The first spring training for A.J. Hinch is winding down. Perhaps the most important spring training to date for Jeff Luhnow is coming to a close. And, for a few select, remaining players, decision time looms.
In Hinch’s mind, most of the roster positions may have already been decided. However, with no public decisions and announcements, several openings remain. However, by this time next week, the 25-man roster should be evident, if not written in stone.
Here are some of the last battles to earn a spot on the roster.
Let’s be honest. The primary reason that Gattis is in Houston is that Luhnow wasn’t confident that Singleton would be ready for opening day, if not the entire season. Gattis arrived hurt and he hasn’t disappointed in that regard. Perhaps that’s not fair, but he has also shown signs of that other attribute: Power. If he stays healthy and plays 140 games (which he has never done), he’ll hit those 25-30 home runs. On the other hand, while Singleton has had a decent spring, it doesn’t qualify as breakout by any means. He has, however, shown enough to believe that he could be a difference maker in 2015. If Singleton steps up his game (whether in April or June), the Astros have other questions. It’s almost impossible to squeeze Gattis, Singleton and Chris Carter into the same lineup. And not compromise somewhere else.
Chip’s call. Though he could easily break camp with the Astros, Singleton starts the season at Fresno, delaying the decision.
I laid out the mindset on this one a week or two ago. Depth wise, there is no question. Barring a trade, Hernandez gets the job as the fifth starter and Wojo is off to Fresno as the first call up when someone goes down, is traded or under performs. It’s the smart move. It’s the safe move. For now. It is not the long-term move. Wojo will be in Houston in 2015.
Chip’s call: Barring a trade, Hernandez gets the job, Wojo goes to Fresno and waits for the call. But wait, Brad Peacock… And, oh wait II, this all changes if Brett Oberholtzer starts the season on the disabled list.
Okay, most everyone reading this would prefer Colby Rasmus to be the odd man out. You’d be just fine with an outfield of George Springer, Jake Marisnick, Grossman and Presley. Right? Ain’t gonna happen. Right? Presley is out of options and obviously valued by Luhnow. Amazingly, every prospective outfielder who remains an option can play all three positions. Springer is in. Rasmus, by virtue of his winter signing (and $8 million deal) is likely in. Jake Marisnick, likely in as a starter.
Chip’s call: Again, barring a trade, Grossman is off to Fresno and Presley gets the last OF spot.
This is where it gets sticky. Marwin Gonzalez should be a given. He’s a veteran, shuffles through most infield spots and can also help out in the outfield. After that, it’s somewhat murky. Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez may be the other options. Villar is the more likely given his versatility, especially if Singleton makes the club.
Chip’s call: Gonzalez and Villar. Dominguez goes to Fresno and for a last gasp effort to restore his fortunes.
So, here is one man’s projection for the roster:
- Infield: Gattis, Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, Luis Valbuena, Gonzalez, Villar.
- Outfield: Springer, Rasmus, Marisnick, Presley.
- Catcher: Jason Castro, Hank Conger.
- Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, Roberto Hernandez, Asher Wojciechowski.
- Bullpen: Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp, Sam Deduno, Josh Fields, Joe Thatcher.
Has the roster already been determined? Perhaps. Take a look at the most recently updated version of the Astros’ depth chart. Interesting in that Rasmus is not listed as a starter and it also shows Hernandez as the fifth starter. Also, Singleton remains the starter at first, so perhaps his spring was good enough.
Here’s a refreshing thought: If Hinch is autonomous of sorts and can/will make roster and lineup decisions that aren’t influenced by the most recently acquired players, the ones who earn the most or the ones that make the most business sense? Capiche?
Questions still abound. But, one thing is for sure. The roster that is named in the next 10 days is not the end all and will not come down in stone, so don’t fret. The 2015 roster, like other recent seasons, will be a work-in-progress. While it may not rival the recent seasons where managers have used upwards of 45-50 players, all players mentioned — unless traded — will see time in Houston.