Sunday, June 9, 2019

Happy Yordan Álvarez Day

As widely reported, the Astros have determined that lefty slugger Yordan Álvarez has nothing to prove at AAA, and will be called up in time to help celebrate Orbit's birthday.  Which also happens to be the rubber game of an ugly series against the Orioles.  Álvarez is mashing a healthy .343/.433/.742 at Round Rock which is, uh, pretty decent.  Some of his plate appearances didn't even involve bats... I mean, can you even have an at bat without holding a bat??  And his defense may have suddenly improved as well...

Regardless what y'all think about Baseball Economics, this is going to be a pretty big month or two in the context of the Astros' season.  When fully healthy, they have had 7 or so really good offensive performers in a lineup at one time.  In the games where Jake Marisnick (.780 OPS) starts, you could say they have had 8 solidly above average performers.  But Yuli is scuffling (.665 OPS, 79 wRC+), and looks to be really struggling at the plate, but at least he possesses some positional versatility.  Tyler White (.606 OPS, 73 wRC+) has no real positional versatility and has experienced some serious power-evaporation issues.  His timing looks off, which I guess is fixable, but White's difficulties are going to be increasingly hard for the Astros to stomach in the last four months of the season.  Having White and Gurriel in the lineup is palatable when Altuve, Correa and Springer are playing, but all of them are at least a fortnight from returning.

With the injuries to their key up-the-middle offensive producers, the Astros have been running out a half-MLB half-AAA lineup, something which has been hidden only by playing the softest part of their season schedule.  They won't want to continue writing lineups with both players empty of offense and players getting their feet wet in the Bigs while they navigate their way through the summer.  Fingers crossed Álvarez starts raking, but he can't really do much worse than Gurriel and White have been at the plate.

At the time of writing, the corresponding roster moves have not been announced.  The Astros don't have room on the 40-man, but Lance McCullers is sitting on the 10-day IL, and is pretty much gone for the rest of the season.  A.J. Reed also occupies a spot on the 40-man, while striking out 30% of the time in AAA and possessing a .213/.299/.404 line (71 wRC+).  So he seems like a candidate to get DFA'd if needed, too.  There are a couple of other spots that could be freed up, if needed.

Creating a space on the 25-man is going to be more complicated.  I imagine Jack Mayfield will stay on because he offers all-over infield cover, including shortstop (today's throwing error notwithstanding).  In addition to this, I am not totally sure that the Astros want to entrust shortstop to Myles Straw and Alex Bregman for the next 4 weeks while Carlos Correa heals.  So that leaves an outfielder as a potential option candidate, and my guess would be that either Derek Fisher (.250/.345/.396, 106 wRC+ in 55 PA's) or the aforementioned Straw (.286/.348/.381, 102 wRC+ in 23 PA's) would be the leading candidates.  I would think Fisher may be optioned, based purely on handedness, although he has been tasked with leading off the last few games, so who knows.

Of course, this is assuming that there is no more injury news.  Michael Brantley has started a bunch of games in a row at DH, and he has been on the DL / IL pretty much every year of his career.  There may be something brewing there.  I am also going to assume that the Astros don't wish to cut ties with Gurriel, White, or, less likely, Tony Kemp, all of whom have no options, and would need to pass through waivers and agree to go to the minors.  

So there are a few more personnel developments to occur before we can suddenly start celebrating Yordan Álvarez Day in Houston.  But personally, I am looking forward to watching him mash at a well above-average clip, and occupy the DH slot four days per week for most of the next decade.  The Astros offense could certainly do with the boost.