The Astros final roster spot will be a two-man showdown between Myles Straw and Garrett Stubbs, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Of course, this particular “camp battle” has as much to do with the pieces around the players as the players themselves. For that matter, it may come down to a conversation between Dusty Baker and new GM James Click. The two are likely still developing a cohesive philosophy when it comes to roster construction. That they have an extra roster spot in the 26th man this season ought to help smooth the waters. Still, there’s a decision to be made here, and as with many clubs, the decision may come down to just how many catchers they want to have on the roster. Let’s take a deeper dive into the candidates.
- One would think that Myles Straw is the frontrunner to make the opening day roster. Without him, the Astros don’t have a natural backup for George Springer in center. With Jake Marisnick now on the Mets, Straw is the likeliest candidate to fill that void as a pinch-runner and late-game defensive replacement. Josh Reddick would probably fill that role as a backup were Straw not to make the team, though it would be surprising if that were the case for the entire season. Even if Straw doesn’t make the cut, expect him to occupy a roster spot at times throughout the season.
- Stubbs, 26, has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A, and he’s certainly ready enough to get some time as a backup in 2020. He has a good approach at the plate, will take his walks and doesn’t strike out (16.2% K-rate last season). He’s reliable enough defensively, but it’s hard to see where the Astros would benefit from rostering a third catcher. Martin Maldonado will be the primary starter, and he could be used as a defense replacement in games he doesn’t start. On the other hand, they may risk burning their bench by pinch-hitting for Maldonado in spots. Still, Dustin Garneau is on hand for those occasions. Garneau has some power potential, but Kyle Tucker or Josh Reddick will be the first lefty bat off the bench, while Aledmys Diaz will be the guy from the right side. One backup catcher ought to suffice.
- The sleeper candidate here is Abraham Toro. He debuted last season with a .218/.303/.385 line over a mere 85 plate appearances. Toro offers a quality combination of speed/power and the ability to play either corner in the infield as well as second base in a pinch. He’s a switch-hitter, which provides some utility beyond the overlapping skillset he shares with Diaz or Yuli Gurriel, but he also has options available. The Astros, therefore, will feel no pressure to keep him on the major league roster. That said, Toro gained some popularity last season, a quality the Astros are short on these days. Having a young player that fans can root for unequivocally may get Toro an extra look.
We’re assuming here, of course, that the Astros will go with an eight-man bullpen. That’s hardly a foregone conclusion, though it’s the likeliest result in the case of most teams, and given that the Astros have some uncertainty at the back end of their rotation, they may enjoy having an extra arm to leverage until the number four and five starters establish some consistency.