This is the time of the year when writers who get paid to do the job (i.e. not me) put out interesting predictive posts about players on all thirty teams…
For some teams, this may be an easy activity, but with the Astros, it is not. Just looking at the position players only, there are a plethora of fine players ready to roll (we hope) in 2023. With that, we will take a shot at ranking the Astros top 9 position players heading into 2023.
- Kyle Tucker – Tuck is the closest thing the team has to a 5 tool player at the MLB level. His .257 BA is the one spot for most improvement, but he has power (30 HRs/107 RBIs), speed (25 of 29 on steal attempts), a gold glove after a season with 1 error and 8 outfield assists. He’s never flashy, he never looks like he’s moving that fast, but I will always remember him grabbing the last out in Game 6 of World Series on a foul fly that I don’t think any of their outfielders reach. And he may be one of the players to benefit the most with the death of the shift in 2023.
- Yordan Alvarez – If this was based on just hitting, Yordan is the best hitter on the Astros. That .306 BA/ .406 OBP/ 1.019 OPS slash is tops on this team and one of the best in the majors. He can play adequate defense in left field with a Springfield rifle of an arm to surprise the opposition. If someone wants to put him on top, there certainly is an argument for that.
- Jose Altuve – At the age of 32, Jose had his best overall season since 2017. A great slash of .300 BA/ .387 OBP/ .921 OPS with 103 runs, 28 HRs, and stealing 18 of 19 attempts. He was an all-star, silver slugger, and fifth in MVP voting. A repeat of that or close to that will put him toward the top of this team’s best-position players.
- Alex Bregman – His overall numbers in 2022 were just a bit better than his fall-off in 2020 and 2021, but especially down the stretch, he finally looked healthy and effective. His .287/.379/.894 slash after the All-Star break was much closer to the Bregman of 2018 and 2019. Alex could certainly rise on this list with a continuation of that effort.
- Jose Abreu – He had a Brantley-esque season in 2022 with a .304 BA/ .378 OBP / .824 OPS. His power was way down in 2022 (15 HR vs. 30 HR in 2021). Remember, he had 19 HRs in only 60 games in 2020 while winning the MVP in that pandemic-sliced season. He will be 36 in 2023, but he will also have a great lineup around him, and he will be hitting in a much more inviting environment for his home games at Minute Maid Park. He could be much higher on this list, but unlike in Chicago, he doesn’t have to be.
- Michael Brantley – Like Abreu he will be 36 years old in 2023. He only played 64 games and slashed a solid .288 BA/ .370 OBP/ .785 OPS with a bum shoulder. He has been one of the most consistent hitters around his whole career and especially since he signed on with the Astros in 2019. Better health in 2023 should result in another solid season for this professional hitter.
- Jeremy Pena – When the ALCS and World Series MVP may be your seventh-best position player heading into a season…you have a potentially lethal lineup. Pena struck out too much and walked too little, but when the lights got bright, he was a very clutch player in 2022. He has room to grow and if he does, he could climb up this list in 2023.
- Martin Maldonado – He is not ahead of Chas McCormick on this list because of his offense. He brought sporadic power along with a poor slash line in 2022 – .186 BA/ .248 OBP/ .600 OPS. But he handled the best pitching staff in the game, and his ability to get the most out of them is a deciding point here. Even his ability to get himself hit in the deciding inning in Game 6 shows the value his smarts and savvy bring to this team.
- Chas McCormick – Chas slashed .245 BA/ .332 OBP/ .738 OPS, which is down the line in this lineup. Just remember the average slash in the majors was .243/.312/.706. So, the last man on this list was still an above-average MLB hitter. But he had improved from 2021 to 2022, and if he does again, he will bring at least an above-average bat to the end of the lineup. And his insane catch in Game 5 of the World Series will always be a high light in my mind.
So, how would you rate the top 9 position players on the Astros?
I’m gonna go with:
I could agree with almost any reorder of the top 4 – they are all terrific players and bring great value to the team in different ways.
I’d put Pena at 5 or 6. When you add up the defense and base running ability a case can be made.
