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Friday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Tony Kemp, offseason grading and back-end starters...

Some things to talk about while Ryan is in regular season form...

1) Tony Kemp and ZiPS

Bet against Tony Kemp at your own risk.

The former Vanderbilt second baseman has rocketed through the Astros system since being drafted in 2013. Last year, he posted one of the best hypothetical WAR seasons in the minors last year. He's projected for 1.4 fWAR by ZiPS next season, if he got 500 plate appearances.

And, he got ranked at No. 100 on the ZiPS Top 100 prospect list published on ESPN recently.

Tony Kemp may not be a star. He may not have a position, as long as Jose Altuve remains in Houston. He may be right at home in the teens of the TCB Top 30 list. But, if you want a sneaky prospect who could become a big part of the Astros' 2017 World Series team? Point to Tony Kemp.

2) Sporting News on Astros offseason

Jesse Spector reviewed the Astros offseason, along with the rest of the American League, in a slideshow over at the Sporting News.

He had nice things to say about Houston's offseason, giving them a "B," and ranking them as having the fourth-best offseason in the AL.

At the same time, Spector questions the ultimate impact about all these moves.

For the moves that did get made, there's not a whole lot to take issue with, but there also isn't a move that says, hey, the Astros are gonna be for real now

Harsh, but fair. None of the moves were slam dunks. None of the moves were on par with trading for Jason Heyward. Gattis improves the roster, but has question marks. Jed Lowrie improves the infield, but has question marks.

Despite Jim Crane's recent comments, the Astros will struggle to get to .500 this season. My completely unscientific projection has them at 80 wins this season. A playoff berth means they need to aim for 90 wins, a 20-game improvement over last season.

I just don't see that right now. To get there, Houston would have to have six or seven things go right for young players and see no negative regression from other 2014 breakout guys. They'd have to be lucky with injuries.

All that's possible, sure. But it's not probable. And that's okay.

Houston's building deliberately. They took the next step this winter, adding real, MLB players to make a roster that should be close to .500. That next step, which Spector alludes to, may be a year away.

3) Back-end starter choices dwindling

Welp. After things got weird with Ryan Vogelsong, the fifth-starter market has continued to dry up for the Astros.

The latest domino to fall was Kyle Kendrick, who signed with Colorado on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million.

It leaves the Astros without that veteran presence in the back of the rotation that they've had the past few years. It also means that, right now, they could be relying on rookies to fill big roles if they get hit with a couple injuries.

Good news! About 12 rookie pitchers per season throw 100 or more innings with ERA- numbers better than league average. It's not impossible for the Astros to just be happy with what they have on hand. Dan Straily may be a find. Brett Oberholtzer may take a step forward. Jake Buchanan could become that long reliever they have wanted in previous years.

Unlike the last few seasons, Houston has the luxury of actually having experienced pitchers competing for the final two rotation spots. Kyle Kendrick for $5.5 million doesn't look so great. Kevin Correia isn't exactly necessary when you've got Peacock and other young options.

Injuries could quickly eat through that depth. A setback for Peacock, ineffectiveness for Straily and one other wild card injury could quickly sap Houston's pitching depth.

Let's say the Astros use 7-10 starting pitchers in 2015. Who are those guys from No. 6 to No. 10? How big a drop will it be from No. 4 in the rotation to that No. 9 guy?

Maybe it's not a big deal. The Astros appear to feel comfortable with the depth they have now. At least, they seem to have felt that the price for those back-end starting pitching bargain bin guys wasn't worth their performance.

Let's hope they're right.