Some things to talk about while losing is a disease as contagious as polio...
1) Some thoughts on latest round of cuts
Okay, so we get into some meaty roster talk in a minute, but for now, let's reflect on the guys who got cut this weekend. Not a lot of surprises, as Jorge De Leon, Rhiner Cruz, Jose Cisnero, Chia-jen Lo, Collin McHugh, Rudy Owens and Tyler Heineman were all expected to go to the minors any way.
It does appear Houston is cutting ties with as much of that horrid 2013 bullpen as it can, doesn't it? We figured that would be the case when they signed three relievers, traded for another and picked a fifth up off waivers. But, to see it happen slowly but surely simply confirms that.
McHugh didn't have a shot at the roation, really, but should join Owens as starters at Triple-A who could help in a pinch. Heineman, too, drew plenty of praise from Luhnow, as the GM suggested that with Heineman, it was a question of when, not if the catcher would make the majors.
One of the slightly surprising names to me was Lo. I didn't think Lo would make the roster, but all offseason, Tim seemed pretty set that he had a great chance of being in the bullpen. Since I had no strong feelings either way, I was inclined to side with him. Yet, the sweeping picked him up too.
More names will soon follow, but for now, let's talk about the starting rotation.
2) Dallas Keuchel's chances
There's a nice, if shallow, piece on Dallas Keuchelfrom this weekend that's worth a couple minutes of your time. In it, Jeff Luhnow talks about Keuchel in a way that seems to confirm he's locking up a rotation spot:
"This spring, he's been outstanding. He's had command of his pitches. He's not blowing anybody away, but he's getting outs. And that's exactly what he's proven he can do at the big league level. Right now he's put himself in a real good spot to be a big part of this team."
Halfway through the spring, the rotation probably looks like this: Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock, with Jerome Williams and Lucas Harrell on the outside looking in.
Speaking of roster moves...
3) Predicting the next round of cuts
Houston is probably another week away from making another round of roster cuts. We'll know more in the next week who those players might be, but I thought it'd be a fun exercise to try and predict who might get cut in the next round.
So far, Houston hasn't eliminated any non-roster invitees who weren't already in the minor league system. But, there are still a handful of those guys left. As camp winds down and at-bats and innings get more precious, those could be the first guys to go. Let's lump all the non-roster guys left into a big group then, with a couple 40-man guys added who are bubble candidates (Marwin Gonzalez, Jon Singleton).
I used a highly scientific method of looking at the last five games and seeing which bubble players then had the most appearances/innings pitched/plate appearances. That didn't muddy the picture much, but it was sort of illuminating. Did you know that Carlos Correa had the most PAs over that stretch of any non-roster invitee with 10? Or that Marwin Gonzalez and George Springer were second with eight. Or that Delino DeShields was third with seven?
Neither did I. Of those four, I expect only Marwin to stay through the last round of cuts. In fact, I expect he'll be on the Opening Day roster. But, I bet the three prospects stay in camp until the team leaves for Houston/San Antonio, so they won't be cut next.
On the pitching side, it's harder to get a gauge. Mark Appel is in this group and certainly won't make the OD roster, but his lack of appearances is more from the appendectomy than a comment on his eventual cutting. I bet he stays until Houston breaks camp.
Ditto Mike Foltynewicz, who I'm sure the club wants to get a good, hard look at as he gets closer to the big leagues. Might we see him as a reliever sometime this season?
Also, though he is almost certainly earmarked for the minors, I expect Japhet Amador will get some more time with the club, since he started late. That would help the team evaluate him a little longer. The other first baseman in the mix, Jon Singleton, is our first prediction for the next round of cuts. He hasn't been getting at-bats and is almost certainly ticketed for Triple-A this season.
I also imagine one of the two catchers will be sent down. Carlos Perez has been getting more time than Rene Garcia, which makes me think Garcia is cut in the next round and Perez is sent down when Houston breaks camp. That gives us two cut players so far.
The backup infielder ace is still pretty close, with Gregorio Petit, Marwin Gonzalez and Cesar Izturis all seeing pretty much equal time. As I said before, Marwin almost certainly will be one of the backup infielders, but I don't see the Astros cutting either of these guys so soon. So, none from this group is gone.
On the outfield, we've got a neck-and-neck rivalry between J.D. Martinez and Adron Chambers. Though Martinez has gotten one less appearance than Chambers, he did it in two less games. That makes me think the Astros will evaluate Chambers hard for that fifth outfield spot and means Martinez is sent down in this round of cuts.
Our last guy is one of the relievers in Peter Moylan and Josh Zeid. My guess is that Moylan gets cut and the Astros try to send him to Triple-A, because the righty has no strikeouts and five walks in five innings of work this spring.
Because Houston seems to be dealing in round numbers, I'd also think that Alex White will be the next one sent down, as he hasn't appeared in a spring game with the major league team yet and the starting rotation will shake out soon. I could also see Jerome Williams getting cut here, despite the salary, as he has not looked impressive and gave up a home run to Jobduan Morales and nearly gave one up to Jio Mier Monday. Those are not good signs.
That's it. Our prediction for the next five cuts: Singleton, J.D. Martinez, Moylan, Rene Garcia and Alex White.