Astros: Compiling the ideal batting order for 2020 season

What would be the best batting order for the Houston Astros in 2020?

As the days go by, the prospect of a 2020 season happening gets more likely. The Houston Astros have a new manager in Dusty Baker, so how their lineup will be constructed is something of a mystery. The good news is there are plenty of strong bats on the team.

What we do know is that Baker has said he intends to keep George Springer in the leadoff spot, which seems like a wise decision. Beyond that, it’s somewhat up in the air how the regular lineup will go. So here’s my view as to how the batting order should go on most days:

  1. George Springer, CF
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B
  3. Michael Brantley, LF
  4. Alex Bregman, 3B
  5. Yordan Alvarez, DH
  6. Carlos Correa, SS
  7. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
  8. Kyle Tucker, RF
  9. Martin Maldonado, C

Now most of this seems like common sense, and it’s almost identical to lineups used by AJ Hinch in 2019. The first, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth spots in the lineup are probably set, with the only real questions about which order to put Altuve/Brantley and Correa/Gurriel. Some fans may prefer Josh Reddick in right field, and his defense is certainly impressive, but Tucker has the better bat at this point.

Springer’s power is great to have in the leadoff spot. Bregman is an ideal cleanup hitter, as he has a bunch of power and draws a ton of walks. Alvarez mashes, but his lack of speed fits better in the middle of the order than further toward the top. Tucker is still somewhat raw, so he fits down at the bottom with Maldonado.

Altuve vs Brantley

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This isn’t an easy choice, and there might not necessarily be a wrong one. Both will hit for a high average and make a lot of contact. Altuve probably has a little more power and definitely has more speed, but he also strikes out a little bit more.

Initially I was concerned about putting Brantley too close to Alvarez, since both are lefties. But Alvarez’s platoon splits aren’t very split at all, as he was perfectly dangerous against lefties and righties. Brantley is definitely better against righties but still has respectable numbers against lefties. Bregman, meanwhile, has mashed left-handed pitching over his career, so his presence between them would remove any incentive for opposing managers to use lefty relievers.

In the end, I put Altuve second and Brantley third for two reasons. The first is that Altuve has better speed, which I wanted closer to the top. The second is that, overall, Altuve is the better and more important hitter and I wanted to get him more plate appearances. It’s hard to go wrong either way, but I like Altuve right behind Springer.

Correa vs Gurriel

Gurriel had the better overall season in 2019, and he frequently hit ahead of Correa late in the year. But there are a couple of reasons I put Correa sixth and Gurriel seventh. For one, Correa gets on base more frequently, as Gurriel doesn’t draw many walks. That helps the possibility for Gurriel to hit with runners on base, which is best considering he’s such a free swinger.

The other reason is that I’m not entirely sold that Gurriel can replicate his 2019 production considering he will play this season at age 36. Correa, when healthy, is the better all-around hitter, as evidenced by his .926 OPS in 2019, compared to Gurriel’s .884 mark. As long as he’s not hurt, Correa should hit ahead of Gurriel.

Gurriel does have a reverse platoon split, with better numbers against right-handed pitchers than lefties. But the player who’d hit after him, the left-handed Tucker, hasn’t struggled against lefties in his brief major league career, so I have no concerns right now about putting them next to each other in the lineup. If Tucker ends up struggling against southpaws, adjustments could be made to the lineup to prevent opposing managers from being able to use lefty relievers against Gurriel and Tucker in succession.

The lineup will, of course, change frequently as players get days off or, unfortunately, get injured. But if everyone’s healthy, I think this is the best way to line up the bats to inflict the most damage on opposing pitching. With depth a possible issue on the team’s pitching staff, they’ll need to score as many runs as possible.

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