The Houston Astros are off to a hot start, 10 games above the .500 mark, with a 23-13 record, in first place in the American League West Division, 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Angels.
The Astros can contribute a significant part of their success because of the breakout campaign of their center fielder, Jake Marisnick.
Marisnick had spent part of the last three seasons in the Majors with Miami (2012-2013) and Houston (2014) and was a career .227 hitter (75-for-330) in 105 Major League appearances. The 24-year-old part-time outfielder with the Marlins, was acquired as part of the deal, by the Astros, in the trade that sent pitcher Jarred Cosart to Miami.
There was a time Marisnick was considered one of Miami’s top prospects. Entering 2014 Baseball America had him ranked as the Marlins #3 prospect and the #79 prospect overall. He certainly has the tools and potential to play solid defense, producing double digits in home runs and stolen bases, but in his brief call up for Miami in 2014, Marisnick hit .167/.216/.167, striking out 19 times in 51 plate appearances for the Marlins.
When Marisnick arrived in Houston he assumed the role as the Astros everyday center fielder, with Dexter Fowler and George Springer both on the DL. In 51 games for Houston, Marisnick hit .272/.299/.370 with three HRs, 19 RBIs and six steals while giving the Astros Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield. In this first games Marisnick was showing flashes of the potential that he had always possessed.
Marisnick arrived this year in Spring Training camp contending for a starting outfield spot against some stiff competition. George Springer was going to be playing in right field every day, other than that, the Astros had signed established Major League veterans Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis in the offseason and then there were the players on the Astros 40-man roster; Robbie Grossman, Alex Presley and L.J. Hoes that were all hoping to break camp as one of the regular outfielders with the Major League club.
The average preseason projections for Marisnick from a variety of sources that I had collected, predicted these kind of numbers for him; 475 ABs, .260 AVG, .310 OBP, .408 SLG, 68 Runs, 12 HR, 61 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.
The Gold Standard for projections and analysis, Baseball Prospectus, wasn’t as high on Marisnick as the other assorted publications and myself. Baseball Prospectus’ take on Marisnick “He shows little patience at the plate and has trouble picking up breaking pitches, but he can play a mean center field.”
Baseball Prospectus projected that Marisnick would put up these numbers; 292 ABs, .235 AVG, .277 OBP, .356 SLG, 35 Runs, 6 HRs, 24 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
Prior to the regular season getting underway, granted with the opportunity to having seen Marisnick play in spring training, in an article, “Magic Number 18” I was projecting that Marisnick was going to play a key role in the Astros success this season.
I didn’t write it at the time, but I was thinking that Marisnick was going to be putting up Andrew McCutchen–type of numbers this season. Last season, McCutchen the All-Star center fielder for the Pirates hit .314 last season with 25 HRs and 83 RBIs, while stealing 18 bases. It didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to me that Marisnick could post these type of numbers at some point in his career, if not this season.
Through 33 games this season, Marisnick is hitting .296/.336/.463, with 3 HRs, 14 RBIs, 5 doubles and 2 triples, with 9 stolen bases. He’s played a mean defense in center field. In my defense for projecting that Marisnick was going to put up McCutchen type numbers, the Pirates center fielder, who is obviously off to a slow start and is a great talent, who deserves our full respect, is hitting .238/.336/.397 with 4 HRs, 22 RBIs, 6 doubles, 1 triple with 2 stolen bases.
This season Marisnick has certainly exceeded the expectations of the pundits, significantly playing higher than projected by Baseball Prospectus and he is keeping pace with my personal high expectations.
Recently the Astros experimented with moving Marisnick into the leadoff spot after he was hitting .325 with 3 HRs in 83 at bats in the bottom third of the lineup all season. It didn’t go well. Friday night the Astros moved Marisnick back to the ninth spot in the batting order after he had hit .143/.182/.190 in five games as the leadoff batter. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored and it looked like Marisnick was back in form and on his game.
Is Marisnick for real?
His defense is a given, he’s only made one error this season. If he continues to hit in the bottom third of the Astros lineup, there is nothing to suggest that he will not only exceed the expectations of the baseball scribes, but this former part-time outfielder could emerge into a Major League star.