Astros: Fresno Spotlight Player- Alex Bregman
By Colin Gay
The Astros top prospect is progressing very quickly.
The term of being a “major league ready” prospect is very subjective. When a top 30 prospect lands at the Triple-A level, fans, and the media alike think that that means the player is close to being ready for the majors. However, the player’s time at Triple-A can tell a lot about how he will produce at the major league level, especially offensively.
For example, when the Astros number eight prospect Colin Moran made it to the major league level, he was struggling to hit for power at Triple-A Fresno. With a .277batting average, Moran only had a .391 slugging percentage. This translated into a .105 batting average and slugging percentage in his six games at the major league level.
Another example is number two prospect A.J. Reed’s start to his major league career. When he was at Fresno, Reed was battling both a decreased batting average, at .266, and a high strikeout percentage, at 23.4%. Both of those same problems came with him when he got called up. Through nine games, Reed is hitting .143 with a 39.4% strikeout percentage.
Major league pitchers, even the mediocre ones, love to exploit hitters’ weaknesses particularly in the beginning of the hitter’s career. However, for the top prospect in the Astros system, it’s going to be hard to find a flaw in his bat.
Drafted as the first overall pick in the 2015 Draft, shortstop Alex Bregman has impressed the Astros organization in more ways than one.
The main thing that Astros fans should be excited about is how fast Bregman has been adjusting offensively. Starting the 2016 season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Bregman hit .297 with a .975 OPS. He also hit 14 home runs, drove in 46 runners and scored himself 54 times.
After earning the Triple-A call up 62 games into the season, Bregman’s offense did not miss a beat. In his first seven games at Fresno, Bregman is hitting .400 with a 1.338 OPS. In 32 at bats, Bregman already has seven extra-base hits, including four home runs, has driven in 11 runners, and has scored nine times.
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In his brief career in the Astros organization, it seems as though Bregman has been getting better as he has moved up. However, with Astros fans screaming for him to get called up as soon as possible, there are still some things for Bregman to work on before he makes his MLB debut.
In his stints with Quad Cities, Lancaster, and Corpus Christi, Bregman has a strikeout percentage that hovered at nine and 10 percent. However, in his 32 at-bats at Fresno, Bregman has struck out six times. That is an 18.8% strikeout percentage, which doubles his previous totals. Yes, 32 at-bats is a small sample size when it comes to strikeouts. However, especially with a major league team that still struggles in that department, Bregman needs to break the cycle that major league hitters have; high strikeouts leading to low average, low walk totals and low on-base percentage.
This one thing will separate Bregman from the rest of pack. He deserves a call up once his strikeout numbers decrease. However, the Astros will need to have a place to play him.
With only 11 games of experience at third base at Double-A this season, Bregman should not be thrust into that role immediately. Carlos Correa already has the major league shortstop position for the future. If the Astros want Bregman to continue to be on the fast track, cut into Moran’s playing time and play him at third. That might lead to a major league call-up this season.
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If the Fresno Grizzlies continue to play him at short, it’s slowing him down. He might be offensively ready, but the Astros won’t have anywhere to play him. If Bregman keeps putting up numbers like he has in the first seven games, though, he will force a change.
**Statistics provided by Baseball Reference, MILB.com, and FanGraphs**