Next men up: Astros position players 2023

Today’s assignment is pretty simple. Who is the next man up if the likely starter at each offensive position is out briefly? What about if he is out for an extended period?

With the Spring Training problems afflicting both Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley, these theories may get tested early, but we hope those would be short-term replacements – if at all. So, let’s take a dive…..

Catcher – The “skinny” version of Martin Maldonado is the main man behind the plate after starting 70% of the Astros’ games in 2022. His defense and handling of the pitching staff were great. His bat….let’s switch to another subject.

  • Short-Term Replacement – If it is only for a few days, it will likely be the catcher, either Yanier Diaz or Korey Lee, who wins the backup spot on the roster. Both of these young men have been performing well this spring.
  • Long-Term Replacement – For a longer term as starting catcher, the guess is they would lean towards Lee, who may be a more complete catcher at this point in his career. There is a good chance that Lee may end up starting the season in the minors so he gets more starts, even if they think that he is the long-term bet as a major league starter.  

First Base – Jose Abreu has been a bit of an ironman with the White Sox. He played in just under 97% of his team’s games in the last 4 seasons. But let’s say he comes up with a little owie along the way…..

  • Short-Term Replacement – The best guess of those likely on the roster would be that long drink of water, David Hensley, who has played some (but not a lot) of first base in the minors. We had heard Michael Brantley was taking some grounders there, but he hasn’t played at his regular spot in a game yet much yet at a new spot.
  • Long-Term Replacement – What makes the most sense here would be J.J. Matijevic, who played first base 51 times last season between Sugar Land and the big club.

Second Base – Jose Altuve is the face of the franchise and arguably coming off his best season since his 2017 MVP win over that short guy from New York. Jose missing time would be hurtful and tough to fill behind.

  • Short-Term Replacement – Hensley (more than a foot taller than the legend) played 28 games last season at 2nd base between the minors and the majors. Mauricio Dubon played there in 16 games after his trade from the Giants.
  • Long-Term Replacement – This is tough. Do you weaken the bench by making Dubon or Hensley the long-term second baseman or do you try to fill in from the minors or even trade for help? From the 40-man roster, Rylan Bannon, who has been waived 4 times since last August has the most minor league second base experience. Past him….other than moving Jeremy Pena over (and creating the worst hole), who do you think? Pedro Leon played some second base last year, but he himself is hurt.

Shortstop –  Jeremy Pena, of course, is the Astros’ shortstop after a very strong rookie season, punctuated by his twin MVPs in the ALCS and the World Series. He gave the Astros the most they could hope for after the loss of Carlos Correa.

  • Short-Term Replacement – This is very much like the second base situation. Short term it has to be Hensley or Dubon.
  • Long-Term Replacement – Do you move Alex Bregman over hoping that third base is an easier place to sub? Do you again weaken the bench moving Dubon or Hensley long term? Alex DeGoti played the most games at SS for the Space Cowboys in 2022, but like Yuli Gurriel he is over with the Marlins on a minor league deal. Long term, you might have to make a deal at least for a good bench guy.

Third Base – Alex Bregman is among the best third basemen in baseball and the best in Astros’ history. Like the last two guys, you don’t want to have to replace him.

  • Short-Term Replacement – Hensley has a decent amount of experience at 3rd base, Dubon just a little – so this would likely be Hensley.
  • Long-Term Replacement – This needs to be David Hensley, or if they don’t want to lose his flexibility off the bench, they might call on Corey Julks, who played 49 games there for Sugar Land in 2022 to fill the need.

Left Field – This may be tested on day one as the “plan” would be to have left field shared between Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley and it is not a sure thing that either will be ready to start the season.

  • Short-Term Replacement – Based on previous experience, there is a good chance this would be Chas McCormick – filling in for both Brantley and Alvarez or if only one is out – that one. Dubon might fill in here also, or perhaps Justin Dirden. If Jake Meyers could play center, you would think he could play left field, but that has not happened much.
  • Long-Term Replacement – Based on McCormick’s 51 games in left field in 2021 and 64 in 2022, he would have to be the first choice for a left-field replacement, with Jake Meyers, Mauricio Dubon, and possibly Justin Dirden filling in behind him.

Center Field – Chas McCormick, based on his solid fielding and much better bat than his competitors, should be the starting CF. Whether Dusty sees it that way is another thing entirely. But let’s assume that he is.

