I don’t want to call 2008 a rebuilding year for the Astros, but it’s going to be that way. They’ve got so many guys with so much promise that it would be a crime not to have them on the everyday roster next year; Josh Anderson will definitely be the starting center fielder next year (with Pence moving to right), and from everything I’ve seen, J.R. Towles should be the starting catcher, with Brad Ausmus backing him up.
It’s apparent, at least to me, that there’s going to be some growing pains over the next two years or so. Personally, I’d rather bring the young guys up and get them some every day experience instead of keeping with Astros tradition and stuffing them in the minors until they are 30 years old. If these guys are the future, and I believe they are, then we need to let them play. Anderson and Towles, especially, are two guys who need to be starters next year, and Cody Ransom has looked pretty good as well.
Free agency is a bit of a wash this year. I think everyone expects the Astros to go after Torii Hunter, but I’d rather they just leave him alone and leave Anderson in the lineup. In his small sample of work since coming from the minors, he’s batting just under 500 and has done great work with the glove in center. Keeping him out there will enable you to move Pence to right, which leaves Luke Scott out of the picture; I like Luke and he’s probably one of my favorite people, but it’s obvious that his days as a starter are probably numbered.
First base is and will always be Berkman.
At second base, I believe you have to give Chris Burke a shot at being the every day guy, but what I’ve seen of him so far hasn’t looked promising. I think that Cody Ransom should be ready for an early call up next year, because I don’t think Burke is going to last there.
Shortstop will probably be Adam Everett, although I’m hoping they’ll bring up Brooks Conrad and give him a look. Everett is the best defensive shortstop in the game, but his bat is an absolute black hole. Of course, if you’re getting rid of the black hole bat at catcher by replacing Ausmus with Towles, then you could probably be okay in keeping Everett specifically for defensive purposes.
Third base is Ty Wigginton, which leaves Mike Lamb going somewhere else in free agency. I think Wiggy will be a 30 homer, 100 RBI guy at some point over the next three years, and I love the trade that brought him here.
Catcher should be Towles. He set an Astros club record with 8 RBI’s in a single game last night and has 11 RBI’s in his limited time in the bigs, while Eric Munson has been around all season long and only has 15 RBI’s. Start Towles and keep Ausmus behind him for guidance. Heck, make Ausmus an assistant manager.
As far as pitching goes…well, it’s going to be rough. I envision a lineup of Oswalt, Backe, Patton, Rodriguez and Williams next year, and that’s not the best lineup in the world. I think if you keep Patton in the lineup, then Wandy is expendable, which means Matt Albers or Dennis Sarfate could take his place. Sarfate throws some serious, serious heat and looked great against the Cardinals tonight. There’s just nothing out there on the free agency market that would be any good, so we should just use the farm system and stock it up from there.
Cecil Cooper will probably be the manager of the club, and the only way I would argue against that would be if Tony LaRussa wanted to come to Houston. I don’t see that happening, though, so we should just keep Coop. He’s done a good job with what he has to work with thus far and deserves to have the interim tag dropped from his title.
So, yeah…Drayton can call it whatever he wants, but 2008 is going to be a rebuilding year, and I’m totally fine with it. I’d much rather them gear up to be a major NL force in 2009 and beyond than to go out and sign big free agents (of which there aren’t many anyway) and try to win next year. Keep Anderson, Towles, Sarfate and Ransom in the majors and give them a shot at helping Houston become a homegrown powerhouse.