Astros’ spring training: What’s the point?

This cynicism or apathy or whatever this current mood that is enveloping my psyche is easily explained. The off-season is bad enough, with occasional news supplemented by lots of filler, like a bad awards show. Bad awards show….that is rather redundant.

But we are really fooling ourselves when we say “real” baseball returns with Spring Training. The truth is that for a team that is as established as the Astros, the only real news in ST is bad news – like injuries. The loss of Lance McCullers Jr. due to his elbow injury at the start of the season and the uncertainty around Yordan Alvarez’s hand injury has occurred to date.

What happens in the Astros Spring Training in 2023 probably has a little effect down the line:

  • If Jose Altuve bats .020 for ST, guess who the starting 2nd baseman for the Astros is in 2023. Jose Altuve.
  • If Justin Dirden continues to jack out home runs in ST, will he catch a spot on the Astros roster? Hey, he is not even on the 40 Man roster, yet? Maybe it moves him up the pecking list for the next man up, but if he goes to AAA and hits .100 the first month it will mean more than hitting .300 in the Spring.
  • Most of the folks here on the blog could sit down and get 24 of the 26 players on the opening-day roster correct right now. We might miss the last guy on the bench or in the bullpen or there might be another injury or two between now and then, but in general there is not that much up for grabs here.  And just in time with what I wrote…. Astros 2023 Opening Day roster projection (
  • Spring Training this year is even less important as a chunk of the Astros best players are going to leave and play in the World Baseball Classic. The Astros will have 11 major leaguers (Kyle Tucker, Ryan Pressly, Martin Maldonado, Jose Urquidy, Jose Altuve, Luis Garcia, Jeremy Pena, Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, Rafael Montero) playing in the WBC and another two minor leaguers (Colton Gordon, Derek West) also on WBC rosters. The lineups and especially the pitching back at Spring Training will be interesting in that time period to say the least.  Note – Astro pitcher Ronel Blanco is on something called the designated pitcher list for the Dominican Republic and could be activated.
  • Bottom line – even more than usual, a large chunk of the At Bats and Innings Pitched for the Astros will be by players who will not be on the opening day roster and may never be on the major league roster ever.

But…. Spring Training is necessary. Players have to get up to game speed, especially with the new time clock. Players have to get aligned with all the other rule changes too. And the players need to be ready for the “real” game to return at the end of March. And the young guys need a stage for showing off who they are ….and are not.

It’s not an exciting time of the year, but a necessary one.



48 comments on “Astros’ spring training: What’s the point?

  1. I should point out that Mauricio Dubon is knocking the cover off the ball this Spring. That could be classified as exciting but unnecessary.


  2. For many years I had Astro season tickets. Although they are still in my name, one of my brothers oversees payment for them and distributes shares to family and friends. No way I could afford them these days. Yesterday he had the annual opportunity to buy “extra” opening day tickets. Typically he’d have access for four additional seats, giving other family members a chance to go to the opener. Those tickets this year, the cheapest options way upstairs, are 136.00 each. Back in 1974 when I first begged and borrowed to pay for similar box seats in the Dome, I’m pretty sure they were 3.50 a seat.


    • Yes, UK I get it. I live about a 8 hour drive from Houston these days, but I will be in Houston visiting family the week of opening day. My wife wanted tickets, so she went out and bam, the section we usually like to try and get is the 3rd base dugout – a grand for 3 seats. That’s one thing we won’t be adding to our trip.

      We live close to Atlanta, and we were able to snag tickets to the Braves series, so I will get some live ball this year. But regular visits are definitely out of this ordinary Joe’s reach.

      I would think there has to be a breaking point, a point where someone says enough is enough. But then I thought that about the federal deficit back when we used a B in front of the illions instead of a TR. Who knows.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Steven, My original two seats in the Dome were right on the third base dugout, first row. There was no such thing as dynamic pricing in those days. I got lucky and met Buddy Hanken, for some years an Astro coach, and then ticket manager for the club. He hooked me up with those seats.

