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Astros whittling way to final 25-man roster


As remarkable as it may seem, there are few surprises looming for the Astros’ opening day roster.

The Astros still need to trim 21 players to reach the 25-man roster limit for April 1, but only 3-4 players are pushing their way onto Jeff Luhnow’s radar.

Granted, players like Jose Altuve, Chad Qualls, Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler and a handful of others have their tickets punched. For non-roster invitees like Marwin Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Cesar Izturis, J.D. Martinez and even Jonathan Singleton and George Springer, it’s not such a slam dunk. Not just yet anyway.

  • Gonzalez is playing his way onto the roster as either an infield backup or possible spot starter on the left side of the infield.
  • At this point, first base or left field is Marc Krauss‘ job to lose. If the season started today, he’d likely hit fourth or fifth.
  • Dallas Keuchel — again, to this point — has solidified a position in the rotation, especially since others have not staked their claims. Worst-case scenario: Bullpen swing man.
  • While both Springer and Singleton have had a moment or two, neither is forcing Luhnow’s hand. Either or both could just as easily start the season in Oklahoma City.
  • Robbie Grossman was expected to be a starter — or at least a 4th outfielder — so wouldn’t classify him as one who is pushing his way onto the roster.

If Luhnow doesn’t deem Springer ready for prime time, he won’t start the clock. And that’s very defensible. It’s just as easy to give him one more month at OKC as to push him into spotlight if he’s hitting only .200 in the spring. Singleton, on the other hand, is on the 40-man and needs to start hitting or other questions will begin surfacing.

Gonzalez, Springer, Moylan, Izturis and Martinez would each need to be added to the 40-man roster (presently full)  in order to break camp with the Astros.

Here’s a quick prediction of the opening day roster. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of players in camp and the number the team will likely keep on the 25-man roster. For example, 4/2 for catchers since four are presently in camp and the team will carry two during the regular season.

With 13 games in 13 days to open the season, I’m guessing the Astros will opt to go with 13 pitchers, especially given some of the versatility on the proposed roster (Gonzalez, Krauss, Keuchel, etc.).

If that roster pans out, that means adding only two players to the 40-man (Springer, Moylan). Still, there are a handful of possible roster busters. These include:

  • Singleton. All he needs is a solid final two-week run and he starts the season in Houston. Krauss moves to the OF.
  • Harrell. Which Harrell will show up the next few outings? If it’s the one from his most recent start, he’ll be gone, out-of-options notwithstanding.
  • Keuchel. Not exactly a roster buster, but if he keeps up the pace in his next 2-3 starts, he could bust into the rotation and force Luhnow and Porter to make a tough decision on others.
  • Unknown acquisition. Gonzalez is a good up-the-middle backup, but if Dominguez doesn’t pick up the stick, Luhnow could add another corner.

This could change daily and we can talk about upgrades over 2013 at a later date, but add your two-and-a-half cents and let’s compare rosters.

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, and wakes up each morning to the tallest spot in the region, Pikes Peak. He is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 50 years. A native of another picturesque city, Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. Pastor Bosman came up with Chipalatta, and it has stuck.

31 comments on “Astros whittling way to final 25-man roster

  1. 1oldpro
    March 16, 2014

    I don’t know what Grossman has to do to win a job as a starter. He’s hitting .417 with an OPS of 1.073. He was my LF even before this performance. Right now, he and Krauss and Correa are the big stories of spring.

    Like

  2. BrianT
    March 16, 2014

    I know this is an unpopular stance, but Springer is not making a very good case for himself. He’s hitting under .200, his power has been minimal, he walks, but a) it’s spring training and b) he’s paid to hit not watch balls go past home.

    Hoes, Grossman and Fowler are locks for the outfield. If Guzman and Carter play well, then Krauss gets pushed to the outfield rather than the infield.

    I think the only carry 12 pitchers.

    And, yes, Correa looks good. If his last week is a sign of things to come, I’d be done with bumble-fingers Villar.

