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March 29, 2013

Prospectus Preview

These Questions Three: The Bottom of the Barrel

by Russell A. Carleton and Ian Miller

In the week leading up to Opening Day, we're asking and answering three questions about each team in a five-part series ordered by descending Playoff Pct from the Playoff Odds Report. Today, we continue with a look at the group of six teams with the worst odds of winning at least a Wild Card. As a reminder, you can find links to our preview podcasts for each team here.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 12.4%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 76-86
Team WARP: 28.4
Team TAv: .260
Runs Scored: 720
Runs Allowed: 774
Team FRAA: 6.9

1. With all this young talent, how are the Royals still so friggin’ bad?

RAC: Well, looking at some of that “young talent”, last year, Billy Butler (3.1 WARP), Alcides Escobar (2.6 WARP), Salvador Perez (2.1 WARP), and Mike Moustakas (1.4 WARP) are still mostly promise without any results. It’s nice to have a two-win player around, but a collection of them does not make a team very good, and this isn’t a case where this is a new generation of players coming up behind an old, established set of guys who are still pretty good. And then there’s Eric Hosmer’s season last year... sorry to the Royals fans out there who might have been trying to block that out. It’s a painful reminder that promise and talent are fun to dream about, but sometimes that alarm clock starts ringing at 7 AM and you have to face a very groggy reality. Take away all the promises of future stardom, and you’re left with a Royals team that has played like a bunch of decent position players... and no starting pitching.

IM: The pitching is truly awful. There’s James Shields and then... I mean, Ervin Santana and Luis Mendoza are in the rotation. Luis Mendoza!

I do think that Moustakas and Hosmer still have major upside. I feel like Hosmer, at least, can bounce back and be more than a two-win guy. Plus Lorenzo Cain is like REALLY FAST and also Frenchy!

RAC: But Santana has that “ace mentality!” In a weird way, I at least get what the Royals were trying to do with the pitching. Starting pitchers affect a team by more than just what they do while actually in the game. Last year, the Royals got by on a diet of dire starting pitching. Maybe they figured that if they could just stabilize the starting rotation enough, that the stability itself would add just as much value as upgrading to pitchers who were both able to throw 200 innings and do it well. If you can’t get to C, at least get to B.

2. What the Francouer?

IM: I should be recused from discussions involving Jeff Francoeur, because I just love that guy. Love his arm, love his personality. The guy overtips clubbies in every city and gives money to folks in the bleachers to buy beer. I simply can’t root against a guy who conducts himself like that. Baseball—nay, the world—needs more people like Frenchy.

RAC: The world does need more persons like Frenchy. By all reports, he’s an 80 human being. Let’s not fall into the trap where we confuse “character” with being good at base... oh...

IM: Of course there is the matter of him being pretty awful at baseball. Last year he delivered -2.6 WARP, which was the worst in baseball—and that’s the fourth season in whch he’s performed below replacement value. (He’s amassed a total of 5.3 WARP in six other seasons.) His on-base last year was .287, so he made an out in more than 71 percent of his plate appearances. That’s awful, and even a bionic rocket launcher arm can’t make up for that.

RAC: I wonder what percentage of runners Francouer would have to throw out in order to get back to replacement level. Are there even enough runners in the game? Would he have to throw out runners in other games (as in throwing out a runner in a White Sox-Tigers game... from Kansas City)? Cutting down a runner attempting to score on a would-be sac fly with one out (after you catch the ball), is worth a little more than a run (because you get the out that goes with it). So, Francouer would have to do that 25 or so times to regain his replacement level status. In 2012, a runner on third tried to score after Francouer caught a fly ball in right field 39 times. He threw six of them out. (Yes, I know, there are other situations where an outfield arm comes into play) So, thankfully for Francouer, to get back to replacement level, he would only have had to have had an 80 percent success rate in cutting down would-be sacrifice fly score-ers.

Not that he couldn’t throw someone out in Phoenix, if he needed to. He’s just that good a human being.

3. What does Alex Gordon need to do to get some lovin'?

RAC: Last year, I made a case at the All-Star break for picking Alex Gordon to play in the game (which conveniently for him was being played in Kansas City). Too often, players get judged by what the best-case hopes and dreams scenario was for them when they were wee lads. Maybe Gordon needs to hire the people from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to go through Kansas City and erase all memories that they have related to what he was “supposed” to be. It took longer than it was supposed to, and he’s not quite the superstar that everyone hoped for, but quietly, Alex Gordon has developed into a really good player.

