The start of the season is a little over a week away and things are starting to take shape for the Astros. Nelson Figueroa has won the competition for the final spot in the rotation and the 25 man roster is coming into focus as Trevor discusses in this article. Thanks to Phil for his question last week that the staff discusses first today. If anybody would like to see us discuss any topics please post the question in the comments section and we will tackle it for next week’s round table. Also please take a moment to vote on our poll on how many games you think the Astros can win this season. We will regularly be posting new polls so please check back often.
Who will lead the team in at-bats from the left field position?
Brandon: With the way Brett Wallace has played this spring and the fact that Carlos Lee has a ridiculous large contract and no-trade clause, barring any injuries, Carlos Lee will be the leader in at-bats in LF. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing as I expect Lee to have a bounce back year. I believe Carlos Lee is tired of hearing that he lost a step and has a renewed desire to prove those people wrong. If Wallace does struggle and they move Lee to first base, I would like to see the Astros call up J.D. Martinez and see what he can do. He is fairly young but has been productive at every level he has played at in his career.
Trevor: Lee unless he sustains an injury. Wallace has had such a strong spring that he has solidified the opening day spot at first base, and he has proved to the Astros he can hit at a major league level. This strong spring for Wallace has most likely built faith in his ability, so he will have the job even if he starts out slow for the first month. I think Lee is primed to have a great bounce back this season, and the only reason he would not be in left field is for defensive replacement late in games. The Astros look to have the corners and outfield covered, it is 2B, SS, and catcher that will be tough which will be Hall, Barmes, and Towles respectively in my opinion.
Greg: Brett Wallace is the key factor in who will be regularly trotting out to LF for the Astros. If Wallace can hold down the 1B job then Carlos Lee is your every day left-fielder. Wallace’s play this spring will assure him the job going into the season. But if Wallace slumps badly enough to lose the job Lee will move to first and LF will be wide open. Should that scenario unfold, I would expect Jason Michaels to see the bulk of the playing time. If Wallace gets sent to the minors perhaps J.D. Martinez would be called up and given a shot in LF.
Jesse: I think and hope that Carlos Lee gets the majority of the starts in left field this season. That means first and foremost that Brett Wallace has played good enough to remain as the everyday first baseman, and is therefore probably helping the team. If Wallace proves that he’s not quite ready for the big leagues then I would rather see Brian Bogusevic get more reps in left than Jason Bourgeois or Jason Michaels. Yes I realize that at 27 years old Bogusevic is not really considered a prospect anymore, but I think what most people forget about Bogusevic is that last year was Bogusevic’s first full year as a position player. He also hit .270 at the triple-A level last year and should only improve this year.
Is Brandon Lyon the best option as closer for this team?
Brandon:Brandon Lyon is the best option as he has the most experience and pitched well in closing situations last season going 20 for 22 in save opportunities. He did have 31 walks in 78 innings pitched and will need to cut those back if he wants to hold onto the closer role but he dominated left handed hitters holding them to a .195 average. Another telling stat was that he faced 11 batters when the bases were loaded and held them to a .182 average. If Lyon can excel in the closer role it will only make the Astros’ bullpen stronger as this will allow Wilton Lopez to be the set up man with Mark Melancon pitching the 7th inning.
Trevor: No. Brandon Lyon does not have a low enough BB/9 to be an effective closer. Allowing 3.58 walks per 9 innings last year, Lyon allows free passes that start up rallies. You want your closer to have at least one pitch that can leave hitters looking like Derek Fisher after he’s been whistled for a foul and to throw strikes. Lyon will start the year as our closer, but my guess is that he will be traded to get his $4.25M owed to him off the books for next season. We also have Wilton Lopez in the wings waiting to take over the closer role. Lopez brings a .67 BB/G which is just outstanding. It will be interesting to see what he can do in his second full season of baseball, but I think he will be just as effective. Look for Lopez to be the closer by the year’s end.
Greg: For now I think Lyon is the right choice for closer. He has plenty of experience in the role and did a good job last season. Wilton Lopez appears to be the closer of the future. If Lopez can continue to be successful in the setup role it will only be a matter of time until he becomes the closer. It is nice to have two guys who can shut teams down for the last two innings of a game. Lyon is signed through 2012 and as long as both he and Lopez remain effective I see no reason to change anything.
Jesse:If Brandon Lyon remains healthy and is successful then I would see no reason for Mills to move him out of that role. Brandon has the most experience at closing games out so far out of the other candidates. I would think that when Lyon is unavailable and a save opportunity arises then Wilton Lopez would probably get the majority of those opportunities. If Lyon struggles or goes through a period of ineffectiveness then I think Wilton Lopez would be the first to be tried out in that role. Another option is Mark Melancon who was viewed as the Yankees future closer before an arm injury set him back leading to his eventual trade to the Astros. Another unconventional option for Brad Mills is to use a closer by committee approach this year. With Lyon, Lopez, and Melancon all clicking Mills could play the hot hand and break the two younger guys into that pressure role at a slower and hopefully more successful pace.