The Houston Astros held their annual FanFest last Saturday which gives fans an opportunity to meet the players, walk throughout Minute Maid Park and even get a chance to play catch on the field. This years festivities were a bit different with the sign stealing scandal looming over the organization but that didn't keep over 10,000 fans from attending.
The SportsTalk 790 crew sat down with several players to talk off-season activities, prepping for Spring Training and goals for the 2020 season. Chris Devenski, Josh James, Dustin Garneau, Joe Biagini, Kent Emanuel and Kyle Tucker all stopped by the booth to visit with Ross Villareal, Michael Connor and Brian LaLima.
You can watch interviews from FanFest by clicking the links below.
Dustin Garneau: https://www.facebook.com/sportstalk790/videos/130475141360091/
From the interviews with the six players, several things were hit on by all of them, who the new manager of the Astros will be and getting back together with the rest of the team at Spring Training.
The manager search continues with names like Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Jeff Banister, Joe Espada and Buck Showalter as the front-runners. Owner Jim Crane has set a deadline of February 3rd to make his decision on a manager but the announcement could come as early as next week.
As Spring Training is right around the corner, the question marks of the roster that come to mind will be what the starting pitching rotation will look like. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke will be the number one and two but who fills in after? Lance McCullers will likely be penciled in as the number three but he's coming off Tommy John surgery so his innings count could be limited. If he is on an innings limit, it will be tricky to manage that during the long stretch of a regular season because the Astros will absolutely need him to throw in the playoffs. The number four and five spot will be a toss up between Jose Urquidy, Brad Peacock and newcomer, Austin Pruitt. Peacock is an obvious shoe-in because he's proven himself the last two seasons as a reliable starter and arm out of the bullpen. Urquidy had a few good starts in the regular season but also a few not-so-good outings. He impressed pretty much everyone in his start in game four of the World Series which has earned him a chance to fight for starts in the rotation. Pruitt comes to the Astros in a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays. He's made 67 appearances between 2017-2019 with 10 starts at the big league level. Forrest Whitley has earned a non-roster Spring Training invite after an injury filled 2019 season. Whitley has been in the "un-tradable" category over the past two seasons so will this be the year we see him get the call to the show?
The core of the Astros is still in tact with the offense of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, George Springer and Yuli Gurriel. Yordan Alvarez could see more time in the outfield and maybe a few looks at 1st base this spring to get him a few more ABs when certain players have off days. Carlos Correa will be back but the question mark that has seemed to follow him is will he stay healthy for the entirety of a season? Other names to watch will be Kyle Tucker who comes off a solid postseason, Myles Straw, Garrett Stubbs, Abraham Toro and Jack Mayfield. With teams being able to carry 26 players instead of 25, which of these players will find themselves on the opening day roster? Only time will tell.
Pitchers and catchers report February 13th with the first full squad workout set for February 17th.