The infield for the Houston Astros is stacked for many years to come.
With guys like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa running the middle of the infield and players that should be fixtures at the corners soon in A.J. Reed and Alex Bregman/Yulieski Gurriel, it will be tough for young infielders to make their way to Houston. One of these players that will have a difficult time progressing is Nolan Fontana.
Fontana has been in the Astros’ minor league system for several years now. Drafted in the second round by Houston in 2012, Fontana has risen through the ranks on the prospect lists. Though he’s never really been a guy who hits for a high average, as he has a career .240 BA, he still always has a high OBP. In his first three minor league seasons, he had over a .400 OBP and was very good at drawing walks. He has also played all over the field defensively but is a natural second baseman.
The main strengths possessed by Fontana is his versatility and his ability to draw a walk. In 2013 while playing for Lancaster, he drew 102 walks in 104 games. He has a good eye, but at the same time he still strikes out a fair amount of times. His versatility is what has really brought him to where he is today, as he can play most everywhere on the field, he’s even played one game in the outfield.
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This year has been an up and down one for Fontana. He started the year in Triple-A and was one of the higher up prospects in the organization. But as his play got worse (a .195 average and only a .526 OPS), he has dropped lower and lower on the prospect list. He was demoted on July 14 to Corpus Christi and is starting to find his swing again since then. If he continues to improve his game, he may be back in Fresno before the year is over.
Fontana is in an interesting situation in the Astros’ organization. His main positions, second and shortstop, are filled by players that will be with the Astros for a very long time. A position change would be necessary should he make it to the majors with Houston.
Before he can make it to the bigs, though, he definitely needs to improve on several aspects of his game, particularly average. The fact that he has played four positions in the minors so far does significantly help his professional chances should he improve his hitting, though.
*Stats via milb.com*