Astros: Fresno Player Spotlight- Why Pick One?

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Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Alex Bregman (82) bats during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Alex Bregman (82) bats during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Why only have just one Astros minor league player to spotlight?

The primary purpose of any team is winning. When it comes to the main responsibility of a Triple-A team, the importance of winning dwindles a bit to that fact that it is there to develop players who are the cusp of being successful at the major league level. Whether they have made their major league debut or not, the players are in Triple-A to hone their skills needed to stay in a big league uniform for a while.

The Triple-A affiliate of the Astros is a perfect example of how a Triple-A team should be. As a team, the Grizzlies are at .500 at 39-39. They are in third place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern division and 4.5 games behind the division-leading Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

However, the Grizzlies currently house 12 of the top 30 prospects in the Astros system. Of these 12 prospects, some of them are the organization’s top prospect and Futures Game selection in shortstop Alex Bregman, right-handed starter and Futures Game selection Joseph Musgrove, and Triple-A All-Star Game starter Brady Rodgers. There is no shortage of talent on this ball club. The Grizzlies showed this best Thursday night when they beat the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, 23-3.

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The starter for the Grizzlies did not have to prove much in that game. But Rodgers, who is in the middle of his best season in his career, pitched five innings of one-run ball, giving up seven hits, walking four and striking out two. As a pitcher who was consistently overlooked as he went through the Astros organization, Rodgers is turning some heads in the front office this season, posting the second best ERA in the PCL at 2.77.

He also has his best WHIP of his career at 1.10. As the number 27 prospect in the system, Rodgers was not looked as a top of the rotation guy who needed to be brought up quickly. However, the numbers he is putting up in 2016 is proving them wrong. Even though the Astros do not have a spot for him currently on the major league roster, Rodgers has consistently proven that they need to make a spot for him.

On Talking Stros, they talked to Jeremy Booth of Program 15 who worked with Rodgers this offseason. Listen to what he said about Rodgers’ growth this year.

However, the starting pitching in Thursday night’s game was not the star of the show. In Bregman’s and number 24 prospect Teoscar Hernandez’s first game at the Triple-A level, the Grizzlies offense exploded for 23 runs on 21 hits and five walks. The offensive unit also had 11 extra base hits including five home runs.

Many felt Bregman warranted a major league call-up after only one game at Triple-A Fresno. Batting in the two spot behind Tony Kemp, Bregman had four hits in five at-bats and scored five times. He also doubled twice driving in three runs. After putting up impressive numbers at Double-A Corpus Christi to start the season, Bregman is on the fast track to making the big league club as early as this season.

The only thing stopping Bregman from the coveted major league call-up is his position. With Carlos Correa already the shortstop of the future, Bregman has been getting reps at third base at Double-A Corpus Christi. He could also be used as trade bait to bring a big name player to the Astros at the trade deadline or this offseason. No matter what, with a career .300 batting average and .883 OPS, he is on the rise and fast.

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Hernandez was kind of an asterisk when he was attached to Bregman’s name in the roster move to Fresno. In his debut, though, Hernandez proved to be ready for the call-up. In his six at-bats, Hernandez had four hits including a triple and a home run, drove in three, and scored twice. The Astros are loaded when it comes to outfield prospects. Like Rodgers, Hernandez is going to have to make some noise at Triple-A Fresno to get a major league call-up.

Neither Hernandez nor Bregman was the offensive star of the show, though. With all the new players at Fresno, that role went to a familiar face in Preston Tucker. In six at-bats, Tucker had five hits, which included three home runs and a double, drove in eight RBIs, and scored himself five times. He has quietly been having a superb season at Fresno. In 37 games, he has a .308 average with a .919 OPS. He also has 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, and 22 RBIs.

Tucker’s role on the major league club remains to be seen. He has struggled at the major league level, with a .229 average and a .697 OPS in 131 games. However, his offensive potential is still there. He could be a valuable offensive commodity at some point probably with another major league club. Baring centerfield, the Astros major league outfield is set. This game for Tucker could be a nice audition for when the July 31st trade deadline arrives.

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This Fresno team is very talented. When the other 17 prospects arrive for their stint in Fresno, California, it might be even harder to make the big league club.

**Statistics provided by Baseball Reference and MILB.com**

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