Astros 2016: Ranking the 25-man roster

It is always a bit touchy to rank pitchers and everyday players together. Is a player who pitches every 5th day worth as much as a player who is on the field everyday? (Try removing Dallas Keuchel from the team last year and see if they make the playoffs or not).

But this is for fun, not serious brain surgery, so here is one shot at ranking the Astros’ players heading into Spring Training with a big guess at what the 25 man might look like.

  1. Carlos Correa. It is amazing that a player who has less than 100 games under his belt could be so impactful, but this 21 year old is special and the best hope for leading this team to the Promised Land. Considering what a step up he brings offensively over almost every other SS in the game – he is the Astros #1.
  2. Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is the Astros 1a – he started 33 games last season and only in 3 starts did he give up 5 runs or more. So he gave the team a shot in almost every start last season and you can’t ask for more from a pitcher.
  3. Jose Altuve. The hitter who stirs the offense and stepped up his defense in working with youngster Correa.
  4. George Springer. The hope is that he will finally play enough games to totally realize all of his potential, because he had a lot of value in only partial seasons the last two years.
  5. Collin McHugh. The waiver wire pickup has been insanely valuable to the club as a strong #2 in the rotation.
  6. Lance McCullers Jr. He gave the Astros a solid 3rd man in the rotation and though he was one game under .500, a little more luck and more starts in 2016 should result in improvement.
  7. Colby Rasmus. Yes, he is probably not worth $15.8 million, but he showed that the heat of the September pennant race and the playoffs were not too big for him.
  8. Carlos Gomez. A healthy return to 2013 (24 HR and 40 SB) or 2014 (23 HR and 34 SB) would solidify the lineup and his value to the team.
  9. Ken Giles. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but the new likely closer could easily be very valuable with the numbers he could put up in 2016. Having a big arm in the bullpen is a big plus also.
  10. Luke Gregerson. He has value as a closer alternate, as a set-up man and as a veteran presence in the bullpen.
  11. Mike Fiers. He made 9 starts with the Astros and gave up 3 or less earned runs in 8 of those games. That is excellent value from a 4th or 5th starter.
  12. Jason Castro. Yes, he stunk offensively and did not even put up the solid RBIs from previous seasons, 31 last year after two seasons of 56 RBIs. But he stepped up his defense and was the main receiver for the pitching staff that led the AL in ERA.
  13. Marwin Gonzalez. Super-sub who can bat from both sides, play anywhere on the infield and even looked good in left field.
  14. Will Harris . He probably wore out a bit at the end of the season and ended on a bit of a sour note, but he was very dependable out of the pen against rightys and leftys for almost the whole season.
  15. Doug Fister. Mediocre and injured in 2015, but good to excellent in 2012-2014, this could be a great value addition for the Astros.
  16. Luis Valbuena. He brought a lot of value with his glove and could bring even more value with a better year at the plate.
  17. Tony Sipp. Tony probably belongs above here. Another waiver pickup like McHugh and Harris, who has been the only reliable lefty out of the bullpen the last two seasons.
  18. Evan Gattis. Your DH should be higher than this, but without playing somewhere in the field and without drawing walks, he floats towards the bottom.
  19. Pat Neshek. A healthy Neshek could end up much higher than this. He was tremendous in 2014 and a healed foot could allow him to be a great asset to the team.
  20. Scott Feldman. If Feldman wins the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation, flip him with Fiers or Fister, but otherwise he is likely just insurance or trade bait.
  21. Jon Singleton. This has been talked to death. If he repeats his last couple attempts at first base, he will be off this team by June. But if he could fulfill some of his former promise, he would be an unexpected surprise.
  22. Josh Fields. It is a deep bullpen, so Fields will probably be used situationally when Ks are needed or against rightys.
  23. Preston Tucker or Jake Marisnick. It is far more likely that JFSF will make this team than Tucker, just due to defense at all 3 OF positions and speed.
  24. Max Stassi or Tyler Heineman. The team needs a backup C and one of these two guys will likely be that person.
  25. Kevin Chapman or Wandy Rodriguez or (this space for rent). Filling out the bullpen.

