Tag: Chad Qualls

Jonathan Singleton Getty

Astros call up first base prospect Jon Singleton from Triple-A


Jon Singleton struggled in his first taste of the majors last season, but the 23-year-old first base prospect has been crushing Triple-A pitching this season and now the Astros are calling him up for a second go-around.

Singleton batted .168 with 134 strikeouts in 95 games as a rookie last year, which was bad enough to create concerns about his long-term potential after ranking among Baseball America’s top-100 prospects in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

But it’s hard to argue with his Triple-A production this year, which includes hitting .280 with 17 homers, 17 doubles, and a .940 OPS in 70 games while drawing 47 walks compared to 60 strikeouts. Singleton also had similar numbers at Triple-A last season, so he absolutely deserves a chance to show that he’s better than the rookie ugliness.

It’s unclear how much action Singleton will see or how long he’ll stick with the Astros, because Evan Gattis and Chris Carter have been serving as Houston’s everyday designated hitter/first baseman duo.

For now he takes the roster spot of veteran reliever Chad Qualls, who was placed on the disabled list.

Astros place Luke Gregerson on the family emergency medical list

Luke Gregerson

Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros have placed closer Luke Gregerson on the family emergency medical list. To take his place on the roster, the Astros promoted Asher Wojciechowski from Triple-A Fresno. Chad Qualls will serve as the Astros’ interim closer.

Gregerson, 30, has converted seven saves in eight opportunities with a 2.57 ERA and an 11/2 K/BB ratio in 14 innings. He signed with the Astros on a three-year, $18.5 million contract as a free agent back in December.

Wojciechowski, 26, allowed 13 runs on 23 hits and seven walks with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings over three starts and one relief appearance.

Rangers snap Astros’ 10-game winning streak

Delino DeShields Jr.;Hank Conger

The Rangers handed the Astros their first loss since April 22 tonight with a 2-1 comeback victory at Minute Maid Park. The loss snaps Houston’s winning streak at 10 games.

The Astros had the early lead in this one, as Evan Gattis hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning. Dallas Keuchel held the Rangers scoreless over the first seven innings — and even struck out seven batters in a row at one point — but Jake Smolinski tied the game in the eighth with an RBI single while Robinson Chirinos drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly off Chad Qualls in the ninth.

Houston’s offense has been on a tear of late, but Ross Detwiler held them in check tonight by allowing just one run on four hits and two walks while striking out seven. Neftali Feliz struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning for his third save of the season.

Despite the loss, the Astros still own the best record in the American League at 18-8.

Mike Trout hit his 100th career home run to become the youngest member of the 100 HR/100 SB club

Mike Trout

Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s sixth-inning two-run home run off of Astros starter Roberto Hernandez was the 100th of the 23-year-old’s brief career. Now with triple digits in homers and in stolen bases (104), Trout has become the youngest to join the 100/100 club, eclipsing — who else? — Alex Rodriguez, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register notes. Trout is 23 years and 253 days old. Rodriguez was 23 years old and 309 days old at the time.

Trout has, as expected, been performing at the plate, coming into the night with a .438/.500/.594 triple-slash line with one home run, four RBI, and two stolen bases. The defending American League MVP, Trout accrued 28.2 Wins Above Replacement through the 2014 season (his age-22 season) according to Baseball Reference. Through Rodriguez’s age-22 season, he had compiled 22.9 WAR.

Update (10:40 PM EST): Trout, like Rodriguez, has also homered twice tonight. Trout added a three-run home run in the eighth inning off of Chad Qualls.

2015 Preview: Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch Astros

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: Are the Astros ready to contend?

This is Year 5 of the Astros’ scorched-earth rebuilding plan that has seen them lose 106, 107, 111, and 92 games while overhauling the front office, firing a pair of managers, ditching veterans, and stockpiling young talent. Last year’s 70-92 record was the fourth-worst in baseball and might suggest it’ll be another long season in 2015, but the Astros made big strides in the second half and added plenty of veteran help via trades and signings this offseason.

Clearly general manager Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros are ready to take a big step forward.

Houston went 34-38 over the final 72 games of the season, including 20-20 for the final six weeks. And then they started adding pieces. They traded for slugger Evan Gattis, remodeled the bullpen by signing Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, picked up a starting shortstop by bringing Jed Lowrie back into the fold as a free agent, added Colby Rasmus to the outfield and Luis Valbuena to the infield, traded for a backup catcher in Hank Conger, and gave the rotation depth a boost with Dan Straily and Roberto Hernandez.

None of those are championship-making moves, certainly, but most of them were made with the short-term good of the team in mind and together they clearly signal a shift from full-on rebuilding mode to actually building something. Last season’s five best players–Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Chris Carter, Collin McHugh–are all still around and all 28 years old or younger. And stockpiling young talent in the minors has already started to show some dividends, with another wave of high-end prospects on the way soon led by back-to-back No. 1 picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

Houston will be better in 2016 than in 2015 and better still in 2017, but the Astros have a chance to be a .500 team this season if a few things break right for them.

What else is going on?

  • Houston’s bullpen ranked dead last in baseball last season with a 4.80 ERA. Luhnow tried to address that problem in a huge way by making serious runs as big-ticket free agent relievers David Robertson and Andrew Miller. Those attempts fell short, but the Neshek-Gregerson duo is a damn good consolation prize. They combined to throw 140 innings with a 1.99 ERA and 127/24 K/BB ratio last season and both right-handers have a career ERA under 3.00. Toss in Chad Qualls and Josh Fields from the right side and Tony Sipp and Joe Thatcher from the left side and the Astros’ bullpen may actually be a strength.
  • Dallas Keuchel came out of nowhere last season to rank as one of the league’s best left-handers, throwing 200 innings with a 2.93 ERA and winning a Gold Glove award. He was the easy pick to start Opening Day and his ability to avoid turning back into a pumpkin is one of the biggest keys to the Astros’ season. Keuchel is a ground-ball machine and gets a decent number of strikeouts, which is always a winning combo, but prior to 2014 he had a 5.20 ERA in the majors and a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A through age 25.
  • Springer immediately lived up to the hype in his (injury-shortened) debut, but fellow top prospect Jon Singleton struggled mightily by hitting .168 with 134 strikeouts in 95 games during his first taste of the big leagues. Singleton cracked Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list four times and seems all but certain to hit for big-time power eventually, but his lowly .241 batting average at Triple-A combined with tons of strikeouts mean he still has a lot to prove as an all-around hitter.
  • Lots of power and lots of strikeouts is basically the story of the Astros’ entire lineup, even more so than last year when they led the AL in strikeouts and ranked third in homers. And the amazing thing is that Altuve had the most plate appearances on the team with 707–a hundred more than anyone else–and struck out just 53 times. It may not always be pretty and will lead to some extended slumps, but for the most part strikeouts are just a type of out rather than something to be avoided at all costs and Luhnow sacrificing contact in the name of adding elite power at a time when it’s particularly tough to find is an intriguing strategy. They could top 200 homers for the first time since 2001 and just the third time in franchise history.

Prediction: Another step forward to 75-plus wins, another avoidance of last place, and enough progress to convince everyone they’ll contend for the playoffs in 2016.