An In-Depth Look at the 2017 Astros All-Stars
It is no longer a secret that the 2017 Houston Astros are loaded with talent! A 60-29 first half record combined with a whopping six all-star selections makes it hard to fly under the radar. This article will examine, in depth, those six all-star selections. Those all-stars make up the current core of the Astros Organization. However, some questions will need to be addressed: can the Astros keep all 6 long term? Who really is the franchise player? What is the financial situation of each player? How were these talented players added to the organization? By diving into these questions, Astros fans will have a better understanding of whether the 2017 Astros are a flash in the pan or just the tip of the iceberg.
All Star Appearance: 1st
Acquired via: 2011 draft. 1st Round Selection, 11th overall. University of Connecticut
Contract situation: Currently making $3.9 million in year 1 of 4 arbitration years, Unrestricted free agent in 2021
Potential prospect replacements: Short term- Derek Fisher, Long term- Kyle Tucker
2017 Stats: 4.1 WAR, 104 hits, .310 BA, 27 HR, 61 RBI, 2 SB, .380 OBP, .613 SLG, .993 OPS, 169 OPS+
Career Stats: 14.9 WAR, 447 hits, .269 BA, 92 HR, 235 RBI, 32 SB, .361 OBP, .491 SLG, .852, 135 OPS+
Pros: While other players on the Astros may have more fan fare or more raw talent, the argument can be made that George Springer is the heart and soul of the Houston Astros. Since his initial call up, the Astros seem to go as Springer goes. Since his move to the lead off spot the Astros are a mind-blowing 127-78 with Springer at the top of the lineup. While he is not the typical lead off hitter, Springer provides pop and energy as soon as the game begins. This is evident by his franchise record 9 lead off home runs already this season. This season, George Springer has made the often tough leap from quality major league player to bonafide stud. As evidence by the stats above Springer is considerably up in every offensive category in 2017 compared to his previous career averages. He has gone from a swing for the fences strikeout liability to an all-around hitter and consistently tough out. Springer also provides a ton of value in the field. He is more than capable of playing a solid center field. Thus, making him the second best offensive center fielder in MLB behind Mike Trout. While George is capable of playing center field his more natural position is probably admittedly right field. As a right fielder, Springer does and would continue to grade out as a perennial Gold Glove candidate in that position. Maybe what cannot be measured through statistics though is what George Springer brings to the clubhouse. The unquestioned vocal leader, clubhouse DJ, vibrate teammate, and community leader; Springer’s value stretches far beyond the white lines.
Cons: Many George Springer naysayers will simply look at the monumental jumps in his 2017 statistics and claim that this is simply just a “career year”. While a highly touted first round draft pick and top prospect for several years, it never fully clicked for Springer until this year. Although he has drastically cut down on his strikeouts, 83 K’s in the first half of the season for a lead off hitter is not ideal. Others might tribute the rapid jump in production to his spot in the lineup or the fact that the Astros have the best and deepest lineup in the league. Hitting in front of the likes of Josh Reddick, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa all year has undoubtedly given George more quality pitches to hit. Some might say that while part of the best “big 3” in baseball he still ranks behind Altuve and Correa.
Long term outlook: What the Astros do with George Springer will say quite a bit about the direction of the organization. Both Altuve and Correa are both yet to be locked up long term also which will make Jeff Luhnow’s priority list very apparent. My prediction is that Springer will sign an extension before his arbitration years run out in 2021. The Astros fans endured a rough decade of futility and letting a fan favorite go will do little to appease a gradually building fan base. I look for Springer to make 3-5 more all-star teams in his career and end his career around 300 home runs, not too shabby for a UConn baseball player.
All Star Appearance: 1st
Acquired via: 2012 Draft. 1st Round Selection, 1st overall. Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
Contract Situation: Currently making $535,00 under team control, 2018 team control, 2019-2021 arbitration years, Unrestricted free agent in 2022
Potential Prospect replacements: MLB- move Alex Bregman or Marwin Gonzalez to shortstop, Long term: MiguelAngel Sierra, Freudis Nova, Jonathan Arauz, Short term: None
2017 Stats: 4.9 WAR, 103 hits, .325 BA, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB, .402 OBP, .577 SLG, .979 OPS, 168 OPS+
Career Stats: 15.0 WAR, 369 hits, .288 BA, 62 HR, 229 RBI, 27 SB, .366 OBP, .500 SLG, .867 OPS, 138 OPS+
Pros: Honestly there really are an unlimited number of positives in talking about Carlos Correa. He is 22 and already (counting this season) has three 20-plus home run seasons under his belt. He plays a premium position at shortstop and plays it quite well. Carlos is someone that could also be very versatile in a lineup. Currently he is slotted in the cleanup spot, where he is raking in the RBI’s in this lineup. The fact that he hits for such a high average and works such deep counts could also make him viable at the 2 or 3 spot. I honestly see a player capable of giving the Astros .300, 30 HR, 100 RBI, all-star seasons for the next 10 years. What really sold me on Correa is and continues to be his attitude. Although tremendously skilled he is a humble, well-spoken player who is already well respected in the clubhouse. Correa was impressive in his rookie season winning ROY and solid in his second season. However, this season he has taken the leap from good young player to superstar.
