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Wednesday's Three Astros Things

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Talking about spring roster battles, unexpected option years and Venezuela baseball...

Some things to talk about while I wonder if my wife will buy any of the excuses here...

1) Final roster spot

It all comes down to this.

One week left. One roster spot left. A cage match, battle royale to see who gets to break camp with the Astros.

Evan Drellich breaks down the exciting end to a spring where we've argued about this endlessly. He also lays out who's competing for the spot.

At this point, assuming that Marwin Gonzalez has one of the backup spots nailed down, Matt Dominguez, Alex Presley, Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar are competing for one spot.

Reading through Drelilch's piece, it seems more and more like Dominguez is on the outside looking in. Valbuena has sewn up the starting third base role and the Astros have a ton of corner infield candidates.

That leaves three for one spot. Reading between the lines, Alex Presley still probably has the upper hand, as he's out of options. Grossman could be next, but Jonathan Villar's speed could give him an edge if the team feels comfortable with his outfield play.

On Wednesday, the Astros played a bunch of these guys in the same lineup, with Villar starting in center field and Grossman in right.

Who has the edge? If you were to bet right now, who will still be there when Houston plays Corpus Christi?

2) Pitching note

Something worth noting in the bullpen race. Evan Drellich, in breaking down the competition has news to me about right-hander Will Harris.

It seems Harris has an option left, which means that the reason he was on waivers from Arizona is they wanted him off the 40-man roster, not that he couldn't be sent to the minors.

That seems...short-sighted to me. But, it also means that he won't be lost by being sent to Triple-A, along with James Hoyt and a couple other relief candidates.

it also means that if Pat Neshek or Josh Fields or anyone get hurt, the Astros have some capable backup plans at the ready.

3) Venezuela and baseball

Earlier this offseason, Astros scouts were turned away from Venezuela when the country started requiring visas for American to visit. The visas could take up to 90 days to acquire and the Astros scouts were not able to get in to see the players they wanted.

Well, things are getting tense for baseball in the country. Turns out that many prominent MLB players are moving from Venezuela permanently for reasons detailed in this great USA Today story.

"I would go from the place where I was trying to get my passport to the house and back. That's it,'' Montero said. "You want to go to your country to relax and have a good time, not to be shut inside your house because you're afraid to go out. ... There are safety concerns anywhere in the world, but you watch the news about Venezuela and more people have been killed there than in Afghanistan.''

I can't imagine how hard it is to play baseball had a high level while also worrying about your family's safety. No wonder so many of these players talk about moving their WAGs and children to the U.S.

Of course, they do get compensated rather handsomely. It's still one of those impediments to player success that we don't always think about.

The other thing that caught my eye, other than the bad situation these players are put in, is this note from former Astros trailblazing scout Andres Reiner:

Reiner, whose efforts led the Houston Astros to establish the first baseball academy in Venezuela in 1989, is convinced the country's prolific production of players - second only to the Dominican in foreign-born major leaguers - will continue uninterrupted.

He points out the youth baseball programs in the country of 30 million people have more than 1.5 million participants.

Scouting should always contain a human element, but here's an area where finding someone with expertise could be invaluable to an organization. Having a scout on hand who can get into Venezuela, when only four teams still have academies there and the government is making it harder and harder to get in, gives a tangible edge in talent acquisition.

In the Dominican Republic, every team is courting the same players. But, in a few years, all that Venezuelan talent could be underscouted. A smart team could capitalize on that, by learning how to work within the system or by hiring the right people.

Either way, it's a story worth following.