The 2011 season has been rough for the Houston Astros and fans alike. As of Monday they sported a 38-83 record, which is good enough for last place in MLB. This also means that they will get the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, giving fans something to look forward to.
However, I don't think that is the only thing they have to look forward to in 2012 as they have a number of young players who look like they are ready to step up next year. With that said, I have set my sights on next season and tried to figure out what the Houston Astros might look like. This is what I came up with.
Some fans may have forgotten about Jason Castro, who went down with a season-ending knee injury in spring training this year. Castro was the 10th-overall pick in the 2008 draft and showed some serious skill behind the plate at the end of the last season.
He still needs to work on his approach at the plate, but putting him back in as the starting catcher will only help this team next year.
I think many Astros fans were hoping that Brett Wallace would be the starting first baseman, but after his struggles this season, along with Carlos Lee's massive contract, Lee is the choice here. Carlos Lee started the year as the left fielder, but it quickly became noticeable that his defense was too much of a liability in the outfield.
Lee has had a bounce-back season from last year, with 68 RBI already and 11 home runs, but he is not the same power hitter from a few years ago. I think Wallace should be the pick here, but the Astros can't bench that big of a contract.
One of the more exciting players to watch this season on the Astros has been Jose Altuve. The guy is hitting .333 with six doubles through 24 games and hasn't let his height (5'7") get in the way of his success.
He is only 21 years of age and many wondered if he could produce like he did in the Minors since he hadn't played higher than the Double A level. I think he has shown a lot of ability and hopefully can secure the position for years to come.
This is one of the question marks for next season for the Astros. Clint Barmes is currently the starting shortstop, but is only signed through this season. I believe Angel Sanchez deserves a chance at the shortstop position as he played very well at the beginning of the season filling in for an injured Clint Barmes.
The only other option I could come up with within the organization would be Jonathan Villar. He was recently ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Astros organization by Baseball America.
The problem is he is still fairly young, at only 20 years of age, and the team may want to keep him in the Minors for a little bit longer, but the Astros have shown they are not afraid to move prospects up quickly. I expect Villar to be competing for this spot in spring training next year.
Jimmy Paredes was called up to replace Chris Johnson at third base and it will be an interesting battle to follow in spring training next year. Since being called up from Double A he has been playing pretty well, hitting .283 with six runs scored, a home run and five RBI through 12 games.
Chris Johnson struggled through the first half of the season, only hitting .245, and couldn't live up to the expectations many fans had for him entering the season. He hit .308 last year for Houston down the stretch and didn't look like the same player this year.
J.D. Martinez has only been up with the team for 16 games, but already has four home runs and 15 RBI. He was the Astros' pick in the 20th round in 2009 and has really produced at every level since joining the organization.
He was hitting .338 at the Double A level before being called up, and I would expect with more experience at the major league level for his average to get higher than his current mark of .250. I think he is the long-term answer at the left field position.
Jason Bourgeois is actually one of the older players on the Astros at 29 years of age, but he has been an adequate replacement for Michael Bourn so far. He is hitting .312 on the season and has 22 stolen bases already in limited action.
He will most likely be manning center field as the Astros don't have many other options within the organization.
Brian Bogusevic has been playing lights-out baseball in the month of August, hitting .435 with five runs scored. The options are again limited at this position and that is why I think Bogusevic will be the pick. If the Astros are able to sign their first-round pick, George Springer, I think he would be the better option.
George Springer is not your normal draft pick as he is a five-tool player who spent four years at the collegiate level. At 21 years of age, I would not be surprised to see him pushing for that starting right field position during spring training next year.
I think the pitching rotation will be very similar to what Houston fans have seen this year, but the order may be completely different. I would expect Wandy Rodriguez to be the No. 1, followed by Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles, who are both young pitchers that are thought highly of by people in the organization.
After the top three, I think it will be Brett Myers and J.A. Happ rounding out the rotation. Henry Sosa could make a push for one of the rotations, but I don't think there are many other options within the organization after that.
Fans may be afraid of this as the Astros' pitching has been pretty bad this season, but they do have a fairly young rotation and hopefully can learn and develop into better pitchers. I still believe this can be a very solid rotation, but would not stick with it the entire 2012 season if they struggle early on.
This part of the team is anybody's guess. I think Mark Melancon has done enough to hold on to the closer spot, even if Brandon Lyon comes back healthy. I also think Wilton Lopez has pitched well enough to continue being the set-up man.
I would not be surprised to see David Carpenter, Sergio Escalona and Fernando Rodriguez be brought back, but I would not be surprised to see them replaced either, as they have not exactly been lights out this year.