IM: He may never reach what we thought was his ceiling, but at this point his floor is awfully high. The long-awaited breakthrough finally came in 2011, and he put up excellent numbers again last year. BP’s projections for him in 2013 seem a little conservative at 3.5 WARP, but that’s actually better than what we’ve projected for aforementioned superhuman freak Adam Jones (3.3 WARP). I almost wonder if Gordon would be a good change-of-scenery candidate. Playing every day with the expectations of an entire franchise—or even a geographic region—on your shoulders has to be exhausting.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 5.0%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 75-87
Team WARP: 24.6
Team TAv: .263
Runs Scored: 729
Runs Allowed: 796
Team FRAA: 3.7

1. Why does BP hate the Orioles?

RAC: We hate all 30 teams. In fact, we actually hate teams that no longer exist, like the Montreal Expos, the Washington Senators, and the Florida Marlins. Let’s talk about what happened last year while we’re still sober. You had four relievers (Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Troy Patton) who had BABIPs in the .250-.260 range and all had ERAs a run or so below their component estimates. In fairness, all of them had component ERAs in the mid-3’s, which is nice. But this is also a team that outplayed its Pythagorean record by 11 games, mostly because of that one-run game thing that they did. I know that last year was fun, but... all the warning signs are there.

IM: I’m not sure I can add anything to that postmortem. I will note, however, that our colleague Zachary Levine has noted that the O’s are 5-2 in one-run games this spring. So clearly they’ve figured this thing out, and this is totally sustainable.

2. Don’t they have Manny Machado and Adam Jones? Those dudes are awesome!

IM: Well, I guess that depends on your definition of awesome. PECOTA has Machado logging just 1.1 WARP and a TAv of .245. He posted a sub-.300 OBP in 2012, and he’s predicted to do the same this season. So unless he somehow hits 30 bombs or miraculously starts taking walks (last season he walked just nine times in 202 PA), he’s not going to be the savior. Adam Jones, on the other hand...

RAC: Oh come on, not even Paste could save Jersey from mediocrity (a billion points for that reference.) Jones is a fantastic player (and turns 27 this year), but always remember that even the best player can take only about 12 percent of your plate appearances over the course of a year.

IM: I’ll always love Adam Jones because of the anti-animal abuse work he’s done. That, and the fact that he’s a superhuman freak of a baseball player. But he and Jason Hammel can take them only so far.

RAC: As for Manny Machado, he showed some power, but struck out a lot in a small sample last year. As he learns the major-league strike zone, his overall production will improve. But that’s something that has to develop over time. The variable that might have the most impact on his value going forward is not his considerable physical talent, but how quick he is to learn.

IM: That’s a great point. This is where the elusive “makeup” might come into play. We know he’s got the physical tools, but how quickly can he put it all together?

3. Could the Orioles be... this year's Orioles?

RAC: If you mean “could the Orioles pick up a lot of good luck and have that augment a decent team and turn it into a contender (again)?” Then, sure. There are plenty of people out there who will say something like “Well, they used up all their luck last year!”, probably as many as who say “They really were a 94-win team last year!” That’s not how luck works. It could happen again, and it has the same chance of happening again this year as last. And let’s give the Orioles credit. They had built a team last year that was good enough that when a wave came along to help them, it was able to push them up to 94 wins. Had they been a 60-win team deep down and lucked into 80 wins, then fallen back to 70 the next year, no one would care, because at the end of the day, baseball seasons have a binary outcome. You either made the playoffs or you didn’t.

IM: Again, you’ve addressed all the salient points, and I’m not sure what else I can add. I will say that this is definitely the PECOTA prediction I’ve gotten the most questions about—mostly from Oriole-fan-friends who are convinced last year’s Orioles were “for real.” Well yeah, of course they were for real, and they were also incredibly lucky. That takes nothing away from what they did, and I give Buck Showalter a ton of credit for being able to wring out every drop of talent from that lineup. It’s just not very likely that they’ll be able to do it again this year. I’ll still be rooting for them, of course, because I love an underdog. 


COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 1.4%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 70-92
Team WARP: 25.7
Team TAv: .254
Runs Scored: 750
Runs Allowed: 869
Team FRAA: -9.2

1. Are people sleeping on the Rockies? They have some amazing young talent, and I don’t mean just CarGo and Tulo. They have guys like Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado and Dexter Fowler when he’s not being terrible.

