THE PALLILOG

Here's why Astros have a different role in mind for one of their best players

Carlos Correa could be the leadoff man. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Inside three weeks to Major League Baseball opening its regular season. Yay! The Astros will do so in Oakland against the team that ended the Astros' three year grip on the American League West title, though the Astros then dispatched the A's in an American League Division Series. Both teams are of lesser quality than they were starting last season, giving some hope perhaps to the Angels. Still, the Astros and A's are the top two picks.

General Manager James Click wasn't particularly believable in saying it was purely coincidence that the Astros made a deal with free agent pitcher Jake Odorizzi shortly after Framber Valdez suffered his season jeopardizing broken finger, but it's an excellent signing on the risk/reward scale. Odorizzi turns 31 in a couple of weeks. He had his career season in 2019 with the Twins making the AL All-Star team and finishing 15-7 with a 3.51 earned run average. 2020 was a fail with only four starts, and two injuries. Neither injury was to his pitching arm. For six consecutive seasons (2014-2019) Odorizzi made at least 28 starts. He can be a valuable innings eater, and signing him for two seasons plus a cheap player option for 2023 assures the 2022 Astros of having at least one starting pitcher with at least one good full major season on his resume. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are free agents-to be. Valdez, Lance McCullers, and Jose Urquidy have a combined zero good full big league seasons.

Speaking of good full MLB seasons, Carlos Correa has exactly one on his resume. Only in 2016 did Correa stay healthy and excel. If he and the Astros don't agree on a contract extension before Opening Day, Correa has gobs of money riding on his health and performance this year. Interesting of Manager Dusty Baker to say that he's thinking of Correa as his leadoff man alternative to Myles Straw starting the post-George Springer era. Straw is the fastest Astro and it's not close. But it's baseball not a track meet. If Straw can slap out enough hits (he should be practicing bunting every darn day) and draw a decent number of walks he can be fine as a leadoff man. He was routinely overmatched and atrocious at the plate over 82 at bats in 2020, but fared a bit better over 108 at bats in 2019. Straw was a .300 hitter in the minors, as a total Punch and Judy hitter. He totaled four home runs in more than 1800 minor league at bats.

Correa represents quite the contrast. Average speed, but some tremendous power though he has yet to hit 25 homers in a season. That's not just about the injury history. In the short 2020 Correa mustered all of five homers in 58 games played before going off in the postseason.

Straw should bat 9th out of the gate. If he proves up to it, moving to the top of the order certainly becomes an option. Over the course of a full season the leadoff spot in a batting order comes up well over 100 times more than the nine hole. Going with (until/unless proven otherwise) one of your worst offensive players in the leadoff spot is simply not smart.

Another loss for the Rockets

This rotting corpse of a Rockets' season resumed Thursday night with a loss at Sacramento. The Kings are lousy as always, heading for their 15th consecutive non-playoff finish. The Rockets are worse, now 11-24 for the season. Their losing streak is 14. A Houston Rockets franchise record-tying 15th is a near certainty with them playing at Utah Friday night. The Jazz is 27-9. Presuming the highly likely outcome comes to pass, the Rockets "go" for history Sunday at home vs. the Celtics. The corpse is not being revived. General Manager Rafael Stone has until the March 25 trade deadline to get what he can for Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, and maybe drug a colleague into taking Eric Gordon.

March Madness

More fans would prefer it the other way around, but Texas is a vastly better college basketball state than college football state these days. Baylor is a favorite to reach the Final Four. It's no pipe dream for Houston, Texas, or Texas Tech. The Bears, Cougars and Red Raiders all stunk on the gridiron in 2020, the Longhorns were their typically disappointing selves. Texas A&M is the notable exception with Jimbo Fisher having Aggie football in a way better spot than Buzz Williams has the hoop team.

Prairie View and Texas Southern could play Saturday for the SWAC Championship and automatic NCAA Tournament bid, though in the semifinals TSU has to upset Jackson State which like PV went unbeaten in conference play.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. 2021-24, who QBs more wins: Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson?

2. David Johnson last offseason, Mark Ingram this. What RB do the Texans add next offseason, Marshall Faulk?

3. Daylight Saving Time kicks in late tomorrow night, yes! Best "Time" songs: Bronze-Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes "The Time Of My Life" Silver-Jim Croce "Time In A Bottle" Gold-SOS Band "Take Your Time"

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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