When people said the Astros might lose 120 games this season, I scoffed. "Why," I scoffed, "they probably won't lose even 100 games!"
I should scoff less. No, they're not going to lose 120 games. They're not going to lose 110 games. But they're going to lose somewhere between 100 and 105 games, and their run differential is the worst in the majors by a lot (although to be fair, their run differential is actually somewhat better than their record).
But of course the Astros are rebuilding. How's that working out for them? You know, down lower? As MLB.com's Brian McTaggart writes, pretty, pretty, pretty well:
If success in the Minor Leagues is any indication, the Astros' rebuilding process appears to be coming along nicely.
The Astros became the first organization in 10 years to qualify six domestic Minor League affiliates for the postseason in the same year after short-season Tri-City clinched its division in the New York-Penn League on Tuesday.
The six playoff clubs is a franchise record and makes the Astros the first team to accomplish the feat since the Pirates in 2003.
At the top of that list is center fielder George Springer (No. 3 prospect), who hit a combined .303 with 37 homers, 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases this year at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. First baseman Jon Singleton (No. 2 prospect) and pitcher Asher Wojciechowski (No. 13 prospect) also figure to contribute in the Majors next year after finishing the year in Triple-A.
Wait a minute ... can we go back to the 2003 Pirates? If that's the precedent, it's not real encouraging. After going 72-89 in 2004, the Pirates lost at least 94 games in each of the next six seasons. And the Pirates had some good prospects, too! In '04, Baseball America's list of the Pirates' top 20 prospects included Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Matt Capps, Zach Duke, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, and Tom Gorzelanny. That's impressive.
What's even more impressive -- or less impressive, depending on how you look at it -- is that with the exception of Jason Bay, those guys weren't even the Pirates best prospects. According to Baseball America, five of their top six were pitchers John VanBenschoten, Sean Burnett, Bryan Bullington, Blair Johnson, and Ian Snell. You probably don't need me to tell you that none of them became stars. Ian Snell was useful for a couple of seasons, and he was easily the best of them.
One good thing about the Astros' top prospects -- Spring, Singleton, and 19-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa -- is that none of them are pitchers. Of course you want pitching prospects. But it's easier to get lucky with pitchers than hitters, and it seems the Astros won't need much luck with their hitting prospects.
The signs are pretty good at this point. The hitting prospects are there, and the minor-league playoff teams are there. But so are the 2003 Pittsburgh Pirates. The past isn't prologue. But the prologue isn't the prologue yet, either. And the Astros aren't the only smart guys in the room.
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