First, let me wish everybody a happy and safe 4th of July. Today, I will be offering my first half grades for the Astros’ infielders.
Brett Wallace- Definitely one of the surprises this season as he has improved greatly from last season to this point. He is currently hitting .291 with four home runs and 22 RBI and leads the Astros in OBP with .375 and walks with 34. He has also has continued to improve his defense at first base, a position he has been playing for less than two seasons. Even though he has been playing he still has room for improvement, specifically in the power category and with runners in scoring position. He has not hit a home run since May 31st after hitting three in the month of May and has a batting average of .194 with RISP.
Jeff Keppinger- Kepp has been a welcomed sight back since returning from the DL. He is hitting .325 with 15 runs scored and 13 RBI through 33 games. He has been the primary second baseman and played well enough that allowed the Astros to release Bill Hall. He will most likely generate a lot of interest around the trade deadline and probably will be traded. For the time being though he has been creating a nice one two punch at the top of the order with Bourn.
Clint Barmes- The Astros brought Barmes over in a trade this off-season and while they didn’t give up much, Barmes has not lived up to expectations. Now over the past 10 days or so, Barmes has really turned it on going 10-23 with six doubles but his average still sits at .238 and he only has three home runs. His power was one of the reasons made the move but it looks like it may have been inflated with him playing at Coors Field. Hopefully, the last ten days are a sign of good things to come.
Chris Johnson- If Brett Wallace is one of the biggest surprises, Chris Johnson has to be one of the bigger disappointments. Many had high hopes for this third baseman because of the way he finished the 2010 season. Unfortunately that has not been the case as he is hitting only .243 with six home runs and 34 RBI. Now, like Barmes he has started to hit a little better, getting at least one hit in 19 of his last 23 games raising his average from .227 to .243.
Angel Sanchez- Sanchez did a great job filling in for Barmes to start the season but since moving back to a utility role has struggled. He is currently hitting .258 which is a serious drop from .301 after April. He also only has seven RBI over the past two months compared to 15 in the first month. I personally would rather see Sanchez as the starting shortstop because he still is young and could be the regular shortstop for the next few days.
Matt Downs- The case could be made that Downs has been the third best infielder for the Astros behind Wallace and Kepp. He has started at least one game at each infield position, spending the majority of his time at second base and third base. He is hitting .269 with six home runs and 22 RBI. He also has been a great bat coming in as a pinch hitter, hitting .369 with two home runs in 19 at-bats. I think a middle infield of Sanchez at shortstop and Downs at second base with Wallace and Johnson at the corners would be the strongest infield the Astros could put out there right now.