Feel free to give your own answers to these questions in the comment section.
Who is the most surprising player up to this point in the season?
Chris: The most surprising player for me has been Jose Altuve. This season, he flipped a switch and magically started taking walks. So far, he's been a top-5 2B in the entire major leagues. I think he can sustain a high BABIP due to his contact skills, but the .392 he has right now isn't sustainable. He'll fall off a bit, but he's made me into a believer finally and I'm excited to watch his career.
Joshua: Jordan Schafer. Pleasantly surprising. He's sloughed off all those immaturity problems we talked about and has just played. Saying that, his numbers are way down in the last two weeks. Production was amazing in those first three weeks, but it has stalled. Streaky? Maybe.
Clack: That’s a tough one. Altuve and Lowrie come to mind, but I picked them at the beginning of the season to be perform well, so "surprising" may not apply. I will go with Rhiner Cruz. I didn’t expect the Rule 5er to make the team out of spring training, and then, once he was on the roster, I figured that his control issues would leave him resigned to blow out games. But he has not only been good, but also has been used in higher leverage situations.
David: I think I'm going with J.A. Happ. It's early yet, but he hasn't been atrocious, and that surprises me. Even Saturday's game wasn't terrible, even though he gave up a bunch of hits. He only had one walk. Will it last? Probably not, but for now, he's providing more value than I expected.
William: Brandon Lyon. He has certainly come off his rare surgery (for a pitcher) pretty well, with his arm probably feeling the best he’s felt as an Astro considering his past arm troubles in spring training 2010 and his arm injury last year. He’s also pitched pretty well to date.
Sean: Without question, it's Jed Lowrie. He has a .283/.361 line with a little pop. Not too bad for your starting shortstop. Does anyone remember Angel Sanchez?
Jesse: The player that I have been most surprised with up to this point has been Jed Lowrie. I've been surprised with how well he has hit from the left side of the plate, and also by how good he looks on defense. If he can keep that going then the Astros shouldn't have to worry about who will be manning shortstop for the next couple of years.
Hit the jump for more answers from our writers regarding the Astros start to the season, the upcoming draft and trade deadline.
Who is the most disappointing player up to this point in the season?
Chris: The most disappointing player for me has been Jason Castro, who is batting .231/.286/.292 which is worse than Brad Ausmus' worst years. I don't think Castro's a bust yet because he's coming back from a major injury but I am concerned that he won't be able to justify his high draft pick based on what he's shown at the plate and defensively so far. Runner up is Bud Norris. I just thought he'd be better than this.
Joshua: Bud Norris. He's getting better, that start against the Redbirds finally got him going, but I wanted him to be firing on all cylinders from the get-go. Perhaps I set unreasonable expectations for Norris, but I'd like to see him being that go-to guy this season. Chris Snyder if I'm being honest. Close to .400 OPS is not what I expected. Carlos Corporan, come back, all is forgiven!
Clack: Maybe Bogusevic. He has disappointed both offensively and defensively. Castro may be right beside him, since he also has had his problems both on offense and defense. But Castro has the coming off injury excuse.
David: Jason Castro, mainly for his defense. He's missed a lot of time and is looking better with his bat. But, his defense has really struggled, especially with blocking balls in the dirt. I've seen him play better than he has behind the plate, and I wonder if he just needs more time to get back to pre-injury form.
William: J.A. Happ. I can’t say I’m surprised, but he’s pretty disappointing.
Sean: I would have to say Chris Snyder due to his hot spring. A .145/.244 line just isn't going to cut it.
Jesse: I would have to say Chris Snyder. I know spring training stats don't matter at all, but I was still cautiously hoping that he was going to bring some added power to the lineup from behind the plate. The Astros haven't had much in the way of offense at the catcher spot for several years, and I was hoping that a Jason Castro and Chris Snyder tandem would solve that.
With the first pick in the 2012 MLB Draft the Astros select ________________, and why?
Chris: With the first pick in the 2012 MLB Draft the Astros select Kevin Gausman, because he's an LSU Tiger and that makes him the best player in this draft class. Oh, also he throws mid-high 90's, has a tough curveball, and the stuff to be a number 1 starter. As a college pitcher, he has a shorter timetable to the majors.
Joshua: Mike Zunino. I have multiple issues with Byron Buxton that I'm not going to go into here. The problem with drafting Appel or Gausman is we are looking at what we need NOW, rather than what will come in handy four or five years down the line, when these chumps actually make the majors. People are going to shudder because of Max Sapp and J.R. Towles but I can live with that.
Clack: Another hard question. I’ll go with Baseball America’s prediction of Appel. But I’m not confident, and have something in the back of my mind telling me it will be a surprise. Reason: If it happens, I think it will be because the Astros want the lower risk of a college player and the college position players are a weak crop.
David: Kevin Gausman, because he's a college arm who can make an impact quickly and they haven't been linked to him much at all. I think the Astros are being very stealthy and we'll see Gausman rumors explode days before the draft.
William: Lucas Giolito. He was probably going to go first overall before he got injured this year and I don’t see why he shouldn’t still go #1. Fastball sits at 95. Has a great curve. He’s 6-6 and projectable. The Astros have a lack of starting pitchers in the minors that have the ceilings of #1 or #2 starters. The only pitchers that come to my mind are Jarred Cosart and Mike Foltynewicz, with perhaps Ruben Alaniz and some others in the very low minors. However, none of these guys other than Cosart are rated as top-100 talent on a national scale. If the Astros can’t develop a good pitching staff in the future, they’re going to have to go to the free-agent route, which would be super costly. Giolito has a chance to anchor our rotation of the future.
