This is the third of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into the season. This one: outfield.
HOUSTON -- The Astros will enter Spring Training camp with a set outfield, including the three starters and the two bench players. The club re-signed Colby Rasmus, who accepted a one-year qualifying offer, to return its outfield intact, though poised to be better than it was last season.
Around the Horn:Catchers | Infielders
That's because the club is banking on a full season from center fielder Carlos Gomez, who was acquired in a July trade with the Brewers, and right fielder George Springer, who was limited to 102 games last year after breaking his wrist when he was hit by a pitch.
With Rasmus in left, Gomez in center and Springer in right, the Astros have a superb defensive outfield -- all three can play any outfield spot -- with players who are capable of making an impact on offense. Then there's Preston Tucker and Jake Marisnick off the bench.
Marisnick, the best defender of the bunch, can also play all three outfield positions, giving manager A.J. Hinch plenty of flexibility. Tucker provides left-handed pop off the bench and can start in left field if needed.
"I think it's the combination of the three right-handers [Gomez, Springer and Marisnick], the two left-handers [Rasmus, Tucker] -- there's a good mix of power, speed and defense in there, and whoever the two guys that are not playing on a given night, those are weapons off the bench, whether it's pinch-runner, late-inning pinch-hitting or defensive replacement," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
"The fact that four out of the five guys are basically center fielders or can play all three positions gives us a lot of flexibility to mix and match. It's a good group. I think it's about the best combination of outfielders in the league."
Rasmus is coming off a season in which he hit a career-high 25 homers to go along with 61 RBIs while batting .238. He made 47 starts in left field, 37 in right field and 31 in center field, proving for the first time in his career he can play the corners.
Rasmus was well-liked in Houston and felt at home there, which was one of the reasons he accepted the team's qualifying offer (that and $15.8 million). He also played the role of postseason hero, hitting four homers in October, and grew into somewhat of a cult hero for his shirtless, long-haired look during playoff celebrations.
Gomez, acquired from the Brewers on July 30, appeared in 41 games with the Astros and hit .242 with nine doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs in 38 starts in center. He played in just three of Houston's final 20 games because of intercostal discomfort, but when healthy provides Gold Glove-caliber defense, speed on the bases and can swing a dangerous bat.
Springer is looking to play his first full season in the big leagues after hitting .276 with 16 homers, 16 steals and 41 RBIs last year. When healthy, he has five-tool potential and covers a lot of ground in right field, where he made numerous terrific catches last year.
Marisnick set career highs in nearly every offensive category last year, playing in a career- high 133 games. He hit .236 with nine homers, 36 RBIs and 24 steals. Eighty-four of his 101 starts came in center, and he had eight outfield assists. Marisnick is an excellent defensive player who covers a lot of ground and can run, which makes him a weapon off the bench as a pinch-hitter or late-inning defensive replacement.
Tucker's value is his bat. As a rookie last year, he hit .243 with 13 homers and 33 RBIs, hitting a pair of clutch pinch-hit home runs -- the first two homers of his career, both in the same series against the Tigers. He started 62 games in left, 12 in right and two at designated hitter.