MLB.com Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart is about to be very disappointed. Following last night’s moves to call up Jason Castro and Chris Johnson from Triple-A, he wrote:
Simply put, this youth movement is exciting. The Astros will never admit to rebuilding, but the arrival of Castro could be a watershed moment in the franchise’s future. And that future is now.
Unfortunately for McTaggart and the Astros not all “top prospects” are created equal. Teams like the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), Pirates (Pedro Alvarez), Indians (Carlos Santana), and Marlins (Mike Stanton) calling up their best prospect represents an “exciting youth movement” and “watershed moment in the franchise’s future,” but the Astros doing the same doesn’t represent much of anything, really.
Castro was the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft, but was considered an “overdraft” immediately and has hit .287 with a modest 16 homers and .411 slugging percentage in 215 pro games. He has good on-base skills and should be a solid enough player, but Castro certainly doesn’t project as a star, let alone someone whose arrival is capable of creating “a watershed moment in the franchise’s future.”
Johnson has even less chance of developing into a building block-type player, because he’s almost 26 years old and has hit .282 with a .321 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage in 172 games at Triple-A. He was off to a strong start there this season and giving him a chance to supplant the washed-up remains of Pedro Feliz at third base makes plenty of sense, but Johnson’s upside is somewhere between role player and mediocre starter.
All of which shows why the Astros’ situation is so ugly. Not only is the big-league team 26-44 with an aging core of veterans and mistaken-prone general manager who seems uncertain about engaging in a full-on rebuild, the farm system is among the worst in baseball. I don’t mean to pick on McTaggart, because he’s one of the better beat reporters in baseball and trying to find some reason for optimism might be his only chance to stay sane covering this team, but he’s in for a massive letdown.