Skipper Brad Mills sports the only even prime number on the back of his Astros jersey. But who will he plug into the number two spot in the batting order this spring? With Jeff Keppinger set to begin the regular season on the disabled list, the Astros don’t have a prototypical number two hitter. Angel Sanchez and Jason Bourgeois both filled the spot adequately at times last year, but neither figures to be a starter this season.
I prefer having a left-handed pull hitter who can hit behind runners and take advantage of the defensive alignment when a runner is being held at first. For some reason the name Nick Johnson keeps popping into my crazy little mind. With Michael Bourn leading off, Jason Castro and Brett Wallace are the only lefties to choose from. Both players need a little more seasoning before being thrust into such a demanding role. Castro should platoon with Humberto Quintero in the number eight hole. If Wallace breaks camp as the starter at first he may slide into the number six spot to break up the two lefties. Bill Hall batted second earlier in his career, but his lifetime mark of one strikeout per 3.84 plate appearances should bump him down in the order.
With mainstays Pence, Lee, and Johnson manning the middle of the order, Clint Barmes would appear to be the winner by default. Barmes hit second from time to time in Colorado. His career strikeout ratio of one per 6.31 plate appearances is not ideal but not terrible either. I have a feeling that whoever Mills decides to pencil in will only be keeping the spot warm until Keppinger (one strikeout per 15.99 plate appearances career) returns from his toe injury.