The Astros entered spring training with all of their starting roles except for first base already filled. Even though first base was not set in stone, it seemed like Brett Wallace had the inside track to win the position and keep Carlos Lee in left. In fact the only open roster spots that were still undetermined were the fifth outfielder, two utility infield positions, the fifth starter, and a few bullpen positions. Now that spring training is about half over, the starting catchers role is also up for grabs.
It appears that Brian Bogusevic has the inside track for the fifth outfielder role over Jason Bourgeois due to the fact that he is a left-handed hitter, something that the Astros would not have on the bench this year if he did not make the team. Bogusevic can play average defense at all three outfield positions, play a little first base, and also provide a little pop off the bench. Bourgeois could also provide solid defense at all outfield positions, play some second base if needed, and provide Brad Mills with a speedy player off the bench. Bourgeois possesses some but not a lot of power, and would also hit for a lower average than Bogusevic would. I think that Bogusevic probably wins the spot mainly because of the fact that the Astros need to have at least one left handed bat on the bench. The best chance that I see Bourgeois making the team out of spring training is if they decide that Michaels provides them with all the power they need off the bench, and choose to go with speed over power for the final outfield opening.
Candidates for the two utility infielder openings include Matt Downs, Tommy Manzella, Angel Sanchez, and Anderson Hernandez. So far it appears that Manzella has an inside track for one of the backup roles due to the fact he is the best defensive shortstop of the group. Add to that the fact that he has worked on playing second and third this spring to increase his versatility thus giving him an even better chance at one of the open roster spots. It is also worth mentioning that Manzella has had a good spring so far. Another candidate that has had a good spring and may play his way onto the roster is Matt Downs. Matt shows a little power and plays primarily second and third base. At 26 years old Matt has played parts of two seasons in the majors without much success, but does have a good minor league track record. Brad Mills recently mentioned trying to get Downs some reps at shortstop which could be an indication that he has a leg up on the rest of the competition.
The other two candidates Angel Sanchez and Anderson Hernandez just don’t seem to bring as much to the table as Downs and Manzella. Sanchez hits for a decent average and also filled in respectably at short last year after Manzella’s injury, but lacks power and is a below average defensive player. Anderson Hernandez is having a decent spring, but does not possess as much power as Downs. Hernandez can play capable defense though, so his name is still very much in the running. It also is worth mentiong the fact that when Keppinger returns from his injury that one of these two spots is his.
While it seems like first base is Brett Wallace’s position to lose, his competition is not Lee who would take over first base duties, but probably Bogusevic. If the Astros decided to start Wallace in Oklahoma then Lee would slide to first leaving left open. J.D. Martinez also has an outside shot of playing his way onto the roster if Wallace is sent down, but that scenario seems unlikely. It seems like the Astros are set on giving Wallace every chance to prove himself major league ready. Wallace got off to a very hot spring but has cooled off lately. If his slump continues for the rest of spring then the Astros may be inclined to play Carlos at first and explore other options in left.
The bullpen competition is filled with candidates who possess quality young arms. Brandon Lyon and Wilton Lopez are locks at the back end of the bullpen leaving the competition between Mark Melancon, Henry Villar, Sergio Escalona, Wesley Wright, Fernando Abad, Jeff Fulchino, and Del Rosario. Also included in this battle are the candidates that do not when the fifth starters spot. This list includes rule 5 picks Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Nelson Figueroa.
Melancon performed well last year and probably also breaks camp with the major league club. Fulchino has had solid success in the past and also has a good chance of breaking camp with the club.Fernando Abad appears to have the inside track for the lefty role over Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright. The final two spots will most likely consist of two candidates for the final rotation spot. My guess at this point in time would be Ryan Rowland-Smith and Aneury Rodriguez, but there is still plenty of time this spring for some of these guys to step up and win a roster spot. This is a complete guess, but I think the bullpen will shape of somewhat like this: Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Mark Melancon, Fernando Abad, Jeff Fulchino, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Aneury Rodriguez.