It’s the weekend, the last weekend before pitchers and catchers report. After a slow winter that picked up significantly over the past few weeks, the Astros who report next week will represent a completely re-worked roster. Yes, to use the old proverbial comment, they’ll need a scorecard and name tags to tell each other apart.
Here are some thoughts looking back and looking ahead.
Jeff Luhnow is pushing the train.
- You don’t have to be a koolaid drinker to realize that the Astros’ GM is making progress. While staying with the plan that maintains payroll flexibility (Read: No James Shields, Jon Lesters, etc.), he clearly continues to keep his options open on key trouble spots over the past few years (e.g. bullpen, corner infield, etc.). He continues to search for bullpen help after adding Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to add to Chad Qualls, Luhnow signed Roberto Hernandez (possibly a starter that will provide other bullpen options) and is having discussions with other possible additions as well.
The Rodney Dangerfield Effect.
- No respect. Many naysayers, onlookers, experts and fans will take the Missouri “Show Me” approach before they accept a possibility the Astros will surpass .500 or challenge for the playoffs. That said, the Astros are ranked in the top half (barely) in the predictions by ESPN’s David Schoenfield. Ahead of the Rangers. Ahead of Oakland. Clearly, Schoenfield has bought into the improvement on paper, but a good start in April will obviously turn heads of the doubters.
That roster thingy.
- Luhnow and new manager A.J. Hinch indicated they’d keep the spring training roster to as much of a minimum as possible With the addition of reliever Joe Thatcher Friday, the Astros will now have 59 players headed to ST in the coming days, one short of Luhnow’s projection of around 60. Still, this year’s roster will have more flexibility, more versatility, more options than anytime in recent memory. With only a handful of guarantees, it’s impossible to predict a 25-man roster as any of 8-10 players could have breakout springs and capture a spot. Even some on the NRI list.
Predictions. Projections. Prognostications.
- Fangraphs is out with its depth chart projections for your perusal and consideration. Some interesting breakdowns since these rankings actually project specific time and ABs at each position. For example, Fangraphs project that Matt Dominguez has more ABs at 3B than newly acquired Luis Valbuena. It also shows a primary outfield of LF Jake Marisnick, CF Colby Rasmus and RF George Springer. Oh, were it so simple. After you review the individual and position breakdown, here’s a look at how these stats would stack up against the rest of the majors. Lots to review, but eager to hear your thoughts.
Manfred and rule changes.
- Every year there is talk about rules changes. However, with new commissioner Rob Manfred already discussion a variety of adjustments, it seems apparent baseball may be in for some updates in the next year or two. One that is breaking now has MLB reducing the strike zone. The problem with that is interpretation since some umpires call balls off the plate or a higher pitch than others. The first order of business should be a consistent strike zone called and keep the Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine “expansion” away from the game. Somewhat like the border issue, there are rules on the book already. Enforce those, then let’s discuss changes. That’s my opinion.
Some questions to provoke your thoughts and comments.
- Are you satisfied right now where the Astros are with building the roster? What other addition would put you over the top?
- Many predict a last-place finish for Houston, but Schoenfield sees the Astros as much more competitive? Which prediction is closer to being accurate?
- Which NRI or fringe player(s) could be the biggest surprise(s) and “steal” a spot on the break-camp roster?
- Barring injuries, how close are the Fangraphs predictions to reality for the 2015 season?
- Just curious. Without looking, can you name the third base coach, the bench coach and the hitting coach for the Astros?
- If Manfred were to make one rule change next year, what would be your #1 request?