I believe the Astros need to answer a lot of questions for their future. We hear a lot about pitching but whether you believe it or not there are 8 other positions on the field. The Astros need to get serious in their draft about power this year. They also need to identify who is a contender and who is a pretender for the future of this franchise. Here are a few questions I think need to be answered.
1) How much more does Roy have in the tank? Is there a rotation in the making? Is Wandy legit; or did he pitch for a contract? Can Bud Norris move into the #2 role; could he be an ace? Most of these questions will be answered in 2010. Now for the future. Is Seaton, Lyles, Bazardo, etc. going to ready to step in and contribute to a quality starting rotation? The time to find this out may come as early July or August of this year. If the Astros are out of the race by the All Star break it’s time for some OJT for the kiddos. To leave these guys in the minors with the Astros out of it would be counterproductive in my opinion. You have to see how they react under fire in meaningful (semi-meaningful) games at the ML level.
2) Where do the Astros get their power from when Lee and Berkman are gone? Where will the power numbers for this team come from? As we sit today the Astros are experiencing a power outage. That is not to say a player could not be drafted in 2010 and 2011 that could come up with good power but I think we are going to have to wait to develop a heavy home run hitting/RBI producing player. As the team sits today; Berkman, Lee and Feliz are your most likely candidates to produce significant power numbers. Hunter Pence has some power but is more of a doubles guy in the mold of Biggio. The future power that is in the organization now is in the hands of (age-level-position) Gaston (23-A-LF), Pellegrini (25-A-1B), DeLome (24-AA-LF), Clemens (23-A-C) and Locke (26-AA-OF). Do you notice the "advanced" age of these players? This is a symptom of an organization with a bad minor league system and the overall poor health of the franchise. Obviously you don’t have to have a bunch of guys banging the ball off the wall all day but a few in the lineup help. Around the horn today; Manzella looks like the only guy who we will have as an everyday player come 2012 and forward. If he can give the Astros .250 with what is expected from his glove he’ll be fine, the rest of the infield……Ed Wade has some serious work to do. The Astros would be wise to start asking about Jorge Cantu’ from the Florida Marlins or possibly Billy Butler before they become a Yankee or Red Sox in free agency. If he’s willing to try to make the change to 1B, Brian Bogusevic could be an option. So far Brian has done whatever the organization has asked him to do and last year as an outfielder he hit the most HR’s of his short career (15).
3) What do the Astros do if Castro is closer to a Towles than the impact catcher that they think he could be? In football; you drop back 14 yards and punt. In baseball you move on to the next guy. Who’s the next guy? The next guy could be Koby Clemens…but I doubt it. I believe the Astros will turn their attention to Maxwell Sapp (A-Lex). He’s only 21 right now and may become the Astros "next guy" if Castro can’t get past Towles and Quintero.
4) If you go off current numbers; what does the Astros 2013 opening day lineup look like? Is there really hope without grabbing a top free agent? I’ll answer the last first. No. The Astros are not in good enough shape right now to believe that they could field a championship team by 2012. It wouldn’t take much but I believe they will (once Lee is off the books) need to go get a big banger to settle into the middle of this line up. If no move is made; this is how I see it in 2013:
1) Michael Bourn – CF
2) Chris Johnson – 3B
3) Jonathon Gaston – LF
4) Hunter Pence – RF
5) Brian Pellegrini – 1B
6) Jason Castro – C
7) Tommy Manzella – SS
8) Edwin Maysonet – 2B
1) Bud Norris
3) Jordan Lyles
4) Ross Seaton
The future for the Astros isn’t bleak. With solid drafts and a few free agent pickups here and there they could be back among the contenders in a couple of years if not sooner. This is not time to panic; it’s fun (yes a bit frustrating also) to watch these kids develop. But let’s not forget about 1991; the early years of Biggio, Bagwell, Schilling, Caminiti, Finley and Gonzalez when we had these good young players coming up and traded them off before they reached their potential. Remember in 1971 (for the older fans) when the Astros helped create the "Big Red Machine" for Cincinnati by sending them Cesar Geronimo and Joe Morgan. Let’s not let that happen again.