Over the past two weeks the Astros' big league squad has taken a major hit, trading away two of their best players in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, along with solid second baseman Jeff Keppinger. The Astros have had to react by bringing up some prospects to try to fill the holes left by these players. Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Luis Durango, Brian Bogusevic, J.B. Shuck and Jimmy Paredes were summoned from the farm system along with other rookies that have been brought up over the course of the year.
The Astros currently have very little talent on the major league level with a few bright spots that have great potential. Here is a ranking of the best players left on the Astros.
Clint Barmes was traded from the Rockies this past year and was supposed to bring some power to the middle of the infield. Instead, he got hurt and missed most of April. He then proceeded and played subpar baseball, not truly fulfilling what he was brought in for. He has been resurgent of late, hitting four homers with a solid .282 batting average in the month of July to bring his total up to eight homers and a .251 average.
He should still be playing good ball at the age of 32 and is looking to carry over his recent success into August. He obviously has some talent and ability to play well and the Astros have been able to see that recently. I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros resigned him this year to a one-year deal, just to keep on holding the spot for top prospects Jiovanni Mier and Jonathan Villar.
Carlos Lee has been the biggest pain in the butt for the Astros the last two years. He has a monster contract with a no-trade clause, plays terrible defense, and under-performs at the plate. The past two years he has hit an average of 17 homers, 75 RBI, a bad .254 batting average, and an embarrassing .301 on-base percentage.
In total this year, Lee has hit .266 with a whopping 11 home runs and 63 RBI. He has been playing a little better the past month, but he still has been playing poorly this season. And since he's at the tail end of his career, he's not getting any better.
Fernando Rodriguez has settled in nicely in the Astros bullpen after being signed as a free agent this past winter. In 26 games the 27-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA, and a great strikeout rate of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He has proven that he can be solid reliever and might have a fixture in the bullpen for years to come.
However, relievers have been known to have one or two years of superb relief and then trail off. Only time will tell if Rodriguez is for real.
Sergio Escalona has been one of the best relievers the Astros have had this year. In 38 games the 27-year-old lefty has a 2.78 ERA and an average of 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He has been a solid performer this year and perhaps will be a solid rock in years to come. He is also entering his prime and probably won't get much better than this.
I see him sticking in an Astros uniform a couple more years. The Astros have struggled to find a good lefty reliever in the past, and hopefully Escalona will become a fixture for several years.
Jason Bourgeois has been a huge bright spot for the Astros when he hasn't been hurt. In 148 at-bats, Bourgeois has 48 hits, 19 runs scored, a great .324 batting average, and a whopping 22 stolen bases to only five times getting caught. He has great speed and has proven that he can be a solid hitter.
However, some sabermetrics point towards the fact that this is only a fluke and people can expect his batting average to drop some sixty points. I want Bourgeois to stay like this and become a fixture in the outfield, replacing Michael Bourn, but it seems very unlikely. He will most likely settle in as a pinch-hitter, or may even be traded in the future. He's in his prime at age 29 and hopefully will be able to keep up his performance for a few more years. I have many mixed feelings about Jason Bourgeois.
Jack Shuck was just recently brought up to replace Luis Durango's slot on the roster. Shuck brings a hard-nosed all-out style of play, sort of like our old buddy Hunter Pence. I personally want Shuck to have a starting position, but it looks like management plans to have him on the bench and let unskilled Jordan Schafer have his spot in the outfield.
Shuck has been tearing up AAA ball and I think he could be a solid replacement for the fan-favorite Pence. I think he could easily hit over .300 in the near future to make up for his low power and his average speed. Nonetheless, I'm very excited to have J.B. Shuck on the major league team and prove himself worthy of the starting position next year.
David Carpenter was brought in from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Pedro Feliz trade. He had a long trek up the baseball ladder this year, starting out in AA Corpus Christi, then moving up and pitching 19 scoreless innings in AAA Oklahoma, then being brought up to the majors. With the Astros he has gone 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings pitched, with an average of 9 strikeouts per nine innings.
