Spring Training Preview: What To Watch For in the Astros Grapefruit League Opener
Astros players to keep an eye on today
The Astros World Series defemse efforts officially get underway today, as Houston takes on the New York Mets in Grapefruit League action. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 pm ET/12:05 pm CT.
Most of the lineup regulars won't make an appearance today, but there are a few pieces to keep an eye on.
Brandon Bielak will make the start for the Astros. Bielak has fluctuated between Houston and Sugar Land the last three years, posting a 5.15 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in his career, though he has improved with each season. With the injury to McCullers, Bielak will be a piece to keep an eye on stepping in to the void from Lance's injury.
According to Chandler Rome, Ronel Blanco, Enoli Paredes, Austin Davis, Devin Conn, Joe Record and Jayden Murray are also scheduled to appear in the game. We've spent some time discussing Blanco, Paredes and Murray this offseason. Of the three, Blanco would be the most likely contributor to the 2023 Astros. He is coming off of arguably the most dominant stretch in Dominican Winter League history.
Murray has some intrigue as a potential starter down the road. He led all minor league levels in opposing ERA and WHIP in 2021. He didn't crack Baseball America's Top 30 Astros Prospects, but he's definitely an arm I'd keep an eye on moving forward.
On the offensive side of the game, we'll get to see quite a few debuts.
Rylan Bannon, José Abreu and Bligh Madris were the Astros three offensive acquisitions. Abreu's resume needs no introduction and the 2020 AL MVP should fit into the Astros' lineup rather seamlessly. Bannon and Madris will be battling for reps at the utility spot with David Hensley.
While Hensley enjoyed a great deal of success in a small sample size in 2022 and is a player we touted as a breakout candidate in 2023, Madris and Bannon both struggled mightily in their big league debuts in 2022.
Beyond debuts, Korey Lee will have plenty of eyes every time he steps to the plate. Lee struggled in his big league debut in 2022, and is battling Yainer Diaz for the backup catcher spot on the Opening Day roster. Lee will need to prove himself both at the plate and as a backstop if he is to earn his spot.
The Astros are loaded. They've got some promising prospects that are blocked from debuting simply due to the team's depth. We could see strong Spring Training performances that lead to trades down the road.
Baseball is back in Houston. Tune in to AT&T Sportsnet to catch the action in today's game.