Check out the answers to Dan’s trivia questions.
By Brian Todd
If the look at NRI infielders had you thinking about where we might find our reserves, the look at the outfielders will have you praying for a starter. No offense to Adron Chambers, but I think we all know who I’m talking about.
The Astros have invited six outfielders to spring training who are not on the 40-man roster. When push comes to shove, just one matters: George Springer.
One of the first cuts last year in spring training should avoid the ax this year.
With all due respect to Dexter Fowler, I have a funny feeling our best outfielder is the guy who slugged 37 homers and stole 45 bases between AA and AAA last year. The big question is when will Springer make his appearance in Houston? Well, he’s a 24-year-old super prospect, so I’m pretty sure the time is now. We can argue all day about getting that extra year of team control or Super Two status, but it’s just not worth it. This is our best outfielder—offensively, defensively, on the base paths—so I say let’s let him play.
The next question, really, is which of the other NRI outfielders have a chance at making this team? Well, barring injuries, none of them.
The aforementioned Chambers is our AAA centerfielder, because even if Springer starts the season in Oklahoma City he’ll be practicing his right field play. Delino DeShields Jr., despite his fabulous season in Lancaster last year, needs some time at AA and maybe AAA this year before he can hopefully be ready for prime time. Leo Heras needs to transition from the faux AAA of the Mexican League to real AAA. Meanwhile, Preston Tucker might have had a good half season in Corpus Christi, but that’s not going to be enough to unseat the likes of Hoes, Grossman Fowler or Krauss for the two (one if Springer starts in Houston) outfield starting spots and one reserve spot on the Astros opening day roster.
Well, that’s five NRIs, so that means we need to talk about J.D. Martinez. We’ve probably all read about his improved swing and his healed wrist. I’ll believe it when I see it. I do believe he’s motivated to make this season work, since it’s probably his last chance to be taken seriously as a major league prospect.
That said, for opening day he’s going to need a great spring and a lot of pulled hamstrings from the others to get to Houston on April 1. As for the rest of the season, well, I think we could see Martinez and maybe Tucker or (Lord forbid) Chambers filling in for the big five (Springer, Fowler, Hoes, Grossman and Krauss) in one of the four outfield roster spots. But that’s it.
So enjoy the rest of Springer Training. That’s what March is really all about when it comes to non-roster invitees. We need to determine when Springer should get the call to Houston. And I’m pretty sure the answer is “Now!”