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Houston's 'exciting youth movement' is anything but in reality

Jun 21, 2010, 1:46 PM EDT

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.

  1. OremLK - Jun 21, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    There is some truth to this article, Aaron, but some twisting of the truth as well. Fact is, Castro is a very good prospect. He won’t be a star, but he projects to be above average for a long time at a premium position, and that has a lot of value.

    You’re also conveniently ignoring Chris Johnson’s actual numbers at AAA this year, which aren’t just “hot”, they’re outstanding. He’s batting .329/.362/.570. Perhaps most exciting is that the improvement to his batting average is legitimate: He has significantly reduced his strikeout rate.

    Finally, the Astros do not have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. That would have been true in 2008, but it is not true now; the fruits of three solid drafts have reinvigorated the minors, and the Astros are now in the upper half of minor league systems.

    This isn’t a “watershed moment”, like McTaggart thinks, but it’s not going to be a “massive letdown”, either. As Astros fans, our expectations are sufficiently tempered about these prospects; at the same time, it IS exciting to have a reason for the team to be interesting again, because both of these guys do have a chance to turn into good (though not great) players, especially Castro.

  2. yostros99 - Jun 21, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    I agree with OremLK. You neglect to mention Johnson’s stats and how he has improved dramatically…your Astros Bias is pretty clear to many of us.

  3. Bob - Jun 22, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    The writer obviously doesn’t know the Astros very well because if he did, he’d know that the GM probably isn’t uncertain about engaging in a full-blown rebuild. The GM’s opinion means nothing with the Astros. The owner makes those long-range calls, and it’s the owner who’s uncertain about engaging in a full-blown rebuild.

    Furthermore, the beat reporter he’s referencing works for the Astros organization. What does he expect McTaggart to say, that the call-ups are a bad idea and the players stink?

    Lastly, McTaggart would be one of the “best” beat writers around, given that there are more than two beat writers in the country. “Better” is used when comparing two, “best” when comparing three or more. Get a grammar lesson.

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