Okay, take a deep breath. Spring training is just a few weeks away and the start of the season is a little over two months from now. Jeff Luhnow has plenty of time to remake the roster.
Of course, I say that in jest as Luhnow has performed his magic on the major league roster, the same “magic” he began at the minor league level a few years back. But it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that the makeover of the Astros over the past few months is the biggest makeover in the history of the organization. At least over any similar four-week period since 1962.
As someone pointed out recently — and Luhnow has also postulated — depth and flexibility may be A.J. Hinch‘s best friend in 2015. Evan Gattis goes down or needs a couple of days off? No worries, we’ll run Chris Carter there, and move let Gattis DH. Jon Singleton doesn’t cut it at 1B. Not. A. Problem. Singleton to Fresno, Gattis to DH and Carter to 1B. The new kid on the block, Luis Valbuena, doesn’t cut the mustard at 3B. Hey, we’ll just slide in Marwin Gonzalez or Jonathan Villar or Matt Dominguez or . . .
Get the picture? Here’s a quick look at how many options Hinch will have at each position. And this only includes players on the current 40-man option. (Of course that could change by the time this publishes or by the time you read it!). And, these are in no particular order, just a laundry list that Hinch can use as ST approaches.
- Catcher (4). Jason Castro, Hank Conger, Gattis, Max Stassi.
- First Base (3). Singleton, Gattis, Carter.
- Second Base (4). Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, Ronald Torreyes, Villar.
- Shoststop (4). Jed Lowrie, Gonzalez, Villar, Torreyes.
- Third Base (5). Dominguez, Valbuena, Gonzalez, Lowrie, Villar.
- Left Field (6). Gattis, Jake Marisnick, Robbie Grossman, Alex Presley, Domingo Santana, L.J. Hoes.
- Center Field (4). Marisnick, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, Presley.
- Right Field (5). Springer, Presley, Hoes. Grossman, Marisnick.
- Designated Hitter (3). Carter, Gattis, Castro, Rasmus.
- Rotation (8). Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer, Colin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Dan Straily, Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski.
- Bullpen. Too many to list here.
And, here are a few other weekend thoughts to get your fingers and keyboards going.
The time is now.
- Remember last year when rumor had it that Luhnow had offered contract extensions to Dominguez and Grossman? Both declined or there was some other reason deals didn’t go through. Assuming the rumored offers were accurate, their subsequent play could be a factor in Luhnow’s movement of some other prospects. In other words, Luhnow may have decided to sell high on some prospects. Yes, there’s an inherent risk in that strategy, but for every prospect like Nolan Ryan, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Jiovanni Miers and Eli Iorgs. Yes, Michael Foltynewicz may develop, but regardless of his upside, talent and potential, he is still largely an unknown quantity at the major league level. Gattis, on the other hand, is not. You know his physical limitations, you know his K factor, but you also know he will provide some punch and a little flexibility. Risk? Yes, indeed.
Of course, there are concerns.
- As I’ve mentioned previously, every team has a couple of whiffers. The Astros may have as many as eight in the lineup at any one time. Can that lineup survive? Will a lineup of several whiffers in a row be more susceptible that the one with two or three? Will it be easier to work around a potentially hot hitter in hopes of getting to the next whiffer? How’s that dugout/clubhouse mood after a game with 20 whiffs and 15 LOB? You know what they say about things being contagious.
There still aren’t enough chairs.
- As I demonstrated above, there are still too many players for this ship, especially as this ship goes on into the season. Sure, the easiest call will be giving Singleton a ticket to Fresno if he doesn’t perform in ST. But, with a contract in hand, Singleton will have every chance and get his ABs to prove it. IfGattis isn’t going to be in left field often, something has to give. Best odds for movement between now and opening day?
- Gonzalez. He’s still in the arbitration pipeline and you know what that meant for Dexter Fowler.
- Carter. Time to sell high? Of course, that’s a huge risk if he turned the corner in the second half.
- Castro. There’s still smoke, though it’s less of a bon fire now.
- Grossman, Oberholtzer, Presley, Stassi, Santana and others are further down the list.
Okay, and a few questions for you.
- Simple starter question: Grade Luhnow on his moves since the World Series ended.
- Which player(s) currently on the 40-man won’t be around on opening day?
- As of today, best guess for wins in 2015.
- Best/worst move of the winter thus far.
- Your level of interest in the 2015 season now, based on a scale of 1-10 (10 being “I’m ‘there’ day and night!).