Thanks to the guys at mlbdepthcharts.com , we have the ability to see what the Astro’s roster may look like come the beginning of April. With the starters all squared away, bench spots and reliever duties are still up in the air, and the remainder of spring will be important for a few guys that are on the cusp of making the ball club. Here is how it shakes down:
PROJECTED 25-MAN ROSTER
Projected Starting Lineup (*indicates left-handed batter **indicates switch-hitter)
1 CF Michael Bourn*
2 SS Clint Barmes
3 RF Hunter Pence
4 LF Carlos Lee
5 3B Chris Johnson
6 2B Bill Hall
7 1B Brett Wallace*
8 C Humberto Quintero
C J.R .Towles
IF Matt Downs
IF Angel Sanchez
OF Jason Bourgeois
OF Jason Michaels
Looking at the projected batting order, the only thing with which I have disagreement is putting Hall above Wallace. Bill Hall is offensively average, and he will not do any good in front of Wallace in the lineup. If the spring is any indication of how Brett will perform, he will produce some extra base hits that need to be taken advantage of in this low octane offense. Putting Wallace behind Johnson, someone that hits for average with a little pop, more RBI opportunities will be given to Wallace who I think is better suited for the job over Hall. Barmes and Hill, in my opinion, are interchangeable batting wise in this lineup, and I would not be surprised to see a slow Barmes start be combated with a swap in the order with Hall.
Quintero got the nod for starting catcher duties, but I think Towles is going to take the reigns on that job. Both guys have put up stellar numbers for the spring AVG wise (Q-.393 JR-.344), but there is more upside by playing the once rising star Towles. Both catchers can bat around .230, but Towles has shown in the minors that he is capable of batting around .290 in two combined years for the AAA affiliate in 2008-2009. Q is an outstanding defensive catcher, and will keep runners more than honest, but Towles is no sloth himself. Look for Towles to start the season at catcher, but a short leash will be applied due to his flops in recent seasons. Both players are “out of options” with the Astros.
As for the bench players, Sanchez is out of options, so expect Downs to be sent back down (ha, very punny) once Keppinger comes back from injury in April. Michaels did a great job pinch hitting last season and filled in well at all three outfield positions when needed. He will be tapped for defensive duties more often than not in the late innings for Lee. Bourgeois is edging out Bogusevic this spring for the remaining out field spot, and may be looking to move to second for back up purposes as the season progresses. The speed of Bourgeois makes him a great candidate for pinch running and he is just as capable as Bourn in center, so no surprise there with him edging out Boggy. If Bogusevic has another strong AAA campaign (.275 AVG over the past two years with 45 SBs), he will stay on the radar as the main call up for any outfield injuries.
One last thing that is concerning about the bench is the lack of a left handed bat or switch hitter. Right handed relievers come a dime a dozen, so the Astros will be in a bind if they are looking for a favorable match up. If someone from the AAA club starts to produce and is left handed, he will have the edge to be called up above anyone else for that reason.
The rotation is set, barring injury, for the season, so we can ignore that for now. The bullpen, though, is vastly different from the start of the 2010 season. Brandon Lyon will start the year as the closer, and, if you have been reading my articles, then you would know that Wilton Lopez is probably the best candidate for the job if you discredit salaries. Lyon struggles with the K/BB ratio, and that is a deal breaker for a closer. With the team up for sale, Lyon will most likely be traded regardless of where the Stros are in the chase for the playoffs. Lopez will be the primary eighth inning man with Mike Melancon, acquired from the Yanks for Berkman, being the other primary set up man. Enerio De Rosario has been just as stellar as Wilton Lopez this spring, and he will look to capitalize on that spring this year. De Rosario was acquired from the Reds late last season.
With the fifth spot of the rotation going to Nelson Figueroa, Ryan Rowland-Smith with be used as a lefty from the pen. This move best fits RRS due to his success on the mound primarily coming from relief opportunities. Fernando Abad will be another south paw coming from the pen, but hopefully his strong finish to 2010 will be reincarnated as opposed to his dreadful spring. His talent is promising, so his early season performance will be an indicator of his progression rather than a judgement on his career. Also a loser of the race for the fifth spot, Aneury Rodriguez will complete the bullpen, and he is someone that can eat up long inning relief appearances with RS. As a rule 5 draft pick, Rodriguez will need to stay on the roster in order for the Astros to keep him. At only 23 years of age, Rodriguez still has the potential to be a starter for this team, so look to him to replace any injuries in the rotation before Lyles.
People missing out include Carlos Corporon, Tommy Manzella, Oswaldo Navarro, Brian Bogusevic, Alberto Arias (injured), Jeff Fulchino, Lance Pendleton, Henry Villar, Russ Wolf, Gustavo Chacin, and Wesley Wright. Batting wise, no surprises there. Manzella will be waiting by his phone if Barmes gets injured early, but with Keppinger coming back, he is in the minors unless there are serious problems.
Lance Pendleton will return to the Yankees since he is a rule 5 draft pick, and we are required to keep him on the major league level in order to keep him. Fulchino spent a lot of time with the Astros last season, but with a lot of righties on the team that are young and promising, he will stay down unless their is an injury. Arias will most likely return to the team after he recovers and will replace whoever is struggling early. The interesting thing here is who gets called up first: Chacin or Wright. Both left handed hurlers played major roles on the team last season, but Wright struggled at the end of last season being a spot starter and Chacin (and his goggles) has essentially been punished for not being a rule 5 guy. I expect both of these guys to make appearances as the season wears on.
Once again, thank you to the staff at MLBdepthcharts.com for your work.
Tags: Aneury Rodriguez Angel Sanchez Bill Hall Brandon Lyon Brett Myers Brett Wallace Bud Norris Carlos Lee Chris Johnson Clint Barmes Enerio Del Rosario Fernando Abad Figu Humberto Quintero Hunter Pence J.A. Happ J.R. Towles Jason Bourgeois Jason Michaels Mark Melancon Matt Downs Michael Bourn Ryan Rowland-Smith Wandy Rodriguez Wilton Lopez