RAC: Wilin Rosario should be a household name.

IM: He plays for an awful team in a small, weird market, so I’m not surprised that he’s not a household name—yet. But man, he can flat-out play. (Well, except for defense.) And I feel the same way about Arenado. He had a rough year last year, but I saw him in spring training last year, and he just destroyed everything that came his way and played above-average defense at third. Perhaps this is a classic small-sample-size error on my part, but I saw a kid who could be a future star.

RAC: But then isn’t this the same conversation we had about the Royals two years ago? Fantastic young players! Lots of potential! They’ll be contenders really soon! As always seems to happen with the Rockies, I would note that none of the players whom we’ve named are pitchers.

IM: I bet there are draft-eligible college pitchers who wake up in a cold sweat thinking about being drafted by Colorado. /shudder

2. Is Dexter Fowler great or terrible? I can’t decide.

IM: This guy is so frustrating to watch. He’s so toolsy, athletic, talented, fast... and yet he rarely seems to be able to put it all together. All that potential, and such mixed results.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen hitting mechanics as inconsistent as his at the big-league level. Even in the same at-bat, from pitch to pitch, his stance and swing can be completely different. Sometimes there’s a pronounced leg lift, and sometimes there’s not. Can’t someone in the Rockies org fix this?

RAC: It takes about 90 days to learn a new habit. After having some major dental work done, I was told that I needed to actually floss my teeth on a consistent basis. I know, TMI. But even I, who had to deal with the realities of a double root canal and who works in public health, had a hard time learning a new habit. Maybe Fowler doesn’t need a hitting coach. Maybe he just needs a root canal.

3. Josh Rutledge. Discuss.

RAC: In a BP chat that I did, I got a question on whether I believed in Josh Rutledge as a 20 HR/20 SB guy. It led me to coin the hashtag #wish (and since Opening Day is Sunday, we’re at the peak of #wish season right now). He filled in nicely for Tulowitzki last year, showed some power in limited action, and is going to turn 24 next month.  He’ll play second this year now that Tulo is back. I know Rockies fans want him to be “the answer” to whatever question they’re asking, and “young and decent in a small sample size (except for the whole “.306 OBP thing” is often confused for “the answer.” But as I noted in my chat, now that I’ve slagged him, he’ll hit 60 HR. You’re welcome, Denver.

IM: These kinds of storylines are fascinating to me. There were no calls to Free Josh Rutledge on twitter, but Tulo gets hurt and Rutledge, who had been putting up solid numbers at Double-A, comes up and establishes himself as a legit big leaguer. Kid was just in the right place at the right time—and happens to be really good at baseball. PECOTA is predicting 1.6 WARP for him this year, his age-24 season. He’s probably not a perennial All-Star in waiting, but neither is he bad for a homegrown option who will make be making the minimum for the next half-decade.

RAC: “Really good” seems to be over-selling it. He was huddled near replacement level in his time in the majors last year, as he should be. A replacement player is the theoretical minor leaguer who comes up when the starter has a major injury. He was an actual minor leaguer who came up when the starter got hurt. I guess I just can’t bear the thought of getting all worked up over him and then having my heart broken.


MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 1.4%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 66-96
Team WARP: 20.7
Team TAv: .244
Runs Scored: 601
Runs Allowed: 735
Team FRAA: 7.8

1. Could the Marlins actually finish with a worse record the Astros?

IM: PECOTA has Miami losing only 93 games, while the Astros are slated to lose 107, so it seems unlikely. But as I said earlier, if everything breaks right for the Astros and everything goes wrong for Florida, they could swap projections. And the idea of the Marlins doing a complete China Syndrome-style meltdown just seems soooo possible.

RAC: If the Houston Astros didn’t have a discernible plan, but had Giancarlo Stanton, would they not be the Miami Marlins? I suppose the biggest difference is that the Astros have a bunch of kids on their roster, while the Marlins have filled out the roster with “seasoned veterans.” While younger players naturally have a lot of volatility in them, we know what to expect out of the veterans, even if the answer is “not much.” So, I’d say that the 93-loss projection for the Marlins is going to be pretty stable. If the Marlins do finish below the Astros, it’s because a lot of the volatility in Houston broke upward.

