Since we’ve known who the typical starting nine would be for the Houston Astros in 2021, I’ve generally operated under the assumption that center fielder Myles Straw would bat ninth. Considering his career .649 OPS in the major leagues, that’s still a strong possibility. But if his strong spring continues, he could end up hitting leadoff when the season starts.
How would the Houston Astros lineup look if Myles Straw leads off?
Through his first five spring games, Straw was 5-for-10 at the plate with a double, a triple and a stolen base. He’s never going to hit many home runs, but that’s not his game. If he can get on base enough, he would make an excellent leadoff hitter. His blinding speed would cause problems for opposing pitchers.
If Straw can reach base at around a .350 clip, he would be a real asset at the top of the order. If he can’t, he would still be a useful player hitting ninth given his speed and plus defense. But let’s assume the 26-year-old can be strong enough offensively to replace George Springer as the everyday leadoff hitter. What would the rest of the lineup look like?
The team’s lineup on Tuesday against the Nationals gives us a good clue, as it includes all the team’s regulars aside from the ailing Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. Jose Altuve hit second and Michael Brantley hit third behind Straw, and I think that’s exactly how Dusty Baker would keep it in the regular season.
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A healthy Bregman would likely hit cleanup and Alvarez would probably follow in the five spot. That would push Carlos Correa down to sixth and Kyle Tucker to seventh. Yuli Gurriel would hit eighth, followed by the catcher (either Martin Maldonado or Jason Castro) hitting ninth. That’s an incredibly lengthy lineup, and it keeps the lefties separated.
If Straw ends up hitting ninth, Altuve would be the most logical candidate to lead off, and you could basically move everyone up one spot, thereby keeping the lefties split up. That might give your better hitters a few more at-bats, and Straw could still be in position to get on base for them if he hits ninth.
In the end it will come down to how frequently Straw can get on base and what Baker wants to do. That’s why his performance this spring will be one of the most important ones to monitor. Having a dynamic speedster at the top of the order may be a bit “old school,” but it’s a serious asset if he reaches base enough.