It is never a good thing when a player gets hurt and is forced to miss time. But what the injured player looses in playing time, healthy players gain in opportunity. And on a team like the Astros, opportunity is golden.
After last season, entering the 2013 season, Justin Maxwell was a player the Astros were counting on in the middle of the lineup. Maxwell started off the season well but then started to struggle before getting hit by a pitch and injuring his hand forcing him to the disabled list.
The bright side in this injury, was that it gave Robbie Grossman a chance to play everyday at the big league level. Grossman was given an extended look, and while his performance did not meet expectations, at least he was given a chance. Although he did get sent to the minor leagues after a few weeks, Grossman did get valuable experience.
Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes were the next outfielders to receive extended playing time. While both are still with Houston, that was met with mixed results. Barnes has had some success and has earned more playing time. Paredes on the other hand, has not had as much luck. On the season, his average is down to .198 and he has done nothing to warrant further playing time.
Again though, the failures of Grossman and Paredes is not the point here. For me, what is important, is that young players got an opportunity to prove themselves at the major league level. While they might not have had success this time, at least we got some answers. Although you can’t specifically evaluate a young player on just a 20 or 30 game stretch, it is a start. And it could lay the ground work to their future success.
Earlier in the season, Astros starting pitchers were lucky to get out of the fifth inning. But as of late they have found some success and they are pitching deeper into games. This has helped establish a structure for the bullpen which has led to both stability and success as they are not being called upon as often as they were in the beginning of the season.
For that reason, it is unclear to me why the Astros are currently going with an eight man bullpen since their trip to Colorado. Since they are carrying 13 pitchers, that leaves the bench thin with only three extra players. Especially with Paredes not producing, that is taking away an opportunity from a young outfielder.
You can’t make the argument that the eight relievers are needed, because after he was activated from disabled list May 31st, Josh Fields has only pitched 1.2 innings. With such a limited workload, how can Fields grow as a reliever and be evaluated?
Plus its not like the newest addition to the bullpen, Wade LeBlanc, has any long term value.
While of course we would love to see young outfield prospects George Springer and Domingo Santana in Houston, the argument could easily be made that they need some more seasoning in the minor leagues. For the record, I ultimately am alright with this, but I think the time is getting closer for Springer. But that does not mean that the extra roster spot would not be better served by giving someone like Brett Wallace, Marc Krauss, or Austin Wates (even though he is currently on the 7 day DL) a chance to see what they can do.
This season is all about opportunity. Maxwell will be back soon, and by carrying eight relievers the Astros are wasting a chance to see what another young player can do. It is also time to give Fields a chance to log some serious innings so Bo Porter can start to make a decision about whether he should be a part of their future. The Astros already have too many players like LeBlanc that will not factor into their future.