The three game series with Houston provided Minnesota Twins fans with a glimpse at how the best team in baseball has built itself up to compete.
The Houston Astros are a finished product. They boast several All-Stars who contribute to their league best 38-16 record. This was undeniably evident as they dismantled the Minnesota Twins in a three game series.
Houston’s shift to respectability all started with establishing the best middle infield in the majors. Coincidentally, their jackpot happened landing shortstop phenom Carlos Correa with the top pick (one pick ahead of Byron Buxton). Houston’s rise came from years of organizational ineptitude similar to the Twins.
It’s further proof that building through the draft and gambling on youth can turn around a franchise. Minnesota is still looking for a similar outcome. The Astros are loaded with deep pitching and a plethora of dangerous hitters. It’s so unique in baseball finding those journeymen players that land in a winning situation and suddenly find themselves. Baseball relationships remain strong even when management changes.
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That’s the case with the 28-year old Marwin Gonzalez. While he’s not exactly a journeyman, he’s experienced a career renaissance providing versatility for the contending Astros roster. Gonzalez is a castoff from the Cardinals organization, but he’s no surprise to Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow who worked for St. Louis previously.
Luhnow knew Marwin’s capabilities and allowed him to flourish in the potent Astros lineup. He plays almost every position and gives them a lot of power hitting behind Correa and Jose Altuve.
Theo Epstein’s Prospect Gamble
Winning teams are able to fill in the gaps like this with some risk and creativity. Look no further than Anthony Rizzo’s rise with the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo while in Boston and shipped him to San Diego for the established Adrian Gonzalez.
Despite being ranked the third best prospect in baseball, Rizzo took awhile to display his promise. Additionally, Epstein’s brilliant move to trade for Rizzo jump started the Cubs dominance. This example further shows front offices taking in guys they’re familiar with and putting them in the best spots to succeed.
The Minnesota Twins are in square one of this process. Both Thad Levine and Derek Falvey come from winning teams that took a couple risks to rise to the top. Who knows who the next Marwin Gonzalez or Anthony Rizzo will be for the Twins.
It’s worth keeping an eye on throughout their tenure to see if Levine or Falvey target some of the highly regarded prospects they had in Texas and Cleveland.
Baseball is a fascinating game how unknown players come from nowhere to thrive. Finding the right kind of role players is equally as challenging as finding and developing star players. The Houston Astros show another blueprint to follow for finding consistency to compete at the highest level.