Astros roster moves: Who's the odd man out in the Houston outfield?

Otto Greule Jr

With Fernando Martinez set to come off the disabled list any day, who gets moved out of Houston's suddenly crowded outfield mix?

Here's a fun dilemma for the Astros front office: what, pray-tell, do they do when Fernando Martinez is ready to come off the disabled list?

I mean, literally, they'll have to make room for him on the 25-man roster, but those decisions are becoming harder and harder, aren't they?

Houston's outfield was an area most of us had pegged as one of the club's biggest weaknesses heading into the season. With a gaping hole in right field (and possibly left), the only stopgap player Houston brought in was Rick Ankiel. The rest would sort itself out between prospects and players already on the roster.

Thus, when F-Mart made the 25-man Opening Day cut but was then sidelined by a back injury, it gave new life to J.D. Martinez. He joined Ankiel, Justin Maxwell, Brandon Barnes and Chris Carter in that outfield. That's a lot of strikeout potential and a lot of untestedness in one outfield, isn't it?

So far, so good, though.

Justin Maxwell has been an unqualified success in the season's first two weeks. He's hitting for average, power and making great defensive plays. Heck, he even came close to making one of those flashy Mike Trout homer-saving catches in Trout's back yard.

Chris Carter began the season slowly, but has absolutely raked on this road trip, hitting for power, drawing walks and not making any of the boneheaded plays in the outfield that we expect from time to time. Trogdor is there for his bat, not his glove, after all.

Rick Ankiel has been a mixed bag. He's good defensively and has been terrible at making contact with the ball. As in, his strikeout rate is 72 percent.

Let that sink in.

72 percent.

Ankiel does have two home runs, and may be valuable defensively. Plus, his veteran presence has already been cited as a big factor for this club coming out of its collective slump.

Brandon Barnes has been a glorified defensive replacement, but has looked good in the outfield when he is there. He can play both corners well and is actually contributing at the plate, too. Barnes is hitting .375/.545/.500 in 11 plate appearances with two runs scored this season. He's got a 0.1 fWAR total this season, but has a negative Fielding Runs factor. Add in Barnes' base running abilities and he's likely to stick on this roster for a while.

That leaves the last addition to this outfield, J.D. Martinez. The fan favorite is hitting a paltry .241/.258/.414 with one home run and a stolen base. Martinez also had a pretty big defensive gaffe in Saturday's loss in right field, and doesn't possess the positional flexibility that Barnes does.

However, J.D. has shown at times that he can drive the ball and hit for average in the majors. In the past week, he's shown signs of becoming that guy again. Still, he's the weakest link in this puzzle.

Of course, J.D. is also the outfielder who has gotten the most starts with Fernando out of the picture. Only Carter, Maxwell, Jose Altuve and Carlos Pena have played in more games than J.D. at this point. That playing time speaks volumes as to how the team views him. He's seemed to get past the trouble with Porter in Seattle and that might buy him the good graces of both the field staff and the GMs office.

So, where does that leave F-Mart?

An injury isn't supposed to rob you of a spot on the roster, which means that the logical guy to fall here would be the last addition (J.D.). Or, it could be the guy who seems to be out of rope in his major league career (Ankiel). Or, it could be the one who impresses the least fans with his minor league track record (Barnes).

It's anyone's guess what that corresponding roster move might be, but I'd also say that Brett Wallace has to be in the discussion. Yes, Wally has some positional flexibility in playing third base occassionally, but with Dominguez locking down that position right now and Wallace in a terrible slump still, it leaves the possibility that F-Mart is added as both a backup first baseman and outfield option.

There's no set answer to this question yet. Fernando of the Martinii was placed on the disabled list March 27, which means he was eligible to return from there on April 11. He's currently on a minor league rehab assignment in Oklahoma City, which means we could have a decision on the roster move sometime this week.

Who do you think it'll be? Will Barnes' time be up? Will J.D. get sent down to play every day? Will F-Mart be recalled and then optioned to the minors as Houston sticks with the outfield mix it has now? Or does the Wallace experiment finally get cancelled?

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