Houston Astros: Predicting Their 2012 Opening Day Lineup
Manager Brad Mills will have some work to do this off-season with his staff to figure out the starting lineup before Opening Day next season. The Astros could enter 2012 with only one player returning from the Opening Day lineup of 2011, and he will be starting at a new position.
Well, Mr. Mills, I am here to help you with this task and have already come up with what the lineup will look like at the start of next season. Some fans will be disappointed by this lineup as it will look very similar to what the Astros are currently running out there.
1. CF Jordan Schafer
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Jordan Schafer will most likely be the leadoff hitter for the Astros next season and man the center field position. He came over to the Astros from the Braves in the Michael Bourn trade.
While he hasn't played at the same level that Michael Bourn was before he was traded, he has shown enough to at least be given the first shot at the leadoff position. He is hitting .253 with five stolen bases in the 96 games played with Houston this season.
2. 2B Jose Altuve
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Jose Altuve tore it up in the minor leagues this year, and many wondered if that would translate to the majors. Now while he hasn't hit at a very impressive rate this season, he has shown enough to be the starting second baseman for the Astros in 2012.
He is only 21 years of age, has shown pretty good defense and decent contact at the plate and I think he fits well in hitting behind Schafer in 2012.
3. LF J.D. Martinez
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J.D. Martinez has been one of the few bright spots for the Houston Astros this season. He has played well enough to be penciled in at the three-hole and start in left field in 2012.
For the season, he is hitting .280 with six home runs and 33 RBI through his first 47 games. At 24 years of age, he still has room to grow and develop. He should be a fun player to watch over the next few years for the Astros.
4. 1B Carlos Lee
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I would much rather see Brett Wallace get another chance at first base for the Astros, but with how well Martinez played so far this season and Carlos Lee's massive contract, Wallace looks like odd man out.
Carlos Lee actually had a decent year compared to years past. He has hit .276 with 18 home runs, 11 of them coming with runners on base, and 86 RBI. This is Lee's last year on that massive six-year, $100 million contract, and if he gets off to a hot start, could be traded at the trade deadline.
5. 3B Jimmy Paredes
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Chris Johnson started the season as the third baseman for the Astros, and after the way he finished 2010, many fans thought he was the third baseman of the future. Well, he struggled out of the gate and was sent down to the minors in place of Jimmy Paredes.
Paredes in my opinion has done enough to start 2012 as the third baseman for Houston and hit in the fifth spot behind Carlos Lee. In 42 games this season, he has 46 hits for a .299 batting average and 16 RBI.
I am sure this will be one of the position battles in spring training next season with Paredes beating out Chris Johnson for the starting spot.
6. SS Clint Barmes
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Clint Barmes is a free agent after this year, but I fully expect the Astros to make a push to bring him back. He started off the year slowly and was dealing with injuries but has gotten better as the season progressed. He is hitting over .300 for the month in September.
With the youth movement going on in Houston, it is important to have a veteran or two in the team to provide leadership for the younger players. I expect Barmes to be the starting shortstop for Houston to start 2012.
7. RF J.B. Shuck
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J.B. Shuck was called up this season, and through his first 30 games, is hitting .262. Looking forward to next season, I see Shuck starting in right field for the Houston Astros and hitting out of the six-spot behind Barmes.
I don't necessarily think Shuck is the best option for the Astros, and this is one spot that may be filled by a free agent, but in the end, I think it will be Shuck.
8. C Jason Castro
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Jason Castro was suppose to be the starting catcher to start 2011, but a knee injury in spring training ended his season before it started. I have not seen anything that would dispute Castro being ready for 2012 and the Astros starting catcher.
After being called up in 2010, he struggled a bit at the plate but showed his defensive skills behind the plate were major-league ready. If Castro is able to improve his approach at the plate, I could see him moving up quickly in the batting order.
9. SP Bud Norris
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Bud Norris, in his second season, developed into a strikeout machine, and at this point, pitched well enough to be the Opening Day pitcher for the Houston Astros. He dropped his ERA over a run to 3.77 and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
This season, he set career marks in games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and opponent's batting average. Hopefully, Norris can continue this trend into 2012.