Jeff Luhnow may argue the point, but little has gone according to script for the Astros in 2015.
Start with back-to-back winning months to reach the best record in the American League for a team with as many as four hitters below the Mendoza line. Add in multiple injuries to the rotation and a patchwork lineup day in and day out and suddenly first-year manager A.J. Hinch is everyone’s leading candidate for manager of the year.
The Astros have used 33 players so far this season — no surprise there — and that number will likely rise soon. With three prospects already promoted and the Big One perhaps only days away, the team makeup will continue to morph.
Here’s a quick Saturday look at how it could look by this time next month:
- Catcher. Jason Castro, Hank Conger.
- First base. Jon Singleton.
- Second base. Jose Altuve.
- Third base. Luis Valbuena.
- Shortstop. Carlos Correa.
- OF. Preston Tucker, Evan Gattis, George Springer.
- DH. Chris Carter.
- Bench. Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Villar, Colby Rasmus, Domingo Santana.
- Rotation. Unknown (Scott Kazmir?), Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Roberto Hernandez, Lance McCullers Jr.
- Bullpen. Luke Gregerson, Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp, Will Harris, Josh Fields, Michael Feliz, Jake Buchanan.
In reviewing the above possibilities, it’s important to remember that this roster will likely be a work in progress through Game 162. Injuries and the need to upgrade will be with the Astros all season. There are simply too many young players and older veterans to avoid that inevitability.
Other things to consider:
- You’ll note that Jake Marisnick is not on the above roster. It could be inevitable with the slump, but sending Marisnick to Fresno could be the biggest risk of the summer given his defensive portfolio. How much defense would the Astros give up to replace the bat with an upgrade?
- It’s possible that Feliz joins McCullers in the rotation sooner than later.
- Innings will begin to mount for the youngsters (McCullers, maybe Feliz) and even Hernandez as the Astros go deeper into the summer.
- A key decision will be what to do with Carter. If he improves his marketability over the next month, Luhnow will be faced with a decision to roll the dice or not. A trade would be a gamble.
- If the Astros trade for a pitcher, the focus will be on upper rotation. At this point, there are plenty of options to fill the back end and none — absolutely none! — to join Keuchel and McHugh at the top. Think Kazmir, Johnny Cueto or perhaps even Dan Haren. The Astros went after Kazmir before and Haren has Cardinals’ ties. Aaron Harang and a couple of Washignton pitchers may also be available.
- The Astros are giving Singleton every chance to become the major league player he prospects as. He’ll get his chance, but it will require a shift in the outfield and/or DH, especially if the Astros keep Carter around.
- Will Scott Feldman be a factor for the Astros in 2015 or will he be squeezed out by someone like Feliz and/or acquisition like Kazmir?
- It’s quite likely Luhnow knew this sprign that McCullers and Feliz could be available in 2015. Easy to look back now, but the talent and competition level have improved so much this year that Sam Deduno, Dan Straily and Asher Wojciechowski were probably never really considerable rotation options in Luhnow’s mind.