Carlos Rodon For the Astros 2014
This is the real life documentary of the Bad News Bears
These are just some of the few comments I keep hearing in regards to the 2013 Houston Astros. This team is expected to be bad and the objective evidence isn't exactly contradicting that idea. But hope Springs eternal optimism and I think the naysayers and the "Go for the number one pick in the MLB draft" promoters are in for a big shock this season and here's why.
He's got a year under his belt and like a magician he's already taken one of the worst farm systems and made it a top 10 farm system. There is still more work that needs to be done in terms of stocking the farm system with premium talent but that takes time, luck and a fantastic scouting department (it is called premium talent for a reason). For the most part though the farm system is much improved being ranked anywhere from fourth to 11th by national evaluators, with that in mind it is time for him to start focusing on the major league roster. I'm not expecting a playoff contender this year but I do expect to see improvement this year in both team talent and the win-loss record. Then again their is that dreaded sophomore slump that effects general managers just as much as players.
Of the 15 manager changes the Astros have gone through the new manager has had a better record than the previous manager 11 times. Everyone loves Bo Porter, his passion; his drive; his firey attitude; his no nonsense approach; his football drills. He's promised the team will be competitive and to change the atmosphere in the club house. I won't be the one to call Bo Porter a liar, besides the bars set pretty low as is. Losing is hard work, it requires a commitment to overpaying veteran players and a consistent neglection of the farm system.
Much Improved Farm System
As stated above Jeff Luhnow has molded the Astros farm system into one of the better ones in baseball. It doesn't have a lot of premium talent, yet, but it does have depth and we should see some of that depth reach the majors this year. Here are some prospects knocking on the door to the majors: Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Jonathan Villar, Robbie Grossman, Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer, Ross Seaton, Rudy Owens, Austin Wates, Marc Krauss, Kevin Chapman, Chia-Jen Lo, Jose Cisnero, Jake Buchanan, Jake Goebbert, Chris Wallace and recently acquired Brad Peacock. All are expected to see some time at AAA this year and that means they are a good performance and some luck (ineffectiveness, injury) away from making their major league debut.
They aren't the sexiest names but there is bound to be a major leaguer or two in there if not more. That's something this organization hasn't had, a pipeline of prospects that could potentially fill a hole on this team.
Improvement of Young Players at the Major League Level
Jordan Lyles was one of the unluckiest pitchers last season; Jose Altuve made rookie mistakes on defense; Dallas Keuchel's walks per nine innings was well above his minor league numbers; Justin Maxwell and Jason Castro arguably the teams two best players struggled with injuries; J.D. Martinez struggled with his swing and his injured hand. It's unlikely that every single player improves, some will disappoint while others will exceed expectations. A lot went wrong for the young players on this team last year. I don't expect that to continue.
I love our infield. Jason Castro has flashed some potential to be an above average offensive catcher and he's been working hard on his defense this offseason. Matt Dominguez is already a very good defender at third and showed flashes he can hit. Last year major league third basemen hit .262/.323/.415, even if Dominguez doesn't replicate his .284/.310/.477 slash line from last season he'll still be a solid regular at the hot corner.
The only thing wrong with Jose Altuve was some defensive miscues which should be corrected with more experience. That leaves Brett Wallace who will have to hit or be replaced by Jonathan Singelton. Each player in the infield has his own flaws but there is also potential there to be a very solid offensive and defensive infield. Then there is Jed Lowrie who is one of the best shortstops in the league when he's healthy....oh wait he was just traded. Have I mentioned how much I love Jake Elmore.
Law of Averages
Finally, things have a tendency to even out and there is no truer example than baseball. From Dictionary.com:
The idea that probability will influence all occurrences in the long term, that one will neither win nor lose all of the time. For example, If it rains every day this week, by the law of averages we're bound to get a sunny day soon. This colloquial term is a popular interpretation of a statistical principle, Bernoulli's theorem, formulated in the late 1600s.
The last two years the Astros have underperformed on the field according to their Pythagoren record. Most, if not all, baseball experts will tell you that Pythagorean record is very volatile and that a reason for why a team out-performs or under-performs its record has yet to be discovered. I also think that when everyone is sure something is going to happen it is often times the other thing that happens (World Series predictions).
Sunny days are ahead for fans of the Houston Astros and I think they are going to be here sooner than most people expect.