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Astros MiLB Position Review: First Base

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A quick review of the first base position in the Astros system.

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times
Hooks’ Norel Gonzalez prepares to throw to first base against the Amarillo Sod Poodles, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at Whataburger Field. Hooks won, 17-4.
Annie Rice/Caller-Times via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Now that the season is over we will review each position in the minor league system during the 2021 season. This week I will be looking at the first base position.

Previous Position Reviews:

Catcher

TOP PERFORMERS

Scott Schreiber

Schreiber was the top performer at the first base position in 2021. The 9th round pick from 2018 started the year in High-A and slashed .319/.382/.575 with 10 HR, 29 RBI in 41 games before earning a promotion to Double-A. There he hit .264 with a .796 OPS and 7 HR in 38 games. The guy is built like a Mack truck at 6’3” and 230 lbs. Overall he had a 131 wRC+ and respectable 22.0 K%. He has the ability to play the corner outfields as well but played the majority of his games at first base in 2021.

2021 Stats: 80 G, .293 BA/.355 OBP/.527 SLG, 15 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 8 SB, 131 wRC+

Norel Gonzalez

Gonzalez is another prospect in the Cuban pipeline who signed with the Astros back in January. Gonzalez started the season in Double-A and slashed .283/.365/.511 with 17 2B, 12 HR in 65 games. He started slow (first live games since 2019) but got hot and showed what he could do in June hitting .359 in 22 games. He earned a promotion to Triple-A where he had a .713 OPS in 23 games. He is a big guy at 6-1 and 240 lbs but has the bat to play first base at the higher levels.

2021 Stats: 88 G, .275 BA/.352 OBP/.481 SLG, 20 2B, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 118 wRC+

J.J. Matijevic

Matijevic was drafted by the Astros in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft (one of the comp picks in the hacking scandal). He has shown his power throughout his time in the Astros system and that continued in 2021. He started the year in Double-A and posted a .912 OPS with 9 HR in 31 games earning a promotion to Triple-A. There, he hit .245 but had 19 2B, 16 HR in 78 games. He finished the season with a 113 wRC+ and a 11.6 BB%. He also finished second in the system with 25 HR.

2021 Stats: 109 G, .254 BA/.341 OBP/.512 SLG, 23 2B, 3 3B, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 113 wRC+

THE REST OF THE PACK

Victor Mascai

Mascai has some loud tools, and he showed some of them off in 2021. Despite hitting just .186, he had a .726 OPS with 9 HR and a 18.6 BB% in 53 games. He played in full season ball at just 20 years old in 2021. He has a ways to go, but the tools are there.

2021 Stats: 53 G, .186 BA/.330 OBP/.395 SLG, 7 2B, 9 HR, 32 RBI

Luis Encarnacion

Encarnacion was signed for $220k in 2019-2020 signing period and 2021 was his first season playing in the system. He played in 56 games for the DSL Astros and slashed ..320/.401/.426 with 11 2B and 15 SB. The Astros are in the process of converting him to catcher but he played most of his games at first base in 2021.

2021 Stats: 55 G, .320 BA/.401 OBP/.426 SLG, 11 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 15 SB, 136 wRC+

Omar Diaz

Diaz is another low level prospect that had a good season with the bat. The 19 year old hit .324 in 29 games in the FCL, but only had 5 XBHs. He is still young but for him to stick at first base, the power will have to come around eventually.

2021 Stats: 29 G, .324 BA/.451 OBP/.419 SLG, 4 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 144 wRC+

2022 OUTLOOK/CONCLUSION

The first base position has been locked up for a while with Yuli Gurriel on the big league club. He showed no signs of slowing down in 2021, but he will be 38 next season. The Astros don’t have any top prospects at this position but we have seen them move players to first base based on need, like they did with Gurriel, and may do with Alvarez or someone else down the line. They have some depth with Taylor Jones and even a guy like Matijevic, and then some young guys down in rookie ball. As we saw last week with the catcher position, there are plenty of bats there that could move to first if needed.