Houston Astros Spring Training Week 3: Grapefruit League Gets Sour!

Feb 25, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; The Houston Astros watch as the Detroit Tigers warm up before a baseball game during spring training at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; The Houston Astros watch as the Detroit Tigers warm up before a baseball game during spring training at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

Grapefruit League games were not very kind to the Houston Astros, as they get the baseball preseason underway in Week 3 of Spring Training.

The Houston Astros completed their first full week of games to kick off the preseason. The end result is that there are still way too many kinks the team needs to work out.

The first of these things is, most noticeably, the pitching. With a few exceptions, most of the staff has been starting out their ERA’s at a minimum of 4.50. Some have not given up a hit yet, but these are from players that may not even make the team.

The only pitchers with a shot at the starting rotation that have pitched so far are Mike Fiers, Charlie Morton and Joe Musgove. Thankfully, they have shown great potential. However, If the team has any hope of being ready for opening day and the regular season, the pitching will need to drastically improve pronto!

Adding insult to injury, most of the bats have been slumping this first week of games as well. Only Carlos Beltran, Nori Aoki, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Yulieski Gurriel have hit .250 or better.

Marwin Gonzalez currently sits at .222, and Evan Gattis is hovering at .200 so far. Additionally, Carlos Correa is at .154, Josh Reddick is down at .100, and Jose Altuve is clinging to life at .083.

Brian McCann has not gotten a hit at all so far this spring. This suggests the newly acquired catcher has yet to come to life. Of course, a stomach bug sidelined him later this past week.

All of this is coming as the Houston Astros sit at a 2-6 record so far this spring. A little unnerving for the organization, and by extension, the fan base.

The Spacemen Are Not Waiving the Surrender Flag Just Yet!

Some people would say that it is too early, and that spring games don’t “technically count.” Even with that, it’s never really a good thing to see the team struggle.

On the plus side, getting the losing out of their system early could set them up for a great bit of success in the regular system. However, nothing in the preseason should be taken lightly. Skipper A.J. Hinch should realize this sooner rather than later.

Some other news and happenings from the past week:

1. The WBC Begins, Shrinking the Roster Fairly Significantly.

Eight players are heading off to the World Baseball Classic.

They include the following:

Nori Aoki
Luke Gregerson
Carlos Beltran
Alex Bregman
Carlos Correa
Jose Altuve
Kevin Chapman
Dayan Diaz (non-roster invitee)

The absence of these players will free up a couple of weeks of playing time for farm system (minor league) players and those projected to be on the bench or out of the bullpen.

2. Start Me Up!

Lance McCullers should be making his spring debut this coming Thursday. According to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, he threw 43 pitches in a simulated game just this past Saturday. McCullers is expected to throw around two innings when he takes the mound for the first time.

Meanwhile, Kaplan also reports that right-hander, Collin McHugh will have a bullpen session off the mound today for the first time. He has been dealing with what he’s called a “dead arm” all month long. McHugh’s start is still yet to be determined.

Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweeted out on Friday that Dallas Keuchel will also throw his first simulated game on Tuesday while the team is off. Keuchel, McCullers, and McHugh are sorely needed on the mound right now!

3. Gattis Gets the Go-Ahead!

Brian McTaggart also tweeted out on Friday that Evan Gattis has increased the intensity of his throwing and catching drills, and will get his first taste of being behind the plate this spring. The target date for El Oso Blanco to suit up in the backstop gear is slated to be between Wednesday to Friday, March 8th-10th.

Gattis even caught the simulated game for McCullers on Saturday. And as McTaggart also tweeted out, the Big White Bear says McCullers “looks really good.” The two players could, presumably, make their defensive starts together on Thursday.

This will be incredibly helpful in case something else happens to Brian McCann, who caught a stomach bug mid-to-late last week. Much to everyone’s relief, he is fine and has seen time behind the plate and as a DH. He and Gattis plan to factor into both of those positions in 2017!

4. Beltran Takes, and Will Take, the Field His Fare Share!

A.J. Hinch told reporters, including Kaplan at the Chronicle, that he would ideally like to get Carlos Beltran about 30-40 starts in left field this season. While he will get the lion’s share of DH, Beltran did start out in left field last Wednesday against Miami.

Beltran still managed to get a hit and a walk in that game while making some pretty solid plays in the outfield. Most of his outfield starts should come at Minute Maid Park, with perhaps an occasional away game start at parks with shorter outfields.

Stay tuned for more updates next week. GO HOUSTON ASTROS!!!!