Yesterday's game, which featured one of the better win probability graphs of the season thus far, also had one of the most freak plays I've ever seen live. With one out and Jose Reyes on second base, Jose Bautista popped up an infield fly. In comes Jonathan Villar:
Chris Colabello ends up batting both of the runners in, and Jose Bautista represented the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. It's always difficult to lose a game because of a freak play such as this, but it must be even harder for Jonathan Villar who may have just lost his job to Carlos Correa. Let's see what Astros fans are so excited about:
A product of the rebuild circa 2012, Correa went first overall as a 17-year old. While not much in particular stands out in his scouting report as his go-to skill (though his power and arm are frequently fawned over, neither are 70+), Correa is believed to be an all-around player; the sum of his parts. That being said, he has still been the number one prospect in the Houston Astros system according to Baseball America for the past three seasons and the number four prospect in all of baseball previous to this season.
Before the season began, Baseball Prospectus' Annual projected Correa for 0.9 WARP over 250 PA. While it seems like Correa could easily beat that plate appearance total with how early he was called up, it's not difficult to believe that the Astros just added a one win player -- not something every team can say.
Steamer on the other hand -- which gets to update their projections unlike print media -- projects the young shortstop for 338 plate appearances. That translates to 1.3 fWAR with all of it coming thanks to his glove work. He is expected to be slightly below average at the plate in his first season (93 wRC+, .302 wOBA) probably thanks to his contact rates, which have been his issue while progressing through the minors. I'm somewhat optimistic since his K% has consistently gone down as he has progressed through the minors, which might show that his plate discipline and 'batting eye' have developed with age.
Where Vincent Velasquez fits in on this team is still a bit puzzling to me. He has been called up for a spot start against the White Sox on Wednesday in what appeared to be Roberto Hernandez's spot. Hernandez has been a bit of a mixed bag this season, being basically league-average over his 11 starts but with ups and downs all throughout those starts. For instance, his ground ball percentage has been 64 percent at its best, yet 36.4 percent at its worst. His most recent start was good for a 6.03 xFIP, yet the start before that was a fantastic 2.78 xFIP. Many people assume he will become the long reliever, at least for a little while.
But you're not reading this article to read about Roberto Hernandez. You want to know why Luhnow called up his third consecutive pitcher straight from AA. Pre-season PECOTA projections suggested that Velasquez would pitch 60.2 innings in the bigs this season and be pretty much exactly league average. He has had excellent swing-and-miss stuff through the minors (posting a 33.6 K percent in his 5 AA starts this season for Corpus Christi). In 2014, his first full season in high-A ball, Velasquez struck out nearly 12 batters and allowed fewer than one homer per nine innings pitched. His strand rate has been high, perhaps even unsustainable, at 80.5 percent, but so was Noah Syndergaard's before his call-up, who has more than survived in the majors with a regressing strand rate. There's no real reason to believe Velasquez can't do the same. Either way, the wealth of pitching over-floweth in Luhnow's cup.
Whether Luhnow decides to keep these assets on his team, or this is just the beginning of a showcase to turn them into a different sort of asset, it's an exciting time for the first-place Houston Astros.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. He is still really sorry for thinking the Astros would finish fourth in the AL West. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org