Like their last opponent, the Astros have only played a few short games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in their history. The two teams have split the six games they've played between them, with one series each played at each team's home ballpark. There's not a lot to go off of in terms of head-to-head history here, but there is one player who snuck onto the Angels' opening day roster that would surprise even the most enthused Astros fan.
J.B. Shuck was drafted in the eighth round in 2008 by the Houston Astros out of The Ohio State University. Shuck then reached minor league hero status, garnering All Star honors in the New York-Penn League, Texas League and Pacific Coast League. His minor league numbers are really pretty amazing; though he's only hit six professional home runs, he's always provided a decent average, stolen some bases and simply refused to strike out. He's also shown an ability to get on base. His lowest OBP for a full season came in 2010 when he split time between Corpus and Oklahoma City with a .366 clip. Yeah that was his lowest, crazy right?
On August 5, Shuck made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter for JA Happ against Yovani Gallardo. He slapped a 2-2 fastball into center, then proceeded to hold the ball he just hit, given to him by Prince Fielder. It's a pretty cool moment, and he even tries his hardest to hold back a huge grin as he's standing on first base.
Shuck hit .272 over 81 at-bats in 2011, and only struck out seven times. He mostly played as a defensive replacement in the outfield, as the Astros began their youth movement that September after the Second Great Wade Exportation. The likes of Chris Johnson, Jimmy Paredes, Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez were all competing for playing time as young players trying to separate themselves from the rest, so Shuck found his playing time limited.
Shuck failed to make the opening day squad in 2012, as the Astros opted for Travis Buck as their fourth outfielder. He spent all of 2012 at OKC, posting a .298/.374/.352 line. I'm pretty puzzled as to why Shuck didn't get a second call-up to Houston last year; as Martinez, Jordan Schafer and Bogusevic all struggled, other outfielders got the call either from the minors or the waiver wire.
Shuck cleared waivers last fall and elected free agency instead of a minor league assignment. Good move on his part; he obviously didn't fit into the Astros' plans anymore, and was passed over on the "outfielder who can't really hit for power but gets on base, runs well, plays defense, et al." category by Brandon Barnes. Barnes did everything Shuck did, only a little better; he hit for more power and a higher average in 2012 in OKC, and there's only room on even one of the worst major league squads for a light hitting, defense-first outfielder. Barnes simply played that role a little better than Shuck, so he earned the spot.
Lost in the flurry of offseason moves was Shuck's minor league deal with the Angels. I consider myself pretty alert on roster moves concerning former Astros, but even I completely missed this one. I was pretty shocked when opening day rolled around to see Shuck had made the Angels roster, though he played his way in with a .358 average and .382 OBP in 53 spring at-bats. He's only had four trips to the plate so far this year, but conventional wisdom says he should face his former team at least once this weekend.
The life of a light hitting fourth outfielder can be a tough one in the majors; even the Astros passed Shuck over for hitters who had more power potential. On a team chock full of talent like the Angels, this could potentially be the only time we see Shuck this season. Similar to all things concerning the game of baseball, you just never know.