By Juan Paez
The Astros are not in a comfortable position. They need to fill the holes left in the outfield by the expected departures of George Springer and Michael Brantley. And even though they can explore other options, they are not expected to re-sign both of them, with Brantley being the most likely to come back to H-Town. Among the names the Astros have to play in the yard, Myles Straw appears as an intriguing option. Should he be tested in CF to see whether he can succeed in the role?
That’s a tricky question though, especially after Straw’s rough 2021 performance at the plate: .207/.244/.256/.500 in 86 plate appearances. If I was Astros GM James Click, I wouldn’t rest until I have established center and right fielders (assuming Kyle Tucker will play LF and Yordan Álvarez will serve as the DH), no matter if they are the Springer-Brantley tandem or not.
But in case I can’t re-sign Springer to have him back in center field nor get someone else via trade or free agency, Straw is the first man I’d need to take a look at. In fact, Click recently said Straw is one of the options for CF in ’21.
Why do I think that?
Well, obviously, the 26-year-old doesn’t have the power or the ability to drive in runs like Springer has, but he’s already shown he can hit for a decent average, get on base at a high rate thanks to his plate discipline, and be a good runner, which also helps his defense. At his best, he can be the prototypical leadoff guy.
Putting his bad 2020 aside, Straw made good contributions offensively to the 2019 Astros in a bigger sample size than this year. He finished that season with a .269/.378/.343 slash line, 27 scored runs, eight steals out of nine attempts, and 19 bases on balls across only 128 plate appearances (56 games).
Even better: 2019 wasn’t the only year he had a great on-base percentage. It was .391 in the Minors that year, .381 in 2018, .405 in 2017, and .423 in 2016. I mean, the speedy man can get on base pretty often.
If you’re questioning the guy for his awful 2020, I think it had to do with his hitting approach. While his plate discipline was as good as always, he hit more fly balls than ever, according to FanGraphs: 42.4%. And guess what… He was an unlucky 0-for-20 when he hit the ball to the sky, despite a career-best EV of 87.4 mph. Remove those at-bats and he would’ve had a much more acceptable .258 batting average.
Besides, take a look at his career plate discipline:
Stat/ Number/ 2020 MLB Average
Whiff%/ 14.9%/ 24.5%
1st pitch swing%/ 21.4%/ 28.3%
Chase%/ 18.2%/ 28.2%
Contact%/ 86.4%/ 75.3%
Swing%/ 38.5%/ 45.9%
The short sample of the super-strange 2020 season should be discounted to some extent. Straw’s BB% was one-third his 2019 result at 4.7%, and his K% was seven points higher at 25.6%. That’s what happens to a major league rookie with marginal skills who got almost no prep time before the season and only sporadic at-bats during the season.
Depth charts projects Straw in 2021 to slash .254/.331/.339 and add 1.0 WAR as a mostly full-time player. Considering the havoc he can wreak once on base, this might just do in a pinch.
The Astros will probably get the outfielders they’re searching for. But if not, Straw seems like an intriguing option to at least take a look at during Spring Training.
Is Myles Straw an adequate 3rd outfielder for the Astros in 2021
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