A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE ASTROS
I think it's a better team this year, but it's not a wild-card team yet.... Jon Singleton, if he doesn't try to do too much, he'll be fine. He gets too big with his swing, but it's nice and fluid, with loose extension.... They say Evan Gattis is going to catch two or three times a month, which I find odd. I'd hate to be the pitcher throwing to the guy that only catches three times a month. He has a hard time laying off a ball up. Two inches away from his strength is his weakness.... Jose Altuve's the toughest out in baseball. Short and compact to the ball, and he sprays line drives all over the place.... They want Jake Marisnick to be the everyday centerfielder. He's got a ways to go with the bat—he still gets tied up a bit with the fastballs in and the breaking ball—but he's got a chance to win a Gold Glove.... George Springer's got power to all fields. He's a big swinger. When he first came up, he'd go down on one knee swinging. He expands the zone, struggles to recognize spin.... Chris Carter's got monster power. His pitch recognition isn't great, but he's a good mistake hitter.... It's a contact-oriented rotation. You want some swing-and-miss there, and it's not that.... Dallas Keuchel puts the ball on the ground and he's got a great changeup. It has a lot of deception.... Scott Feldman's fastball's a little light—88 to 91—so he throws a lot of cut fastballs. He wants you to mis-hit the ball. He's not gonna strike you out.... Their No. 5 is, whoo, pray for rain or some off-days.
Two signs that the Astros are shifting their focus from building to winning were the off-season signings of Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to three- and two-year contracts, respectively. Houston had treated its bullpen as an afterthought the past few seasons; now it's giving new manager A.J. Hinch some reliable arms for the late innings. Neshek, in particular, is interesting: In 2014 with the Cardinals, he got back to being the extreme strike thrower he'd been when he came up with the Twins in '06, walking just seven men unintentionally in 671/3 innings—a 2.7% walk rate. Because he was so efficient, he averaged just 3.9 pitches per batter faced. Despite this, Mike Matheny used him for more than one inning just seven times. Hinch should look to get more from Neshek, who gets lefties out (.226 career BA allowed) and could become an effective multi-inning weapon if given the chance.
LEAGUE RANK 14
MANAGER A.J. HINCH 1ST SEASON WITH ASTROS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SPRINGER)