Houston Astros: The Youth Movement Begins Earlier Than Expected

Blaine SinclairContributor IIIAugust 10, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 08:  J.D. Martinez #14 of the Houston Astros celebrates a first inning home against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammate Jason Bourgeois #11 at Chase Field on August 8, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

Fans are getting restless in Houston, Texas.  They have seen every face of their franchise in the last five years flee into retirement, free agency or trades.

First, it was Jeff Bagwell, then Craig Biggio. After those two likely Hall of Famers, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman left town at last year's deadline.  Now Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, the team's two most promising players have been dealt.

Where do they go from here?

Any logical-thinking baseball fan/manager/general manager/owner (Drayton McLane would not qualify) would assume the Astros must completely rebuild from the bottom of their farm system with high ceiling prospects. They have received some quality prospects with the recent fire sales of franchise players in the last two trade deadlines and must start there.

The Astros faithful must wait for young talents like Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Jonathan Villar, Mike Foltynewicz, Delino Deshields Jr., George Springer (if signed by Aug. 15) and others.  Of course, all of them must pay their dues in the minors before getting the call-up to Minute Maid Park in the years to come.

What everyone didn't expect was the Double A (Corpus Christi) and Triple A (Oklahoma City) talents Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes, J.B. Shuck, Brian Bogusevic and others to step in and play like they have been there before.

Jose Altuve, the 5'7'' second baseman, has been the most impressive since he got the call on July 19. He has hit .333 in 72 at-bats in 19 games and has delivered in the clutch with looping singles and playing in his gritty fashion. He has added five doubles and a stolen base.

Altuve looks like he could be a good one right away and has drawn comparisons to former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia by manager Brad Mills (former Boston Red Sox bench coach) for his small stature and his big game.

J.D. Martinez has burst onto the scene since Carlos Lee has been moved to first base after Brett Wallace was optioned down to Oklahoma City.  Martinez has excelled in his first 10 games as the everyday left-fielder.

He has hit .306 in 36 at-bats, but the real number to consider is his seven extra-base hits out of his first 11 hits as a big leaguer. Four of those hits have cleared the fence, earning him a total of 12 runs batted in. He has led a surprisingly sharp offense in recent games in Arizona.

Jimmy Paredes and J.B. Shuck have also impressed in their limited time wearing the Houston brand. Paredes went deep for the first time in Tuesday night's loss to Arizona.

Shuck has gotten a shot to play in right with Brian Bogusevic, who also compiled his first major league knock Tuesday night.  Shuck has had an opportunity to hit in the leadoff spot in recent games and has shown plus plate discipline.

In conclusion, the Astros are far from being where they want to be, but they are managing to be competitive with a slew of 20-year-olds who must have watched some Hunter Pence game tape.  They are playing hard and making a difference.

Henry Sosa (acquired from San Francisco in Jeff Keppinger deal) will be the fifth pitcher to make his major league debut for the Astros on Wednesday night in the third game of a four-game series with Arizona.  Will he be the next to make his mark?