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Figgy Is In, But Who Will Join Him On 25-Man Roster?

Should we be buying into FanGraphs doom and gloom, or does hope spring eternal for the Astros?

I was slightly surprised scouring through the reaction to Nelson Figueroa being confirmed as the rotation's fifth starter that only Richard Justice seems vehemently opposed to sending Jordan Lyles back to Triple-A, although no-one is not quite sure whyHardball Talk gives a pretty measured appraisal of the situation, but apart from that I have not seen anyone from the non-Astro press comment on it. 

As has already been pointed out several times since Hunter Pence won his arbitration hearing and was paid $6.9m in 2011, the organisation is already ruing his Super-Two status from 2007, something which could effectively render his services too costly for the club in his final year of arbitration (2013). 

If this waft of common sense has pervaded most of the traditional media, it has avoided FanGraphs, who provided the obligatory string of Astro bashing and generalizations. Ed Wade does not know what he is doing and every move he makes is wrong. Rivers picked apart from of the threads the other day but it could do with a bit of fleshing out. 

When you reference just seven players, one of which are not even with the organisation anymore (Roy Oswalt, then Bill Hall, Clint Barmes, Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, Brandon Lyon and Carlos Lee), it can hardly be called an in-detail analysis of the franchise. 

True, the Astros may have trouble scoring runs this season, but they did the year before and still won a reasonable amount of games. But of course the Astros can do nothing right. Ed Wade is still viewed in light of his Philadelphia days, Boffo the Clown, with baggy trousers, floppy hat, makeup and large shoes. 

Perhaps some of his moves have been so good, they have flown under the radar without anyone realizing. Wilton Lopez, the likely set-up man for Brandon Lyon in 2011, was claimed off waivers from the Padres in 2009. Wade turned Jose Valverde, Luis Bryan and Robert Bono into Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon and Mike Foltynewicz. Of course that is a very simplistic view of what happened but in essence it is correct. 

Figueroa himself is another cheeky addition, picked up without fanfare or substantial cost. 

You get the feeling that these sorts of critics would only be happy if he called a fire sale, gutting Brett Myers, Rodriguez, Lee and Pence, then calling him a dunce for securing such a puny return. Poor Boffo. 

Bobby Heck is not mentioned, nor the amount of money they spent on international signing bonus' on amateur free agents in 2010. This stuff is irrelevant, as they have made up their minds already. 

Most of the Astros future talent are years from breaking into the minors, but with their most settled rotation since 2006, it is hard to believe that the franchise has sunk to where most commentators seem to feel they are. Most have them so deep even Captain Nemo would struggle to find them. 

Getting back on message, what is next on Brad Mills' checklist for March? Despite a strong spring by Carlos Corporan, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles are already guaranteed to start the season on the roster. Three bench spots need to be filled and four bullpen spots with Lyon, Lopez and Melancon probably the three locks. 

Fernando Abad has had a mediocre spring, while Enerio Del Rosario has yet to give up an earned run. Jeff Fulchino and Henry Villar have both done well, as has Jose Valdez. The pitchers who missed out on the rotation spot, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Lance Pendleton and Aneury Rodriguez, are still there, as are left-handed holdovers Gustavo Chacin and Wesley Wright

Matt Downs, Tommy Manzella and Brian Bogusevic are the most likely candidates for the bench, but J.B. Shuck and Jason Bourgeois are still there. 

If newcomers Hall and Barmes flop, it will be up to Bash Brothers Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson to play for pride, to show Dave Cameron he is wrong (he really needs to change his name by deed poll to avoid confusion with current British Prime Minister David Cameron), and to play for Boffo's inglorious reputation. Do it for Boffo. 

Cecil Cooper, he of an 171-170 record as Astro manager was fond of sticking motivational slogans around the Astros' clubhouse, so maybe Mills could stick a few around Minute Maid Park.

When Mills called Figueroa up to his office to tell him the good news, I hope he also warned him of the pitfalls of his position. "You better not muck up, or you'll have Justice on you like that," he cracks. "It will be Jordan Lyles this, Jordan Lyles that, and you will never have another moment of peace." Do it for Richard Justice's sanity. 

But most of all, do it for Boffo. 

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.