The Astros are once again likely to have one of the youngest rosters in the majors in 2015. And, while Jeff Luhnow has attempted to add some veterans to the roster, the inexperience, lack of playing time at specific positions and injury possibilities all highlight what continues to be a lack of depth in the Astros’ reconstruction project.
Better than a year ago to be sure, but just not enough MLB-ready cavalry at AAA for comfort. Houston could begin the season with players still learning their positions or still getting used to life at the major league level.
For example, some players may be shuffled or expected to wear multiple hats while others will possibly see full seasons in Houston for the first time. Here are some players who may see more action at their positions than previous seasons.
- Jon Singleton. He’s played only 95 major league games, so if he wins the role out of spring training, it’s possible if not probable he will exceed that number in 2015.
- Colby Rasmus, if he plays LF. The 28-year-old has played only 15 games in LF and RF in his career (compared to 731 in CF), so he’d essentially be learning a new position if he moved to LF. It wouldn’t be such a huge transition from CF if he didn’t have to deal with the strange configuration of LF and the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park.
- Luke Gregerson, if he becomes the closer. While he has finished a number of games in recent years, he’s never entered a season that he would be expected to close on a regular basis. Theoretically, he could surpass his 19 career saves by the All Star break.
- George Springer, if he plays a full season in RF. Like Singleton, he could also have his first full season in the majors. Even then, he has only 104 games in RF over his pro career (minors and majors combined).
- Jake Marisnick has only 355 major league PAs and Robbie Grossman has yet to spend a full season in the majors, only parts of two.
- Colin McHugh. You like him, but he has only 34 starts under his belt. Spread over five seasons, including 25 last year.
The injury bug. Last year, the Astros had only three men (count ’em, three!) who played more than 126 games, and one of those was a designated hitter (Chris Carter). Another won the batting title (Jose Altuve) and it could be argued the other (Matt Dominguez) shouldn’t have been in the threesome. While Jeff Luhnow allowed plenty of flexibility for A.J. Hinch and his lineups, the depth question still persists.
Here are some players either prone to injury or who are known to have, shall we say, issues.
- Springer. Missed half of the season.
- Jed Lowrie. He played 290 games over two years in Oakland, so the injury moniker may not be fair, but with only two seasons of more than 97 games and only one with more than 136, Luhnow would be good to hang on to Marwin Gonzalez.
- Brad Peacock. Seems to be working his way back, but clearly the Astros have hedged their bets with Dan Straily, Roberto Hernandez among others.
- Evan Gattis. He’s a key piece of the Luhnow Puzzle, but his knee and back issues are already part of the equation.
- Jason Castro. Though he didn’t have an official DL stint in 2014 and only 11 in 2013, the 27-year-old still seems a fragile piece and often misses time with smaller injuries. Of course, since Conger is considered a more astute backup by management, 120 games from Castro may be the norm.
You can argue that Houston cannot afford to lose any of its regulars or pivotal members of its pitching staff, but here are the key players the Astros can ill afford to succumb to injury, at least a version lasting more than 15 days.
Questions to start your Monday.
- Which player could be making the biggest transition this season?
- Gattis (at either 1B or LF).
- Rasmus to LF.
- Singleton or Springer to a full MLB season.
- Gregerson to closer.
- How concerned are you about the injury bug biting Houston?
- Given the flexibility, will Hinch rival Cecil Cooper and Brad Mills for most lineups used in a season?
- Which player, if injured for a long period of time (say 2 months), would most adversely affect the Astros? Name the top three in order.