The Astros are a contending club not only because of their star players. Houston is one of the best due the entire roster.
When you think about the Astros, the following players usually come to mind in no certain order.
- Jose Altuve
- Carlos Correa
- George Springer
- Justin Verlander
- Gerrit Cole
- Dallas Keuchel
- Lance McCullers
- Alex Bregman
The list can go on and on. This Astros’ roster is loaded with talent.
That said, each team doesn’t get by exclusively because of their star players. As we can attest based on the last few years of success, a well-rounded roster is needed to truly contend. Enter players like Tony Kemp and Max Stassi, who are looking to carve a spot on one of the best teams in baseball.
Kemp, for example, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. When the Astros selected him, he was primarily advertised as a second baseman. Over time as Altuve cemented himself as the Astros’ long-term second baseman, Kemp was stuck.
In order to earn more to maximize his talents, Houston’s decision makers decided to move Kemp into the outfield. Sure, he still plays some second base, but the additional workload as an outfielder made Kemp a more versatile player. Now more than ever, baseball players with versatility are highly touted. In addition to his ability as a hitter, the versatility Kemp added to his defensive capabilities have stood out. That is one reason why the Astros promoted him to the majors not that long ago when Jake Marisnick was optioned to Fresno. And Kemp has produced quality results.
2018 stats w/ Astros: .389/.478/.444, 6 RBI, 2 SB in 24 plate appearances
While Kemp will not hit for much power, he does have quality contact skills. And while he may not be the best outfielder on the Astros roster in terms of defense, his speed and quickness allow him to make tremondous plays. Take his catch on May 19th against the Indians as a prime example.
Or this amazing grab as he jumped into the outfield wall against the Indians.
Ironically, both catches came against the Indians.
Anyway, Kemp has been terrific since his promotion earlier this month. This author hopes he continues to receive playing time as he is truly an exciting player to watch.
Up next is Max Stassi, who has done an incredible job as the Astros’ backup catcher.
As you may recall, Stassi was part of the return for the first Jed Lowrie trade to Oakland before the 2013 season. So, yes, it has been a while since Stassi joined the Astros organization. Roughly a few months before Kemp.
When he was acquired, Stassi was viewed as a potential catcher of the future. Jason Castro was still in Houston, so it was hoped upon that Stassi could be a quality backup to the former first round draft pick. In time, he could’ve earn the starting job. This was the hope a few years ago as I recall to the best of my memory.
Stassi did make his major league debut in the 2013 season, albeit a short one. He didn’t in many games for the Astros in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The same can even be said in 2017 as he only appeared in 14 games. The former A’s farmhand has experienced a roller coaster of sorts in his short career.
But this season, in 2018, has been a different story for Stassi. In light of the Astros moving Evan Gattis back to near full-time designated hitter, the team decided to carry Stassi on the roster as the primary backup catcher to Brian McCann. And the early results have been encouraging.
2018 stats w/ Astros: .304/.377/.522, 3 HR, 12 RBI in 77 plate appearances
Stassi has been a quality contributor to the Astros thus far in 2018. Not only does he play the position well (13th in RAA, 2.0), his bat has translated into positive results. For example, Stassi is currently 15-for-28 against left-handed pitchers with a 1.402 OPS. No one can surely complain about those kind of results.
Going forward, the Astros would wise to continue with Kemp and Stassi. While neither player has the star power (yet), both have contributed in meaningful ways early on this season. Let’s hope it that the results keep pointing to the Astros benefit.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Reference and StatCorner Catcher Report**