Cusp Dwellers: Houston Astros in the PCL
We have all read enough about George Springer to satiate our “who’s the next Mike Trout?” fix for the time being. And while Springer might indeed get thrown to the wolves in short order, the two Astros farmhands acquired in the Hunter Pence trade with Philadelphia back in 2011 deserve immediate attention as well: right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart and left-handed hitting first baseman Jonathan Singleton.
Cosart, who turned 23 in May, is a lanky 6’3 with an athletic, cross-fire delivery. The two-time Futures Game invitee has enjoyed success in his first full AAA (PCL) experience, albeit, not without trials and tribulations.
The good: He’s allowed just 51 hits in 69 2/3 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .201 batting average and an even stingier .185 against lefties. He hasn’t allowed more than six hits in any start. As has become his standard, Cosart is inducing ground balls at a feverishly high rate of 2.57 GO/AO and has been taken deep only three times. The bad: Cosart has issued 42 free passes, and he’s walked 3+ in nine of his 13 starts. He’s failed to post a BB% below 8.3 since joining the Astros system in late 2011.
There is no denying the talent in his right-arm. His heater sits in the 93-95 range with reserve velocity up to 97. His fastball POPS. Square contact to lift it has been few and far between. When his mechanics are on point, he possesses a filthy, down biting curve with late break that tantalizes hitters who are forced to speed up on account of his heater. What Cosart lacks is the ability to consistently locate inside (and outside) the strike zone and the presence of a third offering (rare use of change-up). If these issues are not ironed out imminently, it’s widely believed that his future could be in the backend of the bullpen.
With Dallas Keuchel using smoke and mirrors to record outs in June, the Astros have no immediate need to dip into the minors for a starter. However, a reinvigorated Bud Norris will be a coveted commodity as the trade deadline approaches, and that would likely result in Cosart’s ticket to the show. Spring training did not provide the optimal showcase for his tools, as he allowed seven earned runs, eight hits and walked six in 7 2/3 innings. He displayed flashes of brilliance, but his Jekyll and Hyde style was the paramount takeaway.
Singleton is a remarkably seasoned stick for 21-years of age, but his mental immaturity off the field cost him valuable opportunity to impress. With that being said, in 19 games since returning from a marijuana suspension, his talent is quickly making up for lost time. He’s already been promoted from low class A (MID) to AA (TEX) all the way to AAA (PCL) over a three week period. You think the Astros are intent on moving him quickly? 171 strikeouts between Carlos Pena and Chris Carter will often have that affect.
In those 19 games at various levels, he’s hit five homers with OPS of 1.037, drawing 13 walks against 23 strikeouts. He has five hits in 11 at bats against left-handed pitching, including a long ball. Lefty on lefty matchups have troubled him in the past, posting a .232 BA with 36 K (125 AB) against LHP in 2012, and .248 BA with 45 K (153 AB) in 2011. These troubles are commonplace for a young hitter coming straight out of high school.
Looking at the big picture, Singleton possesses highly advanced plate discipline and strike zone awareness given his level of experience. He stays inside the ball with a level swing, utilizes the whole diamond and is not afraid to hit with two-strikes. At 6’2 235, the power will come by accident, even with his predominantly line drive approach. In fact, that power was manifest during spring training where he hit two homers and a triple (underappreciated top-end speed) in 15 plate appearances.
Perhaps most importantly, Singleton somehow procured the always beloved “Marlon Anderson follow-thru and bat flip”, which earns him substantial brownie points.
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