The Situation: Houston is right in the thick of the playoff chase again, and with A.J. Reed struggling to get on base or hit for power upon his promotion, the Astros will instead call on the best prospect in their system, Alex Bregman.
Background: Bregman was a potential second-round selection coming into the 2012 draft out of Albuquerque, but it was clear that he was set on attending LSU, and attend LSU he did. He quickly established himself as one of the best players in college baseball, posting a .963 OPS in his freshman year and quickly became a legit candidate to be the top player taken in the 2015 draft. A so-so sophomore season saw his stock slide ever so slightly, but he hit .323/.412/.535 and was taken second overall by Houston that June. After an impressive first professional season, Bregman destroyed pitching this spring/summer, posting a 1.016 OPS, earning a trip to the Futures Game (where he nearly hit for the cycle), and becoming one of the best prospects in baseball.
Scouting Report: There are very few players who can legitimately impact the game in every (possible) facet of the game. Bregman is one of those guys. Let’s start with the hit tool. Bregman’s swing stays in the zone with very little wasted movement. His above-average bat speed and ability to keep his hands in allows him to hit the ball with authority everywhere. He’s an assertive hitter who will jump on pitches early in the count, but isn’t afraid to wait for his pitch and will draw his fair share of walks as well.
The big development—and the one that makes him one of the best prospects in baseball now—is the power. Bregman has added some strength, incorporated more of his lower half, and with some increased loft has turned what was once an average tool at best now into one that could be above-average, maybe even plus. It’s mostly to the pull side, but he can take the ball out to right-center, and he’ll hit plenty of doubles that way. He hasn’t run as much as a pro as he did in college, but he’s a smart runner with good enough wheels to give you double-digit steals, and he won’t be anything close to a baseclogger.
Talking about Bregman’s defense is difficult, because the sample sizes at the positions he’ll be playing is miniscule. Most believed that he was going to have to move off shortstop, but the reason he’s leaving has less to do with Bregman and more to do with some guy named Carlos Correa. He’s a good athlete with excellent instincts, so whether he’s playing third or left or anything but center, he should be adequate there. A defensive star he is not, but a guy who will provide more good than bad is likely, if not a foregone conclusion.
Immediate Big-League Future: There is no such thing as a sure thing in baseball. It’s entirely possible that Bregman has some sort of weakness that will be exposed by big-league pitchers, and baseball is really hard. All of that being said, it’s tough to see Bregman not becoming a quality player. He’s such a smart player and there’s such a high floor here that seeing him not end up becoming a contributor immediately would be more surprising than the alternative. If he is, in fact, coming up to play left field (he’s spent three of the past four games there) the bat is going to have to play immediately. I’d be surprised if it didn’t. This guy is really good. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: There’s no question that the most interesting player fantasy call up remaining this season was in Houston, it’s just a matter of whether it’s this guy or the one who will likely follow suit in a couple of weeks, Yulieski Gurriel. For me, it’s Bregman. For those of you with five-game eligibility, he’ll likely start off with that wonderful SS next to his name, but will pick up at least outfield and potentially even third base as well depending on his usage over the next two months.
As far as current talent level, regardless of position, Bregman was the best hitter in the minors leagues until, well, earlier today. We knew when he was drafted that he was going to be someone who would be able to hit near .300 and potentially compete for batting titles if everything clicked. However, even at the start of this season, no one anticipated him putting on the sort of power display that he has in the upper minors. It’s not so much that the 44 extra-base hits he had in 80 games this year was that unexpected, it’s the fact that almost half of them (20) went over the fence. And likewise, just because he’s hitting bombs at an incredible rate doesn’t mean he’s all of a sudden a 30-plus home run guy in the majors. The realistic best-case scenario with Bregman is that he’s Dustin Pedroia without the second base eligibility—which is a fantasy star anywhere on the diamond.
Insofar as this year goes, Bregman should play every day and get a solid 225 at bats or so the rest of the way. Given the plate discipline he’s shown throughout every stop in the minors, he should be able to hit for some average right away and show off some of that newfound power as well. Given the full complement of at bats, it’s not out of the question that he could hit .280-.290 with 5-7 homers the rest of the way. He’s not a zero on the basepaths either, but expecting more than five steals out of him the rest of the way is likely to disappoint. Where the Astros hit him in the lineup is to be seen, but I’d expect him to be in a relatively prominent spot in short order.
Bregman should have already been owned in every keeper and dynasty format, but if due to some quirk in your rules he was not, you should bid the remainder of your fortune on him or use that top waiver priority. The only prospect more valuable in that setting is Yoan Moncada, and he’s an extreme long shot to see the majors in 2016. In redraft leagues, he needs to be owned everywhere—even in the shallowest of formats. In deep mixed and AL-only leagues, winning Bregman’s services will cost you a pretty penny and you should be more than willing to shell it out. If you’re sitting pretty in a mono league, spending now on the sure thing is a better bet than waiting to see if Julio Teheran, Jonathan Lucroy or Melvin Upton head to the American League. Short version: drop that hammer. —Bret Sayre
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