  • Short-Term Replacement – If Chas is the main man, Jake Meyers will replace him.  Dubon and Dirden can both play here too, but for the short term, this is Meyers.
  • Long-Term Replacement – If there is a long-term situation here, the best guess is that Meyers would start off as the replacement. If he continues to struggle hitting as he did coming off his injury in 2022, this could be Dirden, who looks like he may have a better hitting tool kit than Meyers. Perhaps (if he heals himself) Pedro Leon could be tearing things up at AAA and get a call-up.

Right Field – This is Kyle Tucker. Period.

  • Short-Term Replacement – Meyers and his noodle arm has to be eliminated here. So, this is either McCormick sliding over or Dirden filling in.
  • Long-Term Replacement – This might be a hard decision. Do they move Chas over for months at a time or do they hand this off to Justin Dirden? Again, Leon or Julks might play their way into a call-up.

Designated Hitter – Similar to Left Field, DH should be dominated by Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez, though veterans like Jose Abreu and Jose Altuve should be getting some days semi-off at the position.

  • Short-Term Replacement – Filling in for a short-term situation should be as simple as rotating a few folks from the lineup through there for a few days or a week. Anybody Dusty wants to give a day off along the way.
  • Long-Term Replacement – If you are just filling in for one of Brantley or Alvarez long-term, you would expect it to be handled like last year, where Alvarez played much more DH with Brantley out. If both are out long-term, this becomes a lot more problematic, but it is more likely that Dusty would still rotate folks through the spot than bring up someone from the minors to DH full-time.

Injuries are two things – inevitable and hard to swallow. But the team must be ready with Plans B through X. In doing this exercise, the depth in the infield, especially, is a bit alarming. Hopefully, it is only lightly tested, and the Next Men Up will come through with colors flying.

What are your thoughts about the Next Men Up depicted here?



41 comments on “Next men up: Astros position players 2023

  1. At catcher, the two new guys short term. Long term, they might go out and bring in someone with a veteran presence. I’d rather stay in house though, at least initially and see how things go.

    First base. Hensley or maybe Diaz short term. Longer, J.J. against righties, Hensley or Diaz against lefties.

    Second, short term, Hensley and Dubon. Longer, maybe the same two guys, with Bannon brought up as the entry level utility guy.

    At short, short or long term, right now it looks like Frenchy. I think Bregman is done playing that position.

    Third. Hensley short or long. This is our biggest weakness if Bregman goes down. Julks is flat out bad there.


  2. If you ask Sara Goodrum about next man up, you won’t get any answers. This article is about as informative as a paper cut.
    “Yes, Brian, paper cuts don’t feel very good. We’ll just have to see how this paper cut works out.”
    My mother liked an old cowboy actor named Dale Robertson. She called him “mushmouth” because he sounded like he had a mouthful of oatmeal when he talked. She thought he ought to just stand there and look good and let the others do the talkin’.
    Goodrum pretty much gave the same kind of answers they teach during General Manager 101. Mush!
    We’re really looking forward to more good things from Sara in the future and are really excited about her further interviews as she and her interview coaches grow into their jobs and learn to deliver as other noteworthy PR people manage to not do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. March Madness never lets us down! #2 Arizona totally lost their composure against #15 Princeton.

    Dan, you could not be more correct. This exercise is scary as it applies to our lack of infield depth. We simply have to stay healthy.


  4. Left field. Is Jake really a better centerfielder than Chas, or is it simply a matter of Chas being capable at all 3 outfield positions? Short term, if it’s just Brantley, then Dirden stays off the 40 man. If it’s Alvarez too, he goes on the 40 man and comes to town. Same thing for Tucker in right. If he goes down long term, I think Dirden would be brought up, assuming he’s playing good ball in AAA.

    I have no clue about center. But my guess is that Dusty will not call Chas the starter and will use both Dubon and Jake as he did last year, again to Chas’ detriment.

    I think long term DH problems would give Diaz more work there than anyone else.

    Isn’t March Madness great? Gosh, little Princeton had Arizona fully losing their composure late!


  5. It’s cool Daveb/uncle knuckle – March Madness is everywhere – watching UT where two of my sons and a lot of my money went and later UH where I went when the most tuition I ever paid was $200 for 18 hours my last semester.
    Virginia – also crashed against 13 seed Furman
    That and the Princeton upset – wow

    Yeah OP – they were talking over at the crawfishboxes about Sara’s pablum musings – pretty annoying but expected

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh and speaking of Next Man Up – Ronel Blanco threw 3.1 innings of shutout ball with 5 Ks – he is making a big push for being on speed dial if the big team needs help. Very good spring so far


    • One thing they didn’t mention about Miguel Ullola – he is averaging 7.1 walks per 9 IP so far in his career. Maybe needs eye glasses like Ricky Vaughn.


