The hottest team in baseball could soon get even hotter: While some contenders make questionable deadline deals to improve their rosters before the stretch run, the 54–44 Astros, currently 2.5 games back from the Rangers in the AL West, have yet again turned to their farm system for a midseason boost. After weeks of speculation, Houston has finally called up top-ranked prospect Alex Bregman, much to the delight of Astros fans — and myriad fantasy owners. Before Bregman, 22, makes his debut Monday night against the Yankees, let’s cover some relevant FAQs.
Does he have a cool nickname? No, unless you count TigerDroppings.com poster Hugo Stiglitz’s suggestion of “The Egg Man,” which, unsurprisingly, has not gained much traction. Meanwhile, “Hebrew Hammer” is there for the taking — Bregman descends from Russian Jewish immigrants, and Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has long since forfeited the moniker — but inexplicably has yet to catch on.
What crucial information can be gleaned from Bregman’s Twitter account? He’s an aficionado of Southern rap, including Future, Kevin Gates, and B.o.B. He supported the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, loves the airplane emoji, and indulges in the occasional subtweet. (Who doesn’t?)
How did he perform in this month’s Futures Game? Despite Team USA’s 11–3 loss, Bregman went 3-for-5, scoring once and finishing a home run shy of the cycle.
Oh, so he isn’t much of a power hitter? Au contraire! Bregman’s slugging percentage with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies is a whopping .641, and he’s belted 20 dingers with 61 RBIs in 80 games this season between Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi.
If Bregman’s such a phenom, why did he even play college ball? Well, according to his impressively comprehensive Wikipedia page, he was slated to be a first-round pick after a decorated career at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, but a fluke knuckle injury lowered his draft stock. The Red Sox ended up taking him in the 29th round of the 2012 MLB draft, but he elected to go to LSU, where one of his high school coaches once played.
Did this turn out to be a wise decision? Very much so! Bregman took the NCAA by storm, earning too many accolades to name, and was drafted by the Astros with the no. 2 overall pick in 2015. Thirteen months later, he’s set to make his MLB debut.
Was his call-up greatly anticipated? Boy, was it ever — to the extent that Astros fans were forced to endure a number of false reports about it. Given that Bregman had been “making a mockery of the minor leagues,” his eventual call-up was seen as inevitable, and it couldn’t come soon enough for the fantasy owners who had been patiently stashing him for months, no doubt tantalized by the Dustin Pedroia comparisons. Laser Show 2.0!
What position will he play? A shortstop for most of his life, Bregman is expected to step in as the Astros’ third baseman — for now. With reigning AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa at short and 5-foot-6 superhero José Altuve at second, Bregman should solidify perhaps the strongest infield in baseball. However, given Houston’s recent signing of 32-year-old Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel — who hit an insane .500 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs in 49 games for the Havana Industriales in 2015 — Bregman’s stint at the hot corner may prove to be temporary. He recently tried his hand at left field in the minors, though, and should also see some time there. Look for the Astros to use him much like the Cubs use Kris Bryant: He’ll move around in an effort to maximize at-bats.
So, what should we expect from Bregman? Well, Correa’s production in 2015 set the bar absurdly high for Houston rookies, so naturally it will be tough for Bregman to follow in his footsteps. Then again, Bregman’s barely a year removed from being drafted, and he doesn’t so much hit baseballs as much as he pulverizes them:
If you’re an Astros fan or have been stashing Bregman on your fantasy roster, don’t freak out if he doesn’t replicate his Futures Game performance right away. (Although the Yankees starter on Monday is Michael Pineda, who has been, well, not great.) As long as Houston remains in contention, Bregman should have plenty of chances to live up to the totally reasonable best-prospect-who-ever-lived-or-bust expectations placed on him.