March 08, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Houston Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez (50) at the plate during the spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
The Astros have optioned Jordan Lyles after a poor start in which he gave up 6 earned runs in 5 innings pitched. This is no surprise as the Astros won't need another starter until May 28, where the Astros have a double header in Colorado.
What makes this move interesting though is that it isn't clear who will be called up to take Jordan Lyles' roster spot. Typically, the Astros would call up another pitcher to put in the bullpen, such as Fernando Abad, but he's already on the major league roster, and the Astros don't really have that many attractive bullpen options at OKC. The other thing that makes this interesting is that on the 28th, the Astros are allowed to have a 26-man active roster because it is a "unique double-header", meaning that nobody has to be optioned to make room for a starting pitcher on the 28th. And lastly, if this were an easy move to make, the move would have already been announced after the game last night.
Among the positions that the Astros may be looking to fill, the Astros bullpen has been okay, but the offense lately has been less than desirable overall, especially in the outfield. J.D. Martinez has been slumping and Jordan Schafer is day-to-day with an injury to his ankle. Calling up an outfielder would make sense, especially considering the production out of our current outfielders lately. Let's take a look at the chart after the jump...
As we can see from this chart, offensive production has been sub par, with none of the outfielders posting an OPS above .700 over the past 30 games. It's also important to note that in the past 30 games, only 2 home runs have been hit out of a combined 362 plate appearance between the 5 different outfielders that we have. One of them came on Jordan Schafer's grand slam and one came just a few days ago from Justin Maxwell.
Meanwhile, in Triple-A Oklahoma City, Fernando Martinez has slugged 8 homers, including one yesterday, in only 173 plate appearances. He does have issues facing left-handed pitching as he's batting .190 against lefties in 44 PA, with one homer and an OPS of .508. However, he's batting a monstrous .345/.406/.595/1.001 (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS) against right handed pitching with 7 homers in 116 ABs. He's the perfect antidote to Brad Mills' lineup when facing right-handed pitching, and would fill in nicely for the next week or so, providing needed power until sometime in June when a 5th starter will be needed once again and somebody has to be optioned.
I just don't see the Astros ignoring our outfield power issues, even if they decide against calling up an OF. We'd be fooling ourselves to say that Travis Buck and Brian Bogusevic are getting the job done in RF.
Martinez is only 23 years old and still has time to develop into the player many once saw in him years before. He's a former top-100 prospect 4 years in a row. He's healthy now, and ready to show what he can do at the major league level. If he's called up, it could be just for two weeks, which is just fine because it allows Brad Mills to evaluate Martinez and his other outfielders at the major league level.
While the Astros' offense among outfielders has been suffering as of late, the bullpen also has a few weak links. Fernando Rodriguez has not performed as well as he did last year, Rhiner Cruz has looked wild in previous games, and both Fernando Abad & Wesley Wright are allergic to right handed batters. It would certainly be nice for Brad Mills to have an extra pitcher that can go for more than one inning in a close game.
David Carpenter won't be eligible to be called up until the 25th. So that leaves only Enerio del Rosario as the only bullpen pitcher that would make the most sense out of the players on the 40-man roster to be called up. However, he is not an attractive option to be called up. Aneury Rodriguez could be called up to pitch out of the bullpen, which wouldn't be such a bad idea, but that would probably mean Jordan Lyles would start one of the games on the 28th. However, General Manager, Jeff Luhnow has said that starting pitchers would not be converted to relievers unless they have proven that they can't start. Would this statement apply to Aneury Rodriguez? Who knows?
In his only start with the Astros this year, Aneury Rodriguez got a lot of swings and misses on his curveball, which looked pretty good. I have no doubts that Aneury could succeed in the bullpen. But this would only be a solution for just the next 7 days, which isn't a whole lot of time. This is because if Lyles pitches the 28th, the Astros would have to option somebody if they want Lyles to keep pitching in the majors. Or if they want Aneury to pitch the next available start, he would have to stop pitching out of the bullpen by the 28th in order to rest for a start. In both situations, it means he would provide a maximum of only 7 games out of the bullpen, which is not a whole lot.
The Astros do have one free 40-man roster spot left to call up somebody who isn't on the 40-man roster. One such player is Jose Valdez. While he did not pitch consistently well last year for the Astros, he does have a fantastic swing and miss split-finger pitch that drops off the table, and a good fastball if he can command it well. Currently at OKC, he has a 2.55 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched, with 20 strikeouts, 7 walks, and a .161 batting average against. He still has control issues, and command issues (3 HR), but he could be a backup option in the bullpen if needed. He will have to be added to the 40-man roster if he is called up. With that in mind, I think Aneury Rodriguez edges him out in mlb experience if they want to call up a pitcher.
With a desire to add another bullpen arm, and a lack of production from our current outfielders, it seems likely that Fernando Martinez or Aneury Rodriguez will get the call before tonight's game. But given the current outfield situation and with Jordan Schafer injured, Fernando Martinez might be the better option to call up than reinforcing the bullpen with Aneury Rodriguez for only 7 games. However, it all depends on what is considered the more pressing issue: The outfield, or the bullpen.