The Astros are now the least-winningest team in the Major Leagues and are on-target for another first-overall draft pick. Matt Garrioch at minorleagueball.com, a SB Nation sister-site, lists some of the top prospects for the 2013 MLB draft. Now's as good a time as any to start the conversation. Given the Astros' abysmal offensive woes of late, that Austin Wilson guy sounds good to me. Consider me on the early bandwagon.
J.A. Happ pitched a quality start tonight (5.1 IP, 2 ER, 0BB), followed by an awful one (1 IP, 5 ER, 1 BB). The damage included three Home Runs (Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, Rickie Weeks). Why does Weeks not spell his name Ricky? I digress.
The offense did nothing, as usual. Read on to find out the gory details.
The Astros' entire offense was generated on a 400-ft blast by Scott Moore followed by a warning-track out to center in his next at-bat. This is the first time I've seen Moore play, and he passes the eyeball test at the plate. He's bounced around for his whole career and put up relatively average minor league numbers overall, but a closer look shows that he's hit .297/.380/.484 since 2010 in AAA. In that sense, and from an eyeball standpoint, he reminds me a little of Luke Scott with maybe a tad less oomph. If Moore can follow Scott's career path, that's a great success story and a good find for the Astros.
Sadly, that's the extent of the offensive excitement on the Astros' side of the ball this evening. Jose Altuve dropped below .300 tonight with an 0-fer and Jordan Schafer continues to swing at who-knows-what (two more strikeouts).
Jason Castro had two base hits tonight. He's started July slowly, but hopefully he can continue to build on his .302/.367/.453 June. With the rough play overall lately, it would be nice for the Astros to see one of their recent high draft picks begin to round into form offensively.
To me, Matt Dominguez looks uncomfortable at the plate, or even awkward. Tonight was the first I've seen him. He bends his knees slightly while waiting for the windup, his back straight and perpendicular to the ground. He seems to have no routine and waits for the pitcher before doing anything. Then as the pitcher releases the ball, Dominguez leans forward into what looks like a more traditional balanced stance, widening his feet before stepping into his swing (or not). With that much motion and extreme shift of body weight, I don't see how it's possible for him to balance his center of gravity before swinging. I would think that his bat control and contact percentage would suffer accordingly. But again, these are just my very first impressions after only a few plate appearances. Still, the only Astro that looked worse at the plate tonight was Schafer.
Shafer gets a section of his own tonight. It's time to send him back to AAA to straighten some things out. He's been recently benched for his attitude, is striking out in a third of his at-bats, has not had an OPS above .540 since May, and seems to be checking out on some defensive plays. If he is the regular center fielder after the All-Star break, I may pull my hair out. Brandon Barnes is hitting .321 in AAA and is a non-prospect at 26 years old, and that's after hitting .317/.377/.517 in Corpus earlier this season. There's no justification for continuing to put up with Schafer when there's a player in the minors who at best won't make your team worse than it is now and seems to have earned his fifteen minutes of fame in The Show. Barnes certainly isn't the long-term answer, but Schafer needs to get the bats cleared out of his belfry. #FreeBrandonBarnes #FreeAstrosFansFromJordanSchafer
More of my game thoughts after the jump...
I always speak too soon with J.A. Happ. In the middle of the the sixth inning he had 80 pitches thrown, only two earned runs, and zero walks. I turned to my wife and said, "Happ is pitching really well tonight." Happ then was pulled in the seventh after allowing seven earned runs. Every time I watch Happ pitch I feel like he's been better than his statistical line has shown, and tonight was no exception. His biggest difficulty is that when he makes a mistake, batters make him pay big time - every time.
The bullpen finished out nicely, though it could not have been fun for Ryan Braun when Rhiner Cruz drilled him in the back with a 96-mph fastball.
The defense was uninteresting. Jed Lowrie made a very nice catch-spin-throw to get a runner at first. Johnson looks competent at First Base and dug a few out of the dirt. Moore belly-flopped in right field after a ball that landed six feet away from him. Schafer misjudged a deep fly that ended up rolling to the wall, but to be fair it was a very difficult play in the first place. He's got the speed to make that play, but seemed to misread how hard it was hit.
I enjoy watching hitters that come over from the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Aoki (2 H, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB, SB) is a prototypical Japanese player. His swing is the same motion as his first step towards first base, a-la Ichiro. It's a very disciplined approach that is fun to watch because it is so different from how we teach our boys here in America.
Holy cow, Livan Hernandez has put on some pounds. It's great that he's still pitching, but dang. I can't judge too harshly because I've put on a few also, but I'm not paid a ridiculous amount of money to be a professional athlete.