How bad was the Astros offense in the outfield in 2012?
Four outfielders, J.D. Martinez, Justin Maxwell, Brian Bogusevic and Jordan Schafer, all played at least 100 games for the Astros last season. Combined they played in 489 games but totaled just 40 home runs, 159 RBI and 159 runs scored. Their cumulative batting average was just .216.
It’s no surprise that this is the one area of the position players that could see the largest amount of turnover for Houston. Schafer and Bogusevic are no longer with the team, and Jeff Luhnow called out J.D. Martinez before the Astros left for Kissimmee that he needs to hit better in 2013.
Martinez will be given the first chance to nail down the job in left field. He hit for average and power in the final months of 2011 and in April of 2012 before things went sideways. Though a hand injury slowed down his offseason work, Martinez remains confident in his ability to return to the form that had Astros fans excited about him.
Even if Martinez performs well, there is a good chance that Chris Carter will take some of the playing time in left as well. Carter, who the Astros acquired in the Jed Lowrie trade with Oakland, seems destined to find a spot in the lineup at first base, left field or at DH. Carter hit 16 home runs in 2012, averaging one ever 13.5 at bats, while the Astros four main outfielders averaged one every 35 at bats.
Maxwell seems to have landed a spot in center field at the start of the season. Luhnow loves Maxwell’s power potential, he hit 18 homers in 352 at bats last year, and is most comfortable playing in center. He’ll need to improve on his .229 average and .304 on base percentage though.
Right field is much more wide open. Francisco Martinez played the most games there for Houston among returning players. Martinez had a slugging percentage of .466, which is the highest among the returning outfielders.
Brandon Barnes will be in the mix in some form for the outfield, either at center or as a fourth outfielder. Barnes is the best defensive player among the four returnees and if Luhnow feels he can get enough offense from the corners, he might win the starting job in center.
The Astros also brought in Rick Ankiel to compete for a job in the Astros outfield. Ankiel is familiar to both Luhonw from his days with the Cardinals, and with Bo Porter because he spent the last two seasons in Washington. Ankiel has to be looked as a defensive outfielder first, he hasn’t hit more than .235 or slugged better than .411 since 2009, but he does possess a cannon of an arm. If Ankiel makes the team it will be as someone who will provide veteran leadership on a team that has very little.
What will the outfield look like when the team breaks for Houston? Here is our prediction.
LF J.D. Martinez
CF Justin Maxwell
RF Fernando Martinez
OF Rick Ankiel
OF/1B/DH Chris Carter