Should the Astros consider playing Carlos Beltran-less in the second half of the season?
When the Astros signed Carlos Beltran to a one-year, $16 million deal in the offseason, it was largely well-received. Not only was Beltran still a productive hitter, but his clubhouse presence would be invaluable.
As we close in on the All-Star break, things look slightly different. Beltran has struggled at the plate to the tune of a .232/.286/.408 slash line through Tuesday. This is well below the .295/.337/.471 mark he posted in 2016. He’s now 40 years old, so there’s little room for growth.
Despite his struggles, Beltran played in 71 of the team’s first 84 games this season. With that being the case, it’s fair to ask if manager A.J. Hinch should consider sitting Beltran more often than he has.
Now I’m not advocating the Astros get rid of Beltran at all. His clubhouse presence alone is enough to keep him on the roster, and it’s not as if he’s hurting the team. Even with his disappointing production thus far, I still think signing him was a good move.
However, it only makes sense to ask if he should cede playing time to some more productive hitters as the season goes on. Marwin Gonzalez, with his surprising .317/.403/.579 line through Tuesday, appeared in 66 of the team’s first 84 games, compared to Beltran’s 71. Evan Gattis only played in 51 of those games despite a .277/.332/.458 line.
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Second half changes
Hinch can play the matchups with Beltran going forward, starting him against pitchers he’s had previous success against. He can give Gattis more at-bats at DH a
nd also give other position players a half-day off every once in a while.
Gonzalez can and should be in the lineup almost every day as long as he continues to hit. Gattis and Jake Marisnick have earned more playing time, while the team’s other regulars are hitting well. The only other position player who’s really struggling is Alex Bregman, and he needs regular at-bats at this stage of his young career.
It’s this crowded list of strong position players that are keeping Derek Fisher and Tony Kemp in Triple-A despite their strong production. It seems counterproductive to start Beltran as much as the Astros have when it comes at the expense of someone who’s performing better.
Plus, having more days off would probably help Beltran down the stretch. More rest for the 40-year-old might lend itself to better production later in the season.
The Astros’ daily lineup is often a fluid situation, a benefit of having such strong depth. It only makes sense to go with the hot hands as much as possible.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***