In terms of overall productivity since Opening Day in 2017, there hasn’t been a more high-yielding position player for the Astros than Alex Bregman (21.8 fWAR). For a team that has featured Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa during most of that time period, that kind of production is noteworthy. And this is why the month-long absence now being reported due to a quad injury is somewhat concerning.
. @astros Manager Dusty Baker says he doesn't expect 3B Alex Bregman back for at least a month. #astros— SportsTalk 790 (@SportsTalk790) June 29, 2021
The odds are that the Astros are planning to take the cautious approach with Bregman’s injury, making complete sense. It isn’t a surprising stance considering how the star third baseman has had a history of soft muscle injuries in his legs. Although Bregman himself expressed some optimism about how he was feeling not too long ago, it is probably the best decision as you’d rather not have his services now rather than in August and September.
But production at third base in the short-term remains a concern, especially as the club becomes further removed from their 11-game winning streak. In the games following Bregman’s injury (6/17 to present), the hot corner has been covered by either Robel Garcia or Abraham Toro. In that time, the duo has a combined 111 wRC+ worth 0.4 fWAR, which is respectable considering the circumstances. That said, the duo has looked particularly rough in the last seven games with a 24 wRC+ and no extra-base hits. Small sample applies here, yes, but the drop-off from Bregman to the bench is rather apparent. Not a surprise, though.
Manager Dusty Baker appears intent on having Garcia and Toro split time at the position until Bregman returns based on the early returns. At this point, I think the Astros ought to know what they have in Garcia, who, like Toro, is a switch-hitter. Unlike Toro, however, Garcia does tend to strike out at a higher clip, limiting his walk potential. By contrast, we’ve seen a nice little bump in Toro’s walk rate in limited time compared to what we saw last season. Again, the sample is small, so it isn’t wise to draw too many hard conclusions, but it is hard to ignore the developing trends outright.
It is rather obvious that the Astros are a better team overall when Bregman plays than not. No matter the length, his absence is a tough development for a club that was catching fire this month. As long as he doesn’t look consistently overmatched, Toro would be my choice as the primary third baseman until further notice. Alas, there is also a reason why I just blog about baseball. Houston can probably weather this storm just fine if Bregman is back in the lineup by late July to early August, as there is plenty of offensive firepower in this lineup. But if there is a setback or delay in his recovery, then third base is looking more like a weakness.