Astros’ success driven by unsung heroes in the first-half
As one of the best teams in baseball, the Astros have relied on their elite talent to push them over the top. But what about the guys that don’t grab the headlines?
With the All-Star break behind us and the second half of the season on the horizon, the Astros will look to pick up where they left off. Sitting at 60-29, they have a comfortable 16.5 game lead in the division. Many have cited the Astros three-headed offensive behemoth of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer as being the main reason for the Astros success.
But three players does not a 25-man roster make. The Astros have relied on multiple contributors, and these four players have helped make the Astros into a legitimate World Series contender. While they may not get much notoriety, they will get their due here.
1B Yuli Gurriel
Yuli Gurriel was supposed to be the answer the Astros had been looking for at first base since Lance Berkman. But in his first season in Houston, Gurriel struggled. His .262/.292/.385 slash line left him with a poor 86 OPS+. His struggles led to the Astros having an open competition for the starting first base job entering 2017. Even so, Gurriel won it in spring training and has won Astros’ fans hearts ever since.
Gurriel has certainly overcome his past struggles, as he has become a core part in the Astros’ loaded lineup. He has pushed his average up close to .300 (.297) as well as slugging almost .500 (.491). That type of production along with his 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in the first half have earned him a 121 OPS+. With Gurriel firmly entrenched, the Astros finally have quality production from first base.
OF Jake Marisnick
After being traded from the Marlins to the Astros in 2013, Jake Marisnick was supposed to be a core component in the Astros rebuild. He never lived up to those expectations, posting a sub-par 74 OPS+ in two full seasons in Houston. But at 26 years old, Marisnick seems to have finally found his groove at the plate.
In part time with Houston this season, Marisnick has certainly proven to be a vital weapon for manager A.J. Hinch. His .248/.320/.504 slash line is far and away the best of his career, as well as posting a career high in home runs (10). Marisnick has always been known for his stellar defense and has been a late game defensive substitution multiple times this season. But with his bat starting to catch up to his glove, he has become one of the best fourth outfield options in the majors.
C Evan Gattis
Evan Gattis is another trade acquisition that has paid off well for Jeff Luhnow. Gattis slugged 43 homers for the Braves in parts of two seasons in Atlanta. And after coming over to Houston in 2015, he became a full-time starter. His role was diminished this season with the trade of Brian McCann but has still made a definite impact on the team.
Gattis has slashed .284/.343/.490 for a career high 127 OPS+. He has also mashed eight home runs and driven in 39 RBIs this season, providing plenty of thunder off the bench. Gattis has also provided plenty of flexibility, playing both catcher and DH this season. Even though Gattis hasn’t earned regular playing time, he has still helped the Astros to one of their best starts in franchise history.
OF Josh Reddick
Josh Reddick was just one of many off-season acquisitions the Stros made. And while he did have a solid 2016 season, a trade deadline move from the A’s to the Dodgers saw his production plummet. Even so, the Stros scooped him up, and he has become one of the better hitters in the Astros lineup.
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Reddick is easily having the best offensive season of his nine-year career. His 141 OPS+ this season is more than 30 points higher than his career 109 OPS+. And with a .313/.365/.515 slash line, Reddick has regularly found himself in the heart of the Astros’ lineup. He has indeed taken advantage, with nine home runs and 41 RBIs. And Reddick should continue to take advantage, as he will be a key cog in the Astros’ lineup for the foreseeable future.
***Statistics from Baseball Reference, ESPN, and Baseball America***