Bo Porter took over the helm of the Houston Astros this past off season as the organization hoped to turn things around. The ultimate goal would be to reach the World Series for the first time since 2005, when Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Lance Berkman were the Killer B’s on offense and Roger Clemons and Roy Oswalt were a formidable 1-2 punch as starting pitchers. Those days are long gone and this year’s team has yet to show any signs of getting better any time soon.
The highlight of the year has to have been Opening Night, when they defeated the Texas Rangers in come-from-behind fashion on national television as they debuted their new uniforms and re-branding. The next night they were nearly no-hit against and looked more like the Astros we have seen so far this season.
The Houston Astros this off-season cut their payroll below $30 million, and there are actually a handful of players making more by themselves than the entire Astros Major League team. The Moneyball philosophy has been popular the last few years with finding cheap winning talent. That amount of money simply cannot produce a winning product. The team is full of young players with possible potential and aging veterans who are past their prime (if they had a prime). They keywords for the young guys are “possible potential”.
A top prospect surrounded by good players can probably reach his potential from getting advice and learning the ropes while winning games. Prospects that are surrounded by other prospects have no leadership and no real competition or comparison to push them. In a few years, the prospects from this team may develop enough to be able to lead younger guys, but this year is not the case.
Defense for the Houston Astros has been abysmal, which may be due to them trying a few new techniques with positioning of players. Regardless, eject-o-mitts need to be left in the minors and throwing accuracy has to be Major League quality. Therein lies the problem – most of their players shouldn’t be in the Majors.
Houston Astros looking to the future
With that being said, the MLB Draft will be a great way for them to restock the talent pool even more than the prospects they have acquired the last few years as they have had, and will have, top picks and most likely the 1st overall pick. Mark Appel was their top choice a few days ago and should be a dominant force as early as this year if they give him a shot. They drafted Carlos Correa a year ago who figures to be in their starting lineup with a few years, and they will also have a top tier pick next year if they continue to play as poorly as they have so far this season.
Talent on the Houston Astros team may be bleak this year and probably next year. There are a few teams who have been in similar situations recently who ended up becoming winning ball clubs very quickly through stockpiling from the draft. The Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first in 2008. They have been contenders every year since with their depth and talent taken through the draft. One strategy the Rays employed was signing their young players to big contracts relative to the players’ production at that point in their careers to lock them up early and get more service at reduced rates later on.
The Washington Nationals are another example of a team that was awful, yet they found two all-stars with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as well as spending money at the right time on players such as Gio Gonzalez and a re-surging Adam LaRoche. The Astros could very well be on the same path as these two teams and be contenders in a few years. A few years is a long time away for Astros’ fans.
Switching leagues may prove beneficial for the Astros, as they no longer have to play the Cardinals and Reds every year, as well as the Pirates who are on a rise. They do have to start playing the Rangers, Athletics, and Angels now. There will be a learning curve for the Astros learning the players on those teams. By having their best players years away from the Majors, other teams may not be able to develop scouting reports against the Astros as easily. A struggling defensive team doesn’t need to be facing a DH every game unfortunately versus having more guaranteed outs when pitchers hit. The Houston Astros have a rough few years ahead of them with a light at the end of the tunnel if they can reach it.