Diving into the depths: Houston Astros

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Houston Astros
Rotation
1. Roy Oswalt
2. Wandy Rodriguez
3. Brett Myers
4. Bud Norris
5. Brian Moehler
6. Felipe Paulino
7. Yorman Bazardo
8. Wesley Wright
9. Gustavo Chacin
10. Polin Trinidad
11. Chris Sampson
12. Josh Banks
Who knows just what Myers has left, but the Astros rotation sure looks nicer now than Moehler can be viewed as a fallback, if that’s the way manager Brad Mills wants to go. Given that GM Ed Wade just committed $3 million to Moehler, he’d probably like the veteran in the rotation. Paulino, though, needs to be given every chance to win the fifth spot. The Astros will have to catch some breaks in order to have any hope of contending, and a breakthrough season from Paulino would qualify as a big one.
Bullpen
1. Brandon Lyon
2. Matt Lindstrom
3. Alberto Arias
4. Tim Byrdak
5. Jeff Fulchino
6. Sammy Gervacio
7. Wesley Wright
8. Chris Sampson
9. Brian Moehler
10. Felipe Paulino
11. Roy Corcoran
12. Gary Majewski
The top five should be locks for spots. Gervacio might well prove to be better than any of them, but since he has options left, it’s possible he could be pushed back to Triple-A for the start of the year. It’d become a more likely scenario if Paulino wins a rotation spot, putting Moehler in the bullpen. That’s leave just one opening for Gervacio, Wright and Sampson. Sampson was a forgotten man in the second half of last year, but the Astros kept him in their plans when they decided against non-tendering him in December.


Catcher
1. J.R. Towles
2. Humberto Quintero
3. Jason Castro
4. Brian Esposito
First base
1. Lance Berkman
2. Geoff Blum
3. Chris Shelton
Second base
1. Kaz Matsui
2. Jeff Keppinger
3. Edwin Maysonet
Third base
1. Pedro Feliz
2. Geoff Blum
3. Jeff Keppinger
4. Chris Johnson
Shortstop
1. Tommy Manzella
2. Edwin Maysonet
3. Geoff Blum
4. Wladimir Sutil
Plenty of weak links here. The Astros aren’t likely to suddenly start trusting Towles, and Quintero isn’t even a good backup. Since Castro would benefit from another year in the minors, the team could use Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba. They’re out of budget room now, but maybe they’ll be able to steal one of the two for $1 million.
The rest of the infield is set. At the end of last season, it sounded like Maysonet would have a utility job. However, since the Astros retained both Blum and Keppinger and brought in Feliz, there’s not going to be any room for him unless someone gets hurt. Manzella will be the shortstop and should do a decent Adam Everett impersonation.
Left field
1. Carlos Lee
2. Jason Michaels
3. Brian Bogusevic
4. Alex Romero
5. Yordany Ramirez
Center field
1. Michael Bourn
2. Jason Bourgeois
3. Jason Michaels
4. Brian Bogusevic
5. Yordany Ramirez
Right field
1. Hunter Pence
2. Jason Michaels
3. Alex Romero
4. Yordany Ramirez
5. Brian Bogusevic
Between Michaels, Blum, Keppinger and the backup catcher, four of the five bench spots are set. Bourgeois is still the in-house favorite for the one opening, even though he’s currently on waivers after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Ideally, the Astros would find a better backup center fielder. Michaels lacks range, and neither Bogusevic nor Ramirez figures to prove a capable replacement in the event that Bourn gets hurt.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