Taking inventory of the roster and free agents before year-end.
As 2017 comes to a close and we look forward to a new year, we reminisce the first World Series championship for the Astros and look upon your wish lists. This is also a great time to take inventory and account for what the Astros have and look at what’s available.
The Winter Meetings may have come and gone without a major splash, but I don’t think the Astros are done just yet. They addressed needs in the bullpen by signing Joe Smith and Hector Rondon. This was a positive and reassuring start for a franchise set on getting even better than last season. Ahead, we will look at the key pieces of their depth chart, starting rotations and what’s still available in free agency and who could be brought up from the farm system this year.
Its time to take inventory.
According to Bleacher Report, the Astros are number one in the power rankings post Winter Meetings, much ado because they are the defending champs.
Lets take a look at the depth chart.
The Astros will have intact and healthy their post season starting rotation. Without losing a single piece, they are throwing out Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and this year, a full season of Justin Verlander. That’s a great six-man rotation and if you ask me and the rest of MLB, they might be the most dangerous arms heading into 2018.
Free Agents Available: Houston entertained ideas of Yu Darvish and Jake Arietta, so that’s still in the mix. In fact, another big arm wouldn’t hurt. It would provide more rest for an injury prone Keuchel.
Yuli Gurriel will return at first base and Jose Altuve will remain at second base. Alex Bregman will hold down third while Carlos Correa mans shortstop. Again, nothing has changed in the infield. While depth may need some attention, let’s look at what’s available.
Free Agents Available: There are some big names in free agency like, Eric Hosmer who bats a career .284, Todd Frazier hitting .245 lifetime, Mike Napoli swinging a .246 average and Chase Utley hitting .276 in his tenure. The Astros aren’t in the market for big names in the infield. They are certainly not in the business to dish out tens of millions to sign star infielders this year. When depth probes an issue, a great farm system is the ultimate relief valve.
Glancing at the prospects.
Yordan Alvarez plays outfield and first base in the minors and he is due up roughly around 2019. He’s an exciting prospect and a pure hitter batting .360 in the low A’s sure to be called up sooner than later.
Colin Moran also and infielder batting .301 plays outfield too. He went 4-11 in the majors this past season but his MLB stint was cut short and missed some time after being hit in the face with a foul ball. Look for him to rebound and get called up somewhere in the rotation late this season.
J.D. Davis a third baseman and third round pick from 2014 also did some damage in Triple A. He actually did play in the majors posting a .226 with 4 home runs. What might have went unnoticed though, is his ability to relive. He pitched 1.2 shutout innings. A small sample size but impressive to say the least. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate weapon to call up in 2018? A great glove as well as s strong arm when you find yourself in extra innings with a gassed bullpen.
Houston will roll out, Josh Reddick in right field, the versatile Marwin Gonzalez in left and World Series MVP George Springer in center again in the 2018 campaign. Again, no change. Jake Marisnick will return and this year after fracturing a thumb last season. Also, Derek Fisher who was called up in 2017 will provide excellent depth. I wrote a piece about possibly landing Christian Yelich this offseason to take over duties from Marwin Gonzalez who is best used as a super-utility player assisting at all defensive positions. Other than that, lets take a look at the market.
Free Agents Available: The likes of Lorenzo Cain a centerfielder swinging .290, OF J.D. Martinez a right hander batting .285 and lefty Jay Bruce who might be a reach for the Astros financially, especially after bringing back their out filed intact. The guys here at Climbing Tal’s Hill feel strongly about Bruce, hear it for yourself in this podcast. This isn’t a dire need right now but could pose a need in a few years. Sure, they could entertain ideas like Bruce or Yelich but again, with the payroll being limited they could also tap into the minors should an immediate need arise.
Kyle Tucker is only 20-years old and the first-round pick from 2015 is ready to break out soon. He could see some playing time this season and could make a name for himself like Fisher did. Other than Tucker, don’t forget Alvarez and Moran also play out field.
This position might pose a need come 2018. The Astros are bringing back Evan Gattis and Brian McCann a deadly combination at the catcher position. The Astros also employ Max Stassi who had some playing time in 2017. Other than that, we can take a look at who is potentially available.
Free Agents Available: Jonathan Lucroy a catcher and first baseman has been a name thrown out there. Alex Avila is also a veteran catcher who’s looking for a home. Besides those two, the Astros have to bank on the health of Gattis and McCann for 162-plus games.
Last but not least, this brings us to the bullpen.
The additions of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon certainly helped. Bringing back Musgrove, Devenski, Harris, and Giles also provide security. Even grabbing Anthony Gose via the Rule V Draft will be interesting to see. A converted outfielder turned left handed pitcher is nice to have but his consistency will be an issue. The Astros desperately need to add a true lefty to have a fully functional bullpen.
One name of interest is Tony Watson. The former Dodger has a 2.68 career ERA who could fill a need for the Astros. This reliable lefty seems like the perfect fit for Houston and what is likely the missing piece to what’s shaping up to be a reliable bullpen.
Free Agents Available: Besides the aforementioned Watson. Wade Davis is still out there, a righty but also a big name to have at your disposal. To be honest, the market isn’t filled with lefties. One name available is Brian Duensing, a former Cubs reliever is out there.
Finally, glancing at the farm, Forrest Whitley a top prospect seems to be the standout prospect that the Astros could bring up soon. A hopeful arm for the rotation could provide some relief work this year or next.
In conclusion, we looked at who the Astros are bringing back, looked at a few free agents and viewed some prospects. All in all, they still have a few months to tweak their 40-man roster and depth chart. Could there be another signing soon? Or will we have to wait-and-see if they make a splash come trade deadline this coming season? The Astros know what they have to do and us fans, well, we will sit here and speculate.
** Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Reference and MLB.com**