Astros Seek a Right-Handed First Baseman for Platoon
By Eric Huysman
Wanted, the Houston Astros seek an RH first baseman for platoon
The Houston Astros had a weak link in 2015, which was the lack of consistent production at first base. The next impact prospect A.J. Reed is quickly approaching the big leagues, but if you are expecting him to be on the opening day roster, you don’t know how the Astros operate. Astros pitchers come from Double-A some, but hitters tend to require a trip to Triple-A in most cases. Young Astros Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Jon Singleton all made stops in Triple-A, so why would the Astros make a change in thinking right now?
With that being said, who will be playing first base for the Astros come opening day? The answer at the moment is Singleton, who A.J. Hinch said it is his job to lose. Expect to see Singleton in the opening day lineup, unless there is a left-hander on the mound versus the New York Yankees. While Singleton has a higher batting average batting off left-handed pitchers (.256) versus right-handed pitchers (.144), he hits for more power batting off a righty. While Singleton is no guarantee to make the 25-man roster, the Astros will give him every chance to be the guy at first until Reed is ready.
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle Tweeted that, ” a Baseball source said Astros are looking for a right-handed hitting first baseman. Makes sense as potential platoon partner with Singleton.” Along with this line of thinking, the Astros will be looking at free agents that match this criterion, so who are they?
When you look up late bloomer in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Pearce in an Orioles uniform. A career utility player broke out in 2014 with a slash line of .293/ .373/ .556/ .930 with 21 homers and only 49 runs batted in. He came back down to earth in 2015 with a slash line of .218/ .289/ .422/ .711 with 15 homers and 40 runs batted in.
Pearce has some career success against lefties with a slash line of .262/ .343/ .481/ .824 with 24 of his 53 career homers. If the Astros went with him, he would have the extra benefit of being able to play all over the field.
Hart was a former All-Star, who at one time was a power-speed combo, but he has dropped off the field the past two seasons between Seattle and Pitsburg. This would be the ultimate high risk and high reward type player. Exactly what the Astros are looking for right now, just someone to platoon with Singleton. Let’s say Hart (33-years-old), returns to form with a .270/ 20 homer/ 65 season, he could be a big asset for the Astros.
How does he do against lefties, he has a career slash line of .285/ .357/ .497/ .854 with 47 of his career 162 homers. He hits better against lefties, just hits for more power against right-handed pitchers. However, it has to be taken into consideration that Hart has almost three times more at-bats versus righties than lefties.
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Rosario is a grizzled veteran with only five years of major league service time. The former catcher appears to have hit a wall after showing a dominant offensive ability as a catcher early in his career. In 2012, he finished 4th in the NL Rookie of the Year Award batting .270/ 28 HR/ 71 RBI. In 2013, he up his average with .292/ 21 HR/ 79 RBI. His numbers dropped a little the next two seasons batting .267 and .268 respectively, but his home runs dropped as well with 13 and six.
The Astros would be getting a shell of the former player, but he is still young and has a career slash line of .319/ .356/ .604/ .960 versus lefties with 32 of his 71 homers. It should be noted that Rosario has 1128 PA against righties and 473 PA versus lefties, so these stats could be misleading.
His catching days are over, but he could serve as an emergency catcher, very Evan Gattis like type of player.
Remember those days when a baseball player named Gaby hit 19 homers in back to back seasons with the Marlins in 2011-12? He even made the All-Star team in 2012 before being traded to the Pittsburg Pirates at the trade deadline in 2013. To give Sanchez credit, he is consistent, hitting seven home runs in each of his next three seasons while driving in around 30 runs each. He shouldn’t be much of an upgrade over what Tyler White or Marwin Gonzalez could offer until the chosen one is ready. Pass.
A lot of the players on this list are players that couldn’t maintain their production from earlier in their careers. McGehee is the poster child for this group, as he has not been able to top his .285/ 23 HR/ 104 RBI season in 2010. Something that does stand out to be is that after not playing in the MLB during the 2013 season, he came back in 2014 and drove in 76 runs on only four homers. He fell back out of view in 2015 between the Giants and Marlins. Pass.
The Korean first baseman is a big fella; maybe we need to get him on the team to take on Prince Fielder next time that Fielder initiates a brawl. The 33-year-old slugger is 6’4” and 286 pounds. Lee hit 31 homers and drove in 98 runs in 2015 with Softbank of the Japan Pacific League. Lee apparently met with four GMs during the Winter Meetings according to MLB Trade Rumors, no word if the Astros were one of the teams. He would add to the team, but the Astros will not offer a long-term deal for someone his age.
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I’d prefer the Astros to save their money for a free agent starting pitcher, outside of Rosario or Hart, I’m not too interested in these guys wit White and Matt Duffy ready to get some playing time behind Singleton. The problem with a platoon is that it shortens the bullpen, meaning the Astros can’t have the second lefty in the bullpen or the long-man type of guy.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**