JOHN GRANATO

Soon-to-be free agent Eovaldi could be a great fit for the Astros

Nathan Eovaldi has similar numbers to Charlie Morton when Morton became an Astro. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

ESPN baseball expert Buster Olney was on our show Tuesday morning and dropped a bomb on us. He said that Nathan Eovaldi would be a perfect fit for the Astros. He’ll cost somewhere in the $80 million range over 4 or 5 years.

Rarely does information like that come out of nowhere.

While Olney can’t reveal it, it’s a good bet that he called or ran into Eovaldi’s agent during the playoffs and he planted that bug in Olney’s ear. It’s what agents do. Olney can’t reveal it because the agent wouldn’t want the Red Sox to know he’s out there shopping Eovaldi while he should be thinking about winning a World Series.

This week leading up to the series Eovaldi was asked if his people had spoken to the Red Sox about resigning with the team. He said there had been no such talks. That will probably change as soon as the series is over.

He has been impressive since he got to Boston. He has a 3.33 ERA with 48 strikeouts and just 12 walks. He also looked great here in Houston throwing 7⅓, giving up just 2 runs, striking out 5 and walking 2 while winning a pivotal Game 3.

That he got that start over Rick Porcello, who won a Cy Young for the Sox just a couple of years ago tells you what Alex Cora must think of him. Eovaldi hasn’t been with the Sox for three months.

But over his career he hasn’t been all that impressive. He is nine games under .500 with a slightly better than average ERA of 4.16. He’s got a live fastball but his strikeouts to walks is just under 2½ to 1. Not all that dominating for a guy who can hit 100 on the gun.

He is trending well though and picking up valuable postseason experience plus guys who come to the Astros tend to get better under the tutelage of pitching coach Brent Strom. Case in point Charlie Morton. Check out this comparison of Morton when he signed here 2 years ago and Eovaldi today.

                     Eovaldi    Morton (2 yrs ago)

Age                   28            32

Games             156         162

W-L                 44-53     46-71

ERA                 4.16        4.54

Innings             850        893

Strikeouts         640       630

Hits                   887        950

Walks               259         337

WHIP              1.348   1.440

HR                     80           71

Pretty close numbers but by almost every measure Eovaldi is a little bit better that CFM was when the Astros signed him and by every measure CFM is better today than he was then. His record, ERA, and K’s to W’s are all better because of Brent Strom. You’d have to think that Eovaldi would be better here. Everyone else has been. Why wouldn’t he be?

Sure would be nice to have a younger, harder throwing Charlie Morton in the rotation next year. We also know that the big stage isn’t too big for him. We saw that with our own eyes.

The question is do you spend that kind of money on a guy who still has something to prove or hope that you can develop your own guys on the cheap? Josh James looks like he’s the real deal. He can hump it up at over 100 as well. He gave up some crucial runs but it was just his first go around and you’ve got him locked up for a couple of years for next to nothing.  

Forrest Whitley hasn’t even started his major league clock yet. He’s said to be throwing well and could be in the mix next spring. Lance McCullers Jr. is back next year as is Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. If you can sign CFM for a couple more years at a reasonable price that would be tough to pass up.

Of course the big decision is what to do about Dallas Keuchel. He will get some life changing offers. Best bet is that he’s pitching somewhere else next year. There are too many guys to pay here to tie up big money longterm on him.

With just one more year of Verlander, Eovaldi might be the right fit. When JV leaves Gerrit Cole becomes your ace. Eovaldi’s the No. 3 starter on a World Series team right now. He could certainly move up to a No. 2 with Brent Strom’s help. Whitley, James and LMJ all have at least number 2 stuff as well.

If Buster Olney wasn’t just throwing sand into the wind and maybe has some insight into this, it sounds pretty exciting to me. If there’s a bidding war with another team you’d think Eovaldi would sign here if the money’s close.  He’s from Alvin. He’ll never be the pride of Alvin like No. 34 but he’ll move closer to the legendary Nolan Ryan in the hearts of everyone around here if he helps us all put on another one of those fancy rings.

 

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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