There is no denying the fact that Jason Castro’s injury really hurts the Houston Astros. The cause for concern extends well beyond this year’s uncertainty behind the dish, but also creates a bigger void to fill in the future. Castro was entering a very important season in his early career, as he was going to get every chance to prove that he was ready to be the Astros everyday catcher at the age of 23. Now he will miss this entire season, and not only will he still be unproven when he returns next year, but he will also be recovering from a very troublesome injury for a catcher. The question that I have been thinking about since this happened is with all of the uncertainty surrounding Castro, should the Astros piece work the catcher’s position this year, or should they make a trade for another solid catcher that would be under team control for several years to come.
What makes this question so hard to answer is that Castro appears to have what it takes to become an above average major league catcher. Yes I realize that his average hovered around .200 last year, and that he allowed far too many past balls, but it was his first taste of the major leagues. Several players struggle when they first come up, and many are sent back down several times before they figure it out. Castro possessed the make-up of a player who could figure it out. These shortcomings aside, there was no denying the fact that he was able to handle a major league staff last year, which could be argued to be the most important job of a catcher in the first place. Throw in the fact that he was an extremely hard worker and student of the game and you can see why the Astros drafted him as high as they did. When is it the right time to make the decision to give up on this type of player?
Ed Wade is now faced with making a difficult decision in which there appears to be no right answer. One option the Astros have is to do nothing. No other player in Astros camp has more to prove this year than J.R. Towles. The best option might be to not panic in spring training, and to see what a tandem of a hungry Towles and Humberto Quintero can accomplish. Many have forgotten that just a couple of years ago Towles was also a top prospect. Seems like there would be no harm in giving a former top prospect another shot at proving himself, at least until the trade deadline, before writing him off to AAAA purgatory. If he succeeds then he only adds depth and value to the franchise, and if he falters then maybe that would be the best time to look outside the organization for answers.
If the Astros chose to go this route, and Towles and Quintero fill the catchers void respectably this year, then the next question of what happens next year still remains. Castro would be back, but all of the question marks would still remain. The Astros are starting to build quality depth at the catcher’s position in their farm system led by the likes of Ben Heath, but he and the others are still several years away from being major league ready.
Maybe the best option might be to look outside the organization for catcher’s help. While McClain has stated that he would be open to expanding the budget to acquire a starting catcher, the reality is that he would not expand it enough to bring in anybody that would be significantly better than Towles or Quintero. There aren’t that many intriguing options out there right now. This is very evident in today’s news that broke about the Astros having interest in the Nationals third string catcher Jesus Flores. As April grows closer expect this trend of every available catcher being linked to the Houston Astros to continue.
Castro’s knee injury has left a devastating hole behind the plate for your Houston Astros. I would personally like to see the Astros stand pat until the All Star Break to assess other team’s needs and possibly find a trade match for another catching prospect. By adding more depth to the catcher’s spot, the Astros would have quality coverage in case something like this happens again. Regardless of what the outcome is, the future looks bleaker behind the plate than when spring training began.