Houston Astros: Why a Pedro Leon Call-Up is Worth Considering

Joe Fernandez
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The MLB Trade deadline has come and gone. The Houston Astros addressed three of their four needs, acquiring a left-handed reliever in Will Smith, a catcher who can hit in Christian Vazquez, and a versatile first baseman/outfielder in Trey Mancini.

The one need left unaddressed was the offensive hole in center field. The Astros have tried three options: Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick, and the since-departed Jose Siri. None have been consistently effective throughout the course of the year.

The Houston Astros should consider calling up their number three prospect Pedro Leon to play center field for the rest of the season.

The Astros traded for rental players, meaning none of their top prospects had to be traded away. In fact, no one in their top 10 departed the system according to MLB Pipeline. Pedro Leon was signed by the Astros after defecting from Cuba in January of 2021. He has had a decent minor league career so far.

But, there’s reason to believe he could still produce better than Jake Meyers and Chas McCormick at the major league level. While Leon’s strikeout rate is way too high, he still walks at a better clip than Meyers and McCormick are in the majors. Leon has 53 walks in 322 at-bats at AAA.

Compare that to Meyers and McCormick’s walks which, combined between the two of them, are 35 walks in 331 at bats. As well, the strikeout rate between Meyers and McCormick is almost identical to Leon’s. Meyers and McCormick have 101 strikeouts between them to Leon’s 104.

Obviously Meyers and McCormick are playing against higher level competition, but it’s not far-fetched to think Leon could still produce more due to his propensity for power at the plate and speed on the base paths.

While Leon’s batting average and strikeout rate leave something to be desired, he still has prodigious power, hitting 14 home runs this year to go along with 32 stolen bases. His OPS this year is .827, balanced well between a .371 OBP and .427 slugging percentage.

Compare that to Meyers and McCormick, whose OBP, SLG and OPS are as follows:

Meyers: OBP .298. SLG .320. OPS .582

McCormick: OBP .319. SLG .430. OPS .749.

Pedro Leon’s minor league season is comparable to Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker’s numbers on the major league level, the biggest disparity being the amount of times Leon strikes out. Otherwise, here are their season numbers side-by-side.

Pedro Leon (AAA): Batting Average .239, 14 homers, 53 RBI, 32 SB, .371 OBP, .427 SLG, .827 OPS, 53 BB, 104 strikeouts, 322 AB.

Alex Bregman (MLB): Batting Average .247, 13 homers, 56 RBI, 0 SB, .353 OBP, .424 SLG, .777 OPS, 56 BB, 56 strikeouts, 361 AB.

Kyle Tucker (MLB): Batting Average .241, 19 homers, 67 RBI, 16 SB, .328 OBP, .448 SLG, .776 OPS, 47 BB, 65 strikeouts, 353 AB.

In other words, Leon is producing at the AAA level in line with two of the Astros biggest stars, just with more swing and miss in his game.

Considering how much he’s outperforming Meyers and McCormick at their respective levels, it’s certainly worth at least a short “cup of coffee” stint to see how he handles major league pitching.

Not to mention there’s an added benefit of the Astros having a strong Cuban clubhouse culture between Yordan Alvarez, Aledmys Diaz and Yuli Gurriel. It cannot be overstated what the comfort of people with a similar background can do for a player’s confidence, also considering the advice they can all impart on him at the big league level.

This is all to say that, given the overall lackluster production from Meyers and McCormick at the major league level, what harm can a Pedro Leon call-up do? Could he really produce at a significantly worse level?

And again, given the background and experience of the major league roster both professionally and culturally, it could be a boost to Leon’s confidence as well as what he can glean from a former AL batting champ and one of the leading MVP candidates.

The Astros addressed three of their needs in the trade market without giving up any top prospects. It’s now time to see what those top prospects can do. Korey Lee has already been given a shot. Hunter Brown would be up already if it weren’t for the surplus of excellent pitching the team has.

The risk of calling Leon up and him underperforming is basically nothing considering the lack of production the Astros have already gotten from center field. The upside is he lengthens the lineup and becomes a productive hitter plus a threat to steal when he does get on base.

If he struggles and it hurts his confidence, so be it. Leon is 24 years old. Now more than ever is his time to show just how capable he is at the major league level. The Astros have nothing to lose and everything to gain by calling him up.

Next. Aledmys Diaz is Proving His Worth on Both Sides of the Ball. dark

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