Looking at things from top to bottom, this team has pretty good value especially on the pitching side deep into the roster. What are your thoughts about these rankings?


33 comments on “Astros 2016: Ranking the 25-man roster

  1. Dan, I think you did a great job with this.
    The one player that I see that could help the team most by becoming more valuable is Valbuena.because he is being given a base hit every at bat by the defense. The shift on him is so extreme that he has more chances to improve his BA and OBP with just a slight adjustment in his approach at the plate and some repitition in batting practice. If the defense gives you the entire left side and yet you finish the season hitting .225, then you did nothing to take advantage of what is being handed to you. If he has been told to ignore the shift and swing for the bleachers every time, he is truly an obediant servant.
    There is one other posibility and that is that he has tried everything and cannot make line drive contact to the opposite field, no matter what he tries. That means he has maxxed out and is just a .225 hitter in this time of “I dare you” shifts.
    Having Chapman or Wandy as a loogie in the bullpen seems like a concession to having only 24 roster spots, because I don’t think either one of them are good enough to do that job efficiently. I would rather have another righty with the potential to blow lefties away with power stuff rather than whatever those two bring to the table. So far, Chapman has shown that the only guys he can get out with any regularity are AAA LH batters and that won’t cut it.
    Wandy in the bullpen at his age? I’d rather see a guy who has made $53million in his career retire with some grace.


    • I agree on your Valbuena thoughts. His defense brings a ton to the table. The thing about statistics is that we get so comfortable with specific numbers or ranges representing greatness that we don’t think about what they really mean. If Valbuena sees the same shift all year, but decided to just slap it towards the third base bag one time out of every ten plate appearances, he could raise his OBP by up to .100. They’re giving you an easy single! Don’t worry about statcast rating the hardest exit velocities and such. Bring a .400 OBP to the table and you’ll probably make the All Star team.


    • Valbuena is an interesting player to rate. First time around I had him higher – 11th or 12th because of what he could be. Good glove and flexibility between 1st and 3rd base. Good power but my gosh he has to change something up. Like op and Devin state – if he could just occasionally whack it the other way….
      That last spot in the bullpen could be anybody and it could well be a revolving door spot. Maybe Feliz will be there. With the way Harris handles leftys – they don’t have to set aside a spot for a loogy.
      We will all watch closely the 6th spot (Feldman) for the swingman. Injuries will be the key here. If everyone is healthy, they could trade Feldman at the trade deadline (if well) for a prospect or two. If not, Feldman would be a very good option for the 5th spot in the rotation.
      I keep thinking another shoe will drop before spring training but time is running out.


    • That was an interesting read rj. Tanking can help you a bit but frankly a team will help themselves more by picking the right guys in later rounds (Keuchel, White, Phillips, etc.) than just picking at the top of the 1st round. The Astros did take advantage of the extra pool of money for the draft picks a couple times (McCullers, Cameron) and I think they really got 3 steals by being at the top of the waiver wire – for McHugh, Sipp and Harris. So tanking helps but knowing who to grab helps more.


    • I’m not surprised.

      2010 – Two first rounders a sandwich pick. One of those is helping the Rangers for free, the other part of why Gattis is here and having little success so far. The sandwich pick is some guy I never heard.

      2011 – Springer, but with the 11th pick, before said tanking.

      2012 – Correa, the only 1-1 pick to work out. The funny thing about that one is in 2012 no other team thought Correa was the 1-1 guy, only us, we might have gotten him as deep as number 5. LMJ the CA pick, nothing to do with tanking.

      2013 and 2014 – Two 1-1 picks that did not pan out. Aiken at least gave us the 1-5 pick, in which we got another Tucker, which is the only player from that draft class I think has a chance to be impactful. I think Bregman makes it to the bigs, but isn’t going to be a star. I’m not convinced Cameron even makes it to the majors, but it’s early.

