NEXT MAN UP
Astros young guns making a statement with superstar players on the mend
The baseball season is a marathon. 162 games played over the course of roughly six months or so means you're playing almost every single day. It's a grind. Sure the game isn't as physically taxing as football or basketball, but it's not easy. Hitting a round ball with a round bat is very difficult.
Injuries are a part of any and every sport. In MLB, they can be especially tough on position players because you miss almost a game a day when you're out. Pitchers are different. Starters may miss a handful of starts, while relievers may miss a few chances to pitch. When guys like Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Lance McCullers Jr, and Michael Brantley (among others) miss time, it hurts. These are the guys who helped turn this team into what it is right now. Players missing time also coincides with the team's typical slow start.
Every year, this team starts off slow, picks up steam, gets a sizable division lead, makes the playoffs, and goes to the ALCS. Every year, fans will freak out and turn into Chicken Little. This year, guys like Mauricio Dubon, Corey Julks, Jake Meyers, and Chas McCormick are stepping up. Just like Yordan, Kyle Tucker, and Jeremy Pena have previously, one of these young guys will take the next step. One of them will be the new breakout star that this team has constantly produced since they burst onto the scene in 2015. Maybe more than one.
Dubon has earned more playing time. When Altuve gets back, he should be at his normal spot at second base and near the top of the lineup. Dubon can play the outfield, specifically center. That's where he should be upon Altuve's return. When this team let Carlos Correa walk, everyone was sad. When Pena became what he became last year, NOBODY saw that coming! Dubon won't “Wally Pip” Altuve so calm down. However, he's proven he's worthy of being an everyday MLB player on a good team.
The other outfield positions are typically filled by Tucker and Yordan. If Yordan is still hurt, Julks should be the next man up to get more playing time. I know Meyers has had some good moments as a fill-in player the past couple years, but I want to see what Julks can do. We've seen what Meyers can do already. McCormick is okay. He and Meyers are good fill-in guys. They're all around the same age (Meyers 26, Julks 27, McCormick 28). Julks is hitting .317, while Meyers is at .302 and McCormick is at .275 this season so far. Now you can see why I'm prioritizing them in that order.
Brantley is the one where I'd bring him along more slowly. He can DH when Yordan is playing left. Maybe even play some first when Jose Abreu needs a day. He's a solid vet and pro hitter. He doesn't need the day in, day out routine to get going. Although it helps him stay in rhythm, I feel he can be jump started much easier than the younger guys due to his experience. Plus, this allows the guys who could be the future of this team more time to play and develop. I want him around more as a veteran presence than I do as a consistent player.
Some of you may feel nostalgic. You may want the vets to play. Some of these guys you may see as favorites because they may have played here for a couple of seasons. I don't care about any of that. Emotions don't make plays and can lead to bad business decisions. I see what the future of this team can look like. I want to see it come to fruition. One day, Altuve won't be playing second. One day, Brantley will be Paw Paw Mike instead of Uncle Mike. One day, Yordan's knees will have had enough. Preparing for the future while acknowledging the past is a tricky deal. Feelings will get hurt and fans may not always be happy. At least I'm hoping this team will let the future play more than acknowledging the past.