HOUSTON -- Marwin Gonzalez will remain a big part of the Astros' blueprint for success next season, despite the additions Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Norichika Aoki this offseason.Gonzalez, the super-utility player, made 118 total starts at five positions last season, and he should again provide dependability and flexibility for
HOUSTON -- Marwin Gonzalez will remain a big part of the Astros' blueprint for success next season, despite the additions Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Norichika Aoki this offseason.
Gonzalez, the super-utility player, made 118 total starts at five positions last season, and he should again provide dependability and flexibility for manager A.J. Hinch.
Gonzalez's value remains his versatility, and the Astros have pressed him into more everyday roles the past couple of years than they'd hoped because of underperformance or injury around the diamond. Ideally, he'll get occasional starts in 2017 at multiple positions and provide a strong hand off the bench.
"He's got an uncanny ability to play all around the field," Hinch said.
Gonzalez, a 27-year-old switch-hitter, had the best season of his career in 2016, hitting .254 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 141 games. He set career highs in at-bats (484), runs (55), hits (123) doubles (26), triples (three), homers, RBIs, walks (22) and steals (12).
He started a team-leading 74 games at first base, which was more than rookies Tyler White (50) and A.J. Reed (27). Gonzalez started 16 games at third base, 14 in left field, eight at second base and six at shortstop. Gonzalez also made one appearance in center. In the past three seasons, he's played every position except pitcher and catcher.
"He's probably the one guy on our team that we could play every position, every inning if we want to," Hinch said. "That comfort for me coming off the bench means he'll play a lot, giving guys rest. And when you have Marwin on the bench, I can give [Jose] Altuve a day off and not feel like it's a complete loss offensively.
"Nobody is really going to beat Jose Altuve, but Marwin has some strengths that he brings to the table every day. Same with [Carlos] Correa. Marwin can play in the outfield if I want to give Aoki a day off and would rather play Marwin as opposed to, say, Jake [Marisnick]. Again, all these combos, I get another [two] months to think about, and then I'll reveal it."
The additions to the starting lineup have helped beef up Houston's bench, starting with Gonzalez. Other players Hinch could have at his disposal off the bench more often are Evan Gattis, Teoscar Hernandez and Preston Tucker, as well as Marisnick. Hinch said he's going to have players on the bench who feel they should be playing, which is the way it should be.
"I feel like right now, if we started the season today, all healthy and all ready to go, I would have three guys on the bench that literally should be starting players in the big leagues," Hinch said. "I don't know who those guys are -- [you] could take your pick as to who is on the bench and what they should be doing.
"I think they will adapt, and as you've seen over my couple of years here, I don't use a set lineup every single day. There will be guys that have roles, guys that I keep rested. The most difficult part will be leading into the season,[when] you want everybody to play a lot and get to May and June before you start taking at-bats away."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.