Much ado has been made for ten months now about the position Alex "Bregatron" Bregman will occupy on the Houston 25-man roster once he completes his meteoric ascent to the Major Leagues. Is he a trade piece? Does he displace all-world demigod Carlos Correa at shortstop? Does he (*gasp!*) replace Jose Altuve at second base? Does he play left field? Does he catch? Is he the designated hitter?
Literally every one of these options has been bandied about at least once within earshot/vision of this writer, and it started the thought process that perhaps it's time to sit down and really look at what potential there is in this system, top to bottom, for roster moves in the near and medium term that are a net benefit to the team in the larger scheme both now and for years to come.
There is a piece on MLB.com right now that takes a look at potential trade block victims as the season wears on. Most of these pieces are from teams who are either not expected to compete down the stretch...or not expected to continue to competing down the stretch. Noticeably under-mentioned (at least directly, by name) in the piece as potential buyers are your Houston Astros, who are only listed as potential buyers for current-Mariner reliever Joaquin Benoit. However, it seems exceedingly likely - in spite of a rocky start to 2016 - that the Astros are once again going to end up being deadline buyers this season, and not just to address holes at the major league level...but possibly also to address mounting logjams at the upper minor league levels.
What will follow here is an eight-segment, position by position run down of the situation with the club, and then we'll examine possible (and perhaps even likely) outcomes of these situations at the end of the series. Here's the schedule, so you know when to expect each article:
Pitching: April 25th, 2016
Catching: April 26th, 2016
First Base: April 27th, 2016
Second Base: April 28th, 2016
Third Base: April 29th, 2016
Shortstop: May 2nd, 2016
Outfield: May 3rd, 2016
Conclusions Drawn: May 4th, 2016
The Astros certainly have a bevy of talented young arms in the minor league system. Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove, David Paulino, Albert Abreu, and several others all profile as at least middle of the rotation arms, with Michael Felizmaintaining solid projectability in the rotation (or a possible profile as a high velocity reliever) in spite of a healthy dose of prospect fatigue.
Outside of the more elite minor league arms, there exist a host of intriguing arms who vary from "ready or nearly ready" (Chris Devenski, Feliz, Mike Hauschild, Brady Rodgers, etc.) to further away upside-question marks like Patrick Sandoval, Akeem Bostick, Rogelio Armenteros, Alex Winkelman, and others. If the season finds the Astros possessed of a desire to make a notable trade for a high profile starting pitcher, they certainly have plenty of depth in the minors to plumb in search of adequate trade pieces for a deal tailored to suit the demands of the other team.
At the Major League level, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers should probably be penciled in for the foreseeable future.Collin McHugh has indeed been one of the better starting pitchers in baseball from 2014 through 2015, and should this trend continue, he too will likely be counted on in the rotation. That likely leaves two, maybe three rotation spots open in the near future for one of the aforementioned youngsters to fight their way into. The rest? They'll either have to battle withKen Giles, James Hoyt, Riley Ferrell, Tony Sipp, and other talented players even for regular - much less prominent - roles in the bullpen...or, they'll have to be traded. Or lost in the Rule V draft. Or see their useful careers dwindle away in the minor leagues.
Since there is no way all of these young arms will contribute directly in Houston, it seems likely that a couple of them (particularly those in the upper minors whose current pathway upwards is blocked) could be part of a deal (or deals) to improve the major league club in the short- or medium-term.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two, examining the catching situation in Houston and its trade potential!