Every week, the staff of Climbing Tal’s Hill will take a moment to answer a couple of question surrounding the team. If you would like to see us tackle a specific question or topic please post them in the comment sections of the week’s round table discussion and we will discuss it fornext week. This week we will be talking about Jason Castro’s injury, who will win the 5th spot in the rotation and what position Carlos Lee provides the most value to the Astros. This is part 1 of the discussion and we will have part 2 posted tomorrow.
How much impact does Jason Castro’s injury have on the Astros this season? Who will take over the starting role: Towles or Quintero?
Brandon: Jason Castro’s impact will be felt most behind the plate and not so much at the plate. He did not provide that much offense last year after getting called up to the majors but should he was more than capable of controlling a pitching staff and keeping runners honest on the base paths. This injury also brings to light one of the bigger issues the Astros will face all season and that is depth behind the starters. Being such a young team and not having a very strong farm system, if a starter goes down with a serious injury, like Castro, there isn’t many quality players that will be able to step up. Which brings me to the second part of the question about who will take over the starting role between Quintero and Towles.
I may be foolish or neive but I believe J.R. Towles still has the talent to be a pretty good catcher in this leauge. It is hard to have a game where you have eight RBI in one game and not have the talent to be a major league catcher. This is probably Towles last chance to make the Astros squad as a catcher and hopefully he seizes it for his sake and the teams sake.
Trevor: The answer to the first question is no. Castro’s injury is more of a long term issue than it is a 2011 issue. Offense from the catcher’s role has been a non factor for the past decade essentially, and Castro was not likely to get that turned around this season. A full season of major league experience, though, would have been beneficial this early in his career at the age of 23. In addition to providing an effective bat in the lineup, Castro has to manage the pitching staff from behind the dish, and his lack of a full season with one team since his 2008 season at Stanford has prevented him from adjusting to the needs of a professional pitching staff. I expect that he will need a buffer year to see what the majors truly demands.
Towles vs. Quintero. Quintero vs. Towles. From a consistency stand point, Q has hit between .226 and .236 for the past four years which is serviceable for a back up, in my opinion. Towles has 16 more career strike outs than hits (69 vs. 53) and more than a fifth of his career RBI production came in one game (the 8 RBI September 20th, 2007 game against the Cardinals). Eight also represents the number of RBIs J.R. had for the club all last season. We need offensive production, and in a showcase of lightweights, Q edges curly-q’s.
Greg:Castro’s injury by itself is not a huge blow to the team. But it does magnify the lack of depth and another key injury would lock up a last place finish. Quintero should be the primary catcher unless the Astros sign Molina or find another replacement.
Jesse:It’s hard to determine the impact of Jason Castro’s injury on this season due to the fact that his production this year was a relative unknown. What the Astros lost for this season was certainty due to the fact that Castro was going to be given the opportunity to succeed, and quality depth behind the dish. The long-term implications of this injury could be much more concerning as Castro was a top prospect who projected to be an above average major league catcher. Knee surgery is not something that you want your catcher of the future to have at such a young age. The odds of a full recovery for the type of surgery that Castro had are much less than that of a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery. One example for the recovery of leg injuries is Lance Berkman. Lance stated that his knee never felt right for most of last year and his performance showed that.
I believe that Towles will when the Astros starting catcher role, although he has not performed well at the major league level in the past. Quintero seems to be more valuable to the club as a serviceable backup. While looking outside the organization is always an option, I would rather the Astros give Towles this last shot to prove he can be an everyday major league catcher. If Towles falters to start the season then maybe it would be a good time to look for outside help before the trade deadline. If Towles succeeds however, and Castro recovers then this is a win-win for the organization since Towles value has never been lower.