Has the Addition of Colby Rasmus Made the Astros Better?


On Tuesday, the Astros signed outfielder Colby Rasmus to a one-year, eight million dollar deal. The signing came just a day after Houston traded Dexter Fowler to the Cubs in return for Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. It would appear that Rasmus, a former Jeff Luhnow draftee from his time in St. Louis, was added to replace Fowler in center, but was his addition really necessary? With Colby Rasmus now added to the outfield mix, Houston has eight players that will be vying for five outfield spots this spring, with two of them already having “dibs” called by Rasmus and George Springer.

The Astros have seven players listed on their 40-man roster as outfielders, with Chris Carter and Evan Gattis as extra options in left field. The other candidates include Robbie Grossman, Domingo Santana, L.J. Hoes, Jake Marisnick, Rasmus, Springer, and Alex Presley. With this group, the addition of Rasmus makes a little more sense for depth purposes. Santana came up last season and struggled mightily, striking out in 14 of his 17 at-bats. Marisnick was solid is his time with Houston after being acquired at the trade deadline from Miami, where the 23-year old had struggled, batting just .167 before the deal. We’ll have to wait and see which player shows up this season.

It’s obvious that Colby Rasmus’ potential added to this group was a good move, but is it better than having Fowler on the team? Both players will be free agents after the 2015 season. Here is their average season over the past three years.

It should come as no surprise that Fowler’s on-base percentage is much greater than Rasmus’. The other dimension that will be missing is his speed on the basepaths. Rasmus is another batter that has problems with his high strikeout totals, but also has some power potential. It can be argued that his defense is better than Fowler’s, and with Tal’s Hill looming in center, that could be handy throughout the year.

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Head-to-head, Rasmus doesn’t necessarily make the team better than if the Astros had stuck with Fowler, who is a great pairing with Jose Altuve atop the lineup. However, if you factor in the two players that Houston received from Chicago in Straily and Valbuena, there does seem to be an improvement.

Take a look at these splits from Matt Dominguez vs. left-handers and Luis Valbuena vs. right-handers.

If you combine those numbers to equate one third baseman, we’re looking at roughly a .250 average, .314 OBP, 21 homers and 59 rbi. Those numbers are increases over Astros’ third basemen in 2014 across the board (.212, .255, 16 HR, 57 rbi). Aside from home runs, Houston third baseman ranked in the bottom three in each of these categories last season. While these numbers will still rank them in the bottom third of major league third basemen, that’s a big step up from the bottom three.

The increase in batting average and on-base percentage will help the team dramatically. It’s likely that these two will be batting towards the bottom of the order, and with them on base for Altuve and the top of the lineup, some damage will assuredly be done.

Add in Dan Straily, who gives the Astros some depth at the major league level while the farm system gets in their final warm-up tosses before their call to the show, and it does seem as though the Astros with Colby Rasmus and the two players acquired in the Fowler deal, will be ready to go for 2015.

Next: Astros Offseason Grades