Sean: Without question, the Astros should select Byron Buxton! Buxton is a true 5 tool player and a cornerstone type player that the Astros could built their roster around. I don't agree with the national media that say the Astros will go with a college starter simply because guys like Mark Appel, Kyle Zimmer, or Kevin Gausman will go through the system faster than a high school guy like Byron Buxton. This is the wrong approach for a team rebuilding that has been infamous for drafting based on need rather than drafting the best available. In this case, draft the best available and in this case that player is Byron Buxton.From Baseball America...
He shows good balance in his short swing, excellent bat speed and a knack for centering the ball—all things necessary to hit for a high average. And there's power potential too—which he showed off by finishing second in the Under Armour game home run derby—with more to come as he continues to fill out and mature physically. His explosive athleticism and five-tool potential has already led some scouts to compare the Georgia commit to a hybrid of the Upton brothers.
Jesse: I am still going to go with Mark Appel. No one has really separated themself as the best player available in this years draft, and Appel does have good stuff. Hopefully eventually the results will start matching the scouting reports.
Who is the first Astros to be traded?
Chris: The first Astro to be traded will be Brett Myers. Closers have been dropping like flies around the league and some old-school GM will panic and make a move to get him.
Joshua: Brett Myers is looking good for your money.
Clack: Myers. I think relief pitchers will be in big demand, because of the problems with closers around the league. I think there will be a lot options for starting pitchers on the mid season market, with Oswalt still available, and perhaps some surprising teams selling off players. If the Phillies don’t pick up the pace, pitchers like Halliday, Lee, or Hamel may be on the trade market.
David: Brett Myers. With all the panic from bullpen implosions, couldn't you see a team like the Phillies breaking down and dealing for Myers? Is Jeff Luhnow even allowed to deal with Philly or did Ed Wade use up all the franchise's trade chances with them?
William: The Astros will have Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, and Carlos Lee coming off of big contracts this winter. Given that Brett Myers is doing quite well in a closer’s role, he would be a good fit for a team in need of a closer by the trade deadline. I don’t see Brett Myers sticking around for the whole season if he keeps pitching this well since he probably wouldn’t be back next year unless he signs for really cheap, which wouldn’t happen. He would probably be able to fetch us a few relief pitching prospects in return.
Sean: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's going to be a pitcher and I will say that it's going to be Brett Myers. Myers value is as high as its ever been as a closer and I would look for the Astros to go out an trade Myers while the value is extremely high. There are teams that will contend that could use back of the end rotation help leading up to the trade deadline. Look for the Astros to see high and sell fast on Myers.
Jesse: My guess is Wandy Rodriguez. He's off to a great start this season and should be attractive to team's looking for rotation help down the stretch. All of the other veterans come with a catch. Myers has performed well as a closer, but is being paid like a starter, Carlos Lee makes a gazillion dollars and isn't performing all that well, and Brandon Lyon has been good lately but also has a high salary.
What Minor League player do you want to see in Houston before the season is out?
Chris: The only minor league player I want to see in the majors is Fernando Martinez. He's hitting at AAA, Bogusevic and Martinez are struggling, and he has the least to benefit by remaining in the minors. I think it would be a mistake to rush any of Singleton, Cosart, C Wallace, Clemens, etc to the majors. There's just not anything that can be gained by starting their service clock this year instead of next June.
Joshua: Kevin Chapman. I'm intrigued to see how he fares in the majors. At the time of writing this, he's got a 1.20 ERA and a monstrous K/9 rate. He'd certainly be more interesting to watch than Enerio Del Rosario.
Clack: It’s too early to say, because I don’t know who will have the kind of year that justifies a call up. I don’t want to see a call up of prospects unless they are clearly ready. If Paul Clemens can get straightened out, I would be excited to see him in the majors.
David: Jonathan Singleton. It's irrational, I know, but I'd really like him to get a taste of the big leagues in September to see if he could stick there next season. That's a big jump for him and he probably won't be ready by then, but man, how much fun would an Lowrie-Altuve-Singleton infield be?
William: Well, there are a few players on my mind. Kevin Chapman to name one, Fernando Martinez another. But what would really make me excited is if Jonathan Singleton got the call in September. He’s always hit for a high average in the minors, including this year. I think calling him up to the majors wouldn’t be much of a negative impact to his development and he has the chance to stay in the majors in 2013 when Carlos Lee’s fat salary comes off the books. The only thing lacking might be his power, but he’s only 20 and has the body of a power hitter. It’s hard to imagine him as a slap hitter in the majors; the homers will come eventually.
Sean: Paul Clemens. Clemens is going to be the first of our top prospects that our down on the farm outside of Lyles that should see time in the rotation this year.
Jesse: Dallas Keuchel, as a September callup. He's off to a great start at Oklahoma City, and if he keeps it up he would probably deserve a chance to see what he can do at the major league level.
Who hits more homeruns Jordan Schafer or Jose Altuve?
Chris: Jose Altuve will hit more home runs than Jordan Schafer. Otherwise, it will be one of the portents of the apocalypse.
David: I'm going with Escorpion, because it's never smart to count him out.
William: This is a tough question because neither project to hit a lot of homers. I think Schafer could hit more homers. He just seems like he has more power than Altuve.
Sean: Jose Altuve. Jordan Schafer just hasn't shown that he's going to be power guy and he's going to have to cut down on his strikeouts. Altuve will help for a little bit of pop and could benefit from the short porch of the Crawford Boxes.
Jesse: Jordan Schafer. So far Schafer looks like a pull hitter, and there's a chance he may turn on a few fastballs and knock them out down the right field line. But, with both of them I would guess that their homerun totals end up being single digits.