Astros Spring Training Recap

What happened in the last week of Astros baseball? That’s a tough question. They still haven’t played for an entire week in March, the most meaningless month in baseball’s calendar.

How can we know anything? Instead of turning this into yet another screed against the meaning of spring training stats (or small sample sizes in general), let me instead look at the roster.

That’s what fans worry about most in the spring, right? Who’s going to make the team? Are there any hidden gems who will bully their way to Opening Day? Is A.J. Reed inherently superior to Evan Gattis or should we all just fight to the death on Twitter over it?

I was going to look back at the 2015 club to show everyone how solid this roster is and how little it’s changed. Except…it’s change a lot!

Guys on the 2015 roster included Fauxsto Caroma, Sam Deduno, Joe Thatcher, Bob Grossman and Trogdor. I’m still not super over losing those last two.

Even the 2016 roster only had about 50 percent carryover to this year. Because of DL stints, Evan Gattis and Lance McCullers weren’t on it; they were replaced by Matt Duffy and Doug Fister I guess?

But, the nut of this article is what we learned in the last week. So let’s get to that. There are some things Houston will need to figure out and we got a look at a few of them in the first week of games.

The Anthony Gose experiment

It…did not go well. Gose got tagged with the loss on Saturday, walking all three batters he faced. His stuff sounds wicked, with a hot heater and a cold, cold change to go with a devastating breaking pitch.

Except he doesn’t quite know how to, uh, pitch.

Gose was a Rule 5 pick from the Rangers. It’s going to be a long spring for him, but these first results seem to suggest he may be heading back to Arlington by April. I’m not sure how Houston can carry him in this bullpen for enough time to keep him this year.

Who’s on first?

Yuli Gurriel’s unfortunate injury to his hamate bone opens up a roster spot in the early going at first base. Spring training stats don’t matter, but we can see who’s getting the most at-bats in the early going. Maybe that will tell us who’s in the lead for La Pina’s roster spot.

The winner? It’s A.J. Reed, who’s second on the team with 18 at-bats. Fellow corner infielder J.D. Davis has had a nice start to the spring and is just three ABs behind with 15. Of course, Tony Kemp leads the team in ABs right now with 20, Jack Mayfield has 15 and both Tim Federowicz and Alejandro Garcia have 11.

What I’m saying is that it’s early.

Kyle “Ted” Tucker

You know who else has gotten a ton of playing time early? Kyle Tucker, who the rest of the team calls Ted for some reason.

Tucker is tied with Reed with 18 ABs, but has been slightly more productive than the first baseman, blasting three home runs in his six hits and amassing eight RBIs. Why is that important? Well, Houston isn’t just giving him playing time for no reason. Let’s look back at another example of a highly touted prospect with a clear route to the roster.

In 2015, Carlos Correa was coming off a 62-game stint in High A Lancaster that was ended with a freak injury. He played in 20 games that spring and had 43 ABs. He was called up June and hasn’t looked back.

Tucker played 72 games in Corpus Christi last year and is almost halfway to Correa’s AB total. He’s getting a look.

While Tucker most probably won’t break camp with the team, it does look like he’s primed for a midseason call to the majors. On this team, that might not happen until September, but if there are any injuries or slumps, KTuck could see Houston earlier than expected.

Brian McCann still hasn’t played catcher (much)

Oh right. The spring doesn’t mean that much. Houston’s starting catcher has played in five games, but only caught in one. That probably won’t continue in the regular season.

Who has been catching in his stead?

Well, the aforementioned Federowicz has gotten some run. So have Evan Gattis, Garrett Stubbs, Max Stassi and Jamie Ritchie.

Spring training is a grind, man, especially for catchers. Houston will keep all these guys there and playing just to give each other a break for as long as they can. Eventually, things will shake out and we’ll see if the Astros keep McCann, Gattis and Stassi for the Opening Day roster, as expected.

Until then, it’s nice to dream about Stubbs in the majors, isn’t it?