Dexter Fowler has been a polarizing figure for the fans of the Astros. He put up solid offensive stats. He missed too many games. He fit well in the top of the lineup with Jose Altuve. He made too much money. He was a better center fielder than the flotsam and jetsam of 2013. He was a worse-fielding CF than two of the other guys on the roster in 2014. He was a very good OBP guy. He seemed to lose interest towards the end of the season.
So what did Fowler mean when he was here? Well here is what the Astros’ cumulative CFs produced offensively (which is a good adjective for it) in 2013 and what they did cumulatively in 2014 for major categories along with their rank in the AL.
The team improved from the worst CF in 2013 to a top 5 CF offensively in 2014.
But that was then and this is now. So what are the prospects for 2015?
Rasmus was signed to a one-year $8 million contract as the last move in a few weeks of frenetic moves by Jeff Luhnow. He is a lefty who has played in 732 games in CF in his career and only 15 games at RF and LF combined. It is a good bet that with the money involved and his previous history that Rasmus will be the starting CF coming out of spring training. What does a quick glance at his history show?
- Good power, averaging 24 HRs per 162 games
- Had a very good 2013 (OPS – .840) and a decent 2014 (OPS – .735)
- Much better against RHP (.257 BA/.323, OBP/.788 OPS) than LHP (.213/.287/.648)
- Pretty big K guy. 25% for his career, but 29.5 and 33% the last two seasons
- Minimal errors (averages about 4.5/season) not too many assists (3/season)
- His range number Rtot is slightly below average
- Normally bats best around 5th in the lineup.
Best guess is that he gets the majority of the starts in CF, but could be platooned a bit with one of the right hand options and would then serve as a left handed power bat off the bench.
Just in case people missed the nickname given to Jake by Chip’s bloggers, it is JFSF, which stands for Jake from State Farm, a commercial running in heavy rotation when he was picked up from the Marlins in the Jarred Cosart trade.
JFSF in a couple months with the Astros flashed a great glove and a so-so bat. One thing that stands out with him is that he has 11 outfield assists in 94 major league games. That is a very strong number.
He has not shown a lot of power, yet but he just turned 24 and at 6′-4″ he certainly could develop more power over time.
Two things that stand out about JFSF:
- He has 8 outfield assists and 0 errors in 64 games in centerfield.
- In 2014 against LHP he was .327/.370/.738 and against RHP he was .227/.254/.568.
If the Astros are hoping Hinch does a bit more statistical mix and match than Porter did, it would seem that Marisnick would be a good bet to play CF against LHPs and be the late inning defensive specialist to fill in where needed in the OF.
Presley, who signed a bit of a surprising $1 million contract in the off-season missed a big chunk of 2014 with an injury. He played OK, but nothing special for the Astros in 2014. There is nothing in his fielding background that would have you put him in CF, but as one of our loyal bloggers pointed out (old pro?) for some reason he hits like a Mike Trout wannabee when he plays CF.
In 204 career ABs when playing CF he has put up .338/.373 /.893.
Overall in his career he hits only RHP slightly better than LHP.
- Vs. RHP .255/.299/.701
- Vs. LHP .277/.299/.665
You would not think he will get much of a shot at CF based on poor fielding numbers, but who knows what the computer will spit out.
Though the young man has all the talent to play CF, the best guess here is that the Astros brought in Rasmus to be the CF (much like they brought in Fowler last season) and that they don’t want to move Springer around a bunch. If Rasmus does not get hurt or does not crash and burn production wise, the Astros will likely send Springer back out to RF and leave him there.
Help from Below
Though he has played a little CF in the minors, the assumption here is that when and if Domingo Santana returns to the majors it will be as a corner outfield. So, who is next in line if needed?
The fifth round pick from 2012 had a great year in 2013 at Lancaster (A+) with 102 runs scored and 107 RBIs in 128 games. He followed that up with an OK year at Corpus (AA) that ended up with a call-up and a decent showing at OKC (AAA).
To date he has not shown a lot of power, but is typical of a Luhnow draft pick with a high OBP (.377 cumulative) and has drawn more walks than strikeouts in both 2013 and 2014. If somebody falters or injuries hit with the big club – he could be in line for a mid-season call-up.
The trade-off of Austin Wates opened up room for Aplin, while the Rule 5 loss of Delino Deshields Jr opened up space for this 22 year old who was already quickly climbing the minor league ladder.
He had great numbers at Lancaster (.294/.376/.925) followed up by decent numbers at Corpus (.284/.299/.773) in 2014 and had a combined 84 R/21 HR/85 RBI between the two stops. He seemed to have forgotten how to take walks between A+ and AA and I am sure the Astros will want to see him work on that this season.
Taken one round after Aplin in the 2012 draft, Phillips had a very impressive 2014 season. Combined between Quad Cities (A) and Lancaster he put up (.310/.375/.905) and totaled 17 HR and 68 RBI in 130 games. And he was not a Lancaster high altitude stat freak as he spent 80% of the season at sea level at QC.
He is obviously a few seasons away from the bigs, but it is nice to see talent filling in behind other talent in the system.
- Are we going to be wondering (again) why the third best fielding CF — Rasmus — is getting all the starts?
- How do you think percentage-wise the CF starts will be split between Rasmus, Marisnick, Springer and Presley?
- Who is next CF up from Fresn: Santana or Aplin?
- Who will be the Astros CF in 2017?