As Spring Training nears, here’s four players to watch in camp that could have an impact on the major league club in 2018.
The day Astros fans have had circled on their calendars for months is finally approaching. Friday, February 23rd will be the Astros first Spring Training game against the Washington Nationals. While the starters are all but set, the back end of the roster remains to be determined. These four players have a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.
As the Astros Rule 5 Draft pick, Anthony Gose will have to remain on the Astros 25 man roster the entire season, or be returned to the Texas Rangers. Gose has no chance of seeing time in a loaded Astros outfield, but he could be the lefty reliever A.J. Hinch has been searching for.
After struggling to make it as an outfielder, the Detroit Tigers decided to transition Gose to the bullpen. But Gose’s first professional stint as a pitcher did not go well. He pitched only 10.2 innings, and posted a 7.59 ERA.
Even so, Jeff Luhnow and company must have saw something in Gose to make him their Rule 5 Draft pick. Gose will have to show a lot more in Spring Training to have a chance to impact the major league club this season.
As with Gose, Kyle Tucker will have a hard time finding playing time in a stacked Astros outfield. And as a non-roster invitee, chances are slim to none that Tucker will be on the Opening Day roster. But Tucker has an ace up his sleeve that could change all of that; his immense potential.
Tucker ranks as the 15th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, and has certainly earned his ranking. He played 120 games in the minors last season, and hit 25 home runs while swiping 21 bases.
Tucker also slashed .274/.346/.528, proving to have legit pop and a keen eye. There is no doubt the talent is there, but at only 20 years old and still to reach the AAA level, Tucker will start 2018 in the minors. But Tucker could play his way onto the big league club in 2018.
After breaking onto the scene the first few weeks of the 2016 season, Astros fans haven’t heard much from Tyler White. While he did play 22 games with the Astros in 2017, the majority of his playing time came at the AAA level. But with his success at both the AAA and major league level last season, White hopes to turn a strong Spring Training into a major league job.
While White performed well for the Astros last season (.279/.328/.525), the sheer depth of the major league club kept him in AAA. But White didn’t let his demotion effect him. He hit 25 home runs while slashing .300/.371/.528 with the Fresno Grizzlies.
He also made at least 20 starts at second base, third base and short stop. White’s bat seems major league ready, but his versatility could put him over the top and help him stick at the major league level.
As the Astros depth at catcher, Max Stassi has seen plenty of major league playing time. But Stassi has never been able to stick with the Astros. He has played 44 games over the past five years at the major league level. Stassi is almost a given to see time at the major league level this season, but could still use a solid camp showing.
Stassi has been a solid offensive producer for the Astros in his limited time, posting a career 101 OPS+. He has also been a solid defensive player, and knows the pitching staff well. In 76 games in the minors last season, Stassi hit 14 home runs and posted a .272/.393/.500 slash line.
It seems that Stassi has finally hit his stride at the plate, as 2017 was his best offensive season of his career. While McCann and Gattis are projected to shoulder the majority of the catching duties in 2018, Stassi should see some playing time as well.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference***