2021 Astros Predictions: Filling the Void in Centerfield

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What’s one of the best times of the year in MLB? Hot Stove season. With changes being made, it’s time for some 2021 Astros predictions.

With the 2021 offseason in full swing and Spring Training around the corner, the Houston Astros will be working to fill the void in centerfield due to George Springer’s departure, who entered free agency after the 2020 season.

2021 Astros Predictions: Current Roster

When considering 2021 Astros predictions, we must first look at the current roster. As it sits right now, the Houston Astros have about $34-35 million per Spotrac to spend this offseason. This may prove to be difficult, as the Astros have a few key areas to focus on this offseason, and centerfield is one of those key positions. As the roster currently sits, Myles Straw is listed as the only centerfielder. Straw saw playing time during the 2020 season, mostly when Springer would need a day off.

As the offseason continues, the Houston Astros and manager Dusty Baker will need to evaluate whether they have the confidence in Straw to replace the former 2017 World Series MVP in centerfield.

If the Houston Astros choose not to explore the market to find a free agent centerfielder, the Astros could promote from within the organization. Straw would be the choice, but the Astros have Pedro Leon, an international prospect who creates some noise down in the Dominican Leagues.

Leon, who is almost guaranteed to sign a contract on January 15, 2021, International signing day, is almost certain to be the Astros’ future centerfielder. The question remains: do the Astros stick with Straw, who lacks the experience, or do they go out and sign a free agency player?

With the 2021 free agency pool dwindling for outfielders, trying to predict which free agent the Astros will sign has gotten more difficult since David Dahl, Robbie Grossman, and Hunter Renfroe all signed with new teams at a price that would be considered cheap if the Astros had made a move. Since the Astros passed on these free agents, does this mean the Astros may be trying to re-sign Michael Brantley? Although not a centerfielder, the Astros could use Brantley as a way to lure one of the two premier outfield free agents to Houston; Jackie Bradley Jr, or Marcell Ozuna.

2021 Astros Predictions: Free Agent Centerfielders

With the roster ut of the way, it’s now time to start formulating some 2021 Houston Astros predictions from the realm of free agency.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

One of the most talked-about free agents in the 2021 offseason is Jackie Bradley Jr. Although linked to several teams, including the Astros, Bradley Jr. would fit in nicely at the top of this lineup. Coming off a 2020 season where he batted .283, with seven home runs in one ninety-one-plate appearance in a sixty-game season.

What makes Bradley Jr so intriguing is that the Astros would not have to spend a lot to get him. They would get an experienced centerfielder but would not have to spend a fortune to get him. Astros General Manager James Click will have to find the best players that will not break the bank and be a staple within the lineup. Bradley Jr. fits the bill given the current finances within the organization. If Bradley Jr and the Astros can work out a deal, this could have the makings to be a match made in heaven.

Marcell Ozuna

A player that took a chance on himself after the St. Louis Cardinals opted not to offer him a contract going into the 2019-2020 offseason, Marcell Ozuna would end up signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2020, which would prove to have huge dividends considering the season that Ozuna had in 2020. With that, Ozuna will be looking to cash in this offseason.

Batting .338 this season with eighteen home runs, Ozuna was a thorn in the opposing pitchers’ sides. Ozuna turned it up a notch during the postseason helping the Braves get to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. So, how does Ozuna fit into the Astros? If the Astros want to sign Ozuna, they will have to spend to get him.

Given that Ozuna just turned thirty, which may not mean much now, but usually once a player gets to around age thirty, teams may start looking at younger players to fill positions. The Astros could very well do the same. Not to discredit every that Ozuna has done; it’s just the nature of the business.

If the 2020 season had been a full season, Ozuna would have made $18 million. After the season that Ozuna had, Ozuna will be looking at upwards of over $20 million. The Astros would be able to afford this, but that would not leave much room to fill other keys positions.

If the Astros were to go out and sign Ozuna, they would be getting a power bat at the top of their lineup. similar to George Springer’s. The only difference would be the defense. Ozuna is a pretty good to average outfielder but can still cover ground in centerfield. This would be something the Astros would have to consider before making an offer.

2021 Astros Predictions: Final Thoughts

The Houston Astros have a lot to think about and have lots of questions to answer as they try to replace a key player that was a staple at the top of their lineup for several seasons. Predicting how it will go is tough due, especially after losing so much during a pandemic year. Whether it is Myles Straw, Jackie Bradley Jr., Marcell Ozuna, or a player that may not be on everyone’s radar, the Astros can still go out and field a team that may not win the World Series in 2021 but will definitely still be competitive in 2021. It will be interesting to see how General Manager James Click navigates the remainder of this 2021 offseason.

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Jeff "Rip" Griffin is a current MLB writer covering the Houston Astros. Rip is also the host of The Rip Griffin Show on Apple Podcasts. Rip holds a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology, focusing in Sports Management from the University of Houston - Victoria.