        I think prices will keep going up. Someone out there will pay as long as the Astros remain relevant. If I did not care about starting World War III with my family, I could sell those seats all year long at a profit and make really significant money off the post season tickets. Those 7th row seats my family sits in now were going for 4000 per seat during the WS. In the old days it was illegal scalping. These days it’s almost encouraged.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Today’s game featuring Framber on the mound….

    Tucker RF
    McCormick LF
    Meyers CF
    Abreu 1B
    Y. Diaz C
    Wagner 3B
    Machado SS
    Whitcomb 2B
    Salazar DH


  4. While running some errands this morning – I got to hear an exclusive interview with GM Dana Brown and 610 AM’s Adam Spolane.
    Spolane I thought did a good job of pushing further in certain areas. Things I took away from it…
    – Brown said Yordan is pain free right now – but also said he has not swung a bat yet
    – He said McCullers is feeling good right now – expects him back not that far after the start of the season
    – He said Brantley is going to be close – if he’s not ready for the start of the season, it will be soon after
    – He again said that he they are pursuing extensions on Bregman, Altuve, Tucker, Framber. Spolane pushed him on this – asking whether Jim Crane is willing to go to the 8-10 years it might take to extend some of these guys. He said they are looking at that, that they think they can get some of these done as a compromise. He also stated that he himself is not comfortable with 10 year deals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yainer got his first hit of the spring with a double. Korey Lee pinch hits for him and launches his first homer of the spring.


  5. A former Astro (who was definitely a cup of coffee guy) answered fans questions on mlbtraderumors
    – Funny that in pointing out top teams coming into this season he forgot his former team and the defending World Champions
    – He did say a lot of good things about Altuve when asked
    – He said good things about Luhnow too but did not answer whether he was treated fairly


  6. Some pretty good pitching today. Abreu, throwing 99? Hope that’s not premature. But it makes one wonder how a guy like him has become such an effective major leaguer when another 25 year old like Forrest Whitley has not given any inclination that he’s ever going to approach the standard so many set for him. Maybe that’s part of the problem. And I’d sure like to see Ty Buttery turn into one of the feel good stories of 2023.


    • Well, except with that pitching line-up, we SHOULD have thrown a no-hitter. [Okay, okay, I’m just role playing – don’t @ me!]


  7. Perhaps because Bregman has not hit the field yet and Altuve and Pena have seen limited action we’ve been seeing a lot of 26 year-old infielder [primarily 3B] Rylan Bannon this Spring. He actually is tied with Kyle Tucker for the largest number of plate appearances [10] on our team.

    Where did this guy come from, you ask? It turns out we claimed him off waivers from the Cubs organization back in December. The Cubs had claimed him off waivers from the Braves a month earlier. Bannon played in one game for the Braves in 2022 but had no at-bats. Before going to the Braves he played in 4 games for the Orioles. In 14 at-bats for the O’s, Bannon managed only 2 singles, did not walk, and neither scored nor drove in any runs. He also struck out 5 times, which was over 33 1/3 % of his plate appearances in that small sample. In the minors, his slash line was .253/.358/.805. He hit 22 HRS one of his five years and drove in over 7o runs in two of those years.

    Today, Rylan Bannon got his first hit in an Astro uniform. It was a solo home run. At least he has that to remember.


    • Mr. Bill, I’d just like to know who is going to be our third baseman in 2025. I hope Perez has a year that I’m not expecting. I hope Wagner moves from being a dark horse to a real contender. Bannon looks like organizational depth at best, something we seem to lack at third base. Our new GM needs to prepare for the real possibility that some club will woo Bregman away with more millions than our Astro club is prepared to pay.


      • Joe Perez has not impressed. He reminds me of Chris Johnson on his worst day. [If you know, you know].

        Since we have no real 3B candidates anywhere in the system that could step in for Bregs, if he leaves or gets injured I suspect we will have to fill that hole with an expensive free agent.


      • I am, of course, ignoring the obvious candidate for the Bregman job, Will Wagner. That is because I think the F.O. sees him as one of the last non-pitcher prospects that they can dangle as trade bait at the trade deadline. As long as Bregs stays, there is no place for Will to go.


