PLAYOFF POINTS

Barry Laminack predicts the Astros 25-man roster/Round 1 preview

Tony Kemp might be the odd man out if the Astros go with fewer hitters. Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the playoffs right around the corner I figured we could take a look at the projected Astros’ 25 man roster for the teams first round matchup vs the Cleveland Indians.

First thing we have to figure out is if A.J. Hinch goes with 12 bats or 13. For weeks I’ve thought he’d go with 12 bats, but when I put them on paper, seeing that either Kemp or Marisnick could be left off, combined with the fact that the pitching staff is so deep and talented, I now think he’ll carry 13 bats.

The other, and perhaps the most important reason I think they will carry 13 bats is the health of George Springer. He’s not 100%, so having both Marisneck and Kemp as back-ups makes sense.

Here are the fielders I project will make the cut for round 1:

STARTERS

C: Brian McCann

1B: Yuli Gurriel

2B: Jose Altuve

3B: Alex Bregman

SS: Carlos Correa

LF: Marwin Gonzalez

CF: George Springer

RF: Josh Reddick

DH: Evan Gattis
 

BENCH

Martin Maldonado(C), Tyler White (1B/DH), Jake Marisnick (OF), Tony Kemp (OF/2B)

For the sake of argument, let's say he decides to only carry 12 bats. Who does Hinch leave off, Kemp or Marisnick?

Both can provide speed off the bench to steal you a bag late in a game, but Marisneck’s value as a late game defensive replacement is undeniable. So if they do go with 12 bats, I think Kemp is the odd man out.

Now to the pitching staff.

STARTERS

Justin Verlander

Gerrit Cole

Charlie Morton

Dallas Keuchel

BULLPEN

(MR = Middle Relief, LS = Lefty Specialist, SU = Setup Man, CL = Closer)

MR: Ryan Pressly, Colin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Joe Smith, Josh James

LS: Tony Sipp

SU: Hector Rondon

CL: Roberto Osuna

Much like the hitters, most of the names on this list are no-brainers.

One great sign for this team was Lance McCullers getting in a productive inning of work (his first work since going on the DL in early August), so expect to see him pitch in at least two more games before the playoffs get here.

I think the final 2 spots on this team come down to choosing between Will Harris, Josh James, Brad Peacock, Joe Smith,  and Framber Valdez.

Will Harris just doesn’t have it this year, at least not enough to warrant a playoff spot, and for as good as Framber Valdez has looked this year, his 21 walks in 34.2 innings is going to keep him out of the playoffs.

I think Josh James has shown enough to warrant his addition to the roster. He’s proven that pressure isn’t an issue (look at his outing in Boston) and he’s got electric stuff that can get you a strikeout when needed, but can also go for a while if you find yourself in an extra innings marathon (and I think this could be very likely in at least 1 of the 5 games).

So this was really a choice between Brad Peacock and Joe Smith, and to be honest, you could make a case for both.

Peacock is giving up 1.57 HR/9 and averaging 13/4 Ks per 9 innings, while Smith is giving up 1.22 HR/9 and fanning 9.3 per 9 inning. Smith has shown better control with a .963 WHIP to Peacocks 1.115.

Those numbers are pretty darn good for both guys, so you really can’t go wrong here. I think it comes down to performance in the postseason.

Peacock has a 5.11 ERA (giving up 7 earned runs in 12 postseason inning - all last year).

Smith has pitched in a total of 5 innings of relief in the playoffs (spread over 3 years - 2013, 2014 and 2017) and has yet to give up a run (that included 4 appearances against the Yankees last year in the ALDS).

So because of his postseason success I went with Smith, but if the final playoff spot on your pitching roster is between Joe Smith and Brad Peacock, it’s safe to say your pitching staff is pretty darn good.

SERIES PREDICTION

The Astros are loaded with talent and ready to make another deep playoff run. The Cleveland Indians are no slouch of a team and can match the Astros starter for starter and at bat for at bat. The real difference between these two clubs is the bullpen and that is advantage Astros.

The Astros win this series, but it’ll take all five games.

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Another win for the Coogs! Photo by Getty Images.

The Cougars were supposed to play a game in Tampa against The University of South Florida on Jan. 14th, but this contest was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the USF program. Houston was able to take advantage of the extra time off to rest their players and prepare for their next game against UCF.

Their previous game against the Knights in Orlando on December 26th was a close matchup which saw UCF and the Cougars tied at halftime. The second half was a back-and-fourth contest between the two teams, but Houston was able to come away with a nine point victory.

This game however was nowhere near as close and their previous meeting.

Houston immediately got off to a 12-0 start thanks to four straight 3-pointers from DeJon Jarreau (2x), Marcus Sasser & Quentin Grimes.

The Cougars continued to surge past the knights and at one point led 38-9 with 3:43 left to go in the contest.

Houston led 45-19 at halftime, their largest first half lead of the season.

The Cougars were able to maintain their commanding lead with both efficient scoring early on and elite level defense. Houston forced UCF to commit 20 turnovers that resulted in 22 points for the Cougars.

The Cougars won most of their games this season with commanding defense, dominating the boards and superior guard play. All three boxes were checked as Houston was able to secure a 75-58 victory.

UCF did outscore Houston in the second half 39-30, but the Cougars' lead proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome for the Knights. Essentially, Houston was on cruse control the second half of the game and never saw their lead drop below double digits.

Grimes scored in double figures for his 11th straight game after opening the season with eight points against Lamar. Senior forward Justin Gorham scored a season high 15 points as well.

Houston has now won its fourth straight game since its loss to Tulsa and now remain in sole position of 1st place in the AAC.

The Cougars moved up from No.11 to the 8th ranked team in the country as multiple top-ranked teams suffered losses over the week.

Kelvin Sampson passed former Houston coach Tom Penders as he earned his 650th career win. This also moves him into sole possession of 41st place on the NCAA wins list. He is also the second winningest coach in Houston Cougars Men's Basketball history behind only the great Guy Lewis.

UP NEXT: Houston looks to exact revenge against the only team to defeat them this season as they host Tulsa at the Fertitta Center on Wednesday at 7pm.

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