Tuesday, May 26, 2015

State of the Astros: First Base

Over the next several days/couple weeks, I'd like to take a position-by-position look at the Astros, getting a quick overview of the current starters, backups, and minor league players who could contribute this season.


Starter - Chris Carter

Carter is doing his annual act of starting off so slowly that people are calling for him to be released/traded/drawn and quartered. His walk rate is back up over 12%, but his strikeouts are back up to his 2013 rate, when he whiffed 212 times. Of course, that's kinda what Carter does the first couple months of every season. His April/May OPS for his career is about 75 points lower than his overall career average, so here's hoping he's just a chronic slow starter. The projections have him putting together about a .750 OPS for the rest of the season, though his career rates for the last four months would put him around an .800 OPS going forward. One potential area of hope is that his BABIP is currently just .232. Carter historically carries a lower than average BABIP, but a bump up to .270 or .280 wouldn't be shocking. This would still only put him around a 1 WAR player and he's already in his arbitration years. While his power means he's not worthless, his one-trick-pony act and escalating salary probably mean his tenure with Houston will soon draw to a close.

Reasonable end of season projection ranges

AVG - .180-.220
OBP - .280-.320
SLG - .380-.440

Backup

There really isn't a backup 1B. As with most teams, spare playing time goes to a utility player or outfielder. In this case, Marwin Gonzalez seems to be the main guy but Preston Tucker and Evan Gattis are also options. We'll talk more about them when we get to their primary positions, though.

Prospect - Jon Singleton

Singleton played his way to the majors (helped by signing a long-term, team friendly deal) last season but couldn't capitalize on his chance to secure the position long term. He's back in Fresno and improving upon his numbers in AAA last year. His strikeouts are a bit down (under 20%) and his power is up. That said, after last season's stint with Houston, it's hard to know what he'll do when given another shot. If he keeps hitting in Fresno we'll soon find out.

Prospect - A.J. Reed

Reed has the potential to be an outstanding power hitter. Prior to the draft last year he led all college hitters with 23 home runs, then added another 12 in his first taste of professional baseball. 2015 has seen him pick right back up again as he's already swatted 11 in Lancaster. Since Corpus 1B Telvin Nash was just released, Reed will likely be promoted soon. As a polished college bat, there's a good chance he could move quickly through the system and, if Singleton can't establish himself quickly, could hit his way into Houston in a couple years.

Summary

The only thing we know for sure for the Astros at first base is that whoever is there for the rest of the year will hit home runs. Beyond that it remains to be seen if Carter will heat up and/or get traded or if Singleton will take over and fulfill his potential or if he'll be a bust. So many questions. Currently I'll grade this first base situation as a D+ due to the immense uncertainty, but this could easily be a B+ or even an A if someone puts it together. Who knows.

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