One of the most intriguing players on the Astros roster has to be infielder Marwin Gonzalez. Still a few months shy of his 25th birthday, Gonzalez will be looking for an increase in playing time in what will be his third season in the big leagues.
Looking over the Astros current 40-man roster — Gonzalez appears to be the most versatile player on the team. That versatility could be what keeps him on the roster when Opening Day rolls around. Last year’s super-utility guy, Jake Elmore, was claimed off waivers by the White Sox and is no longer with the club. Elmore’s heir apparent, Ryan Jackson, was recently traded to the Padres. That leaves Gonzalez as the Astros’ primary backup at second base, third base, and shortstop.
Gonzalez, a .227/266/.323 hitter in 152 games with the Astros over the past two seasons, is currently playing for Aguilas de Zulia in his home country of Venezuela. He is hitting .309 with 13 walks and only nine strikeouts in 21 games. But I try not to get overly excited about winter league numbers. (remember Fernando Abad?)
Marwin hasn’t hit much in the big leagues but his glove has been pretty dependable. I would venture to say that he is still the best defensive shortstop on the roster. And, if you are a regular reader of mine, you know how much I value a shortstop that is a plus defender. By the way, when does Adam Everett become eligible for the Hall of Fame?
I also think Gonzalez has the potential to improve his offense. He has put together a few mini hot streaks from time to time and always seems to battle. If Jonathan Villar struggles out of the gate, Gonzalez may get one more chance to show what he can do.
I fully expect the Astros to bring in a couple of garden variety minor league free agents to compete with Gonzalez for the utility role. But I think Marwin has to be considered a heavy favorite to break camp with the job.
Marwin Gonzalez (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)