      Tanking works in basketball, with only 5 people on the court and a the talent difference between LeBron James and Matt Barnes being undeniably easy to see, or maybe even in the NFL and you are the Colts tanking a season to get Luck. It never works in baseball. The best hitter arguably in the entirety of the Astros minor league system was something like a 33rd rounder.


      • Losing Aiken gave us the 1.2 the following year, which was Bregman. The 1.5 pick was our regular pick in the draft, and Cameron came from the Cosart trade.


  2. You essentially have 8 relievers on this roster. I think Wandy and Chapman are destined for Fresno. Whoever isn’t the No. 5 is the long relief guy. We don’t have a loogy (troubling, but we have one of the most reliable lefties in the game) and I think Tucker is a lock.


    • I’m not so sure Tucker is a lock. If Singleton is the Opening Day 1B I think Duffy or White may make the team as platoon options for 1B or 3B. Yes, MarGo fills that role, but I’m guessing they want a RH power bat off the bench and as a corner platoon option. If Singleton doesn’t win the job then I can see Tucker definitely making the team.


  3. If the team is to improve and attempt to win the West, I think in the group of 18 through 25 or 26, there has to be some roster moves. They may be moved for only draft picks or minor leaguers, but you have to try to move a couple new faces up to replace them, some way. The ranking looks about right, but when you get to the bottom, there are improvements that can be made.


  4. Singleton has value only if marijuana is legalized on a federal basis. Notice how since he got popped that last time, his performance went south like one of Tennyson’s swallows? See, he’s like Popeye, only with weed instead of Spinach.


    • I’m a bit confused. Are most people here rooting for Singleton to fail or just feel his ceiling is not high enough to warrant interest any longer? I’d like to see Duffy/White/Reed come out with such a statement this spring that they force their way into the starting 25, but if Singleton plays well enough to keep his spot (first stringer) then I’ll be happy for the production. Obviously, if he doesn’t play well enough…well, I won’t cry if he’s sent to Fresno.


      • I have these flashbacks to Brett Wallace (who actually was a better AAA hitter than Singleton) who just could not put it together in the majors.
        Hey if Puff comes out and bats .250 BA .800 OPS 25 HR 85 RBIs – I won’t complain. I just don’t have high expectations.


      • Devin, just speaking for me, I don’t have anything against Singleton and surely hope he is the turnaround player of the year. That said, based upon his small sample (420 PAs), it appears he is worse than Carter. So him at first does not improve the team.

        I would love to have misjudged his talents as much as I did Brett Wallace. And YES, I still think Brett Wallace can hit – just not in Astros uniform. (107 PAs -.302 in San Diego 2015 w/ .895 OPS and yet he is their backup at 1st & 3rd)


      • My problem with Singleton having the spot to lose is that he didn’t earn that spot. A player who hits .250 in AAA and .190 in several call-ups to the majors, hasn’t earned the spot over the minor league’s best hitter.
        We made a big mistake playing Lowrie,Villar and Gonzalez at SS last season for the first two months and it cost us the division title. Will we do the same thing this year with Heineman, White and Reed? Playing players who destroy rallies with their Ks, while better players are ignored in AAA?


  5. Dan,
    Enjoyed your piece. Your known (expected) commodities notwithstanding, it is the name NOT on the list that could wind up being impactful to the season. In my humble opinion, given the current pitching staff, it’s all about the bats at this point. There is little evidence that Singleton is your answer at 1st. White or Duffy coming in with an improved bat will have a significant impact. Just having someone stand in the box that the fans feel has a chance of doing something helpful will greatly increase entertainment.
    Personally, I am not as enthusiastic about Gomez and Springer as the rest of the readership seems to be. Even though he has a really quick bat, I get amazed at how many pitches Springer can swing through with no contact. The other concern is his durability. Perhaps if he can play relatively unscathed for an entire season, he will become the player we all hope for. With Gomez, I just don’t see what everyone else sees.
    Yes…I am looking for that player NOT on your list.


