Towles likely to get nod behind plate for 'Stros

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That’s the part I agree with.
I’m not sure about the rest of Alyson Footer’s MLBlog entry, in which she looks at the battle between J.R. Towles and top prospect Jason Castro for the catching job in Houston. Footer thinks Towles will be the starter, Humberto Quintero the backup and that Castro will get some Triple-A seasoning after finishing last year in Double-A.
And that’s the way it’s likely to shake out. But Footer’s arguments are pretty weak.

The raw numbers suggest they can’t go wrong with either. Towles has played in nine games and has 12 hits in 27 at-bats for a .444 average. In 10 games, Castro has a .391 average, logging nine hits in 23 at-bats.

Yeah, let’s look at batting averages over the course of 27 at-bats and 23 at-bats in making a judgment. For the record, that’s 50 at-bats between them. In that time, they’ve combined for no homers, four RBI and three walks.

Another issue is roster space. Should he make the team, Castro would first have to be added to the 40-man, which currently stands at 39. That could be problematic, considering the front-runner to win the fifth outfielder position is Cory Sullivan, who would also need to be added to the 40-man. The addition of both Castro and Sullivan would necessitate taking someone off the roster, but if it’s not a dire situation, why do it?

Have you looked at the Astros’ 40-man roster? Outfielder Yordany Ramirez might be the single least promising player on a major league roster today, and it’s incredible that he’s lasted two years now. There’s also a 28-year-old utilityman in Edwin Maysonet, who hasn’t been included in the team’s plans for this year, and a handful of expendable pitchers, with Yorman Bazardo likely topping the list.
Excluding the top 25, the Astros probably have the weakest 40-man roster in the game. The idea that you’d hold Castro back based on the one-percent chance that someone might claim Ramirez on waivers is simply absurd.
Footer, though, also does go into the real reason for the choice; Castro is a 22-year-old who has never set foot in Triple-A, while Towles is 26-year-old with nothing left to prove in the minors. Towles deserves one more chance to show what he can do as a starter. If it doesn’t work out, Castro will still be there on June 1.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”