The Houston Astros could have a problem at the bottom of the order.
As a former little league coach, it’s very easy to put the weaker player towards the bottom of the lineup, the Houston Astros could face the same decision this season. The Astros have hoped that Jon Singleton became a left-handed power hitter in the middle of the lineup ever since being acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade. Singleton has not achieved the success that was expected by many of the prospect experts out there, one time being labeled as the top first baseball prospect in baseball. He has added some muscle this offseason, which could signal a new motivation to become better.
Should Singleton make the team out of Spring Training, this could present A.J. Hinch some interesting decisions down the road. Even if he mashes this spring, Hinch will not bat him too high in the lineup because they don’t want to put any extra expectations on the young but unproven left-handed slugger. With Jason Castro married to the bottom of the order, the last two hitters in the lineup could be left-handed, but wait, there is more.
Let’s take a look at the what my projected Astros batting order could be.
- Jose Altuve (R)
- George Springer (R)
- Carlos Correa (R)
- Colby Rasmus (L)
- Carlos Gomez (R)
- Evan Gattis (R)
- Luis Valbuena (L)
- Jon Singleton (L)
- Jason Castro (L)
While Valbuena’s glove is pretty good, despite his 25 homers last year, he should not bat in front of the 2015 Astros’ RBI and the former middle of the order All-Star Gomez. While Rasmus hitting cleanup following his postseason heroics is a good thing to break up the five right-handed hitters at the beginning of the lineup, it could leave the bottom of the order susceptible as left-handed hitters. No matter how talented they are, the left-handed specialist reliever could be brought into to shut the bottom of the order down.
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I know the Astros could pinch hit Tyler White, Matt Duffy, or Marwin Gonzalez for two of the two left-handed hitters, but the Astros would only carry two of those three on the roster. Ironically, over Singleton’s short MLB career, he has a better slash line versus left-handed pitchers than the other two.
Career slash line.
Valbuena: .212/ .304/ .347/ .651
Singleton: .256/ .343/ .465/ .809
Castro: .199/ .251/ .297/ .548
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While I don’t think that this will be a big issue, I’m not entirely sure that Singleton will be the starter at first base. The Astros will give him all the opportunities to earn the job during spring, but there has been a buzz about White all offseason. While the job eventually belongs to A.J. Reed, because of service time issues, he is unlikely to make his debut until June. White is the contact hitter that could fit between Valbuena and Castro, to try to disrupt the opposing team from bringing in the specialist to face the left-handed hitters.
This is something to keep an eye out this spring, to see what develops with the everyday lineup. Will Hinch do like he did last year, constantly rotate players in the bottom part of the order based on matchups? The only thing that is mildly set in stone is that Altuve, Springer, and Correa will be the first three hitters.
Even when Reed is ready, they will not put him in the middle of the order at the beginning, he will join the lefties at the bottom. However, come years end, he should be in the cleanup hole crushing AL pitchers.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**