I certainly can see it UK (Daveb). I’m not married to my rankings for sure.
Mariners sign AJ Pollock for 1 yr $7 MM and $3 MM in potential bonus money
I think it makes them better
This is sad news and a difficult time coming up for him and his family. Prayers on the way
Putting the top 5 in any order. Lets just go alphabetical.
Keep in mind I get our homerism, Abreu is the new guy, but he has received MVP votes 7 of the last 9 years and has been a consistent, and most importantly, available run producer in this league. I might put him as high as 3. I guess its a “if you feel like the trend down in HR last year is a trend and not a fad thing.”
Maldy receives higher praise from me than 9. Think about the hit by pitch. Critical time, knew what the pitcher was going to do with him, took advantage, and unlike Aledmys, Maldy has the savvy to make it look legit enough that he stays within the rules and gets the base. I get it, he can hit a groundball on Monday and still get thrown out Tuesday morning, but he is critical to this pitching staff.
I think 1-9 they all bring something. Even McCormick and Pena are guys that play over their minimum league salaries. Alvarez is the guy with the best chance to bring home the hardware, but there are 2 other former MVP’s in the lineup, along with 2 other guys that have significant finishes in MVP voting. The shift rules will bring Tucker’s average up, but it may let Brantley compete for a batting title, especially if he spends more time at DH and Alvarez in LF.
Let me say I hope that Yuli is back. I don’t think he will be, but I am sentimental. I get that he doesn’t fit this roster. I know Hensley will be the primary backup IFer and Dubon will be on this roster because he can play a decent CF. I’ll say the fan in me wants a fan favorite back even if it’s just an occasional DH/back up 1B role that only sees 150 PAs. Sometimes my fandom overruns my cold-hearted business/statistics mindset, and Yuli is one of those guys.
Yuli brought a lot to the team, since he came here. I don’t know if he fits in the 40 man if he is not a starter. I am not sure if I can remember another player who dipped as bad as he did in 2020, turned it around and won a batting crown the next season and then dipped terribly in 2022. Besides the catchers he was the worst hitter on the team during the regular season, who received significant at bats.
I wish we could keep him, but I think the Astros will go with the minimum salary Hensley for the infield.
A few thoughts about the 2023 Astros, if I may:
* I think the Astros will miss Aledmys’s versatility, but they will not miss his bat and his injuries.
* Don’t have a clue as to whether only 14 games each against our division foes will hinder or help the Astros, but I feel our four division opponents are quite alright with it.
* The younger studs on the Astros(Pena, Alvarez and Tucker) have earned their stripes and I believe they will be treated better by home plate umps.
* I believe the Astros will try their best to draft a good college SS this year in the top rounds of the draft.
* I’m hoping(and I believe the Astros are, also) that Drew Gilbert can fly through the minor leagues. I don’t know where his recovery from his elbow injury stands, but it was to his non-throwing arm. His arm is his top-rated tool, followed by the hit tool.
– Aledmys’ injuries just killed him in my view. He struggled hitting last season, but prior to that was a good bat….when healthy. He was a good glove wherever they put him.
– Going from 19 to only 14 games for the in division teams is a significant change. It may be off-set by my belief that the Angels, Rangers are much improved and the M’s are still as good as they were. The A’s will trail. If we are as good as I think we will be, it really does not matter.
– Are you thinking the good college SS will fill in behind Bregman or Altuve if they leave or just as the next Aledmys or are you looking long view for when Pena leaves?
– I would love to see Alvarez especially get the benefit of the calls
– Obvious you are impressed with Gilbert for the OF. Where do you stand on other OFs like Pedro Leon, Justin Durden and Colin Barber?
There is a good crop of college SS’s at the top of the draft and I am hoping that the Astros can steal one of them for use in a couple of years as a super utility infielder or a replacement for Pena if needed in the long run.
Explaining further, we see what value MLB teams are placing on good shortstops in how they are getting paid. The Astros desperately need to add value to their organization at that position.
