Looking ahead to Astros 2015: It’s all about the bats in left field


With the arrival of Evan Gattis, it seems clear the Astros are looking to get a little offense out of left field.

Gattis, acquired from the Braves, is the Carlos Lee-esque player who has no real defensive home, but has a bat that necessitates a spot in the lineup.

A look at Houston’s 40-man roster shows a whole host of possible left fielders. In fact, of the seven outfielders listed on the 40-man — plus Chris Carter, who is listed simply as a DH and Evan Gattis who is, humorously, listed as a catcher — about the only player I can’t imagine in left field is George Springer. If Springer is in the lineup, I’m guessing he’s in center or right.

Of the rest, here they are in descending order of how likely I think we’ll see them standing in front of the Crawford Boxes. (Because the Astros will certainly use more than one left fielder over the course of 162 games, the percentages will total well past 100 percent.)

1. About 80 percent, Evan Gattis. In 369 ABs, Gattis compiled an .810 OPS with a 26.3 K% and just a 5.6 BB%. He hit 22 HRs and knocked in 57 runs.

2. About 60 percent, Robbie Grossman. In 360 ABs, Grossman earned a .670 OPS with a 29.2 K% and an impressive 13.5 BB%. He hit 6 HRs and brought 37 runs. In Grossman’s case, he’s a better hitter from the left side, so if the Astros were going to platoon anyone with their many right-handed hitters in left field, Grossman might be a possibility. Of course, his splits as a left-handed hitter aren’t exactly spectacular.

3. About 20 percent, Alex Presley. In 254 AB, Presley had a .628 OPS, 17.3 K%, 4.9 BB%, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs. With a $1 million deal, Presley would have seemed a likely bench option, but with so many options, I wonder if Presley will be dealt.

4. About 15 percent, Colby Rasmus. 346 ABs, .735 OPS, 35.8 K%, 7.7 BB%, 18 HRs, 40 RBIs. Rasmus is a pretty good defensive outfielder, and if Hinch played everyone where they belonged defensively, Rasmus would go to left when Marisnick and Springer are in the game.

5. About 15 percent, Chris Carter. 507 ABs, .799 OPS, 35.9 K%, 10.9 BB%, 37 HRs, 88 RBIs. Like Gattis, this would be a play about the offense.

6. About 10 percent, Domingo Santana. Looking only at his AAA numbers, 443 ABs, .858 OPS, 33.6 K%, 12.6 BB%, 16 HRs, 81 RBIs. While I’d bet Santana starts the season in AAA again, he’s likely to get a peek at MLB  pitching in Houston.

7. About 4 percent, L.J. Hoes. 122 ABs, .517 OPS, 25.4 K%. 7.6 BB%, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs. Every roster move seems like an opportunity to cut Hoes. I’m sure Hoes starts the season in AAA and probably only gets to Houston in some weird emergency.

8. About 3 percent, Jake Marisnick. 221 ABs, .607 OPS, 30.3 K%. 4.7 BB%, 3 HRs, 19 RBIs.  JFSF is much more likely to play right or center, still if he shows up in left it shouldn’t be a complete shock. Oh, and those K% and BB% are not as good as his MiLB numbers, so maybe JFSF can improve in 2015.

9. About 1 percent, George Springer. Like JFSF, I don’t see Springer shifting to left field. the numbers go something like this: 295 ABs, .804 OPS, 38.6 K%, 11.7 BB%, 20 HRs, 51 RBIs. In half a season, Springer put up some amazing numbers, and he’s definitely going to get better once his K% comes down a bit.

I won’t even get into Andrew Aplin or Danry Vasquez or Teoscar Hernandez. Those guys are part of the 2016 or 2017 mix.

  1. It’s likely Hinch plays a sub-par defender in LF in 2015. Is the offense from Gattis or Carter good enough to offset the Carlos Lee-ian glove work?
  2. About the best option for a good defender is Grossman in left. Are his 2014 numbers good enough for you?
  3. Several of these options are really just in case of emergency, though that emergency is likely to be Singleton being sent down, Carter moved to 1B and Gattis moved to DH. If that happens, who should Hinch play at LF?
  4. The “Big Question” for this off season. Are the Astros better off in 2015 at LF than they were last year?
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28 comments on “Looking ahead to Astros 2015: It’s all about the bats in left field

  1. Brian,

    Your analysis of Gattis playing LF 80% of the time seems to be in direct contrast to Luhnow’s statement that Gattis will not be the everyday LFer. Do you think this will change because Hinch will have no other option than to play Gattis in LF on a regular basis or do you think Luhnow was just blowing smoke up our backside? I am not condemning your comment, but just curious on your thought process.

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    • We have three 1B/DH. If all three play, one needs to be in LF. I think that’s Gattis. Now if Singleton ends up in Fresno, then Grossman goes up to 80 percent. But, yeah, I thimk Hinch won’t have a choice, and Luhnow is slightly full of excrement.

