The Pallilog

Injuries mount for Astros, but they should be just fine with a less than daunting schedule ahead

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Despite Jose Altuve's setback, George Springer's zinged hamstring, and Carlos Correa's rib breaking massage, while the Astros' offense will suffer in the coming weeks the team should hold up fine. After this weekend's three game series at Oakland, the schedule softens dramatically with four games at the sunken Mariners then three vs. the inept Orioles. Those series are followed by a two game quickie with the Brewers, then six more games vs. losing teams: three vs. Toronto, three at Cincinnati. The Astros prevailing strength is pitching, a strength that remains mostly intact. The loss of Collin McHugh shouldn't be considered major.

Good thing the big league pitching has been generally excellent because the picture has been ugly this season for several of the Astros top pitching prospects. Corbin Martin pitched well to get a first crack at the big leagues, but after an exciting debut he has been poor in three consecutive starts. The universally heralded Forrest Whitley was blasted in five straight AAA outings, ballooning his earned run average to 12.21 (not a typo-12.21) and pushing the Astros to shut him down with no specific injury cited, just shoulder fatigue. After 24 and one third innings pitched. Last year Whitley spent two different stints on the injured list and those came after the start of his season was delayed 50 games because of a PED suspension. He doesn't turn 22 until September so has time to get things straightened out. But by the time they're 22 most super phenom pitching talents are pounding the door earning entrance to the majors. After Whitley and Martin, J.B Bukauskas is the Astros next most touted hurler. He takes a 7.27 ERA with AA Corpus Christi into the weekend. Cionel Perez is at 6.44 at Round Rock. A tier lower on the prospect totem pole, Rogelio Armenteros is at 5.73.

Dallas Keuchel figures to finally sign somewhere next week. With draft pick compensation removed he'll have multiple contenders as suitors.

Charlie Morton is 6-0 with a spiffy 2.54 ERA for the Rays.

Finally, Finals

The NBA Finals are finally underway. Your interest level on a scale of 1-10 scale? Should be high! Especially with Toronto solidly winning game one.

Golden State is playing to further burnish its all-time greatness stature. Even embittered Rockets fans must acknowledge the Warriors play one of the most entertaining styles ever, with Stephen Curry as their most important player and one of the more compelling players ever. However, while the Warriors were sizably favored to start the series, their one point underdog status for game one reflects that this no way is an inevitable re-coronation.

The Raptors are likely better than any of the LeBron James Cavaliers teams that played the Warriors the last four years. Kawhi Leonard isn't quite as great as peak LeBron, but he's in the arena. The Cavs' top win total over their four season Finals run was 57. The Raptors won 58 games this season with Kawhi sitting out 22 of the 82 regular season games. Last season the Cavs won 50 as LeBron played in all 82.

A healthy Leonard for the Raptors and if Kevin Durant is not to play, yes the trophy could very well wind up north of the border.

I wonder how many of the Rockets will watch how much of the series. The Rockets have thrust themselves into a state of flux, though it should be remembered that again this season they gave Golden State more of a challenge than any other Western Conference opponent.

An interesting Rockets' offseason is under way. Owner Tilman Fertitta "promising" championships. In some combination Fertitta and General Manager Daryl Morey have taken a hatchet to Mike D'Antoni's coaching staff. D'Antoni basically made public his desire for a contract extension and then when not greeted super receptively, broke off talks.

Reportedly the Rockets have interest in hiring Tyronn Lue as an assistant coach. That would be quite the interesting turn of events. Lue would not be a D'Antoni hire. The scenario would then clearly exist in which the Rockets and D'Antoni wind up parting ways with Lue winding up head coach.

How would that play with James Harden? Will Harden and Chris Paul get back to being basketball besties? Or is that rendered moot if the Rockets can find a taker for the anvil-heavy three seasons 124 million dollars left on Paul's contract? Will Morey have a much better offseason than he did last year (not the highest of bars to clear)?

