The Houston Astros have been in something of a recycling phase the last couple of seasons. Players have been moved up, moved down, suffered through injury, and so on. As a result, there are few positions on the Astros lineup that seem to have been secured by individuals as permanent spots. Jose Altuve at second base is the primary stalwart selection as always, but who has their hands firmly on an outfield spot?
Brandon Barnes looks to have made center field his own. The 27 year-old Californian has the most reliable glove of all his peers and is also fully capable of making spectacular plays. Barnes has been one of the most improved players lately, emerging from anonymity to become one of Minute Maid’s favorite sons. He could well be an All-Star someday, but he needs to improve his bat. A .240 average isn’t primetime material, but if he can bring his batting up to the high level of his fielding, then he has the makings of a star.
LJ Hoes came to the Astros from the Baltimore Orioles in the Bud Norris trade this season and started off very slowly. He soon got his act together and started to display the type of hitting and running confidence that one might expect from a quality right-fielder. Hoes ended the campaign as Bo Porter’s first choice in right field, but he has competition.
Jimmy Paredes, the man he replaced, plays a similar type of game, but Hoes looks to have the edge at the moment. Marc Krauss, the big man from Ohio, is a very different athlete. Powerful at the plate, he has the pop to produce homers and likely more RBI, but he has nowhere near the speed that the other two can use both defensively and offensively.
Left field is more of an open issue. Chris Carter began the season playing a number of games in the position, but after a couple of glaring errors he quickly showed he wasn’t the man for the job. As the season came to a close, Trevor Crowe showed great improvement at the plate as well as a sturdy grasp of the defensive necessities that being an outfielder in the majors requires. Crowe definitely made his case, and he will perhaps have to face off with JD Martinez. Martinez is a powerful hitter and was well on his way to excellence before being hampered by injuries as the season progressed. It will be interesting to observe the health and ability that both can display in spring training.
And of course, there is George Springer. The minor league phenomenon finished second in MVP voting for the country’s farm programs and has come on in leaps and bounds. Hitting home runs and stealing bases for fun, as well as defending with tremendous ability, if Springer is called up to the majors then it will be fascinating to see where Porter decides to try him out. The big leagues are, of course, a whole new story, but those who followed Springer in the minors this year are aware of the rare abilities that the man possesses.
With so many talented players vying for so few spots, Houston is happy to have the problem.
Daniel Jamieson is an MLB writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on twitter @JamiesonDaniel