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      • Honestly, I think Luhnow’s comment on Gattis not playing LF is more of a commentary on his confidence in Singleton at 1B. You could also argue he could still move Carter. Either of those are possible “avenues” for Gattis to not play in LF, but you have to note that Luhnow has loaded up with 1B-type guys the past couple of years.

        Singleton is still considered a strong “prospect” by most experts, but you have to wonder what the stats’ guys are telling him about Singleton’s possible success? Hmmm.

        But, as you note Brian, the situation could be very fluid, depending on the options mentioned above.

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    • I can’t see Luhnow trading Carter until he is comfortable that Singleton is ready to play everday. I took his comments to mean that Singleton will start the season in Fresno. I could be wrong, but if you are trading 3 of your top 20 prospects for a guy his bat has to be in the lineup 90% of the time. Between Gattis, Singleton and Carter someone will have to either ride the pine or be playing somewhere other than Houston, assuming Gattis is not the regular LFer. Luhnow’s comment really caught me off guard as I expected Gattis to primarily play LF.

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      • As I said, I believe Luhnow’s comment is a commentary on his confidence in Singleton. Could be — could be — Carter is moved, but the most likely scenario behind Luhnow’s comment is whether SIngleton makes the cut out of spring training.

        That comment was weeks ago too. Who knows what behind the scenes maneuvering has come and gone since then.

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  2. I’m excited about LF because this is one of the positions that hasn’t contributed anything with the bat lately and now (maybe) there are good combinations to fix that. My favorite combo would be a Gattis/Presley one with Gattis getting the majority of the starts with Presley giving him a breather against tough righties.
    Because of Gattis’s delayed MLB launch, I’m hoping his career is on the rise and the change to LF might keep him healthier than squatting behind the plate for 110 games a year. That HR rate per game is pretty impressive, but I’m kind of hoping he is more than a one-trick pony and could turn into a better all around defender and hitter over the next couple of years.
    There’s that “Hope” word.

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  3. Yeah, we’re going to have to get past the bad defense and K’s on this team. I have conflicted thoughts here. From a pure offense perspective you try Gattis in LF because he can’t be less comfortable than Carter out there, right? But if you are trying to field a well-rounded defense you want RG/JFSF/AP out there. My problem is that you can’t give up two of your top ten prospects for a platoon guy. Gattis, based on 2014, is only a marginal upgrade over Singleton (JS)…and that assumes that JS doesn’t cut down his K’s and up his Avg. Sending him to AAA makes little sense to me.

    If Gattis does not play LF, I would like to see Rasmus in LF, Springer in CF, and RG in RF. Our only power arm this year is Peacock…depending on when he gets healthy. Three finesse RHP + Keuchel + Olberholtzer makes me expect a lot of singles to LF where a competent fielder and arm limiting extra bases will provide more value than an extra 10 solo HR.

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  4. I think Gattis has the job at least until we see how bad he is defensively. With 22 dingers and 57 RBI’s in 369 AB’s, he’ll be in the lineup. And as long as Singleton and Carter are around, left is the only realistic place to hide him. That’s assuming Conger and Castro are behind the plate.

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  5. Two schools of thought –

    What I think will happen – Gattis in LF about 60% of the time, spending some time at 1B and DH. Presley in LF some. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marisnick in LF only because the Astros seem intent to go Rasmus in CF and Springer in RF, and though Marisnick is superior to both those guys defensively I don’t envision a scenario where Hinch is displacing either of those guys for a game or two for the sake of one fly ball that may or may not happen that JFSF gets too that noone else would.

    I like the notion of RG in LF, but I don’t see it happening unless there is an injury. RG is limited in most facets – he K’s a lot, his power is mediocre, he has some speed but not a ton – his one saving grace is he would likely have the highest OBP on the team – but that doesn’t help you from the bench. I don’t think he makes the roster out of ST, especially with options still. I think he sees time in Houston, because our OF as a whole has injury history – but he needs lots of AB’s to set himself apart. JFSF can help you in more ways without needing 500 plate appearances to do it, so I see Marisnick and Presley as the spare parts.

    Second thought – what I would do – trade Castro, put Carter at DH, start Conger at C and Gattis in LF, but have Gattis assigned as the catcher to say a veteran like Feldman and the 5th starter or a swing man, so that Gattis catches once or twice a week, playing LF some in a split with Presley and getting some time at DH. Marisnick plays CF against lefties and spells Springer in RF when he needs a blow. RG sits at AAA until the first injury, but I would use him as the starter if called to replace any of the 3 starters, making defensive shifts accordingly. Grossman needs at bats to stand out.

    In the end, I would like to see Conger catching Keuchel and McHugh more, and see how the pitch framing helps the control guys. Maybe if you buy them another half inch off the plate to use, their offspeed pitches, which is both their strengths, becomes even more effective. I know its a LF discussion, but having Conger catch some and Castro gone opens up LF some as Gattis will catch a little.

