Let's hand it to Bernardo Fallas, the guy has a new blog post every day. Today, he breaks down the outlook of the 2010 Astros. Let's look, listen, and respond.
The Good: Brett Myers
The Bad: Injury history of Roy, Myers
The Question Mark: Can Wandy replicate 2009?
The Response: I agree with the Myers/injuries aspect of this. My question mark isn't about Wandy, but about the SP4/SP5 spots. They'll start 40% of your games, and while Wandy's success is important, my question is can Norris/SP5 step up and provide some quality starts?
The Good: Jason Castro and Kevin Cash
The Bad: No defined C1
The Question Mark: Will Castro establish himself in the Majors in 2010?
The Response: I don't think Kevin Cash was brought in to push Quintero and Towles. The Astros tried bringing in four catchers to Spring Training (five, if you count Toby Hall's 8-minute stint) and Towles and Quintero responded with thundering indifference. Nope, I think the idea is to just get anything out of Towles/Quintero and wait for Castro. He was playing at Stanford two years ago, let's not pin the offense on him. Yet.
The Good: Beyond Lyon and Lindstrom, there's experience and upside.
The Bad: There aren't comparable replacements for Valverde/LaHawk
The Question Mark: Will Lyon earn his $5m?
The Response: I thought the "Good" of the Bullpen was Lyon and Lindstrom, mixed with experience and upside in Byrdak and Fulchino. I think the question mark is how effectively and efficiently the bullpen can be mixed and matched to stay in late, close games.
The Good: Three established outfielders
The Bad: Darin Erstad is gone
The Question Mark: Can Lee return to 2007 form?
The Response: I have a hard time seeing Erstad's departure as a bad thing. That said, he must have been one hell of a clubhouse guy, because to have a guy on the roster hitting .200 is horrible. If there's one bad thing about the outfield (and this is a reach. I love the Astros' outfield), it's a plate-discipline issue with Bourn and Pence.
The Good: Feliz and Manzella will vastly improve the defense.
The Bad: Losing Tejada means a significant portion of the offense is gone.
The Question Mark(s): Manzella's experience, Feliz' offense, Matsui's injuries, Berkman's contract year performance.
The Response: Fallas should remember that if the Good works out, it'll take care of the Bad. Manzella played in 133 games in Round Rock, and seven (kind of) for the Astros. And I'm guessing that traveling in Round Rock is harder on you than traveling with the Astros. So I think Manzella will be able to hold up. Matsui's injuries are valid, though.
The Good: Players seem to like Brad Mills.
The Bad: The first time things get rough, Mills will get called out for his lack of experience.
The Question Mark: Can Mills turn the Astros into contenders in his first year?
The Response: I don't think Mills will catch a whole lot of flak this year. I don't think Astros fans are under any false impressions of what the Astros will be bringing. They may not spend the $100+ on tickets like they did in 2004/2005, but anything wrong with the Astros can't necessarily be put on Mills (unless he just craps the bed. Like walking Nick Johnson to get to Hanley Ramirez.)
The Astros may have enough tools and overall talent to aspire to be competitive in 2010, but many things will have to go right for them to achieve the goal. The biggest has to be health. The team cannot afford to have the likes of Oswalt, Berkman, Lee and Matsui go down with injuries. They simply do not have players of comparable quality on the bench.
I'll agree that injuries are the biggest X Factor. But I do think Edwin Maysonet is as good as Kaz Matsui (in a limited sample, admittedly). I do think that Feliz is better than Blum. The X Factor comes with whether or not Bourn and Pence can build on 2009