ICYMI: CTH Best of January 2015 (Astros)


The writers at Climbing Tal’s Hill had a great month of January 2015. We know that you are busy, and can’t drop everything you’re doing every time a new post comes out. You might have missed some great work from your favorite blogger, so we will start doing a monthly recap post.

Editor Jason Burke

The Houston Astros have been busy this offseason, and folks in Houston are anticipating the best season of baseball in some time. In an article last week, ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield wrote that he thinks Houston will be the surprise team of 2015. Well, no argument here.

Next: Are the Houston Astros 2015's Surprise Team?

It has been a busy couple of weeks for Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros. If we have learned one thing, it’s that strikeouts will not matter in the 2015 season, as long as each of these new acquisitions stays healthy, and makes loud contact. A couple of weeks back I looked at what the lineup could possibly be for Houston this season, but with so many moves being made I thought it would be fun to look at the Steamer projections for the players that will likely be on the roster come Opening Day.

Next: Houston Astros Lineup Projections

The Astros may not be done fine tuning their roster, but there is already speculation swirling around what their potential lineup could be in 2015. We were asked this question on our ask.fm account, but this morning, our friends at Astros Future were thinking along the same lines, so we wanted to give our thoughts too!

Next: Astros Potential 2015 Lineup

In Houston, a common theme is to keep looking to the future. With the timeline for fielding a competitive team about to reach a tipping point, we can now speculate about big-name free agents that the Houston Astros could potentially land. In this edition, we take a look at the starting pitchers that will hit the market when the 2015 season comes to a close.

Next: Looking Ahead to the 2016 Free Agent Class

Jun 11, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Jon Singleton (28) drives in a run with a fielders choice during the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Assistant Editor: Eric Huysman

At Astros Fan Fest 2015, the local bloggers who cover the Houston Astros were invited to a bloggers round table. We were given 30 minutes each with Astros President Reid Ryan, GM Jeff Luhnow, and new manager A.J. Hinch. During Jeff Luhnow’s interview, he gave a breakdown of the Astros offseason through his eyes.

Next: An Inside Look at Astros Offseason Through Lihnow's Eyes

While prospects come, and some go, the Astros were hoping to find gold with a 7th round pick from the 2012 draft. They selected Preston Tucker with the 212th overall pick, while the mock drafts had him going in the third round. With the way he has played the past three seasons in the minor leagues, the other 29 team’s loss might be the Astros gain. Scouts have said that Tucker played well, but that he played over his ability and will not have the same success.

Next: Preston Tucker Interview: When Will He get His Call?

What does the new Astros skipper A.J. Hinch think of Springer? “He can dance as much as he wants, you know, if he keeps hitting home runs!” “People love that, they rally behind that. You’re talking about a guy who you rarely want to throttle down, but he’s as intense as the come, he’s ready to go.” Hinch described his first day on the job as he called all 45 players or so to introduce himself. He could not get a hold of Springer, but when he finally did, Springer was doing a cardio workout in Connecticut. “He’s obviously a full throttle dude.”

Next: A.J. Hinch on George Springer

Welcome to Generation K! No I don’t mean the trio of young stud pitchers in the New York Mets organization in 1995, consisting of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, andPaul Wilson. I’m talking about the young Astros habit of striking out–a lot. The future success of the Astros will depend on cutting out the K’s.

Next: How do Astros fix Generation K?

The Astros will not only have the TV money rolling in during the 2015 season, but they are going to be able to save some money in air conditioning at Minute Maid Park. Jim Crane comes out of his office when he gets hot and will ask “Where is Chris Carter‘s air conditioning from his big swings and misses?”

All kidding aside, 2015 will be known as Astros Generation K, due to the large number of players who have high strikeout percentages.

Next: How do Astros fix Generation K? Part Deux

Luis Valbuena was made expendable by the emergence of Kris Bryant who is set to make debut early 2015. In 2014 Valbuena set new career highs in games played with 149, home runs with 16, runs batted in with 51, and OPS of 0.776. Based on his 2014 numbers, he is a step up from Dominguez at third. The question is whether or not he is an everyday impact player for the Astros.

