With Tyler White designated for assignment, here’s a look at the Astros first base situation.
When news broke that the Astros had designated Tyler White for assignment, it seemed like a decision that simply had to be made. White never could get it going at the plate this season, hitting just .225/.320/.330 in 71 games. The offense should be improved with a different bat in the lineup.
White started 40 games at first base this season and was inserted into the game there another eight times. That’s a lot of defensive innings and a lot of starts for the team to replace this season. Plus, since White couldn’t stick, he’s likely not part of the team’s future plans either.
The Rest of the Season
For the time being, Yuli Gurriel will essentially be the team’s only first baseman. Yordan Alvarez is limited to DH or left field in a pinch, so he’s not much of an option at first. Gurriel has started 53 games there this year, plus another 35 at third base. Until reinforcements come off the IL, Gurriel will probably play exclusively first base.
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Can we take a moment to appreciate how good Gurriel has been lately? He’s one home run shy of his career high and is also walking at a higher rate than in previous years. He’s gone deep nine times so far in July after looking like he was on the decline.
Aledmys Diaz will likely get a few starts at first to spell Gurriel once he returns from the IL. Diaz has appeared in nine games at first base this season, so he’ll be the primary backup there and elsewhere on the infield. Barring injury, the Astros should be fine at the position for the rest of the year.
The Astros have simply failed to develop a franchise first baseman since the departure of Lance Berkman. Top prospects Brett Wallace, Jon Singleton and A.J. Reed have all failed to make it, and now White has gone by the wayside. Only the veteran Gurriel has given them consistent production.
Seth Beer, the team’s 2018 first-round draft pick and eighth-ranked prospect, is next in line, and he’s been impressive this season. Between High-A and Double-A, he’s slashing .315/.411/.566 with 22 homers in 89 games. We’ve seen this before from top prospects, so there’s a long way to go before the Astros can be sure he’s the team’s first baseman for the next decade.
In the interim, top prospect Kyle Tucker is also taking reps at first base in an attempt to increase his versatility, so there’s a chance he could factor there as well. If he’s able to hit in the majors, the Astros will find a place for him.
Taylor Jones, a 35th-round draft pick in 2015, might actually be the next man up in the event of an injury. He just entered the team’s Top 30 prospects list thanks to a .284/.381/.511 line at Round Rock this season.
Jones is a solid defender, so he could at least provide value in the field if he’s needed. There’s a question as to if he’ll hit for enough power, so his upside may be limited. Beer looks good with the bat but has questions defensively. Both of these guys have a little ways to go before they’re ready to take over.