Throughout the week, Today’s Knuckleball will look at — and rank — the top five minor leaguers who figure to be called up and make their major league debuts at some point this season. Coming in at No. 3 is Houston Astros infield prospect Alex Bregman.
If you missed #5, Athletics infielder Ryon Healy, catch up here.
If you missed #4, Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe, catch up here.
The Houston Astros thought highly enough of Alex Bregman that they used the second overall selection in the last year’s amateur draft to select him from Louisiana State.
The 22-year-old infielder has not disappointed in his first full professional season, reaching Triple-A on June 30 when he was promoted to Fresno from Double-A Corpus Christi.
Bregman hit .294 with 14 home runs and a .975 OPS in 62 games at Corpus Christi. He has adjusted quickly to the Pacific Coast League, getting off to a sizzling start by going 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles and four home runs in his first six games.
MLBPipeline.com ranks Bregman as the Astros’ top prospect. Baseball America had him No. 3 on its list at the end of last season as well as baseball’s 42nd-best prospect entering spring training.
A promotion to the major leagues seems to be in the offing relatively soon. A sure sign came last month when he began making the conversion from shortstop to third baseman at Corpus Christi.
“He’s really driving the ball, showing some power, playing some solid defense,” Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Definitely a guy who’s got many tools. We’ll see how he continues to perform. He’s in the same class of a Carlos Correa. They’re able to make adjustments quick in their career and has a chance to get to the bigs real quick.”
Shortstop figures to be the domain of Correa for many years to come with the Astros. He is just 21 years old, was the American League Rookie of the Year last season, and does not become eligible for free agency until following the 2021 seasons.
However, it is conceivable to see Bregman replacing Luis Valbuena at third base sometime over the final two-and-a-half months of the season. Valbuena is having a solid season with a .257 batting average, nine home runs and an .800 OPS in 73 games, but it could be difficult for him to hold off Bregman.
The Astros made the postseason last season and have overcome a slow start this year to improve their record to 45-39, 7.5 games behind division-leading Texas.
The question for general manager Jeff Luhow will likely end up being whether he doesn’t want to mess with the status quo and stick with Valbuena, or gamble that Bregman can give the Astros an added push toward the playoffs.
A scout from another AL team thinks the choice will be easy for Luhnow.
“I tend to be conservative when it comes to pushing players but I think Bregman is just about ready for the major leagues now,” the scout said. “He’s a true five-tool player. He can do it all. He can hit for average, hit for power, run, catch the ball and he’s got plenty of arm to play third base.
“I don’t see how he can miss. I’d love to be in the Astros’ shoes, knowing they are going to have him and Correa on the left side of the infield for years to come. That’s a heckuva combination right there.”