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Astros Team Health Report 2011

It seems like yesterday that I was standing in the visitor's dugout on a rainy October night in Chicago. The Astros were in the World Series and I'd stood behind the cage watching Jeff Bagwell taking batting practice. His shoulder was so bad by that point that he could barely get the bat around on a coach's pitch. The pain was so severe that what I first thought was sweat, I realized was a tear he couldn't quite hold back. He played and somehow took a Bobby Jenks fastball to short right field in a feat that I doubt many people truly understood. I hate celebrating the pain-as-manhood machismo of the clubhouse, but I can appreciate the effort, both from Bagwell and the medical staff. I'm not sure what they did with Bagwell in the Training Room that night or all season long, but the combination of determined player and the hard work of a great medical staff was a big part in why that team was in the World Series at all. There's no Bagwell on this team. There's no Roger Clemens and no Lance Berkman either, for the first spring in a long time. I don't expect to see the Astros anywhere near October glory but if they surprise us, it will be because the medical staff worked a miracle, holding together a team that's risk profile is alarmingly high. If it all goes wrong and the Astros are back on the bottom of a weak NL Central, the DL days stacking like so much cordwood, don't blame the medical staff. This one's on the front office.

(HEAD TRAINER: Nathan Lucero; FIVE YEAR RANK: 5; 2010 RANK: 19)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
1B Brett Wallace
We get it. Brett Wallace has a physique that won't sell jeans, unless it's Sir Mix-A-Lot that's buying. Weight and BMI are terrible indicators of health. At first base, Wallace should be able to stay healthy. As for the jeans, a good selvedge is worth the price.

CF Michael Bourn
A high OBP speedster who's in his late 20's and has no history of serious leg injuries? I'll take two please.

Also Green:
SS Clint Barmes
3B Chris Johnson
RF Hunter Pence
YELLOW LIGHT
2B Bill Hall
Moving back to second base full-time should be an interesting thing to watch, but if Hall can stick there, his power becomes a big asset. The Astros have enough options at second that Hall shouldn't be overexposed there. We'll assume Brad Mills talked to Terry Francona about Hall this off-season.

SP Nelson Figueroa
Figueroa is a nice arm to have around. In a previous era, he'd be a swingman. Today, he's a tweener. He's likely to be overextended past 120 innings, but the Astros would be smart to push that and have Figueroa's replaceable arm buy some time for this rotation. Figueroa's not a good risk in any sense, in any format.
RED LIGHT
C Jason Castro
Castro was drafted to be an offensive catcher. A .205 average without much power isn't going to make people forget the halcyon days of Brad Ausmus. He'll also need to be platooned careful, whether he hits or not. Young catchers are always risky and The System seems to have something against Castro, rating him as one of the highest risks in the league despite a clean injury history.

LF Carlos Lee
Lee's smart, so maybe the Astros should put Brett Wallace's locker next to Lee's. They share a lot in common, including a body type and an ability to mash good pitching. While he is risky, he's also put up 600-plus plate appearances in five of the past six years. The problem is that he probably shouldn't be doing quite so much at this age, but for what the Astros are paying him, it's tough to not ride El Caballo hard.

SP Brett Myers
Myers came into 2010 with a risk rating off the charts. He'd come back from hip surgery only to hurt his shoulder. Brought to Houston by Ed Wade, the "Philly shuttle" jokes were almost too easy. Myers had the last laugh by staying healthy, putting up quality innings, and having his first solid season since '07. Myers' history and age doesn't give a big hope of a repeat performance, but he mocked the red last year.

SP Wandy Rodriguez
Rodriguez held the 190-plus mark for the second year, a big plus, but he did clearly wear down at the end of the season. That's a minus. Late bloomer or not, he's still 32 this season, the point where a lot of wiry pitchers that lack big velocity tend to start a decline.

SP Bud Norris
Norris was inconsistent last season, but did get his innings up over 150. The shoulder issues raise a lot of red flags on a power pitcher, especially if you buy into those internet gurus that hate his mechanics.

SP J.A. Happ
Happ hit every level last year, but ended up with fewer than 90 major-league innings. Even at the fourth slot, he'll be asked to come up over 160 in a full season, which could be a stretch for a guy that has worn down in both his major league campaigns and who has only cleared that mark once in his whole pro career.

CL Brandon Lyon
Lyon's first impression last season was a shoulder cyst that had him shut down through much of camp. Who else had this kind of cyst in the last few seasons? Erik Bedard. Lyon finished the season strong and with Matt Lindstrom gone, there's really no one else to challenge him or pick up the saves if he goes down again.
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