Will Yulieski Gurriel finally give the Astros a steady presence at first base?
The Astros have been looking for a serviceable first baseman since the Hall of Famer left the left side of the infield in 2006. Lance Berkman took over at first base but was traded to the Yankees in 2010. A long line of first basemen, including some highly touted prospects, have come and gone since then. But nothing has compared to the well-roundedness that Bagwell and Berkman brought.
How did we get here?
Trading away our top players in the early 2000’s brought us a plethora of talent at the first base position. There have been some hits but mostly misses when it comes to solidifying first base for the Astros.
Let’s have a look at the latest flock of first basemen to arrive pre-Gurriel:
- Brett Wallace (Astro, 2010-2014): highly touted prospect we traded speedster Anthony Gose for. He’s now playing for the Padres, light-hitting his way to a starting role.
- Tyler White (2016-Present): started hot out of the gate in 2016 and soon faltered his way up and down the minors.
- A.J. Reed (2016-Present): the ceiling hasn’t been reached but he torched minor league pitching. Remains to be seen.
- Jon Singleton (2012-Present): came over in the trade for Hunter Pence, was high on Phillies’ prospect list but hasn’t figured out major league pitching.
- Chris Carter (2013-2015): Pedro Cerrano, er Carter was traded in 2012 to the Astros. He came in a package from the A’s for Jed Lowrie and mashed in the three years as an Astro. This was amid sub-.200 hitting and 200 plus strikeout seasons.
- Geoff Blum (2002-2003, 2007-2010): In between shattering Astros fans’ dreams in the 2005 World Series, Blum contributed a fair share at first base, but was less than stellar.
- Marwin Gonzalez (2011-Present): The super-utility infielder has definitely filled the role of utility infielder, just not the long-term option at first base.
Yuli, first base is all yours
For this particular brand of Astros baseball, being built on smart and upper tier drafting. Now, adding a good mix of veteran presence to help the young’ns along. Outside of that, the Astros brass looked outside of the USA to help bolster the team. They did so on July 17, 2016, when they signed Cuban superstar Gurriel.
Many options in 2016.
When the 2016 season kicked off, first base was covered by a platoon of White and Gonzalez. There were hopes that Reed would be the most likely of candidates to steal the position given his minor league accolades. As Reed struggled to get moving after White’s struggles, it was clear we needed an answer. Gonzalez would fill the role admirably for 92 games.
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In comes Gurriel, the Cuban slugger who had amassed 250 HR, over 1,000 RBI and a .335 AVG in his 15 years playing pro in the foreign leagues. The Bagwell comparison must’ve started then, as the Astros seemed to have finally found their replacement for the latest Hall of Famer.
Gurriel, a natural third baseman, had to take a back seat to the hot-hitting Alex Bregman. Bregman has seemed to solidify his spot at third base. After a small sampling in the minors, Gurriel came up and immediately made an impact, getting a hit in his first MLB at-bat. His overall numbers would be serviceable, finishing with 3 HR, 15 RBI and hitting .262 in 36 appearances.
With the offseason nearing the end, having beefed up an already promising lineup with veteran batsmen like Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Josh Reddick, first base is Gurriel’s for the taking. With his mix of power, speed, and fielding – and in the heart of this ever-so-promising batting lineup – our Bagwell replacement may have finally come home.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***