The Astros southpaw's transition from a walk machine with no strikeouts into a strike machine with no walks.
As much as it might look like we have, we’ve never seen anything like this in the short career of the Astros’ best pitcher to date, Dallas Keuchel.
His career began in June 2012 with terrific results—one run allowed in five innings in the Ballpark at Arlington, a complete game six days later with one run allowed. At the All-Star break he had a 2.45 ERA on his way into a start against Arizona. Something wasn’t right, though.
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Updates on Gregory Polanco, Mark Appel, Dalton Pompey, Joey Gallo and six others.
Dalton Pompey, CF, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
During the offseason, Pompey’s name was in the running for the Jays top 10 list, and after falling short of that distinction he was in the running (but not chosen) to be named a prospect on the rise in that organization. The omission is our mistake—and a foolish one at that—as the 21-year-old outfielder has blossomed into arguably the top position prospect in the Blue Jays organization, a toolsy dream of a player who is finally healthy and putting the pieces together on the field. A relatively unknown 16th-round draft pick in 2010, Pompey has struggled with injuries, most notably a broken hamate bone, but he has always flashed the promise, especially the plus-plus speed (and plus-plus baserunning) and defensive chops in center field. A switch-hitter at present, Pompey is superior from the left side of the plate, with a quick to-the-ball stroke and gap pop. While he’s far from a finished product—the right-side bat can look like a mess, with poor balance and bat control, and the defense in center is still more raw athleticism than crisp reads and routes—the step forward in 2014 is legitimate, and if Pompey can stay healthy, he should reach the Double-A level at some point during the season and emerge as a nationally recognized prospect. –Jason Parks
And why the Astros would have been silly to promote George Springer sooner.
If you stretch, maybe you could come up with a good baseball reason for the Astros not to have called up outfield prospect George Springer until earlier this week. And yes, GM Jeff Luhnow probably did need to stick with baseball reasons in his public explanations of the delayed promotion: Springer needed some more at-bats to work on cutting down his strikeouts, or the team wanted to see whether Robbie Grossman could start this season as strong as he finished the last one, etc.
You understand why Luhnow can’t say the real reason, but at some point, you wish that we could let a smart guy be a smart guy and tell you that by waiting two weeks, he was able to exchange a minimal amount of Springer in a bad season for a full year of Springer in what could be a good season. That would be the 2020 season, which is now part of the Astros’ control period on Springer as he won’t have a full six served after 2019. (Read more of the details in this Evan Drellich piece at the Houston Chronicle.)
The Situation: Underperformance in the Astros’ outfield and the passing of enough days to guarantee that coveted seventh year of team control has opened the door for the promotion of the organization’s no. 2 prospect on Jason Parks’ 2014 team rankings and the 20th-ranked prospect overall on Parks’ 2014 Top 101. The powers that be in Houston are ready to show off to the franchise’s patient fan base another young piece of what they hope will become the foundation for future competitive Astros teams.
Background: Springer, a University of Connecticut product, was selected in the first round (11th overall) of the 2011 draft. Considered perhaps the toolsiest player in an absolutely stacked draft class, Springer was a divisive collegiate player for evaluators due to the nature of his aggressive approach and the amount of swing-and-miss in his game. Even with a troubling start to his junior season, Houston was not dissuaded and jumped on the opportunity to add his potential plus power/speed talent as the cornerstone of their rebuilding process.
Updates on Hunter Harvey, Aaron Sanchez, Mark Appel and others.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles (Low-A Delmarva)
Given the volatility of young arms, along with the overall nature of the position, it’s easy to be on the conservative side when initially assessing the early stages of their pro careers. After seeing Harvey toward the end of last season, though, it wasn’t a tough call to put a 7 on the future potential. The stuff absolutely screamed “legit.” The heater effortlessly came out of his hand at 92-95 mph, with late life and jump. The feel for the curveball was advanced for a pitcher his age, and though the changeup was inconsistent, the quality arm-side fading action when Harvey did execute lent a big clue that future growth is there. It’s an arsenal of three future plus-to-better pitches.
2013 first overall pick Mark Appel made an exhibition start in Houston, and PITCHf/x was watching.
Earlier this week we got our first look from a pitch tracking system at Mark Appel, the first overall selection in the 2013 draft and one of Houston’s (and baseball’s) top prospects. The data come from a preseason exhibition contest that was played on the final day of spring training—but because it was played in Houston, and because the PITCHf/x cameras were operational and outputting information, we got some stats to supplement the scouting reports we’ve read.
Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell or Javier Baez? We polled front office types and our prospect staff.
The rise of the superstar shortstop prospect prompts preferential inquiries, as my email inbox, Twitter feed, and chat queues are continually maxed out with questions about Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Lindor, and Russell, and if forced to choose, which one would I choose? The five chiseled heads on the modern Mount Rushmore of shortstop prospects (six if you go high on Mondesi) present a daily challenge of preference, a subjective exercise of forced selection tied to the realities of the present and the fantasies of the future, a tug-of-war we play with ropes made of tangible data, scouting memories of on-the-field motions, and the conceptual ideas of value and who will be most likely to achieve it.
Is toughness a firm enough foundation on which to base a trade?
During an exhibition game against Brooklyn in the spring of 1942, then-Boston Braves manager Casey Stengel said something that seems, in retrospect, spectacularly wrong. A 20-year-old Warren Spahn started for Stengel against the Dodgers, whom the Braves believed had been stealing their signs all spring. Stengel, hoping to take the sign-stealers by surprise, switched the signs so that the old signal for a fastball would now indicate a curve. With Pee-Wee Reese up and a runner on second supposedly staring in for the sign, Stengel told Spahn to brush Reese back with his fastball when the batter would be expecting something slower.
As a 44-year-old Spahn recounted in 1965, when both he and Stengel were with the Mets in what would be their final season: