We've finally made it to the official halfway point of the season. We may technically be past the actual halfway point (81 games...duh), but the All-Star game is the clear delineation between the first and second half symbolically and here we are.
The Astros have five all stars but only two (Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker) will play. Yordan Alvarez started hitting again, so he could (should?) be back immediately following the abbreviated break. Jose Altuve is fine, but precaution is keeping him out. And Justin Verlander just took a turn in the rotation, so he will rest.
The bigger focus is and should be on the upcoming schedule, which isn't easy. There's also a draft going on. A lot to chat about this week.
Never mind the All-Star game, the schedule out of it is brutal.
The Astros are one of handful of teams with make-up dates immediately following the break. That was a result of the missed games during the lockout. The Yankees are here for a doubleheader followed by the suddenly surging Mariners, who won 14 straight going into 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 dropped two of three to the A's, but any talk of a challenge from Seattle is overblown and extremely premature.
Initial thoughts on the first draft picks.
When will Michael Brantley return?
Photo by Jack Gorman
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 restocking their system with college talent — as of writing this, all seven were collegiate athletes. After a pair of outfielders, they went with a slew of pitching prospects followed by a 6'6" catcher (whoa). It's pretty clear the team wants to get their minor league fired up again after no first or second round picks the last two years thanks to the punishment from the sign stealing scandal.
What to look for in the second half.
The main goal for the team should be to get fully healthy. It appears Alvarez will return this week (whew!) and Altuve is still playing. But, they really do need Michael Brantley, who has been sidelined with a shoulder problem, back in their lineup. Then there is Lance McCullers. He's been throwing consistently with an eye on early August. We'll see.