The Houston Astros are 16 games under .500 and almost 20 games out of first place in the American League West, but all is not lost.
Though the postseason may be a long shot, the team has some building blocks for improvement in 2015 and beyond beginning with emerging star George Springer.
Springer was called up in mid-April and has used Minute Maid Field as his personal launching pad for baseballs. He’s played in 76 games and leads the team in both home runs (19) and RBIs (50).
He is hitting .233 and has eight doubles on the season.
The Astros are 11-4 in games where Springer hits a homer.
Unfortunately for Houston baseball fans, this season has gone as most expected.
Houston is 40-56 and 19 ½ games behind division-leader Oakland. If it weren’t for a recent sweep over Texas, the Astros would be dead last in the AL West.
It may be too late to realistically make a run at the postseason, but things could look up for the Astros from now until mid-August.
The Astros open up the second half with a visit to Chicago to play the White Sox followed by two home series against Miami and Toronto. The Astros also visit Philadelphia, Boston and the New York Yankees and welcome the Rangers to Houston.
Those opponents in the next 32 games have a combined record of 611-621 and a .495 win percentage.
And Springer isn’t the only player the Astros are planning their future around.
On July 1, the Astros recalled outfielder Domingo Santana from Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League where he hit .299 with 54 RBIs and 13 home runs. Baseball America listed Santana as Houston’s eighth best prospect and Houston hopes he adjusts to a rough start in the big leagues. Santana has scored a run in four games and struck out 11 times in 13 at-bats.
One name to keep in mind during September is that of right-handed flamethrower Michael Foltynewicz.
Foltynewicz is currently at Oklahoma City and Baseball America ranks his fastball as the best in the Astros’ system. The 22-year-old is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in Houston’s system.
Foltynewicz is among the PCL leaders in strikeouts with 89. He has a 7-6 record with 4.56 ERA.
But the schedule will be a challenging one for players that are called up in September as the first 18 games of the month are against teams that should have plenty to play for in the second half of the season.
Houston has three games against Oakland and six games against Los Angeles of Anaheim, a team that trails Oakland by just 1½ games.