Some things to talk about as one of the luminaries around baseball internets is leaving Lookout Landing...
1) The state of the pitching staff
After four pitchers were reassigned to minor league camp, the Astros are left with 23 pitchers in major league camp. Let's break down who's got a shot to stick in the rotation and who might end up in the bullpen.
Who are the pitchers left with spring starts? Bud Norris, Phillip Humber, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, Alex White, Erik Bedard, John Ely, Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock. Of those, only Norris, Humber, Harrell, Lyles and White have two or more starts.
That seems like a fairly reasonable starting five once the regular season rolls around. Bedard might be there instead of White if he can get over his injury issues. But, we're still so early in the spring, a ton of movement is possible. Last year, Harrell did not have the most starts, but Houston decided to go with him instead of Livan Hernandez, so maybe we see a similar switch with someone like Peacock or Ely over Bedard or White or (dare I say) Jordan Lyles.
As for the bullpen, here are the pitchers left who haven't gotten starts: Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Paul Clemens, Rhiner Cruz, Josh Fields, Chia-Jen Lo, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright, Kevin Chapman, Sergio Escalona, C.J. Fick, Edgar Gonzalez, Jose Valdez, Josh Zeid.
If we assume Veras, Field and Wright have spots locked up and that Houston will carry a 12-man pitching staff to open the season, that leaves four bullpen spots unoccupied. If one of those is a long reliever like John Ely, Gonzalez or Alex White, we're down to three spots. Will one of those be another left-handed reliever?
If we're going by innings pitched, Ambriz, Cedeno and Valdez may be on the outside looking in, as they have as many innings (2 2/3) as guys like Ross Seaton and Jose Cisnero who were just reassigned to the minors. Ambriz could still be in the mix for a bullpen spot, as he's been limited by an injury.
How do you handicap the field? Who do you think is in the lead for those final spots? Could you see Houston keeping Edgar Gonzalez as the long reliever instead of White or Ely? Does a NRI like Chapman have a shot at making the major league team?
2) Jim Callis on Mark Appel
There were some interesting Twitter conversations between Jim Callis and Astros fans this morning about this year's draft. Specifically, Callis talked about Mark Appel and how he could still be the guy the Astros take at the top of this year's draft.
His point was that Appel isn't markedly different than he was last season, even if he is a year older and he may be the most talented guy in this year's crop of draftees. He also said he's got leverage from his talent, if not from his ability to go back to school, which means he probably doesn't expect Appel to sign for a discount.
He also said that while he put Appel at the top of BA's mocks last season, it was because that's what he'd heard from industry sources, but that he ranked him behind Buxton and Correa in terms of talent.
That last part, about hearing through industry sources that Appel was the guy, is important. We know how buttoned up this Houston front office is. So, how much can we trust draft talk from places like Baseball America? Should we listen to our own talent evaluators here on TCB (who are doing a great job, BTW), or should we trust what their industry sources are saying?
Anyway, I expect we'll be hearing much more Mark Appel to the Astros talk as we get closer to the draft. This was just the beginning.
3) Luhnow on new Klaw podcast
Jeff Luhnow took to the Internet radio the other day and joined Keith Law on his inaugural podcast follow-up to Baseball Today for ESPN.
How much should I be stressing over wins and losses this year?
As an Astros fan, you remember that in 2005, the Astros were in the World Series. It's been a very frustrating journey since that pinnacle moment. For Astros fans, this is not Year Two of new ownership, it's year seven or eight. There's a lot of frustration in the fan base. We recognize that. The best thing we can do to make the Astros great again is build our own system, buld our own players, complement them with players from the outside and get to the point where we can consistently compete. Our whole strategy is getting to that point as quickly as possible.
It's a good listen, so I'm not going to spoil it. Luhnow is the first 15 minutes or so of the podcast, so it's also not a long listen.
He did talk about the rotation, was very complimentary of Alex White and didn't mention John Ely at all. Uh-oh....