Say what you want about the Pirates, top to bottom, The Astros might be worse. Based on ESPN’s depth chart, The Astros have question marks at C, SS and 3B. 2B is Kaz Matsui, a guy that can hit .300, steal 25+ bases and field his position well. He also can’t stay healthy. Last year was the first time he topped 114 games in a season as a MLB player, and it was arguably his worst season too. He’s had flashes, but at age 34, his time is coming to an end. SS is Tommy Manzella, the classic no hit SS of yesteryear. Expect to see a lot of Jeff Keppinger at SS when his OBP hovers around .275. So they’ll live with Kepps “fall down” range at SS in the hope that his bat makes up for it. The Astros will be hoping for Kep’s 2007 line, but will likely get his career line .279 .333 .390 .723. 3B is Pedro Feliz and Geoff Blum. Out machines. Neither has much pop, neither are getting any younger. 2009 was one of the very few times Berkman didn’t play 150 games. And he still posted fantastic numbers. He’s this team’s best offensive threat, and a very good glove at 1B.
Michael Bourn was what Willy Taveras was supposed to be for the Reds. Except Bourn walked 63 times. His walk rate jumped a little from 2008 to 2009, but the big jump was in his BA. That caused a 66 point jump in his OBP. Is Bourn a .280 hitter? If he is, then the leadoff spot in Houston is set for a long time. I like the Houston OF as a whole. Hunter Pence is a solid player, though he should never attempt to steal a base again. He has just enough speed to think he has speed. Carlos Lee is a solid thumper that gets on base. But to paraphrase Bill James, he fields his position with all the aplomb of a pregnant camel in a forest fire.
ESPN has Roy Oswalt listed as the Astros #1 starter, but with due respect, that title is Wany Rodriguez’ now. Wandy has filthy stuff, K’d 193 in 205 IP. BB’d only 63. He’s a power LH starter. Reds fans should hope that Chapman is eventually as good as Wandy. Past the top two, the rotation is unproven or washed up. Myers and Moehler are penciled in as the #4 and #5 starters. Bud Norris has 10 career MLB starts, but impressive minor league numbers. A very good 9.5 K/9, but 3+ BB/9 too. Reminds me of that Bailey kid. If he can harness his stuff, he has a chance to be a successful SP.
The Astros have a lot of problems. The infield minus Berkman is a wreck, 3/5 of the rotation potentially is below average to bad. The bullpen isn’t very good either. An unproven closer that just had a cyst drained in his shoulder, a setup guy in Lindstrom that has seen his production decline three straight years, and no one else stands out. The OF plus Berkman can keep them in games offensively, and Oswalt/Wandy could combine for 30+ wins.
But that won’t put them in contention for even the Wild Card.