Reading Dave's article a couple of weeks ago got me thinking: If the Astros did take an approach similar to what the A's are doing and try to field a team of mostly 2 WAR players at every position then how close would we be to that goal in 2014? Here's a rundown of the probable starters for 2014 by position:
C: Jason Castro.
The team's most valuable position player last year posted a 4.3 WAR and, barring injury, is the team's best candidate to blow past 2 WAR for next year (assuming George Springer doesn't set the world on fire).
1B: Brett Wallace/Chris Carter
..........And that brings us to first base. Yes, it didn't take long to get to a position occupied by a black hole on this roster, and I know there is still some optimism for these two among some of you, but I don't see it happening next year. It's time to cut bait with Brett Wallace and his .284 OBP and 36% K rate. Seriously I can't watch it anymore. His best case scenario is getting hot the first month of the season then getting traded to a team that needs to fill a hole with an early season injury.
As for Chris Carter, ehhhhhh man. Could he add just one more dimension to his game? I mean, fielding, running, defense, on-base skills, making contact, anything! If he could add just one more thing he's good at other than hulk-smashing the ball I could be optimistic. 2 wins above replacement though? Despite hitting 29 home runs, fangraphs gives him a .4 WAR for the season, .4! This is mainly due to his bad defense, but still, this begs the question. Has there been a less valuable 29-home run player than Carter? EVER? If anyone wants to do the research I'd love to know, but unless Jonathan Singleton gets called up by the All-Star break and goes on a tear, I'm thinking there's no way we get to 2 WAR from a first baseman in 2014.
2B: Jose Altuve
I love Altuve, you love Altuve, we all love Altuve. Did you know he posted a 1.3 WAR last season according to fangraphs? Yikes. This actually isn't far from his 1.6 War in 2012 since his fielding was better this year even while his walk rate and batting average declined from last year. For his career Altuve has yet to hit 2 WAR in a season. Thank God Jason Castro became our signature player this year right? Anyway, if Altuve continues to improve his defense and gets back to hitting and taking walks like he did in 2012 then contributing 2+ wins in 2014 is a definite possiblity. We're all pulling for him.
SS: Jonathan Villar
2 WAR in 2014? Probably not, right? Not with the way he was man-handling balls in field this year. If Villar can improve on his .321 OBP from this year then he will actually be getting on base at a pretty decent clip for an SS. If he can also improve on his defense enough to prove he can man the position everyday, then 2 wins is a good possibility. If it happens next year I think we can all agree we'll be pretty happy.
3B: Matt Dominguez
I was surprised when I looked up Dominguez's stats. Did you know Baseball Reference has him at 2.2 WAR for this season? 2.2! Then I looked at fangraphs and saw they gave him 1 WAR, more along the lines of what I was expecting. Depending on who you believe Dominguez is either on the cusp of becoming a solid major starter or about to make the break through as a solid major league bench player. I'd love to see him improve his OBP to somewhere in the .320 range and become the former in 2014.
LF: Robbie Grossman
I'm very high on Grossman. I know some of you will disagree but I think he will easily be a 2-3 WAR player in 2014, barring any kind of injury. He was one of the hottest players in baseball before he got hurt, and I think he has the potential to be an OBP machine for this team. Can't wait to see him play for a full year next year.
CF: George Springer
They have to let him start the year at center right? K% aside he has nothing left to prove in the minors and the Astros have no one better blocking him. I'll lead the charge into Jeff Luhnow's office if we start hearing any BS about service time, just let the kid play. With Springer's talent level 2 WAR should be very attainable if he plays a full season, and his value might be much higher. His K rate could hold him back a bit, but all the other raw tools are there. Let's play it conservatively and put him down for 5 WAR and the Rookie of the Year award.
RF: L.J. Hoes
I'm cautiously optimistic about Hoes. His .287/.337/.371 isn't great, but it's not bad either. There were a couple of games last season where having him hit second behind Robbie Grossman was quite deadly, and led to a lot of run scoring opportunities. 2 WAR probably isn't realistic, but if last season is any indication of his ability 1.5 wins should be within reach. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Grossman/Hoes is the leadoff combination that we've all been waiting for.
If you tally that up, that makes 2/3 players in our outfield capable of producing 2 Wins and above, and 2.5/5 of our infield if you're being optimistic. Honestly I'm feeling better about next season already, and we didn't even talk about the strides the pitching staff made! Of course if you're a stone cold realist, then you might say we only have 2 players likely to produce 2 WAR next season. One of whom may not even make the team out of spring training and might strikeout more than Chris Carter, the Greek god of strikeouts. Either way 2013 sucked but I'm looking forward to next year!