    Like

    • Devin
      March 17, 2014

      He’s pressing. If I recall, berkman did the same thing, spent some time at new Orleans, and came back up crushing the ball.

      Like

    • daveb
      March 17, 2014

      Yeah, oldpro. I remember agreeing with that old guy last week re: Springer possibly knowing entering Spring Training that he’d be going to OKC regardless of his performance. And someone poo-pooed us, suggesting our theory was something out of some sci-fi show. Maybe our opinions were sci-fi, but our antagonist has also called Hoes a lock today, he of the .238 BA and the .542 OPS. Of course, we should all be reminded that these stats are very limited, mostly meaningless, March numbers. Nevertheless, I’d still take Springer’s .382 OBP along with his other tools and put him in right field if my goal was to put the best ballplayers on the field on opening day. Springer has proven to me that he can be selective. Wasn’t that the one thing question mark everyone had on the guy? If he even approaches a .382 OBP in major league play, I guarantee he’ll hit.

      Moving on Chip, this was a good exercise today, just two weeks out from the opener. When we are talking about the possibility of guys like Marwin G. and Hoes as starters, it illustrates just how bad this club still is. We have zero depth at the major league level. And heck, it would be nice to see three or four starters looking sharp at this point. No such luck.

      As for Grossman and Krauss, I still take Grossman for left, without hesitation. He’s a much better athlete and much better defensively. If Singleton goes to OKC, Krauss should still get plenty of starts between first and the outfield, assuming he continues to hit right handed pitching. We don’t have many guys that can do that.

      As for Singleton, he might not be fully healthy mentally right now. That’s not the kind of thing we’re going to hear about from our beat writers though. We had to find out about the depth of his health issues from an AP writer. That said, it might be easier to keep an eye on him and provide continued support, if he were to break camp with the big club. At first base though, I do lean more towards Guzman and Krauss for the time being. Luhnow just gave Guzman 1.3 million. He’ll be with the team on opening day.

      Like

  3. BrianT
    March 16, 2014

    As a side note, this would have need the Astros without the Luhnow Plan.

    http://m.espn.go.com/mlb/story?storyId=10612933

    Like

    • Dan P
      March 16, 2014

      would have been instead of would have need?

      Like

      • BrianT
        March 17, 2014

        Yes. Stupid autocorrect.

        Like

  4. Dan P
    March 16, 2014

    Chip – I think you did about as good a job as can be done.
    Probably a base decision will be the 12 vs. 13 on number of pitchers. They opened last year with 12 – so I’m betting they will do the same this time around. That opens a spot for a Singleton / Guzman on the roster.
    I have concerns about Springer too – but they could decide to ignore what is going on in ST and just bring him up anyways. I mean they ignored last season’s ST (when he was tearing it up) and did not bring him up.
    It is tough to know what they are thinking relative to the bullpen – most of these guys have only pitched 3 to 5 IP so far. I would think Zeid and Lo have chances to make the final cut. Though they may make decisions more on who has options remaining and hold on to Moylan and Valdes for instance.

    Like

  5. Chip Bailey
    March 16, 2014

    Dan, Lo was reassigned earlier today. A little surprising. I, too, thought he had a shot. The only difference in 2013 and 2014 schedules is that they team plays 13 straight days without an off day out of the chute. Last year, they had a couple of off days in the first week. I’m guessing they won’t rush Correa, but wouldn’t be surprising is he’s at OKC sooner than later.

    And, yes, oldpro, you’d think Grossman was a shoo-in at some point. Just seems like he has to do more than the rest to get noticed, if you know what I mean.

    Like

  6. Dan P
    March 16, 2014

    I missed Lo being reassigned. Babysitting grand daughter this weekend.
    I sure would love to see Correa as the SS soon – the kid is special.
    Grossman will get the shot – sure hopes he puts it together this year.

