On the Astros: Five questions for the second half

Bob Levey

The All-Star break has came and gone, and as expected the Astros are nowhere close to contention. Still, the Astros provide plenty of things to talk about.

Technically, the second half of the MLB season has already passed. There are still 68 games remaining for the Astros this year - plenty of time for some exciting things to happen. Here are some things to look forward to and discuss:

1. Who is the next to experience an MLB debut?

Astros fans can't stop talking about this one. Among batters, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, and Jonathan Villar have the best chance. Unfortunately for Singleton, he has struggled in AAA Oklahoma City and will probably be there for awhile.

Seems like everyone wants it to be Springer, and rightfully so. He has 26 home runs, 72 RBI and 28 stolen bases between AA Corpus Christi and OKC this year, including a .404 average in his 17 games at AAA. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has hinted at a September call up being more likely for the 23-year old outfielder, but if he finishes July the way he's started it, he may be headed for Houston in August.

The guy that has appeared most likely to get the call is Villar. The 22-year old shortstop has had the best year of his career with OKC in 2013, sporting career-bests in OPS (.788), average (.280), and slugging percentage (.447). His improvement in driving the ball (31 extra-base hits) offsets possible worries about an inflated .361 batting average on balls in play leading to regression. Add in the horrible shortstop play this year for Houston, and Villar seemed to be on the fast track to the bigs. His only problem - where is he? He hasn't played since July 6, and nobody seems to know why. Whenever he does return, Houston will surely want to see him play little more at OKC before getting a promotion.

Now that Jarred Cosart has finally gotten his call, Asher Wojciechowski, Josh Zeid and Jason Stoffel look to have the best chance out of the pitchers on the farm. Wojo has been great lately - allowing only one in his last 20 innings pitched. Like Springer, Asher started at AA, killed it, and got to AAA while still succeeding. Zeid and Stoffel have shined in relief roles and may just get lucky in a situation where Houston needs an arm, but they seem to be destined for OKC until September.

The guess: Springer

2. When will Cosart return?

Cosart made his magical debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 12 and was sent back down to AAA the next day. As a result, he was able to start the AAA All-Star game last night on regular rest, throwing a rough 1.2 innings (four earned runs). With such an impressive debut, it seems logical that he would return July 23. But Cosart was very aware that he would be sent back down after his MLB debut, and talked like he would be down in OKC for a few more starts to work on some things, so who knows what the plan is.

The guess: Early August

3. Can Brett Wallace keep it going?

You know the story - he absolutely sucked at the start of the year, went to OKC, was awesome, and now has come back to Houston and played quite well. The confidence looks like it is back for Wally, but now it has to continue. His numbers were great at AAA (.326 avg., 11 dingers, .952 OPS), but was certainly helped along by a crazy .425 BABIP. Astros fans want so bad to believe that it will finally click for Wallace; hopefully they aren't disappointed again.

The guess: Wallace cools off considerably, doesn't get his season batting average past .240

4. Who gets traded?

No need to go into a ton of detail here, seeing as The Crawfish Boxes has an entire StoryStream dedicated to the topic. This season's trade deadline may not be as exciting for Astros fans as 2012's (maybe teams are scared of trading with Luhnow now?), but there are definitely some expendable parts of this roster. Bud Norris seems to be the only one creating a lot of interest, while the Astros would likely want to get rid of Carlos Pena, Erik Bedard and Lucas Harrell if they could find a decent deal. The Astros will be more picky with guys like Chris Carter, Carlos Corporan and Jose Veras, but if a solid package is offered, the Astros will could take it.

The guess: Pena and Veras are dealt

5. Do the Astros finish with the worst record?

If the last few weeks are any indication, the answer to this question is yes. Thirteen losses in the last 17 MLB playing days have helped the 'Stros regain the worst record in the Majors. With 61 losses and 68 games left, a 19-49 record would put the Astros at 110 losses, which would surely give them the No. 1 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. Throw in a 10-30 record at some point like the Astros did to start the year, and Houston will be well on the Road to Rodon.

Houston has had stretches of good play at multiple different times this year and will probably have a few more to keep them away from 110 and maybe under 105. Houston obviously has the best chance to have the worst record, but Bo Porter will push his team to a second half that keeps the Astros away from the top spot in the '14 draft

The guess: Meanwhile the Marlins suck even more than Houston and get the top pick

Got your own answers to the questions? Comment with your guesses. Let's discuss!

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