Houston Astros: How the Stros can improve at third base in 2016

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On roster third base options

Sep 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) shortstop Jonathan Villar (2) and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez (9) watch play against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 10 to 6. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston has five players that contributed at third base this year — Luis Valbuena, Marwin Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Villar and Matt Duffy.

Valbuena wasn’t bad for the price as a piece that came over in the Dexter Fowler trade. He hit a lot of home runs and I felt his defense was always very underrated. However, he’s also arbitration-eligible, and he was the epitome of the weakness of the Astros lineup, hitting 25 home runs and striking out 106 times while putting up a .310 on-base percentage. I expect the Astros to non-tender him and let him walk.

Gonzalez has emerged the last two years as a surprisingly useful utility infielder, but I still think that’s all he is at this point. He’s arbitration eligible coming off of a $1.06 million contract, so he will definitely be worth keeping around. But with his extreme splits (he had a .294 OBP and .698 OPS as a left-handed hitter this year), his greatest value is still as a utility player rather than the starting third baseman.

Lowrie was a disappointment this year. Not because he was hurt for a long time. That’s predictable. But because he was so bad when he returned from injury. Maybe he’s better next year. He was batting .300 when he went on the DL in April and hit .194 after he returned. Not what you expect from him. When healthy, Lowrie is exactly the kind of high-contact, low-strikeout the Astros need in their lineup. They just can’t count on his health. Lowrie has only played in over 100 games twice in his eight-year career. Houston needs a more reliable option.

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Villar is a poor man’s Marwin with better baserunning skills. He’s a great baserunner and an adequate utility player who strikes out too much and is a big defensive detriment. They worked with him hard on his defense, and he showed improvement, but he’s still not who I want to see for 150+ games at third base.

Duffy might well be Houston’s third baseman of the future. I certainly liked what he showed in his brief stint in the majors this year. However, he currently has a lot of what the Astros don’t need more of — power with lots of strikeouts. The last two years between AA and AAA, he has 196 Ks and just 56 walks. I like him in a year or two, but I don’t like him to fix what needs to be fixed at third base for Houston to compete next year.

Since it’s unlikely the best option for the Astros is currently on the roster (naturally…you saw the stats), let’s take a look at their trade options.

Next: Trade third base options