- Carlos Correa tells MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (Twitter link) that he is hopeful of getting back to action before the All-Star break, though Correa has yet to begin any baseball activities. The Astros star’s 10-day DL placement due to lower back soreness was backdated to June 26, so is eligible to return at any point. Manager A.J. Hinch said that the team was going to be cautious with the young star, so it could be that Correa is held out through the break to make sure he is completely recovered.
The Astros have called up top prospect Kyle Tucker, The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan reports (Twitter link). Jake Marisnick will be sent down to Triple-A in the corresponding move, as per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter).
Tucker, 21, has been considered one of the game’s better prospects since he was selected fifth overall in the 2015 draft. Preseason prospect rankings (15th on Baseball America’s list, MLB.com 17th, Baseball Prospectus 20th, ESPN’s Keith Law 21st) tabbed him as being on the verge of Major League readiness, though he hadn’t played in Triple-A prior to this season. Tucker didn’t miss a beat playing at the top minor league level, batting .306/.371/.520 with 14 home runs over 371 plate appearances for the Fresno Grizzlies, strong statistics even in a hitter-friendly league like the PCL.
This marks Tucker’s second straight year of solid power numbers, as he made slight adjustments to his approach in order to generate more pop, albeit while striking out more often (he has 70 whiffs this season). Still, he makes overall very strong contact, and his hand-eye coordination has been widely cited as excellent, which helps him deliver such good results at the plate despite a somewhat unusual swing.
Beyond the bat, Tucker has also stolen 85 bases in 113 chances over his minor league career, including 14 swipes this year. Tucker has seen significant time at all three outfield positions, though evaluators believe he is best suited for a corner spot — MLB.com’s scouting report touts Tucker’s “solid arm strength” as a good fit for eventually becoming a right fielder.
This defensive versatility gives the Astros another valuable piece to work with in their pursuit of another World Series title. George Springer is the only true everyday outfielder in the Houston lineup, playing either center field or right field, with Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Tony Kemp and (before today) Marisnick all getting action in the other two positions based on matchups. Gonzalez has recently been deploying his superutility skills at shortstop with Carlos Correa on the DL, and thus the Astros may have felt the time was right to add a stronger bat like Tucker into their outfield mix. Tucker, Reddick, and Kemp are all left-handed hitters, though Kemp has hit well from both sides of the plate this year, so Houston doesn’t necessarily have an unbalanced outfield picture. The ’Stros also have two more young outfield options in J.D. Davis and Derek Fisher at Triple-A for further depth.
It’s worth noting that Tucker has been a frequent subject of trade rumors over the last couple of years, with teams like the White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins all showing interest in the outfield prospect. In regards to the Miami talks, it was reported that Houston was at least open to moving Tucker if it meant getting J.T. Realmuto back in return, though nothing ever came of those negotiations. There hasn’t been any trade buzz on Tucker in recent months, however, not that Tucker was ever really considered an expendable piece for anything less than a top-tier asset like Realmuto. It certainly appears as through the Astros consider Tucker to be yet another homegrown building block that can help the big league roster both now and in the future.
Marisnick’s 2017 season was something of an outlier, as he produced above-average numbers at the plate (117 wRC+ in 259 PA) while underachieving defensively. The rest of his career has been the exact opposite, as Marisnick has generally been an outstanding defender while not generating much offense at the plate. This season, for instance, Marisnick has a .190/.235/.359 slash line over 163 PA, while posting a +12.1 UZR/150 and +8 Defensive Runs Saved in 410 2/3 innings as a center fielder.
Hoyt will head to Triple-A on optional assignment. He will occupy the 40-man roster spot that was created when George Kontos was designated for assignment.
The 31-year-old Hoyt had been a fairly significant part of the Houston pen mix over the past two seasons but has seen just one MLB appearance this year. He has been good at Triple-A this year, turning in 28 innings of 2.25 ERA ball with 10.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
The Astros are checking around on the bullpen market, though a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that the team isn’t going to make a move unless a clear upgrade can be found. “It’s going to be really hard for them to upgrade given that adding someone means pushing a capable — even good — reliever…off the playoff roster. There’s pressure to do something, but it doesn’t really make sense,” the source said. Indeed, the argument could more easily be made that Houston is the last team that needs bullpen reinforcements, as Astros relievers collectively rank either first or second amongst all bullpens in ERA, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, K/9 and hits per nine innings. Tony Sipp is the bullpen’s only southpaw, though even adding another left-hander isn’t necessary given how well Chris Devenski and Hector Rondon have pitched against left-handed hitters. If the Astros do add another bullpen arm, Feinsand lists some pitchers controlled for multiple years (Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias, Blake Treinen, Adam Conley) as possible fits, as well as a rental (Zach Britton) that Houston has pursued in the past.
- Max Stassi was removed from Tuesday’s game after his right wrist by hit by a pitch, though Astros manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart) that the catcher should be back in a day or two depending on the status of his wrist contusion. With Brian McCann out of action due to knee surgery, Houston would be very thin behind the plate if Stassi also missed significant time, as veteran Tim Federowicz is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster. Hinch described Evan Gattis as “still available as a third catcher” after receiving minimal work at the position this year, though it isn’t clear if Gattis would move into more of a proper backup role if Stassi did require a DL stint.
2:00pm: McCann will require surgery on his knee that will sideline him for the next four to six weeks, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter).
It seems doubtful that’ll change the team’s immediate approach all that much, though if Stassi is struggling in a regular role three weeks from now, perhaps the organization would consider some type of addition behind the plate.