From what I have seen and heard about Leon is that he would add great value to the Astros as a fourth outfielder. If he cuts down on the K’s and develops as a better hitter with a higher OPS, that changes things in his favor.
I like Dirden. If he cuts down his K’s he is a hidden gem, especially in 2024.
Barber was drafted young, lost valuable time during the pandemic, but is highly valued by the club.
Don’t overlook Jacob Melton, who was the PAC-12 POY in 2022 and is the #6 Prospect. He had a good start in Fayetteville and has plenty of tools in the OF.
With limiting the shift I think the four infielders will be the most important position players. I feel pretty good about the left side. I think Abreu will be a drop-off defensively, but his offense should make up for it. Altuve is the wild card. I don’t think he can cover enough ground and will be exposed a bit, but this will be offset if the pitching can limit hard contact. After that, I don’t know how to interpret the importance of Maldonado v. the outfielders. After that, I would suggest Tucker – Chaz – Brantley – Maldonado rounding out the bottom 4 spots. If we’re putting Alvarez in the mix I’d place him just below Tucker when considering offense+defense but if offense was the only concern he takes that top spot overall.
It will be interesting to see how the teams will un-shift. Will Jeremy Pena be inches to the left of second base and will he be moving towards the right side of the infield as the pitch heads to the plate? Yeah the right side of our infield will be the most suspect with the least range. But Altuve is not a statue – he can move some, just never been as rangy as a 2B who is not 5′-6″.
I’ve thought about too. How creative can they get? I don’t know about putting the SS in motion it will limit his ability to adjust. And the 2B having to have at least his toes in the dirt stops you from putting him in short RF anyway. Now nothing is stopping the RFer from coming up to a rover spot and the CFer and LFer shading except that if it ends up in the RF corner it could be an in the parker.
It’s going to be interesting to see what teams come up with in their labs.
I suspect we’ll see a lot of critical pitches called high and outside – and a few more OPPO BOPPO homers around the league, as pitchers try to force hitters to go airborne softly instead of on-the-ground at high velocity.
Settling on a ‘best’ position player is difficult. We don’t have a single ‘best defender of his position in the league’ candidate on the team, so we need them all to be above average regularly, and to flash occasional brilliance at just the right moments. The best candidates for ‘occasional brilliance when needed most’ contributions appear to be Tucker (arm), McCormick (route knack and fearlessness), and Bregman (incredible athleticism and reliable, uncannily on-target, just-enough-steam-behind-it throws to first).
Jose Abreu taking the place of Gurriel is designed to give us more offense, and should do that – but there could be a potentially devastating consequence defensively. We saw last year (and in Altuve’s case, for at least two or three years) that we have two extremely aggressive and historically wild-armed middle infielders (Pena and Altuve) that could airball us right out of any number of games. Both benefited majorly last year by having potentially disastrous throws rescued by the human vacuum cleaner who played goalee at first.
My top 9 defensive players thus start with Tucker, Bregman, and Chaz.
Defensive stats are so darn subjective, but overall most metrics rated Abreu higher than Yuli last season. And Abreu is known for being good at picking throws, the facet of Yuli’s game that we’ve so appreciated over the years. I do think the new shift rules impact Altuve more than anyone, especially since he’s not real good at going to his right and then getting off a strong throw. He won’t have Pena over on his side of the bag this year to help out.
Former Astro prospect back in the division…
That guy was drafted in 2012 and has battled for years to make it. Happy he gets another payday.
The 2012 draft had Correa, LMJ, Nolan Fontana, Brady Rodgers, Rio Ruiz, Brett Phillips and Preston Tucker. Also Tyler Heineman and Joe Sclafani.
Of course I remember Joe. Today he is Director of Player Development for the blue Jay organization. I have a feeling he’s a nice guy.
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Dan, is college football slowly dying? What will the post mortem say?
