5 Houston Astros Who Won’t Make It Through Spring Training
5 Houston Astros Who Won't Make It Through Spring Training
The Houston Astros were a team in transition last year, and their roster was compiled of a few veterans, some post-hype prospects and a lot of young players looking to make an impact. With the Astros in full rebuilding mode last year, fans would hope their roster looks significantly different on opening day 2014 than it did a year ago when the club made its debut in the American League. Indeed, the Astros have made quite a few moves in the past year and have added more impact talent to their roster through free agency, trades and minor league call-ups. Dexter Fowler was acquired in the offseason in a highway robbery deal in exchange for starting pitcher Jordan Lyles and backup outfielder Brandon Barnes. Outfielder Robbie Grossman and shortstop Jonathan Villar were both promoted to the majors and made an impact during the 2013 season, and former prospects Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez were both productive as well. The Astros also signed high-leverage reliever Jessie Crain and starting pitcher Scott Feldman this offseason.
With improved play from their young players and some key acquisitions this winter, the Astros should be a much more competitive team. This also means that making the team won't be as easy as it was a year ago. The Astros have impact minor league players who should be ready to contribute soon in outfielder George Springer and catcher Max Stassi. In addition, prospects such as No. 1 draft pick Mark Appel and first baseman Jonathan Singleton may be ready to contribute during the season. The Astros are on their way up, and while 2014 most likely is not the year they return to relevance, it should be fun to watch as the pieces come together.
5. Cesar Izturis
His total career WAR according to FanGraphs is 3.2, and 3.7 of that came in 2004 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Cesar Izturis. He has zero power, and though he doesn’t strike out much, he also doesn’t take a walk. He used to be very good defensively, but he’s now only moderately above average. With no extra base hits, no speed and an on-base percentage that hasn’t topped .294 in five years, Cesar Izturis does not belong on a major league roster.
4. Carlos Corporan
Carlos Corporan is the classic style of backup catcher who provides a little bit of defensive value but not much of anything offensively. He doesn’t walk enough and strikes out too much, ans he doesn’t have any pop to make up for those deficiencies. He’s been worth 0.4 fWAR each of the past two seasons, so he’s not worthless, but the Astros have young catcher Max Stassi who looks to be made out of the same mold as Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario.
Rosario, who has hit 50 home runs combined the past two seasons, combined a roughly five percent walk rate and 20 percent strikeout rate in two seasons of Double-A in which he hit a combined 40 home runs. Stassi has a similar walk to strikeout ratio and 32 combined home runs in 683 plate appearances the last two years with 17 home runs coming in just 76 games during his first taste of Double-A last year. Stassi may be given a chance to be Jason Castro's backup if he can beat out Corporan this spring.
3. Marc Krauss
Marc Krauss made it up to Houston last year with an impressive run in his second stint at Triple-A. Krauss walked (16.9 percent) more than he struck out (16.6 percent) while putting up a .198 ISO in 314 plate appearances before the Astros rewarded him with a call-up. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Krauss in Houston. His walk rate plummeted (6.8 percent) and his strikeouts nearly doubled (30.8 percent) while Krauss put up a line of .209/.267/.366 in 146 plate appearances. Krauss has shown good on-base skills and power throughout the minor leagues, but I think he will need to wait a bit longer to get a permanent job in the majors, especially with phenom George Springer more deserving of a roster spot.
2. Kevin Chapman
On the surface, there should be no reason for Kevin Chapman to not break spring training with the Astros. In 20 innings pitched last year the 26-year-old left hander put up a 1.77 ERA after compiling a 3.20 ERA in 50 innings at Triple-A early in the year. Chapman’s problem is that while he knows how to miss bats, he also has no idea where the ball is going. In his time with the Astros Chapman walked 5.75 batters per nine innings after walking batters at an even higher rate at Triple-A (6.39 BB/9).
While Chapman’s ERA last year looks sparkling, it was built largely on the result of good luck. He stranded base-runners at an unsustainable rate (82 percent) and should also see regression to the mean in HR/FB (4.8 percent) and his BABIP (.211). Without these measures of good luck, there is no way a pitcher with 6.64 K/9 and 5.75 BB/9 can succeed unless he is an extreme ground ball pitcher. Chapman, however, is actually an extreme fly ball pitcher, and he will likely need more seasoning in the minors before making an impact in the majors.
1. Paul Clemens
Paul Clemens came over to the Astros in 2011 in the trade that sent Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves, and although his fastball ranges from “90-96 with good sink” according to Baseball America, his lack of command and propensity for allowing home runs has caused a lack of effectiveness. In 73 innings pitched for the Astros last year Clemens gave up 1.96 home runs per nine innings, a grossly bloated stat given that a pitcher would like to be below 1.00 HR/9. Combined with 1.88 K/BB rate, Clemens compiled a 5.40 ERA last year for the Astros. Unless he can get his home runs allowed in check or improve on his command, he is a liability on the Astros’ roster. The combination of pitchers Dallas Keuchel, recently traded for Anthony Bass and eventually Alex White (when he is fully recovered from a May 2013 Tommy John operation) will combine to keep Clemens in the minors.