Heading into Spring Training, there were several questions for the Astros to resolve before starting the 2022 season. These included the resolution of the SS situation with Carlos Correa‘s free agency, the manning of the centerfield position with Jake Meyers out, the makeup of the starting rotation with Lance McCullers injured and Justin Verlander coming off his injury, and the makeup of the bullpen with a 28 man roster to start the season.
How close are the Astros to answering these questions?
- Shortstop. What looked like the most challenging question to answer seemingly was answered the quickest after the Astros reported to Spring Training on March 13th. By March 22nd, Carlos Correa had signed with the Twins and potential Plan B Trevor Story signed with the Red Sox the the next day. Since then it has been plain that the shortstop job is Jeremy Pena‘s to lose. Through April Fool’s Day he has hit .333 BA and has a .375 OBP with 4 RBIs in admittedly a small sample. This is not to say things won’t change, but it looks like the Astros want to give the young man a shot to prove himself.
- Centerfield. Most folks would have thought that with Meyers out, that Chas McCormick would be in center with Kyle Tucker in right field and Michael Brantley / Yordan Alvarez in left field and Jose Siri manning the fourth OF spot. This may be the way it ends up, but this Spring Training, manager Dusty Baker has verbally dissed Chas, while giving thumbs up to Siri and top prospect Pedro Leon. Maybe McCormick did not come into Spring Training in his best shape, maybe he has not been a good teammate in helping the younger OFs in camp. We don’t know. Leon will most certainly start the year in the minors, but he could easily make his way up here soon. Where the Astros are at the beginning of the season and where they may be when Meyers returns, hopefully, in May will remain an area of interest.
- Rotation. While the question of Lance McCullers’ health remains, the questions about Justin Verlander’s health seemed to have been answered. He has pitched great and all the other potential starters – Jake Odorizzi, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia have looked good in their turns on the mound. With three off-days early they may give Verlander some extra rest between starts, but the starting pitching looks good (in small samples) to date.
- Bullpen. The Astros are allowed to carry 28 players for the month of April. It is highly likely that there will be 15 pitchers in that set due to the fact that the starters are still building up innings. After the five starters mentioned above, what 10 pitchers would fill up that bullpen?
- Sure things (7) – Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Rafael Montero, Blake Taylor
- The not so sure things – Seth Martinez, Brandon Bielak, Pedro Baez, Bryan Abreu, Peter Solomon, Josh James and Enoli Paredes. Baez should be a sure thing, but with his reduced velocity issues he might be headed to the IL. Solomon, James and Paredes are on the 40 man but have been sent back to minor league camp. Martinez has pitched very well, Bielak seems to be someone they are comfortable with spot starts and long relief, Abreu is someone I think they would love to grab a spot. Zac Rosscup is a veteran lefty, who is not on the 40-man and who is likely left on the outside.
- The bullpen makeup for the season will be a critical component to the Astros success and who heads west to start the season will give us a clear view of what they think heading into the 2022 season.
Where do you fall on these four areas of interest?