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January 9, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Abreu, Baker, and the Astros' First Base Battle

by Daniel Rathman


Astros’ first-base job up for grabs
The Astros will almost surely be irrelevant in the 2014 playoff picture, but prospect enthusiasts will eagerly await the first wave of talent working its way through the farm system. Four of the top five prospects in the pipeline boast 2014 ETAs, and Jonathan Singleton could earn a promotion to the majors on Opening Day.

That news comes straight from the horse’s mouth, as general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters on Wednesday, “it’s going to be a good, healthy competition.” Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle relayed the quotes, and noted in a subsequent tweet that the spring training battle could be a five-way race.

To win the job, the challengers must unseat incumbent Brett Wallace, who batted .221/.284/.431 in his fourth season as a big-leaguer. Wallace was once a top prospect, but that shine is long gone. A 36.5 percent strikeout rate in 285 plate appearances will do that to a 27-year-old whose walk percentages are tumbling as his swings-and-misses rise.

Jesus Guzman, who was acquired from the Padres in a December barter for infielder Ryan Jackson, has one calling card: his ability to punish left-handed pitching. Despite playing half of his career games at Petco Park, Guzman has compiled a .286/.358/.460 triple-slash line versus southpaws while playing first base and left field. Unfortunately, Guzman carries virtually no defensive value and is at most a short-end platoon player; his .244 career TAv against righties won’t fly at a premium offensive position.

That leaves the spot open to newcomer Japhet Amador, as well as Singleton and Marc Krauss, whom the Astros got from the Diamondbacks for Chris Johnson in July 2012. Krauss clubbed Triple-A pitching last year, but scuffled in his first taste of the majors and has seen only sporadic action at first base as a pro. Former Mexican Leaguer Japhet Amador is a mammoth 6-foot-4, 315-pounder who will need to prove that he wields more than just a big-time boomstick.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Which T... (01/07)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: AL Rota... (01/13)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (01/09)

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