Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:27 pm
By Matt Snyder
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.
The most interesting thing about our latest installment in this series is that I believe this would have been one of the better teams in the majors had we done the exercise three or four years ago. How good would a Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Freddy Garcia top three in the rotation have been a handful of years ago -- along with Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and Bobby Abreu leading the offense? Alas, we're doing it now and some of that sounds far less enticing. Still, let's check it out.
1. Hunter Pence, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Ben Zobrist, RF
4. Lance Berkman, LF
5. Bobby Abreu, 1B
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. John Buck, C
8. Aaron Miles, SS
1. Johan Santana
2. Roy Oswalt
3. Wandy Rodriguez
4. Bud Norris
5. Jordan Lyles
Closer - Brad Lidge
Set up - Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Fernando Abad,
Long - Felipe Paulino, Freddy Garcia
Notable Bench Players
Ramon Castro, Carlos Guillen, Drew Sutton, Brooks Conrad, Brian Bogusevic
The trio of Pence, Zobrist and Berkman makes the front part of the offense look really attractive and Abreu offers decent protection for the Puma. Fitting in that two-hole would also do wonders for the development of the young Altuve. Can we assume health in this exercise, considering it's for fun? Sure, I will. So the starting rotation looks pretty good -- albeit not dominant anymore -- with Johan as the ace and Oswalt a good number two (remember, back issues hampered him last year). If Lyles isn't ready yet, we can plug in Garcia or Paulino as the five.
Lidge and Qualls aren't bad, but there is nothing in front of them worth much except two starting pitchers -- and, again, we may need one of the two in the rotation. The bottom part of the batting order isn't very good either and the bench is thin. But let's focus on what is really bad: The defense. I fought back and forth with whether to put Abreu or Berkman in LF, but either one is a bad choice. I just feel like Berkman can move better at this point. I also had to shift Pence to center, even though he's better suited in right. Miles is much better used at second base and he's not even really good there.
Comparison to real 2011
Well, the 2011 Astros were the worst team in the majors and in franchise history. This team isn't particularly good, but it's better than that. With that rotation, a decent back-end of the bullpen and some offense, these Astros should be able to work close to the 75-win range. One thing is for sure, they wouldn't be the worst team in the NL Central. I also feel like the best news for Astros fans is there would actually be some name players here to root for, after having seen the likes of Oswalt, Berkman, Pence and Michael Bourn traded over the past two real seasons. Still, you can't help but think that there are enough pieces here that the Astros could have properly built a real-life team that was still in contention in 2011 -- had they made the right moves.
Next: Los Angeles Dodgers
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Tags: Aaron Miles, Astros, Ben Zobrist, Bobby Abreu, Brad Lidge, Brian Bogusevic, Brooks Conrad, Bud Norris, Carlos Guillen, Chad Qualls, Chris Johnson, Drew Sutton, Felipe Paulino, Fernando Abad, Freddy Garcia, Homegrown, Hunter Pence, Johan Santana, John Buck, Jordan Lyles, Jose Altuve, Lance Berkman, Matt Albers, Matt Snyder, NL Central, Ramon Castro, Roy Oswalt, Troy Patton, Wandy Rodriguez
Posted on: September 19, 2011 12:11 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 12:20 pm
By Matt Snyder
Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...
Team name: Houston Astros
Record: 52-100, 37.5 games back in NL Central
Manager: Brad Mills
Best hitter: Carlos Lee -- .277/.338/.455 with 18 HR, 86 RBI, 59 R, 36 2B
Best pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez -- 11-10, 3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 177 2/3 IP, 160 K
Unfortunately for the Astros, leading off the R.I.P. series means they're the worst team in baseball. So the biggest theme of the 2011 season in Houston was losing. They've already set a franchise record with 100 losses and could creep up on the MLB list of most losses in history with a bad final week and a half. The "best hitter" listed above is by default because both Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence were traded at the deadline. With the ownership situation in limbo -- Jim Crane still hasn't been approved -- it's hard to tell what direction the Astros will take in the future. One would expect promising youngsters like Jose Altuve and Jordan Lyles to lead a youth movement.
