The Astros have historically been weak at shortstop. They were possibly at their best at that position when they traded for 31-year old, errr, 33-year old Miguel Tejada… after his prime. That said, today we’ll take a look at the shortstop position, and in doing so I’ll try to hold back my optimism about the present state of the position.
Much like second base, there is little doubt who will be taking the field at shortstop for the Astros on Opening Day. Barring injury (which is possible in this case), Jed Lowrie will be be filling that slot come March 31st. In his age 28 season, Lowrie posted a career-high in plate appearances with 387 while slugging 16 home runs. Despite both career highs, he posted only a .244 batting average with 42 runs batted in and just two stolen bases.
Despite this, Lowrie’s trade value was reaching what seemed to be an all-time high. Just as I was about to start a”Trade Jed Campaign,” injury struck. Again.
Jed will be “challenged” for the job by the likes of Marwin Gonzalez, Tyler Greene, Jake Elmore, and Jonathan Villar who are all listed on the 40-man roster. None of these pose a real threat this season, but there is hope in Villar and eventually tremendous hope in Carlos Correa, the #1 overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft, who has been compared to the likes of Alex Rodriguez and admittedly my favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki (sacrilege?).
Villar is still just 21, but last year he posted a career-high 11 home runs at Double-A while batting .261 with 39 stolen bases in 326 at-bats. Villar has already shown excellent defensive prowess, and he has been named the Astros best infield arm and infield defender in multiple seasons, as well as best infield arm in the South Atlantic League and best baserunner and best infield arm in the Texas League. Villar has been rated as high as 4th in the Astros organization and it appears that his bat may be starting to catch up to his glove.
With the size of Correa, it’s very possible that he will fill out and be best-suited for third base, just as Alex Rodriguez did. Should that happen, Villar could very well stand a chance to be the shortstop of the future if he can hold off 2012 pick, Nolan Fontana, and 2009 pick, Jio Mier. That said, he’s never played higher than Double A, and more seasoning will be required.
Until then, we will have above-average (Lowrie) to average (Gonzalez) to fill the hole. As I’ve preached time and time again: youth. With Lowrie entering his age 29 season, we can only hope that it will be a productive first half that leads to a deadline deal to further build our system for the future.