Evan Gattis will get the most at bats as a designated hitter this year if all goes according to plan but the backup catcher will rest against certain righthanders. Carlos Beltran filled the DH spot in 2017 but the open question has been which DH candidate will hit from the left side.
Wagner: Deserves a plaque
Colin Moran was taken out of the running when he was traded to Pittsburgh. Now, Jon Singleton has ruined his slim chances of climbing back up the ranks of the depth chart. The slugger has drawn a 100-game suspension for thrice violating the minor league policy for substance abuse. Demoted from AAA Fresno to AA Corpus Christi, Singleton's $10 million contract he signed when he seemed to be a can't-miss prospect has now reached a point where the Astros might take the hit and release him from the rest of his contract.
These developments are good news for Derek Fisher and Marwin Gonzalez who were both expected to get turns in left field. Now, they may also share time in the DH slot. Top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker, as well as infielders A.J. Reed and Tony Kemp, are also licking their chops at the opportunity.
The Astros may yet find a lefty bat in free agency. Houston was said to be in the running for veteran outfielder Jay Bruce before he re-signed with the Mets.
An Astros pitcher was also hit with a minor league suspension. Righthander Dean Deetz, who split time between Fresno and Corpus tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and will sit for the first 80 games. He was unlikely to make the parent club but he'll now have to work his way back into the good graces of the organization. Deetz, for his part, denies taking the steroid and does not know how it got into his system.
Houston also claimed lefthanded reliever Buddy Boshers from the Minnesota Twins. Boshers has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Twins and the 29-year-old southpaw was 3-0 with a 4.56 ERA in 71 innings. His numbers against lefties are better though. He joins Tony Sipp, Rule V claim Anthony Gose and Reymin Guduan as options for the lefty bullpen role.
Finally, no Astros were elected into the Hall of Fame this year after seeing talent like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez inducted the past two years. Former Astros Roger Clemens (57.3%), Curt Schilling (51.2%), Jeff Kent (14.5%) and Billy Wagner (11.1%) earned enough votes to stay alive for next year's ballot. Carlos Lee (1 vote), Brad Lidge (0 votes) and Aubrey Huff (0 votes) will be dropped.
Perhaps it's winning the Championship or the fact that Biggio and Bagwell finally got in but I didn't have the excitement over this year's vote that I did for the past two years. As the only one of the group to spend a significant time with Houston, I'm still pulling for Wagner but it's not likely he'll get it done. He ought to, however. Trevor Hoffman, who was elected this year, got outs with his change-up - a far less demanding pitch than Billy's 100-mph heater. This is not meant to be a knock on Hoffman but I'd bet 20 years from now, more hitters will remember facing Wagner than they did Hoffman.
- Bob Hulsey