Astros prospect Ronnie Dawson is getting some valuable experience this spring.
One of the beautiful things about Spring Training is it gives several minor leaguers a chance to spend some time with the big league club. They get to play alongside some of the game’s best players and coaches and hopefully absorb as much as they can. One of the players the Astros are hoping can take something away from this spring is outfielder Ronnie Dawson.
Dawson was the Astros’ second-round draft pick in 2016 out of Ohio State. A left-handed hitter, he’s currently ranked as the team’s No. 16 prospect, with the scouting report noting his combination of strength and bat speed made him one of the top college power hitters in that year’s draft.
The 24-year-old isn’t going to be on the big league roster to start the season, and he probably won’t see the majors at all this year unless a rash of injuries decimates the outfield. He just made his Triple-A debut late in 2019 and struggled, so there’s still plenty of development left for him.
So far this spring, he’s gone hitless with one walk in eight plate appearances. The results aren’t overly important right now since he’s not fighting for a roster spot. In fact, he’s not even on the 40-man roster. But that could all change in the next year.
Waiting in the Wings
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If he can show continued improvement in 2020, Dawson could find himself battling for a roster spot this time next year. George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all set to hit free agency after this season, meaning there could be a job or two up for grabs in the Astros 2021 outfield.
But Dawson has work to do if that’s going to happen. He has a good combination of power and speed that could make him a 20/20 guy and a solid center fielder, but his offensive approach needs refinement. The scouting report notes that unless he becomes more patient at the plate, he likely won’t hit for a strong average.
The numbers back that up. In 113 games in 2019 (103 at Double-A and 10 at Triple-A), Dawson hit just .207/.313/.385 with 21 doubles, 17 homers and 14 steals. He struck out 152 times and drew 50 walks, so the bottom line is he simply doesn’t make enough contact at the plate right now.
He hit just .147 in his 10 games at Round Rock, so he’ll need to show that he can handle Triple-A pitching this season. He needs to improve that strikeout-to-walk ratio and get that batting average up to a respectable level. He doesn’t have to hit .300 to be a valuable player, but hitting .200 isn’t going to cut it.
This is why it’s important for him to be in Spring Training. Hanging around veteran guys, especially other left-handed hitters like Brantley and Reddick, will hopefully impart some extra wisdom on Dawson and give him some tools to continue to improve his game. If he can do that, there’s a chance he could be roaming the Minute Maid Park outfield next year.