From the beginning of the 2019 season, the Astros’ riches in the outfield have been something to behold.
- George Springer (up until his hamstring injury) was a certain MVP candidate as he slashed (.309 BA/ .389 OBP/ 1.038 OPS with 17 HRs and 42 RBIs) to the top of most offensive categories in the AL.
- Michael Brantley (.332 BA/.389 OBP/.926 OPS with 10 HRs and 38 RBIs) has been on the top of any list of best free agent pickups in the recent off-season.
- While not quite at the same level as the other two starters, Josh Reddick has bounced back from a poor 2018 and has been solid in the RF spot (.305/.350/.795 with 6 HRs and 20 RBIs).
- Meanwhile, defensive wizard and fourth OF, Jake Marisnick has put up the best offensive stats over an extended period in his career (.267 BA/ .333 OBP/ .850 OPS with 6 HRs and 17 RBIs) in 120 ABs.
The recent spate of position-side injuries (Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Max Stassi) has provided OF prospects Derek Fisher and Myles Straw with playing time and both have grasped the bull by the horns.
Fisher, who spent some time with the big club in both 2017 and 2018 and scored the iconic game-winner in the fifth game of the 2017 World Series has looked like a different and much better hitter this time around. In a 10 game sample, Fisher has slashed (.281 BA / .361 OBP/ ..861OPS with 6 runs scored, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR and 5 RBIs). Straw, who had a 9 AB cup of coffee in 2018, has been White Lightning since he came up, affecting the game with his speed and a solid bat and glove (.385 BA/ .429 OBP/ .813 OPS with 6 runs scored and 3 SBs in only 13 ABs). Both of these guys are making cases to stay up or to be brought back up as the season moves along.
So that is six OFs who have all produced between good and excellent at the MLB level. Oh, and then there is the small matter of two 22-year-old top prospects at AAA, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Alvarez has been All-World so far this season (.355 BA/ .451 OBP/ 1.216 OPS with 46 runs scored, 22 HRs and 68 RBIs in only 53 games). Tucker was as bad the first month of the season as he was in his 2018 call-up with the Astros, but has been on fire ever since (Overall – .259 BA/ .333 OBP/ .935 OPS with 41 runs scored, 18 HRs, 40 RBIs and 12 SBs also in 53 games).
Obviously, the Astros have an apparent logjam of outfield talent, but with time limitations.
- Springer is 29 years old and is receiving $12 million in the second year of a two year contract. If not otherwise signed he will go to arbitration once and be a 31 y.o. free agent after the 2020 season.
- Brantley just turned 32 and his $32 million contract will run through next season when he will be a 33-year-old free agent after the 2020 season.
- Reddick will make $13 million this season and next season and then he will also be a 33 y.o. free agent after the 2020 season.
- Marisnick has one more year of arbitration coming and then he will be a 29 y.o. free agent after the 2020 season.
- All four could be gone after next season.
So what is coming for the Astros, who have eight talented outfielders at or near the MLB level? Here are some possibilities:
- As discussed in the previous post, when the injured return the team will be in a roster squeeze that will likely be addressed by sending Fisher and Straw back to the minors, or…..by saying goodbye to Tony Kemp and Tyler White and keeping one of them.
- Despite how he is playing, a mid or off-season trade of Josh Reddick would not be that surprising. He is making a good chunk of dollars and after a hot start, he is slowly sinking back to the pack.
- If the Astros pursue another top pitcher at the deadline as has been speculated, the Astros might trade from strength to pick up that pitching help and the outfield prospects (Fisher, Straw, Alvarez and Tucker) certainly have value – some more than others.
- September call-ups should be led by these four outfielders (if they are all still here).
- The Astros work in the off-season to extend Springer and to maybe touch base on an extension with Brantley and maybe even Marisnick.
- Depending on how the extensions work out, they will use 2020 to give a couple of their youngsters a shot to win jobs for the long term.
So, how do you see this “good” problem working out for the team?