They got what they deserved – they manipulated the system so that TCU was put 3rd instead of 4th because they didn’t want to have Michigan – OSU play in the first round
If they had left things as they should have – TCU would have met UGA in the first round and you would have UGA vs Michigan or OSU in the finals
The Cotton Bowl had 55,00 attendance in that huge indoor stadium in Arlington and the Sugar bowl had 55,000 in attendance in that indoor stadium in NOLA! I flipped through some channels with small bowl games and they appeared to be half full or less.
I did not watch a full college game this year.
Fascinating. The Astros had it about right when they offered 5 years for 160 after the 2021 season. Would we have won the WS in 2022 without Jeremy Pena?
Gosh, Mets fans must be in turmoil right now.
And will Carlos ever get a chance to play for a championship again?
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Yes – Correa will play in the 2030 Korean Baseball League Championship
I would assume we would have won without Pena. Correa is a better hitter, better fielder, though they are probably more similar in their “not scared of any moment or at bat” gene.
Steven, I can’t assume that would have been the case, although we still would have been favorites certainly. But who knew Pena would end up as MVP for the ALSC and the WS? And of course Correa had long since made the fateful decision that kept him home in October.
And separately, I can’t help but to think that Correa and Boras thought they could pull off the big contract this fall even as they anticipated what could happen during due diligence. I guess all is fair in the business of baseball though. I do think going forward, Boras will be examined much more closely.
Chip just texted me the following – Correa going for the annual salary and only 6 yrs – but there is a vesting option that could extend it 4 yrs….
The saga has appeared to have reached its conclusion.
Further former Astros news:
OP – getting back to your question about college football bowl games – it has been pretty evident for a while that these games have been mostly televised events.
Since they added a championship game (and now the 4 team playoffs) that cut into the glamor of the New Year’s day games – Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar. Of course the 2000 other bowl games are on purely to fill ESPN TV time and attract football addicts that want to see a 6-6 Northwest Alaska U vs. 5-7 Down around the corner College games.
The butts in the seats have not meant much because the money is coming from the title sponsors for the Weedeater Compound W Jimmy Kimmel Bowl. Now if the eyes on the screen drop then maybe that eventually cuts into what can be collected dollar wise for these games.
Now when they move to a 12 team playoff that will help the take-in from the bowls in the playoff rotation. It will also probably not allow a TCU to get through as they will have multiple chances to stink it up to get to a title game.
Personally, I don’t know why there needs to be so many bowl games that they are offering spots to teams with losing records.
But in the end OP – it is all about the money and how they can increase it.
This says a lot.
And the gambling community must love all of these wacko matchups.
Maybe this will slow down the ridiculous contracts that are being handed out (probably not). Personally, I could care less or is it I couldn’t care less about CC the drama queen. Kudos to the Astro organization on not playing the game of “Who wants to spend the most money?” I would even bet he’ll get booed in Minnesota somewhere in his 1st appearance. This also lends credence to the adage that “do you want to make a bunch of money and play for a loser or make less and play for a champion”? Having never been in that spot I can’t answer the question but money ain’t everything.
In the meantime, pitchers and catchers report in 5 weeks and ST is only 7 weeks away. Hurray!
I don’t have a clue about it, but if $25 million a year is not enough, what is $30 million going to do for you?
I’m glad Correa got his money, but I won’t contribute a dime to it.
I’m glad the WS Champions aren’t having to fork it over. They are one of the winners of this deal.
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Gosh, we sure have won the Correa decision to date. Same with Springer and Cole. And by the activity of the past couple of months, we’ve seen how much that offends the big money clubs.
The Astros offered Correa 32M a year. He was taking less, way less, per year to sign with the Mets and Giants both. He wanted a commitment to him the same way he was willing to commit to the franchise. I am not convinced it was ALL about money.
Everything that seems to come his way about money – what if he had taken that deal? Or even one that was 25M a year for 7 years? You would have never heard of Pena, and you wouldn’t be seeing a press conference introducing your new first baseman. And everyone would be singing the praises of their SS that could finish in the top 5 in WAR in any given year.
