Astros Sunday Roundup: Waiting For Jason Castro's Return

The Astros should receive a boost in 2012 with the return of catcher Jason Castro from injury.

One of the real knocks, before the season even started, was that Jason Castro tore his ACL and damaged his meniscus. In fact, the Astros lineup took a couple of knocks before the season started. Jeff Keppinger and Clint Barmes both started the season on the DL, although they returned within months. Castro missed what would have presumably been his first full season in the majors. 

Castro was in Houston earlier in the week and will head back to Kissimmee and play in the instructional league in September. He plans to head to the Arizona Fall League in October. Oh how we could do with him now. Humberto Quintero is a well-liked player for a backup catcher, and has a reputation as a good defensive catcher. Carlos Corporan, not so much.

And then we have the enigma that is J.R. Towles. God, am I sick about talking about this guy. Sent down again, for no particular reason other than he stunk, he rebounded at AAA in 35 games putting up a solid slash line of .276/.430/.400. That is quite a nice on base percentage. Corporan has hardly torn it up in his absence. 

This state of affairs should improve if Castro returns 100% at the beginning of next year, and along with shortstop is one of two positions the Astros need to address for next year. The rest of the lineup, bar what Brad Mills wants to do with Brett Wallace and Carlos Lee seems settled. 

We've talked about Castro as a good fit for the number two slot in the lineup, and it might allow Mills to move Jose Altuve further down the order where he can do more damage. Even during a poor debut in the major leagues, he still posted a good BB rate, much higher than Quintero's ridiculously low 2.7 BB%. Towles meanwhile can rue his poor luck, and his .189 BABIP, surely one of the lowest such numbers in the league this season. 

The second position that has a question mark over it might be harder to solve. Clint Barmes is an impending free agent, yet nobody at club level seems to be talking about it. I believe he was on the trade block before July, but Ed Wade pulled him off after some derogatory offers from other teams. He made $3.92m in his final year of arbitration and will probably be looking for a significant bump on that salary. 

Considering the shortstop class is pretty thin after Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, Barmes should hit teams on the rebound who want to get an upgrade, but balk at $15-20m salaries of the two players mentioned above. Among NL SS this season only Troy Tulowitzki, Rollins, Reyes, Starlin Castro and Emilio Bonifacio have posted higher fWAR's. His nine home runs, a pretty modest season total, rank sixth among NL shortstops. 

Given all this can Ed Wade really re-sign him easily, and does he have the spare cash to do this? Would 2-years $12m be enough to lock up Barmes and would Jim Crane approve of this amount of cash? It is either that or Anderson Hernandez or Angel Sanchez, because Jonathan Villar probably needs another year of seasoning in the minor leagues. My conservative estimate puts his ETA at the majors for late 2013, although I expect he could be up in June-July of next season. 

Shortstop is quite a vital position to have someone competent there. Sanchez and Hernandez skate the line when it comes to competency. But then, we will see. 

*Sunday roundups may become midweek roundups as we accommodate the beginning of the handegg season, on SBN Houston. Go Texans, I think. 

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