One day after making headlines for all the wrong reasons the Astros are adding a bunch of young talent to their roster, calling up prospects Domingo Santana, Enrique Hernandez, and Kevin Chapman. They also placed center fielder Dexter Fowler on the disabled list with an intercostal strain, demoted shortstop Jonathan Villar to Triple-A, and designated right-hander Jerome Williams for assignment.
That’s a whole bunch of changes, so let’s break it all down …
Santana is the big draw, as the 21-year-old outfielder hit .304 with 13 homers and an .885 OPS in 84 games at Triple-A after putting up similarly strong numbers at Double-A last season. He now joins Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and Josh Zeid on the Astros’ roster after all four players were acquired from the Phillies as prospects in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. That is starting to look like one of the more lopsided deals in recent history.
Hernandez was the Astros’ sixth-round draft pick in 2009 and didn’t look like much of a prospect before this season, but the 22-year-old infielder/outfielder has had a breakout campaign by hitting .336 in 77 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Chapman was very effective in his 25-game debut with the Astros last year, but was demoted back to the minors after struggling to begin this season and the 26-year-old left-hander returns after posting a 0.94 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 29 innings at Triple-A. His control has always been shaky, but Chapman has bat-missing raw stuff out of the bullpen.
Fowler was acquired from the Rockies this offseason and proved to be a fantastic addition atop the lineup before the injury, posting a .377 on-base percentage despite no longer calling Coors Field home. Villar has a ton of speed and remains in the Astros’ long-term plans at age 23, but he’s hit just .221 with a .618 OPS and ugly 139/39 K/BB ratio through 129 games as a big leaguer.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.
Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.
Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”
He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.
If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.
“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”
Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.