Yes, it’s only Spring Training.
I’m not even going to look up what the Astros Spring Training record is this week. It doesn’t matter. And most of the statistics don’t matter either, but could be of interest for some of the marginal players, the ones fighting for some kind of spot.
There are other stories. Who has impressed? Do the 2019 newbies who replaced the golden oldies look like they can fill the old shoes? Who’s winning the competition for the spots? Is anyone we think the Astros should be able to count on look like they’re struggling? For some, this Spring Training’s performance could even impact career trajectories.
Who has Impressed:
Some veterans who had down seasons last year are off to hot starts: Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, with 1.311 OPS and 1.117 OPS respectively. We can hope from very early returns that perhaps Gurriel is recovered from last season’s hamate injury, and that Reddick has his 2017 stroke back. Here’s to hope. It’s what springs eternal.
Some rookies are making a splash. Yordan Alvarez, Ronnie Dawson, Abraham Toro, and Nick Tanielu, hitting 1.125, .923 .908, 1.257 OPS respectively. Myles Straw is hitting .389 BA, making superman catches in the outfield, and has two stolen bases.
The new catcher, Robinson Chirinos, is making a good first impression, starting Spring Training with a .916 OPS. But perhaps the best news of all Spring Training is not something we measure by numbers, but something we can judge with the old eyeball test.
Carlos Correa is swingin man. He’s pulling the ball to left with authority and power, something the injured 2018 Correa could seldom do. If he keeps swinging like he has been the hits will come, the doubles will come, the long homers will come. Jose Altuve says the race for MVP is between Correa and Alex Bregman. Yea baby.
It’s hard to believe that Correa is still only 24 years old. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are witnessing three Hall of Famers playing in the same infield.
Have to include the Ted watch. Kyle Tucker is hitting .333, but the power show he put on last Spring Training is so far missing. His slugging percentage is .400.
Who has not impressed:
AJ Reed, soon to be 26, needs a better Spring than he has had so far. He has had one hit, a homer, in 14 AB’s, to go with 7 K’s. Par for the course in every one of Reed’s stints in the Big Leagues. Looking like the word AAAA has AJ Reed’s picture next to it in the dictionary. How long does he stay on the 40 man?
Many are concerned about Aledmys Diaz’ 1 for 13 to start the pre-season. He is a proven veteran and his life did not begin with the Astros.
Who has impressed:
To start with, the two essential elements, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander look fine. It’s easy to take that for granted, but if they didn’t look fine, you’d sure hear about that.
Brad Peacock has staked an early claim on the fifth starter spot, pitching two perfect innings with two strike outs and looking sharp doing it. Wade Miley walked only one with no hits in his two innings pitched thus far. So far, so good.
Among veteran relievers Roberto Osuna looked mid-season in two scoreless innings and on Sunday Ryan Pressly made his first appearance, baffling the three batters he faced, striking out the side.
A lot of rookie pitchers have shown thus far that there will be depth in the Minors behind the 12 Big Leaguers. Brandon Bailey and Kit Scheetz have each pitched two perfect innings. Akeem Bostick has thrown 4 scoreless innings, with four hits and no walks. Peter Solomon has thrown three scoreless, hitless innings, but surrendered three walks.
Top 100 prospect JB Bukauskas has shone as well, throwing four scoreless, allowing only a hit and a walk.
Another one to watch is Brandon Bielak, who allowed one run in four innings, but no hits and five strikeouts. His four walks during these innings is out of character, as he surrendered 3 per 9 innings last year in AA.
Time for the Forrest Whitley watch. He proved he was human on Saturday, surrendering a grand slam, although only one of the five runs he surrendered was earned. Still, in five innings total he has allowed only three hits and a walk, and has struck out five.
Who has not impressed:
Are we nearing the end of the line for Brady Rodgers? Is he the AJ Reed of the pitching staff? It’s early of course, but in five innings he has surrendered eight hits and four runs.
For some reason, we haven’t seen Cionel Perez or Will Harris yet. Inquiring minds want to know.
We did see one inning of ostensible third starter Collin McHugh, who left with back discomfort. His start on Monday has been pushed back. Given the Astros record for understating the seriousness of injuries, I am just a little bit discomfortable with this situation.
Of course Josh James is sidelined for now with a quad injury.
Framber Valdez, who had a 2.19 ERA in 37 innings last year, but a 4.65 FIP, has finally achieved his peripherals this Spring Training. He couldn’t pitch around his walks in his second appearance, and in 3.1 innings has a 5.40 ERA, a 2.10 WHIP with three walks and no K’s. He does not seem to have solved his problem with control, and if he doesn’t solve it soon, he may find his way back to the Minors to fix it.
Given the way he ended last season, there should be legitimate concern that Chris Devenski has not found the answer this season to the problems that plagued him last season. He has only shown up once this Spring, and he gave up three hits, a walk and four runs, getting only one out. That was the kind of performance we saw too often last August that got Devo sent to the Minors. Let’s hope he finds his touch soon.
The obligatory, It’s just the first week of Spring Training, small samples of an unrealistic situation. Of course we can’t make big assumptions from these performances, but they must mean something, otherwise why would anyone care even a little bit.
Opening Day is March 28.