By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Minors): 80 G, 314 AB, .306 BA, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 7 SB, .986 OPS
2016 season (Majors): 49 G, 201 AB, .264 BA, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 2 SB, .791 OPS
There are players who progress quickly through the Minor Leagues, and then there’s Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
Drafted second overall in 2015 out of Louisiana State University, Bregman played 66 games on two different Class A teams in his first pro season and began last year at Double-A. Bregman smashed 14 homers with a .297/.415/.559 line in 62 games with Corpus Christi before moving up to Triple-A. After hitting six homers in 18 games there, the Astros decided they had seen enough and called him up to Houston on July 25. Just over a year after being drafted, Bregman had taken the fast lane and made it to the Astros, but that’s where he hit the first speed bump.
Bregman went hitless in his first five games, finally getting his first hit in a 1-for-5 performance. He started out 2-for-38 (.053) in his first 10 games before notching his first multi-hit performance and extra-base hit. There was some concern that Bregman had maybe hit a wall and wasn’t quite ready for the bigs. Fortunately, he made some adjustments and turned a corner to finish the year with strong numbers in 49 games.
While there’s plenty to be excited about, there’s still reason to be cautious. Bregman showed some clear growing pains in his first shot in the Majors, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. His numbers took a dive in most major categories as he saw a drop in batting average and power and a rise in strikeouts. Fortunately, plenty of signs point to progression and improvement entering his first full season.
From Aug. 12 to the end of the season, Bregman hit all eight of his homers in 33 games with a .314/.352/.599 line. If he can hit more consistently like he did in that month-plus, more good things will come. He will have to cut down on his strikeouts and raise his walk rate a bit. He had a 14.7 BB% in 62 games in Double-A, with a .263 ISO and 9.1 K%. If you look at his 146 Minor League games as one whole season, Bregman essentially had a 20-20 season (24 homers, 20 steals) with a .300/.388/.503 line. While it’s not realistic to expect these numbers over 140-plus games in the bigs right away, it still shows what Bregman is capable of when locked in.
We didn’t see the speed from Bregman last year with the Astros, but it was clear that establishing himself on the basepaths was low on his checklist as he worked on improving his overall offense. Bregman was a shortstop in the Minors, but with Carlos Correa locked into that position, Bregman moved to third and played adequately with his solid arm strength and range.
A closer look at Bregman’s plate discipline doesn’t show anything overly concerning. His 27.2 O-Swing% is actually below league average and his 46.6 Swing% is about average, so he’s not swinging wildly and seems to have decent pitch selection. Depth Charts projections have him hitting 20 homers, driving in 79 runs and stealing nine bases with a .267 average this season. In a full year locked in as the starting third baseman, likely hitting sixth or seventh with the potential to hit higher, Bregman shouldn’t have any issues approaching those numbers.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.