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.

Rotation
1. Wandy Rodriguez
2. Brett Myers
3. J.A. Happ
4. Bud Norris
5. Ryan Rowland-Smith
6. Nelson Figueroa
7. Wesley Wright
8. Jordan Lyles
9. Aneury Rodriguez
10. Cesar Carrillo

The scary thing is that this probably qualifies as the strength of the team. Myers will be hard-pressed to match his 2010 season, but a full season from Happ should help the group and Norris could take a bit of a step forward, though I still believe his future lies in the pen and the closer’s role. … I expect that the team will add a veteran to battle Rowland-Smith and Figueroa for the fifth spot in the rotation. Jeremy Bonderman, Rodrigo Lopez and Dave Bush are a few of the pitchers likely to be forced to accept minor league deals.

Bullpen
1. Brandon Lyon
2. Mark Melancon
3. Wilton Lopez
4. Nelson Figueroa
5. Fernando Abad
6. Jeff Fulchino
7. Alberto Arias
8. Aneury Rodriguez
9. Wesley Wright
10. Gustavo Chacin
11. Sergio Escalona
12. Sammy Gervacio
13. Casey Fein
14. Enerio Del Rosario
15. Henry Villar
16. Lance Pendleton
17. Chia-Jen Lo

Beyond Lyon, it’s a pen full of relative unknowns. However, Melancon and Lopez impressed after getting opportunities last season, and Arias could function as another solid setup man if he returns from shoulder surgery as hoped. Giving away Matt Lindstrom was a mistake, but the Astros should be OK here.

Catcher
1. Jason Castro
2. Humberto Quintero
3. J.R. Towles
4. Carlos Corporan

First base
1. Brett Wallace
2. Carlos Lee
3. Brian Dopirak
4. Koby Clemens

Second base
1. Bill Hall
2. Jeff Keppinger
3. Matt Downs
4. Angel Sanchez
5. Anderson Hernandez

Third base
1. Chris Johnson
2. Jeff Keppinger
3. Matt Downs
4. Oswaldo Navarro

Shortstop
1. Clint Barmes
2. Tommy Manzella
3. Angel Sanchez
4. Oswaldo Navarro
5. Anderson Hernandez

The infield is going to make a whole lot of outs, especially if Barmes bats second as anticipated. I don’t see Johnson as a long-term regular, and Wallace has an awful lot to prove as well. The Astros do have the option of playing Carlos Lee at first, but given that they haven’t upgraded their outfield at all, Wallace figures to get every opportunity to win the job. … I’m listing Keppinger as the primary backup at two spots, but he’s expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the season after toe surgery last month. The Astros could again seek to trade him once he’s healthy.

Left field
1. Carlos Lee
2. Jason Michaels
3. Jason Bourgeois
4. Brian Bogusevic
5. J.D. Martinez
6. David Cook

Center field
1. Michael Bourn
2. Jason Bourgeois
3. Jason Michaels
4. Brian Bogusevic

Right field
1. Hunter Pence
2. Jason Michaels
3. Brian Bogusevic
4. J.D. Martinez

I could have copied this depth chart from a year ago. Unfortunately, Bogusevic was a disappointment again last season and it no longer seems likely that he’ll turn into even a legitimate fourth outfielder. Martinez could be one candidate to step in if Wallace struggles and the Astros decide to move Lee to first base during the season.

Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay lead newcomers on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has released its ballot for 2019.

The newcomers to the ballot, two of whom I presume will be first-ballot inductees, include Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay:

  • Roy Halladay
  • Todd Helton
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Rick Ankiel
  • Jason Bay
  • Lance Berkman
  • Freddy Garcia
  • Jon Garland
  • Travis Hafner
  • Ted Lilly
  • Derek Lowe
  • Darren Oliver
  • Roy Oswalt
  • Juan Pierre
  • Placido Polanco
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Vernon Wells
  • Kevin Youkilis
  • Michael Young

Given his PED associations — and the writers’ curious soft touch about them when it comes to him vs. other players who got caught up in that stuff — Pettite will be an interesting case which we will, without question, be talking about more between now and the end of January. There will be more than mere novelty votes thrown at Helton, Berkman, Tejada, Youkilis and Young, but I don’t suspect they’ll make it or even come particularly close. Everyone else will either be one-and-done or receive negligible or even non-existent support.

The holdovers from last year’s ballot, with vote percentage from 2018:

Edgar Martinez (70.4%)
Mike Mussina (63.5%)
Roger Clemens (57.3%)
Barry Bonds (56.4%)
Curt Schilling (51.2%)
Omar Vizquel (37.0%)
Larry Walker (34.1%)
Fred McGriff (23.2%)
Manny Ramirez (22.0%)
Jeff Kent (14.5%)
Gary Sheffield (11.1%)
Billy Wagner (11.1%)
Scott Rolen (10.2%)
Sammy Sosa (7.8%)
Andruw Jones (7.3%)

This is Edgar Martinez’s last year on the ballot. He’s so close to the 75% threshold that one hopes — and suspects — that he’ll get over the line in 2019, especially given that four guys were cleared off the ballot last year. It should be a move-ahead year for Mike Mussina too, who has suffered from criminally low support given his numbers and the era in which they came. That Jack Morris is now in should further strengthen his case given that he was a far, far better pitcher than Morris.

The rest of the candidates all either have long-discussed PED-associations that should prevent them from getting the required support, were too far out in vote totals last year to expect them to spring to 75% support in a single ballot or are Curt Schilling, who basically everyone hates.

Results of the voting will be revealed on January 22nd and, of course, we’ll be talking at length about this year’s ballot over the next two months. At the outset, though, I’ll go with a gut prediction: Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina will be inducted.

Your predictions start now.