Another week, another edition of TCB's (soon to be sponsored) Players of the Week. With four days to go before the Astros break camp in Florida, here are their standouts.
Hitter of the Week: Chris Shelton, 1B - What a way to make a roster push. In six games this week, Shelton had a slash line of .538/.588/1.125 with 10.7 runs created. In fact, Shelton only went hitless in one game and that was on Sunday when he only got one at-bat as a pinch hitter. In the other five games, Shelton hit six doubles and one home run. The career .279/.345/.475 hitter in 299 career games must prove he's in his early Detroit form instead of the player from Texas and Seattle the past two seasons. I still think Shelton is best used as an injury replacement for three or four weeks, but counting on him for much outside of that may be pushing his usefulness.
Pitcher of the Week: Felipe Paulino, RHP - Wandy was the only other Astros pitcher with two starts this week and Paulino was the best of the two. The Bearded One threw 10 2/3 innings, allowing 12 hits, five runs, three earned runs, three walks and eight strikeouts. He also gave up one home run and had an FIP of 3.76. His BABiP of .333 was pretty steady and reflected that he was a bit unlucky with some of the defense behind him. After Sunday, it looks like Paulino has won the fifth's starters job for sure.
Defender of the Week: Geoff Blum, SS - Other players may have had better weeks, but I have to give Blum credit here. In his only game at short, Blum made multiple great plays, was positioned well to make others easily and generally showed manager Brad Mills that he can field the position. Well, I'm hoping MIlls doesn't base his opinion of Blum off this one game, because I don't see him repeating this performance during the regular season.
Next are this week's movers and shakers on the Astros stock watch:
1B Lance Berkman - The Big Puma is moving closer to a return. He is hitting off a tee but hasn't seen any game action or even live batting practice since having his knee scoped a couple weeks ago. The Astros can put him retroactively on the DL dating back to last Friday, which means Berkman could only miss the season's first five games if he does go on the DL. I'm not sure he'll be ready to go by then, but it's nice to know Houston fans won't have to wait two weeks before seeing Berkman in a game.
SS Tommy Manzella, hold order - Things are not looking good for Manzella starting the season on time. The 26-year old is recovering well but has trouble with lateral movements. Since his entire defensive position is based on lateral movements, it looks like he has some recovering to do before he gets back into a game. I don't think it's likely that he goes on the DL, but he needs to show some good progress early in the week to start Opening Day.
CF Michael Bourn, rising quickly - Bourn is back and ready to go. After a little delay with a leg injury, Bourn made multiple great plays in center field and showed his hitting hasn't regressed with the time off.
RHP Casey Daigle, rising - Daigle added his name forcefully to the bullpen race by taking a spot start last Wednesday and outdueling Johan Santana. It remains to be seen whether he can actually pull off the upset for the seventh spot, but he has done everything he can in his innings to make the decision more difficult.
CF T.J. Steele, rising - I'm still lukewarm on Steele's potential. His penchant for injury is still an issue, but the team must really like him. Steele has started a ton of games this spring and played in more than that. He hasn't disappointed either, going 5 for 14 with two doubles, a strikeout, two stolen bases and four runs scored. Steele will definitely start out in Double-A, but with all his playing time this spring, I could definitely see the Astros pushing him to Triple-A. That could push Yordany Ramirez out of a roster spot in Round Rock.
RHP Yorman Bazardo, bottomed out - Bazardo's MRI on Saturday was negative, meaning he's hurt but it's not a structural, soft tissue thing. It does mean that Bazardo is headed to the waiver wire, since he's out of options. With his injury history, it's safe to say the bidding for his services won't be as heated as last season. If he clears waivers, he should be a strong addition to the Round Rock rotation, with the hope he can get his spring troubles turned around.
C J.R. Towles, leveling off - While it's an almost certainty that Towles has won the starting job, his recent hamstring injury has limited his playing time in the past couple games. You have to wonder whether this is continuing his injury problems from last season. Towles has given us plenty of reasons to be optimistic this spring, but injuries will quickly scale those back.
OF J.B. Shuck, slight increase - Ticket him for Corpus Christi. The only reason Shuck gets mentioned here is that he came up with a clutch RBI on Saturday in his first bit of playing time this spring.
3B Chris Johnson, slight increase - With two more home runs, Johnson has cemented his status as a prospect to watch in the minds of many Astros fans. Clack pointed out in Saturday's game thread that he needs to have a good season at Round Rock to erase many of the doubts surrounding his power. This is a good start, but we really need more data to see if this is for real. At the very least, he provides a strong safety blanket if Pedro Feliz gets injured this season.