The Houston Astros rebuilding movement has been difficult on fans to say the least. The Astros have managed to overhaul their farm system with a slew of trades, bringing back quality minor league talent.
However, these moves have left much to be desired from their everyday lineup. Unfortunately for Astros fans, the team's most exciting prospects are at best two to three years away from Major League Baseball, if things pan out well.
The move to the American League brings Astros general manger, Jeff Luhnow, the additional assignment of finding a designated hitter. This will open up more opportunities for the Astros to build a stronger lineup.
Here is my prediction of what the Astros lineup will look like to open up the 2013 season.
The All-Star second baseman has been a model of consistency all year for the Astros. He has clearly been the team's best player from the start of the season.
He is one of Major League Baseball's most exciting young players and deserves to have more of the national spotlight on him.
Altuve is suited to lead off or hit second. With another season of many lineup changes likely on the horizon, he could be doing much of both.
Regardless of where he hits in the lineup, I would expect another All-Star year from the talented up-and-comer.
If it weren't for a sprained right ankle, the on-base specialist Jed Lowrie could have put up some impressive overall numbers for a shortstop. He still carries a .799 OPS and is capable of hitting for big power at a premium position.
There will be plenty of trade speculation involving Lowrie leading up to the 2013 season. It's entirely possible he could be dealt, but it could also make more sense to let him rebuild his value here for the first few months of the 2013 season.
If he is traded, Marwin Gonzalez would be the logical candidate to replace Lowrie at shortstop.
It has been difficult to tell whether Brett Wallace has arrived or not, but he has been fairly consistent between Triple-A and the major leagues this season.
Barring a terrible showing in spring training, Wallace will likely be the Opening Day first baseman, hitting in the crucial third spot in the lineup.
Fans should also keep an eye out for the promising young first base prospect, Jonathan Singleton, as he competes with Wallace in spring training.
It would be a major upset if Singleton wrestled away the Opening Day job from Wallace, but he will be a player to monitor in the minor leagues throughout the 2013 season.
The current state of the Astros has allowed for players like Justin Maxwell to get plenty of opportunities to show what they are capable of. Maxwell won't make an All-Star team, but he provides a decent bat with above average power.
Maxwell won't excite the fan base, but he gives the organization a cheap temporary solution in the lineup while young prospects like George Springer get more minor league seasoning.
Center field could be a position the Astros look to fill in free agency as well. The Astros could be a logical fit for a player like Grady Sizemore, who will be looking for an opportunity to get big league at-bats as a free agent. The Astros could look at more low-risk high-reward options like this in free agency.
The organization will have to be patient with J.D. Martinez, simply because there aren't any corner outfield power hitting options to replace him with right now. He has shown glimpses of potential, but overall he has struggled to put together any kind of consistency in 2012.
If Martinez shows signs of life in spring training, he will be given the opportunity to re-establish himself as an everyday hitter come Opening Day.
He will be 25 years old next season, young enough to finally figure it out and become a consistent middle-of-the-order hitter for the Astros.
The Astros don't expect Martinez to be Ryan Braun, and fans shouldn't either. He is much more of a temporary option right now than a long-term solution. I don't believe he's lost the organization's support, however. Producing in spring training will be crucial for Martinez.
Realistically, the Astros probably won't field an everyday hitter at any of their three outfield spots.
While Maxwell and Martinez will likely see the majority of the at-bats at their positions for the beginning of the 2013 season, this could also be the case for the newly-acquired Ben Francisco in right field.
Francisco is a part-time player, but he provides a cheap veteran bat that won't kill the lineup.
The Astros could offer one-year "prove it" deals to free agents like Brad Hawpe or Fred Lewis, but they really aren't upgrades to Francisco.
They could also bring back Steve Pearce, who has played some right field and has hit well in his short stint with the team.
Marc Krauss was one of the many young players acquired in the flurry of deadline trades by the Astros.
Krauss has raked in the minors since joining the organization, so much so he could be in line to be the Opening Day designated hitter.
Krauss will need to have a huge spring training and prove he can handle the duties. It won't be easy, as he will likely have plenty of competition.
The Astros will likely give tryouts to several defensively-challenged veterans for their designated hitter spot, but it could be the rookie emerging as the best solution.
Krauss will be 25 years old next year and should be due for a test in the majors.
Jason Castro was starting to come into his own before issues with his right knee caused him to miss time.
Most Astros fans might be surprised to know he hit .302 in June. In fact, he had a very impressive line of .302/.367/.820 that month.
Castro is worthy of everyday at-bats as a major league catcher and should only get better at the plate over time. He has improved since he first came up, and he should be expected to be a solid catcher for now and in the future.
The 2013 season should finally be the time for Matt Dominguez to get a look as a full-time third baseman.
He is getting some extra seasoning in Triple-A right now, and the stats would suggest he's almost ready.
While the offensive stats don't tell the full story of players down in the minors, hitting has been Dominguez's issue.
Dominguez has a solid line of .317/.374/.797 since becoming a part of the Astros organization.
The Astros don't have many other options at third base, so that could be a major factor in Dominguez getting this opportunity in 2013.