his lower groin, that was painful to watch, I hope that never happens to me.

Towles though, has to fill that role, be the guy, and he can no longer get in to these extended funks at the plate.  If there is one hitter on the team that frustrates me a great deal, it is him.  He seems like a hitter that can hit for power, for average, doesn't have lead feet on the base paths, and might walk sometimes, a novel concept that is showing glimpses with some hitters as of late on the Astros.  I also like the fact that Towles is playing for the Astros, because he is from the area.  Then he goes in to a funk.  Now, that should change.  He should get to play every day.  I would also flirt with the idea of moving him to third at some point, especially if he starts to hit consistently.  That has more to do with Johnson not hitting much than anything else, that and Towles is 6'2".  Like I said, they could try it out if Johnson does not adjust to major league pitching and with the longer view, assuming next season that Jason Castro gets round 2 at being the starting catcher, and that Towles can get it together at the plate, it seems third would be a good spot, no minor league guys are close.  Castro is big too, bigger than Towles, 6'3".  I'm not saying the guys can play the game and position, but, think Johnny Bench.  You keep the bat in the lineup, and these two guys are athletic enough to move to other positions.  I really think Towles could play second and first as well.  This brings me to the next thing.

We now have multiple players, who have played, or are currently playing multiple positions.  One could, with the right set of eyes wearing shades and long hair, look at the Astros roster, as a collection of utility guys that should be moved around the field, every day, with players like Pence, Wallace-the youth-the possible chips in the future pile.  Jordan Lyles is there too now.  3-3 with a 3.20 ERA.  If Wandy is hurt, it's Lyles time.  If Happ has one or two more bad starts, it's Lyles time.  The other veteran players who are not producing, I would not be distressed by moving some guys up from Corpus and Oklahoma.  Hall can play outfield, third, second.  Wallace can play first and third.  Carlos Lee can play left and first.  Keppinger can play the infield, Downs, anywhere, Sanchez, short, second, third.  Barmes, middle infield.  Some of these guys will not be around at some point this season, I'd bet, minor trades.  I thought Keppinger played his way to starting second last season, despite his injury.  He works counts, hits well, not much power, but what to you want?  Oh yeah, he eats lefties and has great plate discipline, not many strike outs.  Carlos Lee is showing a pulse at the plate right now, but a weak one.  If he struggles still, he needs to sit games out.  Let Hall play left or Bourgeois.  I don't mind Lee playing first, but at this point it might be safe to say Brett Wallace is for real and leave him in. 

I really think that this team needs a shake up, and the injury to Quintero will put Towles on the spot, and if Wandy or Happ are issues then again, it's Lyles time.  After the draft I hope there is an upswing in the minors that moves some dead weight and maybe get some young guys up for September.  They almost have to do this, and this season.  The new owner might want to do the rebuilding thing, and I am good with that, but he might also look at the team as one to build around in the short term with quality free agents to fill holes, and take advantage of the new economics in baseball that now exists.  There will be clubs that overpay for whoever, that will not go away, but they will become fewer, and long term deals will become a young man's game for the most part.  Berkman's deal with the Cardinals is a good example.  Adam Dunn didn't have a job a few seasons back until a roster spot for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic opened up.  I think he something like 40 home runs last year.  He had a modest two year deal with the Nationals.  I am of the mind at this time, that bats who can play multiple positions defensively, and with competence, are going to start to become more valuable commodities.

As far as the youth movement that's fine, I'd just like it jump started a little.  What would happen, if a pitcher and position player were promoted and thrown in?  What if they made an impact and the team started to win?  We know they can lose well, they seemed to have caught the same cold that afflicts the Texans, the one that makes the team find a way to lose.  A team that is composed like the Astros are right now, needs to be used differently.  Someone goes 0-2, benched, put another guy in.  A pitcher lets three runs score, hook.  Guys change positions regularly as the game progresses.  I wish there would be a little La Russa/Garner style of moving the pieces around.  I might be stupid, indeed, bet on it, but I just think this team is close to somehow breaking out, not like playoff style, just becoming better about not blowing six run leads for a loss at home.  The Giants are in a sort of similar situation personnel wise, not quality mind you, not necessarily, just in that their team us largely composed of veterans, many of whom are not everyday players.  Call me selfish, but if the team is going to not be any good, it could at least be composed of younger players that have some upside and not some career marginal players with no real difference making potential.  If they go the free agent route then I hope that is building for a competitive team in the near future, like the Reds when they signed Francisco Cordero.  Many teams like the A's, the Rays, Indians, and Royals are fielding young teams with key free agent pieces.  Sure it's early, but how is our team doing?  

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