Where should the Astros go from here?
Well, isn’t that the million dollar question following the Texas Rangers three-game sweep of the Astros this past weekend. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution.
For one, the Astros best players have yet to perform at their previous level last year in 2016. Dallas Keuchel is 2-6 with a 5.92 ERA. Carlos Correa is hitting .253 with an 114 wRC+. Collin McHugh is 4-4 with a 5.13 ERA. And the list goes on. The only Astros hitter maintaining a batting average over .255 is Jose Altuve.
Besides the recent call up of Colin Moran and Tony Kemp, the Astros have little immediate help in the minors. A.J. Reed could make an appearance at some point in 2016, but he doesn’t appear to be quite ready for the major leagues. Joe Musgrove was just recently promoted to AAA so the Astros may be wise to exercise restraint on promoting him to majors too soon. Alex Bregman is still in AA. Maybe Brady Rodgers is an option for the pitching staff. Perhaps Danny Worth? But there is still little help arriving via the minors in 2016. 2017 is a different question, but you get the point.
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Needless to say, you can’t get rid of your best players after a poor 45-game stretch. The Astros just got Lance McCullers off the DL, and outside of Keuchel’s implosion, the pitching staff as a whole has improved. So a chance of improvement, especially if the offense rights the course, still exists. But that doesn’t mean that one of two things is happening right now: either everyone overestimated the Astros ability to win, or they are a good team in the midst of a terrible streak of mediocre baseball. I’m willing to bet on the former at this point.
To be simply honest, there isn’t much that the Astros can do right now. Firing manager A.J. Hinch is not an option that the Astros will seriously pursue; Hinch built up too much good will last year and firing your manager after a rough month-and-a-half stretch wouldn’t paint the Astros organization in a favorable light. But the hitting coach’s job may start becoming warm shortly, especially if the offense continues to be inconsistent heading into July.
There is just a little help coming the way of the minors. If this slide continues, you should honestly expect that the Astros will be sellers at the trade deadline. Names like Carlos Gomez, Colby Rasmus, and McHugh will surely come up in trade discussions. Clearing out the outfield logjam may open up playing time for Kemp and Preston Tucker.
But even after the starting the first 45 games 17-28, there is no reason to blow things up. Sure, it doesn’t look good by any extent of the imagination, but you give this still young, and I emphasize young, a chance to prove themselves for the next 6-8 weeks. Maybe it is time to consider seriously having Moran starting at third base and Kemp in center field?
The Astros have gotten off to a poor start, and there is little that this team can do right now besides stay the course. And who knows, maybe this team can catch a bit of that same mojo from last year. But the clock is ticking.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**