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Checking Out the Top Five Performers Thus Far in Houston Astros Spring Training

With a little under two weeks remaining until Opening Day, let's take a look at the top five performers during Spring Training for the Houston Astros.

Although the Houston Astros have lost some significant contributions to their Spring Training roster due to the World Baseball Classic, manager A.J. Hinch and his staff have done a nice job of giving more young players an increased role during games and practices.

The Astros certainly have some veterans on the mend and new faces trying to get acclimated to their new team, but they also needed to use this time to ensure that their top prospects are able to develop.

While the sample sizes on this list definitely vary, there are a mix of veterans and prospects who have done a nice job for the Astros through the majority of Grapefruit League action. 

Some notable names who are having a great spring for the Astros but did not make the cut for top five:

  • J.D. Davis, James Hoyt, Brian McCann, Reid Brignac

Without further ado, here are the top five Houston Astros Spring Training players so far:

5.) Dallas Keuchel

Through his first two Spring Training starts, the former American League Cy Young Award winner has looked sharp. Keuchel, who will take the mound for the third time tomorrow afternoon, looks to slowly build himself up during the spring session after he endured an injury-plagued 2016 season. 

In just 7.0 innings pitched for the Astros, Keuchel has yet to allow a single run. Along with those seven scoreless frames, Keuchel has struck out three, walked none, and surrendered four hits. His opponent batting average this spring is a meager .174 so far. Obviously, this is a very small sample size for the presumed ace of the Astros staff, but it is definitely an encouraging sign.

As many have said throughout this offseason, if Keuchel can return to his 2015 form, the Houston Astros would become legitimate World Series contenders. So far in spring training, Keuchel has shown that he is on track to contend for another Cy Young award this season.

4.) Joe Musgrove

With pitchers like Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers on the mend during Spring Training, Astros manager A.J. Hinch has had the luxury of getting a lot of younger pitchers more in-game repetitions. These additional games have worked wonders for Joe Musgrove, as the young right-hander has gotten off to a strong start for the club so far this spring.

Musgrove, who finished the 2016 season basically as the ace of the Astros pitching staff, now finds himself fighting for a spot in the back end of the starting rotation. In Spring Training, Musgrove has shown that he is capable of repeating his efforts from last August and September, posting a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings pitched. 

https://twitter.com/brianmctaggart/status/843976680255475712

Along with maintaining a low ERA, Musgrove has struck out 11 hitters and kept a low opponent batting average of .210 while allowing five earned runs. Some of the struggles that Musgrove has faced through the spring have been due to the fact that he is emphasizing his curveball, trying to tweak the pitch and make sure that it is ready for the start of the season. 

As long as Musgrove is able to maintain his low ERA, he can work on that curveball as much as he wants. I would expect the young Astros pitcher to make the Astros rotation to start the season, as his spring training performance has earned him the right to stay on the major league club. 

3.) A.J. Reed

After struggling for the Astros in his 2016 rookie campaign, A.J. Reed came into spring training looking to show Astros coaches that he still has value and can contribute to the major league club. Looking at his numbers, you would have to say that Reed has impressed so far in 2017. 

In 36 at bats, Reed has clubbed four home runs, tallied eleven runs batted in, and walked nine times. He is hitting .306 for spring training with eleven hits and eight runs scored as well. The only problem so far is that he has struck out 10 times, which is tied for the third most by an Astros hitter in spring training this year. 

Earlier this morning, the Astros announced that A.J. Reed has been optioned to minor league camp. This must have been a tough blow for the young hitter, but I'm sure the Astros coaching staff let him know that he has had a productive spring training so far. Reed must remain ready in the minor leagues, as injuries are common in the long 162 game MLB season.

The Astros have a stacked infield to put out there on Opening Day, but I would expect Reed to be the next man up at first base if A.J. Hinch needs to do some shuffling during the season.

2.) Charlie Morton

The Astros front office, led by Jeff Luhnow, went out early in the offseason and acquired five veteran players in Nori Aoki, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Charlie Morton. Now, out of all of those big name players, who did you think everyone would be praising with spring training almost over? If you said Morton, you're probably lying to yourself.

However, the best performance by any of these five players has definitely been the strong start that Morton has put together on the mound. Through 13 innings pitched, Morton boasts a 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and .163 opponent batting average. Along with these numbers, Morton has only walked four while striking out 13 and surrendered just two earned runs. 

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The veteran pitcher has pitched himself into the solid fourth starter in the Astros starting rotation, ending the competition for a spot behind Keuchel, McCullers, and McHugh. The Astros took a chance on Morton coming off a rough 2016 season, and so far through Spring Training, their bet seems to be paying off. 

1.) Colin Moran

If there was a Grapefruit League Hall of Fame, Colin Moran would have a strong case to be a first ballot member. So far in spring training, Moran has absolutely crushed the baseball, leading the Astros in hits, second in RBIs, and second in home runs. 

Through 36 at bats, Moran has tallied 14 hits, 10 RBIs, two home runs, two doubles, and four walks while striking out seven times. His batting average this spring is .389, which leads all Astros hitters with enough at bats to be in the competition. 

https://twitter.com/PaulBraverman/status/843542392896593920

Moran has a very similar story to Reed, as both were young promising hitters who made their Astros debuts in 2016 and failed to hit consistently at the major league level. With a stacked Astros infield, Moran has to prove his value not only to the Houston coaching staff, but other front offices around the league. He has certainly done that so far in spring training, as he has undoubtedly been the best hitter for the Astros. 


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