Astros catcher Garrett Stubbs is becoming the ideal player to have as the 26th man on the roster.
One of the changes MLB is adding for the 2020 season is that teams are now allowed to have 26 players on their active roster, as opposed to the 25-man rosters of years past. The rule, however, limits teams to having 13 pitchers, which the Astros have already carried for most of the last few years. So their 26th man will be an extra position player, and Garrett Stubbs might just be the right guy for that spot.
Many teams have considered carrying a third catcher to fill that 26th roster spot, and it makes sense. But you also don’t want to use that spot for a guy who’s limited to being the third catcher and probably wouldn’t see the field hardly at all. It’s a waste of a spot, and it could be used for something better.
This is where Stubbs comes into the picture. He is a catcher by trade, so he can serve as that emergency third catcher should the need arise. Martin Maldonado and Dustin Garneau will get most, if not all, of the starts behind the plate barring injury.
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Stubbs has been working on his versatility lately, which makes him the ideal 26th man. He played a little bit of outfield for the Astros in 2019 and continues to work at it, so he can also fill in at the corner outfield positions in a pinch.
This spring, he’s been working with none other than Craig Biggio to learn second base. This is an ideal pairing, of course, as Biggio also started out as a catcher before moving to second. Stubbs is unlikely to blossom into a Hall-of-Fame infielder thanks to his age (26) and the fact that he’s blocked by Jose Altuve, but learning the position will still be helpful.
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If Stubbs can fill in at catcher, outfield and second base, that only helps his chances of making the roster. He’s also a solid baserunner, stealing 12 bases in 14 attempts at Triple-A in 2019. He helps in a number of categories, so it’s hard to argue against him.
If the Astros carry 13 position players as expected, Stubbs is by no means guaranteed a roster spot. In fact, when looking at the roster, it looks like he’s in a battle for that 26th spot, and he’s got some tough competition.
If everyone is healthy, 12 spots are basically locked up: Maldonado, Garneau, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez, Aledmys Diaz, Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker. Notice who wasn’t on that list: Myles Straw.
At this point, that 26th roster spot may come down to Straw and Stubbs. Straw is the superior defensive outfielder, has blinding speed and can play shortstop. Stubbs has the benefit of being able to play catcher.
With Brantley, Springer, Reddick and Tucker on the roster, you’d have to think Straw wouldn’t get a ton of playing time in the outfield anyway. So it may come down to having the speedster or the emergency third catcher. That’s a tough call.
We’ll know more as Spring Training progresses, but Stubbs is certainly doing all he can to increase his chances of earning that final roster spot that’s currently up for grabs.