Houston Astros Spring Training Positional Battles

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIFebruary 14, 2012

Houston Astros Spring Training Positional Battles

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    For many Major League Baseball players, Spring Training is all about getting ready for the upcoming season.

    Some players are assured starting spots, while others know their role is on the bench.

    This year, the Houston Astros have more spots up for grabs in Spring Training than they do spots that are set in stone.

    Those who are guaranteed starting spots are Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Brett Myers in the starting rotation, Carlos Lee at first base, J.D. Martinez in left field, Jose Altuve at second base and Jed Lowrie at shortstop.

    Outside of that, it's anyone's guess as to who will be starting.

    Here's a look at the position battles in Spring Training and who I believe will come out on top.


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    When the Astros drafted Jason Castro in 2008, they felt that by this time he'd be the starting backstop for the next 10 years.

    However, injuries have derailed that, and Castro goes into Spring Training battling Chris Snyder for the starting position.

    While in the minors, Castro never showed a lot of pop in his bat, but got on base more than a third of the time.

    Snyder was decent in a backup role in Pittsburgh last year, but doesn't look like he'll regain the form he saw in Arizona between 2005 and 2009.



    Castro will win the job by default. Give him a little time to settle into the position, and if not this year, then next year he'll be on his way to being the Astros catcher for the next decade.

Third Base

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    Third base could end up being the biggest contest in Spring Training.

    Do the Astros go with Jimmy Paredes, last year's starter Chris Johnson or once-uber prospect Brett Wallace?

    I don't think Wallace will get the nod and will be back in Triple-A. With Carlos Lee expected to be traded or walk in free agency, Wallace will once again take the helm at first once Lee heads elsewhere.

    That leaves Paredes and Johnson.

    Paredes batted .286 with two home runs and 18 RBI last year in 46 games, while Johnson batted .251 with seven home runs and 42 RBI. Paredes has the better glove, but Johnson has a little more experience.



    Throw experience out the window as the Astros will give the youngster the starting nod, giving him time to develop at the Major League level.

Center Field

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    This battle comes down to Jordan Schafer and Jason Bourgeois.

    Both have upsides, but one stands out more than the other.

    Bourgeois hit .294 last year and stole 31 bases, while only getting caught six times. Schafer on the other hand hit .242 with 22 stolen bases, while getting caught four times.

    The stolen bases numbers are near the same, considering one played more than the other. So, where do the Astros go with this?



    Bourgeois will outperform Schafer in Spring Training.

    With Schafer's recent arrest on marijuana chargers, there will be other things to take his focus off baseball, while Bourgeois can focus on winning the job. Plus, Bourgeois gets on base more often, which is what you want out of a leadoff hitter.

Right Field

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    The job is Brian Bogusevic's to lose.

    Although his numbers weren't great, Bogusevic is the only player who could really play right field for the Astros. I'm sure the Astros' brass would also like to see what he can do for more than a half season in the starting lineup.

    Of course, the Astros could also put Bourgeois in right and Schafer in center, but I believe they will give Bogusevic a chance to prove himself in the Major Leagues.



    Bogusevic gets the nod for reasons stated above.


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    Honestly, I believe all positions in the bullpen are up for grabs.

    Brandon Lyon is returning from shoulder surgery, so he's not really going to be a hard thrower, nor has he ever been.

    The Astros have a lot of young, live arms in the bullpen, it will just be a matter of who gets the looks. David Carpenter, Juan Abreu and Rhiner Cruz will all get their chances to prove they can be the Astros' closer beyond 2012.

    While the Astros figure out who their closer of the future is, Lyon will get a majority of the opportunities.



    Your guess is as good as mine.

Starting Rotation

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    With the top three spots in the rotation taken care of, the Astros now have to figure out who will round out their rotation.

    They have Kyle Weiland, who they acquired from the Boston Red Sox, J.A. Happ and Jordan Lyles who will stake a legitimate claim for a spot in the rotation.

    It's going to come down to who impresses the most in Spring Training.

    Happ has the experience, having started 72 games in his career, but his overall numbers aren't that great.

    Weiland started five games for the Red Sox last year, but had a 7.66 ERA, which can likely be attributed to his inexperience and the fact that he played in the American League East.

    Lyles had similarly bad numbers last year, going 2-8, but has a tremendous upside that the Astros want to tap in to.



    Weiland and Lyles will get the nod with Happ becoming the long-reliever in the bullpen. With the Astros in full rebuild mode, they're likely going to give the young guys more opportunities since the team isn't going anywhere for a while.