Next: Is Valbuena the Man at Third?

Sep 25, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) grounds out in the fifth inning of their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field. The Pirates won 10-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas O’Banion

When you have a collection of power hitters like the Astros have in 2015, you have to embrace it. You have to own it. You have to name it. Yes, these guys will whiff a lot (who doesn’t like a breeze in Houston?), and they’ll join the ranks of Generation K. The New York Yankees had Murderer’s Row in the late 1920s, the Cincinnati Reds had theBig Red Machine in the 1970s, and the Oakland Athletics had the Bash Brothers of the late 1980s. So, why can’t the 2015 Houston Astros get some love for something commendable? (Note: this is not intended to be a comparison to those Yankees or Reds ballclubs).

Next: The Houston Astros Need a New Nickname

However, for the Houston Astros, Bud Selig has been a thorn in their side.

Next: Bud Selig and Houston Astros not a Love Story

Are you still pumped up over the Hall of Fame results from yesterday? I am ecstatic that Craig Biggio is officially a Hall of Famer. We all knew it. It just took the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) a few years to finally acknowledge that “Mr. Astro” was worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Next: Craig Biggio: Highlights of Hall of Fame Career

Sep 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) prepares to delver a pitch against the Oakland Athletics in the second inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Gonzalez

Craig Biggio week continues as the Astros have their very own finally in the Hall of Fame. Brian McTaggart, the Astros writer for MLB.com asked a very good question,which hat should Craig Biggio wear on his Hall of Fame plaque? Let’s break down his three options before going into which one I believe he should wear.

Next: Which Hat will Craig Biggio Wear in Cooperstown?

Hinch said that the players got here being themselves, and he’s not going to change who they are as long as they are “all in.” With the surplus in talent at numerous positions, Hinch is fully aware that he’s going to have players upset at him for sitting on the bench. And he’s okay with that as long as those players trust him and are all in on winning.

Next: Talking with the Astros New Manager A.J. Hinch

nd who will round out the 25 Man Roster. Assuming there are 12 pitchers on the team, there are only 13 spots left for the hitters. And for the first time in years, there will be a real competition going on all over the field in Spring Training. We’ll go into this assuming your starting 9 on the team are: C-Jason Castro, 1B-Jon Singleton, 2B-Jose Altuve, 3B-Luis Valbuena, SS-Jed Lowrie, LF-Evan Gattis, CF-Colby Rasmus, RF-George Springer, and DH-Chris Carter.

Next: Who will be on the Astros Bench?

Apr 9, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CA; Houston Astros designated hitter Chris Carter stretches in the dugout against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Manch

Houston Astros fans are thoroughly familiar with the term ‘rebuilding’, a word guaranteed to cause any sports fan’s blood to run cold. It began for us in the terrible summer of 2011, when we said goodbye to Astros stalwarts Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, and others.

Next: The Houston Astros Should Continue Rebuilding

Brett Wallace was supposed to replace long-time Houston fan favorite Lance Berkman at first base. When Berkman was traded to the Yankees in July 2010, Wallace, who was obtained in a minor league trade two days before, was called up to the Astros without playing any games for Triple-A Round Rock.

Next: Astros' Disappointments, Players Falling Short of Expectations

Long-time Astros fans surely remember Chris Burke and the heroics he provided during the 2005 playoffs. Although Burke only played for the Astros for parts of four seasons, his place in Astros lore is secured by one legendary swing of his bat. Chris Burke was the hero in one of the most spectacular moments in Astros history.

Next: Chris Burke: An Astros Legend

Jun 20, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez (30) throws the ball to first for an out against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kennon Riley

When asked a question about his biggest accomplishment as the Astros President, Reid stressed that the fans are #1 and the players are #2. Without these components, there wouldn’t be a team on the field. In this day and age, the fans, collectively, have a huge role in the success of the team. Houston will never match the TV contracts that the Los Angeles or New York franchises receive. That puts the team at a significant economic disadvantage.

