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Friday, January 4, 2013

We Survived the End of the World! Now to Face the AL West

by Jared Webb @webberoo11

We did it, we survived the Mayans.  I personally felt a great sense of pride when I beat the end of the world.  Now that Astros Fans have overcome this great obstacle (Well done, everyone), we have to figure out how the Astros are going to deal with this whole AL West problem.  I'm going to be honest with you guys: I don't think it will be a pretty season for the Astros.  So now that I've babbled a little bit, let me lay out some of my expectations.

1. Astros go 53-109

I know fans will probably feel a little betrayed by this prediction, but I'm not confident the Astros will win more, with less, in the AL West in 2013 than they did in the NL Central in 2012.  The AL West seems to get stronger daily, even the Mariners are doing what it takes to bolster their roster.  I like a few of the additions Houston made, but realistically I don't see the improving much over last year.  There is a chance that Carlos Pena could hit like he did in 2011, but he will also strike out like he did in 2011.  Jose Veras strikes out a lot of batters, but he also walks a ton.  John Ely and Alex White won't magically transform into superstars in the AL West.  Sad to say it, but I expect the Astros to clinch their third straight #1 pick in 2014.

2. Bud Norris doesn't make it to Spring Training

Before the Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster, they were in talks with Houston for Bud Norris.  Rumors have been popping about the 27 year-old righty ever since.  Recently trade talks have died down, and Jeff Lunhow has said that the roster is pretty set.  I take that to mean no more FA signings, but I expect Lunhow to deal Norris before the season starts.  Right now the value for starting pitching is heavily inflated due to draft compensation and the lack of available pitching on the market.  I also think the our good friend Jeff will want to deal Norris away before his value, possibly, takes a major hit when he faces AL West lineups.

3. Sean Manaea is the first name called in the 2013 draft.

This is a very early prediction, and things could majorly shift in a different direction.

 Last year the Astros shocked us all by taking Carlos Correa over Mark Appel with the first over-all pick and they could surprise again by selecting Manea.  Manaea is a 6'5 LHP from Indiana State who absolutely dominated the Cape Cod league with his mid 90's FB.  He doesn't have the polish of Appel or Ryne Stanek(Arkansas), but this organization is desperately lacking in the LHP department.  If no one establishes themselves as the consensus 1-1, and Manaea is still in the top five,  I expect him to be the Astros' guy.

4. Jordan Lyles/Alex White take progressive steps forward.

I think there are a lot Astros fans that are already considering Jordan Lyles a bust.  Let's pump the breaks a little before making that declaration.  Lyles was off and on throughout the entire 2012 season, sometimes showing flashes of brilliance and other times frustrating us all. Two factors to consider with Lyles are that he is still younger than most top prospect pitchers (22 yrs old), and that the Astros have rushed him pretty badly. 

Jordan showed that he was still developing when he went from 89-91 mph to 91-94 while hitting 95 quite often.  Alex White is somewhat in the same boat.  He was taken in the 1st round in 2009 and moved very quickly through the Indians' system.  Alex made his debut in 2011 and put up decent numbers before being dealt to the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal.  He proceeded to get smashed all over the slaughtering grounds of Coors Field. 

I think that the talent is still there and that getting away from Colorado could help. Keep in mind also that prior to starting the 2012 season White was charged with a DUI, and this could have created off the field distractions for him. I also think the Lunhow is bringing in coaches who will teach ground ball pitchers, like White, to be more effective.  I think both Lyles and White could turn into middle of the rotation arms.

5. Cosart and Singleton don't start the year in the MLB

I know fans are screaming for Cosart and Singleton to get the call up to the show.  I highly doubt this will happen at the beginning of the 2013 season.  I think the Astros front office will do everything possible to make sure to delay starting their arbitration clocks in 2013.  I know that's not what fans want to hear, but I have to agree with it.  Barring an season like Oakland had in 2012, the Astros won't be close to competing for a playoff spot.  So why rush two of our best prospects when we don't have a massive depth of upper level prospects near to the show?  I expect both guys to come to spring training and compete, and ultimately start the season in AAA.

I realize that I'm not preaching the Astros glory in this article, but we are still years away from returning to the old days of winning.  The FO seems willing to let the big league team take a bashing, stack #1 picks and continue to build as much young talent in the system as possible.  It won't be popular with the fans, but the hardcore followers will understand.  

I'm sure the Astros fearless leaders are banking on the masses returning to Minute Maid Park when the wins start stacking up.  Until then, I recommend that everyone learn to love prospects, or  start reading more books because its going to be a long season.

c2013 by Jared Webb

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