Houston Astros: Which players will break out in 2020?
By Karen Watson
Dustin Garneau and Martin Maldonado make up the platoon to start the 2020 season. Possibly slated to return once camp resumes, however, is Jamie Ritchie.
The Astros drafted Ritchie in the 13th round of the 2014 draft. Ritchie’s nine games and 15 PAs in Spring Training weren’t all that impressive, but he does have a career minor league .270 BA. It seems doubtful that Ritchie has much of a chance to make his debut this year, especially with Garrett Stubbs waiting in the proverbial wings and seemingly first in line.
In fact, at this point in time, it seems likely that the 26th man on the roster is a battle between Stubbs and Myles Straw. This decision could prove difficult as both are versatile players who have shown some real promise offensively during their short time in camp earlier this year.
Because of his slight edge in speed, this spot likely goes to Straw, but Stubbs is no slouch. And even though it’s quite a long shot, the Astros couldn’t be accused of making a mistake if they opted for Stubbs in this slot. This would certainly provide some depth at the backstop position, one of just a few positions that Straw has not yet been given an opportunity to play.
With Jack Mayfield and Abraham Toro seeming to be locks for the probable call-ups in the case of potential injuries in the infield, there were a couple of players in camp who might just prove to be competition for these slots.
For starters, let’s consider Alex De Goti. Selected in the 15th round of the 2016 draft, De Goti plays a variety of positions. Perhaps the 25-year old is a shoo-in as the up and coming utility guy, playing some left field, moving around the infield a bit, and even appearing in three games for three innings as a relief pitcher in 2019.
Most interesting with De Goti is his offense. Batting .300 in Spring Training in 14 games with 23 PAs, he carried a minor league average of .277 in 2019, hitting 29 doubles with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 125 games.
Second up is Jeremy Pena who was drafted in the third round in June of 2018. Playing mostly shortstop with a few appearances at third base, his slow start in Spring Training could be overlooked because of his 2019 minor league BA of .303 and .825 OPS. This was his first year in Spring Training and it’s encouraging for him that he has not yet been reassigned.
The third infielder that could possibly return to spring training is Nick Tanielu. Picked up in the 14th round of the 2014 draft, Tanielu enters his seventh season in the Astros system. In 2019, he tied fifth in the Pacific Coast League for the most doubles, 39. His small sample size so far in 2020 spring camp cannot compare to his 2019 minor league numbers, but he seems to be a fan favorite to make his debut in 2020.