If you don't pay much attention to the Astros minor leagues (and you wouldn't be alone), you may have missed the sensational start at Triple A Round Rock by young Cuban outfield prospect Yordan Alvarez. If you're wondering why we care given how good the Astros are at the moment, you need only look at his gaudy stat line.
He has 18 home runs in 39 games and his slash line is a ridiculous .411/.494/.884.
Among the hard core Stros fans, there has been a noticeable uptick in the calls for Alvarez to join the major league club, preferably sooner rather than later. On the surface it makes sense given his seeming mastery of the minors and a lefty bat the Astros wouldn't mind having in the lineup.
So, what are the Astros waiting for, exactly?
For one, the team is loaded with outfielders, few of whom have done anything to merit a demotion. While George Springer might miss a few games with a stiff back, that still leaves Josh Reddick, who continues to hit consistently well, Jake Marisknick, who is one of the best defensive outfielders in the AL, and Tony Kemp, a reliable utility guy. To call up a replacement, particularly one you expect to remain on the roster, Springer would need to be out for quite a while and all indications are he will return soon.
Then there's the ridiculous complexity that is minor league players and their contracts. The guys over at the Crawfish Boxes did a far better job explaining how that works than we could. Suffice it to say, if the Astros wait until later in June to call up Alvarez, it could benefit them significantly in terms of controlling the young outfielder's contract and arbitration numbers. Sure, fans could care less about that now, but the Astros aren't being paid to think only in the short term.
Finally, there is the fact that the Astros aren't just winning, they are putting up mind numbing stats on the offensive side of the ball. The reality is they don't really need another slugger right now.
Yes, you could put Alvarez at DH, where Tyler White has struggled despite his homer on Monday night. And, yes, the more bats, the better. And, of course, who cares about money if you are a fan, right?
But, a more important issue is the development of a guy who will turn 22 in a month. If you are going to bring him up, the intention should be to do it for good and to build your strategy around getting Alvarez as many meaningful at bats as possible. There is no guarantee he'll excel as a rookie — ask fans if they remember the first couple months for Alex Bregman or former Astro slugger Jon Singleton. It doesn't always work out the way fans want.
Still, there is no doubt Jeff Lunhow wants to get Alvarez to the bigs and certainly he and A.J. Hinch could find room for him on the roster. But if waiting a month saves the franchise a bunch of money and keeps a potential All-Star in the fold for longer, who cares if he gets called up in May or June?
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