Astros: Dustin Garneau has been a pleasant surprise this spring

The Astros signed free agent catcher Dustin Garneau early in the offseason, and from what we’ve seen so far in spring training, it was a wise acquisition.

Garneau was actually the first player signed by the Astros this offseason. When Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado both became free agents at the end of the 2019 season, Houston was in dire need of a catcher. They quickly snatched up Garneau from the free-agent list and a month later re-signed Maldonado.

I know a lot of Astros fans were hoping for a Chirinos return, but that would ultimately never take place. He ended up going back to the Texas Rangers where he played for six years before coming down to Houston as a one-year rental. When Garneau was signed to a one-year contract in late November, everyone was wondering, “Who is this guy?”, and rightly so.

The 32-year-old has been a perennial fixture in the Minor Leagues ever since he was picked in the 19th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He would finally make his Major League debut in 2015 with disappointing results batting .157 in 22 games.

Garneau has spent his career as a backup catcher with only 123 games in the Majors under his belt. He has bounced back and forth between the Majors and the Minors every season. The most games he has ever played in one season was in 2017 when he had 41 total games with the Rockies and the A’s. Garneau has been known more for his defensive capabilities than with his bat.

He has shown much more promise at the Minor League level than what he’s been able to produce in the big leagues. Garneau’s slash line in the Minors is  .253/.341/.459 and a .800 OPS. But in the Majors, he has only slashed .207/.290/.343 with an OPS of .633. But he did show some improvement this past season batting .244/.350/.407 in 35 games and 86 at-bats.

But maybe a change of scenery and a winning environment is just what Garneau needed. He has appeared in six games so far this spring and is slashing .444/.615/.889 with a home run, a double, and three RBIs in nine at-bats. They say that “success breeds success” and hopefully that’s the case with Garneau. As he enjoys his achievements of the spring, it might just build up the confidence needed to keep it going.