Cons: There really are only two “potential” cons to Carlos Correa’s Astros Future. The ever annoying claim that he is too big for shortstop and that he will eventually outgrow the position and move to third base. Similar to an Alex Rodriguez or Cal Ripken Jr. The other is the looming franchise crippling contract that he may require. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season at the ripe age of 28. Most likely being a perennial all-star, MVP candidate, and playing baseball’s premium position, combined with the young age; Carlos Correa will likely make upwards of $30 million a year.
Long term outlook: For the next four and a half years the Astros are getting a baseball steal of epic proportions. One of the games elite players for a minimal sum of money by baseball’s standards. I fully expect Correa to be the best (or at least top 3) shortstop in baseball during the duration of time he is under team control. The question that will loom in back of Astros fans and Jeff Luhnow’s mind will be, can we keep him long term? If the answer is yes the Astros lock up a franchise player, perennial all-star, and potential hall of famer. However, doing so would probably limit the talent of the Astros 40 man roster as a whole because simply, you cannot pay everyone. If the answer is no, the Astros will be letting a once in a life time talent walk. But maybe in doing so, keep Altuve, Springer, and several young arms in the process.
All Star Appearance: 5th
Acquired via: International Signing, Venezuela
Contract Situation: Currently making $4.5 million in 2017, $6 million in 2018, and $6.5 million in 2019, Unrestricted free agent in 2020
Potential Prospect replacements: MLB- move Alex Bregman or Marwin Gonzalez to second base, Long term- MiguelAngel Sierra, Freudis Nova, Jonathan Arauz, Short term- Tony Kemp
2017 Stats: 4.7 WAR, 116 hits, .347 BA, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 18 SB, .417 OBP, .551 SLG, .968 OPS, 166 OPS+
Career Stats: 26.0 WAR, 1162 hits, .314 BA, 73 HR, 372 RBI, 217 SB, .360 OBP, .447 SLG, .807 OPS, 123 OPS+
Pros: He is the best second baseman in baseball. By now, it is almost unable to be argued against. Altuve is a true hitting machine in every since of the word. He’s likely on his way to a ridiculous 4th straight 200 hit season. He is making the seamless transition from spray hitting machine, to complete hitter with power and rising OBP. It is hard to just proclaim someone as a potential hall of fame player, but providing health and reasonable longevity Altuve will get there. He is well on pace to get to prestigious 3,000 hit plateau. It may be a stretch to say at this time but if he keeps improving or at least staying at this pace, he may retire as a top 5 second baseman all time. Also, Jose is just a great guy to have in the clubhouse. He is a great teammate and is a constant ball of positive energy.
Cons: He only has two and half seasons left of team control. Combine that with the fact that Scott Boras is now his agent. OUCH! While currently grossly underpaid by MLB standards, Altuve is about to be a free man after the 2019 season. The days of the small-and-mighty Venezuelan star playing in Houston might have an expiration date. On most teams, Altuve would be their #1 priority and would be a good candidate to resign with his current team. However, most teams do not also have George Springer, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Dallas Keuchel, Ken Giles, and many more to pay.
Long term outlook: The outlook is directly tied to how long he stays an Astro. If he Altuve resigns he may retire as the most decorated and accomplished Astro of all time. However, there is a real possibility that is 3,000th hit may occur in a different uniform
All Star Appearance: 2nd
Acquired via: 2009 Draft. 7th round selection. University of Arkansas
Contract Situation: Currently making $9.15 million in 2017 in his 2nd arbitration year, 3rd arbitration year in 2018, Unrestricted free agent in 2019
Potential Prospect replacements: Long term – Forrest Whitley, J.B. Bukauskas, Franklin Perez, Short term – David Paulino, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove
2017 Stats: 3.3 WAR, 9-0, 1.67 ERA, 75.2 IP, 69 K, 0.87 WHIP
Career Stats: 15.8 WAR, 59-47, 3.60 ERA, 914.2 IP, 736 K, 1.23 WHIP
Pros: Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young award in 2015. He is 9-0 already this season. Left handed, Cy Young quality, starting pitchers do not grow on trees. He is truly an ace when healthy and on his worst day is no worse than a #2 starter. He fields his position at a gold glove rate and has shown an ability to consistently go deep in games. Keuchel seems to enjoy playing with Astros and the team/organization has embraced him. With their “fear the beard” shirts and “Keuchel’s Corner” the club obviously has quite a bit of stock in Dallas Keuchel.