Next: Reid Ryan's Hand in the Rebuilding of Astros

Last year I wrote an article very similar to this one. While mid-January was probably a tad premature then, and late-January is a little premature now, I figured that consistency is more important than waiting on my hands for another move. There are rumors of adding an additional pitcher, but I believe that there are plenty candidates in-house for AJ Hinch to choose from during Spring Training.

Next: Starting Pitching Candidates: Who Fills Final Two Spots?

May 4, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) hits a grand slam home run in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Sanders

Despite Corporan’s departure undermining the original idea for this article, the possibility of bringing one of the Phillies stars to Houston stuck in my mind.  You see, the Phillies have one of the things that the Astros (or at least the Astros fans) covet the most: an elite arm.  And a leftie at that.

Next: Can the Astros Get Cole Hamels?

Monday April 13th brings the Oakland Athletics to Minute Maid Park for the Astros second home series of the 2015 season.  The American League schedule dictates that the Astros will play the A’s nineteen times as part of a seventy-six game schedule against the other AL West teams, making up a little under half the regular season schedule.

Next: The AL West in 2015: The Oakland Athletics

Sep 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro (15) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the Oakland Athletics in the seventh inning at O.co Coliseum. The Astros defeated the Athletics 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Brown

It’s no secret Jeff Luhnow and his Houston Astros front office have been wheeling and dealing this offseason, giving us bloggers plenty of exciting material to choose from during yet another sad, baseball-less winter. It’s truly been a whirlwind, but lost in this huge cloud of Hot Stove dust is what I see as a contingency plan for a potential bust:Jon Singleton.

Next: The Possible Jon Singleton Contingency Plan

Oct. 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Mark Appel plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League game against the Surprise Saguaros at Salt River Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Issa Cook

At this point in the offseason, most of the free agent signings have passed and teams are getting a strong sense of how their 2015 roster is going to look. However, there are some big names still out there, including James Shields and Max Scherzer. Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow did an interview Friday on MLB Network and seemed very confident in the 2015 team that he has assembled thus far, saying, “Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year, and, I’ll go on the record of saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning Astros teams.”

Next: Astros and Big Name Pitching Market: What's Going on?

Aug 26, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer (65) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brinn Winford

I know, what a question, right? How can a team that excited its fan base by improving to a 70-92 record last year all of a sudden have too many good players? Let’s take a look.

Next: Do the Astros Have to Many Good Players?

With the Washington Nationals signing Max Scherzer to the latest baseball megadeal, I wanted to look at the players that have changed leagues thus far during Hot Stove season and see which league has gotten stronger and how that might affect the quality of competition facing the Astros in 2015. While there is no doubt that Houston has made significant upgrades to a number of areas this winter, other teams have done the same thing.

Next: Has the Astros Competition Gotten

Jun 18, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Lancaster Jethawks outfielder Preston Tucker (15) during the ninth inning of the California League vs Carolina League All Star Game at San Jose Municipal Stadium. The Carolina League defeated the California League 12-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Pondillo: Podcast

We officially get off the rocker on this addition of #AstroChat, as the offseason has got the best of Andy Pondillo. Andy addresses if the likes of Max Scherzer, James Shields, or Cole Hamels could reasonably end up in Houston.

There is so much packed into this week’s episode of #AstroChat! Andy Pondillo gives you his take on the powerful additions of Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus as well as the loss of Dexter Fowler. Luis Valbuena, is he assumed to be the starting third baseman? Also what to do with the logjam of players, is Chris Carter being made trade bait? That and much more on this edition of #AstroChat.

Next: Embrace the Power

Andy Pondillo brings us a quickie version of #AstroChat this week to get on his soapbox about why banning defensive shifts is a horrible idea. Andy also discusses Ryan Vogelsong’s odd remarks after not signing with Houston.

Next: Banning Shifts a Horrible Plan

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

Thanks to all the writers, podcasters, and readers of Climbing Tal’s Hill in January. There is so much more to check out at www.climbingtalshill.com. Here is to a success full February leading up to spring games.

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