With the Houston Astros having an off day, I thought it would be a good time for the writers here at Climbing Tal’s Hill to have another round table discussion. We will be taking a look at the soon to be returning Jeff Keppinger and a look at the Astros’ front office. If any readers out there have a question they want answered by CTH, please post your questions in the comment section and we will take a swing at it next week.
Assuming all bench players are healthy, who do you think will be sent down when Jeff Keppinger returns later this month from the DL?
Brandon: Even though he has played well, Matt Downs should be the player sent down when Keppinger comes back. This demotion is no reflection on the job he has done to this point but Angel Sanchez has been more valuable to the Astros and contributed more. Sanchez was the starting shortstop for roughly the first month and at times looked like the best hitter. Since Barmes has come back from injury, Sanchez has shown his versatility starting at both third base and second base. At this point in the season, Sanchez offers more value than Downs and that is why I think Downs will be sent down to open a spot up for Keppinger.
Trevor: With Angel Sanchez making a debut at third base this past weekend, Matt Downs has become expendable. Batting .250 and flying out at an unbelievably high rate with a GB/FB ratio of .32, Downs fails to show why he is a main stay to the Astros. I do, though, believe that Keppinger will be traded at some point this season. At 31 years old and 6 years experience as a platooner/spot starter, Keppinger exhibits the skills needed to an extremely valuable utility man for a ball club in the market for one. It takes little baseball knowledge to know that the Astros will not be contending for World Series births in the next couple of years, so trading Kepp for a young left handed reliever to boost the farm or current roster would be ideal. So, when Kepp comes back, expect him to be on display at the cost of Downs.
Greg: Who will be sent down when Keppinger is activated? That is really a tough question. Jason Michaels will be coming back around the same time. I would assume that Bogusevic and Inglett will give up their spots to accommodate Kepp & Michaels. Inglett really hasn’t really done anything for us and has been designated once already. Unlike the infielders on the current roster, Bogusevic still has options. I wouldn’t want to take a chance on losing any of the infielders. Sending out Inglett and Bogusevic would leave the roster void of a left handed pinch hitter. It would also leave only four natural outfielders. But Hall and Keppinger both have experience in the outfield and could fill in there if needed. I fully expect either Hall or Kepp to be traded before the deadline at which point the picture will be a little clearer.
Jesse: Right now this question is a little bit easier to answer because of the injury to Jason Bourgeois as well. When Bourgeois comes back I think that Joe Inglett will be designated for assignment again. That leaves Matt Downs, Angel Sanchez, and Jeff Keppinger as the options to back up the middle infield. I think that choosing between Matt Downs and Angel Sanchez is a relatively easy decision to make, not because ones level of performance is significantly better than the others, but because Angel Sanchez is out of options and Matt Downs is not. Because of this I believe that Downs will be sent down even though he has not performed bad in his limited amount of playing time. Angel has been pretty impressive defensively in the couple of starts I saw him at third base, which was surprising considering he has a somewhat weaker arm than most third baseman. He was definitely stretched at shortstop, and Barmes is definitely the superior shortstop defensively, but I think that Sanchez improved his stock a little bit by playing a decent third in limited playing time. His range is not as much of a liability at third as it was at shortstop. With all this being said I think that Sanchez remains up, and Downs is sent down.
How much confidence do you have in Ed Wade in the job he has done so far and going forward? Can he put together a championship team?
Brandon: Even though the Astros have struggled these past few seasons, I think Ed Wade has the team heading in the right direction. The Astros are in a rebuilding mode and Wade has been working hard to keep the Astros competitive while building the farm system. We have a lot of young, promising players in Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson, Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence, Bud Norris, Mark Melancon. Our farm system is starting to grow after having good drafts the past few years. I think the Astros are still two years away from being in the discussion of championship contenders but we are heading in the right direction, and Wade has to get a lot of that credit.
Trevor: It is hard to appropriately grade Wade since he is inheriting the works of Tim Purpura who drove the Astros into a hole. Wade is responsible for bringing in Tejada which proved to be a bust due to the club’s need for a younger SS as opposed to the aging Tejada. Though we lost Luke Scott, the verdict will be out on that trade after the saga of P Troy Patton unfolds. He seems to be getting off the focus that older players are what we need, and he has restocked the farm well as of late. He also acquired Jason Jennings and well… I just don’t want to even talk about that. Just tuurrrrible. People seem to forget these two things though: he ousted Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn and built the Phillies into the team they are now. Lidge may have had a great impact on the Phillies World Series run, but other than that, he has been a bust. Bourn has developed into an All Star, gold glove center fielder and has the potential to be great for many years to come. Wade served as a scout after getting the boot in Philadelphia, so he knows how to evaluate talent. For example, if the Brett Wallace trade works out, Wade was able to acquire a first baseman of the future for a starter who was only getting older. He sold low on Berkman, which hurts, but we were out of options. Wade has the potential, but he has yet to prove himself in Houston. It takes more than 4 years to build up a team that had the worst farm system in the majors and was only getting older. I say give him more time; he has proved himself before.
Greg: I have always been pro-Wade. I think he has done an excellent job of rebuilding a gutted farm system. Players like Jordan Lyles, J.D. Martinez, Wladimir Stull, Jimmy Paredes, Jiovanni Meier, and Tanner Bushue are the future of the franchise. Wade has proven he can build a championship team. Look at what he did in Philadelphia. But two questions have to be asked. How long will it take, and will Wade still be around after the team is sold?
Jesse: I think that Ed Wade can definitely put together a championship team since he basically did it in Philadelphia even if he was already out of the picture when that happened. Ed Wade is doing things the right way by replenishing the farm system first, but this is a very long process, and one that will not have immediate results. I like every move that Ed Wade has made in regards to the farm system. Each draft has been very exciteable since he took over. The moves that I haven’t liked from Wade have all been at the major league level. The reclamation projects of Russ Ortiz, Shawn Chacon, and Mike Hampton were all bad moves, and Pedro Feliz was also a poor decision. What is surprising to me this season is the fact that the bullpen has struggled so much when Ed Wade has been known in the past as a general manager that has a good eye for building successful bullpens. Outside of Melancon and Lopez the group that he has assembled have struggled, however they are all still young and has the potential to be good. So to sum things up I think that Wade can definitely put together a championship team, but with Jim Crane reportedly close to buying the Astros and being outspoken about obtaining other GM’s, I don’t think that Wade will get the chance to see all of his hard work pay off. There is no telling where he will be when the Astros rotation consists of Jordan Lyles, Dallas Keuchel, Tanner Bushue, and Mike Foltynewicz.