Houston Astros: 10 Players Now Playing for Major League Spots in 2013

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IAugust 2, 2012

Houston Astros: 10 Players Now Playing for Major League Spots in 2013

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    The trade deadline has passed and once again the Astros were big sellers. They traded away five key players on their roster with the departure of Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ. GM Jeff Luhnow has kicked the rebuilding process into overdrive.

    By moving all these players it has opened a number of holes in the starting lineup, creating a number of opportunities for younger players. This should make things very interesting next spring training with how many position battles there is expected to be.

    For players to claim one of these spots they will need to finish the 2012 season strongly to position themselves as the front runner heading into 2013. These are the top 10 players who are playing for starting spots in 2013 when the Astros play their first season in the American League.

Dallas Keuchel

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    Dallas Keuchel's major league career started off great in his first three starts. He averaged 6.2 innings a start, including one complete game, giving up only three total runs. 

    The month of July has not been as kind to Keuchel as he has gone 0-4 over four starts. He has given up a total of 22 runs in 19 innings pitched. His last start against the Brewers he gave up seven runs over four innings and now has an ERA at 5.77.

    These last two months will be crucial for Keuchel in terms of positioning himself as a front runner for one of the rotation spots behind Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles. If he continues to pitch like he has in July over  the rest of the season, he could find himself behind some of the other prospects.

Jarred Cosart

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    This picture was from 2011 when Cosart went to the Futures Game as a member of the Phillies organization and was considered one of their top pitching prospects. He was sent to Houston about two weeks later in the Hunter Pence trade, and even changing organizations didn't change the designation of top pitching prospect.

    Cosart currently is pitching for Oklahoma City and while he has struggled, showing a 6.52 ERA over two starts, he will mostly like be a candidate for a starting rotation spot during spring training next season.

    He is a little bit of enigma though as he has shown he can strike batters out, 10 over 9.2 innings. He has also been hit pretty frequently, giving up 14 so far. If he can cut down the hits there is no reason why he won't grab one of the final spots in the rotation.

Brett Wallace

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    This seems like an annual question: "Is this the year it comes together for Brett Wallace?" Two years ago Wallace got an opportunity at first base after Lance Berkman left. He didn't play very well, hitting only .222 and not showing any power.

    Last season, Wallace came into spring training thinking, as many others did, that the starting first base job was his. However with Carlos Lee's ability to play outfield becoming non-existent, they had to move him to first base, which pushed Wallace to a platoon-type role. He didn't help his cause again by showing no power and hitting for a low average.

    This time around Wallace looks like he is ready for the challenge. Before this season, Wallace had seven career home runs in 480 at-bats and this season he already has four home runs in only 48 at-bats. This is a very small sample size but it looks like things are heading in the right direction which can only benefit the Astros, as they may get the starting first baseman they envisioned three years ago when they traded for him.

Jonathan Singleton

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    Jonathan Singleton represented the Astros at the Futures Game this past season and all indications are that he should have the inside track for the starting DH position next season. The knock on Singleton has always been his defense but he has the potential to be a threat at the plate, making him the perfect DH.

    He is currently playing for Corpus Christi and it would not surprise me to see him finish the year at the Triple A level with Oklahoma City. Singleton is considered the Astros top hitter and a strong finish this year should give him a great chance at a spot on the Astros roster in 2013.

Matt Dominguez

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    Matt Dominguez came over in the Carlos Lee trade at the beginning of last month and will have a great opportunity in 2013 to be the starting third baseman for the Houston Astros. Dominguez was selected 12th overall back in 2007 by the Marlins and was even given a shot last season at the major league level by the Marlins back in 2011.

    Injuries cut his first chance short as he only played 17 games. According to Prospect Watch, defensively Dominguez is ready now; however, his bat is suspect. Those concerns could be quickly erased if he keeps hitting in Oklahoma City like he has been, with 18 RBI in 18 games and a .294 average.

Jonathan Villar

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    Jonathan Villar has the skills in the field to be a major league shortstop but has struggled at the plate, hitting only .261 for Corpus Christi. When he gets on base though, he gives opposing teams nightmares with his remarkable speed, what with swiping 39 bases already.

    The issue is that he hasn't developed discipline, on and off the field, which is necessary at the next level. At the plate he strikes out at a rate that is just too high with 87 strikeouts in 326 at-bats. Off the field he has had problems too, breaking his hand two weeks ago after punching a bathroom door during a 12-2 win no less. 

    This injury really hurts his chances at grabbing the starting shortstop position, what with being out for six weeks. The skills are there though and if he can show a new-found maturity during spring training, he will be competing for a spot on the major league roster.

Paul Clemens

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    Paul Clemens has not had a good 2012 after starting the year with Oklahoma City and going 8-8 with an ERA over six. He was demoted to Double A about a week ago. I don't believe all is lost for the righty and he could find himself back with Oklahoma City before the end of the season.

    Last season when Clemens was pitching at the Double A level he had an ERA around three and I would not be surprised to see him hitting those numbers again this year. This move was most likely a way for him to gain some confidence back and tweak parts of his game. Clemens will get a spring training invite and while his chances are not as good as say Dallas Keuchel, a strong camp could get him a spot on the Astros in 2013.

Brett Oberholtzer

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    Brett Oberholtzer came over to the Astros, along with Paul Clemens, in the Michael Bourn trade last season and has had a little more success with Oklahoma City than Clemens. However it hasn't been that much more, with a 4-3 record and an ERA of 6.03.

    Oberholtzer has had trouble making hitters miss averaging only 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings and giving up 63 hits in 49.1 innings of work. He has done a good job of keeping his walks down with only 12 through nine starts.

    If he is able to cut back on the hits allowed and keep showing the command he has to date, then he should have a real good shot at the Astros' starting rotation next season.

Austin Wates

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    Austin Wates is a player who could really surprise some fans if he makes the starting roster next season. He is currently a right fielder for Corpus Christi and has been playing pretty well since joining the Astros in 2010.

    Through 77 games with the Hooks he has 91 hits which is good enough for a .303 average. Even with that average, he has to work on his plate discipline as strikeouts have been an issue through his career to date. The competition in right field will probably be the most competitive spring training battle next year. 

Kyle Weiland

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    Kyle Weiland came to the Astros in the Mark Melancon trade this past off-season and like any young pitcher, he has had his ups and downs in his first chance as a starting pitcher. Unfortunately it didn't last as long as he would hoped, as he had shoulder surgery back in May.

    The news didn't get any better for Weiland as it was discovered this past month that the shoulder was infected and would sideline him for the remainder of 2012. If Weiland comes back healthy and can pitch well during spring training, he showed enough in his seven starts to warrant another chance in the Astros starting rotation and should be considered one of the favorites.