The Astros announced their 25 man roster yesterday, but for twenty four of the twenty five positions there was no suspense. The only decision that wasn’t already foregone was for the last spot in the bullpen for lefty reliever.
Although he had an excellent Spring, going 9.2 innings with 13 strikeouts, a 1.86 ERA, and a 0.86 WHIP, the Astros optioned hard-throwing 27 year old Reymin Guduan, and chose 25 year old Framber Valdez to stay with the team.
Valdez had been under consideration as the fifth starter, a slot he lost to Brad Peacock, and his overall performance was not as good as Guduan’s, sporting a 3.52 ERA and 1.43 WHIP with only 9 strikeouts and 5 BB’s in 15.1 innings.
Perhaps what put Valdez over the top were his 6 scoreless innings this week with no walks. Control has been the cause of the greatest doubt about Valdez, and as the Spring progressed he seemed to sharpen his command. That, and his suitability for the role of long-relief, a role none of the other bullpens arms are conditioned for at this time.
This is the 25-man roster that will open the season this Thursday.
Infield: 1B Yuli Gurriel, 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman, SS Carlos Correa, Utility Aledmys Diaz, DH/1B Tyler White
Outfield: Josh Reddick, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick
Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, Brad Peacock
Bullpen: Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Josh James, (rookie) Hector Rondon, Framber Valdez (rookie)
Catcher: Robinson Chirinos, Max Stassi
Expect this roster to be even more flexible than in years past. First, with a schedule in April with a day off each week, the Astros decided to go with 12 pitchers, not their usual custom. If they go to 13 pitchers, one of the following will have to go: Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick, Tyler White or Aledmys Diaz. Kemp and White have no more options, and would have to pass through waivers if sent to the minors, not likely for either player. Marisnick has one more option, but by May will have enough service time where he can refuse an option. Diaz has options, but is the main utility man for flexibility off the bench
Second, Top 10 prospect Kyle Tucker should be ready soon, and it’s hard to keep a boy like that on the farm. And don’t forget Derek Fisher and Myles Straw, both of whom were quietly great this Spring.
Third, the best pitching prospect in baseball by overwhelming consensus, Forrest Whitley, is coming to a Minute Maid Park near you and soon. Not far behind is J.B Bukauskas and others in a farm system embarrassingly deep in pitching talent. Veteran reliever Joe Smith should be recovered from his Achilles injury by July.
Am I crazy to think that if the Astros used their top 5 Minor league pitchers, their rotation would be better than that of quite a few teams in MLB right now?
Bring on the season.