As Barmes goes down the road to recovery in Oklahoma City, you have to begin to wonder where the Astros are going to be come May in the middle of the diamond. Sanchez and Hall have been the primary starters at SS and 2B respectively, but with Barmes and Keppinger coming back from injury, we are going to have a crowded club house.
First off, you have Angel Sanchez who has played short stop at a level that is worthy of consideration when looking for a new starter at the 6 position. Batting over .280 for the season, Sanchez proved to be the only Astro that could hit when the offense appeared to be in hibernation to start the season. Hitting .400 with runners in scoring position, Sanchez has also provided some clutch at bats that proved to be game changing when other Astros (cough cough, Carlos Lee) decided that they were going to stay quiet offensively. So, for the sake of offense, Sanchez is great, but his 6 errors on the season are just killing the team – the St. Louis game for example – at a position that requires a defense minded player. Sanchez has played both second and short for the Astros, so his versatility may keep him a starting job.
Barmes was signed in order to be the offensive plug that the Astros were missing up the middle, but his wrist injury to start the year made him possibly get Wally Pipped out of a job to Sanchez. His .254 career average, though, is all but appealing and makes you wonder if he is someone that should be started above the hot starting Sanchez even though the money is right. Due to make almost $4 millon this season, Barmes makes for a pricey bench player if he doesn’t start, and that is against the beliefs of many a managers.
Bill Hall has been beyond irrelevant to start the season, and his numbers don’t make a case for him to stay around if there is another option. On pace for more than a strikeout per start, Hall fails to put the ball in play, and you have to question if he has much left in the tank. Hall has not registered a batting average above .250 for the season since 2007, and has failed to stick to a team’s roster
due to character issues (my bad, it was only one incident in Milwaukee in 2008).
Last year’s MVP could easily be Jeff Keppinger, and he has yet to dawn an Astro jersey due to injury at the beginning of the year. Kepp is a career .281 batter that can play second, third, and short which, in my opinion, ensures him to have a spot on this team. Hall has most power potential than Kepp if you play him at second, but you have to wonder if that is what this team really needs. Sacrificing 50 points in batting average for 10 more homeruns may cost this team more than it helps them.
Matt Downs is the odd man out in this situation. Downs gave the Astros a win when they needed it most in the sixth game of the year, but his heroics may go unrewarded with this puzzle up the middle. The 27 year old is batting .286, but has only received the occasional spot start this season and mostly fills in as a late inning replacement in blow outs. Look for Downs to be sent down when Barmes comes back.
So. There are three positions available for 5 guys of major league quality. Here is who I think you will be seeing on the roster come July:
2B: Angel Sanchez
SS: Clint Barmes
UTIL: Matt Downs
What? Not what you expected, right? Hall has a $3 million dollar price tag that will keep him starting for most of the year, but look for him to be traded in a Pedro Feliz type situation to a team that really needs a second baseman veteran type player. Jeff Keppinger is a player that everyone wants and needs on their team when competing for the playoffs. Sadly, that is not the Astros. Keppinger is getting older, and there will be teams interested in multi talented player like Jeff, like the Yankees, that will acquire him at a decent price.
Sanchez is not the long term answer, but he should be rewarded for what he has been able to achieve in an odd situation. He won’t win you a World Series, but having him at short or second is not settling for a bad player. Barmes’s only hit in MMP is a homer, and I think that he will settle in nicely at the confines of the Astros, he just needs a chance. Down is a player that can play most of the infield, and he will do fine as a back up if he is required to do so. Look at him so far, and you can see that.
Disagree? Let me know! Comment to show what you think the Astros should do.