Snow day today. A few comments the last few days have made me realize: no matter what I think should happen, Craig Biggio will probably be starting the entire season for the Astros, barring injury. Phil Garner has said that as things stand right now, he anticipates a starting outfield of Biggio / Lane / Palmeiro. I find this strange, since I believe Palmeiro to be better defensively than Lane, but perhaps Garner just wants Lane to get used to CF, since that's where he'll probably play when Berkman returns: Biggio / Lane / Berkman. I think it's too much to ask to have Biggio return to 2nd, although he's said he wouldn't mind doing so: we have top prospect Chris Burke and overrated veteran Jose Vizcaino ready to go there.
It's not the worst thing in the world that Biggio starts - he had a nice bounceback year last year, right? Well, yes, but in an interesting way - his extra base hits jumped from 61 to 71, his batting average jumped 17 points, and his slugging average jumped 57 points, but his OBP (certainly the most important stat for a leadoff hitter, if not for all hitters) actually fell 13 points to .337, and he only drew 40 walks in 633 AB's, a troubling amount, and he slumped badly n the 2nd half (.256 / .308 / .451). What does it all mean? I think Biggio worked hard in the offseason to get some power back; he worked on eliminating the leg kick, allowing him to catch up to fastballs easier. However, he decided to swing at everything, maybe to 'prove' that he can still drive the ball. He needs to get back to drawing walks, or be moved down in the batting order.
Some more good news? Biggio's a fan favorite: he'll sell tickets. Left field is probably the easiest position to play at The Juice Box; he can play shallow because of the short porch, which minimizes his below-average arm. And it IS below-average. I remember in the NLCS against St. Lous, on a routine flyball to LF, Albert Pujols (bad heel and all) easily tagged up from 2nd to 3rd base. So Biggio's arm is pretty damn bad.
The main thing this all means is that if we trade for a CF, I think Lane would probably go to the bench (at least when Berkman returns.) If this is true, then maybe we shouldn't trade for a CF - we need to start the rebuilding process eventually, and Lane is likely to be part of that.
So: Lane as a CF. Lane's overall defensive numbers are pretty frightening, with a 1.03 Range Factor (league average: 1.86) over 129 games. This might be because Lane was often a late-game defensive replacement, but I wonder if he can handle CF. There's only one way to find out, I guess, and Lance Berkman actually did all right in center, so why not Lane?
I also saw that we lost D.J. Houlton in the Rule 5 draft (to the Dodgers). What the hell? I honestly don't understand how Rule 5 works, but this guy was our 2nd best pitching prospect last year, right after Ezequiel Astacio, so what gives?
Speaking of Astacio, I'd like to see him get a long look in Spring Training. The Astros have traditionally been aggressive in promoting young pitchers (Oswalt, Miller, Carlos Hernandez), so I hope Astacio also benefits from this.