Maybe Tyler White is not the Everyday Houston Astros First Baseman Right Now, but he Could Still be Down the Road.
Have you ever had a moment where you realized that everything you thought you knew about something was wrong? You thought your parents were really your parents, and then you realize that you really were adopted the whole time, and your father was William Shatner. Fortunately, I have not been in that situation, but Houston Astros fans including myself are in a state of confusion following a little Tweet by MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Who’s on first?
Astros fans all offseason and preseason have been rooting the former 33rd round pick, Tyler White, to take over at first base following the struggles of Jon Singleton this spring. He only hit .151 while hitting three home runs with seven RBI. Take a second and cover up the batting average, Singleton’s stats are not terrible. But Singleton’s struggles for consistent production is not new at the big league level, so the Astros optioned him back to AAA.
With A.J. Reed heading down to Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies to future develop and learn how to hit left-handed pitchers, which allows White to show what he could offer to the Houston Astros at first base. As I have been promoting White for first base, some of our loyal readers have asked us, what about Marwin Gonzalez for first base? This idea drove me to write this article about why Gonzalez was more valuable as the super utility guy: Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez Gaining Attention In Fantasy Baseball.
Since writing this article, I have seen posts on Twitter telling us that Gonzalez was a sleeper for the first base job, I didn’t think that they would bring up White to not be the everyday guy. I sometimes forget that he is not the top prospect like Reed is, so he would be cheaper to retain down the road. Before yesterday’s game, Julia Morales posted the lineup for the game like she normally would. Brian McTaggart ReTweeted that this could be the Opening Day lineup. The shocking part of the lineup was that Gonzalez was playing first, not the growing fan favorite White.
It is very unusual to call up a young player to have them sit on the bench. Both White (.362/ two hr/ 11 RBI) and Gonzalez (.317/ two hr/ 8 RBI), both had hot springs, so it is not that one earned the spot over the other. McTaggart suggested that A.J. Hinch could prefer to use Gonzalez and Preston Tucker against right-handed pitchers. With that logic, would the use Matt Duffy and White against the lefties. Does this mean that the Astros are going straight platoon at both first base and designated hitter?
Let’s take a look at the stats this spring for each person involved in the potential dual platoon. I know it’s a small sample size, but it’s the best way to see how White handles MLB pitching to look at the spring stats.
Duffy actually struggled against left-handed pitchers this spring, but he struggled with his batting average against both lefties and righties. He has hit more power right-handed. Tucker has also struggled against left-handed pitchers, but this has already been established with his time in the majors. White and Gonzalez have both raked against the left-handers, with Gonzalez’s ability to switch hit, he doesn’t have to hit left versus a lefty. Something to notice is that the Astros have not faced too many left-handed pitchers this spring with a few at-bats for each player.
White had more at-bats versus right-handers this spring, but a lower OPS and other stats shows that he’s not quite as powerful against the righties right now. This could change with experience, but he has still maintained a good batting average against righties and lefties. White has a knack on making contact, but it won’t always hit the ball hard. Last night he got jammed on a pitch and hit a blooper down the right firld line. Gonzalez has been equally productive on both sides as well; while Duffy and Tucker have shown better production off the right-handed pitchers.
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Just looking at the spring stats, it seems that Gonzalez has earned mostly everyday gig with his production from both sides. What you don’t know is that he won’t be the everyday guy at first, he will be moving around the diamond while White and Duffy shuffle in and out at first base with Tucker at designated hitter. People tend to forget how many different lineups A.J. Hinch used last season, so it is not surprising to see the lineup and batting order in a constant flux based on the matchups, outside of the top four hitters.
While White may not be the everyday guy right now, his playing time will still be there with the flexible players until Evan Gattis returns. The depth on this team is awesome to have where we don’t have to rely on White right out of the gate to be the everyday guy.
When Gattis returns, either White, Duffy, or Tucker will be sent down to Triple-A. Until then, we get to see what these players can offer on a semi-regular basis. I still stick to my opinion that Gonzalez’s value is staying flexible, this could still be the case as he will play all around the diamond.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**