What seemed inevitable may have accelerated this week when Alex Bregman’s career elevator took another rise up.
Could the Astros’ decision to promote Bregman to Triple-A have some not-so-hidden meaning as well, though?
Bregman more or less forced Houston’s hand by taking a quantum leap at the Double-A level. He made himself sort of like a new car purchase: The driver wants to see how hard he can be pushed once there is a certain comfort level.
Now the Astros can knock out a few birds with one stone with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft:
1) See exactly how ready Bregman is for the kind of big-league pitching he would see day-in, day-out – how can he adjust and persevere.
2) Put him on display as July baseball heats up and see what kind of trade value he might generate.
Those two elements are tied together by a lot of strings.
It has been written about, rehashed and opined on that Bregman playing shortstop in Houston any time in the near future is an almost non-existent possibility because of Carlos Correa.
Not a bad problem to have, obviously, but still a major hurdle for Bregman, and by proxy, the Astros at this point.
Sliding Bregman to second base sounds like a great plan … except for that Jose Altuve guy putting up MVP numbers this year and endearing himself to the Houston fan base with every swing, every stolen base, every dynamic play in the field.
So where does that leave Bregman? In limbo, but maybe also in a perfect spot for him and the Astros as well.
An upswing in Bregman’s power numbers this season could ostensibly give Houston more flexibility in terms of giving him a look at third base or as an outfielder. He has slammed 14 long flies in 236 at-bats covering 62 games off of Double-A pitching. Maybe that gives the Houston brain-trust some flexibility in terms of shifting and moving Bregman to another position.
Thing is, it’s hard to picture Bregman dislodging any of the Astros’ current outfield mainstays: Carlos Gomez, George Springer or Colby Rasmus. And while Luis Valbuena’s offensive stats are middle-of-the-road (.254, 8 HR, 25 RBI in 66 games) compared to most MLB third baseman, those stats are an upgrade from the rest of his career; in fact, he is on pace for the best offensive season of his career.
And Valbuena is a proven third baseman at the big-league level, which translates to no on-the-job training with the spotlight’s glare on him like Bregman would have to endure.
Not that Bregman isn’t likely to make whatever adjustments are needed quickly and very well. He is that rare breed of player who seems adept at making himself good at whatever he is asked to do.
There is one major part of the equation to consider as well, though: The Astros are suddenly a factor in the American League wild card race after a staggering beginning. Had Houston muddled through another stretch of bad play and been less likely to make a charge, bringing Bregman up and letting him stick his toe in the water as a third baseman-in-training was a much more viable option.
Now, that’s not as appealing a luxury because the Astros, although young, are built to win now and not dabble in the future as much as other teams. Again, a good problem to have.
Which loops back around to what promoting Bregman could give Houston a chance to do: Put him front-and-center for another contender who has some personnel capital to spend.
Right now Bregman is almost as valuable as a trade piece as he would be had he gotten to the big leagues and made a splash. He looms as a building block for a team ready for a fire sale or a potential final piece to the puzzle for a team on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Bottom line is that the timing couldn’t be any better for Bregman or Houston to move him closer to the MLB level and see what he can do or what he might attract.