I think the Astros made an offer to him they knew he wasn’t going to accept. And then they decided to never even negotiate, it was a take it or leave it deal. They wanted him to leave. You can’t blame him for leaving. If anyone was unfair or acted in bad faith in the break up of the Astros and Correa, it was the Astros. Correa wasn’t looking for 32M a year, he was looking for a long term commitment, the same way he was willing to give it. Sometimes we forget just how young Correa still is. The idea that he can still get better – and better at taking care of himself and being available, definitely his biggest fault so far – is there. What if he does? He will be a HOF’er. And our ownership wasn’t willing to commit.
Did you know Correa and Pena share a birthday? Exactly 3 years apart. By the time Carlos was 25, he had already accumulated 27.0 WAR. We can mark the tape right here, and revisit this date 10 years in the future – Correas worst OBP season in his career will be better than Pena’s best.
Don’t get me wrong, I have said multiple times that the Astros are better with Pena than Correa because that allows the extention to Alvarez and the signing of Abreu, and puts us in a better spot to negotiate with Javier, Framber, and Tucker. That’s life in the upper mid market. But let’s not fool ourselves or act like Pena is even in Correa’s league.
What if the Astros went 10/290 instead of 5/160? What if they tried to leverage the hometown discount for a guy that by indications (not opinions of his desires, but what he actually said) enjoyed his time here. Liked winning. Less AAV and commitment? Do you think he takes it? I do, but we will never know.
Steven, I will vehemently disagree with you on the Astros acting in bad faith. The Astros paid for the repair of his leg and the installation of that plate, so they knew about that leg and still offered him $160 million dollars.
But nothing says bad faith any louder than signing a huge deal with Adidas as a rookie and then saying that it would keep him in money until free agency in five more years. He always intended to go for the long term deal while knowing the Astros didn’t give long term deals.
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I’ll second that comment 1OP! We don’t know what he or the Astros were thinking but knowing that the Astros steers away from LT contracts I think his mind was pretty much made up. He wanted to be the highest paid shortstop in baseball and he didn’t care who paid him.
All good points.
Altuve got 7. That is the longest commitment ever by the franchise. I don’t know, and neither do the Astros, if Correa would have moved off of 10 for them, because they wouldn’t negotiate. Or so says the rumor mill. I concede we really don’t know. But I would have at least negotiated before moving on. I feel like the Astros never really had intent.
Steven: Altuve got a five year extension to his already signed deal that had two years left on it. That adds up to seven but was still only a five year extension and he never went to free agency to try to wrangle more money from his team.
Here is that deal
Steven, I just wrote a post that disappeared, but yeah I disagreed with you. Remember, Carlos did decide to go. And he required 3 years from the Twins while only committing to 1. If he took 5/160, which might have become 5/170, he have been better off today. And I’m sure the Astros had more information on his physical condition than than anyone. But the team ultimately made decisions that won the World Series. Not bad faith. Good business.
I don’t like the original Correa contract with the Twins. I wasn’t in the room, but I think the only way he wouldn’t have opted out would have been in the case of a terrible injury last year. Both sides need to protect their interests in these deals. I think the Astros’ original offer was fair, but certainly understand Correa wanting longer security. Where I take issue is with the players feeling entitled to ten year contracts. It’s not like they will just give back the money if they get injured or age/wear and tear catches up with them. No long term contract (10 years+) in the history of baseball has ever payed off for the team. Betts, Trout, Harper, Machado, Stanton, Votto, ARod, Pujols, Cano, Tatis Jr., and Tulowitzki should all be considered busts at this point. You could argue that Jeter’s was worth it, but we can also argue he shouldn’t have been playing SS for most of it.
So now we have Julio Rodriguez joining the group after his rookie year. Devers and Bogaerts deals make me wonder what drugs the respective teams were taking. How much value will Trea Turner bring when the speed (bat and foot) starts to diminish? The other recent ones for SS clearly could pan out, but Lindor is staring at the Braves winning the division for a long time to come, Franco will get traded eventually, and Seager only gets a ring if the Rangers pitching turns into something amazing.
