Astros News

Astros: Yuli Gurriel fills longtime first base void

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 17: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros hits a home run in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on September 17, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 17: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros hits a home run in the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on September 17, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Jon Singleton #28 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 12, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 12: Jon Singleton #28 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 12, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

The Top Prospect Flameouts

It’s not as though the Astros haven’t tried to develop a long-term solution at first base. In fact, they’ve tried repeatedly, going through a few top prospects only to see them fail to establish themselves.

The first was Brett Wallace, whom the team acquired via trade with Toronto in July 2010. He’d been a first round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2008 and was a key piece in the 2009 trade that brought Matt Holliday to St. Louis.

He got plenty of chances in Houston but just could never hit enough. He appeared in 311 total games from 2010-2013 but hit a combined .242/.313/.391 with 29 homers before being cut loose. Incredibly, Wallace was the most productive of the top prospects the Astros tried at first base. He resurfaced with the Padres for two seasons but failed to stick there as well.

Next in line was Jon Singleton, acquired in the July 2011 trade that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia. The Astros famously signed him to a five-year contract before he ever played a major league game. As it turned out, he was smart to take it.

Singleton displayed decent power in the minor leagues but hit only .230 in 2013 across three levels combined. He made his major league debut in 2014 but hit an abysmal .168/.285/.335 with 13 homers in 95 games.

He appeared in 19 games in 2015 but was no better, and that would prove to be his last season in the majors. After Singleton continued to post middling numbers in the minors and failed his third drug test, the Astros cut bait in 2018. Unfortunately it appears mental health and addiction issues played a role in him never sticking in the big leagues.

With the trade route not working, the Astros tried to draft their future cornerstone. They used their second round pick in 2014 on AJ Reed after he had a decorated college career at Kentucky. He rose quickly through the minors, posting huge numbers in 2015.

The major leagues were another story, however, as he put up a .164/.270/.262 line in 45 games in 2016. He made it into just three major league games over the next two seasons thanks to Gurriel’s emergence as the primary first baseman.

Though Reed continued to hit in Triple-A, his numbers did steadily decline, so he never really forced his way into the conversation again. The Astros ultimately designated him for assignment in July, and he was claimed by the White Sox. He hit .136/.204/.205 in 14 games before being sent back to the minors.

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