Houston Astros Spring Training: 5 Players Who Are Sure To Shine
5 Houston Astros Who Will Shine In Spring Training
Over the course of the last three seasons, the Houston Astros have been an abysmal bottom-feeding franchise, achieving an overall record of 162 wins and 324 losses. Resulting in fans enduring the walk of shame when leaving the ballpark. However, hope has arrived in the form of a newly acquired centerfielder, three highly touted prospects, and an up-and-coming sophomore hurler, all of which have the potential to be core building block pieces going forward.
In the past, one of the few forms of entertainment in the Houston bleachers would be a heated argument between a local and a few out-of-towners on whether or not Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell belong in the Hall of Fame. Actually watching the game would just be too painful.
The Astros have been bottom dwellers for far too long, all the while playing second fiddle to their state-brother, the Texas Rangers -- the Canseco’s of baseball, one being Jose and the other playing the role of Ozzie.
Spring Training is a clean slate for everyone and optimism spreads like wildfire, and opening day is a sellout crowd; 2014 is the first year in recent memory where there is actually a chance for that optimism to last past the team’s first road trip.
They are finally heading in the right direction and these five players are sure to make an impact from day one of the Grapefruit League. The Astros' renaissance starts now.
5. SP - Jarred Cosart
Fantasy owners would agree, and the baseball world needs to take notice. Jarred Cosart was one of the more underrated call-ups last season, registering a 1.95 ERA in his first 60 inning taste of the big-leagues. Naysayers zone-in on his alarming 35 walks vs. only 33 strikeouts, but his minor league track record says this kid is just getting his feet wet. During his stops in 2012 and 2013, he posted above average ratios in those categories with 101 BB/185K. With an entire Spring Training not having to worry about winning a job, he can master his ground-ball craft and will be primed to have an impact.
4. OF - Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler is the poster boy for the word upside; everyone is still waiting for this speedy switch-hitting centerfielder to blossom into the superstar many predicted since his days as a hot-shot prospect. His monster five-steal game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009 had the Colorado Rockies drooling over his potential. The ever-inconsistent former Rockie started showing signs of truly breaking down the door last season, showing emerging power only to renew his citizenship of second-half-slump city.
After being dealt in the offseason, Fowler has a new opportunity to showcase his skills, injuries and position platooning has thrown a wrench into his development. His OBP slash line over his last seasons is an impressive .363/.389/.369. With a chance at full-time duty in center and setting the table in the leadoff spot, Fowler will be born again at the start of Grapefruit action.
3. OF - George Springer
I’ve been keeping a close eye on George Springer ever since the start of 2013, and as the season rolled along, he was gaining a collection of doubters. George, “don’t call me Jerry,” dominated the minor leagues in epic fashion, but was never quite put in the elite prospects category. This was all due to his strikeout rate; 161 strikeouts in 492 at-bats is a number some people just cannot get passed. However, it is not something to panic over. This is not a Drew Stubbs discussion.
In the same number of at-bats, he also managed 83 walks and posted an OBP of .411. Springer hit 37 deep flies while swiping a grand larceny total of 45 stolen bases in tours with the Corpus Christi Hooks and Oklahoma City Red Hawks -- three homers shy of becoming the ninth player in baseball history (minors or major leagues) to accomplish the feat of joining the 40/40 elite. He will be guns-blazing off the hop to try an win a spot outright come Spring Training opening day.
2. SS - Carlos Correa
Byron Buxton is all the rage in prospect circles and deservedly so, and if the Astros were asked to take a lie detector test to see if they would still draft Carlos Correa over him if the 2012 draft was today, that machine would be going berserk. However, Correa himself is also a mega-talented prospect with tremendous future-worth in his own right.
There have been rumblings of a potential future switch to the hot corner, where his above-average power is possibly better utilized, but his defensive skillset will give him every chance to stick at the premium position for the start of his big league career. His excellent Midwest League stat line of a .320 BA, .405 OBP, .467 Slugging percent, a league leading OPS of .872 with nine HR and 10 SB has Houston management tempted to rush his development. This kid is still not old enough to legally drink yet, well in the United States that is, but Correa will show off his skills come late february.
1. SP - Mark Appel
The odds on favorite to go No. 1 overall in 2012, Mark Appel opted to stay in school and head back to Stanford, much like his football counterpart Andrew Luck. Appel has the 6-foot-5 height, the upper 90’s fastball, the vicious slider, but you cannot get by in the majors for long without added intangibles and tools. Just ask Pittsburgh Pirates fans about Brian Bullington, New York Yankees fans about Brien “the next Doc Gooden” Taylor or drop Todd Van Poppel’s name in an Oakland Athletics' front office. They all had the same scout drooling attributes that Appel owns.
What makes the former Stanford ace appealing is that he mixes his already great repertoire with superb control, a great command of all of his pitches, polished mechanics, and a gamer mentality. Appel had an impressive start to his pro beginning, highlighted by issuing only nine free passes in 38 innings pitched. The Astros' future No. 1 starter will make it an easy decision for the organization to promote him with an early call-up after an impressive Spring.