Last night the Astros, once again, proved their commitment to slashing payroll; when they non-tendered Ty Wigginton, one of Houston's top batters in 2008, especially after Carlos Lee went down for the year. Wigginton was set to make between 7 and 9 million in arbitration, and the Astros were unsuccessful in trading him away so, they cut him from the team. Also non-tendered was fifth outfielder candidate .
What I am going to do in this blog post is: analyze each position for the Astros, and the contenders to take over certain positions. Then in the comments section I think we should all hash out some ideas, discuss who the best options are, and what is most likely to happen. Sound good? Good.
The Astros are going to carry 12 pitchers (they always do). So, first we'll look at the rotation, and then the bullpen
1. Roy Oswalt
These three are almost assured spots in the rotation. They were Houston's three most consistent starters, throughout the year.
The contenders for the fourth, and fifth spots:
Certainly the favorite for the fourth spot. He just signed a 1-year 2 million deal, and his best years were in Houston (granted with the Astrodome). But, as long as he is healthy I do not mind giving Hampton a rotation spot.
The non-tender nominee, was given a second chance by the Astros. Now they will give him about a million dollars to prove his worth in Spring Training. Backe is definitely the favorite for the firth rotation spot... assuming Hampton's healthy (you never know.
If he's ready by Spring Training, he'll be in the conversation but, since he was injured all last season I do not see how he could have improved upon last spring training. I take him more seriously as a bullpen candidate. Likely headed to Round Rock to start.
All four are AA starters who I expect to be in Spring Training. It is highly unlikely any of them win one of the two available spots. Maybe later in the year though.
I am not high on him but, he will be in Spring Training to compete for the fifth spot with Backe.
Highly unlikely to be the fifth starter, maybe long reliever.
At this point he's a bullpen candidate only
-Shawn Chacon... just kidding
Likely Rotation to start the season:
Guaranteed a spot:
Remaining three spots:
You would think a spot would be his but, surgery, and the abundance of right-handers already in the pen may hurt his chances of making the team
If he misses the rotation yet, has a productive spring (a couple of big ifs) I think he would end up here, or be cut.
I do not like his chances, but he will be in Spring Training, so he has a shot.
-Gilbert de la Vera
I expect two of these four to make the team. It would take a lot from de la Vera or Lumsden to overthrow one of the two incumbents. If de la Vera doesn’t make the team Houston will have to offer him back to… [Insert the team Houston took him from in the Rule V draft here].
A perennial contender for a bullpen spot, I really do not like his chances since there are other more veteran options, and the abundance of right-handers.
I am not entirely sure how his health is right now but, I am going to assume he is healthy by Spring Training. Paulino still has excellent stuff, and should contend for a rotation spot but, he’ll be rusty after missing last season. I expect him to start in Round Rock, and then get called up in May, or June as a late inning reliever. If Valverde is traded or not signed long term, Paulino is probably the best closing option they have.
Bullpen looks like:
Quintero seems to have it looked up. He will be backed up by either J.R. Towles or Lou Palmisano – a recent Rule 5 pickup. I really cannot see Towles losing out to Palmisano in Spring Training, and I even think he will take the starting job before the start of the season. Towles was rushed into the starting position last season and failed to perform in the majors but, he was terrific when he was sent back down. Jason Castro may be in the mix at the end of the season.
Starter: J.R. Towles
Bench: Humberto Quintero
First Base: Berkman
Second Base: Matsui
Things get tricky at third, after Wigginton’s dismissal. I am going to list all of the contenders, and evaluate each of them.
The obvious favorite, Blum was very successful as both a defensive replacement and a pinch hitter last season. However, he has started in the past, and I think he would a mediocre everyday player, at best.
Tommy Manzella SS – In this scenario Manzella would be the everyday SS, and Tejada would shift to third. Manzella is an Adam Everett like player, great defense, meh bat.
Edwin Maysonet SS – See Tommy Manzella.
Drew Sutton – A very intriguing player. Sutton has never played above AA but, absolutely crushed Arizona Fall League pitching. However, Sutton does not have great upside, and does not profile as a third basemen because he has limited power. Still, I think he has a real shot, since the Astros need someone to fill in, even if he does not have the greatest power potential.
Chris Johnson – Possibly the joint favorite along with Blum. I think Ed Wade believes Johnson is ready to step in, and be the Astros’ third basemen but, I do not believe he is ready. If he was ready, then Johnson would be my favorite of the bunch. I just do not want to see him turn into J.R. Towles. I want Johnson to start in AAA, and get called up in May, or June when we are sure he is ready. Johnson will be the starter in 2010.
Third Base: Geoff Blum – ultimately you have to go with the sure thing in Blum.
Bench: Drew Sutton, Edwin Maysonet
I will say that the job is not Bourn’s just yet. He is having a good Domican league season but, I believe Brian Bogusevic will make the centerfield battle interesting. The Astros want to sign Reggie Abercrombie to a minor league deal, and invite him to spring training to compete for a bench spot.
Bench:, Reggie Abercrombie/Yordany Ramirez
If Michael Bourn struggles Wade will not hesitate to bring in Bogusevic from AAA.
SP Roy Oswalt
SP Wandy Rodriguez
SP Brian Moehler
SP Mike Hampton
SP Brandon Backe
RHP LaTroy Hawkins
RHP Geoff Geary
LHP Tim Byrdak
LHP Wesley Wright
C J.R. Towles
C Humberto Quintero
2B Kaz Matsui
2B Drew Sutton
SS Edwin Maysonet
3B Geoff Blum
LF Carlos Lee
CF Michael Bourn
RF Hunter Pence
OF/1B Darin Erstad
OF Yordany Ramirez/Reggie Abercrombie
So, what do you guys think? Tell me what differs in your opinion, let’s generate some discussion. I will say I do not believe major trades or signings will take place at this point, so try to only use the roster we currently have.