The Houston Astros have been one of the most talented teams in baseball over the last few years. Their best position players have been young, but not always healthy, which is why this is an intriguing question entering 2019. Who will be their top position player in the upcoming season?
The answer to this question is likely to come from one of four players, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer. This is not meant as an insult to Michael Brantley who could easily slip into this top four, but at 32 he would probably only be the best if the health wheels come off of all four of the other folks on this list.
Bregman did everything but drive the team bus in 2018. He led the Astros in runs (105), doubles (51), HRs (31), RBIs (103), OBP (.394) and OPS (.926) while walking (96) more times than he struck out (85). If there was any complaint about him last season it was that he started relatively slowly (hey lots of guys wish they had a .741 OPS in their worst month), but when the team needed him during a second half that saw injuries to the other three best players, he carried the team.
Prognosis. Some of the stat geeks are predicting some regression for young Alex, Here we look at his unlucky .286 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in 2018 and think he will be only better in 2019. (.305 BA / .405 OBP / .950 OPS / 110 runs / 35 HRs / 115 RBIs)
What a slacker that Altuve is. After winning the AL MVP in 2017, he slides to a fairly quiet 2018 and the excuse is that he plays the last two months with a knee that requires surgery due to a kneecap fracture and tendon separation. I mean man up, Jose!
There are very few players in baseball who could put up Jose’s kind of numbers (.316 BA / .386 OBP / .837 OPS / 84 runs / 13 HRs/ 61 RBIs) healthy much less on one leg. He put up a 5.4 WAR despite his power and speed numbers dropping off. He turns 29 in May and knowing Jose, he is dying to be Jose 2017 all over again.
Prognosis. Jose will be at least 90% of 2017 Jose, which will put him back near the top of players in the league…..and on this team. (.340 BA/ .392 OBP / .903 OPS / 105 runs / 20 HRs / 88 RBIs)
Carlos, who turns 25 this coming September is either on the cusp of a total breakout year or not. (How’s that for straddling the fence) He was terrific in 2017 (.315 BA / .391 OBP/ .915 OPS / 82 runs / 24 HRs / 84 RBIs), and might have won the MVP himself, but only played in 109 games. He played 110 games in 2018 and looked like an old guy with a bad back (.239/.323/.728 / 60 runs / 15 HRs / 65 RBIs). He was a young guy with a bad back and was down in almost every category except strikeouts.
So, two questions. Can Correa play 150 games in 2019? Can he play them like the best SS in baseball he was in 2017? If the answer is yes to both the Astros may have a new best player in 2019.
Prognosis. Carlos will be back to a very good version of himself. He will also likely miss 20 to 30 games because he does get hurt almost every year. (130 games – .305 BA/ .380 OBP/ .895 OPS / 90 runs / 25 HRs / 85 RBIs)
Maybe he doesn’t belong in the same discussion as the other three players, but there have been times (such as the 2017 World Series) where he has been the best player on this club and let’s face it – there are very few teams that could not find a prime spot in the middle of the lineup for Mr. Springer.
George, who turns 30 this September has been relied upon to lead off and lead the offense the last few seasons. His production was down last season (.265 / .346 / .780 / 102 runs / 22 HRs / 71 RBIs) from a fine 2017 due a horrendous mid-season slump and trying to play through a torn up thumb. The big question with George is – can he keep from the over-swinging slumps that keep a star from being a superstar?
Prognosis. George will be George again in 2019. A very good, but not quite a great player. (.280 / .370 / .885 / 110 runs / 28 HRs / 95 RBIs)
Questions for you:
- Who will be the best position player for the Astros in 2019?
- What order would you put these four players in for this season?
- Does Brantley belong in this conversation?