Pre-Spring Training Has Begun For The Houston Astros, Call-up Four Players

J.D. Martinez makes his return.

Busta already covered this in his recap, but I wanted to talk a little bit about each call-up.

According to Brian McTaggart at Astros.com the Houston Astros have called up catcher Carlos Corporan, reliever Chuckie Fick, starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and outfielder J.D. Martinez.

The most interesting quote from that article:

The tough part of all these guys coming up is it's hard for me to get them in games, so we'll be seeing a lot of double-switching, some pinch-hitting earlier in games if we have to," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "There's only eight slots [for position players in the starting lineup] and a ton of players who want that playing time. We're going to prioritize some of our playing time for some of our younger players."

I don't think this a surprise to anyone but the Astros are getting a head start on Spring Training 2013. Personally, it was kind of nice seeing a relatively firm lineup each day even if that meant Brian Bogusevic was the odd-man out. Now it appears Astro players will be rotated in regularly, and it appears to have started today with Bogusevic being inserted in the bottom of the fifth.

This may or may not be a good thing depending on your point of view. I've become frustrated with the last three Astros managers rotating the lineup like they were pulling names out of a hat. I would prefer the Astros play their nine most promising players. I can't gripe with taking a Spring Training approach with the rest of 2012 though, because a month of play in the grand scheme of things is going to mean little.

Two months of Spring Training may be better than one, when you take everything into account.

Player profiles after the jump.

Carlos Corporan - Catcher

Sent down once Jason Castro returned from the disabled list, Corporan has played relatively well overall for the Oklahoma City Redhawks. In 67 games and 226 plate appearances he hit .286/.350/.443 with six homeruns. He threw out 44% of base stealers this year.

In 18 games with Houston this year he's posted a .339 wOBA with a .289 BABIP in 56 plate appearances. Small sample size applies here, but that's more promising than the .220 wOBA with a .271 BABIP he posted last year in 53 games, 173 plate appearances with Houston. The defensive metrics don't like him, but that is also a small sample size issue, and he appears to work well with the pitching staff.

Corporan allows Tony DeFrancesco (Tony D) the ability to pinch hit for one of his catchers sooner, but I would expect Castro and Chris Snyder to get the bulk of the playing time.

Chuckie Fick - Reliever

Claimed from the St. Louis Cardinals off waivers at the end of July, Fick posted a 4.86 ERA and a 5.60 SIERA in 14.2 innings for the Astros. He was sent down August 25 to make room for Fernando Abad. In his time with Oklahoma City he was limited to four appearances and 2.2 innings of work. Between Memphis (Cardinals AAA affiliate) and Oklahoma City this year he posted a 5.20 ERA in 45 innings with a 4.4 strikeout per nine (SO/9) and a 3 walks per nine (BB/9).

Fick is simply more depth, just about every other decent reliever in Oklahoma City has been called up to pitch out of the Houston bullpen.

Dallas Keuchel - Starter

It'll be interesting to see if Keuchel is apart of the six-man rotation being discussed in Houston or if the one whose name cannot be spoken knocks him out of that spot. He made one start for Oklahoma City but he only went three innings, allowing no hits, runs or walks, while striking out one.

Overall he's started 16 games for the Redhawks posting a 3.90 ERA in 92.1 innings. For Houston he started games posting a 5.54 ERA, and a 5.55 FIP, in 66.2 innings.

Two things about Keuchel: (from the Keuchel homer no less) First, is that he's always struggled at each new level he's been at; Second, he hasn't pitched like the Keuchel we've seen in the minors, he's walking more guys than he's striking out, 4.19 BB/9 to 4.05 K/9. While Keuchel isn't a strikeout pitcher he is a guy who limits his walks, usually a sub 2 BB/9, if he can do that he'll be a solid back-end of the rotation starter.

I don't think pitching out of the bullpen would be a bad idea, but he's also not in any sort of danger of excessively exceeding his innings from last year. I could see him being the sixth man or being the long man out of the bullpen.

J.D. Martinez

This is the first time Martinez has struggled at any level in professional in baseball, so it's no surprise that he struggled in his demotion to AAA. In 22 games and 91 plate appearance with Oklahoma City he posted a .244/.275/.314 line. If anyone needs a reboot on the season it's Martinez.

In 102 games and 404 plate appearance with Houston this year Martinez hit to the tune of a .298 wOBA and a .278 BABIP. He was walking more in the majors than he had in the minors, but he walks also striking out a bit more.

It'll be interesting to see how Tony D weaves in J.D. Martinez into the lineup, especially with the other Martinez, Fernando, heating up in the last two weeks ( .273/.333/.576 14 days, .278/.350/.722 7 days). One other thing to note is that the previous hitting coach J.D. was working with is gone.

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