HOUSTON -- Everyone wants to know when George Springer -- the Astros' No. 3 prospect, as ranked by MLB.com -- will be called up this season to make his Major League debut. That will be based largely on the performance by Springer and the Astros' current right-field platoon, but there are certainly other factors the club will have to weigh.
First and foremost is Springer's arbitration clock. The top 22 percent of players with at least two years but fewer than three years of Major League service time are eligible for arbitration if they have accumulated at least 86 days of service time during the immediately preceding season.
Players who qualify for Super Two status would get an extra year of arbitration eligibility -- four instead of three -- and could cost their team millions of dollars. The exact date when a player could be called up and not quality for Super Two status won't be known until season's end, but it's usually in late May or early June. If teams want to play it safe, they would call up a player in late June and not risk having him quality for an extra year of arbitration.
Meanwhile, players who are called up within the first 11 days of the regular season would be under club control one year less than players called up afterward. There are 183 days in a Major League season, and a player can only accrue 172 days of Major League service time, so once a player is in the Minors for 12 days, he doesn't flip over to the next year's service time.
Presley, Krauss given chance to start vs. Yankees
HOUSTON -- Alex Presley laughed when asked on Wednesday if he could have envisioned starting in right field for the Astros a week ago, when he was still a member of the Twins.
"No shot," Presley said with a smile.
Presley, claimed off waivers on Thursday from the Twins, made his first career start for the Astros in the second game of the season against the Yankees, hitting eighth and playing right field. The role of coming off the bench to make occasional starts is a familiar one for Presley, who did it with the Pirates, with whom he spent part of the 2013 season.
"I had my stretches where I started a bunch," he said. "Mostly in left, but some in right. Center field was locked down [by Andrew McCutchen]. I got my starts when I could. I came off the bench a little bit every now and then. I was always getting into the game. I'm used to it, used to playing all different roles. It's nothing new, but I'm excited to go out there and play."
Presley and first baseman Marc Krauss both made their first starts of the season on Wednesday, replacing the two players who hit home runs on Opening Day -- Jesus Guzman (first base) and L.J. Hoes (right field).
"Right now we're going with a platoon situation," manager Bo Porter said when asked if he was tempted to keep Guzman and Hoes in the lineup.
Krauss said that seeing his name in the starting lineup is always exciting.
"I'm just really excited to start my season," Krauss said. "We started out with a bang last night, and it was awesome and fun. I just want to see what I can do to add to that atmosphere."
Altuve, Castro flipped in Astros' lineup
HOUSTON -- As promised, manager Bo Porter had catcher Jason Castro hitting third and second baseman Jose Altuve hitting fourth on Wednesday against the Yankees. It was only the third time in Altuve's career -- the other two came in his rookie season, in 2011 -- that he's batted cleanup.
With Dexter Fowler entrenched in the leadoff spot and Robbie Grossman batting second, Porter is flip-flopping Castro and Altuve based on matchups -- Castro (left-handed bat) hitting third against right-handers, and Altuve (right-handed bat) hitting third against lefties.
"Obviously, Altuve and Castro are arguably our two best hitters, and having Fowler and Grossman at the top, those two guys are switch-hitters who can get on base," Porter said. "When you hit Castro third and a right-hander is pitching, you're basically making sure the left-hander gets the extra at-bat given the matchup scenario.
"When it's a left-hander pitching, you put Altuve in the three-hole to make sure the right-hander gets the extra at-bat given the matchup scenario."
The rest of the lineup will also depend on matchups, for the most part, though third baseman Matt Dominguez hit seventh and shortstop Jonathan Villar has batted ninth in each of the first two games. Designated hitter Chris Carter hit sixth against lefty CC Sabathia on Tuesday and fifth against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on Wednesday.
Porter effusive in praise of Jeter
HOUSTON -- Manager Bo Porter spoke glowingly on Wednesday about Yankees great Derek Jeter, who was honored by the club prior to the game in his final series at Minute Maid Park before he retires at season's end.
Porter, who called Jeter "arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the game," had a long conversation with Jeter about leadership about six or seven years ago while Porter was still a coach at the Major League level.
"I asked him about leadership one day, and he said something that was pretty profound," Porter said. "He said, 'Bo, the guy who's the leader is not the guy who hits the most home runs or strikes out the most batters or has the highest batting average. It's the guy that the other teammates know will give himself for the better sake of the team.'
"One, that speaks volumes to me, coming from a guy as accomplished as Derek Jeter. It doesn't surprise me, because you watch the many players that have joined the Yankees organization during the years -- the one constant that hasn't changed in any way was the guy playing shortstop."
Porter said that no matter how many superstars made their way through the Bronx, Jeter's ability to endure shows his true leadership.
"They watch him and say, 'Yes, that's the captain,'" Porter said. "That's how you're supposed to do it."
Astros unveil Minor League rosters
HOUSTON -- The Astros released their Minor League rosters on Wednesday, and their talent level is evident throughout all levels. Houston has the No. 1-ranked farm system in baseball, as ranked by MLB.com, and six of its clubs reached the playoffs a year ago.
Farm director Quinton McCracken said that the process of setting rosters is challenging. The organization has replenished the farm system over the past few years, beginning with former general manager Ed Wade and going full-tilt behind current GM Jeff Luhnow.
"We have a lot of deserving players we had to part ways with the past few years here, because the accumulation of talent that Jeff and Ed has stockpiled has really started to come to light here," McCracken said. "So it was a collective effort from scouting, our decision sciences and front-office staff to divvy up the talent in the proper places. As you see, we have depth now at each level. Good problems to have."
Six players on the Triple-A Oklahoma City roster are among the Astros' top prospects as ranked by MLB.com: George Springer (No. 3), first baseman Jon Singleton (4), pitcher Mike Foltynewicz (6), outfielder Domingo Santana (8), catcher Max Stassi (12) and pitcher Nick Tropeano (17).
Double-A Corpus Christi features No. 7-ranked prospect Delino DeShields Jr. and No. 18 Nolan Fontana, but high Class A Lancaster is where the talent is brimming. The past two No. 1 overall picks in the First-Year Player Draft -- shortstop Carlos Correa (2012) and pitcher Mark Appel (2013) -- will begin their seasons with the JetHawks.
Also on Lancaster's roster are pitchers Josh Hader (15), Kyle Smith (18), Lance McCullers Jr. (5) and Vincent Velasquez (9); catcher Roberto Pena; infielders Tony Kemp and Rio Ruiz (11); and outfielders Teoscar Hernandez (13) and Danry Vasquez (20).
Many of the prospects could end up playing at a level higher by year's end.
"Last year it was a unique situation, with some of the younger kids being here for the first time on a full-season club, so we were conservative with them and made sure they had their feet on proper ground, but that being said, each will be moved according to their own individual progress," McCracken said.
The Minor League season gets underway on Thursday.