Astros Lineup: Where’s the Future?

By current age, where are the 2011 Astros prospects?

The 2-8 start of the 2011 Houston Astros is little more than an early bite into the new season, but it sure does accelerate the questions we all have about our prospects for the future. I haven’t talked with or read anyone lately who disagrees with the club’s intent upon rebuilding the farm system and getting younger on the major league field too. It seems to be the way to go.

The real question is: What does getting younger really mean?

To me, it means reaching a point where you have a minimum of at least five of the eight regular position starters and at least three of the five starting pitchers on board with the prospect of five quality seasons ahead of them. Hey! You would always like more, but the way natural decline in ability sometimes just falls off the table at age 32, you can’t count on it.

If we use age 32 as our arbitrary early end of the road measuring stick, this means that a safe prospect needs to be age 27 or younger. Everyone else on a club can be a prospect backup guy, a veteran star, or a journeyman regular position player or relief pitching specialist, along with two veteran or starting pitchers.

How do the current eight regulars and five starting pitchers stack up as prospects by their birthdate ages in 2011? Let’s take a look, using bold type to qualify those that fit our 27 and below general age standard for prospects. In the case of catcher, I’ll go with Jason Castro as our regular man, even though he’s on the DL until late in this season.

Catcher: Jason Castro (06/18/87) age 24

First Base: Brett Wallace (08/26/86) age 25

Second Base: Bill Hall (12/28/79) age 32

Third Base: Chris Johnson (10/01/84) age 27

Shortstop: Clint Barnes (12/06/79) age 32

Left Field: Carlos Lee (06/20/76) age 35

Center Field: Michael Bourn (12/27/82) age 29

Right Field: Hunter Pence (04/13/83) age 28

Starting Pitcher # 1: Brett Myers (08/17/80) age 31

Starting Pitcher # 2: Wandy Rodriguez (01/18/79) age 32

Starting Pitcher # 3: J.A. Happ (10/19/82) age 29

Starting Pitcher # 4: Bud Norris (03/02/85) age 26

Starting Pitcher # 5: Nelson Figueroa (05/18/74) age 37

Based on our standard for the 8 field positions and 5 starting pitcher slots, the Astros currently use only 4 age critical players who might be considered prospects for the future. There other prospects on the roster and some ripening ones at AAA, so, hopefully the ratio will improve as this “tune up” season continues.

While we were busy making plans over the last two to three seasons, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence grew too old to be considered prospects any longer. In fact, along with Carlos Lee, Bill Hall, and Clint Barnes, Bourn and Pence are now members of our seasoned veterans group.

If it becomes even more obvious that the Astros aren’t going anywhere in 2011, and if Hall and Barnes cannot provide the extra punch that GM Ed Wade was hoping to see from the keystone bag crew, I would have no problem seeing those jobs turned over to prospects too. Also, this is Chris Johnson’s last year as a legitimate prospect. He needs to show that last year’s hitting was no fluke and also improve his fielding.

We also need to see good hitting from Mr. Wallace at first – and I think we will.  I was very impressed with his time at bat against closer Marmol of the Cubs Monday night. Brett has a good eye and some quick wrists. He’s also looking cool under pressure. I like what I see.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing the speedy Jason Bourgeois get more playing time. Bourn’s age creep and his new agent Scott Boras almost make Bourn seem like a double-edged sword. If he hits .250 this year, the Astros cannot afford to keep him in center field in 2012, even with his gold glove. If he hits .300, agent Boras may make it so expensive to re-sign him for 2012 that the club will need to have someone in the wings to take his place.

Bottom Line: Bring on the prospects. We need to see more of the future. And we need to play the past as little as possible.

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2 Responses to “Astros Lineup: Where’s the Future?”

  1. mike Says:

    Hopefully not everyone will forget Angel Sanchez as the Astros managment seems to do when they say Clint Barmes has the job no matter what. Barmes was a colossal waste of money. The guy has a lifetime average of .254, too low for an everyday infielder. Take his rookie year out of the mix and it is much, much lower. He had full seasons with averages of .220 and .235.

    Bill Hall isn’t much better, in spite of a couple of nice at bats last night.

    Meanwhile, Drayton’s penny-pinching and short-sightedness has decimated what was once a very good farm system. We just don’t have the resources down there, though it is creeping back toward getting better.

    I’m with you, Bill. I’d like to see some good young prospects. We just don’t have many.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      “Hopefully not everyone will forget Angel Sanchez as the Astros managment seems to do when they say Clint Barmes has the job no matter what. Barmes was a colossal waste of money.” – Mike the PC Cowboy.

      Mike:

      You look like a prophet!

      After Angel Sanchez went 4 for 5 with a double, 2 runs scored, and 2 RBI on the way to 8 RBI and a .395 average for the season in the very next game following your comment last night makes it even harder for management to forget him and simply hand the job back to the historically milder bat of Clint Barnes, but it also screams at how how poorly Chris Johnson is doing at 3rd base with a .189 clipper and half the team’s errors at 4. Maybe when Barnes comes back, the Astros need to think about placing Sanchez or Barnes at third and playing the other at short. We can’t afford Johnson at third much longer.

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