That's the summer ahead, As the Rockets Turn.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Very slim pickings for athletes named June. The best, former linebacker Cato June. He's also quite possibly the best athlete named Cato (otherwise it's Kelvin?) 2. Another week of OTA non-news for the Texans. That means no notable injuries. 3. Best Canadian cities: Bronze-Vancouver Silver-Montreal Gold-Toronto


Houston's young players are impressing in September

Young talent continues to shine for the Astros

Rich Schultz / Getty Images

At the beginning of the month, the Astros took advantage of the current rules allowing teams in September to expand their major-league roster by bringing up some key players from their AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Bringing them up was beneficial for both the Astros and the players, as it gave the team a chance to rest key players down the stretch, fill some holes due to injury, and provide these young prospects a chance to show what level of performance they are capable of producing in the big leagues.

While Houston had a disappointing stretch of games this past week by dropping three-straight to division-rivals Oakland, this month has otherwise been very successful for the Astros. They continue to inch closer to their magic number to clinch the division, as well as staying in step with the Yankees for the best AL and overall record to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. The success in September, in part, has been a result of these young stars being available and ready to contribute when called on.

Toro and Straw have taken advantage of their opportunities

Let's first take a look at some of the guys who are not as high-profile as the other two we'll get to later. Abraham Toro joined the team in late August to fill an infield spot while both Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz missed time with injury. His most exciting moment so far was when he delivered the only runs in a tightly contested game in Toronto against the Blue Jays, a two-run home run in the top of the ninth which would ultimately be the difference in a no-hitter for Justin Verlander.

While that was one of his most significant offensive highlights, he has also been solid on defense, filling in at third base while Alex Bregman has covered shortstop for a recovering Carlos Correa. While he likely doesn't make the postseason roster, Toro has shown that should the Astros need a third baseman, whether due to injury or possibly in the years to come with players moving on to other clubs, that he could be their guy.

Another contributor this month has been Myles Straw. While I originally had him on the outside looking in with my playoff roster predictions, the frequency at which Houston has used him as a pinch-runner has shown that they consider him an asset for his speed on the basepaths. Straw alone has scored seven of Houston's 90 runs this month, many of which coming after he was put in as a runner late in a game. That's not to say that's his only strength; he's 4-for-9 at the plate this month and has shown strength on defense as well. Considering the bullpen is starting to get healthy, he could very well find himself on the Astros' bench in the playoffs.

Kyle Tucker has finally broken through 


Many, including myself, were highly anticipating Kyle Tucker's call up in 2018. It, unfortunately, did not live up to the hype; as Tucker would end up going 9-for-64 and a .141 average, no home runs, and just 4 RBIs in his 28 games played in the second half of the 2018 season.

This year is an entirely different story, though, as not only did he have another terrific year in AAA to warrant another chance on the major-league roster, he has finally translated his minor-league success to the big leagues. He already has more hits (13) in his thirteen games in September as he did in his 28-game 2018 debut.

Not only has he been able to notch more hits, but he has also recorded his first and second career home runs along with six other RBIs to double his total from last season (eight versus four). Whether it was some bad luck or improved mechanics, the 2019 version of Kyle Tucker is vastly superior to what we saw in 2018.

Yordan Alvarez is simply unreal


While the players mentioned above are all great in their own right, there is still one young player that has stolen the spotlight on Houston's roster. That is Yordan Alvarez. We're running out of superlatives and records for him to exceed. Had Alvarez been with the Astros from the start of the season, we may not only be talking about the best rookie season ever but one of the best overall seasons by a player, period.

Sure, roughly half of Alvarez's dominance this year came against minor-league talent, but he has been just as dominant in the majors since his debut on June 9th. When you combine his overall statistics between the minors and majors this year, you see an incredible .333 average, 48 home runs, and 146 RBIs. For perspective, although he has spent some time away with injury, the absolute best player in the game, Mike Trout, currently sits with a .291 average, 45 home runs, and 104 RBIs.

He has already locked himself in as the sure American League Rookie of the Year, but now the question is: what can he do with a full season in the major leagues? I am looking forward to seeing how he steps up to the big moments he could be put in during the playoffs this year. Can he deliver these same numbers against the absolute best in the game? I think so, but we will have to wait until October to know for sure.

While the Astros certainly have one of the best set of veterans in the game, the last few months have been a chance to see what may be on the horizon for some of Houston's young talent that will likely be contributing towards more success for their team for years to come.

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