added 2/5/2015 by Bob Hulsey
With this metamorphosis of the Astros back into a possible contender, we should drop youth as an excuse for why the team loses. This is no longer a squad of young kids trying to fight uphill against veteran ballclubs.
In the bad old days not long ago, we saw many players in the 21-25 age group competing for Houston. Not anymore. Those who get paid to study these things will tell you that most players have their peak performance years in the 27-32 age range although some find it earlier (hard to imagine another statistical growth spurt from 24-year-old Jose Altuve) and some find it later.
That's mostly who the Astros are now - players who should be in their peak years. We need to throw off the idea this is a young ballclub. It's no longer true. Not that they're the Over-The-Hill Gang, but there is a sizeable amount of big league experience all across the roster, not just in a few vets trying to hang on in the majors at the end of their careers.
Let's look at the projected Opening Day roster and you'll see what I mean (all ages as of Opening Day, 2015):
Catchers: Jason Castro (27), Hank Conger (27).
Infielders: Altuve (24), Marwin Gonzalez (26), Jed Lowrie (30), Jon Singleton (23), Luis Valbuena (29).
Outfielders: Jake Marisnick (24), Alex Presley (29), Colby Rasmus (28), George Springer (25).
DH/1B/OF: Chris Carter (28), Evan Gattis (28).
Starting pitchers: Scott Feldman (32), Dallas Keuchel (27), Collin McHugh (27), Brett Oberholtzer (25), Dan Straily (26).
Relievers: Samuel Deduno (31), Josh Fields (29), Luke Gregerson (30), Will Harris (30), Pat Neshek (34), Chad Qualls (36), Tony Sipp (31).
Other than the bullpen, this should be a team that ages gracefully in the next few years as most are approaching or starting their peak years which is just how you'd expect Jeff Luhnow and the decision scientists to design it.
There's an added benefit that many of these players are still under team control, not having played in the majors enough yet to be eligible for free agency.
Yes, there are some players on the farm with a chance to make the roster who might lower the club's average age but the players on this example most vulnerable of not making the Astros are also younger players.
There's no complaint here. The Astros are trying to reach the next level which, for them, is above the .500 mark. To do that, they needed to spend the money to bring in players of more veteran caliber. Yet, aside from Feldman and the bullpen, this is still a club that could reasonably be key pieces for the rest of the decade judging on age alone.
In addition, there are still no "albatross" contracts in the organization where the team is saddled with an aging star for seven years at a bloated salary they won't be able to sustain. They have gone, largely, for shorter deals or players still under club control. You'll have to admit, that's a smart way to grow.