The Astros have nine Major League or Major League ready outfielders. Their top three by fWAR, George Springer (2.8), Michael Brantley (2.2), and Jake Marisnick (1.5 and 4th in defensive outs above average), are the top producing trio in the AL. If you want the band to be a quartet, and add Josh Reddick (0.9) on rhythm guitar, then together their fWAR is 0.1 less than the Rays’ quartet of Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, Avisail Garcia, and Kevin Kiermaier. But we know who would still be the #1 outfield band in America if the lead guitarist, George, hadn’t gotten injured. Amiright?
Jake on defense.
Josh Reddick, back to his 2017 self.
Since Opening day, the Astros’ fifth outfielder has been Tony Kemp. His 0.5 fWAR ranks 34th in the AL among 61 outfielders with 100 or more AB’s. Most of those ranked behind him have 50 to 100 more at bats than Tony does. He is probably a platoon style starter on a fair number of Major League teams.
There are three other outfielders in the Astros system who have Major League experience. Two of those are currently on the 25-man roster filling the slots of injured starters. They are Derek Fisher and Myles Straw. Last season consensus Top 10 prospect Kyle Tucker saw playing time as well.
The ninth outfielder is the mighty slugger Yordan Alvarez, whose first call-up to the Majors seems imminent and delayed thus far only by the vagaries of arcane eligibility and contract issues.
Let’s look at outfielders 6-9 in this list.
Derek Fisher was drafted by the Astros in the supplemental first round of the 2013 draft. He has been successful at every step of his Minor League career, and this year at Round Rock he was slashing at .314/.361/.500 with 8 home runs in 155 PA’s. Though in two abbreviated stints with the Astros in 2017 and 2018 he disappointed, in 36 plate appearances this year he has a 133 wRC+ and a game winning home run. If he can continue to make good contact, Fisher is a potential four tool player, with elite, top 3% speed, and power, but possessing only average arm strength. On May 31st he hit a 432 foot home run, and last night he hit a line drive out that was clocked at 113 MPH.
Here’s a double that looks like it should have been a single.
Myles Straw’s main strength is blinding speed. In his limited time on the Astros this year he is recorded as running 29.8 ft/sec., which, if he qualified, would make him the eighth fastest runner in the Major Leagues, well above DeLino DeShields, just as a point of comparison.
He profiles as an old school center fielder. He is a pure contact hitter with very little power, and yet every walk or single has a good chance of becoming a double, as he has stolen 91 bases in the last two years, and has been caught only 11 times. In only 14 plate appearances in his recent call-up to the Astros, Straw has scored 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk with three stolen bases. Straw makes excitement happen.
Kyle Tucker would be starting in the outfield on most non-contending teams right now. A number 5 overall draft pick out of high school in 2015, he has raked at every level of the minors but hit a snag in his call-up to the Astros in 2018 and was sent back down. He started slowly at Round Rock this Spring, but despite an abysmal April now has 18 home runs and a .602 SLG. Whatever it was they asked him to work on down on the farm, apparently, he has figured it out.
Which leaves us with perhaps the brightest hitting prospect of all, Yordan Alvarez. At 21 years old, in his first full year in AAA, Alvarez is slashing .355/.451/.765 with 22 home runs and a 183 wRC+. This is down slightly from recent weeks, because opposing teams almost refuse to pitch to him. The only considerations keeping him down on the farm are questions about his defense and Super 2 eligibility. But you can’t keep kids like this on the farm for very long. He’s coming soon.
But where? Where do any of these prime, budding young stars play when the Astros already have the best outfield in the American League?
It seems inevitable that probably two of the nine outfielders are traded. If Fisher and Straw continue much longer to display the contact skills they have shown so far this year, they become very valuable commodities indeed, if they are not already so. No doubt Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez are extremely high value as well, but it is assumed they are off limits. But anything is for sale at the right price.
It seems inevitable that one of these players takes Tyler White’s place on the roster, but he is not an outfielder. Perhaps Tony Kemp’s days are numbered, but although he doesn’t have much trade value, too marginal a player for a contending team, and too old for a tanking team, he’s too good to just release.
So what if the Astros trade all this surplus young talent for, say, pitching help. Therein lies another danger. All of the Astros top four outfielders become free agents after next season. Then what?
Would anyone take Josh Reddick in a trade? Would the Astros be willing to trade Jake Marisnick for the right price?
Somethin’s gotta give. These youngster are rotting in AAA. They can’t stay there until 2021. What kind of trade or other moves do you see the Astros making? Comment below.