The Houston Astros third base situation looks different now than it did a month ago.
Houston Astros fans have been excited to see Alex Bregman come up to the big club since he was drafted #2 overall last year. In barely more than a year, he has worked his way up through the system, endured a rookie slump, and now become an essential cog in the lineup at the #2 slot in the batting order.
While the club anticipated Bregman being a solid player for the big-league club, they likely envisioned him in a Marwin Gonzalez-type role: a little 3B, a little LF, a little DH, spell Correa and Altuve, a little explosiveness off the bench, etc.
What they did not anticipate was, even through the 1-for-30 something, that he would look like a Gold Glove candidate in the field. Even GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch have had to admit that he was better than expected in the field.
While all of us were on the Bregman watch, the Astros stepped up and signed Cuban star Yulieski Gurriel, presumably to be the answer to 3B for the next five years. While Gurriel was getting his visa situation squared away and putting some at-bats together in the minors to get game-ready, Bregman was starting to put his name in ink on the 3B slot for now and going forward. Luhnow has stated that the team will basically figure it out for this year and then take the off-season to develop a plan.
Let’s look at the options for 2017.
- Keep Bregman at 3B, play Gurriel elsewhere.
When Bregman, Correa, Altuve and Gonzalez are in the lineup on the infield, it’s perhaps as solid a defensive infield as the Astros have fielded overall. Bregman makes all the plays, has the infielder instincts, and seems to have no ego about moving from his natural position of SS. So where do you play Gurriel? DH is an obvious choice. As a 32-year-old player, Gurriel’s prime could be extended a bit by saving wear and tear. But what if he is the type of player that must be engaged on the field to succeed at the plate? (See Gattis, Evan) Then you have to play him somewhere.
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- Play Gurriel at 3B, move Bregman to LF.
With Bregman’s athletic ability, he could certainly play at least three infield positions and LF or CF. For that matter, he used to be a catcher in high school so he has some experience in other positions. However, Gurriel, while thought of as a solid 3B, does not have the potential to make the plays that Bregman is playing now. It could be a solution for a year or two, but Bregman is clearly an everyday player.
So if you move Gurriel, where do you play him?
- DH – While this makes sense in some ways, there is the potential issue I mentioned above about whether he can successfully transition to that role. Then, what do you do with Evan Gattis when he is not catching?
- LF – There has been discussion about having Gurriel play some LF, which he has some limited experience doing. However, is this something he’s going to be willing to do, and at what skill level after playing 15 professional seasons, largely as a 3B or 2B? There’s no doubt LF is a need area going forward.
- 1B – This is also a logical move for a corner infielder, though it creates another set of problems. He’s never played there, but many 3B have made the transition. If you move him to 1B, what does that do for the future of A.J. Reed or Tyler White? Do you now make yourself more open to the possibility of using Reed and/or White as trade chips to help upgrade another area?
What are other important factors?
- What are you going to do with CF? If you go with Teoscar Hernandez in CF, then LF is available for Gurriel or Bregman, or even Tony Kemp.
- What are you going to do with Jake Marisnick? Marisnick is one of those players that only seems to have good offensive success when he gets regular playing time. With the players currently on the roster, you’d have to decide if a CF/LF of Marisnick and Hernandez would be better than one of Hernandez and Gurriel or Bregman.
Thoughts Astros fans?