  7. I know I seem to be banging the drum (not the trash can) for Chas on a regular basis. I’m sure some have noticed that he’s been on base. Again, tiny sample, but the OBP is .520, with 6 walks and 5 K’s. I hope he has been working on his biggest weakness. If he can get on base in the 8th or 9th slot, Altuve and Brantley will be his friends.


    • I am just speculating – but the idea that Dubon and Meyers (if he makes the roster) are going to get at bats makes sense. And when you look at the roster and say at whose expense – it’s going to be Chas more than anyone else. Even an improved Chas is still the second worst hitter among the starters – so it’s the easiest to trim from 600 PA’s to 450 PAs and give those to Dubon and whomever is the 26th guy (rooting for Durdin, but guessing Meyers).


  8. We don’t always like the replacement at bats – I particularly felt that Chas was picked on more than others – but you do want to make sure your bench is engaged enough to be of value when you need them and that is a balancing act.


  9. It should be remembered that Chas produces more offense than league average. For an 8 or 9 hitter, he’s probably one of the best in the game. It just so happens that he’s playing with a whole bunch of good bats. But of course, Meyers and Dubon have to get in games. However, Chas should be getting 20 plus starts a month, mostly in center, or at least until Meyers shows he’s better. And Meyers should be playing some left too. That’s where the weakest arm goes. Dubon should get most of his work in the infield. Let him go to center late in blowouts.


  10. Second Base – Long Term Replacement: Do you weaken the bench by making Dubon or Hensley the long-term second baseman?

    No, I think if Dubon is the long term replacement, the bench would be stronger without him.


    • You don’t carry a backup, second baseman on the team unless that player brings a ton of offensive value as a pinch hitter / runner. Depending on where we are in the standings and how much season is left I could see what Goodrum mentioned in the article linked happening – you promote Leon to be a backup CF/2B and let Hensley/Dubon play a fair amount at 2B as well. Over 500 AB that sounds like it would cost us a lot of games, but if we’re talking about 100-150 they might be able to cover adequately.


  11. Nice to see some of our WBC guys return to the team. Both Pena [2 run homer] and CJ Stubbs [single, Sac Fly] have already contributed today.

    To me the only March Madness is going crazy waiting for the 2023 regular season to start.


  12. OK, next man up.
    Machete is the guy behind the plate and Lee is his backup. Since we are ten days or so out from opening day, and Brantley nor Alvarez have appeared, Diaz would probably have a roster spot as a third catcher and main DH. If Machete is out, Lee and Diaz are already there.
    Hensley is 1B next man up.
    Dubon and Hensley are 2B, SS, 3B next men.
    Madris might be next up in case of injury to another outfielder, only because of his roster status. Dirden after him.
    Enoli was sent down yesterday.


  13. Here’s a stab at OD roster, and backups:

    Valdez, Javier, Garcia, Urquidy, Brown (5)
    Pressly, Abreu, Neris, Montero, Maton, Blanco, Gage, Martinez (8)
    Maldonado, Lee (2)
    Tucker, McCormick, Meyers, Brantley (4)
    Abreu, Altuve, Pena, Bregman (4)
    Dubon, Hensley, Madris (3)

    *(LMJ, Alvarez placed on 15-day)
    1st OF chance to earn 40-man, Julks, then Dirden after June.
    Gage, Martinez have options when McCullers returns late April.
    Toss up on 1st up SP w/options, Bielak, Whitley then France.
    Other options expended; Matijevic, Y Diaz, Perez, Bannon, Mushinski.

    I would DFA Parker Mushinski, Joe Perez, Shawn Dubin & pursue upgrades. Supposing the last few spots will come down to the latest injury reports on guys like Brantley, Yordan and taxi squad type relievers Seth Martinez and Brandon Bielak.

    The pitchers not named who have a shot at debut this year are; Bryan Garcia, Miseal Tamarez, Enoli Paredes, Austin Davis and Spencer Arrighetti. Gordon, Ullola and Rupenthal are darkhorses.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gee, thanks a lot for writing this article, Daaan.
    I did not have “Altuve will not lead off on Opening Day” on my bingo card, no.

    Let’s say that’s a broken bone, probably out 4-6 weeks, end of April. Hensley Dubon take the helm. In that event, you start looking at lineup dynamic a little differently. Just today the gent at Tal’s Hill brought up the idea of trading Dubon to the Mets along with Stanek. The return he had in mind was deflating, and he floated Leon’s name as well. I’ve looked at their farm and other than Brett Baty, no thanks. Now, there’s no way we’re trading Dubon.

