Tag: Jonathan Singleton

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Jeff Luhnow believes the Astros will have a winning record in 2015


After losing at least 106 games in three straight seasons, the Astros finished at 70-92 last season. It was a small step in the right direction, but Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow sees more improvement on the way in 2015.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Luhnow was a guest on MLB Network’s “High Heat” with Christopher Russo on Friday and said that he thinks the Astros will have a winning record this season.

“The Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year,” Luhnow said. “I’ll go on record as saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning teams.”

The Astros acquired slugger Evan Gattis in a trade with the Braves this week and have also signed infielder Jed Lowrie and relievers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek this winter. Those additions have the potential to move the needle, but they’ll also need Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to prove that their breakouts were for real and young players like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, and Brett Oberholtzer to progress. Still, after years of essentially tanking during their rebuilding process, there’s no question that things are looking up for the franchise.

The Astros haven’t had a winning record since they went 86-75 in 2008.

Video: Watch Robbie Grossman save the game by robbing a home run Saturday night

Robbie Grossman

Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman isn’t exactly a household name, but he was on all the TV sets late Saturday night when he went to the wall in right field and robbed Blue Jays pinch-hitter Juan Francisco of a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning, preserving Brett Oberholtzer’s win.

Manager Bo Porter brought in lefty reliever Tony Sipp when the Blue Jays pinch-hit Francisco for right-hander Danny Valencia. Sipp’s first pitch to Francisco was an 81 MPH slider, and Francisco put a charge into it, sending a fly ball out to deep right field. Grossman ranged back, timed his leap, and snagged the ball at the apex of his jump with his glove clearly above and beyond the yellow line at the top of the fence.

The Astros hung a four-spot on the Jays in the bottom of the eighth, bumping their lead to 8-2 and ultimately winning by that score. The game had a little bit of everything: SABR 44, the open roof, a knuckleballer, Grossman’s catch, and Jonathan Singleton’s inside-the-park home run.

Play of the Day: Mike Morin catches a deflected pop-up for the out

Mike Morin

This wasn’t quite in the Bob Boone/Pete Rose echelon of deflected pop-up catches, but Angels reliever Mike Morin made a good one nonetheless on Sunday afternoon against the Astros. With a runner on first base and two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Jonathan Singleton popped up a 3-1 fastball.

Catcher Hank Conger and first baseman C.J. Cron both came in to attempt to catch the ball a few feet in front of the pitchers mound, but they bumped into each other. The ball deflected off of Hank Conger’s mitt and a crouching Morin sprang to his side to make the catch before the ball hit the ground.

The Angels went on to win 6-1, polishing off a four-game series sweep of the Astros. At 51-36, the Angels have the second-best record in the American League. The best team happens to play in the AL West as well, however, as the Athletics lead by 3.5 games with a 55-33 record.

Pirates, Gregory Polanco are far apart in contract talks

gregory polanco getty

The Pirates tried to do to Gregory Polanco what the Astros did to Jonathan Singleton: get him to sign a team-friendly long term deal before being called up to the bigs. And, perhaps, as a condition of being called up to the bigs. Polanco didn’t bite, the Pirates called him up anyway and Polanco has thus far prospered in the majors.

All of which means that doing a long-term deal is a lot harder now than it even was a few short weeks ago. Jon Heyman reports:

Pirates outfield wunderkind Gregory Polanco and the team are thought to be at a stalemate in negotiations after offers and counteroffers — including one by the Pirates that could have kept him in Pittsburgh for 10 more years on top of this one, through 2024 – have failed to bridge a significant gap, sources told CBSSports.com.

Heyman has a ton of information about the size and nature of the proposals the Pirates are said to have made. And, to be honest: they seem like bad deals for Polanco to take. They would have him locked up through age 33 in some instances, which is past the time he could reasonably cash-in with a big deal due to some leverage on his part. Indeed, every day he stays productive in the majors increases that leverage. Signing a far-below-$100M deal for more than ten years — however tempting it may be — would represent a significant discount over what he’d be worth if he even fulfills a portion of his promise.

It’s be hard to turn down guaranteed money when you’re still three years from even your first arbitration paycheck, but if Polanco keeps hitting, there are much, much larger sums of money waiting for him in the not-too-distant future.

2014 Preview: Houston Astros

George Springer Carlos Correa

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 2014 season. Next up: The Houston Astros.

The Big Question: One hundred losses again, right?

Depends on how long the Astros keep their prospects on the farm.

While every fan likes to think of their team’s prospects as the answers to all of the team’s problems, they usually aren’t. The guys in the bigs are better and they’re there for a reason. That isn’t quite so cut-and-dried with the Astros. Yes, adding Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman improve this club, as does revamping the worst bullpen in all of baseball. But it really is the case that the team’s top prospects could not only provide hope for the future, but cold make the team better than it would otherwise be without them.

This is partially a function of the major leaguers beyond Fowler, Feldman, Jose Altuve and Jason Castro not being any great shakes, but it’s also because there is some quality about to come of age for the Astros. George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Mark Appel could all see time in the bigs this year, and all of them could improve this team. Brett Wallace could possibly help out. Behind those guys are Delino DeShields, Max Stassi and others. If the guys in the majors aren’t cutting it and some of these guys are given time to play, it could be a lot of fun. If instead the Astros are more concerned with service time than 2014 wins — a defensible position for a team like this to take, I should add — then, yeah, they could lose 100 games for the fourth straight year. This is the very essence of rebuilding, and with Houston the rebuild was bigger and more extreme than most.

No matter the case, the Astros are still going to lose a lot of games, so a fixation on 100 losses is probably a bad idea. Especially given that, no matter how bad the product is on the field this year, there is hope for the future.

What else is going on?

The Astros lost their last 15 games of the 2013 season. Granted people come and people go and they’re not technically the same team, but if they lost their first six of 2014 — which can totally happen — they’ll tie that 21-game losing streak from the 1988 Orioles, which is the longest such streak since the turn of the 20th century. Eleven losses and they break the 1889 Louisville Colonels all-time record. Good times!

The Astros’ 1-2 in the rotation might be decent. Feldman we know about: he pitched 180+ quality innings for the Cubs and Orioles and if he can do that again it’ll help everyone. Jarred Cosart is interesting too, but not necessarily “solid.” He had a 1.95 ERA in ten starts last season, but he also walked 35 guys and only struck out 33 in 60 innings, so don’t count on that ERA holding up, even if he could be good.

Fowler is the big offseason acquisition, but it’s probably worth noting that, for his career, he has hit .298/.395/.485 in Coors Field, .241/.333/.361 everyplace else. Minute Maid Park is part of the Greater Everyplace Else metro area.

A 100-loss team doesn’t really have a huge use for a closer, but the Astros have a couple of guys who could close. Chad Qualls, who they signed for the job and who will hold it out of camp and, possibly, Jesse Crain, assuming he’s healthy. One thing a 100-loss team can do with a closer? Flip him at the deadline to a contender when relief pitchers tend to bring their highest prices. I’d be shocked if Houston doesn’t do this with one or both of these cats.

Prediction: No surprises here: Fifth place, AL West.