Recent

0

Climbing Out of the Canyon – Part 2

On Saturday, I started the Climbing Out of the Canyon series with Part 1, which previewed the 2007 Cardinals. Continuing on down the ’06 final standings, I’m ready for Part 2 and the Houston Astros.
Phil Garner’s squad was almost able to capitalize on St. Louis’ late-season collapse–but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They finished at 82-80, 1.5 games out of the division lead, and failed to make the playoffs. A look at their tumultuous offseason, according to the ESPN Hot Stove Index:
ADD: Carlos Lee, OF; Mark Loretta, IF; Woody Williams, SP; Jason Jennings, SP; Miguel Asencio, SP
DROP: Aubrey Huff, CI/OF; Andy Pettitte, SP; Russ Springer, RP; Taylor Buchholz, SP; Jason Hirsh, SP; Willy Taveras, CF
They have one remaining free agent. They call him Rocket. Here’s a blurb from Yahoo! Sports about him:

Clemens’ agent Randy Hendricks said it’s “greater than 50-50″ that his client will pitch again in 2007, the New York Daily News reports. Hendricks also said that it’s most likely that Clemens will pitch a shortened season again, just as he did for Houston last year. “I don’t think any team is really ahead,” Hendricks said. “Obviously, Houston has the home-field advantage.” The Red Sox and Yankees are also expected to have significant interest in bringing back the 44-year-old.

That was January 11th. Since then, it appears as if the Yankees may have taken the lead in the Clemens sweepstakes. This could prove to be the move that makes or breaks the Astros’ off-season.
The $100 million man Carlos Lee will be a boost to the offense, providing another capable bat in the order behind Lance Berkman, but Houston’s rotation will be the deciding factor in ’07. Losing two All-Star pitchers in addition to two top prospects would be devastating. Roy Oswalt still anchors the staff, but he’s followed by the mediocre Jason Jennings and the aging Woody Williams. Wandy Rodriguez is penciled into the fourth slot, and there’s a derby for #5.
Bringing back Clemens, even for a half season, would be a dramatic boost. Obviously adding a Hall of Fame starter would extend the rotation–but it also would alleviate some of the stress on the bullpen. Brad Lidge is the closer heading into Spring Training despite a rocky 2006 campaign. Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls are possible replacements. Trever Miller is the only lefty listed on the roster–good thing Houston isn’t in the AL East.
The lineup Garner can run out should be able to produce:
Burke, CF
Biggio, 2B
Berkman, 1B
Lee, LF
Ensberg, 3B
Scott, RF
Ausmus, C
Everett, SS
Richard Hidalgo, Jason Lane and Mike Lamb provide depth in the outfield. Mark Loretta is an excellent reserve infielder. Ausmus and Everett won’t hit much, but they’re Gold Glove defenders. If Ensberg performs, the middle of the lineup is powerful. Chris Burke isn’t as fast as Taveras, but he should field his position well. He won’t steal 60 bases, but 25 or 30 wouldn’t be unrealistic.
It comes down to whether the Astros can win in April and May. If they’re leading the division when the calendar turns to June, they might be a more enticing destination for Clemens. If they’re not, Tim Purpura has to pray that Jennings throws like he did in 2006 (when his ERA was more than a run lower than his career numbers) and that Williams contributes 150 innings. The Astros are more well-rounded than most of the teams in the NL Central, and while they have a decent offense and a good staff, they can’t afford to lag in one area or the other. Similarly to the Cardinals, this rotation could turn into the ace and a bunch of jobbers in no time.
With the Rocket: The Astros improve on their 82-win season. Without him? They’re just another dog in the fight. By my estimates, our Pirates are still alive and kicking.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Roundtable

Next Story »

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 2

  • http://www.davidhannes.com David Hannes

    The Astros’ bullpen will get lots of work this season on nights Oswalt’s not pitching; if Berkman gets hurt again, and they can’t sign Clemens, Houston will have a hard time getting back to .500 I believe.

  • http://nationalsportsreview.blogspot.com Nicolas

    Thoughts:
    I think it says a lot about Houston that A) Ausmus is STILL their starting catcher at age 65, and B) their true success hinges SO much on one player (clemens).
    I’m curious as to what (if anything) it says about Houston and/or Pittsburgh that Burke and Duffy are almost the same player, and Garner doesn’t seem to have any qualms about Burke hitting leadoff.

  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates Cory Humes

    Along that same vein, Willy Taveras and Chris Duffy are quite similar, too. In a root race, Taveras wins, but he hasn’t had a ton of steals at the MLB level to reflect that quickness. Duffy has a better glove. Both are pretty miserable OBP guys for the leadoff spot.
    Houston and Pittsburgh are actually fairly similar as a whole, right now–not just at CF. Bay isn’t quite Berkman. LaRoche isn’t quite Lee. But Sanchez will probably be better than Ensberg, Paulino will be better than Ausmus. Middle infields are questionable, but Everett/Biggio/Loretta and Wilson/Castillo/Bautista both offer nice depth. Both teams would be better off with a platoon in right.
    It comes down to the rotation: Who pitches better, the ‘Stros or the Bucs? The Big Four would need to break out if you want to answer Pittsburgh.

  • http://william-carlos-williams.xfinfo.org/article/707778/Climbing-Out-of-the-Canyon-Part-2/ William carlos williams Digest

    […] “>Climbing Out of the Canyon Part 2 On Saturday, I started the Climbing Out of the Canyon series with Part 1, which previewed the 2007 Cardinals. Continuing on down the #821606 final standings, I#8217m ready for Part 2 and the Houston Astros. Phil Garner#8217s squad was almost able to capitalize on St. Louis#8217 lateseason c…More Information:Link to original article […]

Latest Analysis

  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    1 day ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    2 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    3 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    5 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    6 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    2 weeks ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More