Spring has sprung, and we all know what that means — BASEBALL, FOR PETE’S SAKE!
We are now a few weeks into the Astros’ Spring Training schedule, and with confidence, we can say we have learned a few things.
First, and sadly-est, we can assert that Carlos Correa sucks. The one-time top prospect is a shell of his former upside, with a paltry line of .222/.250/.222 with nine strikeouts in twenty eight plate appearances. Even at a defensive-first position such as short stop, I’m afraid that just won’t cut it.
Next, though, a pleasant surprise in that a couple of post-hype prospects with initial names have established themselves as near-future All Stars, and perhaps even co-MVP candidates. A.J. Reed finds himself with a pretty .324/.410/.588 line, while J.D. Davis is hitting a Hall of Fame-worthy .367/.424/.667.
Clearly, the Astros’ development system is working. And it couldn’t be more timely, with Yuli Gurriel starting the season on the Disabled List and incumbent third baseman Alex Bregman also scuffling a bit.
Clearly, we can depend on Spring Training statistics to provide unerring looks into the future, and so it is time to set the 2018 Houston Astros starting roster.
We begin with the top of the lineup. Blissfully, Jose Altuve is making good on his AL MVP-winning season last year, rather than choosing to disappoint the fans like Correa. He will take his .364/.375/.636 line to the lead-off spot, since he is one of the team leaders in stolen bases this Spring, with one.
The next batter needs to be an on-base machine, but somebody who can still knock in Altuve on a first-to-home double. For this spot, we will slot in Tyler White, who despite a weaksauce .217 batting average, is leading the club in walks with seven, giving him a .412 on base percentage and an .890 OPS. He will be the designated hitter.
Service time be darned, the Astros’ 2018 three-hole hitter will be prospecty wunderkind Kyle Tucker, playing Right Field. Tucker is already one of the best batters in the major leagues, with a line of .387/.412/.871 and four home runs. He is second in the major leagues in RBI, with fourteen.
Batting cleanup, a surprise newcomer for Left Field, Jon Kemmer. The 27 year old rookie is absolutely raking, hitting .333/.478/.667 with two home runs despite having half of the number of plate appearances as club leader Tony Kemp, who will be outright released after hitting .167/.184/.194.
Fifth and Sixth will be Davis at third base and center fielder George Springer, who should have no trouble sustaining his batting line of .375/.423/.667 throughout one hundred and sixty two games.
First base and hitting seventh is Reed, who will finally get his major league shot. Following him will be the everyday shortstop, Marwin Gonzalez, the proud owner of a .346/.393/.538 batting line.
The Astros’ weakest offensive position will hit ninth. Catcher Evan Gattis, hitting only .280/.419/.320 will anchor the bottom of the order, though hints from the manager’s office suggest that he and Marwin could switch lineup spots to keep a speedier guy in front of Altuve as the lineup turns around.
2B Jose Altuve
DH Tyler White
RF Kyle Tucker
LF Jon Kemmer
3B J.D. Davis
CF George Springer
1B A.J. Reed
SS Marwin Gonzalez
C Evan Gattis
In the rotation there’s not quite as much turnover from last year’s unsuccessful crew. Relative newcomers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have been on fire this Spring, and so anchor the starting squad. The third and fourth rotation spots go to deserving candidates Francis Martes and Brad Peacock, with Charlie Morton rounding out the starting five.
In the bullpen, the Astros will name David Paulino as their closer. The big right-hander has pitched the most innings this spring and sports a 0.00 ERA. His primary setup man will be Trent Thornton, who has been as effective, but with a few less strikeouts.
Clearly, based on performance so far this year, the roster above is the Astros’ best chance at finally winning a World Series.