The Houston Astros have been off to a rocky start in 2016, dropping two of three to both the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers on the road. The good news is that Houston returns to the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park on Monday evening. The bad news is that their opponent will be the team that bounced them from the ALDS a year ago and current World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals, so the schedule doesn't get any easier. Here is a brief recap of the players that impressed, and the players that, well, didn't.
Tyler White--of course. After battling all spring for the first base job, White continued to impress both those in the know and those that were asking "who's this guy?" on opening day. Through six games played, White is batting a ridiculous .556 (best in baseball) which includes a team-high 9 rbi (three others are tied with four) and he is also tied for the team lead in home runs with 3 alongside Carlos Correa.
Carlos Correa put on a show in New York, belting his three homers in the team's first two games. The Brewers held him to a double over three games, but the 21-year-old shortstop is still batting .304 for the season after a 2-for-10 weekend. Look for Correa to provide some fireworks against Kansas City over the coming days as he will likely be a catalyst for the offense until the rest of the team can find their own consistent rhythm.
The third player could be up for debate, but a strong big league debut put Chris Devenski over the top. After Michael Feliz came on in relief of Collin McHugh on Wednesday, a move had to be made to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. Devenski, who dominated the Texas League for the better part of 2015, and shut down the Columbus Clippers in the Triple-A National Championship Game, had very little experience above Double-A. Nonetheless, he came out of the bullpen on Friday to pitch a scoreless three frames, allowing just one hit while striking out four. He and Luke Gregerson are the only two pitchers on the team that have yet to give up an earned run this season.
Collin McHugh certainly did not get his season off to the right start on Wednesday in New York. He would last just one-third of an inning, allowing six runs (five earned) on three hits and two walks. According to FanGraphs, McHugh's fastball velocity was down over a mile per hour compared to last season going from 90.4 to 89.2. McHugh has never been a pitcher that will blow you away with the hard stuff, so even if his velocity is on its way down, McHugh relies more on the spin rate of his pitches, particularly his curve, which all indications are that his ball is spinning well above league average. For now, lets just chalk it up to one bad outing. I mean, even Dallas Keuchel allowed runs against the Bronx Bombers in the season opener, something he didn't do all of last season.
The bullpen has not been quite the same caliber that we were expecting in the early going this season. New addition Ken Giles, Feliz and Josh Fields each have ERAs above ten and both Giles and Feliz have given up two long balls, while Fields is responsible for one himself. Gregerson and Will Harris have been the bright spots for the Astros, combining for 5.1 innings pitched while only giving up one run on three hits and a pair of walks. Aside from one pitch, Pat Neshek has been solid as well in his 2.1 innings of work. The team holds an ERA of 7.71, 29th in baseball, while the bullpen holds an ERA of 7.40 which is 27th.
George Springer is due for a breakout campaign in 2016, but he's off to a sluggish start after going 4-for-24 (.167) through the first six games. The batting average isn't necessarily the concern at the moment, but the strikeout rate is a bit higher than what we're used to. In those 24 at-bats, Springer has K'd nine times (37.5%), or roughly ten percent more than a year ago.
This isn't quite the start any of us were hoping for, or even necessarily expecting--facing a Yankee team that's missing their closer and is facing question marks in their rotation, and a rebuilding Milwaukee club that is largely comprised of Houston's send-offs. Nonetheless, the season is still early and the Texas Rangers, expected to be Houston's toughest competition in the AL West this year, are just a half-game ahead of the Astros entering play on Monday.