Houston Astros: Roster Redux

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Get over it, he’s not going anywhere. At least not any time soon.

Let’s just gogo ahead and get that out of the way. Carlos Gomez, current CF in the last year of his contract, being paid $9 million, or a lot more than what he’s currently giving back to the Astros, will not be released. He’ll play out his contract and, depending on whether or not he can turn his season around, he’ll extend in Houston or find a bigger contract elsewhere. Six weeks into a season isn’t going to tell the story of a seasoned veteran who is in a bad slump, and had a really bad outing in the final game of the Red Sox series, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how much longer, AFTER his contract, Gomez will remain in Houston.

What is apparent is that something’s gotta change with Gomez. He’s been in a hitting slump since joining the Astros mid-season in 2015, and he’s lost some power both AB and outfield. The day off is certainly needed for not only the club, but Gomez in particular. His hitting slump spilled out on the field today, and what we witnessed was a player trying a little too hard and not getting it done. Gomez wasn’t Gomez in CF in this one game, but it’s not enough to take him off the roster or send him down. If anything comes of this, some injury rumors may spark up and land him on the DL for a stretch, but it won’t happen anytime soon with today’s roster moves.

So, just move on from that. Gomez is here for the season, whether you like it or not.

That being said, there were some poignant roster moves made today. Say goodbye to Erik Kratz, who made us all wonder how this player is still in the MLB with every plate appearance he had. Evan Gattis is coming back to back up Castro and take the DH spot. Also being optioned down to the AAA is DH/LF Preston Tucker. Tucker has seen more ABs and has been given ample opportunity to boost his stats and start hitting, but it hasn’t happened. With no real spot for him on the roster this season (LF is a position that is coming hard for him, with limited ability in speed and throwing) and Gattis coming back up, he’s the odd man out.

The upcoming announcement on who is getting called up is the big question. Will it be depth in the outfield, since Tucker represented the second back-up spot? Will it be a power-hitting infielder to take some time of Gonzalez and split time with Gattis and Tyler White as DH? Will relief pitching come into play, with the extra innings popping up in the past week? The delayed announcement is intriguing, and with a spot on the 40 man being vacated (Kratz), anything’s possible. There are a lot of deficiencies right now and there is not a single call up that will answer them all. So, what will make the best impact for the Astros moving forward?

Run production.

First thing first – don’t assume that it will be an outfield replacement since Tucker is moving down. Marisnick has the speed and defensive ability to cover as the back-up, and there’s no need for a 5th player in the depth chart for the outfield. Not as long as Marisnick’s still up in the majors.  The main designation will likely be DH for the call up, because the Astros are anemic at bad, and need some cleanup with stranded RISP. Also noteworthy is that there’s no true starter at 1st base. Currently, White is splitting time with Gonzalez, which is pushing the rest of the infield on rest days. Eventually, we’ll see A.J. Reed move up to split that time with White at 1st, but with his DL designation, it’s not going to happen today.

The other big hint is the recent move in the minors, expanding Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) SS Alex Bregman’s playtime to 3rd base last week. This could be a fast track to the majors, or it could be a position move to clear the way for another 3rd base call up, Colin Moran, 3rd base for the Fresno Grizzlies (AAA). Another position player that’s been discussed in this mix of potential call ups is Tony Kemp, 2nd base for the Fresno Grizzlies with OF experience. Kemp is an interesting choice for a few reasons. He can be an infield/outfield plug in, and can eventually allow Marisnick to be sent back down to AAA to get more plate appearances and work out his hitting situation.

The decision maker will likely fall into who can prosper best as DH, however, with some emphasis on plugging into infield positions when needed. To me, this eliminates Tony Kemp. Kemp is a left-handed batter, which will draw more walks, but he’s not a big hitter. He’s not going to be driving in runs, and he won’t be hitting it out of the park. He does have some speed (baserunning, OF coverage, and overall defense) that helps, but his arm strength won’t win battles in the OF. Also, as noted, Marisnick is the 4th man in the outfield, and there’s no need to cover bases in the OF with Marisnick backing up. Kemp could help infield, but he won’t help in run production.

Bregman’s move from SS to 3rd base with the Corpus Christi Hooks put him on the radar as a potential fast track with a lot of talking heads, which makes some sense. Currently, SS is pinned down by Correa, and a MiLB prospect isn’t going to bump Correa to another position. Correa may have experience at 3rd, but that’s not going to happen with another rookie coming up. So, Bregman playing a different position lends speculation that he’s going to be part of an upcoming move. It’s not likely to be a jump from AA Hooks to the MLB roster, though. Not this year. More likely, he’ll be promoted up to the AAA Grizzlies to make room for a call up.

Which leads us to who I think will be joining the team shortly: Colin Moran. Moran is a constent hitter who can bring home runs as a DH, and can back-up Valbuena. This is needed for two reasons: Valbuena hasn’t been at his best defensively on 3rd, and Gonzalez is splitting time with White at 1st. Oh, and there’s that thing about how Luhnow loves Moran, and brings him up every chance he gets. Calling Moran as being on the short list of call ups while being a slump or injury away from the MLB is a big nod toward who is being brought up. I could be wrong, but all signs point to Moran being called up to the roster on the off day in Chicago.

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