There have been many upgrades made to the Houston Astros roster this offseason, but one position is unclear.
Last night, A.J. Hinch held the Houston Astros annual season ticket holder manager town hall meeting at Minute Maid Park. He brought up many different position battles, but only 1-3 spots are up for grabs. It’s going to be hard for Preston Tucker, Tyler White, Tony Kemp, and A.J. Reed to fight their way on this roster.
Most of the positional players are set. Brian McCann and Evan Gattis will split catching duties this year. While Yulieski Gurriel can play third base, he will play first with Alex Bregman manning the hot corner. Jose Altuve equals second base. Despite what George Springer said when Bregman was drafted, he did not replace Carlos Correa at shortstop.
The outfield has two of three spots spoken for. New Astro Josh Reddick will take over for Springer playing right field. While Springer was one of the best right fielders in the game, he will take his talent and energy to center field. Springer is a natural center fielder, but the Astros may have been hesitant to put him in center field with Tal’s Hill there. With the renovations and Reddick’s presence on the team, he will now roam center field.
Who is in left field?
This leaves left field as the lone question mark going into spring training. When Carlos Beltran was signed, it was assumed that he would play left field, even though he hasn’t played there much. However, Hinch squashed that bug quickly by telling Beltran they want him to serve as the designated hitter mostly. Beltran wants to be active as much as possible in the outfield, but he will do what team thinks is best.
Gattis will most likely not serve as designated hitter too often, so he could maybe get some playing time in left field. Gattis will be a power option off the bench. We also have an elite defensive player in Jake Marisnick and waiver claim Nori Aoki. These players will all probably play left field because Hinch likes to find the right matchups. But would it be a straight platoon in left field with Aoki and Marisnick?
Even after he came on Talking Stros in December, I wanted to clarify what he envisions happening. Last night, when I asked the question, I think he did so last night. “It depends on Beltran first, who is turning 40. There is nothing wrong with 40, but we are going to introduce left-field to him. He has mostly been in center and right field in his career. The more he can do that means the more that the DH spot can float to other players.”
Hinch went on to describe using Gattis (when not catching), Altuve, and Springer to give them a breather from playing the field. Springer did play all 162 games last year, so giving him some turns as the DH. Basically, who is the designated hitter depends on Beltran’s ability to play out there?
Marisnick will float around.
“I doubt that Jake, in this outfield, will see much time on the corners without playing center and making the other guys move. The day I put Marisnick in for defense, and he tells Springer to go to right field, you will see Springer walk to right with his head down.”
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Hinch joked that Springer would be mad because he would think that Hinch thinks that Marisnick is the better centerfielder. This sounds like Marisnick may be used as a defensive replacement for one of the corner spots, not necessarily replacing Springer in center. Aoki will get some starts in left versus right-handed pitchers.
“Marisnick will spell Reddick versus left-handed starting pitchers. A little bit, not every left-handed pitcher is bad for Reddick. Beltran will fight me to play the outfield. He wants to stay active. I might push him to the outfield during a lot of home games with the short territory to cover.”
In all seriousness, Marisnick came on Talking Stros recently and said he will be happy with whatever role he has in 2017. You can listen to Talking Stros above.
Possible combinations suggested by Hinch.
In conclusion to answering the question, he said that he could flip Reddick to left field as well. He thinks of this stuff at night when he can’t sleep. For those of you who weren’t there, you get to see a more relaxed Hinch than you do in the season in events like this. When the competition begins, he may not be as open. They expect to ‘Bring It’ in 2017. Hopefully, the outfield is a big part of it.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***