Friday's Three Astros Things

Scott Cunningham

Talking about roster fits for Brandon Laird, Carlos Corporan and J.D. Martinez...

Today, we go a little different route and discuss how three different players fit on this roster...

1) Brandon Laird

Can Brandon Laird make this roster? With every rocket he hits in games and batting practice, the possibility has to be growing, doesn't it? The question is, where does he fit on the roster?

The easiest solution is an injury. If Brett Wallaces pinched nerve lingers or turns into something more serious, he could be placed on the DL and Laird take his spot in that first base rotation. But, it's also not a permanent solution and may only buy him a few weeks on the roster.

He could play third base, though Matt Dominguez is having his best spring ever with the bat and is better defensively than Laird.

He could become the backup infielder over Tyler Greene, though that seems highly unlikely, as Laird is limited to the corner infield spots.

No, the only scenario that works puts him head to head in the role that Wallace is slated for, as the backup third baseman, sometime-first baseman who rotates with Pena and Carter at DH. It also puts him in direct competition with Nate Freiman for a roster spot. You'd imagine Laird's ability to play third gives him an advantage over Freiman for a bench spot, but who knows?

Plus, there's the complication of Laird not being on the 40-man roster. If he makes the team and is added, who goes?

Is his hot-hitting spring and potential enough to get Houston on Wallace or Freiman? I could see him winning a spot over the giant DH, but not Wally, which means he's likely ticketed for OKC.

Unless Luhnow has some wacky trade out of nowhere up his sleeve...

2) Carlos Corporan

For the past three seasons, Corporan has shown one thing offensively: he can hit home runs. Last season, he hit 10 home runs combined between OKC and Houston. In 2010, he hit 12 in 326 plate appearances in Triple-A. In 2008, he hit six in 228 plate appearances split between two levels.

It's inconsistency that has plagued Corporan in between. That's what made all us saber-nerds skeptical of his hitting success in 84 plate appearances in Houston last season and why we argued for bringing back Jason Castro over Corporan.

This year? Even if Corporan's batting average on balls in play dips a bit from the .302 it was at for those PAs, he should still bring some power and solid pitch framing skills behind the plate. Basically, he'll provide what Chris Snyder did at a cheaper cost.

It may not mean much, but I do wonder whether Houston could also post 20 home runs combined from its catchers this year. Jason Castro's projections peg him for about eight home runs in 2013. If we use his home run rate from last season and pencil him in for 400 plate appearances, that sounds reasonable. That also leaves 250 plate appearances for Corporan, though. If we use the home run rate from his Steamer projections, that gives him eight in 250 plate appearances.

There's a lot going on in those projections, but it's pretty reasonable to expect this duo to at least equal Houston's 17 home runs from the catching position last season and possibly to break 20 homers in a season for the first time since 2000, when Mitch Melusky, Tony Eusebio and Raul Chavez combined for 22 homers.

3) J.D. Martinez

The biggest question around J.D. heading into this spring was how his surgically repaired wrist would hold up. Last season, he had one big month and then tailed off badly for the rest of the season. If that decline was based on the injury lingering until the end of the year, then it's reasonable to be optimistic about his season.

It's difficult to evaluate J.D. of the Martinii right now. Certainly, it looks like his timing is back, as he's strung together a nice mini-run in the past week of spring games. The thing that has been lacking lately is power. J.D. has only one extra-base hit in his last 11 spring games. Spring stats are not predictive of regular season performance, but don't we want to see Martinez driving the ball this spring if he's to make the Opening Day roster?

The biggest question for him is the crowd in the outfield. Houston lists four outfielders on its active roster over at Astros.com. However, only one of those guys is expected to start right now (Justin Maxwell). The other three (both Martinii and Barnes) might not even make the roster.

Two days ago, I might have predicted that Fernando Martinez was a lock to make the roster because he was out of options, but a note from McTaggart about the players in that situation indicated that F-Mart is the only one who's in danger of being cut. If that's the case, does that improve J.D.'s chances or is he slated for Oklahoma City no matter what?

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