By David Miller @DavidMillerRant on March 16, 2014
The MLB roster with the most positions up in the air at the start of Spring Training was easily the Houston Astros. Some things are rock solid already however and other positions are becoming much clearer. The bullpen is a bit of a wildcard but some front-runners are stepping up. Let’s take a look at a prediction for the Opening Day roster of the 2014 Astros. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you disagree or agree.
Grossman seems to be a solid guarantee to start in left field this season with the great spring he is having. With a .417 average, one homer and five RBI, he certainly appears to be on the rise in his career. For the Astros, he is hopefully a sure thing to take advantage of a few more RBI chances this season in the middle to bottom half of the batting order.
There isn’t much uncertain about Fowler’s position with the club. He is the starting center fielder and he is batting lead-off. How he will perform, how his getting on base or not will affect the Astros offense is all uncertain but he is there guy. That much is for sure.
Though many are hoping for George Springer to hit the 25-man roster this season, it won’t be on Opening Day. There are several reasons for that but one good reason is that Hoes is playing well enough to warrant a look in the starting line-up every day. Springer and others are not far behind if he happens to need a breather however.
Dominguez is having a slow spring start but he should be ready to go when the first game arrives. That does not mean his offense will pick up but he should at least get to a solid point where he can be productive and reliable in the batting order this season.
Villar might be said to be keeping the shortstop spot warm for when Carlos Correa arrives but for now he has the tools to make it his. The Astros would probably be thrilled if he pushed for a season average of around .270+, ten home runs and around 50 RBI.
Last season, manager Bo Porter said of Altuve that he wished he could stack the line-up with nine of him. This year things are not quite that bad for the Astros and Altuve should be even better because of it. If Fowler can be a game changer at the top of the order, Altuve is more than capable of driving him in or moving him over. That and the young man playing catcher coming up behind them could be the driving force of this offense.
First base is a big time fight and has been from the start of Spring Training for the Astros. Things are becoming much clearer now though. Jon Singleton is likely going to start the year in Triple-A and Krauss has smashed the spring offensive output by every other contender. There are few scenarios where he should not win the job.
There are people who believe Castro should move to play first base but for now he will stick at catcher. Behind the plate he is one of the more capable all-around catchers in the game so it is a good place for him to be. As long as he stays healthy for a while there really are few reasons to move him. If he gets injured again then it is time to talk because his bat is worth a ton to this team.
The designated hitter spot will probably revolve a little bit but Carter seems willing to up his game from a year ago. His spring has been pretty good with a .273 average, 1 home run and 4 RBI. More importantly than that; he is striking out fewer times per at-bat than he did a year ago. If he is able to keep his strikeouts down and boost his power, he could see a ton of playing time.
Guzman is in the mix at first base but isn’t having a good enough spring to win the full time job right now. He is versatile however and being willing and able to play in various places will get him a spot on this roster on Opening Day.
Astros manager Bo Porter has to love this guy. He handles the bat well as shown by his .462 batting average this spring and in addition to that can play anywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could pitch too. He will be a staple on this roster from Opening Day on.
Izturis was signed to add depth to the infield and is having a great spring season. Because this team will need depth in a bad way, look for him to make the roster. He knows how to play the game and with a young roster like the Astros have, Izturis could be a huge addition to the bench.
Because Porter might tend to give Castro a start in the DH hole now and then to allow him to rest, Corporan could play a bit more than some backup catchers do. He should be plenty equal to the task.
The spring has not been kind to the veteran righty Qualls to this point. Because the bullpen could be a last minute decision though and Qualls brings late inning experience, he will likely get a spot at least out of the gate. When Jesse Crain comes back or if Lucas Harrell improves enough to warrant a bullpen slot, Qualls could be in trouble.
Every bullpen needs couple of lefties and Valdes looks to be one of them this year for the Astros. His spring has been solid with only one run allowed so far. Look for him to be given a chance on Opening Day and beyond.
Moylan is a non-roster invitee but his spring is showing well enough that the Astros could see it beneficial to add his veteran arm to the group. If he does not make the roster immediately as it look like he will, don’t forget him because he will be up before his opt out on June 1.
As stated before, every bullpen needs a couple of lefties but Chapman would make the roster if he threw with his foot. His spring WHIP of 0.69 is about all you need to know. Any ‘pen with a ton of spots available would never ignore a lefty who is having a shut-down spring. He’ll be there.
Albers is said to be one of a few in the mix for the closer role. I think he will fall short of that but his spring is very good so far, having given up only one run in four innings. Because he is a veteran he will be vitally important as a leader in the bullpen as well.
Here is yet another of the possible options for closer but once again I think it will come down to Lo getting more set-up roles. All in all this bullpen should be stronger than it was last season as the team itself gets stronger as well.
There were some down times for Fields last season but at the end he really started looking a great deal like a closer. His numbers in ERA and WHIP dropped a great deal and his saves went up. If he stumbles, anything is possible and Porter could go with a closer-by-committee early on if he does stumble. At the start I think he will get a fair shake as the closer though.
Over 8.1 innings this spring; Williams has given up 6 hits and only 2 runs. Because a lot of things are up for grabs with this team, that kind of spring will get him not only a roster spot but a rotation spot.
With ever start that Harrell struggles, Keuchel seems to shine once again. It looks right now like he will have a solid spot in the rotation out of the spring. He and Williams could be a very solid pair if they continue pitching like they are now.
Cosart is thought to be one of the best future starters of the Astros today. He is there now, is starting now and has a chance to be one of the best on the entire roster. His spring has not been perfect but that is mostly because of a few control issues that he should be able to iron out.
While I have Oberholtzer slotted here, he could well drop behind Cosart. Actually the five starters chosen to begin with could be in almost any order. Oberholtzer certainly is one of the most potentially successful of the group however. Look for a good season from him.
Feldman has his higher numbers here and there and many would not consider in a prototypical ace but he is the ace or at least the veteran leader of this staff. For those who think is a good add for the young guys but isn’t that great on the mound, Feldman has a perfect spring to show you through his early performance. Without a doubt he is a good addition to this team as a whole and they will be much better for having him.
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