An embarrassment of riches. That's what the Astros have in their lineup already, but when Carlos Correa finally returns from his rib injury, which is expected Friday at St. Louis for an interleague series with the Cardinals, it will leave GM Jeff Lunhow with a move to make and a difficult decision.
With the addition of the shortstop back into the lineup either Tony Kemp or Myles Straw will have to go. Straw could be sent back to the minors, but Kemp would have to be put on waivers making his return to the team unlikely.
Kemp has been an emotional leader in the dugout with his "hugs for homers" and the professionalism of a veteran. He also plays multiple positions including spots on the infield and in the outfield. And another lefty bat in the lineup certainly doesn't hurt.
But, Straw has one thing you can't teach: speed. One of the fastest around the base paths in the majors, he can help manufacture runs like the one the Astros got in the ninth inning against the A's on Tuesday. Inserted as a pinch runner for Yuli Gurriel, Straw went first to third on a single and ultimate scored on a sac fly. Those types of plays can be game changers and it is difficult to weigh just how critical a skill that can be.
Still, one would think that Kemp has the edge given his versatility and the sneaky power he has with his bat. Given their championship aspirations, no doubt the Astros want as many veterans on the squad going into the playoffs as possible. Kemp, while no track star, is quick on the bases and Jake Marisnick has great speed there as well. Still, it leaves Lunhow in a tough position no matter what he decides to do.
Having said that, the silver lining here is the lineup will not only be back to pre-Correa status, it should be better with the insertion of Yourdan Alvarez and the clear full health of Jose Altuve. Despite the loss on Tuesday, this is a lineup filled with power and versatility. They could wind up with Robinson Chirinos or Josh Reddick in the nine hole, which is remarkable.
With a complete lineup, the Astros will be scary to face, but they will have to cut someone loose to get there. When you are this good, these are the problems you face, which sure beats the alternative.
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