    • I mentioned Bannon a few weeks ago as one of the few that could give Meyers some competition for a 26th spot. I don’t really see it, the Astros probably want to carry 5 guys they can pencil in the OF, especially when 2 of them are limited defensively, but you got to like a kid that put +100 between his BA and OBP. Another guy that the lost 2020 season hurt.

      I agree with Dave – I would never expect him to be our starting 3B ever, but I do think he will spend some time up in an Astros uniform this year given his flexibility to handle 2B and 3B and has enough pop in his bat to DH. He and Hensley have shared career paths – Bannon probably has a little more pop but I think Hensley is just a better bat to ball guy – and has more defensive flexibility.

      Again I think Jake makes this roster – because he can play CF, and Dubon makes it because he can play all over the place – and those are important given our inflexibility around the diamond. We have a lot of 1 trick ponys so 3 guys brought along as bench guys must have that flexibility.

      I’m torn on Yainer. I do think he is a future piece. As a catcher, I’m not sure, but if it is not – the other things he might do, 1B and DH, are spoken for in the foreseeable future. I would love for him to sit under Martin’s learning tree this year. I would love for him to work with the pitchers before and after games, and catch each of them 3 to 4 times each this year. I would love for him to do bullpen work with the entire staff. I would love for him to sit in the major league dugout and watch every pitch. I would love him to learn how each pitcher works, what pitches they have command of, which locations they can consistently hit, the things that matter.

      But I would also love for him to get 500 plate appearances, because I think he is our best hitting prospect in a while, since Tucker at least. Heck, I think you can go back to Jose to find someone with that kind of bat to ball success in the minors. Most guys never hit .300 in their careers – and he is a LIFETIME .324 hitter.

      So while yea, I don’t watch ST, I am waiting to see how these things play out.


  8. Any thoughts on JC Correa – who has played some 3B – and at A+ ball slashed .309 BA/ .364 OBP/ .810 OPS? Looks like his fielding may be lacking – just asking.


    • The problem with JC Correa is the same one that a guy mentioned above, Will Wagner, has. Correa is too old to be at single A and Wagner needs to quickly master AA this season and advance to Sugarland. Personally, I think Correa can bring value at multiple positions if his bat keeps up as he advances ranks.


  9. Yesterday the four pitchers who are likely on the roster were very solid,

    Framber – 2 innings – 1 hit 2 Ks
    Javier – 2 innings – 1 hit 3 Ks
    Neris 1 inning 1 walk 3 Ks
    Abreu – 1 inning 1 hit 0 Ks

    And the other two pitchers were darned good too

    Buttrey – 1 IP 1 K
    Murray 2 IP 1 walk 2 Ks


  10. Jose Urquidy did not follow the example Framber, Javier and crew set for him yesterday. Some days are diamonds; some days are stones.


    • Meanwhile, Bryce Elder has absolutely carved our line-up – both regulars and prospects – in little pieces. 2 IP, no hits, no walks 3 Ks (including KTuck, as well as the usual suspects Perez and Maldy). Bregman’s fly out to center to lead off the 2nd was the only ball we got out of the infield.


  11. I don’t think Will Wagner is going anywhere but back to AA/AAA ball. He’s not going to be dangled as trade bait. They’ll be trying to turn him into an .800 plus OPS bat this year. He’s already got good pitch recognition.

    Correa might be a different story. He’s catching now because the club did not seem to think there was another position for him. He might end up being a hitter though even if he’s not very good behind the plate. With plenty of catchers in the system now, maybe he gets traded if he does not work out defensively.


  12. Yeah today is a real stone Mr. Bill as the Astros are down 8-0 and counting. Both Urquidy and Stanek give up 3 runs and Bielak so far has given up 2 runs/ 1 earned.
    Pena picks up a hit as the Astros start to rally in the 6th – that is the first hit of the spring between Altuve, Pena, Bregman and Maldy.
    As I’m typing it is now 8-2


    • I wonder about Stanek. He had a stunning regular season 1.15 ERA and a fair WHIP for a relief pitcher. He also allowed 11 base runners per 9. (5.9 hits and 5.1 BB). Maybe that’s why he only got 3 innings in the post season. But he got 3.6 million to come back. If I’m Ty Buttrey, I want his job.


