Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – With spring training just a matter of days the Houston Astros have one major question solved and still one big question to answer before the start of the season.
The question the Astros have answered in advance of the team’s trip to Palm Springs, Florida is it looks like George Springer will continue where he left off last year as their leadoff man.
“I love his presence at the top, speed, power, on-base, he does everything that you would ask out of a lead-off guy,” A.J. Hinch said of Springer. “When he’s going well he’s a power threat when lineup rolls around and whoever hitting seventh, eighth or ninth gets on base we’ve got a ligament middle of the order bat that’s leading off and that’s hard to come by.”
While the Astros struggled last season, one of the many bright spots to come out of the off year was the emergence of Springer.
The Astros right fielder last year broke out on the scene when Hinch moved Springer from the two-hole to leading off.
While his stats were pretty much the same, the team seemed to respond with him leading off the game.
When you think of monster home run hitters (which Springer is slowly starting to become) you don’t think about facing those guys right out of the gate, the Astros with Springer at the top of the order will now force teams to continue dealing with his power to start off the game.
With leadoff solved, the question the Astros now have to answer is who will close games for them in 2017?
Last season the Astros were the only team in the major leagues to have three relievers pick up 10 or more saves during the year.
Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, and Ken Giles all got a chance at getting the hollowed 27th out, but none were able to hold on to the job for very long.
This year all three will be back Hinch isn’t too sure how exactly it will play out this season.
“I know defined roles are cool and I know the players like the preparation part of it,” Hinch said. “The mindset for our players going in will be they just want to win as many games as we can, who gets the 27th out will most likely be the same person over time but not necessarily something I have to deal with now.”
While the team will have very few battles this Spring with most jobs either already locked up by returning players or filled by Luhnow’s hired guns, the battle for the closer role does seem like something that might go down to the wire.
Hinch did share that in a perfect world, Ken Giles would be the guy getting the saves, but in the same breath also shared that Luke Gregerson and Will Harris will still get opportunities.
While the Astros did make the move to bring in Giles for him to be their closer, it does seem like sooner or later the job will be his. If he does get the chance to close again this season and falters, at least the team does have plenty guys with experience if they have to turn to someone else.