Chris Carter now finds himself in Milwaukee after the Astros organization decided to non-tender the first baseman following his disappointing 2015 season. But this also left another question on the roster; who will take over the first base role?
Jon Singleton appears to be the front runner for the job heading into Spring Training with number one prospect per Baseball America, A.J. Reed, also in the running. Tyler White could be another option. But Singleton has struggled at the major level in the past. Reed and White have yet to experience the major league level at all. So each carry the risk of the unknown. And at this point in the offseason, it appears unlikely that the front office will be able to acquire a quality first baseman via trade or free agency.
Davis was the most notable first baseman that remained in the Astros’ peripheral vision, but he is now off the table. The Atlanta Braves appear to be set on keeping Freddie Freeman, especially with their new ballpark opening in 2017. Mike Napoli signed a deal with the Cleveland Indians. Justin Morneau, Pedro Alvarez, Wilin Rosario, and Steve Pearce remain unsigned; however, each would probably be only marginal upgrades than what the Astros had in Carter last season.
Marwin Gonzalez and Preston Tucker could also see playing time on that side of the diamond if the Astros want to try more of a platoon arrangement. But that arrangement is probably a worst-case scenario if Singleton doesn’t succeed and Reed and White need more time in the minors. There is also the fact that the team may need Gonzalez and Tucker at other positions throughout 2016 so first base may not be the best position to place the pair for the long term.
Per Fangraphs, the Astros first base situation currently projects to finish with a 1.2 WAR, which comes in 25th at the position for next season. Odds are that the best scenario for the Astros to pursue will be the Singleton route while preparing Reed. It is time to finally see what the team has in the former top prospect. But if the team can get one season of quality production from a temporary arrangement then that would be considered one of the biggest wins in 2016. After all, there is room for improvement.
Next: Backup Catcher