Astros Rumors: Who Should Start in the Outfield on Opening Day

World Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros - Game Six
World Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros - Game Six / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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Chas McCormick
World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four / Elsa/GettyImages

Center Field

Center field might bring the most question marks of any of the three Astros' outfield spots. To be fair, they aren't all warranted. Chas McCormick is coming off of a season in which he hit .245 with a .738 OPS and 110 OPS+. He's in the 84th percentile in sprint speed and was 93rd percentile in both outs above average and outfielder jump.

Is he George Springer? No. But he's an above-average big league center fielder with continued room to grow. That didn't stop the Astros from giving time in center to three others last year: Jose Siri, Jake Meyers and Mauricio Dubón.

The Meyers experiment was understandable. He had been a fantastic player in his short big league stint before injuring himself in the 2021 playoffs. Houston hoped he would regain form and was their center fielder of the future. He struggled mightily upon his return and eventually was sent back to AAA for consistent ABs. Is he still the center fielder of the future? Maybe. But the decision should come down to McCormick or an upgrade in a trade.

The most obvious upgrade would be Bryan Reynolds. Rarely do we see stars request a trade this early in their contract, but Reynolds has done just that. His career .842 OPS would restore the Astros' lineup to levels not seen since 2019. That said, he'll be ridiculously expensive. Is an upgrade over an already above-average bat worth some combination of Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown and Luis Garcia, plus prospects in the wings? The Astros' GM by committee may have to answer just that.

Also linked to the Astros is Diamondbacks outfielder/catcher Daulton Varsho. He brings unparalleled versatility and truly elite outfield defense. That said, his actual stats (.237 average, 27 home runs, .735 OPS) in contrast to his expected stats show a wildly lucky hitter primed for steep regression.

Then again, his 27 home runs would project to 34 in Minute Maid. Varsho is truly boom or bust. If he puts it all together, you've got 30 home runs, an .800 OPS, and a world class defender. But what if he doesn't? Is he just a Joey Gallo that also can catch?

He's going to cost a king's ransom to land. There is a reason no other center fielders play catcher. They just don't exist. Like Reynolds, he'd likely cost some combination of Javier, Brown and Garcia.

The Astros won the World Series on the backs of one of the best collection of arms ever assembled. They've already lost Verlander. Is an upgrade in center worth expending another arm?

Pedro Leon can't be ruled out of the equation either. The Astros' #4 prospect swiped 38 bags with 17 home runs and 27 doubles in 115 games in Sugar Land. He also struck out 145 times against AAA pitching. Somewhere Joey Gallo is trembling...

How did Joey Gallo's name just show up twice in a four paragraph span? That's how many questions the Astros have to answer in center field before Opening Day.

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