Stability is something treasured in sports, and for the most part it’s absent on the Astros roster except for one area. Once you get past first base, the rest of the infield seems to be drama free with the possible exception of short stop.
At second base, Jose Altuve built upon his solid half season in 2011 an All Star performance in 2012. Though he slipped some at the end of year, Altuve still hit .290 and raised his walk total from 5 to 40. Defensively Altuve is a player Houston fans could grow to love, willing to sacrifice his body in the field. He is as solid a lock as there is among Houston position players.
Short stop was supposed to be nailed down with Jed Lowrie back for his second season in Houston, but his trade a week before the start of spring training threw the position into a bit of flux. The Astros have a pair of candidates to replace them in switch hitting Marwin Gonzalez and right hander Tyler Greene. Both played for the Astros in 2012, Gonzalez is the more accomplished fielder and Greene has the most pop in his bat. This may not be a competition for the starting job, though, because despite Gonzalez’ ability to switch hit General Manager Jeff Luhnow has stated his comfort in allowing the two to platoon at the position.
At third base, Matt Dominguez seems to have the position to himself at the start of spring training. Acquired last July from the Marlins in the Carlos Lee trade, Dominguez is the only natural third baseman in Kissimmee right now, though there are some players who have the ability to fill in at the hot corner. Among those players is Brett Wallace, whose versatility at this position might give him a leg up in the competition at first base.
Dominguez had two stints with the Astros in 2012, he was with the club for a cup of coffee immediately after the trade and looked overmatched, getting two singles in four games. His second time up, Dominguez fared much better. His average jumped 30 points to .280 and his slugging percentage climbed to .439 in September. If that progression continues there’s hope for the Astros at third. If Dominguez slumps, the Astros will have to get creative to fill the position.
There are other infielders who will get time at camp, from minor leaguers like Delino DeShields, Jr, and Jonathan Villar, to non roster invitees Brandon Laird and Jose Martinez. Outside of a spring where they hit .650 with power and play sparkling defense, they are likely space fillers to keep the regulars fresh for when the season starts.
That doesn’t mean that Astros fans shouldn’t keep their eyes on DeShields, Jr and Villar, though. Both are still players who should wind up in Houston in the future. If DeShields, Jr plays this year like he did last, he’ll be on his way to Houston with a bullet.
Who will be the non-first base infielders when the team breaks Kissimmee for Houston? Here’s our projection.