As the Astros teeter back and forth along the line of respectability, fans have freely shared their thoughts and opinions.
“No, they suck!”
Safe to say, there is not an overwhelming consensus on how the fans feel about the Astros’ performance thus far nor are they able to accurately anticipate where this club could possibly be further along in the season.
And as the club rolls into June and July, we should get a better idea of what Jeff Luhnow’s options are and how he sees the long-term development of the Houston Astros. But, as of May 14th, he’s not giving out any substantial hints. We’ve heard scuttlebutt and generic media morsels that were spoon-fed to us by the papa-papa-paparazzi. He’s not saying anything any other GM isn’t saying at this time – “we’re going to review all of our options and determine what is the best for our club…”
While we are unable to accurately predict what he’ll do in the long-term, we can, however, watch how he plays his cards and make determinations on what type of philosophies he espouses in regards to our Astros. There are two key players that I think we must keep an eye on – Jonathan Singleton and June’s first overall selection.
Singleton is one of the youngest players in AA. …and he’s absolutely crushing the ball right now. Singleton is leading the Hooks in homeruns, he’s batting over .300 and he’s showing a lot more plate discipline than he’s ever shown. He’s leading the Hooks in walks.
In every sense of the word, Jonathan Singleton was just born this way.
Jeff Luhnow has to make a decision.
He has to ask himself: what the hell am I going to do with Jonathan Singleton.
Singleton is forcing Luhnow’s hand and something has got to give. Jeff Luhnow is either going to have to let Singleton stew in AA citing his age or throw caution to the wind and promote him to Oklahoma City. There’s a valid argument for each decision and I don’t think there is a definite right or wrong – but it might give us a little insight into how Jeff Luhnow plans to operate the club.
If Luhnow decides to keep Singleton at AA, it will be because he is in absolutely no rush to get him to Houston. Luhnow could absolutely slowplay Jonathan Singleton to the majors. This could mean that Singleton remains in Corpus Christi until the end of the season, advances to Oklahoma City for the 2013 campaign and is Houston’s opening day starter at first base in 2014.
However, if Luhnow promotes Singleton to AAA sometimes this year, it might mean that Luhnow expects Singleton to take over for Carlos Lee as the starting first baseman in 2013.
With that being said, with trades in high gear and noisy rumors being irresponsibly thrown about as if we are living in Grand Central Station, there is not a clear-cut immediate replacement for Carlos Lee after the deadline. If Carlos is traded, we might see Matt Downs or Brett Wallace take over first base for the remainder of the season. However, Wallace is playing third in Oklahoma City and Matt Downs isn’t necessarily regarded as an every day player. Is it completely out of the realm of possibility that Jeff Luhnow could trade Carlos Lee at the trade deadline and promote Jonathan Singleton to Houston a month and a half shy of his 21st birthday?
Number One Overall Draft Pick
As of now, we don’t know what path Jeff Luhnow is going to take – but once he is revealed, we’re going to learn a lot about Luhnow’s strategy for rebuilding the Astros.
If Jeff Luhnow selects Mark Appel or Mike Zunino, we can be sure that Luhnow feels the Astros need as much help at the major league level as soon as possible. Appel and Zunino could likely be drafted in June and see the major leagues as quickly as next year. Both could likely start their professional careers in Corpus Christi. Appel, from Stanford, is a front-of-the-end rotation type who could anchor a pitching staff for the next 10-15 years. Zunino, a junior, is a catcher out of the University of Florida and is one of the more polished prospects to come out of the rule four draft in the last few years.
Selecting Appel or Zunino would be a slam-dunk. These guys are known quantities. These two have a better chance of being productive major league players than any other two players in the draft.
However, neither has the ceiling of Buck Buxton.
Buck has tools for days and projects higher than Appel or Zunino. However, Buxton is going to require time. He isn’t as polished as Bryce Harper was out of high school and would likely take at least three years before he is major league ready.
Buck is not nearly as advanced as Appel or Zunino. …and there is a possibility that Buck may never pan out. Jeff Luhnow has to play a love game, play a love game, does Jeff Luhnow want love or does he want fame? The Astros can draft Buck and perhaps he falls flat on his face – that’s a risk Jeff Luhnow will have to consider.
Taking Buxton first and passing on Appel or Zunino would go a long way in showing that the Astros aren’t necessarily concerned with “who can get to the majors quicker” but rather “who will make a bigger impact for the Houston Astros five years down the road rather than two.”
In my opinion, there isn’t a wrong way to handle each of these situations.
Although, Luhnow has a limited background as a general manager, he has shown in the Cardinals organization that drafting and player development is his forte.
In a way, I think how Luhnow handles the draft will gives us a small indication of how he will handle Singleton. If the Astros select Buxton, we can assume that he plans on slowplaying Singleton to the majors and doesn’t see a reason to rush prospects to the major leagues. If he selects Appel or Zunino, we can assume that Luhnow feels a sense of urgency to win now and pass on high risk/high reward opportunities.
It will be an interesting few weeks for the Astros organization and we should get a better idea of how Jeff Luhnow plans to operate.
But, as of right now, we simply can’t read his p-p-p-poker face p-p-poker face.