  6. TNT – I really would rather have someone other than Singleton at 1B, but I anticipate them giving him a shot.
    I don’t know if Springer will ever be what he can be or Gomez can be what he was. But these can both be top notch players.
    – Springer – if you projected his WAR to a full season for 2015 – it would be 6.0, which would be the 8th best in the AL (pitchers and everydays). his .367 OBP would have been 11th in the AL and his .826 OPS would have been 18th in the AL if he had enough ABs to qualify. That is a good player even with flaws.
    – Gomez – in 2013 he had a .284 BA / .338 OBP / .843 OPS with 24 HR and 40 SB
    In 2014 he had a .284 BA / .356 OBP / .833 OPS with 23 HR and 34 SBs.
    His WAR in 2013 was 8.4 – the second best in all of baseball behind Mike Trout. We are not talking ancient history when he was a superb player.
    Anyways – we shall see if either of these guys can put together the kind of year that is possible from each.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan, what I like about your list (there are several things to like, but this one jumps out) is that on a list full of quality baseball players, three of our top six are starting pitchers.

    Could we have said that this time last year? Only by including Scott Feldman as a top-6 player … and having faith in McHugh that, at the time, would have seemed a bit unwarranted.

    The top 10 from a year ago was probably Altuve, Keuchel, Springer, Valbuena, Lowrie and McHugh — not necessarily in that order.

    This roster is leaps and bounds better than the same point in 2015 or (Lord forbid) 2014. There are zero reclamation projects unless you count Fister or Singleton as reclamation projects. But we’re certainly not counting on either. Singleton is in a perform-or-be-replaced situation. And Fister is our sixth starter.

    This is good.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great points Brian. The other thing you have to love is that those top 6 are all under control for awhile – I guess that Keuchel being a FA in 2019 is the soonest any of those top 6 might leave (and lets pray they get him signed long term by next off-season).


    • I think you are right about the roster being good. But I think they really are counting on Fister. I don’t believe they would pay him $7mil guaranteed unless they were counting on him contributing.


  8. List looks pretty accurate.

    I think Rasmus performed well enough to be a top 10 guy last year but I think he has the potential of moving down that list this year. He also has the potential to remain there though. Springer is number 4 on potential (he could be number 1 or 2 with all the tools that are there) but he needs to have that break out season.

    Keuchel is special, but still back to back 20 win seasons are a rarity. He might regress a smidgen and still be the best pitcher. What I like about McHugh is when he rolls he rolls. Still, my number 2 guy is a guy that I want out there with the ball in his hand in a critical spot – say a game 5 in KC – and not get yanked in the 4th inning over the managers nerves. I would say hopefully McHugh learns from being in that spot but I fear he may have already maximized his talents. I would rather see him be the number 3 guy. This is where LMJ comes in, if the talent is real, and we want to win a WS next year, he has to be that number 2 guy, especially in the playoffs.


  9. Off topic for a minute, The Tigers signed J.D. Martinez to a two year $18.5 mill today. Great for him, I’m glad he got away from what ever caused him to lose confidence, and broke out of it in Detroit. Good job JD!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Another note on the tanking article and other stories about tanking. Those appear to just be sour grapes to me. Steven is correct in that draft picks in baseball are a crap shoot. Going back to 2009 or 2010, the Astros were losing with high salary players. (To those writers, that was not tanking, it was smart baseball)

    Those expensive players were dumped so those resources could be used in rebuilding. If the Astros had lost a couple more games and the Angels were in the playoffs, then no articles on tanking. It appears to me, that when you squeeze the BS out of these articles, what it says is “we could have been in the playoffs if we cheated like the Astros.” When in fact, multiple teams have tanked for decades and are still out of the playoffs. Wise selections and swapping aging veterans for multiple possible prospects improved the Astros more than having the top pick.


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