Houston has compiled a nice list of elite or near-elite prospects at virtually every position, but many won't be ready for a few years, so where does Houston need veterans in the mean time?
Pos : Future : Stopgap
Catcher : J. Castro/C. Perez : Castro/? - Looks like Snyder's option won't be picked up and Corporan is not being counted on as the answer at the backup spot. Castro appears to be the short and long term answer. I would love to see a Mike Napoli
signing. Russell Martin
doesn't appear to be in Houston's budget and all the other free agents are underwhelming. Carlos Perez
is a B grade prospect who profiles as an everyday player but probably not a star. Other legit prospects include Chris Wallace
and Tyler Heineman, but neither of those guys is likely to be a star either.
1B : Singleton : B. Wallace - Wallace or Brandon Laird
will likely open the season as the everyday 1B, but it is very likely that 1 of the veterans Houston brings in will be able to play 1B. Singleton profiles as a star player and will probably be ready by the end of 2013. I could see Wallace moving to the bench or DH or being traded once Singleton is ready. Telvin Nash
is the only other 1B prospect of note and he has massive strikeout issues to correct before he is a big time prospect.
2B : DeShields : Altuve - Altuve is a 22 year old All-Star and DeShields is a Top 100 prospect who will start the season in AA. Houston is in good shape here. Altuve may be able to bring in a nice prospect haul once DeShields is ready, and there are a few other very good prospects at the position in the system, including Austin Elkins and Jean Batista. Even if Altuve falters, the short term is solid with guys like Jimmy Paredes
and Matt Downs
on the roster, so I'd be surprised if 2B (or SS for that matter) were addressed in free agency. That said, Jeff Keppinger
, Ty Wigginton
, or a similar veteran may make sense at the right price.
SS : Correa/Villar : Lowrie - Lowrie is a top big league SS when healthy and Correa was the 1st overall pick this year. Villar has star potential and will likely be in AAA to start 2013, so he could be ready in short order. The perfect scenario for Houston would have Villar take the next step and show he is ready, Lowrie to stay healthy, and Correa to continue developing, resulting in Lowrie being the prize of hte 2013 trade deadline and Villar the prize of the 2015 deadline. Luhnow has done a good job of insuring against another Lowrie injury with guys like Tyler Greene
and Marwin GOnzalez, and beyond Villar and Correa, there is a glut of solid SS prospects, including Jio Mier, Nolan Fontana, Chan Moon, and Jose Fernandez.
3B : Dominguez/Ruiz : Dominguez/Moore? - Matt Dominguez
is a former 1st round pick and Top 100 prospect who is still just 23 years old. He currently profiles as a solid everyday player whose excellent glove makes up for his poor on-base skill. He still has the potential to develop into an above average player, if not a star. Ruiz is one of the top young 3B prospects in the league and many considered him a 1st round talent, but he won't be ready before 2015 or later. It looks like Dominguez will be given the big league job entering 2013, but it also looks like Luhnow will look to bring in some insurance via a veteran free agent. I could see Kevin Youkilis
, Eric Chavez
, Scott Rolen
, or Mark Reynolds
being brought in. If that doesn't happen, I'm not all that worried about it, as Scott Moore
, Brandon Laird, Matt Downs, or Jimmy Paredes all have the resume to be solid backup 3B. The only other 3B prospect that really excites me at this point would be Bobby Borchering
, but it remains to be seen what he will become.
RF : F. Martinez/Santana : F. Martinez/? - Fernando Martinez
had a bit of a redemption year in 2012 and will likely be given the inside track to an everyday big league job next season. He still has the potential to be a solid defensive RF who can hit 25 HRs. He also still has significant bust potential. Domingo Santana is on the cusp of elite status and if he starts in AA and does well he should start to get a ton of publicity. It appears that Brian Bogusevic's
time may be passed, but there are a handful of internal options available should F Mart falter. Recent waiver claim Che-Hsuan Lin, Jimmy Paredes, Scott Moore, and Matt Downs all could step in. The free agents I expect signed will be more LF/DH/1B types, but I wouldn't be shocked to see someone like Grady Sizemore
brought in on a buy-low contract. Aside from Santana, Ariel Ovando is a prospect with elite upside, and Mike Kvasnicka has the potential to be an everyday player.
CF : Springer/Grossman : Maxwell/Barnes - George Springer
is an elite prospect who will start in AA and Robbie Grossman
is a 2nd tier prospect who should begin the year in AAA. Both could be in Houston by the end of next season. Justin Maxwell
had somewhat of a breakout season in 2012 and established himself as a solid stopgap option. If Grossman or Springer proves ready over the 1st half of the season and Maxwell continues what he did last year, he could be traded for a nice return at the 2013 deadline. Brandon Barnes
broke into the big league this year and will probably compete with a few others (Schafer, Bogusevic, etc) for the 4th OF role. He has made enough highlight reel catches and has the physical tools and personality that I don't think anyone would be upset to see him as the backup CF. Beyond Springer and Grossman, the 'stros appear stacked on the farm at CF, with Andrew Aplin and Brett Phillips both being very good prospects in their own right.
LF/DH : JD Martinez/Krauss? : JD Martinez/? - In what is probably the weakest area in Houston's system, I expect DH and/or LF to be the biggest addition to the team via free agency or trade. JD Martinez took a step back last season but still profiles as an everyday player. Mark Krauss is another solid prospect who can hit for power, but has serious questions marks. I will be very surprised if a DH is not added, as this has consistently been mentioned by the GM as the main area of concern. THere are many seemingly affordable possibilities available, with Lance Berkman
, Carlos Lee, Jason Giambi
, James Loney
, Torii Hunter
, Luke Scott
, Carlos Pena
, Bobby Abreu
, Melky Cabrera
, Andruw Jones
, and Delmon Young
all make sense for one reason or another, and that doesn't factor in any non-tender candidates or trade possibilities. Cody Ross
, Josh Hamilton
, and Nick Swisher
are all probably out of Houston's budget. Beyond Martinez and Krauss, who will both be in AAA or HOuston, there are a few decent prospect, including Austin Wates
and Brandon Meredith, but none that profile as elite.
THoughts? When do you think all these guys will be ready and who do you think should be there in the meantime?