Garrett Stubbs will be ready for action for the Astros when needed.
With pitchers and catchers reporting in eight days, it’s getting close to Astros baseball returning. With the start of spring, we can start looking for the surprise players to help in 2018. One player who could break out in 2018 is a relatively unknown player.
His name is Garrett Stubbs, and he is the top ranked catching prospect in the Astros system. Even though he had a down 2017 season, JJ Cooper of Baseball America felt that injuries held him back. MLB Pipeline has him as the sixth top prospect in the Astros farm system.
The plan for 2018.
The Astros have announced that they plan on using Evan Gattis as the primary designated hitter. That is what they plan on doing, but things could change this spring. As of right now, Max Stassi is the backup catcher. The Astros appear to be comfortable with what he can offer offensively.
Brian McCann will get the majority of playing time again this year. The front office wants to increase Gattis’ at-bats, which they can’t do as a backup catcher. With a loaded lineup, they don’t need to count too much on their catchers hitting. However, if Stassi can’t hit, they want to try to rest McCann more often this year. They need plan b.
Granted, Gattis will be the first to raise his hand and volunteer to catch. But he also realizes that this is his walk year, he wants to get as many at-bats to build up his value. As a backup catcher, it hurts the team if you have to be the designated hitter. That’s why we need another option.
We can forget about Jonathan Lucroy who seems to be waiting out for a deal he likes. While you would think he would be getting impatient, the remaining free agents are sticking to their goals. While the Astros could afford him for two years, where would he play?
What about Stubbs?
Enter Garrett Stubbs, who could be the catcher of the future. Stubbs is not your typical big body catcher, similar to Craig Biggio’s build when he was coming up. While power may not be Stubbs specialty, he should make good contact and offer some speed as a catcher. He should project as a solid defensive catcher with his athleticism and should learn under McCann’s tutelage.
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If Stassi fails to impress this Spring, the Astros will probably give him a chance to start the year. Even though they don’t need offense from the backup catcher spot, this team is a World Series contender. If Stubbs tears up Triple-A early, he could make his debut in the first half of the 2018 season.
In 2016, Stubbs hit .304 with ten homers and 54 RBIs and stole 15 bases. The left-handed hitting catcher struggled in 2017, but Cooper says it was due to an injury. The speed was still there in 2017 with 11 steals, but his homer total went down to four. He could be a .280/12 homer/ 10 steals hitter in the big leagues.
They will see what Stassi can offer after hitting 14 minor league homers in 2017 and added two more with the Astros. The backup catching position will be exciting to watch but could be negated if the Astros added another bat. Manager A.J. Hinch had some interesting decisions to make this Spring.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***