    Like

  7. Becky
    March 17, 2014

    Personally Keuchel has had a better showing than ANY of the rest of the rotation guys. Harrell is on a VERY short leash, and his next start will be the deciding factor, if he stays or is released. As for Correa……..
    man that kid can play, and I agree with you Chip, he might be in OKC
    sooner rather than later. Marwin Gonzalez is going to win the infield spot. He can play all three infield positions, and some outfield which
    makes him more attractive to keep. Who knows what Luhnow is going to do with Springer and Singelton……..he keeps his thoughts about them pretty quiet. And……Krauss is NOT a *scrub*.

    Like

    • Bo Weaver
      March 17, 2014

      Ok Becky, your assessment of Krauss is duly noted. (: Be sure to check back come July.

      Like

  8. 1oldpro
    March 17, 2014

    Brandon Laird was traded from the Royals to the Nationals this past week.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      March 17, 2014

      Yes, Laird’s fourth organization in less than two years. Was there some other significance oldpro?

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        March 17, 2014

        No, other than the fact that none of the recent releases by the Astros seem to be hanging on anywhere with any permanence.
        Astros Daily has a link this morning to a story that Springer is headed to AAA and that it is because of the extra year of control.
        I recall a recent post by an old guy here that Springer may have known it all along, thus contributing to his rather blasé treatment by the club this spring, and the player’s rather blasé performance at the plate.
        Of course, the conspiracy card was then flung into the ring, but I based my speculation on Springer’s body language and scripted clichés that I read in his interviews. You know, like the “do my best for the team” cliché that is fixing to be spoken when he is sent to the minor league camp.
        Of course, the MLB rumors about Springer may be wrong, and I may be wrong, too.

        Like

  9. Dan P
    March 17, 2014

    I do have a side question related to your 13 pitchers and 13 games in 13 days (hopefully this does not lead to 13 losses in 13 days and end on Friday 13th)…
    Chip – based on this – they could decide to start with 13 pitchers as you say and so they could move to 12 pitchers after a couple weeks and bring up….George Springer…. as others have suggested and then get a law suit from the players association…..And then Crane could sue Drayton for not telling him how mean and greedy the players are …. and Drayton can continue to sit back in Temple and giggle about it all.

    Like

  10. Astro45
    March 17, 2014

    Interesting article. David Ross says he was offered the starting job by the 2009 Astros, and the last sentence by Napoli saying he wants to play for a contender. Just some random quotes from FAs and why they sign where they do. http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/red-sox/content/20140308-red-sox-spring-training-the-road-that-is-free-agency-follows-many-paths.ece

    Like

  11. Steven
    March 17, 2014

    Interesting takes. I am less enamored with a .417 avg and 1.073 OPS in ST. The game is a game of balancing acts – he will probably follow that up with sub par April. Also less concerned about Springers numbers. Again – they all have good streaks and bad streaks. I think you have to try and play the 150 game projection on these guys.

    I would put Springer in RF for 150 games and bet on a rookie of the year campaign. The team could use something to spark ticket sales, and gain a little national news.

    Not discounting Grossman, and he helps you in a lot of ways, but if it comes down to Grossman vs. Krauss, it’s going to be Krauss 60% of the time for me, though I do like Grossman’s ability to draw walks. Still most of the major projection sites have Grossman under .250, and a lot of that has to do with poor contact rates when he actually does swing, though his O-swing rate shows a guy that doesn’t go out the strikezone. Hey, they can’t all be superstars, and I think Robbie will be fine with 400 plate appearances, but I think Krauss will be a bit better.

    I expect them both to play a bit and one to seperate himself a bit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its Grossman.

    Tough to put your manager in spots with a 13 man pitching staff and a roster with Guzman and Krauss and Carter. I would presume an opening day lineup of 1B-Guzman 2B-Altuve SS-Villar 3B-Dominguez LF-Krauss CF-Fowler RF-Grossman DH-Carter C-Castro with Corporan, Izturus and another OF (hopefully not JDM). I much prefer to go ahead and play the kids – start Springer and Singleton, and if Correa is hitting well, start him also. Show us, and them, you are committed to opportunity. I think they would all three succeed, though Singleton and Correa might take a month or two to adjust, stick with them. But it’s not me, its Luhnow/Porter, and I am sure we will watch another blood sucking season of 100 losses with names like Guzman and Villar replacing Wallace and Martinez.

