AL West Notes: Straw, James, Luzardo

Ever-seeking new ways to expand their depth, the Astros recently approached outfield prospect Myles Straw about taking some groundballs at shortstop, per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan. Straw was understandably surprised at first, even skeptical, but lo and behold, he has evenly split his time between center and short through ten games at Triple-A Round Rock. Straw, 24, ranks as the #16 prospect in Houston’s system per MLB.com, #17 per Fangraphs. Outfield depth in Triple-A and the Astros’ past success with utility players like Marwin Gonzalez and Yuli Gurriel may be driving the Straw experiment, but it’s a win-win for team and player, as it behooves both sides to maximize Straw’s chances of making an impact at the big league level. Even though Straw is already arguably their best defensive outfield prospect, diversifying his defensive profile will certainly increase his odds of finding a permanent role on a major league roster, should the experiment prove fruitful. More from the AL West…

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  • Josh James has stumbled out the gate this season, but he’s focused on repeating his delivery and finding a consistent rhythm from which to pump his 100+ mph fastball into the zone, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The 26-year-old flame-throwing righty has surrendered seven earned runs in only eight innings of work through six appearances out of the Houston pen (7.88 ERA). Wildness has been an issue (6.8 BB/9) as has the long ball (3 HR allowed, 3.4 HR/9) – but gaudy strikeout numbers are also par for the course for James (12.4 K/9). The K-rate provides some statistical backing to James’ hopes that more consistent mechanics could fix his control issues and unlock some real potential – he clearly has the stuff to stick the landing in the pros. A strained right quad injury shortened his Spring Training, which time and again has proved complicating for pitchers trying to find their sea legs, so to speak, early in a new campaign.
  • On a similar note, A’s top prospect Jesus Luzardo will need to essentially go through an entire Spring Training period of his own if/when he starts throwing, per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. Luzardo was shut down on March 21st because of a sore left shoulder, and he has yet to resume throwing, though he could do so any day now. A’s manager Bob Melvin reports that Luzardo “feels absolutely fantastic” and “wants to throw,” but it’s unlikely he sees the major leagues before at least mid-season. Given his youth and potential, Oakland will no doubt track him carefully as he builds back shoulder strength for the stretch run.

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