Like I said yesterday, each week the staff of Climbing Tal’s Hill will talk about the burning questions surrounding the team. Yesterday we discussed Jason Castro’s injury and the impact it will have on the team and you can read it here. Today we will talk about who will win the final spot in the rotation and where Carlos Lee fits best on this team, in left field or at first base.
Who will win the final spot in the rotation between Figueroa, Lyles, and Rowland-Smith?
Brandon: This is not a reflection of what Jordan Lyles has done to this point but I think Nelson Figueroa will be entering the season as the fifth starter in the rotation. Ryan Rowland-Smith has not done enough to this point in spring training and has fallen out of the competition in my opinion. Rowland-Smith will be a good arm to come out of the bullpen as a long reliever and I think that is where he fits best. So that leaves Jordan Lyles and Nelson Figueroa for the final spot and I think Brad Mills and the rest of the Astros organization believe that Lyles could pitch at the major league level right now but he could also benefit greatly from going back to the minors and working a little bit longer. Figueroa has an ERA of 1.80 in 5.0 innings of work and pitched well so far this spring and allows the Astros this luxury of sending Lyles back down.
Trevor:At the end of Spring Training: Nelly Figueroa. Last season will not be forgotten for the man that had a season ERA of 3.29 and won three starts in an August that saved the Astros from embarrassment in 2010. With Rowland-Smith fitting the role of spot starter and long reliever, Figgy will fill the void until Lyles has matured enough to join the big boys. I don’t see that happening in 2011, though. Even though the payroll has been reduced, the Astros may try to trade for another pitcher come July if they are in the hunt. More likely is that they are in the middle of the pack in the NL central, and do not rush the debut of their 20 year old farm starlet.
Greg:I still think Aneury Rodriguez will be the fifth starter. I doubt the Astros will want to send him back to Tampa Bay.
Jesse:I believe that Anuery Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton are probably still in the running, at least until Tuesday since both pitchers are expected to throw 3 innings in that game. If performance was the only factor so far then Lyles has probably outperformed the others so far. I believe though that if Lyles is excellent, and 1 of the other candidates are decent, then one of the other candidates when the job. Lyles needs another year at triple-A. My guess would be Nelson Figueroroa so far, But both Anuery and Lance could thrlw there name back into the mix with a good showing on Tuesday.
Where does Carlos Lee help the Astros most this season: in left field or at first base?
Brandon:I believe Carlos Lee will start the season in left field to give Brett Wallace a chance to show the Astros what he is capable of doing and if he can be an effective first baseman for the team. However, I think Carlos Lee helps the Astros the most playing first base. Lee’s defensive abilities have taken a dramatic drop since he signed that huge contract with the Astros and he wasn’t that great at the time he put his John Hancock on that contract. If Wallace does struggle, moving Carlos Lee would allow the Astros to call up their top J.D. Martinez, who also doesn’t have the best defensive abilities but playing with that short porch in left will mask his inabilities.
Trevor:He helps the ‘Stros most in left field simply because that means Wallace is producing at first. With the the lack of hitting this team displayed in 2010, Wallace is the one for whom I am concerned in 2011. Lee will come back this year, and you can bet the farm on that (unless you’re an Astros’ fan and haven’t had a farm in the past decade). If Wallace can provide Pence-esque pop with 25 homers, 100 RBI, and a .290 plus average, then Lee can hold the fort down in left field, and he can continue to expect late inning defensive subs. If Wallace fails to produce, then expect to see Lee shift to first in the late innings and plug Brian Bogusevic in left field.
Greg:Lee is probably better suited fo 1B at this point in his career. However the team really has no other reasonable option for LF. For that reason Lee will probably start the season in LF with Wallace at 1B.
Jesse:There is no question that Carlos Lee is a defensive liability at left field. However the best case scenario for the team this year would be for Carlos to remain in left field and for Brett Wallace to perform like he did in the minors. The Astros are fortunate to have Bourn in center to help mask some of Lee’s range issues. The Astros offense needs to drastically improve upon last years performance, and Wallace at first and Lee at left helps accomplish this.