Mandatory Credit: Photo by ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13476413j) Houston Astros players practice before the start of the MLB American League Championship Series playoff baseball games at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, USA, 18 October 2022. The Astros will host either the Cleveland Guardians or the New York Yankees. Houston Astros practice before ALDS, USA – 18 Oct 2022
There should be a few modest changes in advance of the potential seven-game series with New York.
For the ALDS, the Houston Astros went with 12 pitchers and 14 position players, leaning towards the side of extra bats with only a 5 game series scheduled vs. the Seattle Mariners. The Astros benefitted from having multiple starting caliber pitchers in the bullpen like Luis Garcia, Hunter Brown and Jose Urquidy that could go extended innings to carry the extra position player.
It worked exactly as they thought it would, and the Astros dispatched the Mariners in three straight games, even if one did last 18 innings.
Now, well rested ahead of what has seemed to be a preordained ALCS showdown with the New York Yankees, what kind of roster movement should we expect from the Astros heading into Wednesday’s Game 1?
I expect the roster will be mostly the same as it was in the ALDS, with two exceptions. I believe the Astros will carry an extra pitcher and one fewer position player.
With the longer series and a much better offensive team in the Yankees as the opponent, I would expect the Astros will add Will Smith to the bullpen. He is the only lefty pen arm on the roster, and there can be late game situations where a player like Smith would be needed.
While the most recognizable bats in the Yankees lineup are right handed (Judge, Stanton, and potentially returning DJ LeMahieu), Anthony Rizzo provides a legit power threat for the Yankees from the left side. SS/OF Oswaldo Cabrera, OF Aaron Hicks, and super-utility man (and former Astro) Marwin Gonzalez are all switch hitters. IF Matt Carpenter provides big LH punch off the bench. Having that LHP in the pen, particularly in Yankee Stadium with the short porch in right field, could prove important.
Carrying the extra pitcher means carrying one less position player, and it would seem the odd man out would be OF Jake Meyers.
When healthy, Meyers is the Astros best defensive centerfielder, and provides the most upside at the plate. However, manager Dusty Baker has continued to rely on Mauricio Dubon as his primary defensive replacement, leaving Meyers looking like the odd man out.
While I would personally advocate for Meyers over Dubon, Dusty’s usage of the two players indicates the opposite thinking. With Meyers likely the odd man out, Chas McCormick should see the overwhelming majority of starts in CF.
Barring an unknown injury that has not been made public as of yet, these are the only changes I expect from the Astros heading into the ALCS vs. the Yankees.