That is a small sample size, but Carpenter has shown that he has the ability to be a top-notch reliever and, at 26 years of age, could possibly get even better in the future. He is a good power pitcher who has a good strikeout rate, which gives him the ability to become a great reliever.
Wilton Lopez has been a solid set-up man for Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, and Mark Melancon for two years now and continues to improve. He has a 2.63 ERA with a solid 7.4 strikeouts per nine inning average.
Lopez and newly-acquired closer Mark Melancon form a solid final punch at the end of games, and I think he'll be able to perform at this level or better for at least three years or more. He is easily one of the best relievers that the Astros have. He will hopefully set-up many Astros victories in the future.
Jimmy Paredes was brought over from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman deal and is hopefully going to take over the third base job from Chris Johnson. He shows good speed and could be a good hitter for average in the future. He isn't going to turn 23 until next season.
He might have good talent and could very well be the third baseman of the future for the franchise, who hasn't had a solid third baseman since the days of Morgan Ensberg.
In the beginning of the year, Jordan Lyles was easily the top prospect in a depleted farm system. He is projected to be, at best, a number three or bottom-of-the-rotation starter.
He has been very solid this year in his twelve starts. He is doing very well for a 20-year-old, with a 4.36 ERA and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings. In his last start he finally won his first game, which he has deserved for a long time. He seems to be getting better and very well could be a number two or three starter for the Astros rotation of the future.
At 26 years of age, Mark Melancon, the centerpiece of the Lance Berkman deal with the Yankees, is the Astros' projected closer of the future. And he hasn't done a terrible job so far this year. He has 11 saves with a 3.04 ERA and has 43 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched.
He has been a solid closer, but hasn't had much practice in important games, so who knows how he'll deal with true pressure. It seems that he has potential to be a good closer for years to come. Perhaps Melancon will save games in the future that actually have some significance, and will finish out the World Series in a victory.
Wandy Rodriguez has been the most consistent starter for the Astros in the past 3 years, save Roy Oswalt. The last player on the team from the 2005 World Series team, Wandy is currently pitching with a 3.69 ERA and 109 strikeouts and is sporting a 7-8 record.
He is easily the most seasoned team veteran and the second-best starter after Bud Norris. He doesn't appear to have much of a future with the franchise since he was surrounded with trade rumors before last week's trade deadline, and could possibly be dealt in August through waivers.
Jose Altuve was the first of many call-ups in the past two and a half weeks. He has fit in very nicely in 17 games, hitting .328 with four RBI.
Ranked as one of the best second-base prospects by Baseball America, many think that he won't be able to stick on the major league level with much success since he stands at only 5'7", but I think that he'll be able to hit well for the Astros in years to come. The Astros haven't had a solid second baseman since Craig Biggio four years ago, and to have a replacement that can stay here for years would be a welcome surprise.
J.D. Martinez was drafted in the 20th round in the 2009 draft and is looking to make his foothold in majors this year. He is playing in left field, replacing the roster spot of recently traded fan-favorite Hunter Pence. In his six games he has done pretty well, hitting exactly .250 with two homers and eight RBI.
He is only 23 years old, and could keep getting better as he's still a couple years away from his prime. Most people don't believe that he can be a good number three hitter in the lineup, and that the Astros should seek elsewhere for a solid outfielder, but I believe that Martinez has the potential to be an All-Star.
At 26 years old, Bud Norris is easily the best starter the Astros have, and quite possibly the ace of the future. He has been getting better since his call-up three years ago and so far this year he has an impressive 3.73 ERA with 132 strikeouts and five wins. Norris is one of the few familiar names left on the roster and, as a young player, will hopefully be with them for awhile.
He's only getting better and is easily the best player on this team right now, and might be for years to come. It is my hope that he will lead the Astros back into contention when they get a better owner, a new manager, a new general manager, and a team that's built to win.