Happy Easter Weekend! Hope you’re planning a weekend with family and friends.
• •• ••• •• •
Borrowing from the 1984 Ronald Reagan campaign theme: It’s morning again in Houston!
Over the past several days, we’ve reviewed roster possibilities, hopes and dreams of the Astros for 2015. Brian even gave you a glimpse of the future on Thursday from down under, and Dan compared the opening day rosters for the past two seasons.
Over the past few years, the Astros have often found themselves debating about final roster spots with retreads and low-risk, high-reward type players. Names like Lucas Harrell, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth, Ronny Cedeno and Rick Ankiel have graced the Astros with their presence just in the past two seasons.
This spring, most of the roster battles included players with value. To be sure, the talent level wasn’t real deep, but there was enough to provide Jeff Luhnow and new manager A.J. Hinch with options. If Brett Oberholtzer, Josh Fields and Brad Peacock had been healthy or if Jon Singleton had lived up to expectations, each would have forced tough decisions and Fresno’s first Astros’-generated roster would have been even stronger.
Next year? Oh my, it could get real sticky. Fast. It’s likely to force some more off-season restructuring a la this past winter. Suffice it to say the competition will be ratcheted up and players once known as locks or near locks may be known as bubble guys…if they remain with the club at all.
Scott Feldman may be gone. Luhnow structured his salary smartly, leaving only a reasonable $8 million on the tab for 2016. If Chris Carter becomes streaky again, he’ll have priced himself out of the equation. Even players like Jason Castro and Luis Valbuena could be on the clock if they don’t show up in ’15.
As strong as Dallas Keuchel may be, is he a true #1? Or will the Astros step up their efforts to put a true engine at the front of the train?
The winter ahead — yes, I’m jumping light years ahead — could bring as much change as the past few months. Here’s just a quick look at what the depth chart may look like this time next year.
- Catcher. Jason Castro, Max Stassi.
- First Base. Jon Singleton.
- Second base. Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp.
- Shortstop. Carlos Correa, Jed Lowrie.
- Third base. Luis Valbuena, Colin Moran.
- Outfield. George Springer, Domingo Santana, Teoscar Hernandez.
- Bench. Jake Marisnick, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Villar, Joe Sclafani, Nolan Fontana.
- Designated hitter. Evan Gattis, Preston Tucker.
- Rotation. New #1, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Mark Appel, Asher Wojciechowski.
- Bullpen. Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Josh Fields…(fill in the blanks).
This exercise is almost a work of lunacy since the pieces of the puzzle will change dramatically over the next nine months. With 11 players due arbitration — seven of those for the first time — and only $34.1 million on the books for 2016 plus another increase in payroll, Luhnow will once again have an opportunity to restructure his team.
Here is the point. Trades and injuries notwithstanding, many of the players scrambling for spots on the roster next season will not have names like Hoes, White, Harris, etc. The names you’ll see in many areas of spring training 2016 will be those you follow at Corpus Christi and Fresno this summer.
The downside is that there will be another 40-man roster crunch, which may result in another sell off of sorts. Whether that comes at the prospect level or the current roster could shuffle the spring training deck considerably.
So, while you watch your favorite nine starting Monday, be careful who you fall in love with. It is quite possible they may be bumped this winter in favor of the names and faces of the next generation Astros.