In anticipation for their upcoming series against the Athletics this weekend, the Astros are welcoming back a key player.
Following a rather scary scene on August 5th at Dodger Stadium, the Astros are prepared to activate All-Star outfielder George Springer from the ten-day DL. Outfielder Derek Fisher will be sent down to Triple-A Fresno to open a spot on the active roster to accommodate Springer’s return. The Astros, believe it or not, are slowly regaining their collective health.
The return of Springer is crucial for the Astros as he brings another quality bat to the top of the batting order, especially in light of Jose Altuve‘s absence. Through 485 plate appearances this season, Springer is hitting .250/.335/.436 with 19 home runs and a 115 wRC+. Since the All-Star break though, the Astros’ outfielder did post a 158 wRC+ over 54 plate appearances, so his performance was starting to improve before his thumb injury. Along with Carlos Correa‘s return earlier in the week, Houston’s lineup is starting round back into form.
Across two separate major league stints and 86 plate appearances, Fisher has slashed .165/.209/.392 with four home runs and a 58 wRC+. Not exactly the type of performance for a team that has shuffled through outfielders not named Springer or Josh Reddick. To his credit though, Fisher has a 128 wRC+ through 232 plate appearances for the Fresno Grizzlies. Daily playing time is needed for Fisher, which is not readily available for him in Houston.
In turn, the Astros are giving top prospect Kyle Tucker another look at the major league level, which they should. Despite a .157/.259/.216 slash line, Tucker has more-or-less been unlucky. For example, he currently has a 90.8 MPH average exit velocity. Also, his .200 BABIP tends to indicate some bad luck has been involved.
Let’s take Tuesday’s game against the Rockies as an example. Rockies’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado hit a home run in the sixth inning off Justin Verlander. The home run had a hit probability of 33% with a 95.2 MPH exit velocity according to Baseball Savant. Tucker had a flyout in the fifth inning off Rockies’ starter German Marquez that had a 80% hit probability and a 102.7 MPH exit velocity. Tucker’s out was the second-hardest batted ball of the game for Houston. Thanks to the dimensions of Minute Maid Park, Arenado was rewarded with a home run while Tucker was given an out. I’m not complaining as the Astros have been rewarded for their home park’s dimensions in the past, but I thought it was worth pointing out. When a hitter hits the ball hard consistently like Tucker, good things will eventually happen. But for that to take place, he has to play.
Going forward, the Astros will likely run an outfield of Springer and Reddick along with a combination of Tucker and Tony Kemp. Marwin Gonzalez will likely see some time in left field depending on the day and the opponent. Springer’s return adds another potent bat against their division rivals on the most important road trip of the season.