The left field position has been a problem all season long for the Houston Astros. It was no different in Wednesday night’s loss to the Atlanta Braves. Three players have been used on a regular basis: Alex Presley, L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman; none of which have done anything to make you think they are starting caliber outfielders.
Presley has gotten the most opportunities to prove himself by playing in 58 games, 27 of those in left field, and getting 167 at-bats. In those at-bats, Presley has gotten 39 hits and struck out 26 times. Of the 39 hits, three were home runs and four others were extra-base hits. That gives Presley an average of .234, an on-base percentage of .282 and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .599. This is good enough to be near the bottom of all left fielders in the major leagues that equal or surpass his amount of playing time. The sad thing is this is the best option on the team.
Grossman has the most playing time in left field with the Astros, with 30 of his 35 games in the corner outfield spot. He has 18 hits in 114 at-bats to the tune of a .158 batting average. That is just bad for a player that finished last season on fire. His OBP is .273 and his OPS is.536. As you could imagine, it doesn’t rank well statistically.
Hoes has been no different. In his 67 games, he has hit .209 with a .289 OBP and a .633 OPS. All three players combined put the Astros in the bottom third of every offensive category in the majors at left field. This needs to change if the Astros want to have success in the win column. The answer, though, may be lingering at the Triple-A affiliate for the Astros in Oklahoma City.
Outfielder Domingo Santana, who was acquired as the player to be named later when Astros dealt Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies, is having a very good season in the minors. He is hitting .295 with a .377 OBP, an .870 OPS and 12 home runs. He is making a strong case to be called up, but there is one problem. He is only 21 years old.
The Astros typically, Jordan Lyles aside, don’t like to bring up players that are still young. However, with as bad as the left field play has been at the majors it is hard for the Astros not to seriously consider making the call. Granted, the Astros are not close to competing this year and this makes it even less likely to see Santana anytime soon. They don’t want to start his arbitration clock before it is absolutely necessary and they want to make sure he is comfortable enough at the plate to not let a struggle in the majors kill his confidence.
It may not be until September, but it would be wise to get the kid some playing time in the majors if the Astros’ trio of left fielders continues to struggle. With Jon Singleton and George Springer already called up and the attendance on the rise, the Astros just may make their fans sit tight while they let Santana develop a bit, since it is his first year at Oklahoma City.