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5 Key Takeaways from Week 1 of Spring Training

One week down, two to go. What have we seen so far?

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MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

First, the standard caveats. It’s only spring training. It’s a small sample. Blah blah.

Baseball is back and it’s all I’ve got to write about right now. So here goes.

  1. Justin Verlander isn’t too old to still pitch

Maybe we think he’s just supposed to be good....Forever. Even after two years of not pitching and one Tommy John surgery later. So 4.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and plus velo during Spring Training might not impress you much, but you can be sure if he pitched like Brandon Bielak did last night (2 IP, 4 ER, 6 hits) there’d be loads of buzz about how the Astros blew wads of cash on a washed-up has been.

2. Yuli Gurriel isn’t too old to hit

In two games Yuli is 3-5 with two homers, one grand slam, and 6 RBI. Last year he won the batting title at age 37. Is it possible he’s still getting better?

3. Bryan Abreu threw strikes

OK, this one is both a really small sample size and very subjective, but I saw something I haven’t seen before in Bryan Abreu last night. Sharp command. It was only one inning (no runs, 1 hit, 2 Ks) but he looked dominant. His stuff and velocity were wicked as usual but he was also throwing strikes and hitting his spots. Once considered a top prospect, his failure with command has caused his stock to drop. Maybe he’s ready to fulfill his potential, and if so, that will be a big plus for the Astros.

4. Pedro Leon Looks ready

The 23-year-old Cuban defector and top prospect is 2-6 and homered off Adam Wainwright. He makes the game look easy and he plays the two positions where the Astros have the biggest question marks: shortstop and centerfield. He’s not on the 40-man roster but so far he looks like he’s not far away from making an impact in the show.

5. Jeremy Pena has the intangibles

Is it possible that the reason the Astros let Carlos Correa go without much struggle is that they are that high on Jeremy Pena? The Athletic published an article today all raves about the attitude, work ethic, and overall potential of the 24-year-old rookie. Jose Altuve said: “He’s going to be a superstar. I can tell by his attitude. He wants to be the best.” Other luminaries in the Astros organization and even outside the org were quoted to similar effect. Altuve even thinks Pena can be a .280, 20 homer guy with a .900 OPS.

I remember people saying similar things about the 20-year-old Correa in his rookie season.

Correa? Who’s that?

Yes, it’s way too soon to nominate Pena for the Hall-of-Fame. But as they say, hope springs eternal.