Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 3/30/12
While Opening Day is only a week away and there will be a lot written and said about the 25 man first game active roster, the bigger question is how many Astros will there be this season? Even teams that go wire to wire in winning pennants don't finish the season with the same 25 that started it. A team that is coming off a 106 loss season with a number of new faces and a significant number of talented minor leaguers only a phone call away can expect a number of changes during the year. Most of the roster changes deal with pitchers. For one thing there are more of them than any other position on a major league roster. They also are the most fragile. A sore arm for a pitcher is much worse than a sore arm for an outfielder. The latter can still perform unless something is actually broken or torn. A pitcher can't. This doesn't even consider effectiveness of those pitchers. Just being a smidgen off in command over a period of time often results in a ticket to Oklahoma City and a replacement heading to Houston. Then there is the spectre of possible trades. It is no secret that high priced vet pitchers like Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon and Wandy Rodriguez will be in the store and hanging on the shelves for sale if the right buyer (or trade partner) comes along. If the Astros start the season with twelve pitchers it would not be a surprise if double that many actually spend time on the club. As for the everyday and backup players, performance will go a long way in their hanging around. First baseman Carlos Lee is on the same "sale rack" as Myers, Lyon and Wandy Rodriguez. Other players have some possible replacements in the minor leagues. There is some pressure for young players like J.D. Martinez, Chris Johnson, Jose Altuve, Brian Bogusevic, Jordan Schafer and Jason Castro to perform well as soon as they can. None of them have established themselves as major league every day regulars so they have no track record to go by. That is not bad. Many big league clubs bury themselves early waiting for the vets to perform up to level. When they finally come around the club is too far behind. As recently as last year the latter was a factor in the Astros 106 losses. Carlos Lee got off to a horrid start and Hunter Pence was not rolling for the first month of the season. It made a difference. Pence got going, but Lee was off his normal level all season. His strong finish was meaningless in the pennant race. The Astros were already done. With the makeup of the Astros in 2012 General Manager Jeff Luhnow will have much more lee way to make some changes earlier if needed. Several position players and a number of young pitchers will be in Oklahoma City and Corpus Christi. It is not hard to imagine many of them being Astros during the season. Those that were on the 40 man roster and sent downusing one of their waiver yearsare already on the clock and can be recalled with no penalty. Players who have not been on the 40 man roster may be less likely to get a call mid season unless the club feels they are ready and the use of options may not be a factor. The Astros have some of those type players. In recent years that has not been the case. Top prospects were "protected" as the team was very cognizant of extending the number of "control" years while those players were given more chance to develop. A secondary factor is keeping the arbitration clock from starting to tick when there is still question how good the player may turn out to be. When a club has players they are sure are ready that is less a concern. Hope is that several pitchers like Cosart and Clemens, for example will be ready to help soon. The same goes with position players like Springer and Singleton. If they look ready late this season and an opening exists the Astros won't hesitate as in the past. A well stocked farm systemwhich is the Astro goalcan make it much more possible to take some chances. New talented players come in every year if the scouting and development is good. Chances are that the four mentioned may not appear in Astro uniforms before September. But there is always a chance in what could be a season with a very flexible Astro roster they will. And if they don't make it in 2012 a number of others will for sure. Program sales at Minute Maid Park may be heavy.
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