AL West: Whither 1B in HOU?

Houston Astros

1B here for now and over the long-term is a guessing game. The club's seeming reluctance to recall Joey Loperfido for a lengthy trial at this position may be partly due to the increasing likelihood that the Astros will fall out of postseason contention, if that hasn't happened already. 

Throughout his minor league career, Loperfido has spent most of his 2024 AAA season shuttling between 1B and CF – but wasn't given any 1B time during his brief stint in HOU, even with all of José Abreu's issues. Loperfido's .942 OPS through 181 PA at AAA-Sugar Land and 13-for-39 performance in HOU says that a contending team needing offense would give him a fulltime shot, but this clearly isn't happening. Yet.

In the meantime, 1B looks like a job-share between Jon Singleton, Mauricio Dubón and new callup Cooper Hummel – who has been limited to a lone pinch-hit appearance since his callup late last week. The future certainly doesn't appear to be utilityman Dubón or the 32-year-old contact-challenged Singleton, now the owner of a .650 OPS with 5 HR through 185 PA. 

After posting an intriguing .932 OPS (7 HR, 33/35 BB/K through 201 PA) in Triple-A, the 29-year-old switch-hitting Hummel could be poised for an extended playing time run. But Hummel's brief MLB track record to date (3 HR, .167 BA, 63% ct% through 232 PA) keeps us leery. To be continued.

 

Seattle Mariners

We've harped on the club's first-half offensive issues, and it's not like the first-place Mariners don't have trade chips. This is one of the most talented prospect collections in all of MLB – notably so at lower levels, but even AAA-Tacoma is hosting several names that may not be quite ready for primetime. Looking at you Jonatan Clase, Emerson Hancock, perhaps even Tyler Locklear, currently in SEA but who could be part of a trade return from a non-contender.

For fantasy managers playing in the current season, the question now is who could be impacted on the current club. Now on a minor league rehab stint (strained hamstring), disappointing Jorge Polanco (.595 OPS, 64% ct%, just 5 HR through 181 PA) may be on a very short leash following his return to SEA. Ditto any of the OFs not named Julio Rodríguez. Or for that matter anyone else on a postseason contender that currently leads only six other MLB clubs in scoring.

For owners in dynasty format play, one interesting facet of SEA's prospect roster is a glut of truly promising infielders, and which of these might be dealt into a better opportunity down the road. One intriguing breakthrough name currently in Low A Modesto (but probably not for long) is 19-year-old 2B/SS Michael Arroyo, who has posted an .886 OPS (11 HR, 39/60 BB/K, 9/1 SB/CS) through 292 PA. Arroyo looks legitimate, but with the likes of Modesto teammates Colt Emerson and Tai Peete also coming on, one or more of these names could be elsewhere by the trade deadline.

 

Oakland A's

The A's keep churning players and keeping us guessing as to the timing. Notably this week with the DFA of J.D. Davis and demotion of long-time OF/1B Seth Brown, for now in favor of the younger Tyler Soderstrom and Lawrence Butler. Brown's struggles had given us some insight as to his dwindling future here about a month ago; Davis' fate was a little more abrupt.

The next name that could lose playing time and even a roster spot could be utility Max Schuemann, who debuted with a productive .272/.344/.395 line over 91 PA in May, as he seized the SS job from the struggling (and since demoted) Nick Allen and injured Darell Hernaiz. But the historically light-hitting Schuemann has struggled over his last 13 starts this month, going 7-for-45 without an RBI or HR.

In the meantime, the younger Allen is surging in the offense-friendly confines of AAA-Las Vegas (.908 OPS through 129 PA), and Hernaiz is expected to return from his ankle injury at some point around the All-Star break, if not before. The club also has legitimate SS prospects Max Muncy and Jacob Wilson in Triple-A – all of which suggests that Schuemann's everyday work is temporary.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Last week we pointed to Brandon Drury as the club's player most likely to be moved before the trade deadline. But we were remiss in not mentioning Kevin Pillar in the same vein in a contract year, particularly given his .966 OPS over through 114 PA since joining the Angels at the end of April.

Pillar has multiple problems in attracting attention from contenders, notably his handedness, age (35), MLB track record in recent seasons – and the fact that he's been playing just part-time recently after going 9-for-41 in June, coinciding with Mickey Moniak's recent performance "uptick".

Still, during a time of sagging offensive numbers across MLB, Pillar's immediate performance and ability to man CF will likely get some attention. But a move from Anaheim wouldn't necessarily open up playing time, given the anticipated return of Mike Trout sometime around the All-Star break.

 

Texas Rangers

Josh Jung's rehab stint (wrist surgery) has kicked off AAA-Round Rock, where he is 2-for-7 with three K's through June 19. A few more hits at this level of play could expedite his return to TEX a little faster than we anticipated after this type of injury. The initial roster casualty still looks like reserve 3B and bench bat Davis Wendzel, but from a playing time perspective, it appears that Ezequiel Duran could take the biggest immediate hit.

Duran has received a ton of playing time recently, including 11 consecutive starts at SS and 3B, spelling physically hobbled Corey Seager and Josh Smith. His June – .582 OPS through 59 PA – and just 2 HR through 173 PA on the season haven't impressed. And both a GB-heavy approach and 54 PX say that more power isn't coming anytime soon. 

Now with both Seager and Smith getting healthier and the imminent return of Jung, Duran again looks to be more bench bat than regular. Particularly on an offensively moribund club and still wannabe contender that has outscored only four other MLB teams thus far in June. 

 

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