Years of bad decisions by former ownership and upper management have left the Houston Astros as the worst franchise in the game. Their 56 wins were seven less than any other team. Thankfully for Astros fans Christmas came a bit early this year. Jim Crane bought the team from long time owner Drayton McLane and promptly fired General Manager, and serial screw up, Ed Wade, replacing him with Cardinals’ vice president Jeff Luhnow.
One of Luhnow’s first moves was trading reliever Mark Melancon to the Red Sox for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. The last thing a rebuilding team needs is relief pitching, so flipping Melancon for one, maybe two, useful pieces is smart. Getting Lowrie is smart considering the black hole the Astros had at shortstop. Last season two players, Clint Barmes and Angel Sanchez, saw time at short for Houston, with the former getting the bulk. Neither hit particularly well, Barmes’ double digit home runs the only saving grace. With Barmes gone to the Pirates the door was left open for an acquisition such as this. Lowrie is far from a sure thing, though.
The first thing that comes to mind when hearing, or reading, Lowrie’s name is ‘injury’. Here are the games missed due to injury by the soon to be 28-year-old over the past three seasons: 56, 94, 108. The number is getting smaller each season so maybe he’ll miss zero games in 2012…ok, maybe not. When he’s been on the field his production has been sporadic. Never playing more than 88 games in any of his four seasons, his wOBA totals are thus: .326, .212, .393, .297. If fully healthy he has double digit home run power and possesses a higher than average contact rate. His lack of steals hurt his value – he has only three in 256 games. He was a sleeper pick in last year’s drafts after ending 2010 with a .936 OPS over the last two months of the season. He continued that hot hitting into the beginning of 2011 with a .962 OPS in April, but fell off a cliff for the rest of the season, never finishing another month with an OPS above .700.
There’s little doubt, if healthy, he’ll emerge from spring training as the starting shortstop. If he manages to stay on the field for 120 or more games he’ll have a good chance at being an above average bat for the position. He’s not worth much of a look come draft day in standard mixed leagues, but in deeper formats, especially N.L. only leagues, a late round flyer should get the job done.