Addition of Hall makes Astros better
The Astros have gotten better this offseason with the additions of Clint Barmes and Bill Hall, whose signing has yet to be made official. But the Astros have a one-year agreement in place with Hall, who will likely play second base with Barmes starting at shortstop.
Of course, the rest of the National League Central appears to have gotten significantly better, too. The Brewers are close to completing a trade for Zach Greinke and adding him to a rotation that has already been bolstered by the addition of Shaun Marcum, a 13-game winner last season. The Pirates have been extremely active adding players, and the Reds and Cardinals are going to be in the mix once again.
Back to the Astros. With the moves to acquire Barmes and Hall, the Astros have completed their top offseason task, which was to add some run production to the middle of the infield. The Astros got a combined nine homers last season from the second base and shortstop positions, and Barmes and Hall could wind up hitting 20 apiece if things go right.
Suddenly, the lineup seems more legitimate. Michael Bourn isn’t a great leadoff hitter, but he has terrific tools and can take over games with his speed. Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence could drive in 100 runs apiece, and Chris Johnson will be trying to duplicate his rookie success. Then there’s Jason Castro and Brett Wallace, the young left-handed hitters the Astros need to take big strides at the plate this year.
Hall likely pushes Jeff Keppinger out the door. The Astros have been shopping him despite his strong 2010 season. Keppinger hit .288 with six homers and 59 RBIs and led the team with 34 doubles. His on-base percentage of .351 is much better than Hall’s .316 in 2010, but Hall slugged .456 to Keppinger’s .393 and had a higher OPS. And right now what the Astros need in their lineup is some punch, and Hall can provide it. Basically, the Astros are sacrificing some on-base percentage for some pop.
Hall hit 18 homers last season in 344 at-bats with Boston, which is a homer every 19.1 at-bats. If Hall gets, say, 550 at-bats, he would hit 28 homers at that pace. Barmes should feast on left field at Minute Maid Park and could hit at least 20 homers, giving the Astros the punch they sorely missed last year when they were last in the NL with only 108 homers. Alas, Hall is a career .219 hitter in 164 at-bats at Minute Maid Park.
So with Hall and Barmes on board, here’s how the lineup could shake out:
CF Michael Bourn — Has tremendous speed, but needs to get on base at a better clip.
SS Clint Barmes — Hall could hit here as well, but Barmes has more plate appearances here than any other spot.
RF Hunter Pence — Became entrenched in No. 3 hole after Berkman was traded.
LF Carlos Lee — Still has the ability to drive in 100 runs in the order.
3B Chris Johnson — The fifth spot in the order was a revolving door last year, with Johnson getting most of the at-bats late in the year.
1B Brett Wallace — Astros are waiting on his power to show itself at Major League level.
2B Bill Hall — Astros had only 10 homers from the seventh spot last year.
C Jason Castro — Maybe the Astros rushed him a bit, but they had to find out if he could play. This season should be telling.