With Spring Training winding down it’s time for another roundtable discussion. This week the staff here at CTH takes a look at some of the most recent developments in Astros camp and the possible repercussions. We will be discussing the state of the Astros left-handed relief corps after losing Sergio Escalona for the season. We will also take a look at the position change and demotion of Jimmy Paredes and the possible short term and long term implications of the move.
You know the drill. I came up with this week’s questions and now it’s time to hear what the staff thinks.
Question #1: With Sergio Escalona done for the year, do the Astros have enough left-handed bullpen depth remaining within the organization?
Brian: I think we have adequate enough left-handed depth. Wesley Wright will likely be the primary “left handed specialist” with Fernando Abad also likely to receive some work there as well. Newly acquired Kevin Chapman will begin his Astros career in the minors, presumably at AA Corpus Christi so don’t count on him helping out at the big league level. I’m comfortable enough with Wright/Abad as our lefties in the bullpen but I have to believe that there will be another move coming either by trade or picking a player off waivers to help this area of need.
Greg: I think the loss of Escalona leaves the Astros a little thin on lefty relievers. I was happy to see that Zach Duke was released because he was definitely not the answer. Abad had a nice rookie year but stunk it up last season. Wright was good last year, but in a small sample size. Neither has proven to be consistent over a full season. Xavier Cedeno could get a chance but I think the Astros may need to look outside the organization for help here.
Alex: I am a fan of Abad but not so much out of the pen. I’m not sure why they don’t try him in the rotation but they never really gave him a shot there. I think the ‘Stros should probably consider bringing in another lefty, not sure I trust either Abad or Wright in a late game situation. Trever Miller was just released and Mike Gonzalez is still out there, although there are reasons why they are available.
Question #2: The demotion of Paredes has made the infield picture a little clearer. Lee, Altuve, Lowrie and Johnson will be the starters and Downs has a backup spot secured. Who do you think the Astros should keep as their other backup infielder?
Greg: I think Brian Bixler might be the best choice here. He is probably the best defensive SS on the team and that could be important given Jed Lowrie‘s injury history. Bixler has recently been getting playing time in the outfield, suggesting that the Astros are seriously considering him for a spot on the Opening Day roster. I like his versatility and he has played fairly well this spring.
Alex: Thanks to Brian Bixler’s surge these past few weeks I don’t have to say Angel Sanchez. I think Bixler has that spot given his bat and flexibility. Sanchez has had a nice spring but I just see him as Mills’ crutch and that’s not good. I really like Brett Wallace, always have, but I can’t see him sitting on the bench. I still don’t trust him at 3rd and $18.5 million is sitting on 1st. I also don’t like him being sent down to AAA, no point minus giving him ABs so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in another organization by Opening Day.
Brian: I would keep Brett Wallace as the second backup infielder. Shuck will likely be our backup/4th OF and I know the team has been giving Bixler some AB’s both in the IF and OF, but sending Wallace down to AAA isn’t going to accomplish anything or help him out by getting everyday at bats. Wallace seems to be entering the AAAA phase. He has proven that he can hit minor league pitching and put up good numbers there. I believe he has worth by being a backup 3B and 1B while Downs can back up 2B/SS.
Question #3: With Paredes moving to 2B the Astros now have a potential logjam at the position with prospects Altuve and DeShields already in the mix. Which of the three do you see as the long-term solution and 2B of the future?
Alex: Even with the position change of Jimmy Paredes, I think Deshields Jr is still the prospect to watch at that position. The combination of speed, power and defense is outstanding and something that should be watched closely over the next few years. That said, DD Jr. is not due inHoustonfor at least 2 more seasons so for the near future the battle should be between Jose Altuve and Paredes. I think Altuve’s limitations could be exploited this season and might open the door for Paredes. Jimmy’s skill set is just so much higher than Altuve and it’s tempting to just stick him out there. Altuve, however, will hit the ball and a lot. Jose’s problem is being able to get on base at a high rate. A .300 average doesn’t seem so great when the on base percentage is only in the low .300’s. He needs to get that up into the mid .300’s at least.
Brian: I am not a big Altuve guy. I think he will put up good enough numbers but his walk rate will be pedestrian and his free swing bothers me. I am very high on DeShields and believe he has the tools to be a star in MLB. I loved the pick when we made it and believe him to be our 2B of the future. The problem I see with that is that he will have to wait for both Altuve and Paredes to fail or be traded before he gets his shot. With Paredes at AAA this year, he will likely be called up if Altuve begins to struggle. I look for DeShields to begin the yr at High A with a possible promotion to AA at some point. Also, if one of Paredes or Altuve plays well, its likely that they will be the 2B of the future.
Greg: I was never crazy about putting Paredes at 3B. I think his skills translate better to the outfield and that is an area where the Astros seemed to need immediate help. Now that he has been moved back to 2B it would seem as though someone will eventually have to go. Luhnow has been quoted as saying he will deal from areas of strength to help improve the team and 2B suddenly looks like a potential strength. I agree that DeShields has the highest upside and should be groomed as the 2B of the future. But Delino is only 19 years old and is still a long way from the big leagues. Meanwhile, we will be able to find out which of the other two is the 2B of right now. Obviously the organization is leaning towards Altuve, but moving Paredes back to 2B isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the little guy.
In summation, we all think there is at least a chance the Astros will look for more left-handed bullpen help. Alex and I think Bixler will make the Opening Day roster while Brian likes Brett Wallace. Alex thinks Wallace may even be traded before the season starts. It’s unanimous that Delino DeShields Jr. should be considered the long term solution at second base. Also, I think we are all waiting for Altuve to prove that he is ready to contribute on a consistent basis. What do you think? Your comments are always welcome.