The Astros do not hesitate to shift prospects around the diamond in hopes of enhancing their versatility and, perhaps, making it easier to find a spot in Houston.
Pedro Leon came to an organization reeling from the loss of a homegrown center fielder. Leon was not expected to replace George Springer immediately, but the 22-year-old Cuban center fielder is viewed as a fast riser.
Leon has above-average speed, oozes with athleticism and has an 80-grade arm.
All those attributes translate to shortstop, where Carlos Correa, another homegrown Astros star may soon depart.
In a brief cameo at big league spring training, Leon split his time between shortstop and center field. Houston signed Leon when the international period opened on Jan. 15, inking him for $4 million, the largest bonus in the signing class.
The Astros are serious about Leon’s potential at shortstop and were having conversations about where most of his minor league playing time may come.
“We’re still getting to know Pedro,” Astros general manager James Click said. “The last year without baseball was a critical amount of time where I think we were hoping to bring him in a little earlier than we did and get to know him a little better.
“We have a lot of confidence that he is an above-average defender in center field . . . but at the same time, if he has the potential to learn shortstop . . . it opens up a lot of potential avenues for us.”
The Astros asked the 5-foot-9 Leon to take ground balls in January when he signed. Leon did not play any infield in organized baseball while in Cuba but moved around the field as a child.
A visa issue delayed Leon’s arrival to spring training, but once there he received almost equal reps at shortstop and center field on the back fields and in simulated games. Leon played primarily center field in major league spring training games, though.
As a hitter, Leon dazzled during simulated games. An 0-for-12 showing in Grapefruit League play, however, demonstrated the gap Leon must close after not playing organized baseball in a year.
Still, the Astros believe Leon is a fast riser. What position he may play is another matter entirely.
— Non-roster invitee Bryan De La Cruz drew rave reviews throughout spring training, even making a final push for Houston’s fourth outfielder spot. The 24-year-old Dominican “played better than all” of the Astros’ candidates for the Opening Day roster, according to manager Dusty Baker, but de la Cruz was a victim of a 40-man roster crunch.
— Righthander Peter Solomon stood out through spring as the Astros’ best piece of starting pitching depth, refining his changeup and sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball. Expect him to get a call if Houston needs an early spot start