It is very constructive to have dialogue, conversation, and to present varying viewpoints. With that in mind, each week I am going to ask a question of our knowledgeable staff and post their responses below. I will also be weighing in with my thoughts. I then ask you, the reader, to offer your opinion and tell us what you think.
Lucas Harrell (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
In your opinion, who was the biggest disappointment this season?
That’s an easy one. Lucas Harrell. But I’ve already done an article on how disappointing Harrell has been this season, so I’m going to take this another direction. I’m going to say Jonathan Singleton.
I saw Singleton play a few times last season in Corpus Christi and was extremely impressed. He showed tremendous athleticism and moved exceptionally well for a big man, and I was expecting big things from the 21-year old this season.
It all started with the 50-game suspension for marijuana use. The failed drug test put doubt into my mind as to whether or not Singleton had the kind of self-discipline necessary to become a big league player. I began to wonder if this was more than just a singular incident of a lapse of judgment. Perhaps Singleton was in the initial stages of a downward spiral that would have a devastating impact on a promising career.
After serving the suspension, Singleton reported to Low-A Quad Cities to begin working his way back. He had a great deal of success in a handful of games at a level that he had already mastered three years earlier, but didn’t appear to be as well-conditioned as last season. Singleton moved quickly through AA and up to AAA where he hit only .220/.340/.347 in 73 games.
Playing at AAA as a 21-year old puts Singleton ahead of schedule when compared to most prospects. But, given his previous success under similar circumstances, I think everyone expected him to perform at a higher level. His six homers and 31 RBI’s at AAA fell well short of my expectations and I still have my concerns going into next season.
I am going to take a different angle on this question. Instead of specifically answering my own question, I am taking a broader approach. At the same time, I am also going to speculate on something I have been wondering about this season.
Bo Porter is a rookie manager this season. That is not easy in any situation and especially with a team like the Astros where veteran talent and continuity is at a minimum. To say Porter had a hard job this season would be an understatement. But after the way he began Spring Training, I had confidence that the Astros would play the right way this season. The team under Porter would play hard, hustle, and at the very least be competitive.
Now I am not saying the Astros have not been hustling or playing hard this season, because I do not think that is the case. I also think that while Porter had had his struggles, overall his first year as manager has gone pretty well.
What I am wondering though, and what I think might be the most disappointing part of this season, has been the coaching staff. Again, at this point a lot of this is merely speculation as I am not privy to the exact behind the scenes happenings with the Astros. I am sure the coaches are working hard with the players, but, it is hard for me to really see any tangible success stories out of the coaching staff. To be honest, I am not sure there are many players that have truly exceeded expectations or have come out of nowhere this season. Brett Oberholtzer is an exception.
I am thinking that perhaps a veteran coach or two with previous managerial experience could help this team take the next step. The focus needs to improve and the mental mistakes need to go away next season. As much as the players are at fault here, there needs to also be guidance from the coaching staff. And there is only so much that Porter can do.
To me, the biggest player disappointment is Lucas Harrell. The Astros were clearly still in rebuilding mode and I believe they had every clear intention to deal both Bud Norris and Harrell. Norris ended up being dealt in a deadline deal and I’m sure the Astros wish they could have dealt Harrell. Had Harrell panned out the Astros could have likely received a similar package like the one the Orioles sent to in the Norris deal. To me, losing out on potentially three future pieces was the biggest disappointment of the 2013 season and I’m sure the Astros front office would agree.
The first name that pops in every Astros fans head is Lucas Harrell right? But I would argue that the fact that he is still on the team means he isn’t the BIGGEST disappointment of the year. Instead, I think Rick Ankiel and his 50% strikeout rate was by far the biggest let down of the season.
We knew coming into the season that the young players would struggle. The front office feared that this year would take a toll on them, so they signed a few veteran free agents to stabilize the clubhouse as it went through this rocky season.
But Rick Ankiel couldn’t even make it to the All-Star break, not even close. He was cut after striking out seemingly every time he stepped into the batter’s box. No matter how much of a presence he was in the clubhouse, he was absolutely dreadful on the field, and for that, Rick Ankiel is my biggest disappointment.