Following this next three game set the Seattle Mariners schedule begins showing a little variety. The Texas Rangers don't come back around until late May and the Houston Astros don't reappear until mid June, and in that month or so we get to see Angels and Pirates and Yankees and Indians and Padres and Blue Jays and other things that are interesting in that they're different.
|4/22||5:10 pm PDT||Felix Hernandez vs. Brad Peacock|
|4/23||5:10 pm PDT||Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Bud Norris|
|4/24||11:10 am PDT||Joe Saunders vs. Lucas Harrell|
I'm reluctant to say anything bad about the Astros. Last time around we joked as if the Astros were far inferior to the Mariners -- rather than just marginally inferior -- and the Astros thumped the Mariners for two out of three games during Safeco Field's opening series.
And yet it's my instinct. The Mariners throw Felix and Iwakuma against a lineup that has been mediocre to date while the struggling Mariner lineup gets to face the only pitching staff in baseball with an ERA, FIP and xFIP over 5. What could possibly go wrong?
Ya know, besides wild strikeout pitchers Peacock and Norris going buck wild against a strikeout prone lineup, or Franklin Gutierrez running into the flag pole before crumpling to the grass and rolling ever so slowly back to level ground.
Joining us again to talk Astros baseball is David Coleman of The Crawfish Boxes.
Jon: Jose Altuve never cracked a prospect top 100 list but is often recognized as the Astros' best player. Off to a hot start (.375/.423/.486), where is the diminutive second baseman's ceiling? What kind of player do you think he'll develop into?
David: Altuve's story has captivated Astros fans since he hit .400 in High-A Lancaster in 2011. He's the perfect sports underdog, as people continually count him out based on his size. And yet, he continues to just hit, hit hit.
Last year, the biggest knock on him was his defense. Most people this year assumed that his good defensive reputation in the minors would mean his defensive metrics would even out this season. But, with his size, there's a chance that just won't happen, as there may be some plays he just can't make.
If Altuve can be an average defensive player, his bat is probably good enough for him to post 3-4 WAR seasons. With his age (he's won't turn 23 till May 6), there's also a chance he could improve, but the Astros would probably settle for that All-Star level production at an important defensive position.
Jon: Rookie Brad Peacock has a K/9 of 9.88 and a K% of 25.4 here in the early going, both top 10 marks among American League starters. Unfortunately, his walk rates aren't far behind. What do the Astros have in Peacock?
David: Your guess is as good as mine. Peacock had a terrible year in a tough pitcher's park last season for Oakland's Triple-A affiliate, but had a sterling reputation with the Nationals before being traded to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez deal.
Peacock has a great curveball and that's largely led to all those strikeouts. He mixes in a changeup but mostly works off his fastball and curve. That's a big reason why most prospect evaluators assume he's headed for the bullpen some day.
For now, though, Houston will try to keep him in the rotation. He reminds me a little of rotation-mate Bud Norris in that respect, who also only has two pitches and was ticketed to the bullpen by prospect guys before he established himself in the majors.
Jon: The Astros have the No. 1 pick in June's draft. Have Astros fans decided who they want?
David: Mark Appel is getting most of the press right now. After almost being the No. 1 pick last season and since Appel is from Houston, there are plenty of reasons for Astros fans to get behind him.
Still, I'm personally not sold. Plus, knowing this Astros front office has been very inscrutable with any and all information, I'd be shocked if they went with the consensus No. 1 guy in a draft where lots of the talent is bunched together. I wouldn't be shocked if they went after a Jonathan Gray or even Kris Bryant, to add a college hitter to the system.
What I think Houston fans want most is more talent added to the farm system. If GM Jeff Luhnow and Co. can pull off what they did last year, adding lots of talent while getting the top overall pick signed for less than his slot value, I think most Astros fans would be happy.