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Jose Siri Succeeding in Spring

Once on the brink of top prospect status, Siri now qualifies as a post-hype sleeper, but has played some of his best ball over the last year.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Houston Astros Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

During a period of time in which it has been difficult for non-MLB baseball players to garner much attention, new Astros Jose Siri has repeatedly made headlines for his DWL and spring training heroics. Most recently he found himself making the rounds on Twitter for an... unfortunate interaction with Yadier Molina during a game, but he has also generated a lot of excitement with his play. Once a top prospect in the Reds system, Siri has a wide range of big tools that made him an interesting low-risk signing for the Astros, and since being brought in, he’s been able to capitalize on them in a way he hasn’t since his low minors days, prompting hopes that he could be a bench piece at some point during the 2021 season.

Signed all the way back in 2012 by Cincinnati, Siri’s path through the minors has been a long and winding one. Immediately, he was known for his broad range of tools, which included plus running ability, a plus arm, impressive outfield actions and the ability to manage an explosive swing while maintaining control of his body. He had some real success in rookie ball, piling up homers and steals while patrolling center field, but began displaying a severely over-aggressive approach that tempered expectations and prolonged his stay in short-season. In total he made five rookie-level stops before making the jump to Low-A in mid-2016, where he began to demonstrate the profile he’d become known for over the next few years.

In his first taste of the full-season game, Siri got into 27 games and hit .320/.348/.560 with 3 homers and 9 steals, totals that excited fantasy owners and upside-minded prospectors, but they were counterbalanced by a 3.1% walk rate and 25.9% strikeout rate, which prevented his hype from exploding. That would change in 2017, when Siri erupted for a .293/.341/.530 slash over 126 games while making marginal improvements to his plate discipline numbers and accumulating 24 home runs and 46 steals. The approach was still highly concerning, but the rest of the package was so impressive that evaluators were starting to overlook it. Some players are able to post so much value in other facets of the game that they can play at a high level despite on-base deficiencies, and Siri had the look of that type of player.

Following the breakout, Siri was commonly placed at the back end of top-100 lists, and he was promoted to the High-A level to begin the following season. It was at this point that his trajectory started to get a little bit strange- despite struggling to open the year, Siri was pushed to Double-A in mid-2018, with predictable results. His approach was further exposed in the upper minors, and he struck out in 32.2% of his plate appearances at the level. Despite continuing to post big power/speed numbers, evaluators were becoming less confident Siri could overcome the flaws in his approach, and he was moved out of top-100s. Some held out hope that he’d turn things around with more exposure to high minors pitching, but 2019 went largely the same, as Siri again struck out in over 30% of his plate appearances across Double and Triple-A.

With the Reds improving at the major league level and facing a roster crunch, Siri was eventually designated for assignment in January 2020, and spent most of that season in the San Francisco organization, who outrighted him to Triple-A in July, where he’d remain for a few months before electing free agency, at which point he was scooped up by Houston. Fresh off of his signing with the Astros, Siri shipped out to the Dominican to participate in LIDOM, where he ended up playing some of his best ball since his 2017 breakout. Rejoining Los Gigantes del Cibao, with whom he had appeared in the 2017-2019 seasons, Siri enjoyed a solid .282/.352/.427 slash in the regular season while playing gold glove defense in center field, and erupted in the postseason with 5 home runs, helping Cibao reach the league finals. His strikeout and walk numbers were similar to past LIDOM experiences, but his on-field confidence and quality of contact improved, which ended up making him one of the league’s more exciting players this past season.

Encouraged by the performance, the Astros invited Siri to big league camp, where he has done nothing but impress since. In game action he has gone 4 for 12 thus far with a home run and some impressive range in the outfield, drawing the attention of coaches and teammates. His profile really hasn’t changed much- he’s still a free swinger, and every bit as athletic as ever. While the flaws in his game haven’t disappeared, there was a time when evaluators felt that he could succeed in spite of them, and that may still be a possibility, however modest the chances. With limited depth in center field to open the year, opportunity could be there for Siri at some point, and even if he’ll face a tall order managing his approach at the highest level, he’s currently playing with a ton of confidence and should be ready to answer the call, come what may. If nothing else, he’ll make any game he plays in a more exciting one.