    My money is on Altuve back before April 10 though. You can’t stop that l’il guy!


      • This was a well written article too. Just goes to show, a team always has to be ready.

        I’ve been noticing David Hensley since 2019 Fayettville team that had Seth Beer on it. Knowing Altuve should be ok, I’m anxious to see more PT for the other two for now.

        We do play the Rockies on July 4th though so put that on your calander for the pitcher Bard’s doing!


  15. Venezuelan team officials say Altuve has a broken right thumb.

    If that’s the case, we’re going to see some next man up action.

    And we’ll see a different 26 man roster to open the season, especially if Yordan and Brantley are delayed too.

    Better early than late.


  16. Prayers for Jose. This is why I cringe every time the WBC comes around. It’s games are like killing fields. There is far too much ‘national pride’ hype (for fans, players, and umpires alike), far too much emotion, far too little civility, sportsmanship, and common decency, and way too many hit-batsmen/assassinations as a result.


    • My disdain of the WBC is justified as Edwin Diaz and Jose Altuve, two prized, expensive and important major league players go down and present huge problems for their teams that they didn’t deserve.
      A guy like Altuve, whose body of work will be scrutinized by many when he retires could be greatly affected by this ridiculous and unexplainable injury.
      He already had a year of his career wiped out by the cheating fiasco, which he didn’t participate in, and the pandemic and then the strike and now this happens.
      All of it is so unnecessary.


    • They’ve been working on getting Yainer Diaz launch angle to flight. Rated as the top hit tool in the system, I’ve seen what Rafael Pena (new hitting coordinator extraordinaire) has done for huge upside, under-performers like Zach Daniels in the minors. Shortening their swing to contact, as in Jeremy Pena’s case. Diaz is a guy with plenty of power who is going to make the Maton for Straw trade, the unforeseen headliner! In the Madris or Yainer question, since both have options, I’m going with the 3rd catcher/DH/1B/OF option. It will be a close call, but one other reason to be aggressive is the influx of catchers in AAA (Salazar Stubbs Berryhill and soon to be Palma), and the lack of multiple pitchers Diaz needs to get to know. They can retard his catching progress if the bat plays like it should, is my thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Jose’s horrible and unnecessary injury put the spotlight on three players who could theoretically be called on to fill in for him at second for the first 8-10 weeks of the season. Those guys were Hensley, Bannon, and Dubon. Next-man-up, anyone?

    The result today:
    Hensley, 0-2, 2 Ks, 1 BB;
    Bannon, 0-3, 3 Ks
    Dubon, 0-0 (officially), 2 BB

    While it is only one game, and an ST game at that, none of the potential suitors took the silver-tray opportunity they were afforded to claim the title as ‘next-man-up’.

    And what’s up with Christian Javier’s dramatic decrease in velocity?


  18. The Altuve situation is the very epicenter of the “next man up” discussion. How would this old GM wannabe handle it? You have to do what you have to do!
    Lineup, based on what McTaggart is reporting on the Astros website:
    1. Bregman 3B- Yes, I know what he dislikes, but he has to help make up for the team’s loss of their leadoff man and, at his best, he provides that OBP and 20 HR production. AND, few strikeouts.
    2. Pena SS- Because, Baker! It’s where Jeremy was great in the playoffs.
    3. Alvarez DH- Astros say he’ll be ready.
    4. Abreu 1B- Protection for Yordan and production from your cleanup spot
    5. Tucker RF-Maybe the best #5 hitter in baseball.
    6. Hensley 2B- Keep the lineup going with an average fielder at 2B who has shown a good eye and some pop at the plate.
    7. Dirden LF- He can field, run, throw and hit and keeps Baker’s Righty/Lefty lineup where he likes it. He is a big power threat in the 7 spot. Besides, Brantley will return sometime in April.
    8. Chas CF- No need to change anything here.
    9. Maldy C- He’s our 2023 starting catcher, who is healed from his injuries.
    This lineup opens up a spot for Diaz on the bench to PH and play several positions as a backup. Can play DH when Alvarez needs rest.


    • Hensley, a 26th round draftee out of San Diego State in 2018, is one of the rare players who actually got significantly better stats each year and each level that he played in the minors. He ended up with a great OBP at Corpus in 2021 [.369] and a phenomenal OBP at Sugarland last year [.420].

      May the trend of increasing stunningly increasing production continue!


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