The 2016 season saw the Houston Astros bring up some of their highly touted prospect pool to the big league level.
In fact, a total of 15 players played either their first MLB inning or still had rookie eligibility for the Houston Astros last year. This article will focus on the top rookie performers from last year’s campaign.
Tyler White (aka “The Machine”) was the biggest surprise coming out of spring training. He beat out Jonathan Singleton and A.J. Reed for the starting first baseman job. He ended up hitting .217 with 8 HR and 28 RBI in 276 plate appearances. White began the season on a tear, hitting five home runs in April and batting a respectable .250.
His performance then took a nose dive, suggesting that he could not make adjustments once there was a scouting report on him. After being sent back to the minors, he did have a decent finish in Houston. His shot at making the 2017 opening day roster will be in jeopardy because of Yulieski Gurriel‘s signing.
James Hoyt (#14 HOU prospect per mlbpipeline.com) made his MLB debut in August. He totaled a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings pitched but showed potential by striking out 28 batters. The “other guy” in the Evan Gattis trade will be fighting for a spot in the Astros bullpen in the spring. With Pat Neshek‘s departure, he could be the next man up.
Jandel Gustave (#25 HOU prospect) was one of the last 25-man cuts in the spring. He was called into action in August and compiled at 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings of work. Gustave and Hoyt are in the same boat and provide Houston with bullpen depth. If Gustave can add a reliable secondary pitch, he could be key part of the bullpen for years to come.
5. Teoscar Hernandez, OF, #8 HOU prospect
Hernandez was called up in mid-August and delivered a home run in his debut. It was a pleasant surprise as other Houston Astros rookie had not been producing offensively. He ended up batting only .230 with four home runs but showed some promise. Hernandez hit better away from Minute Maid, hitting .295 in away games and a putrid .128 at home.
4. Joseph Musgrove, SP
Musgrove’s first appearance came in an emergency relief situation, but he took full advantage of it. He took over for an injured Lance McCullers and struck out 8 Toronto batters in 4.1 innings of relief work. Musgrove then had a couple more exceptional starts before a having a few rough outings. He finished the season with a 4-4 record in 10 starts.
Musgrove will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, but may likely end up as the last bullpen spot or in Fresno. He will play a vital role for the Houston Astros this year, and it will be interesting to see how his innings are managed.
3. Yulieski Gurriel, UTIL
Gurriel is an “asterisk” rookie. He is a 32-year-old Cuban baseball product and was eligible to play late last year. Gurriel spent most of his time playing the hot corner, and occasionally was the DH or 1B. It would appear that he will be the starting first baseman for the 2017 Astros, as Bregman looks locked in to play third.
Gurriel was a career .335 hitter in Cuba and showed signs of a contact hitter. This was a pleasant addition to the strikeout-heavy Houston lineup. Gurriel, not only brings a well-rounded bat to the club but look to him to provide more of a veteran presence for the Houston Astros next season.
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2. Chris Devenski, P
“Devo” was the 2016 Houston Astros’ Rookie of the Year, and for a good reason. He provided several quality innings in both relief and as a starter. He compiled a 4-4 record with a superb 2.16 ERA in 108.1 innings. Manager A.J. Hinch has said the Devenski would compete for a starting role in the spring, but a bullpen spot looks to be the likely scenario.
Devenski could be called upon as a spot starter in addition to bullpen duties. His ERA was 4.01 as a starter, but that stat is skewed from one bad outing against Boston.
1. Alex Bregman, 3B
Bregman rocketed up Houston’s farm system and was called up in July of last year. The 2015 #2 overall draft pick’s debut was highly anticipated. He opened up his rookie campaign getting only two hits in his first 38 at-bats. However, it was very impressive to see his composure during this stretch, as he never lost confidence or focus.
Several of his at bats saw hard-hit balls go right into a fielder’s glove. Bregman did end up hitting eight homers and bringing in 34 runners in 201 at bats. He projects to be the #2 hitter in a vaunted Houston lineup, and if he can cut down his strikeout rate (24%), he should avoid any sophomore slump.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***