Houston Astros: Early Spring Training News and Notes
The Houston Astros have played three games thus far this spring, winning two after losing the opener to Detroit. There have not been any true breakout performances thus far, but let us discuss!
Catcher Max Stassi could have a breakout spring. After the Houston Astros had let Jason Castro go, and acquired Brian McCann, it seemed that Stassi would be the unlucky backstop out. After Stassi endured an injury that forced him from play last spring, it seems he has plenty to prove. Stassi hit a two-run homer against Atlanta and owns the only long ball for the Astros this spring.
While Stassi remains an extreme long shot to make the opening day roster, a good spring could make him more valuable on the trading block. A trade would likely be mutually beneficial for player and team.
Newly acquired OF Nori Aoki has started off the spring in fine fashion going 3/6 with a stolen base. Aoki will likely be a platooned OF, and situational hitter, and hitting for average is exactly why the Houston Astros claimed him. It is encouraging to see one of the off-season moves already showing signs of promise.
Who’s on first?
The first base position will be another interesting battle this year. Even though Yulieski Gurriel seems to be the clear front-runner, another first baseman could definitely make the club. A.J. Reed, Tyler White, and Jon Singleton will again be competing for a spot on the opening day roster. Last year White went on a tear from March through mid-April, and he will need to replicate that performance.
Thus far, White has begun 1/8, while Reed is 2/6 with two RBI’s and Singleton 1/2 with one RBI. Gurriel is hitless in three at-bats. AJ Reed has been the club’s vision of their first baseman of the future for a couple of years, and this might be his year to put it together in the big leagues. Look for him to get plenty of reps and make an impact immediately for the Astros.
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As for the pitching staff….
Many wonder how Tony Sipp will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The Astros have not made a move for another lefty reliever, so it seems they are content working with their current options. Reymin Guduan, a hard-throwing southpaw, has three strikeouts in 1.1 innings, and could make his way to the major leagues should Sipp get injured or continue to struggle.
Left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman has gotten off to a rocky start. Chapman gave up two earned runs on four hits and a walk in his lone appearance. If Chapman does not make the club, he will likely be placed on waivers.
Possibly the most noteworthy news in Spring right now is pitcher Collin McHugh‘s arm soreness. The Houston starting rotation seems to be the biggest question mark of this club. McHugh is slated to be one of the club’s main hurlers. Last season Lance McCullers was injured in spring and missed considerable regular season time, and like the other Astros’ starters, failed to find consistency.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com made this report earlier:
"McHugh categorized it as “general dead arm,” which he says usually happens later in camp. McHugh said he would need four or five starts to get ready for the season, and with an extra week of Spring Training, he’s confident he can do that. To make matters worse, McHugh stubbed his toe Sunday night and was held out of pitcher’s fielding practice Monday."
Next: WBC gives young Astros players a chance to shine.
The Astros will debut their new spring training facility, Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with Mike Fiers making a start.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***