At the start of Spring Training, there was no team worse in the Grapefruit League than the Houston Astros. They were giving up a ton of runs, causing errors and couldn’t hit a thing. Many people were ready to write off the 2011 season before Opening Day was even played. However, recently the Astros have been giving a reason for fans to be cautiously optimistic about this season and some people in the media are taking notice.
First baseman Brett Wallace is one of the reasons fans are starting to get excited about this team. Right now he is leading the team in hits, doubles, RBI and total bases and even though it seemed like a forgone conclusion, Wallace will be the primary first baseman for the team. The only other players who have gotten playing time at first base this spring was Koby Clemens and Brian Dopirak have both been sent down to the minor leagues and that will leave Carlos Lee and probably Brian Bogusevic to back up Wallace.
Chip Bailey over at the Houston Chronicle is already trying to draw comparisons of the Wallace trade to the Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson trade over twenty years ago. Unfortunately as well as Brett Wallace is playing right now, it is way to early to start drawing these types of comparisons. Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, whether the writers decide to induct him or not, and was a key piece to the Houston organization for a couple of decades. Brett Wallace on the other hand has played less than a full season at the major league level. To read Bailey’s article, click here.
Now I hope Wallace can be that long term answer at first base for the Houston Astros and continue a tradition of having stability at the first base position following Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. He has the hitting ability to play at the major league level and has shown it this spring and hopefully he can show it when the games start to matter.
Yesterday, Jerry Crasnick wrote a great article on the Houston Astros staff and pitching coach Brad Ansberg. Every Astros fan should take the time to read this article as this will definitely get you excited for the Astros in 2011 if you were pessimistic. In a division with teams like the Reds, Brewers and Cardinals (when they have Wainwright), the Astros may be forgotten in the discussion of good pitching staffs. Brett Myers pitched like an ace last year, Wandy has been consistent as they come over the years, and throw in young arms J.A. Happ, who came over in the Oswalt trade, and Bud Norris and the team has solid top four pitchers.
The team will most likely put Nelson Figueroa in the final spot in the rotation but after the way Jordan Lyles pitched this spring, it is only a matter of time before he is pitching with the Astros this season. He has only given up two earned runs in 10 innings pitched and five strikeouts. The number that I am the most excited about is he has only given up two walks over his time so far this spring. Lyles has shown he can pitch at the major league level but at 20 years of age he could still benefit from a little bit more time in the minors.
The Astros as a whole are even playing better and getting some wins and scoring runs. So far this week they are 2-2, winning the last two games and the Astros have scored 29 runs but have given up 29 runs. Even though their run differential is zero, this is much better than what it has been in previous weeks. Hopefully, the Astros can continue to build on the success they have been having on the field as well be motivated by the good press off. We are less than two weeks from Opening Day and I know I can’t wait to see what this team is going to do in 2011.