While losing George Springer was the wort thing to happen to the Houston Astros this offseason, it was highly expected and was probably planned out. There were possible replacements on the market for the former World Series MVP, but long-term deals are not seen in the Astros’ past along with having Pedro Leon in the Minor Leagues. This leaves the job in the hands of 26-year-old Myles Straw, who is a candidate for the leadoff spot.
A few weeks ago, the Astros centerfielder joined MLB Network Radio and talked about his want to lead the League in stolen bases. This is a great sign of confidence and moxie from a player who lived in Springer’s shadow for a few seasons. We know the speed and defense is there for Straw, but will we see a progression at the plate this season?
With the loss of George Springer, the Astros could look to Myles Straw as a possible leadoff man.
There is no true replacement for Springer on the market or within the Astros’ farm system, but as Houston has done in the past, they will make do with the talent they have. Nothing against Straw’s ability, but he is not the same caliber player as that of Springer. While not having many opportunities in seasons past, 2021 will be Straw’s first year to compete in a full 162-game slate.
On Tuesday, Manager Dusty Baker described his perfect fit for a leadoff hitter, which included a guy who gets on base and a guy who is a threat on the base paths. This does define Straw in many ways, but his on base percentage isn’t as high as players like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman or Kyle Tucker, who all can fit this model. Baker is an old-time coach with a mix in of newer analytics, which probably means he will ride with a true leadoff hitter: speedster that gets on base. We have seen analytics jump into the Astros lineup in recent years with Micheal Brantley moving to the two-hole, but at the moment experience might drive Baker’s choice for the leadoff spot.
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This decision will ultimately shake up the Astros’ entire lineup and shift players to new spots, as compared to last season. Through, Straw’s main focus for the season is to get on base, which is all the Astros could ask for. As the fastest player on staff, there is needed versatility in the centerfielder, but he is not the home run hitter that we saw in Springer, which is perfectly respectable. They aren’t the same type of player, and if Straw is getting on base 2-3 times a game by hit or walk, the Astros should feel content in him doing his job at an effective rate.
If Straw does not start the season in the leadoff spot, we could expect to see him in the nine-hole almost like a second leadoff. With his speed and ability to get on base, the right-hander will be a threat at either spot. While slashing .246/.327/.322 in his career, Straw does have a a slightly above average on base percentage, but his numbers are deflated due to a lack of chances at the plate and ability to adjust to Major League pitchers. If he takes more walks and slashes singles, then we will see Straw breaking for second a lot in 2021.
As the centerfielder looks to be more aggressive in 2021, Houston is looking for a replacement for the leadoff job in the lineup. The application process might take all of spring training to digest, but what stands true is that Straw fills a perfect mold of what a true leadoff hitter could look like. His spring progressions will help identify what he will need to target moving forward, and with the chance of starting 100 plus games, Straw has a good chance to make his name heard.