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Spring Training Week Three in Review.

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Things are starting to take shape. How does it look so far?

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves
Spring Training sensation Nick Tanielu
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was great week to be an Astros fan, that is, if you’re the kind of fanatic who cares about Spring Training. (And we’re that kind of fanatic here at TCB) The Astros were 5-3 for the week, but much more fun, scored 51 runs to the opposition’s 32. Sure, it was mostly our minor leaguers beating up on their minor leaguers, but how often does a team coming off a 103 win season still have some of the best prospects around?

Let’s tackle some of the questions inquiring minds are asking this Spring.

The Race For Fifth Starter

Until Sunday it looked like Brad Peacock had it all sewed up in a watertight bag. But getting a start against the Braves, Framber Valdez reminded his supporters why so many, even in the national media, ever considered him the front-runner. He went four scoreless innings, allowing two hits, no runs, and most importantly, allowed no walks with four K’s. In his previous work this week Valdez allowed three runs in three innings with six hits. For the Spring Valdez has lowered his ERA to 4.05 with his strong recent outing. Framber Valdez may be back in consideration for fifth starter.

Still, in this writer’s opinion, Peacock remains the front runner, although he gave up his first runs of the Spring on Saturday by hanging a slider to J.T. Realmuto, who knocked it out of the park. For the week Peacock allowed two runs on six hits in seven innings pitched. He struck out five and walked none. He has a 1.50 ERA for the Spring.

There was a Josh James sighting on Saturday. He had his first appearance of the Spring after a quad injury, pitching one scoreless inning and showing mid to upper nineties on his fastball.

Collin McHugh

Too early to panic just yet on McHugh, who is a notoriously slow starter in Spring Training, but so far he looks like he is throwing batting practice. In this week’s start he only got through 2.2 innings, allowing seven hits, six runs, a homer, 2 walks and only one K. His fastball seemed to be hovering around 87 MPH according to the readings on TV that I saw. Personally I wonder if there is some nagging physical issue that he is trying to pitch through. He may yet turn this around, but it better happen soon.

For the Spring, McHugh has a 15.88 ERA, a .429 batting average against, and a 2.47 WHIP.

Relief Pitching

None of the likely opening day relief specialists allowed any runs this week, unless you think Cionel Perez is still in the running . He made his Spring debut this week, making two appearances, going scoreless in the first, but allowing a three run home run Sunday. His main competition for lefty reliever, Reymin Guduan, pitched three innings, all scoreless, allowing one hit, and notching three K’s and only one walk, a key to his success. For the Spring Guduan has a 2.25 ERA in eight innings, with two walks, twelve strikeouts and an even one for his WHIP.

Outfield and DH

As explained last week, with the wonderful surfeit of outfield talent in the Astros organization, it should be expected that if the Astros carry five outfielders, as reported, that some of these might get playing time at DH if Tyler White doesn’t make a strong claim to those at bats early on.

So far, the front-running fourth and fifth outfielders, Tony Kemp and Jake Marisnick (in no particular order) are doing nothing to diminish their claims to those positions. Kemp was 3-12 this week with a walk. Marisnick was 3-9 with a monster home run against Adam Wainwright. For the Spring Kemp sports an .827 OPS and Marisnick a .915.

Tyler White made some progress this week, going 4-15 with his first Spring homer. But he also struck out five times. For the Spring he is hitting .687 OPS.

Outfielders Derek Fisher and Myles Straw each had five hits this week, and Yordan Alvarez added four, although he also struck out six times. Their Spring OPS’s respectively are: .904, .811, and .779

Newbies Watch

Michael Brantley is rounding into mid-season form...and then some. He was a regular contact machine this week, getting five hits and a walk and no strike outs in ten at bats. His OBP for the Spring is .406.

Aledmys Diaz is warming up for the regular season, going 3-9 for the week, with three walks, no strikeouts and a home run. Due to a slow start his Spring OPS remains mired at .547.

Robinson Chirinos has been red hot almost from the very beginning of Spring Training, and remains so, going 4-11 for the week with a home run, and maintaining a 1.144 OPS for the Spring.

New pitcher Wade Miley continues to cruise, pitching four innings this week, allowing one earned run while collecting five K’s. His Spring ERA is 2.19 with a WHIP of 1.22.

Surprising Prospects

Pitchers

These names are the same as last week’s, so they shouldn’t be surprises anymore.

Brandon Bielak added two more scoreless innings and two strikeouts this week. His Spring stats are: 9 innings pitched, 1.00 ERA, 7 K’s, 4 walks, .107 BAA, 0.78 WHIP.

Brenden McCurry also stays on the surprising prospect list, with 2.1 innings pitched, with 3 hits, 2 walks, but with 7 strikeouts. His Spring stats are: 9 innings pitched, 1.00 ERA, 13 K’s , 6 walks, .138 BAA, 1.11 WHIP.

Hitters

These names are the same as last week’s, so they shouldn’t be surprises anymore. Nick Tanielu and Abraham Toro continue to stay hot and open eyes.

Tanielu was 3-13 this week, but those hits included a home run, his fourth, and a double. His OPS is now 1.194. He leads the team in home runs with four, and RBI, with 15.

Right behind Tanielu in the RBI department is Toro, with 13, who added a grand slam homer this week, as part of a 4-11 onslaught. For the Spring his OPS is up to .943.

Top Prospect Watch

Yordan Alvarez: 40 AB’s, .779 OPS, 6 BB, 12 K’s 0 HR

Kyle Tucker: (saw little action this week) 25 AB’s, .800 OPS, 4 BB, 8 K’s, 0 HR

Forrest Whitley: ( Four scoreless, hitless innings this week) 12.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 4 BB, 15 K’s, 2 HR, 0.75 WHIP

J.B. Bukauskas: (Five scoreless innings this week with 8 K’s) 10 IP, 0.90 ERA, 5 BB, 13 K’s, 0 HR, 1.10 WHIP.

Corbin Martin: (Two scoreless innings this week) 8.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 2 BB, 5 K’s, 2 HR, 1.27 WHIP.

Is there Competition for Back-up Catcher?

If Max Stassi continues his current pace, .504 OPS, well into the regular season, (not unlike his production the second half of last season), could left handed hitter Garrett Stubbs, currently hitting .983 OPS, get the call up? Stay tuned.

Regulars Watch

Here are the ones mashing:

Alex Bregman: 1.546 OPS (Another slow start this year? I doubt it)

Josh Reddick: 1.013

Yuli Gurriel: .924

Carlos Correa: .849