IM: I can see the Marlins adopting that as their 2013 slogan: “We’ve got Stanton and no discernible plan!” I assume they do have a plan, though, even if we can’t discern it. From the outside, though, it looks a lot like the underpants gnomes business model: 1. Slash payroll. 2. ? 3. Profit!

2. How low can attendance go? Is there any way to repair the PR nightmare?

IM: So I just looked up the attendance numbers for last year and was kind of surprised to see the Marlins in 18th place with 2.2 million tickets sold. That’s not great, but it’s a lot higher than I thought it would be. I suppose most of that is explained by the new ballpark, though, and I’d guess there were a lot of season ticket packages purchased by corporations. I know that every time I watched a game that was being held in Miami, the place looked like a freaking ghost town. And that was with an exciting, dynamic bunch of players on the field. This season is going to be a bloodbath.

RAC: There was the infamous picture of three people lined up to buy single-game tickets when they went on sale. There’s also the fact that the other professional sports team playing in their city right now is really good, so it’s not like there aren’t other local options to watch. Then again, one of my least favorite parts of sports talk radio is the legion of people who whine that no one is buying them a pony... er, a championship team. It’s fun telling other people how they should spend their money. Loria has shown that he believes in what can charitably be called the “no frills” approach to putting a team on the field by minimizing costs. And... well, it is a business venture first.

IM: I wonder if Jeffrey Loria gives a single hoot about the PR aspect. I mean, he probably does, because he’s a savvy person, but he’s shown in the past that he’s perfectly comfortable being a pariah. Also, I have zero confidence that he’ll do “the right thing” by the fans and the community, so at this point I expect him to take the heel turn whenever the opportunity presents itself.

RAC: Suppose that there is some sort of deeply hidden master plan and that the Marlins somehow put together a contender. As much as I’m sure thousands of people swore up and down that they were done with the team on general principles, watch most of them come flocking back to the team. People will latch on to a winner, or at least enough people will to fill the stands (and Loria’s bank account) again. I guess Loria figures that either way, he wins, and he can listen to the fans grouse while he sits somewhere on a beach counting his money.

3. Other than Giancarlo Stanton, is Mike Redmond suddenly the most interesting storyline coming out of Miami?

IM: I’m actually watching the Marlins on AtBat right now, and Stanton has gone yard twice off of Dan Haren. He’s really, really good. I also didn’t know Redmond went undrafted and signed with Florida as a free agent. I learned something today!

RAC: Redmond is not Ozzie Guillen, and Guillen was always the story. I suppose that Redmond is in line to be the focus of a bunch of “So, Ozzie would totally have gone off here...” stories, where the punch line is that Redmond didn’t. Logan Morrison is hurt. There are only so many times that we can point out the failings of Juan Pierre. Justin Ruggiano is... why the hell am I talking about Justin Ruggiano? Is there anything even remotely interesting about this team?

IM: I guess I’d have to go with Steve Cishek as my second-least-terrible Marlin. I’m a sucker for a sidearmer, and Cishek was incredibly effective when he was promoted to closer in 2012. I also kinda fell in love with him on The Franchise. He just seems like a smart, lovable goof.

RAC: Okay, if we’re going to play “Adopt a Marlin”, I’ll take Adeiny Hechavarria. I’d like to live in a world where the Marlins actually did “the big trade” for baseballing reasons, and basically, that requires Hechavarria to be the sublime glove that he’s supposed to be (because the bat isn’t rated highly). Then again, even if that happens, haven’t the Marlins then traded Jose Reyes for Alcides Escobar’s clone?

IM: My brain refuses to process that, sorry.


MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 0.9%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 64-98
Team WARP: 11.5
Team TAv: .259
Runs Scored: 707
Runs Allowed: 892
Team FRAA: -6.9

1. Will the real Vance Worley please stand up?

IM: Worley came over to Minnesota in the Ben Revere deal and instantly became the Twins’ ace. In two full-ish seasons with the Phillies, he posted a Fair Run Average right around 4. PECOTA doesn’t predict FRA, but it has predicted his 2013 ERA to jump to just over 5 from his career average of around 3.5. Why does PECOTA hate Vance Worley? Is it the glasses?

RAC: I think the glasses look rather nice. Worley has been incorporating the two-seamer into his repertoire more often lately, and most of the peripherals were the same... except for that strikeout rate. He is bleeding velocity off of his fastball, and last year it fell below 90 mph. It’s not a bad package altogether, but I guess he’s not the guy I would want to build my rotation around. Is it just me, or was most of the Philadelphia Worley’s hype based around the fact that he wasn’t Hamels, Lee, or Halladay, and so liking him was edgy?

