Last season the Houston Astros were a team in flux. Actually not just 2013, but really the last three years. There certainly was a lack of consistency for the Astros.
When filling out his lineup card last season, rookie manager Bo Porter had a lot of juggling to do. As we start to look forward towards 2014, it appears that there will be a little more consistency in Porter’s lineup. And this is a good thing for everyone involved.
Throughout all of last off-season and most of Spring Training, Jose Altuve and Jason Castro were really the only two players we were certain of for the upcoming season. And with Altuve, there was a lot of uncertainty and discussion as to where he would bat in the lineup.
But as Evan Drellich writes, 2014 is shaping up to be a little different. We have some certainty in what we can expect from the 2014 Astros. Players can go through the off-season and enter Spring Training having a good idea as to what their roles will be.
All that is still to be determined is one outfield spot (assuming Springer starts the year in Houston), first base, and designated hitter. We know that Chris Carter will fill one of those spots, and Robbie Grossman proved towards the end of last season that he is also deserving. If one wanted to read into things, it does sound like Luhnow is planning on Springer starting the season in Houston which is certainly warranted. I think an absolute dreadful Spring Training is the only thing that will change that.
“Fowler can play center field, Fowler can play left field,” Luhnow said. “Springer can play all three, Grossman can play all three. … Let Bo make that decision.”
Asked to elaborate by the Chronicle on Wednesday, here’s what Luhnow had to say: “Dexter’s a center fielder. But he’s athletic enough and skilled enough to play certainly center and left and probably right. We know Springer can play all three positions. … No, nothing’s in stone. It’s up to Bo and his staff to determine who’s going to play where and who’s going to play where in the lineup.”
As a team begins to mature and grow, this is what starts to happen. The lineup stops being a revolving door. Granted there is always the possibility that roles can change depending on how the rest of the off-season transpires, but at least there is some clarity.
Porter’s even started to pencil in some lineup spots.
“Now we have Fowler leading off, we have Altuve hitting second, and we have Castro hitting third,” he said.
This already puts the Astros in better position than they were in last season, although that really isn’t saying much. The main thing, is having a true lead-off hitter in Fowler. That allows Altuve to drop down to the second spot where he will be more effective and have Castro hitting behind him. This also pretty much guarantees that Castro will come to bat with runners on base.
There also doesn’t appear to be any doubt that Fowler will be the outfielder tasked with taming Tal’s Hill in 2014.
Porter seems firm that Fowler would be his guy in center.
“Right now, if we were to give Fowler a day off and we need to put somebody in centerfield, again, you have two options there,” Porter said. “You have two (other) guys who have played centerfield, which gives you flexibility as a manager.”