The Astros are a few games into their 2018 Spring Training regimen and on paper (and this is more than what dogs do to paper) they have the deepest and best team they have ever taken to ST. Listening to and reading a number of stories it would seem that the only decisions to be made are on the very last spot or spots on the bench.
While that may true, just remember that one of the most under the radar critical occurrences in Spring Training 2017 was Collin McHugh being injured and not being able to start the season or play for most of the season. Brad Peacock was nails in Spring Training and was given a spot on the roster and was perhaps the most important and flexible pitching cog in the Astros run-up to the World Series. But assuming the Astros are looking at the end of the bench only who do they see working to get that last spot or two?
Note – This post was started prior to Yuli Gurriel‘s injured hand and subsequent surgery.
Tony Kemp. Tony from Vandy is no dumby. He knows that versatility is cherished in the organization, so the natural 2nd baseman has been working on his arm strength so that he can be an option to play the left side of the infield and the outfield too. He quietly hit for good numbers last year at AAA (.329 BA /.375 OBP/.825 OPS) which he has not matched in two short stints at the majors.
Tyler White.White started the 2016 season on-fire but eventually the fire caught his wings on fire and he plummeted back to earth. He only played 22 games in 2017, but he was the most effective of the call-ups with a .279 BA/ .328 OBP/ .853 OPS with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. It does not take a lot of imagination to see Tyler slide into Yuli’s first base spot, while the Astros rookie of the year heals and then serves his Non-PC five game suspension.
J.D. Davis. J.D. had his moments in 2017 with 4 doubles and 4 home runs in 62 ABs. He showed power and is known for lack of speed (though he only had one SB less than Carlos Correa). He is likely a next man up type player as he is not quite as versatile as some of the other folks on the cusp.
A.J. Reed. As friend of the blog, Billy C wrote – he has been Jon Singleton without the drugs. He has had some good stats in the minors, but the foundation is shaky as he just strikes out too much, which matches what he has shown in his cups of coffee in the majors where he just looks like he has a slow bat. He came into camp “in the best shape in his life”. But he needs to show something other than a svelte figure or he will likely end up in some mid-season trade as a player who needs a new situation….
Max Stassi. He is not a shoo in, but if the Astros plan on resting the aging Brian McCann and they plan for Evan Gattis to be the full time DH, then they need another catcher on the roster. He has only played in small samples in the majors, which were good samples the first 3 times he was called up and poorly the last two times. He had a very good 2017 AAA season (.266/.383/.852). He has looked good in the early ST and the Astros hope that like the other player not named Chris Carter that they picked up in the Jed Lowrie trade (Brad Peacock) that he is a late and good bloomer.
Kyle Tucker. He will probably not make this squad out of spring training. He does not need to make this squad out of spring training. But with a couple of early homers he is showing that he should be on the short list for a call-up if the need arises.
Rogelio Armenteros. The young Cuban was arguably the best minor league pitcher not named Whitley in the Astros system. He has shown well in the early going and it is not impossible to think that if someone in the bullpen falters or gets hurt that he would get the call.
David Paulino. He made it to the majors. He was working through an injury. He went for chemical help and paid the price. No one has more to prove and to apologize for than this young man. He has a terrific arm, but can he earn another shot at the Bigs.
Francis Martes. Due to a rotation inflicted with the injury bug, Martes spent a lot of time in the majors in 2017. He was bad as a reliever and decent as a starter. He really has no chance of making the rotation out of spring training, so he will need to show improvement as a reliever to make this team. The more likely scenario is that he spends most of the season in the minors as a starter maneuvering for a shot at a more wide open rotation in 2018.
Who do you think has the best shot to make the team out of ST?
Who will need some injury luck to have a shot?
Who will be on speed dial if help is needed during the season?
Do you think the “moment” would be too big for any of these young men, if called upon to play in the majors this season?