Astros Continue Youth Movement Nabbing Chapman





HOUSTON—Even with four all-stars traded away at the last two July 31 deadlines, the Astros' dealing for more prospects does not stop. And while they didn't give up any all-stars to get Kevin Chapman in a spring training trade, they like what they got in the 24-year-old lefthander.

The Astros acquired Chapman and a player to be named in their multi-year quest to get younger, trading Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois to the Royals. Chapman opened the season in Double-A Corpus Christi's bullpen.

"I was not expecting it at all, but I'm happy to be here," Chapman said. "It's been a pretty smooth transition."

Chapman described his repertoire as a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup that he occasionally uses against righthanded hitters. The slider is considered his best pitch and is generally his out pitch.

While it's clearly a reliever's profile to general manager Jeff Luhnow, there is still some uncertainty about what sort of role he'll ultimately play.

Luhnow saw the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Chapman pitch collegiately at Florida, where he missed a year due to Tommy John surgery but was still snapped up by the Royals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

"The profile for him seemed to be even back then that he was going to be a lefthanded reliever," Luhnow said. "Whether or not he's a guy that could do well against both sides and potentially be considered a closer as opposed to a lefthanded specialist, that's still to be determined.

"Even if he just turns out to be a very good lefthanded specialist, those guys are very valuable too."

Last year in 62 innings for high Class A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Chapman compiled a 4.94 ERA and struck out 90 batters in 62 innings, a rate of 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

As much as the Astros liked him for the individual, there was a bigger-picture aspect of this deal as well. Recent drafts and trades have done little to boost the supply of lefthanded pitching in the system, and Luhnow said that was a factor.

Space Shots

• The Astros kept both of their Rule 5 picks from this offseason for their Opening Day roster, hanging onto reliever and No. 1 overall pick Rhiner Cruz from the Mets and middle infielder Marwin Gonzalez from the Cubs.

• Outfielder George Springer, Houston's 2011 first-round pick out of Connecticut, opened the season at high Class A Lancaster.