2011 SEASON RECAP
It was pretty forgettable from Day 1, when the Astros blew a ninth-inning lead against the Phillies. The Astros would open the season 0-5 and never get back to .500 -- the closest they got was when they were 7-11. Perhaps unbelievably, they did win the season series against the defending champion Giants (four games to three). They also took two of three from the Blue Jays, but didn't have a winning record against anyone else. The best month was August, when the Astros went 12-17. So that pretty much sums it up.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Astros GM Ed Wade dealt Bourn and Pence before the non-waiver trade deadline in July for some prospects. He also traded Jeff Keppinger. There was a youth movement from about the middle of the season on, but it's a pretty lackluster movement, as the system simply isn't stocked with much talent -- for example, in Baseball Prospectus' midseason top 50 prospects, Altuve was No. 42. He was the only Astros prospect on the list. The preseason top 101 only had two Astros, with Lyles at 59 being the top prospect in the system.
Basically, they have a long way to go in order to get back to respectability, and I'd venture to guess the overwhelming majority of Astros fans would even admit as much. Whenever there's an ownership change, they need to start over. The mantra should be to clean house and build a foundation from the ground (low-level minor leagues) up ...
Which leads us here. Can the Astros compete in 2012? We obviously have no way of knowing exactly what's going to go down in the offseason, but it's hard to see the team being much improved by next season. Most of the young players either aren't very impressive or aren't yet ready. The veterans still on the roster are either not very good or past their respective primes -- which is why they weren't traded like Bourn and Pence.
As you can see below, there isn't really any money coming off the books from the current club, though dealing Bourn and Pence did help matters a bit there. Still, it's unlikely the Astros have tons of money to burn on free agency, so the team will have to improve either internally, or through trading veterans like Brett Myers, Lee or Rodriguez. Considering the salaries of each player compared to production, they aren't going to land enough back to immediately make a drastic improvement.
Unless the youngsters all make huge leaps, it's entirely possible the Astros are again the worst team in baseball in 2012.
Clint Barmes, 2B
Jason Michaels, OF
As stated above, there has to be a complete makeover of the entire organization. Minor-league player development and a youth movement should continue to be the focus. Even if new ownership is firmly in place before free agency and opens the floodgates with spending -- which is, again, unlikely -- there isn't enough in place to make the team competitive with big signings. For example, say the Astros land Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson. (I'll pause for laughter). That still isn't a playoff team. It would be like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, and by the time the youth movement was ready to help those three, they might not be in their prime anymore.
Instead, a much better road map would be to follow the Royals' plan. Fill in holes with temporary players while waiting on the prospects from the low levels of the minors like Delino DeShields Jr. (2B), Jonathan Singleton (1B), Chris Wallace (C) and Jarred Cosart (SP) to develop. Meanwhile Lyles, Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, J.D. Martinez and others already in the bigs need to continue to develop. Of course, the Royals had the best farm system in baseball heading into this season while the Astros were ranked in the bottom five by most outlets. So, again, that's where the focus should be for the next few years. The entire system should be revamped.
So if I was the incoming Astros owner, here's what I'd hope to do:
Posted on: September 17, 2011 4:25 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
The A's -- from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland -- have the most 100-loss seasons on their record, 16. The Astros are now just one of six teams to have just one 100-loss season on their record, joining the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Marlins and Reds.
The Astros have won just 51 games this season to go with 100 losses. Houston has 11 games remaining, meaning it's unlikely they'll lose more than 110 games. Since World War II, only four teams have lost more than 110 games, with the Diamondbacks losing 111 in 2004 and the Tigers losing 119 in 2003.
Houston took an early lead, scoring on an error by Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the first inning, but Chicago scored on an error by Astros catcher Carlos Corporan in the bottom of the inning and took the lead on Bryan LaHair's second homer of the season in the fourth inning. Henry Sosa picked up the loss, his fifth of the season.
Chicago's Sean Marshall loaded the bases in the ninth inning with one out, but struck out Jose Altuve and got pinch hitter Humberto Quintero to ground out to help the Cubs avoid their 86th loss of the season.Houston has by far the worst record in the majors this season, with Minnesota (59-90) and Baltimore (61-88) left as the only other teams with a chance of losing 100 games in 2011.
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Posted on: July 19, 2011 6:52 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 5:34 pm
By Evan Brunell
The Giants acquired middle infielder Jeff Keppinger in an attempt to shore up the infield, which has been a point of contention for the defending World Series champions, Houston announced.
In return for giving up Keppinger, the 'Stros received relievers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel, while also tabbing infielder Jose Altuve as Keppinger's replacement.
