For a position where they are chock-full of prospects, shortstop may potentially be the weakest position for the Houston Astros heading into the 2014 season. The opening day starter favorite is Jonathan Villar, the only piece of the Roy Oswalt trade that ended up with any real value.
Villar has some serious potential, and at only 23 years old he still has plenty of room to develop. He got off to a pretty good start following his call-up, hitting .262 in his first month and a half with the team. He racked up 18 stolen bases by the time the season closed as well. However, his average also dropped to a meek .243 by time the season ended too. Not to mention his strikeout every 2.9 at-bats, which is just abysmal.
The speed of Villar is enough to be excited about, though. His offense is centered mainly on that speed, but obviously a bit of contact is needed to properly utilize that speed, so it will be exciting to see how much he’s progressed going into the year.
Behind Villar is Marwin Gonzalez, who is the shortstop version of Brett Wallace: always hitting in Triple-A but never in the MLB. Gonzalez is a quintessential backup. He’s a switch hitter who puts the ball in play, doesn’t strike out and has adequate speed. He’s only 24, so it’s not like he couldn’t get better. That being said, his main hope for being the starter is if Villar completely implodes.
Aside from those two, obviously there’s Carlos Correa. But unless he does something monumental, he isn’t MLB-ready yet. Cesar Izturis will be present, but it’s more likely that he’s just there as a veteran presence then to actually compete for a spot, but we’ll see what he can do.
So there you have it. Villar is sitting in pole position. While he doesn’t really have a firm grip on that position, no one else is in a spot to challenge him.