The Astros need a college bat at the first base position.
Yuli Gurriel has fallen off sharply since his batting title season just a year ago. He has been a major contributor to the Golden Era Astros success both at the plate and on the field, with 2021 being his best two-way year, as he won not only the Batting Title but a Gold Glove as well.
But, at age 38, he is entering the twilight of his major league career and may be better suited as a “come-off-the-bench-to-pinch-hit” option rather than as a starting first baseman.
With that in mind the Astros should be looking for a first baseman who can be ready sooner rather than later. They don’t have time to wait on the development of a high school first baseman no matter how high their ceiling.
Currently the replacements in their system are number nine prospect Joe Perez and possibly number 14 prospect Yanier Diaz, the latter of whom is hitting extremely well in the minors though splitting time evenly between catcher and first base. Offensively, it seems like he could fill Yuli’s shoes but defensively, that’s a little less certain.
Regardless, a college first baseman would be ideal for the team given the uncertainty at the position in the near future at the major league level. The issue is that there are not a lot of top tier first basemen in general in this draft. The earliest you see the first base position even listed in the top 250 draft prospects is at number 97 with Dominic Keegan, a 21 year old out of Vanderbilt listed as both first base and catcher.
A guy who really profiles well within the Astros offensive philosophy of high contact low strikeouts is prospect number 175 Alan Roden. Roden is a 22 year old left handed first baseman/outfielder out of Creighton and here is a snippet of his scouting report per MLB.com.
"He batted .387/.492/.598 and ranked first in NCAA Division I in BB/K ratio (3.6) and second in strikeout rate (3 percent). Roden has elite bat-to-ball skills and does a nice job of using the entire field while masterfully controlling the strike zone, with outstanding rates of swings and misses (9 percent, including just 4 percent on fastballs) and chases (15 percent)."
A guy who walks 3.5 times as much as he strikes out and hits for a high average by putting the ball in play without chasing pitches is the exact type of hitter the Astros love. While power would be great, the Astros don’t get that much of it from Yuli anyhow. Other than 2019 when he hit 31 homers, he has never hit more than 18 in any other full season.
If you read more of Roden’s profile, some scouts see him as a 15 to 20 homer guy so he sounds like the perfect fit for the Astros and totally attainable given his 175 rating in the top 250 so the Astros could get him in the fourth or even fifth round.