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  6. One thing about it, there are at least four guys who know they had better have the best ST in recorded history if they want to spend the summer months playing in a stadium with a retractable roof, a hill in the outfield, and its own freight train. Show us what you are made of and can bring to the table, Mr. Robbie Grossman; Mr. Alex Presley; Mr. Jake Marisnick, and Mr. Jon Singleton.

    PS. I would have mentioned Mr. L.J. Hoes in that group, but I think we’ve seen all he’s made of and has to offer, and that we all realize neither is enough to keep him in the Juice Box.

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  7. – I think the general agreement is that Mr. Gattis (is he the pizza guy?) needs to start somewhere in 90% of the games.
    – And I think most agree that where he plays may have more to do with who fails in ST and / or the early season than anything else.
    – I would rather limit his catching – so I think he will be bumping between LF, DH and 1B.
    This team needs some run producers and Gattis added to a better Singleton to a full season Springer on top of a year more mature Carter – that should help give them a middle of the lineup.
    I always have liked Robbie Grossman (in the second half of the season). But it sure seems that they want Presley to have that extra OF spot.
    I guess we will see.
    I like Mr. Bill’s premise that some of these guys have to jsut tear it up in ST. I would add that they better have decent April/Mays or they will be gone or sent down too.
    Of course if they have too good an early season they may be traded at their peak value….

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  8. I am still puzzled by the Presley signing in the offseason. The only positive I can see is he has a decent contact rate. Otherwise, he provides no power, poor plate discipline and below average defense. I get that Luhnow wanted to create competition and give Hinch plenty of options, but giving him a guaranteed, major league contract doesnt make much sense. I guess with RG having options the plan was to start him at AAA this season, but I would rather have him in Houston over Presley.

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    • Actually, Kevin, Luhnow has said he hopes to keep the numbers down at spring training because this year he’ll have more established MLB players rather than a bunch of AAA and AAAA guys vying for a bunch of open positions.

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  9. I have to defer to the experts in the brain trust – but I am with Mr. Bill on this. You normally have 12 or 13 position players. That is 2 catchers, 4 OFers, 5 INFers, and a DH. Now you can mix and match and perhaps add 1 more but you have no room for 6 OFers, nor 3 catchers, nor 7 INFers, nor 2-3 DHs. It is easy to say he can play several positions – but at the end of the day – you only have 25 spots. So unless you plan to go with 5 starters and 1 or 2 relief pitchers – there are multiple guys on the 40 man that will not be there opening day. In fact about 15 and apparently 3 or 4 can play LF.

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  10. Crane……”We intend to make the play-offs this year”. That’s a pretty tall order, don’t cha think! I want some of what he’s drinking, it sure would make my day a little brighter!
    Left field is a crap shoot……but do NOT put Carter out there.

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    • It’s interesting that Crane jumps out there like that, talking about Luhnow looking into a couple of additional deals. The playoff talk doesn’t surprise me because I figure Jim had a playoff talk with Jeff and that is why there has been a bunch of moves. Even Crane isn’t dumb enough not to realize he is the laughingstock of baseball and it’s time to get serious.

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  11. * It’s all about the bats in left field *

    I hope this means that as our left-fielder strides to the plate next year we can expect to hear the Old 1966 Batman TV series theme song blasting over the stadium speakers? Biff! Pop! Sock! Pow! Bam! Smash! Whoosh! Kablooey!

    Look, why not make it a full-out marketing campaign? The Grocer bought Roy Oswalt a bulldozer; surely Crane can spring for Evan Gattis to drive a Batmobile. Think of the possibilities. We could rename the Astros clubhouse ‘the Bat Cave’. We could redesign the left field foul pole to resemble the ‘batpole’. We could start calling Jake Marisnick ‘the boy wonder’. And A.J. Hinch could easily pass for ‘Alfred’, right?

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      • Crane is the Colonel. Some see him as Colonel Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; others see him as Colonel Klink, commandant of Stalag 13 [pronounced Tsir-teen, if you please]. But I suspect – if you can handle the truth – that he is in fact more like Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. I can hear him now, saying:
        Son, we live in a world that has a short left-field porch, and that short porch has to be guarded by men with bats. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Dexter Fowler, and you curse the Front Office. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Fowlers’ departure, while tragic, probably saved millions. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves Houston’s MLB franchise. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like compete, improvement, and playoffs. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very franchise that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a glove, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

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      • Considering the number of games he played and the savior reputation he had, I think I’d probably call Altuve ‘Iron Man’. And I at least hope to see a little ‘Thor’ in Colby Rasmus, and a little Captain America in Dallas Keuchel.

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    • “What is this? What’s going on? I did my job, I’d do it again! I’m gonna get on a plane and go on back to my base.” – Col. Nathan R. Jessup, Retired

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