The Astros should have Yordan Alvarez playing more outfield in 2020.
One of the many storylines to watch with the Astros in 2020 is how the reigning Rookie of the Year does in his first full season in the majors. Yordan Alvarez was an absolute beast at the plate last year, and even though he will likely have some struggles along the way, he should still be plenty productive this season.
Alvarez told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that he worked on his agility in the offseason to prepare for the possibility of playing more outfield. He made only nine starts in the outfield with the Astros in 2019, compared to 74 starts at DH. That ratio ought to change a bit this year.
He’s only 22, so it’s not as though he isn’t young enough or athletic enough to play the field. He doesn’t need to be protected from injury any more than the rest of the players do. It’s just that the other outfielders on the roster are better defensively, so obviously you’d rather have your best defense out there.
But it’s going to be a long season, and it would be nice to use the DH spot to give other players a half-day of rest every so often. Alvarez should also see the field more simply to keep him from becoming a strict DH at age 22. Make use of his youth while it’s still there.
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Of the outfield candidates, Alvarez, George Springer and Michael Brantley are going to be in the lineup almost every day. The remaining at-bats will be split up among Kyle Tucker, Josh Reddick and Myles Straw.
Your typical, ideal lineup will have Springer in center, Brantley in left, Alvarez at DH and Tucker or Reddick in right. But that won’t be the lineup every day. Giving Springer and Brantley a start at DH every week or two would be helpful, especially in the case of Brantley, who’ll turn 33 in May and could use the rest to keep healthy.
Alvarez isn’t going to win any Gold Gloves, but he can play a passable left field, especially at Minute Maid Park given its dimensions. Straw would be on hand as a late-inning defensive replacement if need be, and the speedster will probably get a few starts in center field as well.
Given the possibility that the Astros are going to get hit by pitches more frequently than usual, giving your key guys a day at DH isn’t a bad idea. That spot shouldn’t simply belong to Alvarez. He’ll get the majority of his starts there, as he should, but there’s no reason why around a third of his games can’t come in left field.
Of course, the Astros do have a new manager in Dusty Baker, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the lineup on a daily basis. It’ll be another of the many fascinating stories to watch for this Astros club in 2020, which is World Series or bust.