After a rough off-season, Baseball is finally here! Well... Almost - it is spring training and unfortunately, the glorious return of baseball was de-railed by a rain storm cutting us down at only 2 IP.
Before we get to the game, this graphic shows the new rules that were announced for this year:
Rule changes for 2020 pic.twitter.com/Tcukk78K7v— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
The first game of the season didn’t have many big known names, which I saw a ton of speculation that it was due to risk of being beaned. (Unconfirmed) - But it’s none particularly unusual to have prospects getting more playing time in the Spring.
And so Spring Training begins! https://t.co/o6cNmt9FqS— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
In case you don’t recognize these names, here are some notes from Fangraphs top 40 Astros prospects for 2020:
Jeremy Pena - Ranked #11, 40+ FV
We tabbed Pena as a potential breakout candidate last season (he had added about 20 pounds of muscle during the winter) and he did have a pretty good 2019 split between Low- and Hi-A, levels too low for us to really buy in based on stats alone. We think he’ll continue to hit for doubles power while playing a terrific shortstop. Some clubs have him evaluated as a low-end regular, others as a utility player (he’s played some second and third), which we think is more likely.
Jones - Not Ranked but listed under Mashers
“This is pretty self-explanatory. Jones, 26, is on the 40-man, he averaged 91 mph off the bat last year, and hit 48% of his balls in play 95 mph or above. He might be a corner bench piece because of the power.”
Abraham Toro - #3 Astros Prospect - 45+ FV
Most Astros fans are likely familiar with Toro already given his part in the JV game last year but here was Fangraph’s notes:
“It’s rare for evaluations of a player as seasoned as Toro to be as divisive as his are, all the way down to the bones of his tool grades. Running is simple to evaluate using home to first times, but there’s even disagreement over Toro in this area. But let’s start with the most important stuff: the offense. Toro is short-levered and tightly-wound, not the loose, rotational athlete most scouts like. But he muscles balls into both gaps and has solid barrel control, enough to spoil tough pitches and grind out tough at-bats. It’s a pretty well-rounded contact/doubles power/OBP profile even though Toro presents an atypical look.
The same is true of Toro’s defense. When he has the time to really step into a throw, he uncorks rockets, but he’s not the kind of athlete who can make strong throws in tough situations. He’s okay at third base, but there are teams and individual scouts who prefer him at either first or in the outfield corners, and some are really intrigued by the latter possibility because of Toro’s long speed. He’s not a graceful runner, but he can really move once he gets going and his swing has a natural jailbreak, so he’s fast to first. A diverse defensive role seems logical considering how crowded Houston’s 1B/3B situation is, unless Toro gets traded. He has a shot to be an average everyday player if he gets an opportunity, but otherwise should play a valuable, switch-hitting corner role.”
Ronnie Dawson - Ranked #24, 40 FV
“Dawson had a disappointing 2019 if you look at his surface-level stats, but a putrid-looking .212/.320/.403 line was actually good for a 105 wRC+ in the Texas League. Dawson’s arm strength limits him to left and center (where he’s willed himself into becoming a passable defender) but he has sizable raw thump, he walks at an above-average clip, he lifts the ball, has good makeup and is an above-average athlete. He looks like a viable fourth outfielder or platoon option.”
Cristian Javier - Ranked #6, 45 FV
“It’s odd to consider someone with such lowly control a “pitchability” arm, but Javier is exactly that. He manipulates the shape of his breaking balls, pitches backward, and will double and triple up on his changeup when he’s behind in the count, all in an attempt to get to two strikes so he can try to sneak his fastball past hitters. And he does. Javier has fringe velocity but his fastball garners swings and misses more than 17% of the time. Even though he struggles with walks, his career WHIP is just a shade over 1.00 because hitters can’t touch his stuff. It may be in a 90 or 100 inning bullpen role, but Javier projects to be a core piece of Houston’s staff.”
Cristian Javier cruised through a scoreless first inning, with a nice strike out:
Javier gets the strikeout for out 2 of the game! Looking good! pic.twitter.com/2aiy6AmKdB— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
On the offensive side, the Astros lined up against Nationals Ace Max Scherzer. Here was the first inning:
Passed ball moves Jones up to second!— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
Unfortunately, Scherzer got a K to end the threat.
For the second inning? Javier came out firing, getting an initial out with Straw running down a fly ball in center (dude can fly), followed up by back to back strike outs
Javier gets his 3rd K!#Astros pic.twitter.com/iDc361i0jJ— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
Back to the offensive side, unfortunately the Astros were unable to muster much in the 2nd inning:
A Dawson walk and caught stealing, and pop fly to center, and an infield fly (Stubbs) ends the 2nd inning.— The Crawfish Boxes (@CrawfishBoxes) February 22, 2020
Still #Astros 0 - #Nationals 0
With 2 innings, there was not a lot to note but Javier definitely shined. Additionally, I was happy to see Dusty utilizing the shift pretty consistently, giving at least some sighs of relief from people who believed he’d never adopt analytics.
Sure it was only 2 innings, but it’s good for baseball to be back!!
Game 2 of Spring Training
Astros lineup vs. Nationals pic.twitter.com/lPSdtA62Ke— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 23, 2020