10:39am: The Astros will place Brian McCann back on the 10-day disabled list due to a right knee injury and will select the contract of Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Fresno in his place, as Jake Kaplan of The Athletic tweets. The Astros will also activate Joe Smith from the 10-day DL. Houston’s 40-man roster is currently at 38 players, so they won’t need to make a corresponding move for Federowicz’s addition, though they’ll need to open a 25-man spot for Smith.
McCann has now been on the DL three times with right knee soreness dating back to August 2017. For a 34-year-old who was long one of the league’s most durable backstops, perhaps that’s not exactly surprising. Still, whether it’s due to his apparently ongoing knee discomfort or simply due to a decline in skills, McCann is currently enduring the worst season of his Major League career. Through 173 plate appearances, he’s batting just .206/.283/.323 with five homers and three doubles. He’s the league’s second-slowest runner as well, per Statcast, topping only Albert Pujols in terms of sprint speed (22.6 feet per second).
Max Stassi will serve as the primary catcher in place of McCann — and it’s very arguable that despite McCann’s contract, that should be the arrangement through season’s end. The 27-year-old Stassi is hitting .255/.335/.482 with seven homers and 11 doubles through 158 plate appearances so far in 2018, and while he’s been below average in terms of throwing out would-be base thieves (22 percent to McCann’s 33 percent), Stassi rates as the top framing catcher in the league, per Baseball Prospectus. In fact, Stassi leads all big league catchers in BP’s Fielding Runs Above Average metric.
As for Federowicz, the 30-year-old journeyman will return to the ’Stros for a second time in 2018. He came up earlier this season and went 1-for-7 in a tiny sample of work. Federowicz has turned in a brilliant season in Triple-A so far, hitting .328/.404/.560 through 151 PAs. That’s largely how Federowicz’s career has gone to this point. In parts of eight Triple-A campaigns, he’s mashed at a .306/.376/.508 clip, but he’s managed just a .195/.243/.312 batting line through 325 PAs in the Majors.
The Red Sox and Astros are among the teams with interest in Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Houston, in particular, is “looking hard at Iglesias,” Cafardo writes. The Astros had been eyeing fellow late-game option Kelvin Herrera, per Cafardo, though he’s no longer on the market after the Royals traded him to the Nationals earlier this month. Unlike Herrera, a free agent at season’s end, Iglesias could be a multiyear solution for an acquiring team. The 28-year-old standout is under control through 2020 for affordable salaries ($4.5MM this season, $5MM in each of 2019 and ’20), though he could elect to opt into arbitration over the winter in hopes of securing a raise. Given Iglesias’ track record and remaining team control, the Reds would surely require an impressive haul to consider moving him. It’s worth noting, then, that the Astros have Baseball America’s 10th-best farm system, while the Red Sox’s prospect pool is just 24th.
- It isn’t yet certain if Charlie Morton will pursue another contract or retire after the season, though if he does hit the open market, Heyman speculates that the veteran could earn something between $16MM and $25MM (the average annual values given to Rich Hill and Jake Arrieta the last two offseasons) next season. Morton turns 35 in November but has been fantastic since joining the Astros, and is currently in the midst of the best season of his 11-year career. It seems likely that the Astros will extend a qualifying offer to Morton after the season, as Heyman notes, and Morton certainly seems like a good candidate to accept the one-year deal in the $18MM+ range, given his love of playing in Houston.
Perez was already on the 40-man roster, as he needed to be protected from the most recent Rule 5 draft. Accordingly, the move is not necessarily a particularly consequential one.
That said, this will be his first turn at the game’s highest level. And it stands to reason that the ’Stros would not have made the move unless they were interested to see how the highly regarded lefty looks in the MLB bullpen.
Perez, 22, has been a nice addition to the Houston farm since signing in 2016 out of Cuba — a process that had some twists and turns but left him with a $2MM signing bonus. He entered the current season ranked 6th among the organization’s prospects by MLB.com.
Questions remain as to Perez’s long-term outlook as a starter. Per MLB.com, he’s still refining his primary three-pitch mix — sinker/slider/change — and faces concerns about his small stature. There’s also the matter of the elbow concerns that gummed up his original deal with Houston.
That said, Perez has sure looked the part this year. In his 57 1/3 Double-A frames, he carries a 2.20 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. He has compiled that stat line over ten starts and four relief appearances, so clearly the Astros aren’t pushing him too hard. Perez tallied 93 2/3 total innings in 2017, his first professional campaign, so he wasn’t quite set up for a full workload this year.
All things considered, it’s certainly possible that Houston could look at Perez as a potential multi-inning relief asset. He’d still be able to return to the rotation in the long run. It’s more likely, though, that this call-up will represent only a first taste of the majors. The Astros’ pen has been rather dominant, after all, though it’d be nice to have another option available if any cracks begin to form.
The Astros will place star shortstop Carlos Correa on the 10-day disabled list, manager A.J. Hinch told reporters including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (video link on Twitter). The move will formally be made tomorrow.
Correa has been dealing with lower back soreness for a few days but had hoped to avoid the DL. The 23-year-old last played on June 25th, so the club can backdate the placement to the 26th. It seems the hope is that Correa will be back after missing only the minimum, or close to it.
Hinch explains that the young slugger is “doing great” in his progress, but says the club did not want to set up a situation that allowed uncertainty as to whether or not he’d be available on any given day. Rather than take any risks, the call was made to take Correa off of the active roster until he is “completely symptom-free.”
There’s no reason, then, to think that this issue will be much of an impediment for Correa or the ’Stros. There hasn’t been much stopping either to this point of the season, with Correa carrying a 129 wRC+and the ballclub tied for the AL lead with 54 wins.
- More on Herrera, as Heyman reports that the Astros didn’t make a play for the right-hander.