IM: We’re predicting a jump of about 50 innings in 2013, but that alone can’t account for the predicted decline, can it? Ultimately I guess it doesn’t much matter; the Twins won’t compete this year, and Worley gives Minnesota a cheap SP option for a few years.

RAC: There’s something to be said for that. Cheap and decent SP are hard to come by, and Worley at least fits that role. Finding someone to pitch 200 decent innings is a lot more valuable than we often think.

2. What’s next for Joe Mauer?

RAC: Well, first off, congrats to Mauer and his wife, who are expecting Minnesota twins. Seriously, his wife is pregnant with two babies at the same time. As a fellow soon-to-be (again) dad: sleep now, while you can. Trust me on that one.

Mauer, of course, is making $23 million a year until 2018, which will go a long way toward paying college tuition bills for those kids. And he’s a .400 OBP guy who will hit 10 HR and 30 doubles a year, which is a fantastic hitter to have around. But he’s quickly transitioning from a catcher to a first baseman/DH. To give you an idea of what that means for his value, consider his 2008 season, in which he was exclusively a catcher and logged more than 130 games started behind the dish. He hit .328/.413/.451 with 35 doubles/triples and nine home runs in 633 PA. In 2012, he hit .319/.416/.446 with 35 doubles/triples and 10 home runs in 641 PA, but did so while spending 20 percent of his field time at first and logging 42 starts at DH (compared to five in 2008). It’s roughly the same season numbers-wise, but the positional adjustment dropped his value from 6.9 WARP in 2008 to 3.5 WARP in 2012.

I’d love to have Joe Mauer on my team, but there’s a calculus that has to happen here. As he transitions further away from being a catcher, even if he maintains that level of performance, it’s not worth as much. A rebuilding team in a “small market” (which all teams outside of New York seem to call themselves) might be able to justify a salary like that for a seven-win player. But for a 3-4 win player? Is there not a team out there that has gobs of money, a bunch of over-hyped prospects, and a giant hole either behind the plate or at first base, where Mauer might fit in nicely?

IM: Six more years (I’m including 2013 here) at $23M per is a lot of millions of dollars. If we use $5M per free-agent marginal win as a shorthand, Mauer will have to deliver 27 wins above replacement in order to “earn” his contract. He’ll be 35 when his Twins deal expires, and an old 35 at that. And he really can’t help the Twins right now. They’re going to be dreadful this year, and maybe for most of the rest of Mauer’s tenure with them, so why not move him, recoup some money, and restock the farm? That would be the “right” thing to do. Of course, this is easy for me to say, as I’m a faceless baseball writer on the Internet. I don’t have to deal with things like fan backlash or repercussions in the clubhouse and elsewhere in the organization. But as painful as it would be to cut ties with Mauer, the Twins need to consider it for the long-term health of the franchise.

3. Was Josh Willingham a flash in the pan, or did he suddenly figure it all out (at age 33)?

IM: Willingham’s career trajectory has been fascinating. The narrative has definitely been “he figured it out at 33,” but looking at his career numbers shows steady improvement when most ballplayers begin to decline. If you removed his outlier-ish 2006 campaign, then his True Average has ticked up every single year. I have no idea how or why he’s done it, but he’s become a much better hitter into his mid-30s.

RAC: In 2011, something changed about Willingham. He started swinging more often, missing more often, and more importantly, he also started hitting the ball out of the park more often. It’s as if, after leaving Washington, he decided that the best approach for him was to swing real hard in case he hit it. I don’t know if that counts as figuring it out, but it probably did lead to the power spike. At 34, he’s getting to the age where players start to do that. Maybe his approach has finally just matured to match his body.

IM: That’s fascinating—I didn’t know any of that stuff about swing rates. I just looked at his True Average and it’s basically a straight line headed in the right direction. Now, will he put up 4.5 WARP in 2013? Not bloody likely. But he’ll almost certainly be an above-average player for a Twins team that needs all the help they can get. 


