The Astros have a problem on their hands. No, contrary to what you may hear elsewhere, this is not what you hear moves He may or may not make the Yankees. After the Astros came to terms with Michael Brantley On a one-year, $12 million contract (with incentives), the problem with the Astros is that they’re so loaded.
How does one create a lineup of Jose Abreu, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Jeremy Peña and Kyle Tucker? We sorted it in alphabetical order and it will continue to strike fear into the hearts of opposing managers. Having to craft a lineup this deep is a good deal.
Realistically, we can assume Jose Altuve will lead, while Yordan, Bregman and Tucker Pate 3-4-5. It’s a safe bet that it was recently signed Jose Abreu Sixth bat. This leaves the second and seventh spots open.
Since landing in Houston, Michael Brantley’s spot in the standings has fluctuated between second to fourth. It spent most of its time hitting third or fourth place during the George Springer era, but after Altuve slid to the top spot in 2021, Uncle Mike moved up to second. In 2021, Brantley batted . 309 with a 0.799 OPS in both holes.
Brantley He finished second in all 64 games for his injury-shortened 2022 season, hitting . 288 with a 0.785 OPS, though his contact quality was higher and should see a boost with conversion blocking.
Brantley has made Dusty Baker’s job easy since his arrival. He knows if Brantley is second in the lineup, Jose Altuve will be protected by a contact machine, . 300 left-handed batsman. Now that he’s healthy, putting Brantley back in second place should be a no-brainer, right?
Not so fast…
And an injury left Brantley Baker scrambling to find a two-hole hitter last year. Most of the options Becker tried failed. Then he turned to a newbie and everything changed.
Jeremy Rock He got off to a hot start to the year, but it bogged down as the team threw him fewer fastballs and more sliders. Strike rates went up as his home run rates went down. Among other options, Baker switched to Peña for second. Houston, and Pena, never looked back
Counting the playoffs, the Astros finished 53-9 when Jeremy Pena scored second. Peña of course went on to win both the ALCS and World Series MVP.
In 49 regular season games, Peña batted . 290 with 13 home runs and an .837 OPS. His playoff numbers were even more impressive, coming in at . 345 with a 1.005 OPS. Can Dusty really slide a racket like that down the rankings?
So what does he do? If he wants to ride left and right throughout the lineup so that opposing teams can’t turn to a left-handed specialist for three straight tackles, we’ll likely see something like Altuve, Brantley, Bregman, Alvarez, Abreu, Tucker, and Peña. But can a batter like Kyle Tucker really see the sixth-biggest on your team? With the shift gone, his numbers will resemble a video game on the easiest difficulty. And can the ALCS reigning MVP and World Series MVP justifiably hit a seventh?
Or did Baker put up his playoff line-up and the Abro slot in sixth and Brantley seventh? A hallmark of Astros baseball’s golden age was the depth of the team and the willingness of the top talent to reach the bottom of the standings. Carlos Correa hit .279 with a .926 OPS in 2019 and was seventh-most batting in the World Series.
The Astros lineup is scary. Whichever of the two options Baker trades, Houston must score points in combinations. If it were up to me, I’d go with Brantley.
Peña’s late-season rush was fueled by a leg kick modification that allowed him to give up the pace that gave him spells. As teams continue to adapt to him, how will he respond? With Brantley, you have a . 300 walk hitter with a decade-long career to back it up. Assuming health, Uncle Mike is a sure thing.
If he falters after an injury, or if Peña is so good it requires more plates to appear, Baker can always make a changeup. Really, any way he throws his first seven is going to be a nightmare for opposing shooters to navigate.
Houston won 106 games and a World Series last year without Jose Abreu and, for the most part, without Michael Brantley (he played in only 38 of their wins). Adding them to the championship team is laughably unfair. Astros fans, we’re in for a special season.