By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
There's going to come a time this year when every Astros fan is going to have to answer the question: "Does this team do anything well?" Point to their medical staff. Well, point and hope. The Astros have long been one of the top medical staffs around, but last year didn't go so well. Maybe it's a fluke or maybe it's a trend, but the five-year rank is something to hang your hope on, Houston. They've had two straight middle-of-the-pack results, which tells you just how good they were in the other three seasons. Like last year, the risk profile for the team is off the charts, but new ... umm, no, I'm not calling him Director of Decision Sciences, even if it is on his business card ... even with Sig Mejdal in house, this won't be an instant process. Mejdal knows his stuff, though I'm not sure he's still updating his injury system. The key here isn't going to be winning, even though the Astros won't say that out loud. This is a placeholder team, hoping to keep from having to overexpose any players that will be on their next winning team and retaining the value in the players they can deal away. It's hard to sell season tickets on that slogan, but wins sell tickets better than slogans.

Health Keys: Protect any upcoming prospects with cheap but durable starters.

(HEAD TRAINER: Nate Lucero; FIVE YEAR RANK: 5; 2011 RANK: 17)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
3B Jimmy Paredes
He's young, athletic and cheap. That's the '12 Astros. Part of this green is that The System doesn't believe he'll hold on to the job long enough to be overexposed, especially if Chris Johnson hangs around.

LF J.D. Martinez
He's going to get a lot of Dancing With The Stars jokes, so I'll spare you one here. The Corpus Christi Hooks must have been pretty good, since several of them jumped right to the Astros lineup. Martinez is another in the Y.A.C. crew and there's enough depth with Jack Cust and Brian Bogusevic that he also shouldn't be overexposed.

P3 Bud Norris
Wait -- over 25 with 30-inning progressions? Bud Norris? Was Ed Wade listening all this time? Norris projects to be a solid, if not spectacular, pitcher who could put up 200 innings for the next five or six years. That's valuable, even if he won't get many wins.

Also Green:
RP Wilton Lopez
SP Wandy Rodriguez
1B Brett Wallace
Wallace might barely be at 1B, no matter the ranking. With Carlos Lee and Jack Cust on the roster and the DH a year away, the slot might end up a revolving door. He has at least one more chance in him, but the body type worries everyone, taxing the legs and limiting mobility. I'll admit that Wallace's choppy stat line seems to confuse The System, so I'm not sure how to interpret the output here.

2B Jose Altuve
He's a little guy, yes, but if we're not selling jeans with a guy like Wallace, what do we say we're not selling with Altuve-high heels? Altuve is a Latin David Eckstein, a high effort grinder who makes plays happen when you least expect it. He's at least fun to watch and easy to root for. But that effort leads to wearing down and some traumatic injuries. Altuve also takes a lot of HBPs, without the benefit of Craig Biggio's armor.

CF Jordan Schafer
Only a team that was desperate would put up with Schafer, a kid with drug and attitude issues since entering the league. He's cheap, yes, and athletic, but he comes with baggage the others don't. Worse, his injury history means that J.B Shuck will likely be exposed.

LF Carlos Lee
Lee's consistent and more productive than you'd think given the way he's portrayed. He's smart, hardworking, and yes, overpaid. The latter doesn't trump the former, as Lee's value for just showing up goes up with a team in this mindset. He'll be the guy Brad Mills points to as an example, though it may not be for long if Lee leaves midseason. The yellow risk is for age and body type, but Lee's been fooling The System for years.

SP Brett Myers
Even with a pair of 200-inning seasons in his back pocket, The System still doesn't like Myers. It likes consistency and predictability more than anything, so it's no surprise. The yellow is probably a reminder that Myers isn't the no-brainer pick some think.

SP J.A. Happ
Happ just missed having a red ranking, though his problems weren't really physical. The System doesn't see that he was sent down with emotional and mechanical issues, just that he was gone without a corresponding injury. That comes out as "not good enough to hold the slot." With a pretty high inning expectation (162 from Rotowire), The System doesn't think he won't make it. It's hard to argue the logic (and it would be silly, since I designed it that way.)

SP Livan Hernandez
The System looks at Hernandez like Clint Eastwood looks at some punk. It keeps thinking he's feeling lucky. Instead, Hernandez is just such an outlier that only Jamie Moyer and Tim Wakefield confuse it more. Hernandez is as good a placeholder as there is in baseball, even at 36. Protecting Jordan Lyles makes it even more valuable.
C Jason Castro
A young catcher who had two surgeries last season below the waist is going to be red. Castro's injuries aren't atypical for the position, or for ballplayers, but they're not good signs either. Durability is a major concern, though the ACL sprain was a pure trauma. It's that the foot injury came so soon after and will cost him much of spring training.

SS Jed Lowrie
Lowrie comes to Houston with a chance to get in the starting lineup -- and that's a bad thing. I don't begrudge any guy his chance, but Lowrie is better in small doses. He can be streaky, but he tends to be overexposed, which leads to injuries, as it did last year. Wrist and shoulder injuries affect his rating a lot more than mono, but it's the kind of thing that seems to pop up with this kind of player. The Astros have Matt Downs backing things up as their super-sub, but he's just a poor man's Lowrie. How much the medical staff can prop up Lowrie through small dings will go a long way in helping the team.

CL Brandon Lyon
One of the things you'll hear soon is that labrum injuries aren't labrum injuries. Instead, doctors are starting to refer to them as "biceps-labrum complex injuries." There's no cute acronym for it and it's less a change in how the injury happens, but how sports medicine is learning the mechanics of the shoulder. This year's ASMI Conference had speaker after speaker talking about this complex issue, but it does seem there's some progress in dealing with the issue. Given how far it's come in the last 10 years, I can only imagine what it will be like in the next 10. That said, Lyon's injury now and his injury history makes this one tough to navigate.

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