A lot of back and forth about someone who doesn’t really matter here anymore – lol
I think Steven is right that the Astros really never intended to sign him. I think they made a very good offer over so few years they knew he would not take it. I think they did this to take the heat off the front office from the fans. “Hey we tried….”
But, I think they took the correct path for sustaining the great arc this team has been on. As with Cole and Springer and others they have lost – they lost a very good player, but were able to fill in behind with more affordable players and used the saved resources to help the team the most overall.
It could all go to hell in a hand basket with a bunch of injuries, but that can happen if you spend the big bucks on keeping these guys too.
They have been very successful over an 8 season period. I trust them until they prove themselves unworthy of trust.
Back and forth is our fun.
I agree they had no intent. I also agree that it worked out for the better and I believe that hurts Correa’s pride. Funny how these things work out sometimes but you are right it does not matter the least bit.
So, the Red Sox brought in Trevor Story last season on a long term deal and had him play 2B with the thought he could slide over to SS (his normal position) if Xander Bogaerts left. Bogarts did sign big time with the Padres and Story has elbow surgery which may knock him out for the season.
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The Red Sox are going to be a bad team with a very expensive third baseman.
I don’t think the Giants or Mets were worried about Correa’s injury risk, but they likely were unable to get insurance for their contract offers (or the cost of insurance would have been too high). This article is 8 years old, but I think still relevant:
I’m blaming Selig and Manfred for allowing it to happen, but I don’t know how much power they had to stop these contractual freight trains. We’ve moved into a realm where some of the teams can spend from a bottomless wallet while others will go to any lengths to avoid paying their minor leaguers during a league enforced shutdown. Cited in that article is the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg. It should be noted that the ownership signed a lot of guys to contracts that will be paying them long after they have played their last games. Clearly they were getting creative, but likely also hedging their bets they would/could sell the team for a great profit before those salary daemons came due. I don’t want to sully this conversation, but recall the contract the Browns gave to another former, Houston star disgraced by scandal. They had to guarantee more money than any previous NFL contract to get him to go there. When a guarantee like that was put in place the league forced them to put nearly the entirety of the contract value into an escrow account…just in case.
And interesting that he passed this physical.
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Looking at Korey Lee’s minor league stats, it sure looks like he could use at least another half-season in Triple A. In the lower minors he had a good OBP – .359 at Tri-City in 2019 and .340 at A+ and AA in 2021 (he dipped in his short stay in Sugarland that year). Last year at Sugarland his OBP was down to .307. He developed home run power (25), but he started striking out like crazy too [31% of at bats!].
That said, it would not surprise me if the ‘Stros picked up a waiver wire back-up catcher in the next few days just for insurance.
Of course, Yanier Diaz’ offensive stats put Korey Lee’s to shame – .321 BA in minors, with a .358 OBP, consistent power, low strikeouts. The only question is … can he catch?
The Cubs waived the catcher who backed up Contreras earlier this week. He bats left handed, if I’m not mistaken. His name was PJ Higgins and he cleared waivers and is now a free agent.
This great post on Chipalatta coincided with a lot of news about former Astros.
Here is another: https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2023/01/diamondbacks-designate-j-b-bukauskas-for-assignment.html
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Darn, every time I am reminded of Grienke, I think back to the fateful game 7 in 2021.
I’ll always think that using Cole would have been the way to go after 6 innings of Grienke excellence.
What version of Jose Altuve – age 32 – will we see in 2023?
As Dan pointed out, as far as the regular season goes, Jose’s 2022 was his best year since 2017. He managed to get his regular season BA back up to .300 BA – alas, he hit a dismal .190 in the postseason. He got his regular season OBP up to .387 – but could only muster a pitiful OBP of .242 in the playoffs. He hit 28 HR and drove in 57 in the regular season – but threw up zeroes in each category in the postseason.
I know the postseason pitching was better than the regular season pitching – but that didn’t stop Gurriel [.347/.360/.850 with 2 HR], Pena [.345/.367/1.005 with 4 HR], or Bregman [.294/.379/.948 with 3 HR]. Was Jose hurting? Has he just lost a step? Or did he just succumb to an ill-timed slump?