Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Astros finalized their 25-man roster today - the final 3 cuts were Mike Gallo, Ezequiel Astacio, and Humberto Quintero. Thus, I present to you your 2005 Opening Day Houston Astros roster:

Pitchers (11): Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens, Backe, Duckworth, Lidge, Qualls, Wheeler, Harville, Springer, Franco

Catchers (2): Ausmus, Chavez

Infielders (8): Bagwell, Biggio, Everett, Ensberg, Burke, Bruntlett, Vizcaino, Lamb

Outfielders (4): Scott, Taveras, Lane, Palmeiro

DL (15-day): Berkman

I know the 'official' roster has Biggio listed as an OF, but I think it's clear he's going to start at 2B by now, and our 5th OF (though I hope this never happens) would probably be a mix of Biggio / Bruntlett / Burke / Lamb...yow. That's some bad defense.

Don't get too worked up about Astacio being sent down (by the way, I watched the 2nd half of the game last night, and while the Astros bats were shut out, I saw Astacio for the first time, and he looked GOOD - nice, easy motion, good fastball, good off-speed stuff.), because the Astros won't need a 5th starter until April 19, I believe, so that should give Astacio time for a few starts at AAA, and Duckworth can work in a middle relief / spot starter role, and winner takes all when we need a 5th starter. I'm hoping Astacio does well but stays in AAA until a late call-up in August / September for a few starts; that way, he doesn't lose a year of eligibility towards free agency and he's set up well for next year.

So I can't really argue with any of the roster moves. I'm glad that Burke / Taveras / Scott all made the team, and I hope they all get plenty of playing time before Berkman gets back. If you had told me at the start of this offseason that this would be our roster, I would have been ok with it EXCEPT for the back of our bullpen. Russ Springer and John Franco????? Yeah, those Turk Wendell and Dave Burba signings worked out really well, huh? Man, I can't believe we coudln't sign one more solid reliever. Chris Hammond / Osuna / Steve Reed / Jeff Nelson....gah. I hope Springer and Franco make me eat my words, but one more solid reliever really would have helped.

One thing we have plenty of is depth. Bruntlett has played every position but C, Viz can handle all 4 infield spots, Burke can play 2B / SS / OF, and Lamb can play 3B / 1B / OF. That doesn't mean those guys are GOOD at every position, but they can play there. And Burke / Lamb / Palmeiro / Viz / Bruntlett is actually a pretty good group of pinch-hitters - Burke and Lamb could both be regulars, Palmeiro posts a respectable OBP, Viz can switch hit and GIDP, and Bruntlett has a little power. The deep bench is important, particularly for a team that looks like it's going to start Everett, Taveras, Ausmus, and a pitcher in the batting lineup. This means a LOT of pressure is going to be on Biggio / Bagwell / Lane / Ensberg / Scott, particularly without Berkman. Those 5 guys need to get off to a hot offensive start, or we could find ourselves out of contention before the month is up.

The only question left is: who goes down when Berkman comes back? Well, it probably comes down to Taveras, Scott, and Burke. In my opinion it absolutely CANNOT be Chris Burke - the guy tore up AAA last year, and needs to play. Hopefully one of Taveras / Scott is clearly better than the other, so it's not a tough decision, but if Taveras gets sent down, that makes our OF Scott / Lane / Berkman, which sounds pretty damn bad defensively, so I think Scott needs to outplay Taveras by a pretty good margin, because Taveras would BY FAR the best fit in CF.

Since we've got our roster, we can pretty safely predict our OD lineup as:

Adam Everett
Craig Biggio
Jeff Bagwell
Morgan Ensberg
Jason Lane
Luke Scott
Willy Taveras
Brad Ausmus
Roy Oswalt

That's...not a lot of offense. With that same roster, I would probably go for

(that might be the worst 6-9 ever)

but it really doesn't matter much over the long run. What DOES matter is we have 4 guys in that lineup who will almost certainly not have a .350 OBP: Everett, Biggio, Taveras, Ausmus. We need Berkman back, and fast, and we need 2003 Ensberg and a big year from Lane.

Well, that's about it. My overall thoughts on the offseason are we blew it with the Beltran 'deadline' (should have set it a month earlier so it didn't cost up every other good FA), a soft market for relievers, but the deals to Clemens / Oswalt / Berkman were solid.

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