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Starting Nine: Astros 2017 Lineup

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TCB staff discusses positioning and lineups for the 2017 Astros

MLB: New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure about you, but all of these early off-season acquisitions have me a little anxious for the 2017 season to begin. Can we just skip ahead to April 3rd or have we STILL not figured out time travel? Actually, I like Christmas. But once Christmas is over, let’s skip ahead to April.

With the all the roster changes, it’s anybody’s guess what the lineup will look like in 2017. So I asked the TCB writers to weigh in on how how they would assemble a lineup versus RHP and LHP in 2017. With multiple options at a few positions, there was bound to be some disagreement. There was one thing all the writers agreed on though: whatever lineup Hinch goes with, it will be the most potent lineup Astros fans have seen in a long time.

With the additions of Nori Aoki, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, and Carlos Beltran, Hinch has plenty of options for positioning and lineup in 2017. If you were Hinch, what would your typical lineup look like against RHP and LHP?

Irish Pete:

Using 2016 wRC+ to help visualize this a little bit.

Gurriel and Bregman are both working on pretty small sample sizes vs LHP, so it's reasonable to suspect that those two will see better production there. I went ahead and started Tyler White with the big club to give them another hitter against LHP. I could easily see AJ Reed up in his spot according to how spring training goes. However, I believe the Astros would rather have Tyler White be a part time player and let AJ Reed get plenty of work down in Triple A.

Those lineups are a far cry from where this team was last year, especially after the Valbuena injury.

CRPerry13:

This is a difficult topic, below the surface. Last season, the Astros used 143 different lineup combinations. If that isn't most in the major leagues, it must be darn close. The platonic ideal of an everyday lineup is no more than a construction of the deluded fan's mind.

So of course, I can't resist participating, if only to feed the myth! Note, this isn't what I think the Astros will actually do, but what I would do, or at least try. Actually, I just want to be different.

vs RHP:

CF: Springer (R)

RF: Reddick (L)

2B: Altuve (R)

SS: Correa (R)

DH: Beltran (S)

3B: Bregman (R)

C: McCann (L)

1B: Gurriel (R)

LF: Aoki (L)

There are several things I like about this lineup. Reddick crushes RHP. His average exit velocity against righties is well into the mid-90's (see ML savant image below), and he has a better launch angle. I want that in the 2-hole where it can do the most damage.

I like switch-hitting Beltran hitting fifth behind Correa and ahead of Bregman to give pitchers different looks, and likewise I prefer the lefty McCann to hit 7th, since he has been historically better against Right-Handers. Aoki is a natural table setter at the bottom of the lineup.

vs LHP:

CF: Springer (R)

3B: Bregman (R)

2B: Altuve (R)

SS: Correa (R)

RF: Beltran (S)

1B: Gurriel (R)

C: Gattis (R)

DH: McCann (L)

LF: Aoki

I don't love this lineup quite as much, but it still has the potential to be devastating. I think Bregman is the ideal 2-hole hitter in either lineup, but particularly against lefties. Playing Beltran in RF isn't ideal, but he did play almost 70 games there last season. I don't believe (as some pundits speculate) that he was signed to be a DH-only player. And this lineup gets Reddick's anemic bat out of the lineup when facing lefties.

The LHP lineup depends a lot on the pitcher on the mound. With a fly ball pitcher like Fiers, I would opt for Marisnick in Center and Springer in RF, moving Beltran to DH instead of McCann. But with a groundballer on the mound like Keuchel or Morton, I prefer to have McCann's stick at the plate than Marisnick's.

HOF4BGO:

I agree with Seth's lineups for the most part, but would make a couple changes. I like the idea of always having the same hitters in the same order at 1-4 in the lineup. I don't have any fancy sabermetric stats to back this up, but I think players like knowing where they will be batting every day, especially if they are your core everyday players.

I do like the idea of having Tyler White on the roster while Reed continues to work on his swing at AAA, but I wouldn't start White regularly against lefties unless he forced my hand. So my lineups would have Gattis playing more DH, McCann catching more, and Beltran playing more in the field. McCann hit righties much better than lefties last year (102 wRC+ versus 82 wRC+), but hasn't had such extreme splits over his career (117 wRC+ vs RHP 102 wRC+ vs LHP). So with that in mind, plus his defensive supremacy over Gattis, I still want McCann starting against LHP.

Speaking of Gattis, the dude had a 111 wRC+ against RHP last year, which actually matches his career wRC+ against RHP. So he is replacing Aoki for me in the lineup vs RHP. I understand that Gattis' 111 wRC+ against RHP isn't significantly better than Aoki's 108 wRC+, but let's be honest- towering HRs over the train tracks are way more fun to watch than slapping a single through the infield.

Like Chris said, Hinch is almost certainly going to use several different lineups throughout the season. I would definitely want to mix and match the lineup, but for the sake of keeping this article under 200 pages long (are online articles even measured in numbers of pages?) these would be my go-to lineups on a typical day when I'm not trying to rest any players or play to rare matchups (how about that for a caveat!).

vs. LHP

9- George Springer

5- Alex Bregman

4- Jose Altuve

6- Carlos Correa

7- Carlos Beltran

DH- Evan Gattis

3- Yulieski Gurriel

2- Brian McCann

8- Jake Marisnick

vs. RHP

9- George Springer

5- Alex Bregman

4- Jose Altuve

6- Carlos Correa

9- Josh Reddick

7- Carlos Beltran

DH- Evan Gattis

2- Brian McCann

3- Yulieski Gurriel

Now before everyone begins throwing stones at me for having Beltran as the left fielder in both lineups, please re-read my illustrious caveat above. There would certainly be days where Beltran would DH, Aoki would play left field, and either Gattis or McCann would rest with the other catching. I just want Beltran, Gattis, and McCann to all be in the lineup pretty regularly, and I would almost never start McCann at DH.

Furthermore, the Astros have said they want Beltran to play LF and DH (read: not exclusively DH), and Beltran has stated that he doesn't want to be a full-time DH. Also, the fact that the Astros were in heavy pursuit of Cespedes makes me think that they wanted to sign another outfielder and that will be the role that Beltran fills.

Brian Stevenson:

I guess I'm the only one who doesn't want George Springer leading off.

VS Right-Handed Pitchers

1. Jose Altuve - 2B

2. George Springer - CF

3. Carlos Correa - SS

4. Carlos Beltran - DH

5. Alex Bregman - 3B

6. Yulieski Gurriel - LF

7. A.J. Reed - 1B

8. Brian McCann - C

9. Josh Reddick - RF

VS Left-Handed Pitchers

1. Jose Altuve - 2B

2. George Springer - CF

3. Carlos Correa - SS

4. Carlos Beltran - DH

5. Alex Bregman - 3B

6. Evan Gattis - C

7. Yulieski Gurriel - 1B

8. Norichika Aoki - RF

9. Marwin Gonzalez - LF

Springer and Altuve are both high OBP guys, but Springer draws a ton of walks and Altuve makes more contact. I want the contact guy on ahead of the patient one to facilitate base-stealing from the leadoff guy. Altuve is also our best hitter, clearly, but his power tailed off after his crazy first month, so I don't think it's necessary for him to be in a "power spot" in the lineup; leading off again will allow him to get more PA.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Reed, McCann and Reddick should not face much, if any, left-handed pitching. That requires you to shuffle things around a bit vs. Southpaws. Fortunately, Aoki's career splits say you don't have to be overly worried about him vs. LHP.

Jason Marbach:

Yeah I prefer Brian’s lineup.