Shortstop has been an issue in San Francisco all season long with the artist formerly known as Miguel Tejada passing the time at short with a .242/.274/.334 line in 322 plate appearances. To his credit, he's run up a .902 OPS in July but 45 plate appearances hardly means much. Rookie Brandon Crawford has also received playing time on the value of his glove as he's hitting an unimpressive .197/.281/.277 in 154 PA. Emmanuel Burriss and Mike Fontenot have also seen some time at short although they're occupied these days will playing second base as Freddy Sanchez is lost to injury.
Keppinger won't lack for playing time between second and shortstop, but could also spell Pablo Sandoval at third. That's the value of Keppinger: he can play all over the infield and has even made appearances in left and right field despite not being an exceptional fielder. He's hitting .307/.320/.436 on the season, racking up 169 PA for Houston, missing the first two months of the year due to left foot surgery. Last season, as a full-time player, he hit .288/.351/.393, so there's offense to be had.
The Giants also called up first baseman Brandon Belt and put him in the lineup for Tuesday night's game at first base. Belt lost his active-roster spot earlier when he went on the disabled list and was then optioned to Triple-A after starting the year with a .211/.328/.281 line in 67 PA. He's back after knocking seven home runs in 43 games for Triple-A, hitting a cool .324/.462/.549, with third catcher Hector Sanchez losing his roster spot. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports that the Giants may wait to see how Keppinger and Belt help the offense before deciding what price to pay for Carlos Beltran of the Mets, who could immediately inject a bopper into the middle of the lineup. Belt could be that bopper with the ability to move around from first base to left and right field, but won't get much time before July 31 to deliver.
From Houston's end, the deal made sense. Keppinger is appealing to San Francisco because of his $2.3 million contract plus the ability to retain him during the player's final year of arbitration in 2012. But Keppinger wasn't a vital part of the rebuilding process underway, while Jose Altuve, 5-foot-7 (that's listed height, so knock two-to-three inches off for real height) offers a brighter future. Altuve impressed many with his turn at the Futures Game during the All-Star festivities and will immediately start at second base in lieu of Keppinger after hitting .361/.388/.569 for Double-A. at age 21. He has 10 homers combined between Double-A and high-Class A. He still needs to refine his basestealing as he's been caught 14 times already but does have a set of wheels, with 24 stolen bases on the season.
The return for Keppinger was solid -- they acquire Henry Sosa, a live-armed 25-year-old who had recently been promoted to Triple-A and enjoyed a rude awakening. He did punch out 36 batters in 40 1/3 innings at Double-A and 21 in 23 1/3 Triple-A innings, so there is some potential there. Stoffel is the more impressive catch, as the 22-year-old has a future as a setup man. He's currently in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.98 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.
For such a marginal trade, there are quite a few ramifications here for each teams, which could signal a selling process for Houston, represents a gambit by San Francisco and takes some chess pieces off the board.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, check out Danny Knobler's trade deadline news and rumors.
Posted on: July 10, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 8:17 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
PHOENIX -- Jose Altuve is easy to miss, and when you do see him, even easier to overlook.
But the Astros' second base prospect is showing he's just more than the short guy. And when I say short, I mean he's about the same height as the squatting umpire. Listed at 5-foot-7, Altuve is even shorter.
"I know everyone talks about my size; it's something that doesn't bother me," Altuve said. "When I go to play, they talk about how I'm short but then they talk about other things after they see me play."
His stature has led many to questions about his future in the game. Even at second base, that's really, really short. His bat, however, is making some believers. The 21-year-old from Venezuela is hitting .353/./382/.551 at Double-A Corpus Christi in 33 games in the Texas League. He started the season in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League in high Class A and hit .408/.451/.606. And get this: He's even hit nine home runs this season -- five in Lancaster and four in Corpus Christi.
For Altuve, just making the Futures Game is evidence that he's changing some minds about whether he can ever play in the big leagues.
"This is something I'm playing here with a lot of guys who have played in the big leagues already and almost everyone will play in the big leagues. It's really good," Altuve said before Sunday's game.
During Sunday's game, Altuve started at second and played second (while wearing No. 2 to top it off). He doubled in his first at-bat and singled in his second, finishing 2 for 3 before being replaced by Jonathan Schoop.
Altuve has already made one move up the Astros' minor-league ladder and could be looking at Triple-A soon.
"I don't think too much about it," he said. "Once something happens, it happens. I just worry about going to field and playing hard. They can do what they want with me."For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.