For a team that is struggling as mightily as the Houston Astros, the one thing the fans have to look forward to is the promotion of the prospects they’ve heard so much about. And with a farm system as strong as the Astros, it adds to the excitement. With Jonathan Villar and Jarred Cosart already making an impact on the big league level, the question becomes, who’s next?
When J.D. Martinez was sent to the DL July 26, it left a void in the outfield that many felt should have been filled by surging prospect George Springer, who is on the verge of a historic 30 HR and 30 SB season, which hasn’t happened in the minor leagues since 2009. In all likelihood, he will proceed to a 40-40 season, which would be the first in 57 years. Springer is hitting .349 with 10 HR, 28 RBI and 12 SB in 109 at bats for Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks.
But it wasn’t the Astros No. 3 rated prospect that got the call.
Instead the Astros gave Robbie Grossman his second call-up of the season. Grossman, who’s three days older than his former Triple-A teammate, was hovering around a .200 average when he was named as the Astros starting center fielder in May.
Astros fans have long awaited the arrival of the potential five-tool Springer, so why did GM Jeff Luhnow turn to Grossman instead?
While Springer outshines Grossman in just about every offensive category, there is one statistic that stands out — strikeouts. Springer has struck out 96 times in 273 at-bats at the minor league level. The Astros lead the majors in strikeouts at 985, 70 ahead of the next closest team, while also commandeering the lead of strikeouts with a runner on third and less than two outs. Similarly, the Astros have the seventh least walks. Springer may not be the immediate answer. Not to mention, he would have to be added to the 40-man roster.
It’s the one area that Grossman is superior to Springer that matters — plate discipline. When Grossman was still with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was the first minor leaguer since 2004 with 100 walks and 100 runs. This plate discipline is exactly what the Astros need at a time when strikeouts are a recurring problem. While Grossman doesn’t offer the potential five-tools that Springer does, he was the right call up for the time. He puts the ball in play, gets on base and has enough speed to wreak havoc on the base paths.
Grossman’s first two games have showed that he is up to the challenge, going 4-6 with a 2B, SB, BB and most importantly, zero strikeouts.