Value in versatility: Marwin a boon to Astros

Gonzalez's ability to excel at multiple positions provides Hinch with many options

February 29th, 2016
Marwin Gonzalez: "I'm going to be my best every time I play, like years before. That's the only thing I can control." (AP)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch views Marwin Gonzalez as a starter, even though he's probably the most valuable bench player in baseball. That's because Gonzalez usually found his way into the lineup last year, whether it was bringing consistency to first base, adding a right-handed presence to the outfield or filling in elsewhere following an injury.

Gonzalez wound up starting 86 games last year, seeing time at first base, shortstop, third base, second base and left field and had a career year at the plate in the process. The 26-year-old switch-hitter batted .279 with 18 doubles, 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 120 games, including a .321 average in the final 70 games.

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"I don't mind calling him an everyday-type player," Hinch said. "Obviously, he gets the 300 or 400 at-bats, which is below the everyday threshold, but he's under everyday consideration. For a manager to have that type of player creates a lot of options. I can keep guys fresh, I can move guys around, I can play matchups. He does it at a high level. Being able to wear the glove versus being able to be good at it is very different."

Gonzalez has four different gloves at the ready -- one for playing the outfield, one for third base, one for shortstop/second base and one for first base. When he works out with the infielders, he'll take one practice glove and work out at all three positions.

"To be honest, everyone wants to be [a starter]. I'm just waiting for the right opportunity," Gonzalez said. "That's not up to me. I'm going to be my best every time I play, like years before. That's the only thing I can control. If that comes this year, next year, whenever is the right opportunity, I'm going to take it."

Gonzalez's worth goes beyond his versatility and ability to switch-hit. Because he can do so much, the Astros can carry an extra pitcher, giving Hinch 13 arms at his disposal. They did that for much of last year.

"I think he's a valuable player because he can answer a lot of questions," Hinch said. "He plays so many positions that I consider him very much in the everyday player mentality. He just doesn't know where he's going to play or how many days in a row he's going to play. Having that type of weapon for me, it creates a lot of options, and I'm very glad he's able to play all those positions, but he's exceptional at that."