Injuries, All-Stars and prospects this week for the Astros

We have finally reached the official half of the season. We may have technically passed the actual midpoint (81 games…duh), but the All-Star Game is the clear symbolic delineation between the first and second halves and here we are.

The Astros have five stars, but only two (Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker) will play. Yordan Alvarez started hitting again, so he could (should?) return immediately after the shortened break. José Altuve is fine, but caution keeps him out. And Justin Verlander just took a turn in the rotation, so he’ll rest.

The biggest focus is and should be on the next calendar, which is not easy. There is also a draft in progress. Lots to talk about this week.

No matter the All-Star game, the schedule is brutal.

The Astros are one of the few teams with recovery dates immediately after the break. That was the result of games lost during the lockout. The Yankees are here for a doubleheader followed by the suddenly rising Mariners, who won 14 straight before the break. Don’t look now, but the Astros’ lead is down to single digits. No, seriously, don’t look at it now or ever. The Astros are fine. They may have lost two of three to the A’s, but talk of a challenge from Seattle is exaggerated and extremely premature.

click to enlarge When will Michael Brantley return?  - JACK GORMAN PHOTO

When will Michael Brantley return?

Photo by Jack Gorman

Initial thoughts on the first draft picks.

No one here will accuse us of being college baseball experts. There aren’t many of those to begin with. But so far, we like what we’ve seen from the Astros, who appear to be refueling their system with college talent; at the time of this writing, all seven were college athletes. After a couple of outfielders, they left with a slew of pitching prospects followed by a 6’6″ catcher (whoa!). It’s pretty clear the team wants their minor leagues back on fire after they didn’t there were no first- or second-round picks the last two years thanks to the punishment for the sign-stealing scandal.

What to look for in the second half.

The main goal of the team should be to be completely healthy. It looks like Alvarez will be back this week (ugh!) and Altuve is still playing. But they really need Michael Brantley, who has been sidelined with a shoulder problem, back in their lineup. Then there’s Lance McCullers. He has been pitching steadily with an eye toward early August. We’ll see.

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