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Houston Astros Countdown: Top Five “Sixth” Men for A.J. Hinch

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May 2, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) runs out on the field before playing against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
May 2, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) runs out on the field before playing against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nori Aoki and Jake Marisnick

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May 9, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Norichika Aoki (3) hits a single against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

For the No. 5 spot, it is hard to pick between these two outfielders off of the bench for the Astros. Both have strengths and weaknesses but provide specific skills needed on the roster.

In the offseason, the Astros needed a fourth outfielder with a combination of speed and contact to generate offense near the end of the lineup and the end of games. Nori Aoki fits that job description pretty well.

A career .286 hitter, Aoki is hitting .282 with a .329 on-base percentage this season. In 25 games, he has hit four extra-base hits, including a home run, and scored nine times. Although it is not a major part of his game, Aoki has first-to-third speed, stealing 90 bases in his six-year career.

However, even though his average is about where it should be in regards to his career, Aoki’s OPS is at a career low. This has to do with the increasing number of strikeouts, with a career high 11.6 strikeout percentage through 25 games.

Jake, the ladies man!

As for Jake Marisnick, he is one of the best centerfielders off the bench in the league. He provides Gold Glove-caliber defense late in games replacing defensive liabilities such as Aoki and Carlos Beltran.

Just look at how the May 11th game against the Yankees ended. Playing left field, Marisnick threw out the tying run at home plate to secure the 3-2 victory and the best record and baseball for the Astros.

His offense leaves a little bit to be desired, though. Even though his average and OPS are both at career highs, Marisnick is striking out close to 50 percent of the time. This should not warrant confidence in giving him pinch hit appearances. He does have the ability to change games with his feet though, stealing 51 bases in his career.

Aoki and Marisnick both are specialized bench outfielders that can make a difference if called upon late in games.

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