Houston Astros: The Emergence of catcher Juan Centeno
In a young season full of success and positivity, the 2017 Houston Astros have seen yet another bright spot shine through.
Catcher Juan Centeno was called up from Triple-A – Fresno earlier this week to replace Brian McCann. McCann was placed on the 7-day concussion DL, which left Evan Gattis as the only Houston backstop. Centeno’s promotion appeared to be a routine replacement, who might make one start in Houston. However, the 27-year old from Puerto Rico made his Houston Astros debut more significant.
Centeno was signed by Houston as a free agent this winter. He had played for three other clubs before being signed. His most recent, and most accomplished stint, was with the Twins. Last year he hit .261 with three home runs and 25 RBI’s in 176 at-bats for Minnesota.
In Fresno, Centeno is having a terrific season. He is slashing .368/.395/.487 currently and was the best offensive option for McCann’s replacement.
In just two games with Houston, Centeno has hit 3/7, with two home runs. It’s only two games, and with McCann likely returning to service on Saturday. It may be his only two games during this stint. But the quick bit of success Centeno has enjoyed opens up a lot of possibilities moving forward.
Centeno’s Future Impact
Again, Centeno’s call up will likely end on Saturday with McCann coming back. There is no reason to keep three catchers on the 25 man roster. Or is there? One could make a case for Centeno to take Nori Aoki‘s roster spot, with Evan Gattis’ ability to play LF. However, even though Aoki may be the weakest hitter on the Houston Astros roster, he is by no means hurting the club. He also leads the major league in outfield assists with six and adds another veteran presence to the club.
Considerable major league playing time for Centeno may only come via injury, or after the 2018 season when McCann’s contract ends. Centeno’s success does give Houston a bit more comfort with their catching depth. It could make them more open to part ways with other catching prospects such as Max Stassi, Garrett Stubbs, or Jake Rogers when the time comes to make a move for another arm.
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Is Centeno a future starter or a backup?
However, even with Centeno’s terrific couple of games with Houston, he has only thrown out 14% of baserunners in his major league career. Which raises red flags toward any notion of him being the future showcase catcher.
Stassi has had a few chances in the majors but hasn’t shown much. Stubbs is steadily working his way up the minors and is currently in Double-A Corpus Christi. Rogers, who has been compared to Buster Posey when drafted in 2016, was recently promoted to High-A ball at Buies Creek.
If there is a trade involving a catching prospect, the most value lies with Stubbs and Rogers, leaving Centeno as a possible bridge between McCann and the next mainstay behind the dish.
Next: Here comes the inevitable Sonny Gray-to-Astros rumors
Tonight’s game against Baltimore could grant Centeno one more playing opportunity before returning to Fresno, and then we will all await Saturday roster moves to activate McCann and Dallas Keuchel.
***Stats per Baseball-Reference***