Prediction: Tyler White will be Houston Astros Opening Day first baseman!
As spring training approaches, the anticipation of the season is increasing with Houston Astros fans. The Astros offseason has not been a busy one; they have addressed a few of their biggest news this offseason by re-signing Tony Sipp and trading for Ken Giles. However, besides signing Doug Fister, the Astros have not added too many big names to the 2016 roster. There has been some talk amongst the fans that the Astros should go out and sign Justin Morneau to a one-year deal to bridge the gap between now and when A.J. Reed is ready to take over.
However, when Reid Ryan was on Astroline the other night on 790 AM, he was asked whether the Astros were going to go out and sign a free agent first sacker. His response was you never know what would happen, but the Astros feel like it would be a disservice to the current candidates to sign someone else at this point. While that may not be the word for word what he said, it was along those lines. Who are the candidates? They are Jon Singleton, Matt Duffy, Tyler White, and A.J. Reed with a few others. Marwin Gonzalez could be in the mix, but his value comes off the bench and spot starts.
With everything that the Astros have said about the job being Singleton’s job to lose this spring, I think that it could be a smokescreen for who the real favorite is in the Astros front office. I am not saying that Singleton has no chance of making this team, but he has played long enough to show the type of player he is as a major leaguer. With a strong spring, Singleton could make the team as a platoon partner or a backup first baseman. I think that Singleton has all the tools in the world, but he can’t seem to put it together mentally in the majors.
The Astros currently still have an open spot on the 40-man roster, which is really rare at this point of the offseason with all the players who go on waivers. I like Duffy’s chances of making the opening day roster as the backup first and third baseman over Singleton. I also don’t see Hinch losing the flexibility of Gonzalez as the utility guy. As much as I would like to say that my bold roster move is that Reed would be there, I don’t see him coming up until June unless there is a major injury.
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The Evan Gattis injury does affect the roster, as he may not be ready of stamina and getting his bat up to game speed. Gattis also faced an injury last spring that held him back as well. Gattis lost a lot of weight this offseason to shed his DH label and possibly play more outfield or even at catcher. I wrote about this here: Evan Gattis is Having Surgery, Out for 4-6 Weeks, Next Man Up.
My bold prediction for the second time this offseason is that White will be the opening day starter at first base. At the Jeff Luhnow potential season ticket holder dinner last week, my Talking Stros co-host Brandon asked Luhnow if Tyler White could be the guy at first. Luhnow said, “of course there is, there is a chance that Tyler White could make the opening day club. Especially with the news of Gattis’ surgery we don’t know his time frame of getting back, he may not get enough at-bats. There are some question marks at first base, and Tyler White has one of the most advanced bats that exists in the minor leagues today.”
No, White doesn’t have the power of a typical corner infielder, but according to Luhnow, “he has been one of the best hitters in minor league baseball for the past two seasons now, he went to the Dominican Winter League just to get some more experience and ended up winning the team MVP. White is almost ready; he will be given a long hard look at camp.”
We talked White on last week’s Talking Stros, take a listen.
Don’t let the home run numbers deceive you, after all, he did win the Double-A Home Run Derby in 2015 before being called up to Triple-A Fresno. When he joined the Grizzlies, he gave the team a spark that led them to winning the Triple-A championship. The Astros need a bat like White’s in the lineup to balance out all the strikeout-prone hitters in the lineup. All White has done is hit everywhere he has played, why not in the majors?
The job is still being held on for Reed, who should be the Astros first sacker for a while, but a bat like White’s can find a place in the lineup. The Gattis injury opened up some more playing time at the designated hitter role for the first base candidates. Look for White to take advantage of the extra at-bats and prove that he is the answer for now. A player like White could be an MVP of a playoff series with his ability to make solid contact, but the power could develop with more time.