The Astros' magic number to clinch the AL West division remains three games following last night's...you know, let's not rehash that debacle. It was an ugly affair of a baseball game, and it's best to leave it in the past as much as possible. Regardless, Houston still has a 99.9 percent chance to clinch the division for the fourth time in five seasons, barring a collapse of epic proportions.
The pressing concern for the club isn't necessarily qualifying for the postseason; instead, it is how management best optimizes the roster. While specific positions are already set in stone, there are positions where the Astros may have to ponder more than others. Below is my stab at the three positions in which we could see some deviation from the usual.
In the last two weeks — 14 games — the Astros have used a combination of Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers to patrol center field. As is the case with small samples, it is hard to put too much stock into many numbers. For example, McCormick has a 112 wRC+ in his last 43 plate appearances compared to Meyers at 90 in his previous 42. But it is worth noting that McCormick's .400 BABIP during the last two weeks is unsustainable, while Meyers' .182 mark is probably too low. Also, Meyers has drawn seven walks compared to nine strikeouts, while McCormick only has one walk compared to 14 strikeouts in the last two weeks. Right now, I give the edge to Meyers as the starter with both offense and defense considered, but the previous eight games may cement the final answer for the postseason.
As it currently stands, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and Framber Valdez are the only starters I'd pencil in for the ALDS at this time. I'll probably elaborate more about the postseason rotation next week, especially with how Zack Greinke's trip to the IL alters the equation. I think it is fair to wonder, even if Greinke is activated in time for the ALDS, would the Astros feel comfortable starting him in a Game 4 situation? Jose Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi haven't been the most consistent, but recent performances will likely hold some sway in the final decision. If anything, Odorizzi's numbers in the past month — 2.76 ERA/2.74 FIP in 16 1⁄3 innings — might tip the scales to his favor compared to Urquidy and Greinke. Stay tuned.
Aledmys Díaz is a bygone conclusion. Honestly, I am not sure if Marwin Gonzalez makes the postseason roster this time around. The outfield has a glut of options that are better defensively — and most likely offensively — than Gonzalez in McCormick, Meyers, and possibly Jose Siri. The inclusion of Siri is probable considering the threat he represents on the basepaths and his defensive capabilities. Those capabilities are also why I lean towards Meyers over McCormick for the starter role in centerfield. But a decision about Gonzalez might ultimately depend on whether a third catcher — in this case, Garrett Stubbs — is carried. If not, we will probably see Gonzalez provide some depth in the infield.