This was not the start the Astros were hoping for.
They have started spring training 1-3, splitting the two games yesterday. They were able to beat the Tigers 6-3 but gave up five runs in the bottom of the ninth against the Bronx Bombers to lose 6-5.
Even though the Astros have been struggling, there are still some prospects on this team that are worth keeping an eye on and should give some fans hope for the future.
Jordan Lyles is the top prospect in the Astros organization and one of the top prospects in the majors right now. The 20-year-old starting pitcher was named the 42nd best prospect in Baseball America's Top 100.
Lyles is still in consideration for that final rotation spot, but many people in the organization are hoping that he will have the opportunity to go back to the minor leagues to continue to develop as a pitcher.
He has pitched well so far this season, pitching two scoreless innings with only one hit, but did have two walks. If he hopes to win that starting spot, he will need to work on his control and cut down on the walks.
JD Martinez is the top outfielder prospect in the Astros organization, but unfortunately he is not off to a great spring training, as he has been battling a quad injury. However, he is expected to return today and should get plenty of opportunity to prove what type of player he is.
JD Martinez will probably see the majors at some point this season. If Carlos Lee moves to first base or is traded away, Martinez will most likely be the replacement. He seems to have all the tools to be a decent major league player, as he can hit for power and contact at the plate. Martinez does not have the greatest arm, but should do a fine job playing with the short porch in left field.
Lance Pendleton is a Rule 5 draft pick who is competing for the final spot in the rotation. Pendleton was acquired from the Yankees and has spent the past three seasons in the Yankees' minor league system. He could quickly become a fan favorite with the Astros, as he grew up nearby Houston and has been a lifelong fan.
The question is if the Astros believe Pendleton can compete at the major league level for the whole season, or they will need to offer Pendleton back to the Yankees for $25,000. Pendleton has had an up-and-down spring training so far. In his first appearance, he pitched one scoreless inning, only giving up one hit.
However, he struggled in his last appearance yesterday, walking in the winning run against the Yankees. I wouldn't hold it too much against him though, as he did enter in a tough situation and wasn't expected to pitch yesterday, but was called on due to the situation.
Yes, this is the son of the infamous pitcher Roger Clemens. However, he is not taking the same path as his father, deciding to play the field. He has moved from third base to first base this season. He won't get much opportunity early in the 2011 season, as Brett Wallace will be given plenty of playing time. Wallace was one of the key pieces that came back in the Roy Oswalt trade last year.
However, if Clemens is able to produce the same type of power numbers at the Triple-A level like he has done in previous years at other levels, it will be hard to not promote him. He has already been awarded MVP of the intrasquad game earlier this season, and is getting noticed by people like Jeff Bagwell, according to this article. It will be interesting to see how Clemens plays the rest of spring training.
Aneury Rodriguez is another Rule 5 prospect who came over to the Astros this year and is fighting for that final spot in the rotation. Like Pendleton, if the Astros want to keep him, he will need to stay on the major league roster for the entire season. However, what he has done to this point may not instill enough confidence that he can be effective for a full season.
He has only made one appearance so far in the season, and it was not pretty. In one inning pitched, he gave up three hits and two earned runs against Atlanta. However, it is only one start and Rodriguez will still have plenty of time to prove his worth to the Astros brass.
Matt Downs is competing for one of the open backup infielder spots and has been playing well to this point in spring training. He was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants in the middle of last season, and didn't play the best during his time with the Astros last year. He only hit .105 in 11 games with the Astros, but is hopefully going to prove that he can be a key role player on the team in 2011.
He has already showed some improvement at the plate, as Downs knocked in a pair of runs against the Tigers. If you add in his versatility to play multiple positions, Downs has to be considered the favorite for that final bench spot.
Mark Melancon was acquired from the New York Yankees last year in the Lance Berkman trade and in a short time pitched very well for the Astros. He had 19 strikeouts in 17 innings of work for the Astros last year and should be a key asset to the Astros bullpen this season.
The 6'2" reliever throws a strong fastball and an above average curveball, and if Brandon Lyon struggles as closer this year, Melancon will be one of the candidates to take over the duties. He is a big strong pitcher who strikes batters out and would do a good job as the Astros closer.
He has already pitched well this spring training, recording one scoreless inning against the Braves.