When you have a young team with very few proven Major Leaguers, Spring Training becomes an all-out battle to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. Though few people have actually been able to see any Spring Training games (because of the lack of a TV deal), this has been one of the more entertaining springs in some time. The next week or so should be very interesting as there are still many positions up for grabs, and some of the players fighting for them are not currently on the 40-man roster.
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Brandon Laird and Trevor Crowe have both had productive springs and are both making a case for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Laird, who has spent time at first and third base, was claimed off of waivers from the Yankees last season. He played in 17 games for the Astros in 2012, putting up a .257/.297/.371 line with 1 HR and 4 RBI. So far this spring Laird has had 44 plate appearances and has a .342 average with 4 HR and a 1.116 OPS. Other than not currently being on the 40-man roster, Brandon Laird’s biggest issue is the depth at first and third base. Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace, Nate Freiman, and Chris Carter have all spent time at first this spring and Matt Dominguez and Wallace have split time at third. Pena, Wallace, Carter and Dominguez are all expected to be on the Astros’ Opening Day roster, so unless a trade is made before the start of the season, it is difficult to see where Laird fits.
Trevor Crowe was signed to a minor league contract this offseason after spending all of 2012 in the minor league systems of the Angels and Indians. His best Major League season came in 2010 with the Indians, when he put up a .251/.302/.333 line with 24 doubles and 20 stolen bases. The 29 year old outfielder, nicknamed “The Crow”, is having a good spring so far, hitting .304 with a .925 OPS in 25 plate appearances. Crowe is a long-shot to make the Opening Day roster as well thanks to Justin Maxwell, Rick Ankiel, Fernando Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Chris Carter and Brandon Barnes all fighting it out for outfield spots. Barring a trade or a barrage of injuries (knock on wood), it’s hard to imagine Crowe on the Opening Day roster.
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Edgar Gonzalez is another player not on the 40-man roster that has performed well this spring. Gonzalez started six games for the Astros last season with “blah” results, going 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA in 25 innings pitched. This spring Gonzalez has appeared in 4 games out of the bullpen, pitching 10 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.800 WHIP. With Bo Porter saying that he plans to keep two long-relief guys in the bullpen, it would not surprise me to see Gonzalez coupled with one of the current starting pitchers that come up short in the rotation battle.
The Astros have many big decisions to make prior to Opening Day on March 31st. I am very interested to see how it all works out, and would be surprised if there wasn’t at least one trade made before the start of the season. Which one of these non-40-man roster players do you think will make the team, if any?