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Astros Spring Training Spotlight: Nolan Fontana

Could Preston Tucker's college teammate in 2012 become Preston Tucker's Major League teammate in 2016?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Since being drafted by the Houston Astros in the second round in 2012 out of the University of Florida, Nolan Fontana has made his reputation doing one thing very well: Getting on base. The owner of a minor league career 20.5 walk percentage and .411 on-base percentage, Fontana was given the ultimate test of his abilities in 2015 when he hit the Triple-A level.

In addition to drawing walks at a sometimes-laughable rate, Fontana has also had a career-long flirtation with strikeouts. At Fresno in the Pacific Coast League, the middle infielder saw his walk rate drop to a career-low 16.2% - five percentage points behind his strikeout rate. Accordingly, his OBP plummeted below .400 for the first time since being drafted, landing at .369.

But the Astros showed faith in him by adding him to the 40-man roster.

A shortstop in college, as well as at the beginning of his professional career, Fontana has been plagued by predictions that he would probably be best-used in a utility role at the major league level. In 2014, that began to be realized when he played more games at second base than at shortstop; in 2015, he was back to primarily playing shortstop, but he had extended playing time at both second and third bases, as well as a brief cameo in left field for the PCL champs.

Steamer predicts Fontana to be a weak-hitting infielder who provides some defensive value - in other words, your standard utilityman - but one who draws walks in over twelve percent of his plate appearances, and strikes out twice as often, all while providing adequate defense at multiple positions.