Houston Astros: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not — Volume 2
Everyone at the plate except for Altuve and Alvarez.
This lineup has been M.I.A. at the plate. We gave them the benefit of the doubt last month, but not much has changed. Hitters not named Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez combined to hit .223 (160-for-773) with a .612 OPS — that would be tied for 29th in the majors with Detroit Tigers and only slightly ahead of the Oakland As. Feel free to barf at anytime.
What is strange is both the pedigree and expectations for this lineup. Kyle Tucker was hot for a few weeks but has since slowed down. Yuli Gurriel looked sharp in spring training and had many thinking he was a good bet to repeat as batting title champ. Michael Brantley is Michael Brantley. And Alex Bregman was looking to find his 2019 form where he slammed 40 homers.
Nothing has come together yet. This lineup looks like they have a rock in their shoe. They haven’t been very potent for a long time, and whenever Altuve or Alvarez are out of the lineup, it’s hard to imagine this squad scoring more than three runs.
I won’t fault you for believing this lineup will turn it around. There are too many All-Stars and great hitters for them to be so average. And I still believe they’ll find their stride and get back to being an above-average offensive team., but this team is not an offensive juggernaut right now.
How are the Astros’ potential trade pieces?
If the Astros are going to make some moves, their trade pieces did not have a great May.
Jose Siri hit .215 and Chas McCormick hit .185 in May. Both center fielders posted a +30 strikeout rate. Jake Meyers should get plenty of opportunity to earn the job once he’s healthy, but now the Astros are in a pickle.
The drop-off in play from Siri and McCormick might make it tougher for general manager James Click to move either of those guys. Things seem so bad from those two, I’m ready to give Lewis Brinson a fair shot at the job.
That’s not the only position where Houston is struggling. Although I doubt the Astros are going to move their catcher corps, Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro are still not putting up much —Maldonado hitting .170 and Castro hitting .144). Their impact on the rest of the game is duly noted, but Houston needs more from them at the plate.
The struggles go beyond just the major-league team. Future catcher Korey Lee — who was projected to earn some playing time this year — hasn’t looked very sharp in Sugar Land. Pedro Leon looks incredibly promising, but his high strikeout rate makes you believe he’s not quite ready for center field. Brinson has played fine, but he may very well just be an elite Triple-A player who can’t hold up in the majors like Niko Goodrum last year.
If the Astros get desperate around the trade deadline and need a bat, the lack of performance by some of these younger players will make it tougher to get deals done.
This may come off as a cynical doom-and-gloom piece about a 33-18 team, but the Astros are not trying to win the division. They’re trying to win a championship. They’re trying to win it all in what is likely the last season for Verlander and others in an Astros uniform.
Houston will have more home games in June and July so perhaps this offensive funk they are in will rectify themselves. Let hope so because they’ll need it by October.