  13. We need to have Seth Martinez pitching more. I’d much rather see him than Bielak or any other potential 6th starter. I can’t see the game today but I saw (gameday) where Altuve and Tucker took three straight pitches for strikes. Why did they even come to the plate? OK it’s ST but if they’re close, SWING!


    • Z, Seth through a clean 8th inning today. 3 batters faced, 3 outs, 2 Ks.

      Our wanna-be loogy, Matt Gage didn’t do bad either. After walking the lead-off guy in the 9th, he induced two straight grounders, one of which became a game-ending DP.

      Urquidy’s, Bielak’s, and Stanek’s outings, on the other hand, was not so nice. Good thing our bigtime clutch hitters [Dirden, Matejevich, Wagner, and L. Molina] were there to pull their fat out of the fire.


  14. I have been out all week at the county youth livestock show. We stayed in a hotel so that I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark every day and so we could rest in-between events.
    On Wednesday one of my granddaughters won Grand Champion Lamb and last night she won the Super Showmanship Award for lambs. She is a freshman who makes all A’s in school.
    After getting home around midnight, she is on her way to the district Speech contest. She took 1st place in the county speech tournament 2 weeks ago to qualify.
    All of our 4 girls won something at their county shows in the last two weeks and what I can tell you is that being a grandparent is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The kids coming up in the organization have continually been exposed to a level of excellence that most prospects never get to experience. Always play the game. Never mail it in.


  15. Good morning! What happened to Shawn Dubin in 2022? Before yesterday, I had never seen him pitch live. He’s a guy that needs to turn things around pretty soon. There are not many bullpen slots for a long relief man. He won’t get protected on the 40 man much longer.


    • Good morning, all! Yes, Shawn Dubin fell off after creating quite a buzz in 2020 offseason. LAD got ahold of his spin rates and wanted him real bad. My take from SL last yr: he lacks physicality and command. I was more impressed with JP France.

      Dubin has to be a candidate to be removed from 40-man at some point this yr if he doesn’t debut via trade perhaps.

      [Dan, I have a counter-point response to your excellent article since this is a glorious time of year for a draft/prospect guy.. 1/2]


  16. * Baseball’s bubble will eventually burst. The rates of growth of star player’s salaries are not sustainable. It has begun with the impending dilemmas of the regional sports networks of half of the MLB teams.
    * The approval of Steve Cohen as the Mets majority owner and subsequent huge payroll to try and buy championships has forced several teams to go way over their payroll abilities to try and keep up. Reading Cohen’s history it is stunning to me that he was approved.
    *I see the next CBA fight as a possible turning point in MLB’s history
    and would be surprised if some current teams don’t disappear due to the disparity of ownership finances. When $200 per game tickets double because of the signings occurring now, fans will be priced out and will move on from the game.
    * The TV money will eventually dry up for small market teams as the big spenders dominate on the playing field and eliminate the competition.


    • This climate of change is stunning, yes! Cohen is 3X richer than the second richest owner. I look at Tucker who’d like to get $300M somewhere, rather than Astros $200M, and he’s trying to weigh what things will look like in 2025. Will the Astros trade him in 2024, knowing he will test market (a la Derek Bell)?

      Seems to me that when MLB had to pivot away from selling seats during covid, they were able to somehow survive on TV/Ad Space. Now, our team like Nascar racers are wearing OXY patches, go figure. I had wondered how the NBA would survive in yrs’ past, but it seems like those revenue streams kept them alive when attendance was low. If you asked Rob Manfred, the untouchable would say the state of the game is great.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A Tucker trade would not shock me if the Astros got to the point where it’s determined resigning him won’t happen. But I also don’t think he’d get moved without some real development out of at least other outfielder, unless we somehow end up with a club over any of the next 3 years that obviously won’t be getting into the post season.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Dan, howdy! Just adding to ST chatter!

