As we enter the last day of January, let’s take a moment to recognize one small detail: Spring Training is drawing closer. And this means that the Astros are about to begin their championship defense.
Spring Training, for all intents and purposes, is relatively useless. Sure, the atmosphere is cool. New teammates are introduced. The camaraderie will start to form between the 36-year old grizzled vet and the baby face 23-year old rookie. And it is quite nice to see actual baseball again. Again, useless baseball.
But baseball all the same.
The Astros will start their first Spring Training workout for pitchers and catchers on Valentine’s Day. Love may be in the air, but baseball also permeates throughout the air heavily. The key difference from years past is the Astros will be the defending World Series champions. Quite a stark difference, in fact. And the 2018 squad figures to have a decent shot at repeating as champions.
As with all playoff favorites, there figure to be little in terms of meaningful competition for playing time. This isn’t the 2013 Astros. Alas, there will still be position battles. For example, left-handed relief is a key position to watch. Hold overs from last season, Tony Sipp and Reymin Guduan, will compete with waiver claim Buddy Boshers for the job. Designated hitter could receive a few looks if players like A.J. Reed or Tyler White force the Astros to reevaluate their options. The backup catcher situation remains fluid despite Max Stassi being the likely favorite for the role.
Spring Training will also be a time for the team’s prospects to put themselves in a favorable light.
Injuries happen in baseball. It is simply a fact. At the same time, you never know who will be injured in a game in May or during a warm up in June. It is important for the Astros to have quality depth that contribute meaningfully to the major league product. Players that include, but not limited to, Tony Kemp, J.D. Davis, Reed, and White. There is quality talent in this farm system. Now is their opportunity to show how they’ve improved over the off-season.
Barring a unforeseen event, the Astros are likely 85% to 90% sure who will be on the Opening Day roster. Odds are that there won’t be one top prospect to enter the season with the club unless something goes wrong. But at least we know that baseball will be back soon. I’m so, so ready for this winter to end.