Houston Astros: The Battle for First Base Intensifies
Matt Duffy Could be Crushing His Way to the First Base Job This Spring
The Houston Astros weakness in 2015 was at first base, where they could not find consistent production at first base. Instead of staying with the status quo like they did in 2015 with a combination of Chris Carter and Jon Singleton, they did not offer Carter a contract in December. Carter later signed on with the Milwaukee Brewers, who are quickly becoming the Astros of the north, and should be the opening day first baseman in 2016. It was time for the Astros and Carter to separate before the relationship became rocky.
By parting with Carter, they signify a change in direction to go with someone less established, which could work for them. The group fighting for first base consists of my favorite Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Singleton, A.J. Reed, and indirectly Preston Tucker, who is primarily an outfielder who is trying to enhance his value by adding an additional position. Matt Duffy seemed to get off to the best start by hitting a home run in his first game.
The job appeared to be Singleton’s job to lose, as A.J. Hinch hinted at earlier in the offseason. The Astros extended Singleton’s contract before he ever saw a major league pitch, hoping that they caught lightning in the bottle when Singleton took off. Through two seasons, Singleton has struggled to come even close to hitting his weight, so there were many Astros’ fans who have already written Singleton off. Singleton took this offseason seriously knowing that the job was his if he wanted it, so he packed on 25 pounds (17 of which was muscle) to better prepare himself to compete.
Now that Singleton looks like a Prince Fielder clone, how would he respond in actual game situations? He started off slow but took out his frustrations on the Blue Jays yesterday getting two extra base hits, one double and a homer. Despite the solid game, he is batting .200 and already falling behind the completion with Duffy hitting two home runs today, White clubbing his first homer, and Reed having a three-hit game.
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Duffy now is batting .375 with three homers and four runs batted in, he could power his way onto the 25-man opening day roster if he keeps this up. With Gattis still looking to recover to resume baseball activities, there is an opening at designated hitter that has these players licking their chops. However, Singleton and Duffy could get the first shot at those two spots because they are on the 40-man roster. Reed and White would have to be added, but technically there is an open roster spot available.
Duffy has shown an effortless power swing this spring, check out the interview with Duffy on Talking Stros earlier this offseason.
That roster spot might be spoken for if the Astros need to add Wandy Rodriguez or Neal Cotts as the left-handed guy in the bullpen. With the shaky starts this spring, Brad Peacock or Dan Straily could be put on waivers or released to open a spot on the 40-man roster. It is too early this spring to start seeing a winner yet, but Duffy is sure opening some eyes with his play.