Houston Astros Blockbuster Trades, Pitcher Hauls: Which Will Make the Grade?
The Astros traded five of their best players in the last two seasons.
They managed to bring in nine different pitchers to help build for the future. Of course, pitching is always unpredictable. I suppose we can say there is safety in numbers. Some have already made an impact while others likely won't be seen for a couple more years.
In this edition of the countdown we will sift through the hype, numbers and more complex numbers to predict the future. Who out of the impressive haul (in pure numbers) will actually be able to help the Astros in the long term?
No. 9: J.A. Happ
J.A. Happ came to the Astros as the biggest name in the Roy Oswalt trade.
He was the Rookie of the Year runner up in 2009, but the Phillies knew it was a mirage. Happ lived off of low BABIP numbers in 2009 and 2010, but 2011 has been a huge struggle. A month in Oklahoma City prevented him from being the first starter since Mike Maroth to lose 20 games in a season.
Happ is neither that good nor that bad. He is a bottom of the rotation guy that has to have more command to be successful. He is 2-0 since returning from Oklahoma City, so hopefully he has found something.
No. 8: Jason Stoffel
Jason Stoffel was the so-called prize of the Jeff Keppinger deal this July, but he has had a horrible year in AA.
He has a 4.63 ERA overall (6.00 ERA in Corpus Christi), but he has a 3.74 FIP thanks to a robust .348 BABIP. If he has a normal batting average on balls in play in 2012 he will likely get back on the radar as a prospect. Of course, a lower walk rate (4.82 per nine innings) would really help as well. Still, he has a good live arm and he is only 22.
Currently, he projects as a middle reliever type. You can't ever have too many of those guys.
No. 7: Josh Zeid
Josh Zeid is rated higher than the other guys on the list, but he is a similar guy.
He has a live arm and an impressive strikeout rate. The gopher ball got in the way in 2011, but his FIP is better than his ERA. He is a bounce back candidate in 2012.
Like Stoffel, he projects as one of those middle relief guys that are nice to have around.
No. 6: Henry Sosa
Henry Sosa has been a source of debate among experts. Some called him the best starter in the Giants system. I'm not really sure where that is coming from. Baseball America had him rated as the Giants' 29th best prospect.
The minor league numbers are good, but not spectacular. A 3.38 FIP is promising to be sure, but he seemed to struggle every time he was exposed to AAA hitters. That doesn't bode well long-term for a 26 year old pitcher.
Sosa has made six starts in Houston and is 2-2 with an ERA under 4.50. I'm not going to hold my breath on this guy, but every organization goes through as many as 10 starters in a season. He's a good guy to have around, but he's nothing more than a fifth or sixth starter.
No. 5: Juan Abreu
It's hard not to get somewhat excited at what Abreu brings to the table.
He is 26 years old, but throws in the high 90s and occasionally flirts with 100. He has said in the past that he is disappointed when he only throws in the mid 90s. His 12.02 strikeouts per nine innings rate jumps off the page. Unfortunately, so does his 5.31 walks per nine innings.
He has closer stuff if he ever harnesses it. At his advanced age he might not become more than a middle reliever. The Astros seem to be stockpiling them.
No. 4: Paul Clemens
Paul Clemens was one of the two keys to the Michael Bourn deal with Atlanta.
He is 23 years old and pitched an entire season in AA. However, his stuff doesn't project him to be a stud. You never turn your nose up at bottom of the rotation starters. Every team needs them and they often make the difference between competing for the playoffs and making travel plans in July.
He has a 3.92 FIP this season and a decent K rate (7.81) to go with it. If he can shave a walk off of his walk rate and maybe cut a little into the home run rate he could be a candidate as soon as midseason next year.
No. 3: Mark Melancon
If you shot truth syrum into the Astros front office they would admit that Mark Melancon wasn't an ideal choice for the closer role this season.
When Brandon Lyon went down there simply were no other options. He was okay, but championship teams do not have closers like Mark Melancon. Yet, the Astros aren't a closer away from the playoffs. They aren't even a closer away from fifth place.
He will likely serve in the same role in 2012, but slide back to a setup role in 2013.
No. 2: Brett Oberheltzer
Paul Clemens is the bigger name, but that might be just because it is the easier name.
Obeholtzer has better peripherals and a much lower FIP (3.25) than his former and current teammate. He doesn't project to be any higher than a fourth starter, but the Astros are finally developing competition for those spots.
Competition brings out the best in people sometimes. If it doesn't then at least it gives you a choice when things like J.A. Happ and Nelson Figueroa happen.
No. 1 Jarred Cosart
Jarred Cosart might be prospect 1A in the Astros system right now right next to Jonathan Singleton.
He pitched in the Futures Game and lit up the radar gun. Houston bypassed Lancaster when they got him and sent him straight to Corpus Christi. In spite of the fact that he skipped a level he still held his own and dominated in most outings.
During his second outing in Corpus, he got lit up, but he came back strong and never struggled again. If he develops a credible change up to accompany his blazing fastball and solid curve he has star written all over him.
Health has also been a concern in the past, but he is the kind of top of the rotation prospect they simply don't have in their system.
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