    Like

  12. 1oldpro
    March 17, 2014

    Scott Feldman named Astros Opening Day Starter.

    Like

  13. Steven
    March 17, 2014

    BTW- great article on Grossman, if you want to understand how a stats guy thinks – and how stats actually relate to on field performance, or the ability to predict future performance.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/a-walk-is-as-good-as-a-hit-the-robbie-grossman-story/

    It’s telling to realize that a guy can swing at 10% fewer pitches than the average major leaguer. That article was written in August, by the end of September he had gotten slightly more agressive, increasing his swng rate by another 2%, but it is what Grossman is. He isn’t going to pound out 25 homers, he is going to strike out a bit being so selective, he isn’t a 30 stolen base kinda guy, but he can help you in a lot of areas. Imagine a “platoon” where Grossman gets the time against power pitchers more apt to go out of the zone – and he helps stretch pitch counts and try to get to bullpens by the 6th, and Krauss is used against pitchers with less than stellar strikeout rates and given an opportunity to do what he does best. It’s all in the match ups.

    Like

    • Devin
      March 17, 2014

      Didn’t Boston effectively take the first pitch of each at bat all the way to the world series last year? Getting to the bullpen seems like a great strategy to me.

      Like

    • Dan P
      March 17, 2014

      Interesting article Steven – I enjoy reading guys deep thoughts on stats and players.

      Like

      • Astro45
        March 17, 2014

        DanP, I must admit that I am not sure who is “sicker.” The person that writes deep digging articles on stats, or the guy that “enjoys” reading those articles. I think that is what makes baseball so great. The unbelievable amount of stats and numbers that are now available from “range” to “tendencies” to “what pitch in what count.” Dave Duncan’s book would have to be on rollers today.

        Like

    • Bo Weaver
      March 17, 2014

      I dig this article, too. I love how the first quote kick offs and enhances the rest of the write-up.

      Apt point how a finicky approach tends to limit “pressing” at the plate. Good stuff.

      Like

  14. rj1953
    March 17, 2014

    1B – guzman, krauss
    2B – altuve
    ss – villar
    3B – dominguez
    c – castro, corporan
    of – grossman, fowler, hoes, krauss
    dh – carter
    bench if – gonzales
    starters – feldman, cosart, peacock, oberholtzer, (keuchel or williams who doesnt start between the two goes to long relief)
    bullpen – williams or keuchel, harrell, qualls, albers, fields, chapman, bass

    highly likey someone is dropped for a late waiver wire infielder with a bat – harrel if he continues to blow up or a non lefty reliever (bass)

    Like

    • daveb
      March 17, 2014

      There are no infield bats out there. That’s why we have Marwin.

      Like

    • Bo Weaver
      March 17, 2014

      Pretty good list, but I don’t see Harrell sticking on the roster very long, barring new or ongoing injuries. And yes, Luhnow will grab a waiver-wire reject to displace Villar or Marwin in the very near future, I predict.

      Like

      • rj1953
        March 18, 2014

        yeah i based that on his performance 2 years ago, the recent start where his sinker was really working and that the front office likes ground ball pitchers. plus the fact that porter has voiced his desire to have two long men in the pen. i am hoping he rights the ship, gives us some good innings and then is traded in the summer to someone with an injury riddled staff and one of our young guys gets more innings. but if he blows up much more in spring you are right that he wont be around long.

        Like

  15. rj1953
    March 17, 2014

    oops counted krauss twice so just add the waiver wire guy

    Like

  16. Becky
    March 17, 2014

    DANG………Correa can play short!! It wouldn’t hurt my feelings one tiny bit to see him replace Villar ASAP!!

    Like

  17. Bo Weaver
    March 17, 2014

    One less option to generate life-giving revenues for Crane: http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2014/03/17/comcast-backs-out-of-csn-bankruptcy-bid/

    Like

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