Cons: Injuries! The kryptonite of an starting pitcher. It was pretty evident that Dallas was not 100% for the majority of his disappointing 2016 season. While off to a great start in 2017, Keuchel has found himself on the shelf for an extended period of time. Heading into this season, some outlets were claiming that Keuchel’s 2015 Cy Young season might have been a “fluke”. I think with the dominant way he has started 2017 many of those claims have been quieted. It seems to be more of a health issue than anything else.
Long term outlook: The question beckons: what are the Astros getting of they lock up Keuchel to a long term deal? The argument to keep him would be that he is an all star level starting pitcher who is still relatively young. The argument for not resigning him would be his injuries and limited track record. I expect Dallas Keuchel to stay in Houston long term. A playoff quality team needs elite pitching at the top of the rotation. While several decent prospects loom on the organization, they seem to be a few years away and a pitching prospect is far from a guaranteed ace. Also, any all star free agent pitcher would likely demand just as much, if not more, than Dallas Keuchel.
All Star Appearance: 1st
Acquired via: 2012 Draft. 1st round selection, 41st overall. Jesuit HS in Tampa, FL
Contract Situation: Currently making $548,000 under team control in 2017, team control in 2018, 2019-2021 arbitration years, Unrestricted free agent in 2022
Potential Prospect replacements: Long term – Forrest Whitley, J.B. Bakauskas, Franklin Perez, Short term – David Paulino, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove
2017 Stats: 2.0 WAR, 7-2, 3.05 ERA, 91.1 IP, 106 K, 1.14 WHIP
Career Stats: 6.1 WAR, 19-14, 3.17 ERA, 298 IP, 341 K, 1.27 WHIP
Pros: He is bulldog on the mound that oozes raw talent. He is the type of pitcher that the Astros covet. The organization seems to love starters that have a super high K/9 ratio and a nasty breaking pitch. Lance has both of those things. McCullers is also super young at age 23. Maybe most importantly as has been highlighted earlier in this article, he is really cheap until the 2022 offseason. Lance McCullers has all the making of a potential frontline starter. One could even argue that he already is.
Cons: So far in his career Lance has had several DL stints already. Also, despite a few outings he struggles to go much deeper than the 6th or 7th inning in most of his starts. That is mainly due to his high pitch count and strikeout rate.
Long term outlook: I think Lance McCullers is the present and the future of Astros starting rotation. It seems that he is “their guy”. He is what the organization looks for in a starting pitcher and is still young and cheap. He seems to love the Astros organization and the feeling seems mutual. Bank on McCullers being an Astro for a long time.
All Star Appearance: 1st
Acquired via: Brett Myers trade from Chicago White Sox on July 21, 2012
Contract Situation: Currently making $554,500 under team control in 2017, team control in 2018, 2019-2021 arbitration years, Unrestricted free agent in 2022
Potential Prospect replacements: MLB – Brad Peacock, Micheal Feliz, Joe Musgrove, Long term – Franklin Perez, Nick Hernandez, Short term – None
2017 Stats: 1.4 WAR, 6-3, 2.73 ERA, 52.2 IP, 72 K, 0.84 WHIP
Career Stats: 4.2 WAR, 10-7, 2.35 ERA, 161 IP, 178 K, 0.89 WHIP
Pros: Chris “Devo” Devenski is the dragon out of the bullpen the Astros had been missing. His value to this team is really hard to even quality. The ability to come in at any point of the game and get strikeouts and pitch multiple innings is such a rare combination. I think this current role is Devo’s niche. It would be hard for him to get throw 7 innings as a starter with basically two pitchers. However, for one or two innings he is a weapon. His “circle of death” change-up has been one of baseball’s most dominant pitches this season.
Cons: There really is not a long track record for Chris Devenski. He has not been in the majors that long and the fear might be that Devo gets “figured out”. In time hitters might learn how to stay of his devastating circle change and square up his fastball. He also was never regarded as a prospect as a potential all star player. So while what we are seeing this year is great, this might be the peak of Chris Devenski’s career.
Long term outlook: More of the same! Chris Devenski is currently in a perfect role for him to have success. Being a bullpen weapon is where his long term value will be. He potentially could move into a closer’s role, but that might limit his ability to go two innings consistently. He is not a free agent until 2022. However, with Jeff Luhnow being a savvy as he is, he might look to trade Devo as part of a big deal in the future to land a high end starting pitcher while he is value is high. Personally, I hope not. I love watching the dragon work!
There are definitely numerous things to be exited about as an Astros fan as it pertains to these six all-stars. All six of them appear to be having their best seasons of their careers. All six of these players are still 29 or younger. And maybe most importantly all six all-stars are also under contract for at least the 2018 season. However, the turning point for this franchise will be how many of these six players the organization will be able to ink to a long term deal. That alone may determine if these 2017 Astros will turn into a AL West powerhouse for years to come or team with only short-term success. Jeff Luhnow and Astros fans everywhere are banking on the former.
**Photo Credit: Getty Images**