    It is true that 23 of the 26 men on OD are probably already decided. Talking points could include, who makes camp as LHRP? If Dirden creates more of a stir with his elite plate coverage, does that make someone like Dubon expendable, given that Meyers has more upside & CF is stocked, Hensley plays solid SS? Mauricio can platoon that position somewhere (LAD). Having said that, we already signed a good deal for him, it doesn’t surprise Dubon is hitting better because Astros invested heavily recently in cutting edge hitting coaches; Rene Rojas, Elvis Rodriguez, Rafeal Pena who bring younger guys prepared each year. For example we all know about Yainer Diaz, but how about his younger brother, Victor? Coaches say he’s better. In DSL, there’s a legend brewing around a certain “El Tanke,” Sandro Gaston.
    It is true, we won’t see these guys for a few yrs, but the catcher position is bursting at the seams. Last yr farmhands Chuckie Robinson and Jose Alvarez were taken MiLB Rule 5, but not my guy Miguel Palma (21). No one is much talking about him since the conversation is, ‘how many innings will Lee or Diaz get?’ Pitchers love Salazar, and CJ Stubbs is starting to mature..
    Other random guys who lurk from the last two drafts;
    1. Drew Gilbert CF is on a Bregman path, while Colin Barber is back though. Where is Pedro Leon?
    2. Jacob Melton might be just as good, which has Tucker implications in 2024-2025 on extension talks.
    3. Hometown makes good, OF/3B Julks wasn’t taken in Rule 5, could platoon for 1/2 the league. Jayden Murray wasn’t taken in R5 either, which is a miracle ‘coz he looks super legit (good foresight by Click).
    4. The pitchers from ’21 and ’22 are plentiful (Taylor, Knorr, DeVos, etc.), we’ve already heard from Gordon and Arrighetti but there are a baker’s dozen of others. Not to speak of Tamarez, Ullola, Melendez, who all have a chance at making noise in SL. 2-3 yrs away, most impressive from DSL Orange Manager last year were – Pitchers Jose Fleury, Jose Guedez, Amilcar Chirinos.

    It’s an exciting part of year since Dana Brown is a draft guy. He’ll be immersed in the first 2 or 3 picks in July, and he’s been a master at identifying talent in ATL with Strider and Harris. Keeping eyes open in college ranks recently.

    I’m putting finishing touches on an article for Astros Future on A.J. Blubaugh, our 7th round pick in ’22 who throws from 3 arm slots, chip on his shoulder, “grew up a little guy” scrapper I tell ya. He’ll probably blow through Asheville to AA in just his 2nd yr.

    IN year’s past, Astros led the way with debuting more prospects. Since we traded 4 for Cole & Greinke, we used the same trend last yr trading Siri McDermott E.Valdez (all the talk in BOS) — many casual fans don’t much notice how Teoscar, Bryan De La Cruz, Josh Rojas or JD Davis are doing. We do still see how the trades for Pressley, Montero, Mancini and Maton/Diaz are working out.

    As for the big team, “let’s run it back!” with as much of the 2022 team we can. Underneath the hood, there’s lots of working parts to keep the engine revved up, and we all know that depth in the end is required to be the last man standing!

    Not sure this will post as a competitor to Chip, but this young man is an amazing analyst for the farm (a future lawyer), having access to all sorts of bat speeds and spin rates. Maybe a few names who will be new for folks!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, sirs. Good to see everyone doing well!

        And Good results to sleep on for Forrest Whitley.
        Pena had a triple, I think all the Latin guys and Tucker/Pressly are ramped up extra early because of the WBC. Cross fingers everyone comes back none the worse for the wear.

        I think Seth Martinez will beat out Maton (unless HOU can hide him, we’ll have to trade him.) Think I’m with Mr. Bill on the Joe Perez assessment but we’ll probably give him one more year since he’s so young. Madris hasn’t done much. There’s a lefty competition with Gage and Austin Davis, whereas Blake Taylor hasn’t appeared yet. So, I expect a few guys to get DFA’d, maybe Mushinski now that he’s had back spasms.. cuts on the horizon.


  18. Listening to the game, enjoying the results!

    Sparks and TK are currently talking about how big these guys are, the new strength coach results, and Jose Abreu. I just saw this photo posted by McTags, check out Solis (after two Tommy John’s) how big he’s gotten. He was a T10 like Whitley, whose been all but forgotten.


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