Astros: Who is this Nick Tanielu tearing it up this Spring?
By Brian Murray
The Astros had a non-roster invitee enter Spring Training with little fanfare, but is exiting Spring Training the talk of the town. Meet Nick Tanielu.
As the Astros began this year’s Spring Training, everyone was excited to see how well top prospects like Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, and Josh James would perform. But there was an infielder named Nick Tanielu, not even on the Astro’s top 30 prospects list, that came into Spring Training as barely a blip on the radar. That has all changed now.
Tanielu was drafted by the Astros in the 14th round (406th overall) of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft. The 26-year-old from Huntsville, AL played college ball for Washington State University, where he was named to the PAC-12 All-Conference team.
He has spent five years in the Astros’ minor league system, the first two years split between the Tri-City and Quad Cities single A teams. In 2016 Tanielu was promoted to AA ball early into the season. Then after missing almost the entire 2017 season due to ACL surgery, he was promoted to the AAA level part way through 2018. His minor league numbers were decent, but nothing extraordinary with a career slash line of .295/.341/.421.
Fast forward to 2019 where he had a breakout Spring Training. Tanielu definitely had his share of playing time appearing in 20 games with 49 at-bats. He made the most of that time slashing .347/.407/.796. The sudden surge in power is what has surprised everyone, hitting 11 extra base hits, five of those home runs. Playing at Minute Maid Park last night had no effect on him, knocking one over the wall for three RBIs in his two at-bats.
Tanielu is a versatile infielder with experience playing all three bases over his career, primarily at second and third. But A.J. Hinch has been getting him some extra work in at first base this Spring. It will be interesting to see how he does back down in AAA this season and what positions he’ll play the most.
With Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman locked in at second and third for quite some time now, getting Tanielu more first base experience might the wise move. If he keeps playing at the current pace, Tanielu may be wearing an Astros uniform soon as the new utility man or first baseman. I wouldn’t bet against him to be called up sometime this season.