Jonathan Villar (Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)

Astros Make a Flurry of Roster Moves

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Wow. While I certainly did not expect Ronny Cedeno and Carlos Pena to be on the Astros at the end of July, today’s moves took my by surprise to some degree. After today’s game, Cedeno and Pena were designated for assignment.

But that is not the biggest news out of the roster moves that were announced after this afternoon’s game. The second of the Astros’ top prospects to be recalled this season will be joining the team on Monday. When Houston takes the field against the A’s tomorrow night, Jonathan Villar will be starting at shortstop.

There has been a lot of speculation over the past month or so regarding when Villar would be promoted to the major leagues. However, I think there was an even greater urgency for when the Astros would finally lose faith in Cedeno and his current .220 average. In April the utility player gave the Astros some false hope by batting .325, but it was all downhill from there. Cedeno was claimed off of waivers from the Cardinals in March, and ultimately was nothing more than a liability. The only reason why he lasted this long on the Astros, was because they wanted to give Villar a little more seasoning in AAA.

Last season Villar played the entire year in AA for the Astros batting .261 while stealing 39 bases, hitting 11 home runs, driving in 50 runs and scoring 54 times. He then opened 2013 playing for Oklahoma City in AAA and is batting .278 with 31 stolen bases, 8 home runs, scoring 47 runs, and Villar has 41 RBI.

Villar also plays a very good defensive shortstop. This season has seen the 22-year old start to realize his potential and make good on his power/speed skill set. The only knock against Villar and what likely kept in the minors as long as it did this season, is his propensity to strike out. So far this season he has struck out 23.9% of the time compared to 23.1% last season. Although that certainly leaves something to be desired, it does represent an improvement from earlier in his career. In short he has improved his plate presence and become more consistent.

While seeing Cedeno go really was only a matter of time, Pena was a little more surprising. He was signed to man first base until Jonathan Singleton was ready. The logic was that Pena would provide good defense, be a power bat in the middle of the lineup, and also be a veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Pena did those things for the Astros, but from an offensive perspective, he did not really do them well. He batted .209 which is a little on the low side for his standards while hitting 8 home runs and driving in 25 runs and scoring 38 runs.

However despite that, Pena still had a little bit of trade value. Just because he was designated for assignment, it does not mean he cannot be traded and it is likely that a deal will be worked out.

As it stands now the roster sits at 24. Jarred Cosart will be looking to follow up on his historic debut on Tuesday and a roster spot is needed to recall him from AAA. As the Astros are presently constructed they have an 8-man bullpen, I would expect that to change in the next few days. Or at least I hope so, so we don’t need to deal with Hector Ambriz.

Singleton is only hitting .214 in AAA so he still needs a little more time before he is deemed major league ready. Until then, Brett Wallace and Marc Krauss will likely see an increase in their at-bats at first base. The Astros need to see if Wallace’s recent success will continue and also what they have in Krauss.

The biggest news today though, is that we will now be seeing Villar every day. With the recent contract extension given to Jose Altuve, this could be the double play combination we see for the next 10-15 years.

 

 

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Tags: Carlos Pena Houston Astros Jonathan Villar Ronny Cedeno

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