HOUSTON — The Houston Astros finished the year with the worst record in baseball at 56-106 -- the first 100-loss season in franchise history.
Still, this team filled mostly with rookies believes there are some positives to take from this dreadful season.
"Our young guys learned a lot and that's sure good to see," Houston manager Brad Mills said.
Houston got off to a terrible start and was soon at the bottom of the standings. As the trade deadline approached, the Astros dealt their two biggest remaining stars in Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence in an effort to restock their depleted farm system.
Houston brought up several top prospects from Double-A Corpus Christi and sent struggling first baseman Brett Wallace and third baseman Chris Johnson to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The shake-up didn't change the end result, but the encouraging part for Houston is that the youngsters got valuable experience and a chance to improve.
The Astros brought up a trio of players from Corpus Christi who started regularly after the trade deadline. Third baseman Jimmy Paredes, Jose Altuve at second base and left fielder J.D. Martinez all made strides as they adjusted to the majors.
For shortstop Clint Barmes, who at 32 was one of the few veterans in the clubhouse for most of the season, it was a unique experience.
"I think it's been a learning experience for all of us," Barmes said. "A lot of guys have come up and gotten their feet wet and gotten a taste of the big leagues. There's been a lot of good that has gone on (but) it's been hard. It's never to fun to lose."
Martinez hit .274 with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 53 games, Altuve drove in 12 runs and hit .276 in 57 games and Paredes hit .286 with 18 RBIs and five stolen bases in 46 games. Paredes showed such promise on defense that he could be the long-term answer for the Astros at third base.
"I think it's definitely been a lot of fun and a big learning experience for us," Martinez said. "We got to come out here. They called us up early and it was definitely nice to come up here and have the opportunity to learn at the big league level. It's completely different from the minor leagues, you can't even compare it."
Houston's starting pitchers struggled just as the hitters did, with no player in the rotation finishing with a winning record. Lefty Wandy Rodriguez had the best season of the underachieving group with an 11-11 mark and 3.49 ERA. A big disappointment was the 7-14 record of ace Brett Myers and J.A. Happ accumulated the most losses on the staff with a 6-15 record and 5.35 ERA.
One bright spot was the development of Mark Melancon, who took over as closer with Brandon Lyon appearing in just 15 games because of injuries. Melancon had an 8-4 record with 20 saves and a 2.78 ERA.
The Astros also had to deal with a season-ending knee injury to catcher Jason Castro in spring training and Barmes missing the first month of the season with a broken hand.
Mills said those injuries coupled with losing Lyon were the toughest things he dealt with this season.
General manager Ed Wade is in a strange position with the proposed $680 million sale of the Astros to businessman Jim Crane still waiting for approval from Major League Baseball. Until the sale is official, Wade will deal with owner Drayton McLane while keeping Crane in the loop on any decisions. Crane has noted that his offer has a Nov. 30 deadline.
"I'm still going to remain optimistic that it gets resolved in the short term," Wade said. "There will be issues that show up on the near horizon that will have to be addressed. At this point, we've navigated through the draft, navigated through the trading deadline, navigated through the waiver period and some other things along the way, with Drayton making the final call, but keeping Jim Crane ... informed. We will continue that practice until we're advised otherwise."
Houston has two free agents in Barmes and outfielder Jason Bourgeois. Wade wouldn't discuss the team's plans for their future, but did say they were both helpful in mentoring the rookies this season.
Martinez knows there aren't many people outside of Houston who believe this team has much potential, but he hopes he and the other youngsters get a chance to prove they can play next year.
"Everyone knew that calling us up wasn't going to be a quick fix," he said. "At the end of the day we're still young and we're still rookies and you'll have to look in a couple of years and see how it is. Once we have experience under our belts maybe we can see if the movement is really working or not."
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