Questioning the Astros Lineup: Rebuilding and Beyond

I didn't intend my post from Sunday to be a bummer. I was just really intrigued by the question in this FanPost and wanted to follow it's logic a little more. So, the question I wanted to discuss today is whether this lineup is good enough to contend (provided some of the young guys improve)? If not, where are spots in the lineup where the team can upgrade?

For the first question, I have to think things will look up. Hunter Pence has proven himself to be a reliable, yet unspectacular, force in the lineup. He's good enough to be the best player on a bad team, but probably wouldn't be a 5 or 6 WAR player for the next couple of seasons. The question becomes, how does the rest of the lineup shake out. We know Jason Castro will be at catcher (or we assume), Brett Wallace will be at first and Chris Johnson will be at third. We should assume Michael Bourn will be the center fielder for a while, but that leaves very few positions where the Astros can add a player with some thump. Shortstops and second basemen who hit like that are few and far, leaving just one position open to affect the lineup: left field.

The problem is that the Astros are more than just one impact bat away from a good offense. I know I argued recently that you could build a successful team where every player has a WAR around 2 or 2.5, but the Astros don't even have that right now. So, where can they upgrade? Will there eventually come a time when Austin Wates or Delino DeShields, Jr. needs to step in for the immense defense but questionable bat of Bourn? Will their presumed prowess with the bats make up for their lack of Bourn's elite defensive and baserunning skills? That's the question and one the front office will need to answer before they know if the rebuilding effort is over.

I realize that players like Castro and Wallace will bat better than they have. I also know that Chris Johnson will not be a career .330 hitter in the majors. So, there will be a leveling out. But, this is clearly and offense that needs work.

What do you think? Too harsh? Not harsh enough?

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