Spring will be here very soon, so I could not resist the temptation to dig into my notes from last year along with various scouting resources (none of the “insider” variety) and try to see who will end up where when the national anthem sounds for real. This post deals with corner infielders.
As far as I can tell, there are 23 players under Astros control that can be seen primarily as corner infielders. This includes Carlos Lee and Matt Downs along with a few guys at lower levels who can also play other positions. Additionally, some of the guys included in the middle infielder analysis can also play 3B and may end up there eventually. There are probably ~15 slots on full season clubs … bearing in mind that this is a good source of DH candidates, but some leagues have lower roster limits as well.
Carlos is a given at 1B this year, but the other two slots (3B and 6th IF) shape up as one of the most interesting battles of the spring (the other being 5th OF). Jimmy Paredes has to be the favorite to return at 3B, but given Lutnow’s recent comments, I could see a big spring by some combination of CJ, Brett Wallace and Marwin Gonzalez forcing Paredes to AAA. Why Gonzalez? I figure Matt Downs is pretty close to a “lock” and his ability to play 2B becomes more valuable if the Astros decide to carry the Rule 5 pick. As noted elsewhere, Johnson & Wallace are really on the ropes, though I think CJ’s superior versatility gives him the inside track.
AAA will present some interesting challenges. Kody Hinze probably needs to move up … if for no other reason than to make room for Jonathan Singleton. I have him splitting time with Brett Wallace at 1B & DH, with free agent Scott Moore at 3B. CJ may end up here though (in which case Moore will probably be gone) and guys like Thurston or even Sanchez could figure here as well.
I think Corpus Christi will be pretty interesting this year with Singleton at 1B and Jonathan Meyer at 3B (among many other prospects around the diamond). The fans deserve a break after last year! I suppose Hinze might end up here (mostly at DH), but I predict that the “extra” infielder (if needed) will come from James Van Ostrand, Erik Castro or David Flores. I doubt if any of that trio is guaranteed a roster spot anywhere, though.
Telvin Nash figures to step up to Lancaster and make up for some time he lost at the beginning of last year to a hamate bone injury. Mike Kvasnicka will probably hold down 3B. “Extra infielder” candidates include Castro, Flores and maybe Tyler Burnett. If Andrew Simunic ends up here again, his versatility could free up a spot, though.
1B in Lexington is a bit of a question mark. Burnett will probably repeat, but I have this inkling that they will push Chase Davidson. Since Burnett also had a few starts at 3B last year, the two may split 1B with Davidson getting some starts at DH and Burnett backing up Matthew Duffy, who I expect to get his first full-season experience as the starter at 3B. Rafael Valenzuela and Justin Shults would be the most likely candidates to start at Lexington if Burnett makes the Lancaster roster.
|35||Carlos Lee||Houston (LF/1B)||Houston – 1B|
|23||Jimmy Paredes||CC/Hou||Houston – 3B|
|28||Matt Downs||Houston||Houston – PH/util|
|27||Chris Johnson||Hou/OKC||Houston (or OKC – 3B? or traded?)|
|25||Brett Wallace||Hou/OKC||OKC – 1B/DH (or Hou? or traded?)|
|28||Scott Moore||FA||Oklahoma City – 3B|
|24||Kody Hinze||Lan/CC||Oklahoma City – DH/1B|
|21||Jonathan Meyer||Lancaster||Corpus Christi – 3B|
|20||Jonathan Singleton||Lancaster||Corpus Christi - 1B|
|27||James Van Ostrand||Corpus Christi||CC? released?|
|25||David Flores||CC/Lan||CC? Lan? Cut?|
|24||Erik Castro||Lan (time on DL)||CC? Lan? Cut?|
|21||Telvin Nash||Lexington||Lancaster – 1B|
|23||Mike Kvasnicka||Lexington||Lancaster – 3B|
|22||Tyler Burnett||Lexington||Lexington – 1B (or Lan?)|
|24||Justin Shults||GCL||SS (or maybe Lex?)|
|22||Chase Davidson||Gre/TC||Lexington 1B (?)|
|24||Rafael Valenzuela||Gre/TC||SS or maybe Lex|