As they're currently configured, the Astros are focused mostly on finding out who on the 2013 club can help them on a long-term basis. They're in the process of figuring out who can help form that all-important nucleus, comprised of three or four core players, around whom a team can build.
The Astros were hoping Jason Castro would evolve into that type of player. If the first half of 2013 is any indication, they have their catcher of the present and the future, one who was rewarded for a solid start to the season with his first career All-Star selection.
Castro, 26, was named as a reserve catcher by manager Jim Leyland on the American League All-Star team. The announcement was made on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell on Saturday.
This is a first for Castro and a first for the Astros, who will represent the AL in the All-Star Game for the first time in their 51-year history. As a result, Castro's selection to the team has a historic flavor to go with the thrill of the individual honor. He's the second Astros catcher in team history to make an All-Star team, joining Craig Biggio, who was an All-Star at that position in 1989 and 1991.
"It's a huge honor," Castro said. "It's a dream come true for me. I grew up watching All-Star Games every year. Growing up playing baseball, that's the ultimate goal, besides winning a World Series, is making an All-Star Game and being able to compete at that level. It's still kind of surreal. I don't know if it'll sink in until I get to New York, but it's an honor and I'm grateful for the opportunity."
After missing the entire 2011 season with a knee injury following a freak incident during a Spring Training game, Castro returned in '12 slowly, easing into the starter's role with caution as he worked to return to full health. So far this year, the catcher is working a full slate of games and has proven to be an offensive force in the middle of the Astros' lineup. Through Friday's game, Castro was hitting .269 with 23 doubles, 11 home runs and 28 RBIs, and the catcher went 2-for-5 in Saturday's win over the Rangers, including a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning.
Castro's best month was May, during which he had 26 hits -- 13 for extra bases -- in 89 at-bats for a .292 average.
"I think Castro was a great representative from the Houston ballclub," Leyland said. He's got 10 or 11 home runs. He's hitting .265-.270. He's catching every day. I think he was a tremendous choice myself."
Leyland explained that even though All-Star rules allow managers to designate a position player to be eligible for re-entry if the final position player is injured, he wanted to still carry an extra catcher to protect against overdoing it with starter Joe Mauer.
"I thought it would be very sketchy to start Joe Mauer, catch him five innings, bring in [Salvador] Perez, and if something happened to Perez, ask Joe Mauer to go back in the game," Leyland said. "He's had some injuries in his career."
From Saturday, July 6 to Thursday, July 11, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com for the final player for each League's All-Star roster.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.