This is not an offense to current Houston Astros center fielder, George Springer. Springer carried the team last year and throughout the postseason. However, Jake Marisnick needs to take over as the starting center fielder.
Marisnick was having a career year for the Houston Astros in 2017. That is, before a thumb injury derailed him for the rest of the year. He almost double his home run total for his career, was one RBI away from tying a career high, and was walking more than ever. All of this while going out in early September.
Not only did he miss the rest of the season, but this injury forced him to miss all of the playoffs. This, however, did not stop Marisnick from getting ready for the 2018 season. It took him nearly all of spring training to get his feet back underneath him. He slashed .207/.262/.276 with zero home runs during spring training.
During the opening series against the Rangers, Marisnick kept his power stroke from 2017. He launched two homers in two starts in Arlington. However, he did not collect another hit the rest of the series.
Why should he start?
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As soon as Yuli Gurriel comes back from his suspension on April 3rd, Marwin Gonzalez is slated to return to left field more regularly. So that means that outfield is set, right? Gonzalez will primarily play left, George Springer in center, and Josh Reddick in right. However, the outfield may need a shake up.
Marisnick’s newfound power paired with his defensive prowess makes him a must play. Marisnick is more of a true center fielder than Springer is. In fact, according to SABR, the defensive rating with Marisnick in center and Springer in right is higher than with Springer in center. Springer grades better as a right fielder than he does in center. So adding Marisnick would give the Astros pitching staff, who is number one in all of baseball, more defensive security.
So who is the odd man out?
Unfortunately, it may be the fan favorite, Reddick. Reddick is an good defender and an above average batter. Yes, he hit .314 last year, but that is well above his career average, which was .255 before last year. Reddick just managed his first hit yesterday. Marisnick played fewer games than Reddick in 2017, yet slugged more home runs. You drop a little bit in average, but the dingers will be worth it.
This does not mean that Reddick should ride the pine the rest of 2018. He is going to be a key contributor on the road to repeating this year. However, Marisnick gives the team the best shot to repeat. His energy levels, speed, defensive chops, and power make him too much of a plus to not play.
If anyone can figure out this puzzle, it is Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch. It may mean more of a rotation at DH. It may mean a younger guy gets fewer opportunities. Whatever it is, Hinch needs to get Marisnick in center field for defensive value and for that newfound home run power.