Porter pondering candidates to lead off for Astros

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros' move to the American League could bring a different wrinkle to the leadoff spot this year. No longer will the top hitter in the order be following the pitcher in the lineup, so there figures to be more opportunities to drive in runs.

Astros manager Bo Porter said Wednesday he prefers All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve to bat in the No. 2 spot in the order, where he batted a team-high 48 times last year. Altuve also hit leadoff in 84 games, which also led the team.

At this point, it appears likely the leadoff spot could be occupied by Tyler Greene or Marwin Gonzalez, depending on which player wins the shortstop battle. Neither will be a catalyst like Michael Bourn, but none of the Astros' outfield candidates nor corner infielders suit the position, outside of Brandon Barnes.

"When you talk about a leadoff hitter, it has to be a guy that's not afraid to hit with two strikes," Porter said. "He's willing to take pitches, but at the same time he's aggressive. I'd like to have a guy at the top of the lineup that can do some damage. He's going to get more fastballs, putting him in position to really ignite the team and get rallies started.

"When you have a guy like Altuve hitting behind you – a guy that's an established Major League player – there are many times the guy hitting in front of him should see better pitches to hit."

The Astros had nine different players hit leadoff last year, with Altuve getting the bulk of the action when Jordan Schafer fizzled and couldn't stay healthy. Greene hit in the top spot in the order six times, and Gonzalez once.