Full workouts are underway and the Astros play their first spring game next week. Here are a few questions to whet your appetite for the season. Your answers and reasons may differ from mine, so let’s hear your thoughts on what with gather your attention when you turn on the TV, radio or reach for the day’s box scores.
What are the 2-3 things that you will be watching for this spring?
- Jon Singleton. The Astros’ first baseman will either create a log jam of an issue for Houston or make life easier for Jeff Luhnow in regards to how and where to play Evan Gattis and Chris Carter.
- The rotation. Even though three and perhaps four spots are already essentially reserved, eyes will still be focused on Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. If they can settle in early, it will bode well for the rest of the rotation.
- A.J. Hinch. It will be interesting to hear feedback from players (and there will be some) as well as watch the first-year manager tinkering with lineups.
Who is the most intriguing player in camp?
- Mark Appel. A good spring and solid attitude could almost single-handedly change the outlook of recent drafts. If Appel actually develops as the #1 pick the Astros used to take him in the 2013 draft, 2016 could be a banner year. Appel, Carlos Correa, Colin Moran among others could burst onto the scene and establish themselves and the Astros as solid contenders.
- Joe Sclafani, Moran and Preston Tucker. Why? These players along with the aforementioned and a couple of others will provide a glimpse into 2016 and 2017. Is there a cavalry on the way?
Who would be the biggest surprise to break camp with the Astros?
- Appel or even Moran. Both probably need more work in Fresno, but they both could set themselves up for a 2015 return with a solid spring.
The player you have high expectations for who could bomb?
- Singleton. Despite some of the fodder in recent days, Singleton is still a strong candidate to stick as a solid producer at the major league level. Note that starting the season in Fresno would not make him a failure, but if he was not in the Astros’ lineup by late May or early June, it would be disappointing.
- Honorable mention: Jake Marisnick or Brett Oberholtzer. The team is counting on these players and, while neither needs to be a star, the Astros need their solid production in their roles.
2015 or bust.
- Asher Wojciechowski and Alex White. It’s their time. Or you could also write it this way: It’s now or never. Both are 27, and both appear healthy and have a unique opportunity. They’ve held valuable 40-man roster spots for a couple of years and, while they may begin the season in Fresno, a strong spring could catapult either onto the 25-man roster.
- Honorable mention: Matt Dominguez, Singleton, Robbie Grossman. Their basic competition last year was themselves. Now, the pressure is on and none are guaranteed a roster spot.
Player who could have the biggest impact, on and off field.
- Scott Feldman and Jed Lowrie. These are two veterans on a largely youthful, still-adjusting-to-the-majors roster. Feldman is a natural, but Lowrie could become the veteran presence the Astros need in the lineup and in the clubhouse. Will he take the role?