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Playoff Pct: 0.7%
PECOTA Team Projections
Record: 63-99
Team WARP: 12.0
Team TAv: .252
Runs Scored: 655
Runs Allowed: 840
Team FRAA: -15.6

1. Will the Astros be historically bad, or just “regular” really bad?

Russell A. Carleton: Does losing 100 games count as “historically” bad? I grew up in Cleveland in the mid 80s and early 90s, when losing 100 games was just something that happened once in a while. Yeah, this team probably has 100 losses in them. We are, after all, talking about a team that has the remains of Carlos Pena hitting third. I suppose that some of these guys do have some room for upside, but even if everything works out great, they maybe hold the line at 90 losses? Maybe?

Ian Miller: Agree. I don’t think this team has 120 losses in them, and they could potentially win 70 if everything breaks right. Of course, that presupposes that Houston’s goal is to win as many games as possible. Obviously that’s the goal of the team on the field, but the front office may have other plans. If someone were to emerge as a star this year, what’s to keep Luhnow and Co. from shipping that guy to a contender for more high-upside young players who could help the Astros down the road?

RAC: Well, for what it’s worth, it’s not impossible to imagine a few things going wrong for the Astros, even if everyone stays put. There are a lot of really young kids on this team, and there’s a temptation to think that all young kids will get incrementally better as time goes on. With a few blossoms, there would be a little rosiness this summer among the thorns. And sure, some of the youngsters will blossom, but some of them will wilt. What if more shrivel than bloom? Where have all the flowers gone then?

IM: Totally fair to ask that, because it’s entirely possible that they could actually underachieve, and that would be painful to watch. Of course that goes directly against the narrative that all those bloggers have perpetrated, but that’s just what bloggers do. Damn bloggers.

RAC: In 1991, the Indians played a double-header against the Brewers at the end of the year. They had 101 losses already, and had they lost both games, they would have set a modern franchise record for losses in a season. My father got tickets to the twin bill and said, “Son, we might get to witness history.” (Thanks, Dad!) They lost game one, and for some strange reason, I found myself developing NASCAR syndrome and rooting for the big fiery wreck. Disappointingly, the Indians won game two. The next day, they set the record. If nothing else, even if the Astros are a historically filthy hot mess of a team, they might provide some 11-year-old kid living in Houston who will grow up to be a writer at BP with a story like this.

2. Will Jose Altuve end the season as a Houston Astro?

RAC: I suppose the question is when the Astros see themselves winning. Is this project going to take two years? Three years? Five years? At that point, will Altuve be the kind of piece that belongs on a contending team? If not, then he’ll be dealt at some point, the same way that Wandy Rodriguez was. But will Altuve have his highest trade value this year? I’d say no. The kid is promising, and with multiple years of team control,would fetch a handsome price even now. A team that believes in him enough to trade for him might want to wait another year to make sure that “good rookie season” turns into “good track record,” so I say he ends the year with a star on his hat. (Dear Houston, if you do trade him, please send him to a team that has a star in their logo somewhere so that I can come back and say, “Yeah, that’s what I meant.”)

IM: Houston has shown that it’s 100 percent committed to rebuilding, so I could see the organization moving any player if they believe the return makes them better in the long run. And that includes the diminutive face of the franchise. If they were to move Altuve, though, they’ve got Delino Deshields, Jr. nearly ready to step into Altuve’s wee shoes at second base.

3. Which Astro whose name is not “Jose Altuve” puts up a good enough season that he’s actually considered someone whom the team might want to carry going forward?

RAC: Lucas Harrell is 27, an extreme groundballer, and pitched nearly 200 innings last year. He had a FIP below 4. He’s a switch-hitter. In a few years, he’ll probably still be a switch-hitter. These are the kinds of guys who stick around a while, despite not being terribly great, if only for the fact that it’s hard to hit a groundball over the fence.

IM: Chris Carter has always been, and will always be my guy. I just love his power and his eye. If he could somehow cut down on his Ks—he probably can’t be any more discerning at the plate than he already is, so that means he’s going to have to swing more often, and at better pitches. And I love him in Minute Maid—he’s going to hit a ton of balls into those Crawford Boxes.

Then again, you’ve got the left-handed-hitting Jonathan Singleton in the wings, so maybe Carter becomes expendable? They’re almost mirror images of each other. I don’t know. 


Russell A. Carleton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Russell's other articles. You can contact Russell by clicking here
Ian Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ian's other articles. You can contact Ian by clicking here

Related Content:  Orioles,  Royals,  Marlins,  Twins,  Rockies,  Astros,  Preview

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